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Title: Cousin Pons
Author: Balzac, Honoré de, 1799-1850
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            COUSIN PONS


                          HONORE DE BALZAC

                           Translated by

                           Ellen Marriage

                            COUSIN PONS

Towards three o'clock in the afternoon of one October day in the year
1844, a man of sixty or thereabouts, whom anybody might have credited
with more than his actual age, was walking along the Boulevard des
Italiens with his head bent down, as if he were tracking some one.
There was a smug expression about the mouth--he looked like a merchant
who has just done a good stroke of business, or a bachelor emerging
from a boudoir in the best of humors with himself; and in Paris this
is the highest degree of self-satisfaction ever registered by a human

As soon as the elderly person appeared in the distance, a smile broke
out over the faces of the frequenters of the boulevard, who daily,
from their chairs, watch the passers-by, and indulge in the agreeable
pastime of analyzing them. That smile is peculiar to Parisians; it
says so many things--ironical, quizzical, pitying; but nothing save
the rarest of human curiosities can summon that look of interest to
the faces of Parisians, sated as they are with every possible sight.

A saying recorded of Hyacinthe, an actor celebrated for his repartees,
will explain the archaeological value of the old gentleman, and the
smile repeated like an echo by all eyes. Somebody once asked Hyacinthe
where the hats were made that set the house in a roar as soon as he
appeared. "I don't have them made," he said; "I keep them!" So also
among the million actors who make up the great troupe of Paris, there
are unconscious Hyacinthes who "keep" all the absurd freaks of
vanished fashions upon their backs; and the apparition of some bygone
decade will startle you into laughter as you walk the streets in
bitterness of soul over the treason of one who was your friend in the

In some respects the passer-by adhered so faithfully to the fashions
of the year 1806, that he was not so much a burlesque caricature as a
reproduction of the Empire period. To an observer, accuracy of detail
in a revival of this sort is extremely valuable, but accuracy of
detail, to be properly appreciated, demands the critical attention of
an expert _flaneur_; while the man in the street who raises a laugh as
soon as he comes in sight is bound to be one of those outrageous
exhibitions which stare you in the face, as the saying goes, and
produce the kind of effect which an actor tries to secure for the
success of his entry. The elderly person, a thin, spare man, wore a
nut-brown spencer over a coat of uncertain green, with white metal
buttons. A man in a spencer in the year 1844! it was as if Napoleon
himself had vouchsafed to come to life again for a couple of hours.

The spencer, as its name indicates, was the invention of an English
lord, vain, doubtless, of his handsome shape. Some time before the
Peace of Amiens, this nobleman solved the problem of covering the bust
without destroying the outlines of the figure and encumbering the
person with the hideous boxcoat, now finishing its career on the backs
of aged hackney cabmen; but, elegant figures being in the minority,
the success of the spencer was short-lived in France, English though
it was.

At the sight of the spencer, men of forty or fifty mentally invested
the wearer with top-boots, pistachio-colored kerseymere small clothes
adorned with a knot of ribbon; and beheld themselves in the costumes
of their youth. Elderly ladies thought of former conquests; but the
younger men were asking each other why the aged Alcibiades had cut off
the skirts of his overcoat. The rest of the costume was so much in
keeping with the spencer, that you would not have hesitated to call
the wearer "an Empire man," just as you call a certain kind of
furniture "Empire furniture;" yet the newcomer only symbolized the
Empire for those who had known that great and magnificent epoch at any
rate _de visu_, for a certain accuracy of memory was needed for the
full appreciation of the costume, and even now the Empire is so far
away that not every one of us can picture it in its Gallo-Grecian

The stranger's hat, for instance, tipped to the back of his head so as
to leave almost the whole forehead bare, recalled a certain jaunty
air, with which civilians and officials attempted to swagger it with
military men; but the hat itself was a shocking specimen of the
fifteen-franc variety. Constant friction with a pair of enormous ears
had left their marks which no brush could efface from the underside of
the brim; the silk tissue (as usual) fitted badly over the cardboard
foundation, and hung in wrinkles here and there; and some skin-disease
(apparently) had attacked the nap in spite of the hand which rubbed it
down of a morning.

Beneath the hat, which seemed ready to drop off at any moment, lay an
expanse of countenance grotesque and droll, as the faces which the
Chinese alone of all people can imagine for their quaint curiosities.
The broad visage was as full of holes as a colander, honeycombed with
the shadows of the dints, hollowed out like a Roman mask. It set all
the laws of anatomy at defiance. Close inspection failed to detect the
substructure. Where you expected to find a bone, you discovered a
layer of cartilaginous tissue, and the hollows of an ordinary human
face were here filled out with flabby bosses. A pair of gray eyes,
red-rimmed and lashless, looked forlornly out of a countenance which
was flattened something after the fashion of a pumpkin, and surmounted
by a Don Quixote nose that rose out of it like a monolith above a
plain. It was the kind of nose, as Cervantes must surely have
explained somewhere, which denotes an inborn enthusiasm for all things
great, a tendency which is apt to degenerate into credulity.

And yet, though the man's ugliness was something almost ludicrous, it
aroused not the slightest inclination to laugh. The exceeding
melancholy which found an outlet in the poor man's faded eyes reached
the mocker himself and froze the gibes on his lips; for all at once
the thought arose that this was a human creature to whom Nature had
forbidden any expression of love or tenderness, since such expression
could only be painful or ridiculous to the woman he loved. In the
presence of such misfortune a Frenchman is silent; to him it seems the
most cruel of all afflictions--to be unable to please!

The man so ill-favored was dressed after the fashion of shabby
gentility, a fashion which the rich not seldom try to copy. He wore
low shoes beneath gaiters of the pattern worn by the Imperial Guard,
doubtless for the sake of economy, because they kept the socks clean.
The rusty tinge of his black breeches, like the cut and the white or
shiny line of the creases, assigned the date of the purchase some
three years back. The roomy garments failed to disguise the lean
proportions of the wearer, due apparently rather to constitution than
to a Pythagorean regimen, for the worthy man was endowed with thick
lips and a sensual mouth; and when he smiled, displayed a set of white
teeth which would have done credit to a shark.

A shawl-waistcoat, likewise of black cloth, was supplemented by a
white under-waistcoat, and yet again beneath this gleamed the edge of
a red knitted under-jacket, to put you in mind of Garat's five
waistcoats. A huge white muslin stock with a conspicuous bow, invented
by some exquisite to charm "the charming sex" in 1809, projected so
far above the wearer's chin that the lower part of his face was lost,
as it were, in a muslin abyss. A silk watch-guard, plaited to resemble
the keepsakes made of hair, meandered down the shirt front and secured
his watch from the improbable theft. The greenish coat, though older
by some three years than the breeches, was remarkably neat; the black
velvet collar and shining metal buttons, recently renewed, told of
carefulness which descended even to trifles.

The particular manner of fixing the hat on the occiput, the triple
waistcoat, the vast cravat engulfing the chin, the gaiters, the metal
buttons on the greenish coat,--all these reminiscences of Imperial
fashions were blended with a sort of afterwaft and lingering perfume
of the coquetry of the Incroyable--with an indescribable finical
something in the folds of the garments, a certain air of stiffness and
correctness in the demeanor that smacked of the school of David, that
recalled Jacob's spindle-legged furniture.

At first sight, moreover, you set him down either for the gentleman by
birth fallen a victim to some degrading habit, or for the man of small
independent means whose expenses are calculated to such a nicety that
the breakage of a windowpane, a rent in a coat, or a visit from the
philanthropic pest who asks you for subscriptions to a charity,
absorbs the whole of a month's little surplus of pocket-money. If you
had seen him that afternoon, you would have wondered how that
grotesque face came to be lighted up with a smile; usually, surely, it
must have worn the dispirited, passive look of the obscure toiler
condemned to labor without ceasing for the barest necessaries of life.
Yet when you noticed that the odd-looking old man was carrying some
object (evidently precious) in his right hand with a mother's care;
concealing it under the skirts of his coat to keep it from collisions
in the crowd, and still more, when you remarked that important air
always assumed by an idler when intrusted with a commission, you would
have suspected him of recovering some piece of lost property, some
modern equivalent of the marquise's poodle; you would have recognized
the assiduous gallantry of the "man of the Empire" returning in
triumph from his mission to some charming woman of sixty, reluctant as
yet to dispense with the daily visit of her elderly _attentif_.

In Paris only among great cities will you see such spectacles as this;
for of her boulevards Paris makes a stage where a never-ending drama
is played gratuitously by the French nation in the interests of Art.

In spite of the rashly assumed spencer, you would scarcely have
thought, after a glance at the contours of the man's bony frame, that
this was an artist--that conventional type which is privileged, in
something of the same way as a Paris gamin, to represent riotous
living to the bourgeois and philistine mind, the most _mirific_
joviality, in short (to use the old Rabelaisian word newly taken into
use). Yet this elderly person had once taken the medal and the
traveling scholarship; he had composed the first cantata crowned by
the Institut at the time of the re-establishment of the Academie de
Rome; he was M. Sylvain Pons, in fact--M. Sylvain Pons, whose name
appears on the covers of well-known sentimental songs trilled by our
mothers, to say nothing of a couple of operas, played in 1815 and
1816, and divers unpublished scores. The worthy soul was now ending
his days as the conductor of an orchestra in a boulevard theatre, and
a music master in several young ladies' boarding-schools, a post for
which his face particularly recommended him. He was entirely dependent
upon his earnings. Running about to give private lessons at his age!
--Think of it. How many a mystery lies in that unromantic situation!

But the last man to wear the spencer carried something about him
besides his Empire Associations; a warning and a lesson was written
large over that triple waistcoat. Wherever he went, he exhibited,
without fee or charge, one of the many victims of the fatal system of
competition which still prevails in France in spite of a century of
trial without result; for Poisson de Marigny, brother of the Pompadour
and Director of Fine Arts, somewhere about 1746 invented this method
of applying pressure to the brain. That was a hundred years ago. Try
if you can count upon your fingers the men of genius among the
prizemen of those hundred years.

In the first place, no deliberate effort of schoolmaster or
administrator can replace the miracles of chance which produce great
men: of all the mysteries of generation, this most defies the
ambitious modern scientific investigator. In the second--the ancient
Egyptians (we are told) invented incubator-stoves for hatching eggs;
what would be thought of Egyptians who should neglect to fill the
beaks of the callow fledglings? Yet this is precisely what France is
doing. She does her utmost to produce artists by the artificial heat
of competitive examination; but, the sculptor, painter, engraver, or
musician once turned out by this mechanical process, she no more
troubles herself about them and their fate than the dandy cares for
yesterday's flower in his buttonhole. And so it happens that the
really great man is a Greuze, a Watteau, a Felicien David, a Pagnesi,
a Gericault, a Decamps, an Auber, a David d'Angers, an Eugene
Delacroix, or a Meissonier--artists who take but little heed of
_grande prix_, and spring up in the open field under the rays of that
invisible sun called Vocation.

To resume. The Government sent Sylvain Pons to Rome to make a great
musician of himself; and in Rome Sylvain Pons acquired a taste for the
antique and works of art. He became an admirable judge of those
masterpieces of the brain and hand which are summed up by the useful
neologism "bric-a-brac;" and when the child of Euterpe returned to
Paris somewhere about the year 1810, it was in the character of a
rabid collector, loaded with pictures, statuettes, frames,
wood-carving, ivories, enamels, porcelains, and the like. He had sunk
the greater part of his patrimony, not so much in the purchases
themselves as on the expenses of transit; and every penny inherited
from his mother had been spent in the course of a three-years' travel
in Italy after the residence in Rome came to an end. He had seen
Venice, Milan, Florence, Bologna, and Naples leisurely, as he wished
to see them, as a dreamer of dreams, and a philosopher; careless of
the future, for an artist looks to his talent for support as the
_fille de joie_ counts upon her beauty.

All through those splendid years of travel Pons was as happy as was
possible to a man with a great soul, a sensitive nature, and a face so
ugly that any "success with the fair" (to use the stereotyped formula
of 1809) was out of the question; the realities of life always fell
short of the ideals which Pons created for himself; the world without
was not in tune with the soul within, but Pons had made up his mind to
the dissonance. Doubtless the sense of beauty that he had kept pure
and living in his inmost soul was the spring from which the delicate,
graceful, and ingenious music flowed and won him reputation between
1810 and 1814.

Every reputation founded upon the fashion or the fancy of the hour, or
upon the short-lived follies of Paris, produces its Pons. No place in
the world is so inexorable in great things; no city of the globe so
disdainfully indulgent in small. Pons' notes were drowned before long
in floods of German harmony and the music of Rossini; and if in 1824
he was known as an agreeable musician, a composer of various
drawing-room melodies, judge if he was likely to be famous in 183l!
In 1844, the year in which the single drama of this obscure life began,
Sylvain Pons was of no more value than an antediluvian semiquaver;
dealers in music had never heard of his name, though he was still
composing, on scanty pay, for his own orchestra or for neighboring

And yet, the worthy man did justice to the great masters of our day; a
masterpiece finely rendered brought tears to his eyes; but his
religion never bordered on mania, as in the case of Hoffmann's
Kreislers; he kept his enthusiasm to himself; his delight, like the
paradise reached by opium or hashish, lay within his own soul.

The gift of admiration, of comprehension, the single faculty by which
the ordinary man becomes the brother of the poet, is rare in the city
of Paris, that inn whither all ideas, like travelers, come to stay for
awhile; so rare is it, that Pons surely deserves our respectful
esteem. His personal failure may seem anomalous, but he frankly
admitted that he was weak in harmony. He had neglected the study of
counterpoint; there was a time when he might have begun his studies
afresh and held his own among modern composers, when he might have
been, not certainly a Rossini, but a Herold. But he was alarmed by the
intricacies of modern orchestration; and at length, in the pleasures
of collecting, he found such ever-renewed compensation for his
failure, that if he had been made to choose between his curiosities
and the fame of Rossini--will it be believed?--Pons would have
pronounced for his beloved collection.

Pons was of the opinion of Chenavard, the print-collector, who laid it
down as an axiom--that you only fully enjoy the pleasure of looking at
your Ruysdael, Hobbema, Holbein, Raphael, Murillo, Greuze, Sebastian
del Piombo, Giorgione, Albrecht Durer, or what not, when you have paid
less than sixty francs for your picture. Pons never gave more than a
hundred francs for any purchase. If he laid out as much as fifty
francs, he was careful to assure himself beforehand that the object
was worth three thousand. The most beautiful thing in the world, if it
cost three hundred francs, did not exist for Pons. Rare had been his
bargains; but he possessed the three qualifications for success--a
stag's legs, an idler's disregard of time, and the patience of a Jew.

This system, carried out for forty years, in Rome or Paris alike, had
borne its fruits. Since Pons returned from Italy, he had regularly
spent about two thousand francs a year upon a collection of
masterpieces of every sort and description, a collection hidden away
from all eyes but his own; and now his catalogue had reached the
incredible number of 1907. Wandering about Paris between 1811 and
1816, he had picked up many a treasure for ten francs, which would
fetch a thousand or twelve hundred to-day. Some forty-five thousand
canvases change hands annually in Paris picture sales, and these Pons
had sifted through year by year. Pons had Sevres porcelain, _pate
tendre_, bought of Auvergnats, those satellites of the Black Band who
sacked chateaux and carried off the marvels of Pompadour France in
their tumbril carts; he had, in fact, collected the drifted wreck of
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; he recognized the genius of
the French school, and discerned the merit of the Lepautres and
Lavallee-Poussins and the rest of the great obscure creators of the
Genre Louis Quinze and the Genre Louis Seize. Our modern craftsmen now
draw without acknowledgment from them, pore incessantly over the
treasures of the Cabinet des Estampes, borrow adroitly, and give out
their _pastiches_ for new inventions. Pons had obtained many a piece
by exchange, and therein lies the ineffable joy of the collector. The
joy of buying bric-a-brac is a secondary delight; in the give-and-take
of barter lies the joy of joys. Pons had begun by collecting
snuff-boxes and miniatures; his name was unknown in bric-a-bracology,
for he seldom showed himself in salesrooms or in the shops of
well-known dealers; Pons was not aware that his treasures had any
commercial value.

The late lamented Dusommerard tried his best to gain Pons' confidence,
but the prince of bric-a-brac died before he could gain an entrance to
the Pons museum, the one private collection which could compare with
the famous Sauvageot museum. Pons and M. Sauvageot indeed resembled
each other in more ways than one. M. Sauvageot, like Pons, was a
musician; he was likewise a comparatively poor man, and he had
collected his bric-a-brac in much the same way, with the same love of
art, the same hatred of rich capitalists with well-known names who
collect for the sake of running up prices as cleverly as possible.
There was yet another point of resemblance between the pair; Pons,
like his rival competitor and antagonist, felt in his heart an
insatiable craving after specimens of the craftsman's skill and
miracles of workmanship; he loved them as a man might love a fair
mistress; an auction in the salerooms in the Rue des Jeuneurs, with
its accompaniments of hammer strokes and brokers' men, was a crime of
_lese-bric-a-brac_ in Pons' eyes. Pons' museum was for his own delight
at every hour; for the soul created to know and feel all the beauty of
a masterpiece has this in common with the lover--to-day's joy is as
great as the joy of yesterday; possession never palls; and a
masterpiece, happily, never grows old. So the object that he held in
his hand with such fatherly care could only be a "find," carried off
with what affection amateurs alone know!

After the first outlines of this biographical sketch, every one will
cry at once, "Why! this is the happiest man on earth, in spite of his
ugliness!" And, in truth, no spleen, no dullness can resist the
counter-irritant supplied by a "craze," the intellectual moxa of a
hobby. You who can no longer drink of "the cup of pleasure," as it has
been called through all ages, try to collect something, no matter what
(people have been known to collect placards), so shall you receive the
small change for the gold ingot of happiness. Have you a hobby? You
have transferred pleasure to the plane of ideas. And yet, you need not
envy the worthy Pons; such envy, like all kindred sentiments, would be
founded upon a misapprehension.

With a nature so sensitive, with a soul that lived by tireless
admiration of the magnificent achievements of art, of the high rivalry
between human toil and the work of Nature--Pons was a slave to that
one of the Seven Deadly Sins with which God surely will deal least
hardly; Pons was a glutton. A narrow income, combined with a passion
for bric-a-brac, condemned him to a regimen so abhorrent to a
discriminating palate, that, bachelor as he was, he had cut the knot
of the problem by dining out every day.

Now, in the time of the Empire, celebrities were more sought after
than at present, perhaps because there were so few of them, perhaps
because they made little or no political pretension. In those days,
besides, you could set up for a poet, a musician, or a painter, with
so little expense. Pons, being regarded as the probable rival of
Nicolo, Paer, and Berton, used to receive so many invitations, that he
was forced to keep a list of engagements, much as barristers note down
the cases for which they are retained. And Pons behaved like an
artist. He presented his amphitryons with copies of his songs, he
"obliged" at the pianoforte, he brought them orders for boxes at the
Feydeau, his own theatre, he organized concerts, he was not above
taking the fiddle himself sometimes in a relation's house, and getting
up a little impromptu dance. In those days, all the handsome men in
France were away at the wars exchanging sabre-cuts with the handsome
men of the Coalition. Pons was said to be, not ugly, but
"peculiar-looking," after the grand rule laid down by Moliere in
Eliante's famous couplets; but if he sometimes heard himself described
as a "charming man" (after he had done some fair lady a service), his
good fortune went no further than words.

It was between the years 1810 and 1816 that Pons contracted the
unlucky habit of dining out; he grew accustomed to see his hosts
taking pains over the dinner, procuring the first and best of
everything, bringing out their choicest vintages, seeing carefully to
the dessert, the coffee, the liqueurs, giving him of their best, in
short; the best, moreover, of those times of the Empire when Paris was
glutted with kings and queens and princes, and many a private house
emulated royal splendours.

People used to play at Royalty then as they play nowadays at
parliament, creating a whole host of societies with presidents,
vice-presidents, secretaries and what not--agricultural societies,
industrial societies, societies for the promotion of sericulture,
viticulture, the growth of flax, and so forth. Some have even gone so
far as to look about them for social evils in order to start a society
to cure them.

But to return to Pons. A stomach thus educated is sure to react upon
the owner's moral fibre; the demoralization of the man varies directly
with his progress in culinary sapience. Voluptuousness, lurking in
every secret recess of the heart, lays down the law therein. Honor and
resolution are battered in breach. The tyranny of the palate has never
been described; as a necessity of life it escapes the criticism of
literature; yet no one imagines how many have been ruined by the
table. The luxury of the table is indeed, in this sense, the
courtesan's one competitor in Paris, besides representing in a manner
the credit side in another account, where she figures as the

With Pons' decline and fall as an artist came his simultaneous
transformation from invited guest to parasite and hanger-on; he could
not bring himself to quit dinners so excellently served for the
Spartan broth of a two-franc ordinary. Alas! alas! a shudder ran
through him at the mere thought of the great sacrifices which
independence required him to make. He felt that he was capable of
sinking to even lower depths for the sake of good living, if there
were no other way of enjoying the first and best of everything, of
guzzling (vulgar but expressive word) nice little dishes carefully
prepared. Pons lived like a bird, pilfering his meal, flying away when
he had taken his fill, singing a few notes by way of return; he took a
certain pleasure in the thought that he lived at the expense of
society, which asked of him--what but the trifling toll of grimaces?
Like all confirmed bachelors, who hold their lodgings in horror, and
live as much as possible in other people's houses, Pons was accustomed
to the formulas and facial contortions which do duty for feeling in
the world; he used compliments as small change; and as far as others
were concerned, he was satisfied with the labels they bore, and never
plunged a too-curious hand into the sack.

This not intolerable phase lasted for another ten years. Such years!
Pons' life was closing with a rainy autumn. All through those years he
contrived to dine without expense by making himself necessary in the
houses which he frequented. He took the first step in the downward
path by undertaking a host of small commissions; many and many a time
Pons ran on errands instead of the porter or the servant; many a
purchase he made for his entertainers. He became a kind of harmless,
well-meaning spy, sent by one family into another; but he gained no
credit with those for whom he trudged about, and so often sacrificed

"Pons is a bachelor," said they; "he is at a loss to know what to do
with his time; he is only too glad to trot about for us.--What else
would he do?"

Very soon the cold which old age spreads about itself began to set in;
the communicable cold which sensibly lowers the social temperature,
especially if the old man is ugly and poor. Old and ugly and poor--is
not this to be thrice old? Pons' winter had begun, the winter which
brings the reddened nose, and frost-nipped cheeks, and the numbed
fingers, numb in how many ways!

Invitations very seldom came for Pons now. So far from seeking the
society of the parasite, every family accepted him much as they
accepted the taxes; they valued nothing that Pons could do for them;
real services from Pons counted for nought. The family circles in
which the worthy artist revolved had no respect for art or letters;
they went down on their knees to practical results; they valued
nothing but the fortune or social position acquired since the year
1830. The bourgeoisie is afraid of intellect and genius, but Pons'
spirit and manner were not haughty enough to overawe his relations,
and naturally he had come at last to be accounted less than nothing
with them, though he was not altogether despised.

He had suffered acutely among them, but, like all timid creatures, he
kept silence as to his pain; and so by degrees schooled himself to
hide his feelings, and learned to take sanctuary in his inmost self.
Many superficial persons interpret this conduct by the short word
"selfishness;" and, indeed, the resemblance between the egoist and the
solitary human creature is strong enough to seem to justify the
harsher verdict; and this is especially true in Paris, where nobody
observes others closely, where all things pass swift as waves, and
last as little as a Ministry.

So Cousin Pons was accused of selfishness (behind his back); and if
the world accuses any one, it usually finds him guilty and condemns
him into the bargain. Pons bowed to the decision. Do any of us know
how such a timid creature is cast down by an unjust judgment? Who will
ever paint all that the timid suffer? This state of things, now
growing daily worse, explains the sad expression on the poor old
musician's face; he lived by capitulations of which he was ashamed.
Every time we sin against self-respect at the bidding of the ruling
passion, we rivet its hold upon us; the more that passion requires of
us, the stronger it grows, every sacrifice increasing, as it were, the
value of a satisfaction for which so much has been given up, till the
negative sum-total of renouncements looms very large in a man's
imagination. Pons, for instance, after enduring the insolently
patronizing looks of some bourgeois, incased in buckram of stupidity,
sipped his glass of port or finished his quail with breadcrumbs, and
relished something of the savor of revenge, besides. "It is not too
dear at the price!" he said to himself.

After all, in the eyes of the moralist, there were extenuating
circumstances in Pons' case. Man only lives, in fact, by some personal
satisfaction. The passionless, perfectly righteous man is not human;
he is a monster, an angel wanting wings. The angel of Christian
mythology has nothing but a head. On earth, the righteous person is
the sufficiently tiresome Grandison, for whom the very Venus of the
Crosswords is sexless.

Setting aside one or two commonplace adventures in Italy, in which
probably the climate accounted for his success, no woman had ever
smiled upon Pons. Plenty of men are doomed to this fate. Pons was an
abnormal birth; the child of parents well stricken in years, he bore
the stigma of his untimely genesis; his cadaverous complexion might
have been contracted in the flask of spirit-of-wine in which science
preserves some extraordinary foetus. Artist though he was, with his
tender, dreamy, sensitive soul, he was forced to accept the character
which belonged to his face; it was hopeless to think of love, and he
remained a bachelor, not so much of choice as of necessity. Then
Gluttony, the sin of the continent monk, beckoned to Pons; he rushed
upon temptation, as he had thrown his whole soul into the adoration of
art and the cult of music. Good cheer and bric-a-brac gave him the
small change for the love which could spend itself in no other way. As
for music, it was his profession, and where will you find the man who
is in love with his means of earning a livelihood? For it is with a
profession as with marriage: in the long length you are sensible of
nothing but the drawbacks.

Brillat-Savarin has deliberately set himself to justify the
gastronome, but perhaps even he has not dwelt sufficiently on the
reality of the pleasures of the table. The demands of digestion upon
the human economy produce an internal wrestling-bout of human forces
which rivals the highest degree of amorous pleasure. The gastronome is
conscious of an expenditure of vital power, an expenditure so vast
that the brain is atrophied (as it were), that a second brain, located
in the diaphragm, may come into play, and the suspension of all the
faculties is in itself a kind of intoxication. A boa constrictor
gorged with an ox is so stupid with excess that the creature is easily
killed. What man, on the wrong side of forty, is rash enough to work
after dinner? And remark in the same connection, that all great men
have been moderate eaters. The exhilarating effect of the wing of a
chicken upon invalids recovering from serious illness, and long
confined to a stinted and carefully chosen diet, has been frequently
remarked. The sober Pons, whose whole enjoyment was concentrated in
the exercise of his digestive organs, was in the position of chronic
convalescence; he looked to his dinner to give him the utmost degree
of pleasurable sensation, and hitherto he had procured such sensations
daily. Who dares to bid farewell to old habit? Many a man on the brink
of suicide has been plucked back on the threshold of death by the
thought of the cafe where he plays his nightly game of dominoes.

In the year 1835, chance avenged Pons for the indifference of
womankind by finding him a prop for his declining years, as the saying
goes; and he, who had been old from his cradle, found a support in
friendship. Pons took to himself the only life-partner permitted to
him among his kind--an old man and a fellow-musician.

But for La Fontaine's fable, _Les Deux Amis_, this sketch should have
borne the title of _The Two Friends_; but to take the name of this
divine story would surely be a deed of violence, a profanation from
which every true man of letters would shrink. The title ought to be
borne alone and for ever by the fabulist's masterpiece, the revelation
of his soul, and the record of his dreams; those three words were set
once and for ever by the poet at the head of a page which is his by a
sacred right of ownership; for it is a shrine before which all
generations, all over the world, will kneel so long as the art of
printing shall endure.

Pons' friend gave lessons on the pianoforte. They met and struck up an
acquaintance in 1834, one prize day at a boarding-school; and so
congenial were their ways of thinking and living, that Pons used to
say that he had found his friend too late for his happiness. Never,
perhaps, did two souls, so much alike, find each other in the great
ocean of humanity which flowed forth, in disobedience to the will of
God, from its source in the Garden of Eden. Before very long the two
musicians could not live without each other. Confidences were
exchanged, and in a week's time they were like brothers. Schmucke (for
that was his name) had not believed that such a man as Pons existed,
nor had Pons imagined that a Schmucke was possible. Here already you
have a sufficient description of the good couple; but it is not every
mind that takes kindly to the concise synthetic method, and a certain
amount of demonstration is necessary if the credulous are to accept
the conclusion.

This pianist, like all other pianists, was a German. A German, like
the eminent Liszt and the great Mendelssohn, and Steibelt, and Dussek,
and Meyer, and Mozart, and Doelher, and Thalberg, and Dreschok, and
Hiller, and Leopold Hertz, Woertz, Karr, Wolff, Pixis, and Clara Wieck
--and all Germans, generally speaking. Schmucke was a great musical
composer doomed to remain a music master, so utterly did his character
lack the audacity which a musical genius needs if he is to push his
way to the front. A German's naivete does not invariably last him
through his life; in some cases it fails after a certain age; and even
as a cultivator of the soil brings water from afar by means of
irrigation channels, so, from the springs of his youth, does the
Teuton draw the simplicity which disarms suspicion--the perennial
supplies with which he fertilizes his labors in every field of
science, art, or commerce. A crafty Frenchman here and there will turn
a Parisian tradesman's stupidity to good account in the same way. But
Schmucke had kept his child's simplicity much as Pons continued to
wear his relics of the Empire--all unsuspectingly. The true and
noble-hearted German was at once the theatre and the audience, making
music within himself for himself alone. In this city of Paris he lived
as a nightingale lives among the thickets; and for twenty years he sang
on, mateless, till he met with a second self in Pons. [See _Une Fille

Both Pons and Schmucke were abundantly given, both by heart and
disposition, to the peculiarly German sentimentality which shows
itself alike in childlike ways--in a passion for flowers, in that form
of nature-worship which prompts a German to plant his garden-beds with
big glass globes for the sake of seeing miniature pictures of the view
which he can behold about him of a natural size; in the inquiring turn
of mind that sets a learned Teuton trudging three hundred miles in his
gaiters in search of a fact which smiles up in his face from a wayside
spring, or lurks laughing under the jessamine leaves in the back-yard;
or (to take a final instance) in the German craving to endow every
least detail in creation with a spiritual significance, a craving
which produces sometimes Hoffmann's tipsiness in type, sometimes the
folios with which Germany hedges the simplest questions round about,
lest haply any fool should fall into her intellectual excavations;
and, indeed, if you fathom these abysses, you find nothing but a
German at the bottom.

Both friends were Catholics. They went to Mass and performed the
duties of religion together; and, like children, found nothing to tell
their confessors. It was their firm belief that music is to feeling
and thought as thought and feeling are to speech; and of their
converse on this system there was no end. Each made response to the
other in orgies of sound, demonstrating their convictions, each for
each, like lovers.

Schmucke was as absent-minded as Pons was wide-awake. Pons was a
collector, Schmucke a dreamer of dreams; Schmucke was a student of
beauty seen by the soul, Pons a preserver of material beauty. Pons
would catch sight of a china cup and buy it in the time that Schmucke
took to blow his nose, wondering the while within himself whether the
musical phrase that was ringing in his brain--the _motif_ from Rossini
or Bellini or Beethoven or Mozart--had its origin or its counterpart
in the world of human thought and emotion. Schmucke's economies were
controlled by an absent mind, Pons was a spendthrift through passion,
and for both the result was the same--they had not a penny on Saint
Sylvester's day.

Perhaps Pons would have given way under his troubles if it had not
been for this friendship; but life became bearable when he found some
one to whom he could pour out his heart. The first time that he
breathed a word of his difficulties, the good German had advised him
to live as he himself did, and eat bread and cheese at home sooner
than dine abroad at such a cost. Alas! Pons did not dare to confess
that heart and stomach were at war within him, that he could digest
affronts which pained his heart, and, cost what it might, a good
dinner that satisfied his palate was a necessity to him, even as your
gay Lothario must have a mistress to tease.

In time Schmucke understood; not just at once, for he was too much of
a Teuton to possess that gift of swift perception in which the French
rejoice; Schmucke understood and loved poor Pons the better. Nothing
so fortifies a friendship as a belief on the part of one friend that
he is superior to the other. An angel could not have found a word to
say to Schmucke rubbing his hands over the discovery of the hold that
gluttony had gained over Pons. Indeed, the good German adorned their
breakfast-table next morning with delicacies of which he went in
search himself; and every day he was careful to provide something new
for his friend, for they always breakfasted together at home.

If any one imagines that the pair could not escape ridicule in Paris,
where nothing is respected, he cannot know that city. When Schmucke
and Pons united their riches and poverty, they hit upon the economical
expedient of lodging together, each paying half the rent of the very
unequally divided second-floor of a house in the Rue de Normandie in
the Marais. And as it often happened that they left home together and
walked side by side along their beat of boulevard, the idlers of the
quarter dubbed them "the pair of nutcrackers," a nickname which makes
any portrait of Schmucke quite superfluous, for he was to Pons as the
famous statue of the Nurse of Niobe in the Vatican is to the Tribune

Mme. Cibot, portress of the house in the Rue de Normandie, was the
pivot on which the domestic life of the nutcrackers turned; but Mme.
Cibot plays so large a part in the drama which grew out of their
double existence, that it will be more appropriate to give her
portrait on her first appearance in this Scene of Parisian Life.

One thing remains to be said of the characters of the pair of friends;
but this one thing is precisely the hardest to make clear to
ninety-nine readers out of a hundred in this forty-seventh year of the
nineteenth century, perhaps by reason of the prodigious financial
development brought about by the railway system. It is a little thing,
and yet it is so much. It is a question, in fact, of giving an idea of
the extreme sensitiveness of their natures. Let us borrow an
illustration from the railways, if only by way of retaliation, as it
were, for the loans which they levy upon us. The railway train of
to-day, tearing over the metals, grinds away fine particles of dust,
grains so minute that a traveler cannot detect them with the eye; but
let a single one of those invisible motes find its way into the
kidneys, it will bring about that most excruciating, and sometimes
fatal, disease known as gravel. And our society, rushing like a
locomotive along its metaled track, is heedless of the all but
imperceptible dust made by the grinding of the wheels; but it was
otherwise with the two musicians; the invisible grains of sand sank
perpetually into the very fibres of their being, causing them
intolerable anguish of heart. Tender exceedingly to the pain of
others, they wept for their own powerlessness to help; and their own
susceptibilities were almost morbidly acute. Neither age nor the
continual spectacle of the drama of Paris life had hardened two souls
still young and childlike and pure; the longer they lived, indeed, the
more keenly they felt their inward suffering; for so it is, alas! with
natures unsullied by the world, with the quiet thinker, and with such
poets among the poets as have never fallen into any excess.

Since the old men began housekeeping together, the day's routine was
very nearly the same for them both. They worked together in harness in
the fraternal fashion of the Paris cab-horse; rising every morning,
summer and winter, at seven o'clock, and setting out after breakfast
to give music lessons in the boarding-schools, in which, upon
occasion, they would take lessons for each other. Towards noon Pons
repaired to his theatre, if there was a rehearsal on hand; but all his
spare moments were spent in sauntering on the boulevards. Night found
both of them in the orchestra at the theatre, for Pons had found a
place for Schmucke, and upon this wise.

At the time of their first meeting, Pons had just received that
marshal's baton of the unknown musical composer--an appointment as
conductor of an orchestra. It had come to him unasked, by a favor of
Count Popinot, a bourgeois hero of July, at that time a member of the
Government. Count Popinot had the license of a theatre in his gift,
and Count Popinot had also an old acquaintance of the kind that the
successful man blushes to meet. As he rolls through the streets of
Paris in his carriage, it is not pleasant to see his boyhood's chum
down at heel, with a coat of many improbable colors and trousers
innocent of straps, and a head full of soaring speculations on too
grand a scale to tempt shy, easily scared capital. Moreover, this
friend of his youth, Gaudissart by name, had done not a little in the
past towards founding the fortunes of the great house of Popinot.
Popinot, now a Count and a peer of France, after twice holding a
portfolio had no wish to shake off "the Illustrious Gaudissart." Quite
otherwise. The pomps and vanities of the Court of the Citizen-King had
not spoiled the sometime druggist's kind heart; he wished to put his
ex-commercial traveler in the way of renewing his wardrobe and
replenishing his purse. So when Gaudissart, always an enthusiastic
admirer of the fair sex, applied for the license of a bankrupt
theatre, Popinot granted it on condition that Pons (a parasite of the
Hotel Popinot) should be engaged as conductor of the orchestra; and at
the same time, the Count was careful to send certain elderly amateurs
of beauty to the theatre, so that the new manager might be strongly
supported financially by wealthy admirers of feminine charms revealed
by the costume of the ballet.

Gaudissart and Company, who, be it said, made their fortune, hit upon
the grand idea of operas for the people, and carried it out in a
boulevard theatre in 1834. A tolerable conductor, who could adapt or
even compose a little music upon occasion, was a necessity for ballets
and pantomimes; but the last management had so long been bankrupt,
that they could not afford to keep a transposer and copyist. Pons
therefore introduced Schmucke to the company as copier of music, a
humble calling which requires no small musical knowledge; and
Schmucke, acting on Pons' advice, came to an understanding with the
_chef-de-service_ at the Opera-Comique, so saving himself the clerical

The partnership between Pons and Schmucke produced one brilliant
result. Schmucke being a German, harmony was his strong point; he
looked over the instrumentation of Pons' compositions, and Pons
provided the airs. Here and there an amateur among the audience
admired the new pieces of music which served as accompaniment to two
or three great successes, but they attributed the improvement vaguely
to "progress." No one cared to know the composer's name; like
occupants of the _baignoires_, lost to view of the house, to gain a
view of the stage, Pons and Schmucke eclipsed themselves by their
success. In Paris (especially since the Revolution of July) no one can
hope to succeed unless he will push his way _quibuscumque viis_ and
with all his might through a formidable host of competitors; but for
this feat a man needs thews and sinews, and our two friends, be it
remembered, had that affection of the heart which cripples all
ambitious effort.

Pons, as a rule, only went to his theatre towards eight o'clock, when
the piece in favor came on, and overtures and accompaniments needed
the strict ruling of the baton; most minor theatres are lax in such
matters, and Pons felt the more at ease because he himself had been by
no means grasping in all his dealings with the management; and
Schmucke, if need be, could take his place. Time went by, and Schmucke
became an institution in the orchestra; the Illustrious Gaudissart
said nothing, but he was well aware of the value of Pons'
collaborator. He was obliged to include a pianoforte in the orchestra
(following the example of the leading theatres); the instrument was
placed beside the conductor's chair, and Schmucke played without
increase of salary--a volunteer supernumerary. As Schmucke's
character, his utter lack of ambition or pretence became known, the
orchestra recognized him as one of themselves; and as time went on, he
was intrusted with the often needed miscellaneous musical instruments
which form no part of the regular band of a boulevard theatre. For a
very small addition to his stipend, Schmucke played the viola d'amore,
hautboy, violoncello, and harp, as well as the piano, the castanets
for the _cachucha_, the bells, saxhorn, and the like. If the Germans
cannot draw harmony from the mighty instruments of Liberty, yet to
play all instruments of music comes to them by nature.

The two old artists were exceedingly popular at the theatre, and took
its ways philosophically. They had put, as it were, scales over their
eyes, lest they should see the offences that needs must come when a
_corps de ballet_ is blended with actors and actresses, one of the
most trying combinations ever created by the laws of supply and demand
for the torment of managers, authors, and composers alike.

Every one esteemed Pons with his kindness and his modesty, his great
self-respect and respect for others; for a pure and limpid life wins
something like admiration from the worst nature in every social
sphere, and in Paris a fair virtue meets with something of the success
of a large diamond, so great a rarity it is. No actor, no dancer
however brazen, would have indulged in the mildest practical joke at
the expense of either Pons or Schmucke.

Pons very occasionally put in an appearance in the _foyer_; but all
that Schmucke knew of the theatre was the underground passage from the
street door to the orchestra. Sometimes, however, during an interval,
the good German would venture to make a survey of the house and ask a
few questions of the first flute, a young fellow from Strasbourg, who
came of a German family at Kehl. Gradually under the flute's tuition
Schmucke's childlike imagination acquired a certain amount of
knowledge of the world; he could believe in the existence of that
fabulous creature the _lorette_, the possibility of "marriages at the
Thirteenth Arrondissement," the vagaries of the leading lady, and the
contraband traffic carried on by box-openers. In his eyes the more
harmless forms of vice were the lowest depths of Babylonish iniquity;
he did not believe the stories, he smiled at them for grotesque
inventions. The ingenious reader can see that Pons and Schmucke were
exploited, to use a word much in fashion; but what they lost in money
they gained in consideration and kindly treatment.

It was after the success of the ballet with which a run of success
began for the Gaudissart Company that the management presented Pons
with a piece of plate--a group of figures attributed to Benvenuto
Cellini. The alarming costliness of the gift caused talk in the
green-room. It was a matter of twelve hundred francs! Pons, poor
honest soul, was for returning the present, and Gaudissart had a
world of trouble to persuade him to keep it.

"Ah!" said the manager afterwards, when he told his partner of the
interview, "if we could only find actors up to that sample."

In their joint life, outwardly so quiet, there was the one disturbing
element--the weakness to which Pons sacrificed, the insatiable craving
to dine out. Whenever Schmucke happened to be at home while Pons was
dressing for the evening, the good German would bewail this deplorable

"Gif only he vas ony fatter vor it!" he many a time cried.

And Schmucke would dream of curing his friend of his degrading vice,
for a true friend's instinct in all that belongs to the inner life is
unerring as a dog's sense of smell; a friend knows by intuition the
trouble in his friend's soul, and guesses at the cause and ponders it
in his heart.

Pons, who always wore a diamond ring on the little finger of his right
hand, an ornament permitted in the time of the Empire, but ridiculous
to-day--Pons, who belonged to the "troubadour time," the sentimental
periods of the first Empire, was too much a child of his age, too much
of a Frenchman to wear the expression of divine serenity which
softened Schmucke's hideous ugliness. From Pons' melancholy looks
Schmucke knew that the profession of parasite was growing daily more
difficult and painful. And, in fact, in that month of October 1844,
the number of houses at which Pons dined was naturally much
restricted; reduced to move round and round the family circle, he had
used the word family in far too wide a sense, as will shortly be seen.

M. Camusot, the rich silk mercer of the Rue des Bourdonnais, had
married Pons' first cousin, Mlle. Pons, only child and heiress of one
of the well-known firm of Pons Brothers, court embroiderers. Pons' own
father and mother retired from a firm founded before the Revolution of
1789, leaving their capital in the business until Mlle. Pons' father
sold it in 1815 to M. Rivet. M. Camusot had since lost his wife and
married again, and retired from business some ten years, and now in
1844 he was a member of the Board of Trade, a deputy, and what not.
But the Camusot clan were friendly; and Pons, good man, still
considered that he was some kind of cousin to the children of the
second marriage, who were not relations, or even connected with him in
any way.

The second Mme. Camusot being a Mlle. Cardot, Pons introduced himself
as a relative into the tolerably numerous Cardot family, a second
bourgeois tribe which, taken with its connections, formed quite as
strong a clan as the Camusots; for Cardot the notary (brother of the
second Mme. Camusot) had married a Mlle. Chiffreville; and the
well-known family of Chiffreville, the leading firm of manufacturing
chemists, was closely connected with the whole drug trade, of which M.
Anselme Popinot was for many years the undisputed head, until the
Revolution of July plunged him into the very centre of the dynastic
movement, as everybody knows. So Pons, in the wake of the Camusots and
Cardots, reached the Chiffrevilles, and thence the Popinots, always in
the character of a cousin's cousin.

The above concise statement of Pons' relations with his entertainers
explains how it came to pass that an old musician was received in 1844
as one of the family in the houses of four distinguished persons--to
wit, M. le Comte Popinot, peer of France, and twice in office; M.
Cardot, retired notary, mayor and deputy of an arrondissement in
Paris; M. Camusot senior, a member of the Board of Trade and the
Municipal Chamber and a peerage; and lastly, M. Camusot de Marville,
Camusot's son by his first marriage, and Pons' one genuine relation,
albeit even he was a first cousin once removed.

This Camusot, President of a Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Paris,
had taken the name of his estate at Marville to distinguish himself
from his father and a younger half brother.

Cardot the retired notary had married his daughter to his successor,
whose name was Berthier; and Pons, transferred as part of the
connection, acquired a right to dine with the Berthiers "in the
presence of a notary," as he put it.

This was the bourgeois empyrean which Pons called his "family," that
upper world in which he so painfully reserved his right to a knife and

Of all these houses, some ten in all, the one in which Pons ought to
have met with the kindest reception should by rights have been his own
cousin's; and, indeed, he paid most attention to President Camusot's
family. But, alas! Mme. Camusot de Marville, daughter of the Sieur
Thirion, usher of the cabinet to Louis XVIII. and Charles X., had
never taken very kindly to her husband's first cousin, once removed.
Pons had tried to soften this formidable relative; he wasted his time;
for in spite of the pianoforte lessons which he gave gratuitously to
Mlle. Camusot, a young woman with hair somewhat inclined to red, it
was impossible to make a musician of her.

And now, at this very moment, as he walked with that precious object
in his hand, Pons was bound for the President's house, where he always
felt as if he were at the Tuileries itself, so heavily did the solemn
green curtains, the carmelite-brown hangings, thick piled carpets,
heavy furniture, and general atmosphere of magisterial severity
oppress his soul. Strange as it may seem, he felt more at home in the
Hotel Popinot, Rue Basse-du-Rempart, probably because it was full of
works of art; for the master of the house, since he entered public
life, had acquired a mania for collecting beautiful things, by way of
contrast no doubt, for a politician is obliged to pay for secret
services of the ugliest kind.

President de Marville lived in the Rue de Hanovre, in a house which
his wife had bought ten years previously, on the death of her parents,
for the Sieur and Dame Thirion left their daughter about a hundred and
fifty thousand francs, the savings of a lifetime. With its north
aspect, the house looks gloomy enough seen from the street, but the
back looks towards the south over the courtyard, with a rather pretty
garden beyond it. As the President occupied the whole of the first
floor, once the abode of a great financier of the time of Louis XIV.,
and the second was let to a wealthy old lady, the house wore a look of
dignified repose befitting a magistrate's residence. President Camusot
had invested all that he inherited from his mother, together with the
savings of twenty years, in the purchase of the splendid Marville
estate; a chateau (as fine a relic of the past as you will find to-day
in Normandy) standing in a hundred acres of park land, and a fine
dependent farm, nominally bringing in twelve thousand francs per
annum, though, as it cost the President at least a thousand crowns to
keep up a state almost princely in our days, his yearly revenue, "all
told," as the saying is, was a bare nine thousand francs. With this
and his salary, the President's income amounted to about twenty
thousand francs; but though to all appearance a wealthy man,
especially as one-half of his father's property would one day revert
to him as the only child of the first marriage, he was obliged to live
in Paris as befitted his official position, and M. and Mme. de
Marville spent almost the whole of their incomes. Indeed, before the
year 1834 they felt pinched.

This family schedule sufficiently explains why Mlle. de Marville, aged
three-and-twenty, was still unwed, in spite of a hundred thousand
francs of dowry and tempting prospects, frequently, skilfully, but so
far vainly, held out. For the past five years Pons had listened to
Mme. la Presidente's lamentations as she beheld one young lawyer after
another led to the altar, while all the newly appointed judges at the
Tribunal were fathers of families already; and she, all this time, had
displayed Mlle. de Marville's brilliant expectations before the
undazzled eyes of young Vicomte Popinot, eldest son of the great man
of the drug trade, he of whom it was said by the envious tongues of
the neighborhood of the Rue des Lombards, that the Revolution of July
had been brought about at least as much for his particular benefit as
for the sake of the Orleans branch.

Arrived at the corner of the Rue de Choiseul and the Rue de Hanovre,
Pons suffered from the inexplicable emotions which torment clear
consciences; for a panic terror such as the worst of scoundrels might
feel at sight of a policeman, an agony caused solely by a doubt as to
Mme. de Marville's probable reception of him. That grain of sand,
grating continually on the fibres of his heart, so far from losing its
angles, grew more and more jagged, and the family in the Rue de
Hanovre always sharpened the edges. Indeed, their unceremonious
treatment and Pons' depreciation in value among them had affected the
servants; and while they did not exactly fail in respect, they looked
on the poor relation as a kind of beggar.

Pons' arch-enemy in the house was the ladies'-maid, a thin and wizened
spinster, Madeleine Vivet by name. This Madeleine, in spite of, nay,
perhaps on the strength of, a pimpled complexion and a viper-like
length of spine, had made up her mind that some day she would be Mme.
Pons. But in vain she dangled twenty thousand francs of savings before
the old bachelor's eyes; Pons had declined happiness accompanied by so
many pimples. From that time forth the Dido of the ante-chamber, who
fain had called her master and mistress "cousin," wreaked her spite in
petty ways upon the poor musician. She heard him on the stairs, and
cried audibly, "Oh! here comes the sponger!" She stinted him of wine
when she waited at dinner in the footman's absence; she filled the
water-glass to the brim, to give him the difficult task of lifting it
without spilling a drop; or she would pass the old man over
altogether, till the mistress of the house would remind her (and in
what a tone!--it brought the color to the poor cousin's face); or she
would spill the gravy over his clothes. In short, she waged petty war
after the manner of a petty nature, knowing that she could annoy an
unfortunate superior with impunity.

Madeleine Vivet was Mme. de Marville's maid and housekeeper. She had
lived with M. and Mme. Camusot de Marville since their marriage; she
had shared the early struggles in the provinces when M. Camusot was a
judge at Alencon; she had helped them to exist when M. Camusot,
President of the Tribunal of Mantes, came to Paris, in 1828, to be an
examining magistrate. She was, therefore, too much one of the family
not to wish, for reasons of her own, to revenge herself upon them.
Beneath her desire to pay a trick upon her haughty and ambitious
mistress, and to call her master her cousin, there surely lurked a
long-stifled hatred, built up like an avalanche, upon the pebble of
some past grievance.

"Here comes your M. Pons, madame, still wearing that spencer of his!"
Madeleine came to tell the Presidente. "He really might tell me how he
manages to make it look the same for five-and-twenty years together."

Mme. Camusot de Marville, hearing a man's footstep in the little
drawing-room between the large drawing-room and her bedroom, looked at
her daughter and shrugged her shoulders.

"You always make these announcements so cleverly that you leave me no
time to think, Madeleine."

"Jean is out, madame, I was all alone; M. Pons rang the bell, I opened
the door; and as he is almost one of the family, I could not prevent
him from coming after me. There he is, taking off his spencer."

"Poor little puss!" said the Presidente, addressing her daughter, "we
are caught. We shall have to dine at home now.--Let us see," she
added, seeing that the "dear puss" wore a piteous face; "must we get
rid of him for good?"

"Oh! poor man!" cried Mlle. Camusot, "deprive him of one of his

Somebody coughed significantly in the next room by way of warning that
he could hear.

"Very well, let him come in!" said Mme. Camusot, looking at Madeleine
with another shrug.

"You are here so early, cousin, that you have come in upon us just as
mother was about to dress," said Cecile Camusot in a coaxing tone. But
Cousin Pons had caught sight of the Presidente's shrug, and felt so
cruelly hurt that he could not find a compliment, and contented
himself with the profound remark, "You are always charming, my little

Then, turning to the mother, he continued with a bow:

"You will not take it amiss, I think, if I have come a little earlier
than usual, dear cousin; I have brought something for you; you once
did me the pleasure of asking me for it."

Poor Pons! Every time he addressed the President, the President's
wife, or Cecile as "cousin," he gave them excruciating annoyance. As
he spoke, he draw a long, narrow cherry-wood box, marvelously carved,
from his coat-pocket.

"Oh, did I?--I had forgotten," the lady answered drily.

It was a heartless speech, was it not? Did not those few words deny
all merit to the pains taken for her by the cousin whose one offence
lay in the fact that he was a poor relation?

"But it is very kind of you, cousin," she added. "How much to I owe
you for this little trifle?"

Pons quivered inwardly at the question. He had meant the trinket as a
return for his dinners.

"I thought that you would permit me to offer it you----" he faltered

"What?" said Mme. Camusot. "Oh! but there need be no ceremony between
us; we know each other well enough to wash our linen among ourselves.
I know very well that you are not rich enough to give more than you
get. And to go no further, it is quite enough that you should have
spent a good deal of time in running among the dealers--"

"If you were asked to pay the full price of the fan, my dear cousin,
you would not care to have it," answered poor Pons, hurt and insulted;
"it is one of Watteau's masterpieces, painted on both sides; but you
may be quite easy, cousin, I did not give one-hundredth part of its
value as a work of art."

To tell a rich man that he is poor! you might as well tell the
Archbishop of Granada that his homilies show signs of senility. Mme.
la Presidente, proud of her husband's position, of the estate of
Marville, and her invitations to court balls, was keenly susceptible
on this point; and what was worse, the remark came from a
poverty-stricken musician to whom she had been charitable.

"Then the people of whom you buy things of this kind are very stupid,
are they?" she asked quickly.

"Stupid dealers are unknown in Paris," Pons answered almost drily.

"Then you must be very clever," put in Cecile by way of calming the

"Clever enough to know a Lancret, a Watteau, a Pater, or Greuze when I
see it, little cousin; but anxious, most of all, to please your dear

Mme. de Marville, ignorant and vain, was unwilling to appear to
receive the slightest trifle from the parasite; and here her ignorance
served her admirably, she did not even know the name of Watteau. And,
on the other hand, if anything can measure the extent of the
collector's passion, which, in truth, is one of the most deeply seated
of all passions, rivaling the very vanity of the author--if anything
can give an idea of the lengths to which a collector will go, it is
the audacity which Pons displayed on this occasion, as he held his own
against his lady cousin for the first time in twenty years. He was
amazed at his own boldness. He made Cecile see the beauties of the
delicate carving on the sticks of this wonder, and as he talked to her
his face grew serene and gentle again. But without some sketch of the
Presidente, it is impossible fully to understand the perturbation of
heart from which Pons suffered.

Mme. de Marville had been short and fair, plump and fresh; at
forty-six she was as short as ever, but she looked dried up. An arched
forehead and thin lips, that had been softly colored once, lent a
soured look to a face naturally disdainful, and now grown hard and
unpleasant with a long course of absolute domestic rule. Time had
deepened her fair hair to a harsh chestnut hue; the pride of office,
intensified by suppressed envy, looked out of eyes that had lost none
of their brightness nor their satirical expression. As a matter of
fact, Mme. Camusot de Marville felt almost poor in the society of
self-made wealthy bourgeois with whom Pons dined. She could not
forgive the rich retail druggist, ex-president of the Commercial
Court, for his successive elevations as deputy, member of the
Government, count and peer of France. She could not forgive her
father-in-law for putting himself forward instead of his eldest son as
deputy of his arrondissement after Popinot's promotion to the peerage.
After eighteen years of services in Paris, she was still waiting for
the post of Councillor of the Court of Cassation for her husband. It
was Camusot's own incompetence, well known at the Law Courts, which
excluded him from the Council. The Home Secretary of 1844 even
regretted Camusot's nomination to the presidency of the Court of
Indictments in 1834, though, thanks to his past experience as an
examining magistrate, he made himself useful in drafting decrees.

These disappointments had told upon Mme. de Marville, who, moreover,
had formed a tolerably correct estimate of her husband. A temper
naturally shrewish was soured till she grew positively terrible. She
was not old, but she had aged; she deliberately set herself to extort
by fear all that the world was inclined to refuse her, and was harsh
and rasping as a file. Caustic to excess she had few friends among
women; she surrounded herself with prim, elderly matrons of her own
stamp, who lent each other mutual support, and people stood in awe of
her. As for poor Pons, his relations with this fiend in petticoats
were very much those of a schoolboy with the master whose one idea of
communication is the ferule.

The Presidente had no idea of the value of the gift. She was puzzled
by her cousin's sudden access of audacity.

"Then, where did you find this?" inquired Cecile, as she looked
closely at the trinket.

"In the Rue de Lappe. A dealer in second-hand furniture there had just
brought it back with him from a chateau that is being pulled down near
Dreux, Aulnay. Mme. de Pompadour used to spend part of her time there
before she built Menars. Some of the most splendid wood-carving ever
known has been saved from destruction; Lienard (our most famous living
wood-carver) had kept a couple of oval frames for models, as the _ne
plus ultra_ of the art, so fine it is.--There were treasures in that
place. My man found the fan in the drawer of an inlaid what-not, which
I should certainly have bought if I were collecting things of the
kind, but it is quite out of the question--a single piece of
Riesener's furniture is worth three or four thousand francs! People
here in Paris are just beginning to find out that the famous French
and German marquetry workers of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and
eighteenth centuries composed perfect pictures in wood. It is a
collector's business to be ahead of the fashion. Why, in five years'
time, the Frankenthal ware, which I have been collecting these twenty
years, will fetch twice the price of Sevres _pata tendre_."

"What is Frankenthal ware?" asked Cecile.

"That is the name of the porcelain made by the Elector of the
Palatinate; it dates further back than our manufactory at Sevres; just
as the famous gardens at Heidelberg, laid waste by Turenne, had the
bad luck to exist before the garden of Versailles. Sevres copied
Frankenthal to a large extent.--In justice to the Germans, it must be
said that they have done admirable work in Saxony and in the

Mother and daughter looked at one another as if Pons were speaking
Chinese. No one can imagine how ignorant and exclusive Parisians are;
they only learn what they are taught, and that only when they choose.

"And how do you know the Frankenthal ware when you see it?"

"Eh! by the mark!" cried Pons with enthusiasm. "There is a mark on
every one of those exquisite masterpieces. Frankenthal ware is marked
with a C and T (for Charles Theodore) interlaced and crowned. On old
Dresden china there are two crossed swords and the number of the order
in gilt figures. Vincennes bears a hunting-horn; Vienna, a V closed
and barred. You can tell Berlin by the two bars, Mayence by the wheel,
and Sevres by the two crossed L's. The queen's porcelain is marked A
for Antoinette, with a royal crown above it. In the eighteenth
century, all the crowned heads of Europe had rival porcelain
factories, and workmen were kidnaped. Watteau designed services for
the Dresden factory; they fetch frantic prices at the present day. One
has to know what one is about with them too, for they are turning out
imitations now at Dresden. Wonderful things they used to make; they
will never make the like again--"

"Oh! pshaw!"

"No, cousin. Some inlaid work and some kinds of porcelain will never
be made again, just as there will never be another Raphael, nor
Titian, nor Rembrandt, nor Van Eyck, nor Cranach. . . . Well, now!
there are the Chinese; they are very ingenious, very clever; they make
modern copies of their 'grand mandarin' porcelain, as it is called.
But a pair of vases of genuine 'grand mandarin' vases of the largest
size, are worth, six, eight, and ten thousand francs, while you can
buy the modern replicas for a couple of hundred!"

"You are joking."

"You are astonished at the prices, but that is nothing, cousin. A
dinner service of Sevres _pate tendre_ (and _pate tendre_ is not
porcelain)--a complete dinner service of Sevres _pate tendre_ for
twelve persons is not merely worth a hundred thousand francs, but that
is the price charged on the invoice. Such a dinner-service cost
fifteen thousand francs at Sevres in 1750; I have seen the original

"But let us go back to this fan," said Cecile. Evidently in her
opinion the trinket was an old-fashioned thing.

"You can understand that as soon as your dear mamma did me the honor
of asking for a fan, I went round of all the curiosity shops in Paris,
but I found nothing fine enough. I wanted nothing less than a
masterpiece for the dear Presidente, and thought of giving her one
that once belonged to Marie Antoinette, the most beautiful of all
celebrated fans. But yesterday I was dazzled by this divine
_chef-d'oeuvre_, which certainly must have been ordered by Louis XV.
himself. Do you ask how I came to look for fans in the Rue de Lappe,
among an Auvergnat's stock of brass and iron and ormolu furniture?
Well, I myself believe that there is an intelligence in works of art;
they know art-lovers, they call to them--'Cht-tt!'"

Mme. de Marville shrugged her shoulders and looked at her daughter;
Pons did not notice the rapid pantomime.

"I know all those sharpers," continued Pons, "so I asked him,
'Anything fresh to-day, Daddy Monistrol?'--(for he always lets me look
over his lots before the big buyers come)--and at that he began to
tell me how Lienard, that did such beautiful work for the Government
in the Chapelle de Dreux, had been at the Aulnay sale and rescued the
carved panels out of the clutches of the Paris dealers, while their
heads were running on china and inlaid furniture.--'I did not do much
myself,' he went on, 'but I may make my traveling expenses out of
_this_,' and he showed me a what-not; a marvel! Boucher's designs
executed in marquetry, and with such art!--One could have gone down on
one's knees before it.--'Look, sir,' he said, 'I have just found this
fan in a little drawer; it was locked, I had to force it open. You
might tell me where I can sell it'--and with that he brings out this
little carved cherry-wood box.--'See,' says he, 'it is the kind of
Pompadour that looks like decorated Gothic.'--'Yes,' I told him, 'the
box is pretty; the box might suit me; but as for the fan, Monistrol, I
have no Mme. Pons to give the old trinket to, and they make very
pretty new ones nowadays; you can buy miracles of painting on vellum
cheaply enough. There are two thousand painters in Paris, you know.'
--And I opened out the fan carelessly, keeping down my admiration,
looked indifferently at those two exquisite little pictures, touched
off with an ease fit to send you into raptures. I held Mme. de
Pompadour's fan in my hand! Watteau had done his utmost for this.
--'What do you want for the what-not?'--'Oh! a thousand francs; I have
had a bid already.'--I offered him a price for the fan corresponding
with the probable expenses of the journey. We looked each other in the
eyes, and I saw that I had my man. I put the fan back into the box
lest my Auvergnat should begin to look at it, and went into ecstasies
over the box; indeed, it is a jewel.--'If I take it,' said I, 'it is
for the sake of the box; the box tempts me. As for the what-not, you
will get more than a thousand francs for that. Just see how the brass
is wrought; it is a model. There is business in it. . . . It has never
been copied; it is a unique specimen, made solely for Mme. de
Pompadour'--and so on, till my man, all on fire for his what-not,
forgets the fan, and lets me have it for a mere trifle, because I have
pointed out the beauties of his piece of Riesener's furniture. So here
it is; but it needs a great deal of experience to make such a bargain
as that. It is a duel, eye to eye; and who has such eyes as a Jew or
an Auvergnat?"

The old artist's wonderful pantomime, his vivid, eager way of telling
the story of the triumph of his shrewdness over the dealer's
ignorance, would have made a subject for a Dutch painter; but it was
all thrown away upon the audience. Mother and daughter exchanged cold,
contemptuous glances.--"What an oddity!" they seemed to say.

"So it amuses you?" remarked Mme. de Marville. The question sent a
cold chill through Pons; he felt a strong desire to slap the

"Why, my dear cousin, that is the way to hunt down a work of art. You
are face to face with antagonists that dispute the game with you. It
is craft against craft! A work of art in the hands of a Norman, an
Auvergnat, or a Jew, is like a princess guarded by magicians in a
fairy tale."

"And how can you tell that this is by Wat--what do you call him?"

"Watteau, cousin. One of the greatest eighteenth century painters in
France. Look! do you not see that it is his work?" (pointing to a
pastoral scene, court-shepherd swains and shepherdesses dancing in a
ring). "The movement! the life in it! the coloring! There it is--see!
--painted with a stroke of the brush, as a writing-master makes a
flourish with a pen. Not a trace of effort here! And, turn it over,
look!--a ball in a drawing-room. Summer and Winter! And what
ornaments! and how well preserved it is! The hinge-pin is gold, you
see, and on cleaning it, I found a tiny ruby at either side."

"If it is so, cousin, I could not think of accepting such a valuable
present from you. It would be better to lay up the money for
yourself," said Mme. de Marville; but all the same, she asked no
better than to keep the splendid fan.

"It is time that it should pass from the service of Vice into the
hands of Virtue," said the good soul, recovering his assurance. "It
has taken a century to work the miracle. No princess at Court, you may
be sure, will have anything to compare with it; for, unfortunately,
men will do more for a Pompadour than for a virtuous queen, such is
human nature."

"Very well," Mme. de Marville said, laughing, "I will accept your
present.--Cecile, my angel, go to Madeleine and see that dinner is
worthy of your cousin."

Mme. de Marville wished to make matters even. Her request, made aloud,
in defiance of all rules of good taste, sounded so much like an
attempt to repay at once the balance due to the poor cousin, that Pons
flushed red, like a girl found out in fault. The grain of sand was a
little too large; for some moments he could only let it work in his
heart. Cecile, a red-haired young woman, with a touch of pedantic
affectation, combined her father's ponderous manner with a trace of
her mother's hardness. She went and left poor Pons face to face with
the terrible Presidente.

"How nice she is, my little Lili!" said the mother. She still called
her Cecile by this baby name.

"Charming!" said Pons, twirling his thumbs.

"I _cannot_ understand these times in which we live," broke out the
Presidente. "What is the good of having a President of the Court of
Appeal in Paris and a Commander of the Legion of Honor for your
father, and for a grandfather the richest wholesale silk merchant in
Paris, a deputy, and a millionaire that will be a peer of France some
of these days?"

The President's zeal for the new Government had, in fact, recently
been rewarded with a commander's ribbon--thanks to his friendship with
Popinot, said the envious. Popinot himself, modest though he was, had,
as has been seen, accepted the title of count, "for his son's sake,"
he told his numerous friends.

"Men look for nothing but money nowadays," said Cousin Pons. "No one
thinks anything of you unless you are rich, and--"

"What would it have been if Heaven had spared my poor little
Charles!--" cried the lady.

"Oh, with two children you would be poor," returned the cousin. "It
practically means the division of the property. But you need not
trouble yourself, cousin; Cecile is sure to marry sooner or later. She
is the most accomplished girl I know."

To such depths had Pons fallen by adapting himself to the company of
his entertainers! In their houses he echoed their ideas, and said the
obvious thing, after the manner of a chorus in a Greek play. He did
not dare to give free play to the artist's originality, which had
overflowed in bright repartee when he was young; he had effaced
himself, till he had almost lost his individuality; and if the real
Pons appeared, as he had done a moment ago, he was immediately

"But I myself was married with only twenty thousand francs for my

"In 1819, cousin. And it was _you_, a woman with a head on your
shoulders, and the royal protection of Louis XVIII."

"Be still, my child is a perfect angel. She is clever, she has a warm
heart, she will have a hundred thousand francs on her wedding day, to
say nothing of the most brilliant expectations; and yet she stays on
our hands," and so on and so on. For twenty minutes, Mme. de Marville
talked on about herself and her Cecile, pitying herself after the
manner of mothers in bondage to marriageable daughters.

Pons had dined at the house every week for twenty years, and Camusot
de Marville was the only cousin he had in the world; but he had yet to
hear the first word spoken as to his own affairs--nobody cared to know
how he lived. Here and elsewhere the poor cousin was a kind of sink
down which his relatives poured domestic confidences. His discretion
was well known; indeed, was he not bound over to silence when a single
imprudent word would have shut the door of ten houses upon him? And he
must combine his role of listener with a second part; he must applaud
continually, smile on every one, accuse nobody, defend nobody; from
his point of view, every one must be in the right. And so, in the
house of his kinsman, Pons no longer counted as a man; he was a
digestive apparatus.

In the course of a long tirade, Mme. Camusot de Marville avowed with
due circumspection that she was prepared to take almost any son-in-law
with her eyes shut. She was even disposed to think that at
eight-and-forty or so a man with twenty thousand francs a year was a
good match.

"Cecile is in her twenty-third year. If it should fall out so
unfortunately that she is not married before she is five or
six-and-twenty, it will be extremely hard to marry her at all. When a
girl reaches that age, people want to know why she has been so long on
hand. We are a good deal talked about in our set. We have come to the
end of all the ordinary excuses--'She is so young.--She is so fond of
her father and mother that she doesn't like to leave them.--She is so
happy at home.--She is hard to please, she would like a good name--'
We are beginning to look silly; I feel that distinctly. And besides,
Cecile is tired of waiting, poor child, she suffers--"

"In what way?" Pons was noodle enough to ask.

"Why, because it is humiliating to her to see all her girl friends
married before her," replied the mother, with a duenna's air.

"But, cousin, has anything happened since the last time that I had the
pleasure of dining here? Why do you think of men of eight-and-forty?"
Pons inquired humbly.

"This has happened," returned the Presidente. "We were to have had an
interview with a Court Councillor; his son is thirty years old and
very well-to-do, and M. de Marville would have obtained a post in the
audit-office for him and paid the money. The young man is a
supernumerary there at present. And now they tell us that he has taken
it into his head to rush off to Italy in the train of a duchess from
the Bal Mabille. . . . It is nothing but a refusal in disguise. The
fact is, the young man's mother is dead; he has an income of thirty
thousand francs, and more to come at his father's death, and they
don't care about the match for him. You have just come in in the
middle of all this, dear cousin, so you must excuse our bad temper."

While Pons was casting about for the complimentary answer which
invariably occurred to him too late when he was afraid of his host,
Madeleine came in, handed a folded note to the Presidente, and waited
for an answer. The note ran as follows:

  "DEAR MAMMA,--If we pretend that this note comes to you from papa
  at the Palais, and that he wants us both to dine with his friend
  because proposals have been renewed--then the cousin will go, and
  we can carry out our plan of going to the Popinots."

"Who brought the master's note?" the Presidente asked quickly.

"A lad from the Salle du Palais," the withered waiting woman
unblushingly answered, and her mistress knew at once that Madeleine
had woven the plot with Cecile, now at the end of her patience.

"Tell him that we will both be there at half-past five."

Madeleine had no sooner left the room than the Presidente turned to
Cousin Pons with that insincere friendliness which is about as
grateful to a sensitive soul as a mixture of milk and vinegar to the
palate of an epicure.

"Dinner is ordered, dear cousin; you must dine without us; my husband
has just sent word from the court that the question of the marriage
has been reopened, and we are to dine with the Councillor. We need not
stand on ceremony at all. Do just as if you were at home. I have no
secrets from you; I am perfectly open with you, as you see. I am sure
you would not wish to break off the little darling's marriage."

"_I_, cousin? On the contrary, I should like to find some one for her;
but in my circle--"

"Oh, that is not at all likely," said the Presidente, cutting him
short insolently. "Then you will stay, will you not? Cecile will keep
you company while I dress.

"Oh! I can dine somewhere else, cousin."

Cruelly hurt though he was by her way of casting up his poverty to
him, the prospect of being left alone with the servants was even more

"But why should you? Dinner is ready; you may just as well have it; if
you do not, the servants will eat it."

At that atrocious speech Pons started up as if he had received a shock
from a galvanic battery, bowed stiffly to the lady, and went to find
his spencer. Now, it so happened that the door of Cecile's bedroom,
beyond the little drawing-room, stood open, and looking into the
mirror, he caught sight of the girl shaking with laughter as she
gesticulated and made signs to her mother. The old artist understood
beyond a doubt that he had been the victim of some cowardly hoax. Pons
went slowly down the stairs; he could not keep back the tears. He
understood that he had been turned out of the house, but why and
wherefore he did not know.

"I am growing too old," he told himself. "The world has a horror of
old age and poverty--two ugly things. After this I will not go
anywhere unless I am asked."

Heroic resolve!

Downstairs the great gate was shut, as it usually is in houses
occupied by the proprietor; the kitchen stood exactly opposite the
porter's lodge, and the door was open. Pons was obliged to listen
while Madeleine told the servants the whole story amid the laughter of
the servants. She had not expected him to leave so soon. The footman
loudly applauded a joke at the expense of a visitor who was always
coming to the house and never gave you more than three francs at the
year's end.

"Yes," put in the cook; "but if he cuts up rough and does not come
back, there will be three francs the less for some of us on New Year's

"Eh! How is he to know?" retorted the footman.

"Pooh!" said Madeleine, "a little sooner or a little later--what
difference does it make? The people at the other houses where he dines
are so tired of him that they are going to turn him out."

"The gate, if you please!"

Madeleine had scarcely uttered the words when they heard the old
musician's call to the porter. It sounded like a cry of pain. There
was a sudden silence in the kitchen.

"He heard!" the footman said.

"Well, and if he did, so much the worser, or rather so much the
better," retorted Madeleine. "He is an arrant skinflint."

Poor Pons had lost none of the talk in the kitchen; he heard it all,
even to the last word. He made his way home along the boulevards, in
the same state, physical and mental, as an old woman after a desperate
struggle with burglars. As he went he talked to himself in quick
spasmodic jerks; his honor had been wounded, and the pain of it drove
him on as a gust of wind whirls away a straw. He found himself at last
in the Boulevard du Temple; how he had come thither he could not tell.
It was five o'clock, and, strange to say, he had completely lost his

But if the reader is to understand the revolution which Pons'
unexpected return at that hour was to work in the Rue de Normandie,
the promised biography of Mme. Cibot must be given in this place.

Any one passing along the Rue de Normandie might be pardoned for
thinking that he was in some small provincial town. Grass runs to seed
in the street, everybody knows everybody else, and the sight of a
stranger is an event. The houses date back to the reign of Henry IV.,
when there was a scheme afoot for a quarter in which every street was
to be named after a French province, and all should converge in a
handsome square to which La France should stand godmother. The
Quartier de l'Europe was a revival of the same idea; history repeats
itself everywhere in the world, and even in the world of speculation.

The house in which the two musicians used to live is an old mansion
with a courtyard in front and a garden at the back; but the front part
of the house which gives upon the street is comparatively modern,
built during the eighteenth century when the Marais was a fashionable
quarter. The friends lived at the back, on the second floor of the old
part of the house. The whole building belongs to M. Pillerault, an old
man of eighty, who left matters very much in the hands of M. and Mme.
Cibot, his porters for the past twenty-six years.

Now, as a porter cannot live by his lodge alone, the aforesaid Cibot
had other means of gaining a livelihood; and supplemented his five per
cent on the rental and his faggot from every cartload of wood by his
own earnings as a tailor. In time Cibot ceased to work for the master
tailors; he made a connection among the little trades-people of the
quarter, and enjoyed a monopoly of the repairs, renovations, and fine
drawing of all the coats and trousers in three adjacent streets. The
lodge was spacious and wholesome, and boasted a second room; wherefore
the Cibot couple were looked upon as among the luckiest porters in the

Cibot, small and stunted, with a complexion almost olive-colored by
reason of sitting day in day out in Turk-fashion on a table level with
the barred window, made about twelve or fourteen francs a week. He
worked still, though he was fifty-eight years old, but fifty-eight is
the porter's golden age; he is used to his lodge, he and his room fit
each other like the shell and the oyster, and "he is known in the

Mme. Cibot, sometime opener of oysters at the _Cadran Bleu_, after all
the adventures which come unsought to the belle of an oyster-bar, left
her post for love of Cibot at the age of twenty-eight. The beauty of a
woman of the people is short-lived, especially if she is planted
espalier fashion at a restaurant door. Her features are hardened by
puffs of hot air from the kitchen; the color of the heeltaps of
customers' bottles, finished in the company of the waiters, gradually
filters into her complexion--no beauty is full blown so soon as the
beauty of an oyster-opener. Luckily for Mme. Cibot, lawful wedlock and
a portress' life were offered to her just in time; while she still
preserved a comeliness of a masculine order slandered by rivals of the
Rue de Normandie, who called her "a great blowsy thing," Mme. Cibot
might have sat as a model to Rubens. Those flesh tints reminded you of
the appetizing sheen on a pat of Isigny butter; but plump as she was,
no woman went about her work with more agility. Mme. Cibot had
attained the time of life when women of her stamp are obliged to shave
--which is as much as to say that she had reached the age of
forty-eight. A porter's wife with a moustache is one of the best
possible guarantees of respectability and security that a landlord can
have. If Delacroix could have seen Mme. Cibot leaning proudly on her
broom handle, he would assuredly have painted her as Bellona.

Strange as it may seem, the circumstances of the Cibots, man and wife
(in the style of an indictment), were one day to affect the lives of
the two friends; wherefore the chronicler, as in duty bound, must give
some particulars as to the Cibots' lodge.

The house brought in about eight thousand francs for there were three
complete sets of apartments--back and front, on the side nearest the
Rue de Normandie, as well as the three floors in the older mansion
between the courtyard and the garden, and a shop kept by a marine
store-dealer named Remonencq, which fronted on the street. During the
past few months this Remonencq had begun to deal in old curiosities,
and knew the value of Pons' collection so well that he took off his
hat whenever the musician came in or went out.

A sou in the livre on eight thousand francs therefore brought in about
four hundred francs to the Cibots. They had no rent to pay and no
expenses for firing; Cibot's earnings amounted on an average to seven
or eight hundred francs, add tips at New Year, and the pair had
altogether in income of sixteen hundred francs, every penny of which
they spent, for the Cibots lived and fared better than working people
usually do. "One can only live once," La Cibot used to say. She was
born during the Revolution, you see, and had never learned her

The husband of this portress with the unblenching tawny eyes was an
object of envy to the whole fraternity, for La Cibot had not forgotten
the knowledge of cookery picked up at the _Cadran Bleu_. So it had
come to pass that the Cibots had passed the prime of life, and saw
themselves on the threshold of old age without a hundred francs put by
for the future. Well clad and well fed, they enjoyed among the
neighbors, it is true, the respect due to twenty-six years of strict
honesty; for if they had nothing of their own, they "hadn't nothing
belonging to nobody else," according to La Cibot, who was a prodigal
of negatives. "There wasn't never such a love of a man," she would say
to her husband. Do you ask why? You might as well ask the reason of
her indifference in matters of religion.

Both of them were proud of a life lived in open day, of the esteem in
which they were held for six or seven streets round about, and of the
autocratic rule permitted to them by the proprietor ("perprietor,"
they called him); but in private they groaned because they had no
money lying at interest. Cibot complained of pains in his hands and
legs, and his wife would lament that her poor, dear Cibot should be
forced to work at his age; and, indeed, the day is not far distant
when a porter after thirty years of such a life will cry shame upon
the injustice of the Government and clamor for the ribbon of the
Legion of Honor. Every time that the gossip of the quarter brought
news of such and such a servant-maid, left an annuity of three or four
hundred francs after eight or ten years of service, the porters'
lodges would resound with complaints, which may give some idea of the
consuming jealousies in the lowest walks of life in Paris.

"Oh, indeed! It will never happen to the like of us to have our names
mentioned in a will! We have no luck, but we do more than servants,
for all that. We fill a place of trust; we give receipts, we are on
the lookout for squalls, and yet we are treated like dogs, neither
more nor less, and that's the truth!"

"Some find fortune and some miss fortune," said Cibot, coming in with
a coat.

"If I had left Cibot here in his lodge and taken a place as cook, we
should have our thirty thousand francs out at interest," cried Mme.
Cibot, standing chatting with a neighbor, her hands on her prominent
hips. "But I didn't understand how to get on in life; housed inside of
a snug lodge and firing found and want for nothing, but that is all."

In 1836, when the friends took up their abode on the second floor,
they brought about a sort of revolution in the Cibot household. It
befell on this wise. Schmucke, like his friend Pons, usually arranged
that the porter or the porter's wife should undertake the cares of
housekeeping; and being both of one mind on this point when they came
to live in the Rue de Normandie, Mme. Cibot became their housekeeper
at the rate of twenty-five francs per month--twelve francs fifty
centimes for each of them. Before the year was out, the emeritus
portress reigned in the establishment of the two old bachelors, as she
reigned everywhere in the house belonging to M. Pillerault, great
uncle of Mme. le Comtesse Popinot. Their business was her business;
she called them "my gentlemen." And at last, finding the pair of
nutcrackers as mild as lambs, easy to live with, and by no means
suspicious--perfect children, in fact--her heart, the heart of a woman
of the people, prompted her to protect, adore, and serve them with
such thorough devotion, that she read them a lecture now and again,
and saved them from the impositions which swell the cost of living in
Paris. For twenty-five francs a month, the two old bachelors
inadvertently acquired a mother.

As they became aware of Mme. Cibot's full value, they gave her
outspoken praises, and thanks, and little presents which strengthened
the bonds of the domestic alliance. Mme. Cibot a thousand times
preferred appreciation to money payments; it is a well-known fact that
the sense that one is appreciated makes up for a deficiency in wages.
And Cibot did all that he could for his wife's two gentlemen, and ran
errands and did repairs at half-price for them.

The second year brought a new element into the friendship between the
lodge and the second floor, and Schmucke concluded a bargain which
satisfied his indolence and desire for a life without cares. For
thirty sous per day, or forty-five francs per month, Mme. Cibot
undertook to provide Schmucke with breakfast and dinner; and Pons,
finding his friend's breakfast very much to his mind, concluded a
separate treaty for that meal only at the rate of eighteen francs.
This arrangement, which added nearly ninety francs every month to the
takings of the porter and his wife, made two inviolable beings of the
lodgers; they became angels, cherubs, divinities. It is very doubtful
whether the King of the French, who is supposed to understand economy,
is as well served as the pair of nutcrackers used to be in those days.

For them the milk issued pure from the can; they enjoyed a free
perusal of all the morning papers taken by other lodgers, later
risers, who were told, if need be, that the newspapers had not come
yet. Mme. Cibot, moreover, kept their clothes, their rooms, and the
landing as clean as a Flemish interior. As for Schmucke, he enjoyed
unhoped-for happiness; Mme. Cibot had made life easy for him; he paid
her about six francs a month, and she took charge of his linen,
washing, and mending. Altogether, his expenses amounted to sixty-six
francs per month (for he spent fifteen francs on tobacco), and
sixty-six francs multiplied by twelve produces the sum total of seven
hundred and ninety-two francs. Add two hundred and twenty francs for
rent, rates, and taxes, and you have a thousand and twelve francs.
Cibot was Schmucke's tailor; his clothes cost him on average a hundred
and fifty francs, which further swells the total to the sum of twelve
hundred. On twelve hundred francs per annum this profound philosopher
lived. How many people in Europe, whose one thought it is to come to
Paris and live there, will be agreeably surprised to learn that you
may exist in comfort upon an income of twelve hundred francs in the
Rue de Normandie in the Marais, under the wing of a Mme. Cibot.

Mme. Cibot, to resume the story, was amazed beyond expression to see
Pons, good man, return at five o'clock in the evening. Such a thing
had never happened before; and not only so, but "her gentleman" had
given her no greeting--had not so much as seen her!

"Well, well, Cibot," said she to her spouse, "M. Pons has come in for
a million, or gone out of his mind!"

"That is how it looks to me," said Cibot, dropping the coat-sleeve in
which he was making a "dart," in tailor's language.

The savory odor of a stew pervaded the whole courtyard, as Pons
returned mechanically home. Mme. Cibot was dishing up Schmucke's
dinner, which consisted of scraps of boiled beef from a little
cook-shop not above doing a little trade of this kind. These morsels
were fricasseed in brown butter, with thin slices of onion, until the
meat and vegetables had absorbed the gravy and this true porter's dish
was browned to the right degree. With that fricassee, prepared with
loving care for Cibot and Schmucke, and accompanied by a bottle of beer
and a piece of cheese, the old German music-master was quite content.
Not King Solomon in all his glory, be sure, could dine better than
Schmucke. A dish of boiled beef fricasseed with onions, scraps of
_saute_ chicken, or beef and parsley, or venison, or fish served with
a sauce of La Cibot's own invention (a sauce with which a mother might
unsuspectingly eat her child),--such was Schmucke's ordinary, varying
with the quantity and quality of the remnants of food supplied by
boulevard restaurants to the cook-shop in the Rue Boucherat. Schmucke
took everything that "goot Montame Zipod" gave him, and was content,
and so from day to day "goot Montame Zipod" cut down the cost of his
dinner, until it could be served for twenty sous.

"It won't be long afore I find out what is the matter with him, poor
dear," said Mme. Cibot to her husband, "for here is M. Schmucke's
dinner all ready for him."

As she spoke she covered the deep earthenware dish with a plate; and,
notwithstanding her age, she climbed the stair and reached the door
before Schmucke opened it to Pons.

"Vat is de matter mit you, mein goot friend?" asked the German, scared
by the expression of Pons' face.

"I will tell you all about it; but I have come home to have dinner
with you--"

"Tinner! tinner!" cried Schmucke in ecstasy; "but it is impossible!"
the old German added, as he thought of his friend's gastronomical
tastes; and at that very moment he caught sight of Mme. Cibot
listening to the conversation, as she had a right to do as his lawful
housewife. Struck with one of those happy inspirations which only
enlighten a friend's heart, he marched up to the portress and drew her
out to the stairhead.

"Montame Zipod," he said, "der goot Pons is fond of goot dings; shoost
go rount to der _Catran Pleu_ und order a dainty liddle tinner, mit
anjovies und maggaroni. Ein tinner for Lugullus, in vact."

"What is that?" inquired La Cibot.

"Oh! ah!" returned Schmucke, "it is veal _a la pourcheoise_"
(_bourgeoise_, he meant), "a nice fisch, ein pottle off Porteaux, und
nice dings, der fery best dey haf, like groquettes of rice und shmoked
pacon! Bay for it, und say nodings; I vill gif you back de monny
to-morrow morning."

Back went Schmucke, radiant and rubbing his hands; but his expression
slowly changed to a look of bewildered astonishment as he heard Pons'
story of the troubles that had but just now overwhelmed him in a
moment. He tried to comfort Pons by giving him a sketch of the world
from his own point of view. Paris, in his opinion, was a perpetual
hurly-burly, the men and women in it were whirled away by a
tempestuous waltz; it was no use expecting anything of the world,
which only looked at the outsides of things, "und not at der
inderior." For the hundredth time he related how that the only three
pupils for whom he had really cared, for whom he was ready to die, the
three who had been fond of him, and even allowed him a little pension
of nine hundred francs, each contributing three hundred to the amount
--his favorite pupils had quite forgotten to come to see him; and so
swift was the current of Parisian life which swept them away, that if
he called at their houses, he had not succeeded in seeing them once in
three years--(it is a fact, however, that Schmucke had always thought
fit to call on these great ladies at ten o'clock in the morning!)
--still, his pension was paid quarterly through the medium of

"Und yet, dey are hearts of gold," he concluded. "Dey are my liddle
Saint Cecilias, sharming vimmen, Montame de Bordentuere, Montame de
Fantenesse, und Montame du Dilet. Gif I see dem at all, it is at die
Jambs Elusees, und dey do not see me . . . yet dey are ver' fond of
me, und I might go to dine mit dem, und dey vould be ver' bleased to
see me; und I might go to deir country-houses, but I vould much rader
be mit mine friend Bons, because I kann see him venefer I like, und
efery tay."

Pons took Schmucke's hand and grasped it between his own. All that was
passing in his inmost soul was communicated in that tight pressure.
And so for awhile the friends sat like two lovers, meeting at last
after a long absence.

"Tine here, efery tay!" broke out Schmucke, inwardly blessing Mme. de
Marville for her hardness of heart. "Look here! Ve shall go a
prick-a-pracking togeders, und der teufel shall nefer show his tail

"Ve shall go prick-a-pracking togeders!" for the full comprehension of
those truly heroic words, it must be confessed that Schmucke's
ignorance of bric-a-brac was something of the densest. It required all
the strength of his friendship to keep him from doing heedless damage
in the sitting-room and study which did duty as a museum for Pons.
Schmucke, wholly absorbed in music, a composer for love of his art,
took about as much interest in his friend's little trifles as a fish
might take in a flower-show at the Luxembourg, supposing that it had
received a ticket of admission. A certain awe which he certainly felt
for the marvels was simply a reflection of the respect which Pons
showed his treasures when he dusted them. To Pons' exclamations of
admiration, he was wont to reply with a "Yes, it is ver' bretty," as a
mother answers baby-gestures with meaningless baby-talk. Seven times
since the friends had lived together, Pons had exchanged a good clock
for a better one, till at last he possessed a timepiece in Boule's
first and best manner, for Boule had two manners, as Raphael had
three. In the first he combined ebony and copper; in the second
--contrary to his convictions--he sacrificed to tortoise-shell inlaid
work. In spite of Pons' learned dissertations, Schmucke never could
see the slightest difference between the magnificent clock in Boule's
first manner and its six predecessors; but, for Pons' sake, Schmucke
was even more careful among the "chimcracks" than Pons himself. So it
should not be surprising that Schmucke's sublime words comforted Pons
in his despair; for "Ve shall go prick-a-pracking togeders," meant,
being interpreted, "I will put money into bric-a-brac, if you will
only dine here."

"Dinner is ready," Mme. Cibot announced, with astonishing

It is not difficult to imagine Pons' surprise when he saw and relished
the dinner due to Schmucke's friendship. Sensations of this kind, that
came so rarely in a lifetime, are never the outcome of the constant,
close relationship by which friend daily says to friend, "You are a
second self to me"; for this, too, becomes a matter of use and wont.
It is only by contact with the barbarism of the world without that the
happiness of that intimate life is revealed to us as a sudden glad
surprise. It is the outer world which renews the bond between friend
and friend, lover and lover, all their lives long, wherever two great
souls are knit together by friendship or by love.

Pons brushed away two big tears, Schmucke himself wiped his eyes; and
though nothing was said, the two were closer friends than before.
Little friendly nods and glances exchanged across the table were like
balm to Pons, soothing the pain caused by the sand dropped in his
heart by the President's wife. As for Schmucke, he rubbed his hands
till they were sore; for a new idea had occurred to him, one of those
great discoveries which cause a German no surprise, unless they sprout
up suddenly in a Teuton brain frost-bound by the awe and reverence due
to sovereign princes.

"Mine goot Bons?" began Schmucke.

"I can guess what you mean; you would like us both to dine together
here, every day--"

"Gif only I vas rich enof to lif like dis efery tay--" began the good
German in a melancholy voice. But here Mme. Cibot appeared upon the
scene. Pons had given her an order for the theatre from time to time,
and stood in consequence almost as high in her esteem and affection as
her boarder Schmucke.

"Lord love you," said she, "for three francs and wine extra I can give
you both such a dinner every day that you will be ready to lick the
plates as clean as if they were washed."

"It is a fact," Schmucke remarked, "dat die dinners dat Montame Zipod
cooks for me are better as de messes dey eat at der royal dable!" In
his eagerness, Schmucke, usually so full of respect for the powers
that be, so far forgot himself as to imitate the irreverent newspapers
which scoffed at the "fixed-price" dinners of Royalty.

"Really?" said Pons. "Very well, I will try to-morrow."

And at that promise Schmucke sprang from one end of the table to the
other, sweeping off tablecloth, bottles, and dishes as he went, and
hugged Pons to his heart. So might gas rush to combine with gas.

"Vat happiness!" cried he.

Mme. Cibot was quite touched. "Monsieur is going to dine here every
day!" she cried proudly.

That excellent woman departed downstairs again in ignorance of the
event which had brought about this result, entered her room like
Josepha in _William Tell_, set down the plates and dishes on the table
with a bang, and called aloud to her husband:

"Cibot! run to the _Cafe Turc_ for two small cups of coffee, and tell
the man at the stove that it is for me."

Then she sat down and rested her hands on her massive knees, and gazed
out of the window at the opposite wall.

"I will go to-night and see what Ma'am Fontaine says," she thought.
(Madame Fontaine told fortunes on the cards for all the servants in
the quarter of the Marais.) "Since these two gentlemen came here, we
have put two thousand francs in the savings bank. Two thousand francs
in eight years! What luck! Would it be better to make no profit out of
M. Pons' dinner and keep him here at home? Ma'am Fontaine's hen will
tell me that."

Three years ago Mme. Cibot had begun to cherish a hope that her name
might be mentioned in "her gentlemen's" wills; she had redoubled her
zeal since that covetous thought tardily sprouted up in the midst of
that so honest moustache. Pons hitherto had dined abroad, eluding her
desire to have both of "her gentlemen" entirely under her management;
his "troubadour" collector's life had scared away certain vague ideas
which hovered in La Cibot's brain; but now her shadowy projects
assumed the formidable shape of a definite plan, dating from that
memorable dinner. Fifteen minutes later she reappeared in the
dining-room with two cups of excellent coffee, flanked by a couple of
tiny glasses of _kirschwasser_.

"Long lif Montame Zipod!" cried Schmucke; "she haf guessed right!"

The diner-out bemoaned himself a little, while Schmucke met his
lamentations with coaxing fondness, like a home pigeon welcoming back
a wandering bird. Then the pair set out for the theatre.

Schmucke could not leave his friend in the condition to which he had
been brought by the Camusots--mistresses and servants. He knew Pons so
well; he feared lest some cruel, sad thought should seize on him at
his conductor's desk, and undo all the good done by his welcome home
to the nest.

And Schmucke brought his friend back on his arm through the streets at
midnight. A lover could not be more careful of his lady. He pointed
out the edges of the curbstones, he was on the lookout whenever they
stepped on or off the pavement, ready with a warning if there was a
gutter to cross. Schmucke could have wished that the streets were
paved with cotton-down; he would have had a blue sky overhead, and
Pons should hear the music which all the angels in heaven were making
for him. He had won the lost province in his friend's heart!

For nearly three months Pons and Schmucke dined together every day.
Pons was obliged to retrench at once; for dinner at forty-five francs
a month and wine at thirty-five meant precisely eighty francs less to
spend on bric-a-brac. And very soon, in spite of all that Schmucke
could do, in spite of his little German jokes, Pons fell to regretting
the delicate dishes, the liqueurs, the good coffee, the table talk,
the insincere politeness, the guests, and the gossip, and the houses
where he used to dine. On the wrong side of sixty a man cannot break
himself of a habit of thirty-six years' growth. Wine at a hundred and
thirty francs per hogshead is scarcely a generous liquid in a
_gourmet's_ glass; every time that Pons raised it to his lips he
thought, with infinite regret, of the exquisite wines in his
entertainers' cellars.

In short, at the end of three months, the cruel pangs which had gone
near to break Pons' sensitive heart had died away; he forgot
everything but the charms of society; and languished for them like
some elderly slave of a petticoat compelled to leave the mistress who
too repeatedly deceives him. In vain he tried to hide his profound and
consuming melancholy; it was too plain that he was suffering from one
of the mysterious complaints which the mind brings upon the body.

A single symptom will throw light upon this case of nostalgia (as it
were) produced by breaking away from an old habit; in itself it is
trifling, one of the myriad nothings which are as rings in a coat of
chain-mail enveloping the soul in a network of iron. One of the
keenest pleasures of Pons' old life, one of the joys of the
dinner-table parasite at all times, was the "surprise," the thrill
produced by the extra dainty dish added triumphantly to the bill of
fare by the mistress of a bourgeois house, to give a festal air to the
dinner. Pons' stomach hankered after that gastronomical satisfaction.
Mme. Cibot, in the pride of her heart, enumerated every dish beforehand;
a salt and savor once periodically recurrent, had vanished utterly from
daily life. Dinner proceeded without _le plat couvert_, as our
grandsires called it. This lay beyond the bounds of Schmucke's powers
of comprehension.

Pons had too much delicacy to grumble; but if the case of
unappreciated genius is hard, it goes harder still with the stomach
whose claims are ignored. Slighted affection, a subject of which too
much has been made, is founded upon an illusory longing; for if the
creature fails, love can turn to the Creator who has treasures to
bestow. But the stomach! . . . Nothing can be compared to its
sufferings; for, in the first place, one must live.

Pons thought wistfully of certain creams--surely the poetry of
cookery!--of certain white sauces, masterpieces of the art; of
truffled chickens, fit to melt your heart; and above these, and more
than all these, of the famous Rhine carp, only known at Paris, served
with what condiments! There were days when Pons, thinking upon Count
Popinot's cook, would sigh aloud, "Ah, Sophie!" Any passer-by hearing
the exclamation might have thought that the old man referred to a lost
mistress; but his fancy dwelt upon something rarer, on a fat Rhine
carp with a sauce, thin in the sauce-boat, creamy upon the palate, a
sauce that deserved the Montyon prize! The conductor of the orchestra,
living on memories of past dinners, grew visibly leaner; he was pining
away, a victim to gastric nostalgia.

By the beginning of the fourth month (towards the end of January,
1845), Pons' condition attracted attention at the theatre. The flute,
a young man named Wilhelm, like almost all Germans; and Schwab, to
distinguish him from all other Wilhelms, if not from all other
Schwabs, judged it expedient to open Schmucke's eyes to his friend's
state of health. It was a first performance of a piece in which
Schmucke's instruments were all required.

"The old gentleman is failing," said the flute; "there is something
wrong somewhere; his eyes are heavy, and he doesn't beat time as he
used to do," added Wilhelm Schwab, indicating Pons as he gloomily took
his place.

"Dat is alvays de vay, gif a man is sixty years old," answered

The Highland widow, in _The Chronicles of the Canongate_, sent her son
to his death to have him beside her for twenty-four hours; and
Schmucke could have sacrificed Pons for the sake of seeing his face
every day across the dinner-table.

"Everybody in the theatre is anxious about him," continued the flute;
"and, as the _premiere danseuse_, Mlle. Brisetout, says, 'he makes
hardly any noise now when he blows his nose.'"

And, indeed, a peal like a blast of a horn used to resound through the
old musician's bandana handkerchief whenever he raised it to that
lengthy and cavernous feature. The President's wife had more
frequently found fault with him on that score than on any other.

"I vould gif a goot teal to amuse him," said Schmucke, "he gets so

"M. Pons always seems so much above the like of us poor devils, that,
upon my word, I didn't dare to ask him to my wedding," said Wilhelm
Schwab. "I am going to be married--"

"How?" demanded Schmucke.

"Oh! quite properly," returned Wilhelm Schwab, taking Schmucke's
quaint inquiry for a gibe, of which that perfect Christian was quite

"Come, gentlemen, take your places!" called Pons, looking round at his
little army, as the stage manager's bell rang for the overture.

The piece was a dramatized fairy tale, a pantomime called _The Devil's
Betrothed_, which ran for two hundred nights. In the interval, after
the first act, Wilhelm Schwab and Schmucke were left alone in the
orchestra, with a house at a temperature of thirty-two degrees

"Tell me your hishdory," said Schmucke.

"Look there! Do you see that young man in the box yonder? . . . Do you
recognize him?"

"Nefer a pit--"

"Ah! That is because he is wearing yellow gloves and shines with all
the radiance of riches, but that is my friend Fritz Brunner out of

"Dat used to komm to see du blav und sit peside you in der orghestra?"

"The same. You would not believe he could look so different, would

The hero of the promised story was a German of that particular type in
which the sombre irony of Goethe's Mephistopheles is blended with a
homely cheerfulness found in the romances of August Lafontaine of
pacific memory; but the predominating element in the compound of
artlessness and guile, of shopkeeper's shrewdness, and the studied
carelessness of a member of the Jockey Club, was that form of disgust
which set a pistol in the hands of a young Werther, bored to death
less by Charlotte than by German princes. It was a thoroughly German
face, full of cunning, full of simplicity, stupidity, and courage; the
knowledge which brings weariness, the worldly wisdom which the veriest
child's trick leaves at fault, the abuse of beer and tobacco,--all
these were there to be seen in it, and to heighten the contrast of
opposed qualities, there was a wild diabolical gleam in the fine blue
eyes with the jaded expression.

Dressed with all the elegance of a city man, Fritz Brunner sat in full
view of the house displaying a bald crown of the tint beloved by
Titian, and a few stray fiery red hairs on either side of it; a
remnant spared by debauchery and want, that the prodigal might have a
right to spend money with the hairdresser when he should come into his
fortune. A face, once fair and fresh as the traditional portrait of
Jesus Christ, had grown harder since the advent of a red moustache; a
tawny beard lent it an almost sinister look. The bright blue eyes had
lost something of their clearness in the struggle with distress. The
countless courses by which a man sells himself and his honor in Paris
had left their traces upon his eyelids and carved lines about the
eyes, into which a mother once looked with a mother's rapture to find
a copy of her own fashioned by God's hand.

This precocious philosopher, this wizened youth was the work of a

Herewith begins the curious history of a prodigal son of
Frankfort-on-the-Main--the most extraordinary and astounding portent
ever beheld by that well-conducted, if central, city.

Gideon Brunner, father of the aforesaid Fritz, was one of the famous
innkeepers of Frankfort, a tribe who make law-authorized incisions in
travelers' purses with the connivance of the local bankers. An
innkeeper and an honest Calvinist to boot, he had married a converted
Jewess and laid the foundations of his prosperity with the money she
brought him.

When the Jewess died, leaving a son Fritz, twelve years of age, under
the joint guardianship of his father and maternal uncle, a furrier at
Leipsic, head of the firm of Virlaz and Company, Brunner senior was
compelled by his brother-in-law (who was by no means as soft as his
peltry) to invest little Fritz's money, a goodly quantity of current
coin of the realm, with the house of Al-Sartchild. Not a penny of it
was he allowed to touch. So, by way of revenge for the Israelite's
pertinacity, Brunner senior married again. It was impossible, he said,
to keep his huge hotel single-handed; it needed a woman's eye and
hand. Gideon Brunner's second wife was an innkeeper's daughter, a very
pearl, as he thought; but he had had no experience of only daughters
spoiled by father and mother.

The second Mme. Brunner behaved as German girls may be expected to
behave when they are frivolous and wayward. She squandered her
fortune, she avenged the first Mme. Brunner by making her husband as
miserable a man as you could find in the compass of the free city of
Frankfort-on-the-Main, where the millionaires, it is said, are about
to pass a law compelling womankind to cherish and obey them alone. She
was partial to all the varieties of vinegar commonly called Rhine wine
in Germany; she was fond of _articles Paris_, of horses and dress;
indeed, the one expensive taste which she had not was a liking for
women. She took a dislike to little Fritz, and would perhaps have
driven him mad if that young offspring of Calvinism and Judaism had
not had Frankfort for his cradle and the firm of Virlaz at Leipsic for
his guardian. Uncle Virlaz, however, deep in his furs, confined his
guardianship to the safe-keeping of Fritz's silver marks, and left the
boy to the tender mercies of this stepmother.

That hyena in woman's form was the more exasperated against the pretty
child, the lovely Jewess' son, because she herself could have no
children in spite of efforts worthy of a locomotive engine. A
diabolical impulse prompted her to plunge her young stepson, at
twenty-one years of age, into dissipations contrary to all German
habits. The wicked German hoped that English horses, Rhine vinegar,
and Goethe's Marguerites would ruin the Jewess' child and shorten his
days; for when Fritz came of age, Uncle Virlaz had handed over a very
pretty fortune to his nephew. But while roulette at Baden and
elsewhere, and boon companions (Wilhelm Schwab among them) devoured
the substance accumulated by Uncle Virlaz, the prodigal son himself
remained by the will of Providence to point a moral to younger
brothers in the free city of Frankfort; parents held him up as a
warning and an awful example to their offspring to scare them into
steady attendance in their cast-iron counting houses, lined with
silver marks.

But so far from perishing in the flower of his age, Fritz Brunner had
the pleasure of laying his stepmother in one of those charming little
German cemeteries, in which the Teuton indulges his unbridled passion
for horticulture under the specious pretext of honoring his dead. And
as the second Mme. Brunner expired while the authors of her being were
yet alive, Brunner senior was obliged to bear the loss of the sums of
which his wife had drained his coffers, to say nothing of other ills,
which had told upon a Herculean constitution, till at the age of
sixty-seven the innkeeper had wizened and shrunk as if the famous
Borgia's poison had undermined his system. For ten whole years he had
supported his wife, and now he inherited nothing! The innkeeper was a
second ruin of Heidelberg, repaired continually, it is true, by
travelers' hotel bills, much as the remains of the castle of
Heidelberg itself are repaired to sustain the enthusiasm of the
tourists who flock to see so fine and well-preserved a relic of

At Frankfort the disappointment caused as much talk as a failure.
People pointed out Brunner, saying, "See what a man may come to with a
bad wife that leaves him nothing and a son brought up in the French

In Italy and Germany the French nation is the root of all evil, the
target for all bullets. "But the god pursuing his way----" (For the
rest, see Lefranc de Pompignan's Ode.)

The wrath of the proprietor of the Grand Hotel de Hollande fell on
others besides the travelers, whose bills were swelled with his
resentment. When his son was utterly ruined, Gideon, regarding him as
the indirect cause of all his misfortunes, refused him bread and salt,
fire, lodging, and tobacco--the force of the paternal malediction in a
German and an innkeeper could no farther go. Whereupon the local
authorities, making no allowance for the father's misdeeds, regarded
him as one of the most ill-used persons in Frankfort-on-the-Main, came
to his assistance, fastened a quarrel on Fritz (_une querelle
d'Allemand_), and expelled him from the territory of the free city.
Justice in Frankfort is no whit wiser nor more humane than elsewhere,
albeit the city is the seat of the German Diet. It is not often that a
magistrate traces back the stream of wrongdoing and misfortune to the
holder of the urn from which the first beginnings trickled forth. If
Brunner forgot his son, his son's friends speedily followed the old
innkeeper's example.

Ah! if the journalists, the dandies, and some few fair Parisians among
the audience wondered how that German with the tragical countenance
had cropped up on a first night to occupy a side box all to himself
when fashionable Paris filled the house,--if these could have seen the
history played out upon the stage before the prompter's box, they
would have found it far more interesting than the transformation
scenes of _The Devil's Betrothed_, though indeed it was the two
hundred thousandth representation of a sublime allegory performed
aforetime in Mesopotamia three thousand years before Christ was born.

Fritz betook himself on foot to Strasbourg, and there found what the
prodigal son of the Bible failed to find--to wit, a friend. And herein
is revealed the superiority of Alsace, where so many generous hearts
beat to show Germany the beauty of a combination of Gallic wit and
Teutonic solidity. Wilhelm Schwab, but lately left in possession of a
hundred thousand francs by the death of both parents, opened his arms,
his heart, his house, his purse to Fritz. As for describing Fritz's
feelings, when dusty, down on his luck, and almost like a leper, he
crossed the Rhine and found a real twenty-franc piece held out by the
hand of a real friend,--that moment transcends the powers of the prose
writer; Pindar alone could give it forth to humanity in Greek that
should rekindle the dying warmth of friendship in the world.

Put the names of Fritz and Wilheim beside those of Damon and Pythias,
Castor and Pollux, Orestes and Pylades, Dubreuil and Pmejah, Schmucke
and Pons, and all the names that we imagine for the two friends of
Monomotapa, for La Fontaine (man of genius though he was) has made of
them two disembodied spirits--they lack reality. The two new names may
join the illustrious company, and with so much the more reason, since
that Wilhelm who had helped to drink Fritz's inheritance now
proceeded, with Fritz's assistance, to devour his own substance;
smoking, needless to say, every known variety of tobacco.

The pair, strange to relate, squandered the property in the dullest,
stupidest, most commonplace fashion, in Strasbourg _brasseries_, in
the company of ballet-girls of the Strasbourg theatres, and little
Alsaciennes who had not a rag of a tattered reputation left.

Every morning they would say, "We really must stop this, and make up
our minds and do something or other with the money that is left."

"Pooh!" Fritz would retort, "just one more day, and to-morrow" . . .
ah! to-morrow.

In the lives of Prodigal Sons, _To-day_ is a prodigious coxcomb, but
_To-morrow_ is a very poltroon, taking fright at the big words of his
predecessor. _To-day_ is the truculent captain of old world comedy,
_To-morrow_ the clown of modern pantomime.

When the two friends had reached their last thousand-franc note, they
took places in the mail-coach, styled Royal, and departed for Paris,
where they installed themselves in the attics of the Hotel du Rhin, in
the Rue du Mail, the property of one Graff, formerly Gideon Brunner's
head-waiter. Fritz found a situation as clerk in the Kellers' bank (on
Graff's recommendation), with a salary of six hundred francs. And a
place as book-keeper was likewise found for Wilhelm, in the business
of Graff the fashionable tailor, brother of Graff of the Hotel du
Rhin, who found the scantily-paid employment for the pair of
prodigals, for the sake of old times, and his apprenticeship at the
Hotel de Hollande. These two incidents--the recognition of a ruined
man by a well-to-do friend, and a German innkeeper interesting himself
in two penniless fellow-countrymen--give, no doubt, an air of
improbability to the story, but truth is so much the more like
fiction, since modern writers of fiction have been at such untold
pains to imitate truth.

It was not long before Fritz, a clerk with six hundred francs, and
Wilhelm, a book-keeper with precisely the same salary, discovered the
difficulties of existence in a city so full of temptations. In 1837,
the second year of their abode, Wilhelm, who possessed a pretty talent
for the flute, entered Pons' orchestra, to earn a little occasional
butter to put on his dry bread. As to Fritz, his only way to an
increase of income lay through the display of the capacity for
business inherited by a descendant of the Virlaz family. Yet, in spite
of his assiduity, in spite of abilities which possibly may have stood
in his way, his salary only reached the sum of two thousand francs in
1843. Penury, that divine stepmother, did for the two men all that
their mothers had not been able to do for them; Poverty taught them
thrift and worldly wisdom; Poverty gave them her grand rough
education, the lessons which she drives with hard knocks into the
heads of great men, who seldom know a happy childhood. Fritz and
Wilhelm, being but ordinary men, learned as little as they possibly
could in her school; they dodged the blows, shrank from her hard
breast and bony arms, and never discovered the good fairy lurking
within, ready to yield to the caresses of genius. One thing, however,
they learned thoroughly--they discovered the value of money, and vowed
to clip the wings of riches if ever a second fortune should come to
their door.

This was the history which Wilhelm Schwab related in German, at much
greater length, to his friend the pianist, ending with;

"Well, Papa Schmucke, the rest is soon explained. Old Brunner is dead.
He left four millions! He made an immense amount of money out of Baden
railways, though neither his son nor M. Graff, with whom we lodge, had
any idea that the old man was one of the original shareholders. I am
playing the flute here for the last time this evening; I would have
left some days ago, but this was a first performance, and I did not
want to spoil my part."

"Goot, mine friend," said Schmucke. "But who is die prite?"

"She is Mlle. Graff, the daughter of our host, the landlord of the
Hotel du Rhin. I have loved Mlle. Emilie these seven years; she has
read so many immoral novels, that she refused all offers for me,
without knowing what might come of it. She will be a very wealthy
young lady; her uncles, the tailors in the Rue de Richelieu, will
leave her all their money. Fritz is giving me the money we squandered
at Strasbourg five times over! He is putting a million francs in a
banking house, M. Graff the tailor is adding another five hundred
thousand francs, and Mlle. Emilie's father not only allows me to
incorporate her portion--two hundred and fifty thousand francs--with
the capital, but he himself will be a shareholder with as much again.
So the firm of Brunner, Schwab and Company will start with two
millions five hundred thousand francs. Fritz has just bought fifteen
hundred thousand francs' worth of shares in the Bank of France to
guarantee our account with them. That is not all Fritz's fortune. He
has his father's house property, supposed to be worth another million,
and he has let the Grand Hotel de Hollande already to a cousin of the

"You look sad ven you look at your friend," remarked Schmucke, who had
listened with great interest. "Kann you pe chealous of him?"

"I am jealous for Fritz's happiness," said Wilhelm. "Does that face
look as if it belonged to a happy man? I am afraid of Paris; I should
like to see him do as I am doing. The old tempter may awake again. Of
our two heads, his carries the less ballast. His dress, and the
opera-glass and the rest of it make me anxious. He keeps looking at
the lorettes in the house. Oh! if you only knew how hard it is to
marry Fritz. He has a horror of 'going a-courting,' as you say; you
would have to give him a drop into a family, just as in England they
give a man a drop into the next world."

During the uproar that usually marks the end of a first night, the
flute delivered his invitation to the conductor. Pons accepted
gleefully; and, for the first time in three months, Schmucke saw a
smile on his friend's face. They went back to the Rue de Normandie in
perfect silence; that sudden flash of joy had thrown a light on the
extent of the disease which was consuming Pons. Oh, that a man so
truly noble, so disinterested, so great in feeling, should have such a
weakness! . . . This was the thought that struck the stoic Schmucke
dumb with amazement. He grew woefully sad, for he began to see that
there was no help for it; he must even renounce the pleasure of seeing
"his goot Bons" opposite him at the dinner-table, for the sake of
Pons' welfare; and he did not know whether he could give him up; the
mere thought of it drove him distracted.

Meantime, Pons' proud silence and withdrawal to the Mons Aventinus of
the Rue de Normandie had, as might be expected, impressed the
Presidente, not that she troubled herself much about her parasite, now
that she was freed from him. She thought, with her charming daughter,
that Cousin Pons had seen through her little "Lili's" joke. But it was
otherwise with her husband the President.

Camusot de Marville, a short and stout man, grown solemn since his
promotion at the Court, admired Cicero, preferred the Opera-Comique to
the Italiens, compared the actors one with another, and followed the
multitude step by step. He used to recite all the articles in the
Ministerialist journals, as if he were saying something original, and
in giving his opinion at the Council Board he paraphrased the remarks
of the previous speaker. His leading characteristics were sufficiently
well known; his position compelled him to take everything seriously;
and he was particularly tenacious of family ties.

Like most men who are ruled by their wives, the President asserted his
independence in trifles, in which his wife was very careful not to
thwart him. For a month he was satisfied with the Presidente's
commonplace explanations of Pons' disappearance; but at last it struck
him as singular that the old musician, a friend of forty years'
standing, should first make them so valuable a present as a fan that
belonged to Mme. de Pompadour, and then immediately discontinue his
visits. Count Popinot had pronounced the trinket a masterpiece; when
its owner went to Court, the fan had been passed from hand to hand,
and her vanity was not a little gratified by the compliments it
received; others had dwelt on the beauties of the ten ivory sticks,
each one covered with delicate carving, the like of which had never
been seen. A Russian lady (Russian ladies are apt to forget that they
are not in Russia) had offered her six thousand francs for the marvel
one day at Count Popinot's house, and smiled to see it in such hands.
Truth to tell, it was a fan for a Duchess.

"It cannot be denied that poor Cousin Pons understands rubbish of that
sort--" said Cecile, the day after the bid.

"Rubbish!" cried her parent. "Why, Government is just about to buy the
late M. le Conseiller Dusommerard's collection for three hundred
thousand francs; and the State and the Municipality of Paris between
them are spending nearly a million francs over the purchase and repair
of the Hotel de Cluny to house the 'rubbish,' as you call it.--Such
'rubbish,' dear child," he resumed, "is frequently all that remains of
vanished civilizations. An Etruscan jar, and a necklace, which
sometimes fetch forty and fifty thousand francs, is 'rubbish' which
reveals the perfection of art at the time of the siege of Troy,
proving that the Etruscans were Trojan refugees in Italy."

This was the President's cumbrous way of joking; the short, fat man
was heavily ironical with his wife and daughter.

"The combination of various kinds of knowledge required to understand
such 'rubbish,' Cecile," he resumed, "is a science in itself, called
archaeology. Archaeology comprehends architecture, sculpture,
painting, goldsmiths' work, ceramics, cabinetmaking (a purely modern
art), lace, tapestry--in short, human handiwork of every sort and

"Then Cousin Pons is learned?" said Cecile.

"Ah! by the by, why is he never to be seen nowadays?" asked the
President. He spoke with the air of a man in whom thousands of
forgotten and dormant impressions have suddenly begun to stir, and
shaping themselves into one idea, reach consciousness with a ricochet,
as sportsmen say.

"He must have taken offence at nothing at all," answered his wife. "I
dare say I was not as fully sensible as I might have been of the value
of the fan that he gave me. I am ignorant enough, as you know, of--"

"_You!_ One of Servin's best pupils, and you don't know Watteau?"
cried the President.

"I know Gerard and David and Gros and Griodet, and M. de Forbin and M.
Turpin de Crisse--"

"You ought--"

"Ought what, sir?" demanded the lady, gazing at her husband with the
air of a Queen of Sheba.

"To know a Watteau when you see it, my dear. Watteau is very much in
fashion," answered the President with meekness, that told plainly how
much he owed to his wife.

This conversation took place a few days before that night of first
performance of _The Devil's Betrothed_, when the whole orchestra
noticed how ill Pons was looking. But by that time all the circle of
dinner-givers who were used to seeing Pons' face at their tables, and
to send him on errands, had begun to ask each other for news of him,
and uneasiness increased when it was reported by some who had seen him
that he was always in his place at the theatre. Pons had been very
careful to avoid his old acquaintances whenever he met them in the
streets; but one day it so fell out that he met Count Popinot, the
ex-cabinet minister, face to face in the bric-a-brac dealer's shop in
the new Boulevard Beaumarchais. The dealer was none other than that
Monistrol of whom Pons had spoken to the Presidente, one of the famous
and audacious vendors whose cunning enthusiasm leads them to set more
and more value daily on their wares; for curiosities, they tell you,
are growing so scarce that they are hardly to be found at all

"Ah, my dear Pons, how comes it that we never see you now? We miss you
very much, and Mme. Popinot does not know what to think of your

"M. le Comte," said the good man, "I was made to feel in the house of
a relative that at my age one is not wanted in the world. I have never
had much consideration shown me, but at any rate I had not been
insulted. I have never asked anything of any man," he broke out with
an artist's pride. "I have often made myself useful in return for
hospitality. But I have made a mistake, it seems; I am indefinitely
beholden to those who honor me by allowing me to sit at table with
them; my friends, and my relatives. . . . Well and good; I have sent
in my resignation as smellfeast. At home I find daily something which
no other house has offered me--a real friend."

The old artist's power had not failed him; with tone and gesture he
put such bitterness into the words, that the peer of France was struck
by them. He drew Pons aside.

"Come, now, my old friend, what is it? What has hurt you? Could you
not tell me in confidence? You will permit me to say that at my house
surely you have always met with consideration--"

"You are the one exception," said the artist. "And besides, you are a
great lord and a statesman, you have so many things to think about.
That would excuse anything, if there were need for it."

The diplomatic skill that Popinot had acquired in the management of
men and affairs was brought to bear upon Pons, till at length the
story of his misfortunes in the President's house was drawn from him.

Popinot took up the victim's cause so warmly that he told the story to
Mme. Popinot as soon as he went home, and that excellent and
noble-natured woman spoke to the Presidente on the subject at the
first opportunity. As Popinot himself likewise said a word or two to
the President, there was a general explanation in the family of Camusot
de Marville.

Camusot was not exactly master in his own house; but this time his
remonstrance was so well founded in law and in fact, that his wife and
daughter were forced to acknowledge the truth. They both humbled
themselves and threw the blame on the servants. The servants, first
bidden, and then chidden, only obtained pardon by a full confession,
which made it clear to the President's mind that Pons had done rightly
to stop away. The President displayed himself before the servants in
all his masculine and magisterial dignity, after the manner of men who
are ruled by their wives. He informed his household that they should
be dismissed forthwith, and forfeit any advantages which their long
term of service in his house might have brought them, unless from that
time forward his cousin and all those who did him the honor of coming
to his house were treated as he himself was. At which speech Madeleine
was moved to smile.

"You have only one chance of salvation as it is," continued the
President. "Go to my cousin, make your excuses to him, and tell him
that you will lose your situations unless he forgives you, for I shall
turn you all away if he does not."

Next morning the President went out fairly early to pay a call on his
cousin before going down to the court. The apparition of M. le
President de Marville, announced by Mme. Cibot, was an event in the
house. Pons, thus honored for the first time in his life saw
reparation ahead.

"At last, my dear cousin," said the President after the ordinary
greetings; "at last I have discovered the cause of your retreat. Your
behavior increases, if that were possible, my esteem for you. I have
but one word to say in that connection. My servants have all been
dismissed. My wife and daughter are in despair; they want to see you
to have an explanation. In all this, my cousin, there is one innocent
person, and he is an old judge; you will not punish me, will you, for
the escapade of a thoughtless child who wished to dine with the
Popinots? especially when I come to beg for peace, admitting that all
the wrong has been on our side? . . . An old friendship of thirty-six
years, even suppose that there had been a misunderstanding, has still
some claims. Come, sign a treaty of peace by dining with us

Pons involved himself in a diffuse reply, and ended by informing his
cousin that he was to sign a marriage contract that evening; how that
one of the orchestra was not only going to be married, but also about
to fling his flute to the winds to become a banker.

"Very well. To-morrow."

"Mme. la Comtesse Popinot has done me the honor of asking me, cousin.
She was so kind as to write--"

"The day after to-morrow then."

"M. Brunner, a German, my first flute's future partner, returns the
compliment paid him to-day by the young couple--"

"You are such pleasant company that it is not surprising that people
dispute for the honor of seeing you. Very well, next Sunday? Within a
week, as we say at the courts?"

"On Sunday we are to dine with M. Graff, the flute's father-in-law."

"Very well, on Saturday. Between now and then you will have time to
reassure a little girl who has shed tears already over her fault. God
asks no more than repentance; you will not be more severe than the
Eternal father with poor little Cecile?--"

Pons, thus reached on his weak side, again plunged into formulas more
than polite, and went as far as the stairhead with the President.

An hour later the President's servants arrived in a troop on poor
Pons' second floor. They behaved after the manner of their kind; they
cringed and fawned; they wept. Madeleine took M. Pons aside and flung
herself resolutely at his feet.

"It is all my fault; and monsieur knows quite well that I love him,"
here she burst into tears. "It was vengeance boiling in my veins;
monsieur ought to throw all the blame of the unhappy affair on that.
We are all to lose our pensions. . . . Monsieur, I was mad, and I
would not have the rest suffer for my fault. . . . I can see now well
enough that fate did not make me for monsieur. I have come to my
senses, I aimed too high, but I love you still, monsieur. These ten
years I have thought of nothing but the happiness of making you happy
and looking after things here. What a lot! . . . Oh! if monsieur but
knew how much I love him! But monsieur must have seen it through all
my mischief-making. If I were to die to-morrow, what would they find?
--A will in your favor, monsieur. . . . Yes, monsieur, in my trunk
under my best things."

Madeleine had set a responsive chord vibrating; the passion inspired
in another may be unwelcome, but it will always be gratifying to
self-love; this was the case with the old bachelor. After generously
pardoning Madeleine, he extended his forgiveness to the other
servants, promising to use his influence with his cousin the
Presidente on their behalf.

It was unspeakably pleasant to Pons to find all his old enjoyments
restored to him without any loss of self-respect. The world had come
to Pons, he had risen in the esteem of his circle; but Schmucke looked
so downcast and dubious when he heard the story of the triumph, that
Pons felt hurt. When, however, the kind-hearted German saw the sudden
change wrought in Pons' face, he ended by rejoicing with his friend,
and made a sacrifice of the happiness that he had known during those
four months that he had had Pons all to himself. Mental suffering has
this immense advantage over physical ills--when the cause is removed
it ceases at once. Pons was not like the same man that morning. The
old man, depressed and visibly failing, had given place to the
serenely contented Pons, who entered the Presidente's house that
October afternoon with the Marquise de Pompadour's fan in his pocket.
Schmucke, on the other hand, pondered deeply over this phenomenon, and
could not understand it; your true stoic never can understand the
courtier that dwells in a Frenchman. Pons was a born Frenchman of the
Empire; a mixture of eighteenth century gallantry and that devotion to
womankind so often celebrated in songs of the type of _Partant pour la

So Schmucke was fain to bury his chagrin beneath the flowers of his
German philosophy; but a week later he grew so yellow that Mme. Cibot
exerted her ingenuity to call in the parish doctor. The leech had
fears of icterus, and left Mme. Cibot frightened half out of her wits
by the Latin word for an attack of the jaundice.

Meantime the two friends went out to dinner together, perhaps for the
first time in their lives. For Schmucke it was a return to the
Fatherland; for Johann Graff of the Hotel du Rhin and his daughter
Emilie, Wolfgang Graff the tailor and his wife, Fritz Brunner and
Wilhelm Schwab, were Germans, and Pons and the notary were the only
Frenchmen present at the banquet. The Graffs of the tailor's business
owned a splendid house in the Rue de Richelieu, between the Rue
Neuve-des-Petits-Champs and the Rue Villedo; they had brought up their
niece, for Emilie's father, not without reason, had feared contact
with the very mixed society of an inn for his daughter. The good
tailor Graffs, who loved Emilie as if she had been their own daughter,
were giving up the ground floor of their great house to the young
couple, and here the bank of Brunner, Schwab and Company was to be
established. The arrangements for the marriage had been made about a
month ago; some time must elapse before Fritz Brunner, author of all
this felicity, could settle his deceased father's affairs, and the
famous firm of tailors had taken advantage of the delay to redecorate
the first floor and to furnish it very handsomely for the bride and
bridegroom. The offices of the bank had been fitted into the wing
which united a handsome business house with the hotel at the back,
between courtyard and garden.

On the way from the Rue de Normandie to the Rue de Richelieu, Pons
drew from the abstracted Schmucke the details of the story of the
modern prodigal son, for whom Death had killed the fatted innkeeper.
Pons, but newly reconciled with his nearest relatives, was immediately
smitten with a desire to make a match between Fritz Brunner and Cecile
de Marville. Chance ordained that the notary was none other than
Berthier, old Cardot's son-in-law and successor, the sometime second
clerk with whom Pons had been wont to dine.

"Ah! M. Berthier, you here!" he said, holding out a hand to his host
of former days.

"We have not had the pleasure of seeing you at dinner lately; how is
it?" returned the notary. "My wife has been anxious about you. We saw
you at the first performance of _The Devil's Betrothed_, and our
anxiety became curiosity?"

"Old folk are sensitive," replied the worthy musician; "they make the
mistake of being a century behind the times, but how can it be helped?
It is quite enough to represent one century--they cannot entirely
belong to the century which sees them die."

"Ah!" said the notary, with a shrewd look, "one cannot run two
centuries at once."

"By the by," continued Pons, drawing the young lawyer into a corner,
"why do you not find some one for my cousin Cecile de Marville--"

"Ah! why--?" answered Berthier. "In this century, when luxury has
filtered down to our very porters' lodges, a young fellow hesitates
before uniting his lot with the daughter of a President of the Court
of Appeal in Paris if she brings him only a hundred thousand francs.
In the rank of life in which Mlle. de Marville's husband would take,
the wife was never yet known that did not cost her husband three
thousand francs a year; the interest on a hundred thousand francs
would scarcely find her in pin-money. A bachelor with an income of
fifteen or twenty thousand francs can live on an entre-sol; he is not
expected to cut any figure; he need not keep more than one servant,
and all his surplus income he can spend on his amusements; he puts
himself in the hands of a good tailor, and need not trouble any
further about keeping up appearances. Far-sighted mothers make much of
him; he is one of the kings of fashion in Paris.

"But a wife changes everything. A wife means a properly furnished
house," continued the lawyer; "she wants the carriage for herself; if
she goes to the play, she wants a box, while the bachelor has only a
stall to pay for; in short, a wife represents the whole of the income
which the bachelor used to spend on himself. Suppose that husband and
wife have thirty thousand francs a year between them--practically, the
sometime bachelor is a poor devil who thinks twice before he drives
out to Chantilly. Bring children on the scene--he is pinched for money
at once.

"Now, as M. and Mme. de Marville are scarcely turned fifty, Cecile's
expectations are bills that will not fall due for fifteen or twenty
years to come; and no young fellow cares to keep them so long in his
portfolio. The young featherheads who are dancing the polka with
lorettes at the Jardin Mabille, are so cankered with self-interest,
that they don't stand in need of us to explain both sides of the
problem to them. Between ourselves, I may say that Mlle. de Marville
scarcely sets hearts throbbing so fast but that their owners can
perfectly keep their heads, and they are full of these
anti-matrimonial reflections. If any eligible young man, in full
possession of his senses and an income of twenty thousand francs,
happens to be sketching out a programme of marriage that will satisfy
his ambitions, Mlle. de Marville does not altogether answer the

"And why not?" asked the bewildered musician.

"Oh!--" said the notary, "well--a young man nowadays may be as ugly as
you and I, my dear Pons, but he is almost sure to have the
impertinence to want six hundred thousand francs, a girl of good
family, with wit and good looks and good breeding--flawless perfection
in short."

"Then it will not be easy to marry her?"

"She will not be married so long as M. and Mme. de Marville cannot
make up their minds to settle Marville on her when she marries; if
they had chosen, she might have been the Vicomtesse Popinot by now.
But here comes M. Brunner.--We are about to read the deed of
partnership and the marriage contract."

Greetings and introductions over, the relations made Pons promise to
sign the contract. He listened to the reading of the documents, and
towards half-past five the party went into the dining-room. The dinner
was magnificent, as a city merchant's dinner can be, when he allows
himself a respite from money-making. Graff of the Hotel du Rhin was
acquainted with the first provision dealers in Paris; never had Pons
nor Schmucke fared so sumptuously. The dishes were a rapture to think
of! Italian paste, delicate of flavor, unknown to the public; smelts
fried as never smelts were fried before; fish from Lake Leman, with a
real Genevese sauce, and a cream for plum-pudding which would have
astonished the London doctor who is said to have invented it. It was
nearly ten o'clock before they rose from table. The amount of wine,
German and French, consumed at that dinner would amaze the
contemporary dandy; nobody knows the amount of liquor that a German
can imbibe and yet keep calm and quiet; to have even an idea of the
quantity, you must dine in Germany and watch bottle succeed to bottle,
like wave rippling after wave along the sunny shores of the
Mediterranean, and disappear as if the Teuton possessed the absorbing
power of sponges or sea sand. Perfect harmony prevails meanwhile;
there is none of the racket that there would be over the liquor in
France; the talk is as sober as a money-lender's extempore speech;
countenances flush, like the faces of the brides in frescoes by
Cornelius or Schnorr (imperceptibly, that is to say), and
reminiscences are poured out slowly while the smoke puffs from the

About half-past ten that evening Pons and Schmucke found themselves
sitting on a bench out in the garden, with the ex-flute between them;
they were explaining their characters, opinions, and misfortunes, with
no very clear idea as to why or how they had come to this point. In
the thick of a potpourri of confidences, Wilhelm spoke of his strong
desire to see Fritz married, expressing himself with vehement and
vinous eloquence.

"What do you say to this programme for your friend Brunner?" cried
Pons in confidential tones. "A charming and sensible young lady of
twenty-four, belonging to a family of the highest distinction. The
father holds a very high position as a judge; there will be a hundred
thousand francs paid down and a million to come."

"Wait!" answered Schwab; "I will speak to Fritz this instant."

The pair watched Brunner and his friend as they walked round and round
the garden; again and again they passed the bench, sometimes one
spoke, sometimes the other.

Pons was not exactly intoxicated; his head was a little heavy, but his
thoughts, on the contrary, seemed all the lighter; he watched Fritz
Brunner's face through the rainbow mist of fumes of wine, and tried to
read auguries favorable to his family. Before very long Schwab
introduced his friend and partner to M. Pons; Fritz Brunner expressed
his thanks for the trouble which Pons had been so good as to take.

In the conversation which followed, the two old bachelors Schmucke and
Pons extolled the estate of matrimony, going so far as to say, without
any malicious intent, "that marriage was the end of man." Tea and
ices, punches and cakes, were served in the future home of the
betrothed couple. The wine had begun to tell upon the honest
merchants, and the general hilarity reached its height when it was
announced that Schwab's partner thought of following his example.

At two o'clock that morning, Schmucke and Pons walked home along the
boulevards, philosophizing _a perte de raison_ as they went on the
harmony pervading the arrangements of this our world below.

On the morrow of the banquet, Cousin Pons betook himself to his fair
cousin the Presidente, overjoyed--poor dear noble soul!--to return
good for evil. Surely he had attained to a sublime height, as every
one will allow, for we live in an age when the Montyon prize is given
to those who do their duty by carrying out the precepts of the Gospel.

"Ah!" said Pons to himself, as he turned the corner of the Rue de
Choiseul, "they will lie under immense obligations to their parasite."

Any man less absorbed in his contentment, any man of the world, any
distrustful nature would have watched the President's wife and
daughter very narrowly on this first return to the house. But the poor
musician was a child, he had all the simplicity of an artist,
believing in goodness as he believed in beauty; so he was delighted
when Cecile and her mother made much of him. After all the
vaudevilles, tragedies, and comedies which had been played under the
worthy man's eyes for twelve long years, he could not detect the
insincerity and grimaces of social comedy, no doubt because he had
seen too much of it. Any one who goes into society in Paris, and knows
the type of woman, dried up, body and soul, by a burning thirst for
social position, and a fierce desire to be thought virtuous, any one
familiar with the sham piety and the domineering character of a woman
whose word is law in her own house, may imagine the lurking hatred she
bore this husband's cousin whom she had wronged.

All the demonstrative friendliness of mother and daughter was lined
with a formidable longing for revenge, evidently postponed. For the
first time in Amelie de Marville's life she had been put in the wrong,
and that in the sight of the husband over whom she tyrannized; and not
only so--she was obliged to be amiable to the author of her defeat!
You can scarcely find a match for this position save in the
hypocritical dramas which are sometimes kept up for years in the
sacred college of cardinals, or in chapters of certain religious

At three o'clock, when the President came back from the law-courts,
Pons had scarcely made an end of the marvelous history of his
acquaintance, M. Frederic Brunner. Cecile had gone straight to the
point. She wanted to know how Frederic Brunner was dressed, how he
looked, his height and figure, the color of his hair and eyes; and
when she had conjectured a distinguished air for Frederic, she admired
his generosity of character.

"Think of his giving five hundred thousand francs to his companion in
misfortune! Oh! mamma, I shall have a carriage and a box at the
Italiens----" Cecile grew almost pretty as she thought that all her
mother's ambitions for her were about to be realized, that the hopes
which had almost left her were to come to something after all.

As for the Presidente, all that she said was, "My dear little girl,
you may perhaps be married within the fortnight."

All mothers with daughters of three-and-twenty address them as "little

"Still," added the President, "in any case, we must have time to make
inquiries; never will I give my daughter to just anybody--"

"As to inquiries," said Pons, "Berthier is drawing up the deeds. As to
the young man himself, my dear cousin, you remember what you told me?
Well, he is quite forty years old; he is bald. He wishes to find in
family life a haven after a storm; I did not dissuade him; every man
has his tastes--"

"One reason the more for a personal interview," returned the
President. "I am not going to give my daughter to a valetudinarian."

"Very good, cousin, you shall see my suitor in five days if you like;
for, with your views, a single interview would be enough"--(Cecile and
her mother signified their rapture)--"Frederic is decidedly a
distinguished amateur; he begged me to allow him to see my little
collection at his leisure. You have never seen my pictures and
curiosities; come and see them," he continued, looking at his
relatives. "You can come simply as two ladies, brought by my friend
Schmucke, and make M. Brunner's acquaintance without betraying
yourselves. Frederic need not in the least know who you are."

"Admirable!" cried the President.

The attention they paid to the once scorned parasite may be left to
the imagination! Poor Pons that day became the Presidente's cousin.
The happy mother drowned her dislike in floods of joy; her looks, her
smiles, her words sent the old man into ecstasies over the good that
he had done, over the future that he saw by glimpses. Was he not sure
to find dinners such as yesterday's banquet over the signing of the
contract, multiplied indefinitely by three, in the houses of Brunner,
Schwab, and Graff? He saw before him a land of plenty--a _vie de
cocagne_, a miraculous succession of _plats couverts_, of delicate
surprise dishes, of exquisite wines.

"If Cousin Pons brings this through," said the President, addressing
his wife after Pons had departed, "we ought to settle an income upon
him equal to his salary at the theatre."

"Certainly," said the lady; and Cecile was informed that if the
proposed suitor found favor in her eyes, she must undertake to induce
the old musician to accept a munificence in such bad taste.

Next day the President went to Berthier. He was anxious to make sure
of M. Frederic Brunner's financial position. Berthier, forewarned by
Mme. de Marville, had asked his new client Schwab to come. Schwab the
banker was dazzled by the prospect of such a match for his friend
(everybody knows how deeply a German venerates social distinctions, so
much so, that in Germany a wife takes her husband's (official) title,
and is the Frau General, the Frau Rath, and so forth)--Schwab
therefore was as accommodating as a collector who imagines that he is
cheating a dealer.

"In the first place," said Cecile's father, "as I shall make over my
estate of Marville to my daughter, I should wish the contract to be
drawn up on the dotal system. In that case, M. Brunner would invest a
million francs in land to increase the estate, and by settling the
land on his wife he would secure her and his children from any share
in the liabilities of the bank."

Berthier stroked his chin. "He is coming on well, is M. le President,"
thought he.

When the dotal system had been explained to Schwab, he seemed much
inclined that way for his friend. He had heard Fritz say that he
wished to find some way of insuring himself against another lapse into

"There is a farm and pasture land worth twelve hundred thousand francs
in the market at this moment," remarked the President.

"If we take up shares in the Bank of France to the amount of a million
francs, that will be quite enough to guarantee our account," said
Schwab. "Fritz does not want to invest more than two million francs in
business; he will do as you wish, I am sure, M. le President."

The President's wife and daughter were almost wild with joy when he
brought home this news. Never, surely, did so rich a capture swim so
complacently into the nets of matrimony.

"You will be Mme. Brunner de Marville," said the parent, addressing
his child; "I will obtain permission for your husband to add the name
to his, and afterwards he can take out letters of naturalization. If I
should be a peer of France some day, he will succeed me!"

The five days were spent by Mme. de Marville in preparations. On the
great day she dressed Cecile herself, taking as much pains as the
admiral of the British fleet takes over the dressing of the pleasure
yacht for Her Majesty of England when she takes a trip to Germany.

Pons and Schmucke, on their side, cleaned, swept, and dusted Pons'
museum rooms and furniture with the agility of sailors cleaning down a
man-of-war. There was not a speck of dust on the carved wood; not an
inch of brass but it glistened. The glasses over the pastels obscured
nothing of the work of Latour, Greuze, and Liotard (illustrious
painter of _The Chocolate Girl_), miracles of an art, alas! so
fugitive. The inimitable lustre of Florentine bronze took all the
varying hues of the light; the painted glass glowed with color. Every
line shone out brilliantly, every object threw in its phrase in a
harmony of masterpieces arranged by two musicians--both of whom alike
had attained to be poets.

With a tact which avoided the difficulties of a late appearance on the
scene of action, the women were the first to arrive; they wished to be
on their own ground. Pons introduced his friend Schmucke, who seemed
to his fair visitors to be an idiot; their heads were so full of the
eligible gentleman with the four millions of francs, that they paid
but little attention to the worthy Pons' dissertations upon matters of
which they were completely ignorant.

They looked with indifferent eyes at Petitot's enamels, spaced over
crimson velvet, set in three frames of marvelous workmanship. Flowers
by Van Huysum, David, and Heim; butterflies painted by Abraham Mignon;
Van Eycks, undoubted Cranachs and Albrecht Durers; the Giorgione, the
Sebastian del Piombo; Backhuijzen, Hobbema, Gericault, the rarities of
painting--none of these things so much as aroused their curiosity;
they were waiting for the sun to arise and shine upon these treasures.
Still, they were surprised by the beauty of some of the Etruscan
trinkets and the solid value of the snuff-boxes, and out of politeness
they went into ecstasies over some Florentine bronzes which they held
in their hands when Mme. Cibot announced M. Brunner! They did not
turn; they took advantage of a superb Venetian mirror framed in huge
masses of carved ebony to scan this phoenix of eligible young men.

Frederic, forewarned by Wilhelm, had made the most of the little hair
that remained to him. He wore a neat pair of trousers, a soft shade of
some dark color, a silk waistcoat of superlative elegance and the very
newest cut, a shirt with open-work, its linen hand-woven by a
Friesland woman, and a blue-and-white cravat. His watch chain, like
the head of his cane, came from Messrs. Florent and Chanor; and the
coat, cut by old Graff himself, was of the very finest cloth. The
Suede gloves proclaimed the man who had run through his mother's
fortune. You could have seen the banker's neat little brougham and
pair of horses mirrored in the surface of his speckless varnished
boots, even if two pairs of sharp ears had not already caught the
sound of wheels outside in the Rue de Normandie.

When the prodigal of twenty years is a kind of chrysalis from which a
banker emerges at the age of forty, the said banker is usually an
observer of human nature; and so much the more shrewd if, as in
Brunner's case, he understands how to turn his German simplicity to
good account. He had assumed for the occasion the abstracted air of a
man who is hesitating between family life and the dissipations of
bachelorhood. This expression in a Frenchified German seemed to Cecile
to be in the highest degree romantic; the descendant of the Virlaz was
a second Werther in her eyes--where is the girl who will not allow
herself to weave a little novel about her marriage? Cecile thought
herself the happiest of women when Brunner, looking round at the
magnificent works of art so patiently collected during forty years,
waxed enthusiastic, and Pons, to his no small satisfaction, found an
appreciative admirer of his treasures for the first time in his life.

"He is poetical," the young lady said to herself; "he sees millions in
the things. A poet is a man that cannot count and leaves his wife to
look after his money--an easy man to manage and amuse with trifles."

Every pane in the two windows was a square of Swiss painted glass; the
least of them was worth a thousand francs; and Pons possessed sixteen
of these unrivaled works of art for which amateurs seek so eagerly
nowadays. In 1815 the panes could be bought for six or ten francs
apiece. The value of the glorious collection of pictures, flawless
great works, authentic, untouched since they left the master's hands,
could only be proved in the fiery furnace of a saleroom. Not a picture
but was set in a costly frame; there were frames of every kind
--Venetians, carved with heavy ornaments, like English plate of the
present day; Romans, distinguishable among the others for a certain
dash that artists call _flafla_; Spanish wreaths in bold relief;
Flemings and Germans with quaint figures, tortoise-shell frames inlaid
with copper and brass and mother-of-pearl and ivory; frames of ebony
and boxwood in the styles of Louis Treize, Louis Quatorze, Louis
Quinze, and Louis Seize--in short, it was a unique collection of the
finest models. Pons, luckier than the art museums of Dresden and
Vienna, possessed a frame by the famous Brustoloni--the Michael Angelo
of wood-carvers.

Mlle. de Marville naturally asked for explanations of each new
curiosity, and was initiated into the mysteries of art by Brunner. Her
exclamations were so childish, she seemed so pleased to have the value
and beauty of the paintings, carvings, or bronzes pointed out to her,
that the German gradually thawed and looked quite young again, and
both were led on further than they intended at this (purely
accidental) first meeting.

The private view lasted for three hours. Brunner offered his arm when
Cecile went downstairs. As they descended slowly and discreetly,
Cecile, still talking fine art, wondered that M. Brunner should admire
her cousin's gimcracks so much.

"Do you really think that these things that we have just seen are
worth a great deal of money?"

"Mademoiselle, if your cousin would sell his collection, I would give
eight hundred thousand francs for it this evening, and I should not
make a bad bargain. The pictures alone would fetch more than that at a
public sale."

"Since you say so, I believe it," returned she; "the things took up so
much of your attention that it must be so."

"On! mademoiselle!" protested Brunner. "For all answer to your
reproach, I will ask your mother's permission to call, so that I may
have the pleasure of seeing you again."

"How clever she is, that 'little girl' of mine!" thought the
Presidente, following closely upon her daughter's heels. Aloud she
said, "With the greatest pleasure, monsieur. I hope that you will come
at dinner-time with our Cousin Pons. The President will be delighted
to make your acquaintance.--Thank you, cousin."

The lady squeezed Pons' arm with deep meaning; she could not have said
more if she had used the consecrated formula, "Let us swear an eternal
friendship." The glance which accompanied that "Thank you, cousin,"
was a caress.

When the young lady had been put into the carriage, and the jobbed
brougham had disappeared down the Rue Charlot, Brunner talked
bric-a-brac to Pons, and Pons talked marriage.

"Then you see no obstacle?" said Pons.

"Oh!" said Brunner, "she is an insignificant little thing, and the
mother is a trifle prim.--We shall see."

"A handsome fortune one of these days. . . . More than a million--"

"Good-bye till Monday!" interrupted the millionaire. "If you should
care to sell your collection of pictures, I would give you five or six
hundred thousand francs--"

"Ah!" said Pons; he had no idea that he was so rich. "But they are my
great pleasure in life, and I could not bring myself to part with
them. I could only sell my collection to be delivered after my death."

"Very well. We shall see."

"Here we have two affairs afoot!" said Pons; he was thinking only of
the marriage.

Brunner shook hands and drove away in his splendid carriage. Pons
watched it out of sight. He did not notice that Remonencq was smoking
his pipe in the doorway.

That evening Mme. de Marville went to ask advice of her father-in-law,
and found the whole Popinot family at the Camusots' house. It was only
natural that a mother who had failed to capture an eldest son should
be tempted to take her little revenge; so Mme. de Marville threw out
hints of the splendid marriage that her Cecile was about to make.
--"Whom can Cecile be going to marry?" was the question upon all lips.
And Cecile's mother, without suspecting that she was betraying her
secret, let fall words and whispered confidences, afterwards
supplemented by Mme. Berthier, till gossip circulating in the
bourgeois empyrean where Pons accomplished his gastronomical
evolutions took something like the following form:

"Cecile de Marville is engaged to be married to a young German, a
banker from philanthropic motives, for he has four millions; he is
like a hero in a novel, a perfect Werther, charming and kind-hearted.
He has sown his wild oats, and he is distractedly in love with Cecile;
it is a case of love at first sight; and so much the more certain,
since Cecile had all Pons' paintings of Madonnas for rivals," and so
forth and so forth.

Two or three of the set came to call on the Presidente, ostensibly to
congratulate, but really to find out whether or not the marvelous tale
were true. For their benefit Mme. de Marville executed the following
admirable variations on the theme of son-in-law which mothers may
consult, as people used to refer to the _Complete Letter Writer_.

"A marriage is not an accomplished fact," she told Mme. Chiffreville,
"until you have been in the mayor's office and the church. We have
only come as far as a personal interview; so I count upon your
friendship to say nothing of our hopes."

"You are very fortunate, madame; marriages are so difficult to arrange
in these days."

"What can one do? It was chance; but marriages are often made in that

"Ah! well. So you are going to marry Cecile?" said Mme. Cardot.

"Yes," said Cecile's mother, fully understanding the meaning of the
"so." "We were very particular, or Cecile would have been established
before this. But now we have found everything we wish: money, good
temper, good character, and good looks; and my sweet little girl
certainly deserves nothing less. M. Brunner is a charming young man,
most distinguished; he is fond of luxury, he knows life; he is wild
about Cecile, he loves her sincerely; and in spite of his three or
four millions, Cecile is going to accept him.--We had not looked so
high for her; still, store is no sore."

"It was not so much the fortune as the affection inspired by my
daughter which decided us," the Presidente told Mme. Lebas. "M.
Brunner is in such a hurry that he wants the marriage to take place
with the least possible delay."

"Is he a foreigner?"

"Yes, madame; but I am very fortunate, I confess. No, I shall not have
a son-in-law, but a son. M. Brunner's delicacy has quite won our
hearts. No one would imagine how anxious he was to marry under the
dotal system. It is a great security for families. He is going to
invest twelve hundred thousand francs in grazing land, which will be
added to Marville some day."

More variations followed on the morrow. For instance--M. Brunner was a
great lord, doing everything in lordly fashion; he did not haggle. If
M. de Marville could obtain letters of naturalization, qualifying M.
Brunner for an office under Government (and the Home Secretary surely
could strain a point for M. de Marville), his son-in-law would be a
peer of France. Nobody knew how much money M. Brunner possessed; "he
had the finest horses and the smartest carriages in Paris!" and so on
and so on.

From the pleasure with which the Camusots published their hopes, it
was pretty clear that this triumph was unexpected.

Immediately after the interview in Pons' museum, M. de Marville, at
his wife's instance, begged the Home Secretary, his chief, and the
attorney for the crown to dine with him on the occasion of the
introduction of this phoenix of a son-in-law.

The three great personages accepted the invitation, albeit it was
given on short notice; they all saw the part that they were to play in
the family politics, and readily came to the father's support. In
France we are usually pretty ready to assist the mother of
marriageable daughters to hook an eligible son-in-law. The Count and
Countess Popinot likewise lent their presence to complete the splendor
of the occasion, although they thought the invitation in questionable

There were eleven in all. Cecile's grandfather, old Camusot, came, of
course, with his wife to a family reunion purposely arranged to elicit
a proposal from M. Brunner.

The Camusot de Marvilles had given out that the guest of the evening
was one of the richest capitalists in Germany, a man of taste (he was
in love with "the little girl"), a future rival of the Nucingens,
Kellers, du Tillets, and their like.

"It is our day," said the Presidente with elaborate simplicity, when
she had named her guests one by one for the German whom she already
regarded as her son-in-law. "We have only a few intimate friends
--first, my husband's father, who, as you know, is sure to be raised
to the peerage; M. le Comte and Mme. la Comtesse Popinot, whose son
was not thought rich enough for Cecile; the Home Secretary; our First
President; our attorney for the crown; our personal friends, in short.
--We shall be obliged to dine rather late to-night, because the
Chamber is sitting, and people cannot get away before six."

Brunner looked significantly at Pons, and Pons rubbed his hands as if
to say, "Our friends, you see! _My_ friends!"

Mme. de Marville, as a clever tactician, had something very particular
to say to her cousin, that Cecile and her Werther might be left
together for a moment. Cecile chattered away volubly, and contrived
that Frederic should catch sight of a German dictionary, a German
grammar, and a volume of Goethe hidden away in a place where he was
likely to find them.

"Ah! are you learning German?" asked Brunner, flushing red.

(For laying traps of this kind the Frenchwoman has not her match!)

"Oh! how naughty you are!" she cried; "it is too bad of you, monsieur,
to explore my hiding-places like this. I want to read Goethe in the
original," she added; "I have been learning German for two years."

"Then the grammar must be very difficult to learn, for scarcely ten
pages have been cut--" Brunner remarked with much candor.

Cecile, abashed, turned away to hide her blushes. A German cannot
resist a display of this kind; Brunner caught Cecile's hand, made her
turn, and watched her confusion under his gaze, after the manner of
the heroes of the novels of Auguste Lafontaine of chaste memory.

"You are adorable," said he.

Cecile's petulant gesture replied, "So are you--who could help liking

"It is all right, mamma," she whispered to her parent, who came up at
that moment with Pons.

The sight of a family party on these occasions is not to be described.
Everybody was well satisfied to see a mother put her hand on an
eligible son-in-law. Compliments, double-barreled and double-charged,
were paid to Brunner (who pretended to understand nothing); to Cecile,
on whom nothing was lost; and to the Presidente, who fished for them.
Pons heard the blood singing in his ears, the light of all the blazing
gas-jets of the theatre footlights seemed to be dazzling his eyes,
when Cecile, in a low voice and with the most ingenious
circumspection, spoke of her father's plan of the annuity of twelve
hundred francs. The old artist positively declined the offer, bringing
forward the value of his fortune in furniture, only now made known to
him by Brunner.

The Home Secretary, the First President, the attorney for the crown,
the Popinots, and those who had other engagements, all went; and
before long no one was left except M. Camusot senior, and Cardot the
old notary, and his assistant and son-in-law Berthier. Pons, worthy
soul, looking round and seeing no one but the family, blundered out a
speech of thanks to the President and his wife for the proposal which
Cecile had just made to him. So it is with those who are guided by
their feelings; they act upon impulse. Brunner, hearing of an annuity
offered in this way, thought that it had very much the look of a
commission paid to Pons; he made an Israelite's return upon himself,
his attitude told of more than cool calculation.

Meanwhile Pons was saying to his astonished relations, "My collection
or its value will, in any case, go to your family, whether I come to
terms with our friend Brunner or keep it." The Camusots were amazed to
hear that Pons was so rich.

Brunner, watching, saw how all these ignorant people looked favorably
upon a man once believed to be poor so soon as they knew that he had
great possessions. He had seen, too, already that Cecile was spoiled
by her father and mother; he amused himself, therefore, by astonishing
the good bourgeois.

"I was telling mademoiselle," said he, "that M. Pons' pictures were
worth that sum to _me_; but the prices of works of art have risen so
much of late, that no one can tell how much the collection might sell
for at public auction. The sixty pictures might fetch a million
francs; several that I saw the other day were worth fifty thousand

"It is a fine thing to be your heir!" remarked old Cardot, looking at

"My heir is my Cousin Cecile here," answered Pons, insisting on the
relationship. There was a flutter of admiration at this.

"She will be a very rich heiress," laughed old Cardot, as he took his

Camusot senior, the President and his wife, Cecile, Brunner, Berthier,
and Pons were now left together; for it was assumed that the formal
demand for Cecile's hand was about to be made. No sooner was Cardot
gone, indeed, than Brunner began with an inquiry which augured well.

"I think I understood," he said, turning to Mme. de Marville, "that
mademoiselle is your only daughter."

"Certainly," the lady said proudly.

"Nobody will make any difficulties," Pons, good soul, put in by way of
encouraging Brunner to bring out his proposal.

But Brunner grew thoughtful, and an ominous silence brought on a
coolness of the strangest kind. The Presidente might have admitted
that her "little girl" was subject to epileptic fits. The President,
thinking that Cecile ought not to be present, signed to her to go. She
went. Still Brunner said nothing. They all began to look at one
another. The situation was growing awkward.

Camusot senior, a man of experience, took the German to Mme. de
Marville's room, ostensibly to show him Pons' fan. He saw that some
difficulty had arisen, and signed to the rest to leave him alone with
Cecile's suitor-designate.

"Here is the masterpiece," said Camusot, opening out the fan.

Brunner took it in his hand and looked at it. "It is worth five
thousand francs," he said after a moment.

"Did you not come here, sir, to ask for my granddaughter?" inquired
the future peer of France.

"Yes, sir," said Brunner; "and I beg you to believe that no possible
marriage could be more flattering to my vanity. I shall never find any
one more charming nor more amiable, nor a young lady who answers to my
ideas like Mlle. Cecile; but--"

"Oh, no _buts_!" old Camusot broke in; "or let us have the translation
of your 'buts' at once, my dear sir."

"I am very glad, sir, that the matter has gone no further on either
side," Brunner answered gravely. "I had no idea that Mlle. Cecile was
an only daughter. Anybody else would consider this an advantage; but
to me, believe me, it is an insurmountable obstacle to--"

"What, sir!" cried Camusot, amazed beyond measure. "Do you find a
positive drawback in an immense advantage? Your conduct is really
extraordinary; I should very much like to hear the explanation of it."

"I came here this evening, sir," returned the German phlegmatically,
"intending to ask M. le President for his daughter's hand. It was my
desire to give Mlle. Cecile a brilliant future by offering her so much
of my fortune as she would consent to accept. But an only daughter is
a child whose will is law to indulgent parents, who has never been
contradicted. I have had the opportunity of observing this in many
families, where parents worship divinities of this kind. And your
granddaughter is not only the idol of the house, but Mme. la
Presidente . . . you know what I mean. I have seen my father's house
turned into a hell, sir, from this very cause. My stepmother, the
source of all my misfortunes, an only daughter, idolized by her
parents, the most charming betrothed imaginable, after marriage became
a fiend incarnate. I do not doubt that Mlle. Cecile is an exception to
the rule; but I am not a young man, I am forty years old, and the
difference between our ages entails difficulties which would put it
out of my power to make the young lady happy, when Mme. la Presidente
always carried out her daughter's every wish and listened to her as if
Mademoiselle was an oracle. What right have I to expect Mlle. Cecile
to change her habits and ideas? Instead of a father and mother who
indulge her every whim, she would find an egotistic man of forty; if
she should resist, the man of forty would have the worst of it. So, as
an honest man--I withdraw. If there should be any need to explain my
visit here, I desire to be entirely sacrificed--"

"If these are your motives, sir," said the future peer of France,
"however singular they may be, they are plausible--"

"Do not call my sincerity in question, sir," Brunner interrupted
quickly. "If you know of a penniless girl, one of a large family, well
brought up but without fortune, as happens very often in France; and
if her character offers me security, I will marry her."

A pause followed; Frederic Brunner left Cecile's grandfather and
politely took leave of his host and hostess. When he was gone, Cecile
appeared, a living commentary upon her Werther's leave-taking; she was
ghastly pale. She had hidden in her mother's wardrobe and overheard
the whole conversation.

"Refused! . . ." she said in a low voice for her mother's ear.

"And why?" asked the Presidente, fixing her eyes upon her embarrassed

"Upon the fine pretext that an only daughter is a spoilt child,"
replied that gentleman. "And he is not altogether wrong there," he
added, seizing an opportunity of putting the blame on the
daughter-in-law, who had worried him not a little for twenty years.

"It will kill my child!" cried the Presidente, "and it is your doing!"
she exclaimed, addressing Pons, as she supported her fainting
daughter, for Cecile thought well to make good her mother's words by
sinking into her arms. The President and his wife carried Cecile to an
easy-chair, where she swooned outright. The grandfather rang for the

"It is a plot of his weaving; I see it all now," said the infuriated

Pons sprang up as if the trump of doom were sounding in his ears.

"Yes!" said the lady, her eyes like two springs of green bile, "this
gentleman wished to repay a harmless joke by an insult. Who will
believe that that German was right in his mind? He is either an
accomplice in a wicked scheme of revenge, or he is crazy. I hope, M.
Pons, that in future you will spare us the annoyance of seeing you in
the house where you have tried to bring shame and dishonor."

Pons stood like a statue, with his eyes fixed on the pattern of the

"Well! Are you still here, monster of ingratitude?" cried she, turning
round on Pons, who was twirling his thumbs.--"Your master and I are
never at home, remember, if this gentleman calls," she continued,
turning to the servants.--"Jean, go for the doctor; and bring
hartshorn, Madeleine."

In the Presidente's eyes, the reason given by Brunner was simply an
excuse, there was something else behind; but, at the same time, the
fact that the marriage was broken off was only the more certain. A
woman's mind works swiftly in great crises, and Mme. de Marville had
hit at once upon the one method of repairing the check. She chose to
look upon it as a scheme of revenge. This notion of ascribing a
fiendish scheme to Pons satisfied family honor. Faithful to her
dislike of the cousin, she treated a feminine suspicion as a fact.
Women, generally speaking, hold a creed peculiar to themselves, a code
of their own; to them anything which serves their interests or their
passions is true. The Presidente went a good deal further. In the
course of the evening she talked the President into her belief, and
next morning found the magistrate convinced of his cousin's

Every one, no doubt, will condemn the lady's horrible conduct; but
what mother in Mme. Camusot's position will not do the same? Put the
choice between her own daughter and an alien, she will prefer to
sacrifice the honor of the latter. There are many ways of doing this,
but the end in view is the same.

The old musician fled down the staircase in haste; but he went slowly
along the boulevards to his theatre, he turned in mechanically at the
door, and mechanically he took his place and conducted the orchestra.
In the interval he gave such random answers to Schmucke's questions,
that his old friend dissembled his fear that Pons' mind had given way.
To so childlike a nature, the recent scene took the proportions of a
catastrophe. He had meant to make every one happy, and he had aroused
a terrible slumbering feeling of hate; everything had been turned
topsy-turvy. He had at last seen mortal hate in the Presidente's eyes,
tones, and gesture.

On the morrow, Mme. Camusot de Marville made a great resolution; the
President likewise sanctioned the step now forced upon them by
circumstances. It was determined that the estate of Marville should be
settled upon Cecile at the time of her marriage, as well as the house
in the Rue de Hanovre and a hundred thousand francs. In the course of
the morning, the Presidente went to call upon the Comtesse Popinot;
for she saw plainly that nothing but a settled marriage could enable
them to recover after such a check. To the Comtesse Popinot she told
the shocking story of Pons' revenge, Pons' hideous hoax. It all seemed
probable enough when it came out that the marriage had been broken off
simply on the pretext that Cecile was an only daughter. The Presidente
next dwelt artfully upon the advantage of adding "de Marville" to the
name of Popinot; and the immense dowry. At the present price fetched
by land in Normandy, at two per cent, the property represented nine
hundred thousand francs, and the house in the Rue de Hanovre about two
hundred and fifty thousand. No reasonable family could refuse such an
alliance. The Comte and Comtesse Popinot accepted; and as they were
now touched by the honor of the family which they were about to enter,
they promised to help explain away yesterday evening's mishap.

And now in the house of the elder Camusot, before the very persons who
had heard Mme. de Marville singing Frederic Brunner's praises but a
few days ago, that lady, to whom nobody ventured to speak on the
topic, plunged courageously into explanations.

"Really, nowadays" (she said), "one could not be too careful if a
marriage was in question, especially if one had to do with

"And why, madame?"

"What has happened to you?" asked Mme. Chiffreville.

"Do you not know about our adventure with that Brunner, who had the
audacity to aspire to marry Cecile? His father was a German that kept
a wine-shop, and his uncle is a dealer in rabbit-skins!"

"Is it possible? So clear-sighted as you are! . . ." murmured a lady.

"These adventurers are so cunning. But we found out everything through
Berthier. His friend is a beggar that plays the flute. He is friendly
with a person who lets furnished lodgings in the Rue du Mail and some
tailor or other. . . . We found out that he had led a most
disreputable life, and no amount of fortune would be enough for a
scamp that has run through his mother's property."

"Why, Mlle. de Marville would have been wretched!" said Mme. Berthier.

"How did he come to your house?" asked old Mme. Lebas.

"It was M. Pons. Out of revenge, he introduced this fine gentleman to
us, to make us ridiculous. . . . This Brunner (it is the same name as
Fontaine in French)--this Brunner, that was made out to be such a
grandee, has poor enough health, he is bald, and his teeth are bad.
The first sight of him was enough for me; I distrusted him from the

"But how about the great fortune that you spoke of?" a young married
woman asked shyly.

"The fortune was not nearly so large as they said. These tailors and
the landlord and he all scraped the money together among them, and put
all their savings into this bank that they are starting. What is a
bank for those that begin in these days? Simply a license to ruin
themselves. A banker's wife may lie down at night a millionaire and
wake up in the morning with nothing but her settlement. At first word,
at the very first sight of him, we made up our minds about this
gentleman--he is not one of us. You can tell by his gloves, by his
waistcoat, that he is a working man, the son of a man that kept a
pot-house somewhere in Germany; he has not the instincts of a
gentleman; he drinks beer, and he smokes--smokes? ah! madame,
_twenty-five pipes a day!_ . . . What would have become of poor Lili?
. . . It makes me shudder even now to think of it. God has indeed
preserved us! And besides, Cecile never liked him. . . . Who would
have expected such a trick from a relative, an old friend of the house
that had dined with us twice a week for twenty years? We have loaded
him with benefits, and he played his game so well, that he said Cecile
was his heir before the Keeper of the Seals and the Attorney General
and the Home Secretary! . . . That Brunner and M. Pons had their story
ready, and each of them said that the other was worth millions! . . .
No, I do assure you, all of you would have been taken in by an
artist's hoax like that."

In a few weeks' time, the united forces of the Camusot and Popinot
families gained an easy victory in the world, for nobody undertook to
defend the unfortunate Pons, that parasite, that curmudgeon, that
skinflint, that smooth-faced humbug, on whom everybody heaped scorn;
he was a viper cherished in the bosom of the family, he had not his
match for spite, he was a dangerous mountebank whom nobody ought to

About a month after the perfidious Werther's withdrawal, poor Pons
left his bed for the first time after an attack of nervous fever, and
walked along the sunny side of the street leaning on Schmucke's arm.
Nobody in the Boulevard du Temple laughed at the "pair of
nutcrackers," for one of the old men looked so shattered, and the
other so touchingly careful of his invalid friend. By the time that
they reached the Boulevard Poissonniere, a little color came back to
Pons' face; he was breathing the air of the boulevards, he felt the
vitalizing power of the atmosphere of the crowded street, the
life-giving property of the air that is noticeable in quarters where
human life abounds; in the filthy Roman Ghetto, for instance, with
its swarming Jewish population, where malaria is unknown. Perhaps,
too, the sight of the streets, the great spectacle of Paris, the daily
pleasure of his life, did the invalid good. They walked on side by
side, though Pons now and again left his friend to look at the shop
windows. Opposite the Theatre des Varietes he saw Count Popinot, and
went up to him very respectfully, for of all men Pons esteemed and
venerated the ex-Minister.

The peer of France answered him severely:

"I am at a loss to understand, sir, how you can have no more tact than
to speak to a near connection of a family whom you tried to brand with
shame and ridicule by a trick which no one but an artist could devise.
Understand this, sir, that from to-day we must be complete strangers
to each other. Mme. la Comtesse Popinot, like every one else, feels
indignant at your behavior to the Marvilles."

And Count Popinot passed on, leaving Pons thunderstruck. Passion,
justice, policy, and great social forces never take into account the
condition of the human creature whom they strike down. The statesman,
driven by family considerations to crush Pons, did not so much as see
the physical weakness of his redoubtable enemy.

"Vat is it, mine boor friend?" exclaimed Schmucke, seeing how white
Pons had grown.

"It is a fresh stab in the heart," Pons replied, leaning heavily on
Schmucke's arm. "I think that no one, save God in heaven, can have any
right to do good, and that is why all those who meddle in His work are
so cruelly punished."

The old artist's sarcasm was uttered with a supreme effort; he was
trying, excellent creature, to quiet the dismay visible in Schmucke's

"So I dink," Schmucke replied simply.

Pons could not understand it. Neither the Camusots nor the Popinots
had sent him notice of Cecile's wedding.

On the Boulevard des Italiens Pons saw M. Cardot coming towards them.
Warned by Count Popinot's allocution, Pons was very careful not to
accost the old acquaintance with whom he had dined once a fortnight
for the last year; he lifted his hat, but the other, mayor and deputy
of Paris, threw him an indignant glance and went by. Pons turned to

"Do go and ask him what it is that they all have against me," he said
to the friend who knew all the details of the catastrophe that Pons
could tell him.

"Mennseir," Schmucke began diplomatically, "mine friend Bons is chust
recofering from an illness; you haf no doubt fail to rekognize him?"

"Not in the least."

"But mit vat kann you rebroach him?"

"You have a monster of ingratitude for a friend, sir; if he is still
alive, it is because nothing kills ill weeds. People do well to
mistrust artists; they are as mischievous and spiteful as monkeys.
This friend of yours tried to dishonor his own family, and to blight a
young girl's character, in revenge for a harmless joke. I wish to have
nothing to do with him; I shall do my best to forget that I have known
him, or that such a man exists. All the members of his family and my
own share the wish, sir, so do all the persons who once did the said
Pons the honor of receiving him."

"Boot, mennseir, you are a reasonaple mann; gif you vill bermit me, I
shall exblain die affair--"

"You are quite at liberty to remain his friend, sir, if you are minded
that way," returned Cardot, "but you need go no further; for I must
give you warning that in my opinion those who try to excuse or defend
his conduct are just as much to blame."

"To chustify it?"

"Yes, for his conduct can neither be justified nor qualified." And
with that word, the deputy for the Seine went his way; he would not
hear another syllable.

"I have two powers in the State against me," smiled poor Pons, when
Schmucke had repeated these savage speeches.

"Eferpody is against us," Schmucke answered dolorously. "Let us go
avay pefore we shall meed oder fools."

Never before in the course of a truly ovine life had Schmucke uttered
such words as these. Never before had his almost divine meekness been
ruffled. He had smiled childlike on all the mischances that befell
him, but he could not look and see his sublime Pons maltreated; his
Pons, his unknown Aristides, the genius resigned to his lot, the
nature that knew no bitterness, the treasury of kindness, the heart of
gold! . . . Alceste's indignation filled Schmucke's soul--he was moved
to call Pons' amphitryons "fools." For his pacific nature that impulse
equaled the wrath of Roland.

With wise foresight, Schmucke turned to go home by the way of the
Boulevard du Temple, Pons passively submitting like a fallen fighter,
heedless of blows; but chance ordered that he should know that all his
world was against him. The House of Peers, the Chamber of Deputies,
strangers and the family, the strong, the weak, and the innocent, all
combined to send down the avalanche.

In the Boulevard Poissonniere, Pons caught sight of that very M.
Cardot's daughter, who, young as she was, had learned to be charitable
to others through trouble of her own. Her husband knew a secret by
which he kept her in bondage. She was the only one among Pons'
hostesses whom he called by her Christian name; he addressed Mme.
Berthier as "Felicie," and he thought that she understood him. The
gentle creature seemed to be distressed by the sight of Cousin Pons,
as he was called (though he was in no way related to the family of the
second wife of a cousin by marriage). There was no help for it,
however; Felicie Berthier stopped to speak to the invalid.

"I did not think you were cruel, cousin," she said; "but if even a
quarter of all that I hear of you is true, you are very false. . . .
Oh! do not justify yourself," she added quickly, seeing Pons'
significant gesture, "it is useless, for two reasons. In the first
place, I have no right to accuse or judge or condemn anybody, for I
myself know so well how much may be said for those who seem to be most
guilty; secondly, your explanation would do no good. M. Berthier drew
up the marriage contract for Mlle. de Marville and the Vicomte
Popinot; he is so exasperated, that if he knew that I had so much as
spoken one word to you, one word for the last time, he would scold me.
Everybody is against you."

"So it seems indeed, madame," Pons said, his voice shaking as he
lifted his hat respectfully.

Painfully he made his way back to the Rue de Normandie. The old German
knew from the heavy weight on his arm that his friend was struggling
bravely against failing physical strength. That third encounter was
like the verdict of the Lamb at the foot of the throne of God; and the
anger of the Angel of the Poor, the symbol of the Peoples, is the last
word of Heaven. They reached home without another word.

There are moments in our lives when the sense that our friend is near
is all that we can bear. Our wounds smart under the consoling words
that only reveal the depths of pain. The old pianist, you see,
possessed a genius for friendship, the tact of those who, having
suffered much, knew the customs of suffering.

Pons was never to take a walk again. From one illness he fell into
another. He was of a sanguine-bilious temperament, the bile passed
into his blood, and a violent liver attack was the result. He had
never known a day's illness in his life till a month ago; he had never
consulted a doctor; so La Cibot, with almost motherly care and
intentions at first of the very best, called in "the doctor of the

In every quarter of Paris there is a doctor whose name and address are
only known to the working classes, to the little tradespeople and the
porters, and in consequence he is called "the doctor of the quarter."
He undertakes confinement cases, he lets blood, he is in the medical
profession pretty much what the "general servant" of the advertising
column is in the scale of domestic service. He must perforce be kind
to the poor, and tolerably expert by reason of much practice, and he
is generally popular. Dr. Poulain, called in by Mme. Cibot, gave an
inattentive ear to the old musician's complainings. Pons groaned out
that his skin itched; he had scratched himself all night long, till he
could scarcely feel. The look of his eyes, with the yellow circles
about them, corroborated the symptoms.

"Had you some violent shock a couple of days ago?" the doctor asked
the patient.

"Yes, alas!"

"You have the same complaint that this gentleman was threatened with,"
said Dr. Poulain, looking at Schmucke as he spoke; "it is an attack of
jaundice, but you will soon get over it," he added, as he wrote a

But in spite of that comfortable phrase, the doctor's eyes had told
another tale as he looked professionally at the patient; and the
death-sentence, though hidden under stereotyped compassion, can always
be read by those who wish to know the truth. Mme. Cibot gave a spy's
glance at the doctor, and read his thought; his bedside manner did not
deceive her; she followed him out of the room.

"Do you think he will get over it?" asked Mme. Cibot, at the

"My dear Mme. Cibot, your lodger is a dead man; not because of the
bile in the system, but because his vitality is low. Still, with great
care, your patient may pull through. Somebody ought to take him away
for a change--"

"How is he to go?" asked Mme. Cibot. "He has nothing to live upon but
his salary; his friend has just a little money from some great ladies,
very charitable ladies, in return for his services, it seems. They are
two children. I have looked after them for nine years."

"I spend my life watching people die, not of their disease, but of
another bad and incurable complaint--the want of money," said the
doctor. "How often it happens that so far from taking a fee, I am
obliged to leave a five-franc piece on the mantel-shelf when I go--"

"Poor, dear M. Poulain!" cried Mme. Cibot. "Ah, if you hadn't only the
hundred thousand livres a year, what some stingy folks has in the
quarter (regular devils from hell they are), you would be like
Providence on earth."

Dr. Poulain had made the little practice, by which he made a bare
subsistence, chiefly by winning the esteem of the porters' lodges in
his district. So he raised his eyes to heaven and thanked Mme. Cibot
with a solemn face worthy of Tartuffe.

"Then you think that with careful nursing our dear patient will get
better, my dear M. Poulain?"

"Yes, if this shock has not been too much for him."

"Poor man! who can have vexed him? There isn't nobody like him on
earth except his friend M. Schmucke. I will find out what is the
matter, and I will undertake to give them that upset my gentleman a
hauling over the coals--"

"Look here, my dear Mme. Cibot," said the doctor as they stood in the
gateway, "one of the principal symptoms of his complaint is great
irritability; and as it is hardly to be supposed that he can afford a
nurse, the task of nursing him will fall to you. So--"

"Are you talking of Mouchieu Ponsh?" asked the marine store-dealer. He
was sitting smoking on the curb-post in the gateway, and now he rose
to join in the conversation.

"Yes, Daddy Remonencq."

"All right," said Remonencq, "ash to moneysh, he ish better off than
Mouchieu Monishtrol and the big men in the curioshity line. I know
enough in the art line to tell you thish--the dear man has treasursh!"
he spoke with a broad Auvergne dialect.

"Look here, I thought you were laughing at me the other day when my
gentlemen were out and I showed you the old rubbish upstairs," said
Mme. Cibot.

In Paris, where walls have ears, where doors have tongues, and window
bars have eyes, there are few things more dangerous than the practice
of standing to chat in a gateway. Partings are like postscripts to a
letter--indiscreet utterances that do as much mischief to the speaker
as to those who overhear them. A single instance will be sufficient as
a parallel to an event in this history.

In the time of the Empire, when men paid considerable attention to
their hair, one of the first coiffeurs of the day came out of a house
where he had just been dressing a pretty woman's head. This artist in
question enjoyed the custom of all the lower floor inmates of the
house; and among these, there flourished an elderly bachelor guarded
by a housekeeper who detested her master's next-of-kin. The
_ci-devant_ young man, falling seriously ill, the most famous of
doctors of the day (they were not as yet styled the "princes of
science") had been called in to consult upon his case; and it so
chanced that the learned gentlemen were taking leave of one another
in the gateway just as the hairdresser came out. They were talking as
doctors usually talk among themselves when the farce of a consultation
is over. "He is a dead man," quoth Dr. Haudry.--"He had not a month
to live," added Desplein, "unless a miracle takes place."--These were
the words overheard by the hairdresser.

Like all hairdressers, he kept up a good understanding with his
customers' servants. Prodigious greed sent the man upstairs again; he
mounted to the _ci-devant_ young man's apartment, and promised the
servant-mistress a tolerably handsome commission to persuade her
master to sink a large portion of his money in an annuity. The dying
bachelor, fifty-six by count of years, and twice as old as his age by
reason of amorous campaigns, owned, among other property, a splendid
house in the Rue de Richelieu, worth at that time about two hundred
and fifty thousand francs. It was this house that the hairdresser
coveted; and on agreement to pay an annuity of thirty thousand francs
so long as the bachelor lived, it passed into his hands. This happened
in 1806. And in this year 1846 the hairdresser is still paying that
annuity. He has retired from business, he is seventy years old; the
_ci-devant_ young man is in his dotage; and as he has married his Mme.
Evrard, he may last for a long while yet. As the hairdresser gave the
woman thirty thousand francs, his bit of real estate has cost him,
first and last, more than a million, and the house at this day is
worth eight or nine hundred thousand francs.

Like the hairdresser, Remonencq the Auvergnat had overheard Brunner's
parting remark in the gateway on the day of Cecile's first interview
with that phoenix of eligible men. Remonencq at once longed to gain a
sight of Pons' museum; and as he lived on good terms with his
neighbors the Cibots, it was not very long before the opportunity came
one day when the friends were out. The sight of such treasures dazzled
him; he saw a "good haul," in dealers' phrase, which being interpreted
means a chance to steal a fortune. He had been meditating this for
five or six days.

"I am sho far from joking," he said, in reply to Mme. Cibot's remark,
"that we will talk the thing over; and if the good shentleman will
take an annuity, of fifty thousand francsh, I will shtand a hamper of
wine, if--"

"Fifty thousand francs!" interrupted the doctor; "what are you
thinking about? Why, if the good man is so well off as that, with me
in attendance, and Mme. Cibot to nurse him, he may get better--for
liver complaint is a disease that attacks strong constitutions."

"Fifty, did I shay? Why, a shentleman here, on your very doorshtep,
offered him sheven hundred thoushand francsh, shimply for the
pictursh, _fouchtra_!"

While Remonencq made this announcement, Mme. Cibot was looking at Dr.
Poulain. There was a strange expression in her eyes; the devil might
have kindled that sinister glitter in their tawny depths.

"Oh, come! we must not pay any attention to such idle tales," said the
doctor, well pleased, however, to find that his patient could afford
to pay for his visits.

"If my dear Mme. Cibot, here, would let me come and bring an ekshpert
(shinsh the shentleman upshtairs ish in bed), I will shertainly find
the money in a couple of hoursh, even if sheven hundred thousand
francsh ish in queshtion--"

"All right, my friend," said the doctor. "Now, Mme. Cibot, be careful
never to contradict the invalid. You must be prepared to be very
patient with him, for he will find everything irritating and
wearisome, even your services; nothing will please him; you must
expect grumbling--"

"He will be uncommonly hard to please," said La Cibot.

"Look here, mind what I tell you," the doctor said in a tone of
authority, "M. Pons' life is in the hands of those that nurse him; I
shall come perhaps twice a day. I shall take him first on my round."

The doctor's profound indifference to the fate of a poor patient had
suddenly given place to a most tender solicitude when he saw that the
speculator was serious, and that there was a possible fortune in

"He will be nursed like a king," said Madame Cibot, forcing up
enthusiasm. She waited till the doctor turned the corner into the Rue
Charlot; then she fell to talking again with the dealer in old iron.
Remonencq had finished smoking his pipe, and stood in the doorway of
his shop, leaning against the frame; he had purposely taken this
position; he meant the portress to come to him.

The shop had once been a cafe. Nothing had been changed there since
the Auvergnat discovered it and took over the lease; you could still
read "Cafe de Normandie" on the strip left above the windows in all
modern shops. Remonencq had found somebody, probably a housepainter's
apprentice, who did the work for nothing, to paint another inscription
in the remaining space below--"REMONENCQ," it ran, "DEALER IN MARINE
STORES, FURNITURE BOUGHT"--painted in small black letters. All the
mirrors, tables, seats, shelves, and fittings of the Cafe de Normandie
had been sold, as might have been expected, before Remonencq took
possession of the shop as it stood, paying a yearly rent of six
hundred francs for the place, with a back shop, a kitchen, and a
single room above, where the head-waiter used to sleep, for the house
belonging to the Cafe de Normandie was let separately. Of the former
splendor of the cafe, nothing now remained save the plain light green
paper on the walls, and the strong iron bolts and bars of the

When Remonencq came hither in 1831, after the Revolution of July, he
began by displaying a selection of broken doorbells, cracked plates,
old iron, and the obsolete scales and weights abolished by a
Government which alone fails to carry out its own regulations, for
pence and half pence of the time of Louis XVI. are still in
circulation. After a time this Auvergnat, a match for five ordinary
Auvergnats, bought up old saucepans and kettles, old picture-frames,
old copper, and chipped china. Gradually, as the shop was emptied and
filled, the quality of the stock-in-trade improved, like Nicolet's
farces. Remonencq persisted in an unfailing and prodigiously
profitable martingale, a "system" which any philosophical idler may
study as he watches the increasing value of the stock kept by this
intelligent class of trader. Picture-frames and copper succeed to
tin-ware, argand lamps, and damaged crockery; china marks the next
transition; and after no long tarriance in the "omnium gatherum"
stage, the shop becomes a museum. Some day or other the dusty windows
are cleaned, the interior is restored, the Auvergnat relinquishes
velveteen and jackets for a great-coat, and there he sits like a
dragon guarding his treasure, surrounded by masterpieces! He is a
cunning connoisseur by this time; he has increased his capital
tenfold; he is not to be cheated; he knows the tricks of the trade.
The monster among his treasures looks like some old hag among a score
of young girls that she offers to the public. Beauty and miracles of
art are alike indifferent to him; subtle and dense as he is, he has a
keen eye to profits, he talks roughly to those who know less than he
does; he has learned to act a part, he pretends to love his pictures,
or again he lets you know the price he himself gave for the things, he
offers to let you see the memoranda of the sale. He is a Proteus; in
one hour he can be Jocrisse, Janot, _Queue-rouge_, Mondor, Hapagon, or

The third year found armor, and old pictures, and some tolerably fine
clocks in Remonencq's shop. He sent for his sister, and La Remonencq
came on foot all the way from Auvergne to take charge of the shop
while her brother was away. A big and very ugly woman, dressed like a
Japanese idol, a half-idiotic creature with a vague, staring gaze she
would not bate a centime of the prices fixed by her brother. In the
intervals of business she did the work of the house, and solved the
apparently insoluble problem--how to live on "the mists of the Seine."
The Remonencqs' diet consisted of bread and herrings, with the outside
leaves of lettuce or vegetable refuse selected from the heaps
deposited in the kennel before the doors of eating-houses. The two
between them did not spend more than fivepence a day on food (bread
included), and La Remonencq earned the money by sewing or spinning.

Remonencq came to Paris in the first instance to work as an
errand-boy. Between the years 1825 and 1831 he ran errands for dealers
in curiosities in the Boulevard Beaumarchais or coppersmiths in the Rue
de Lappe. It is the usual start in life in his line of business. Jews,
Normans, Auvergnats, and Savoyards, those four different races of men
all have the same instincts, and make their fortunes in the same way;
they spend nothing, make small profits, and let them accumulate at
compound interest. Such is their trading charter, and _that_ charter
is no delusion.

Remonencq at this moment had made it up with his old master Monistrol;
he did business with wholesale dealers, he was a _chineur_ (the
technical word), plying his trade in the _banlieue_, which, as
everybody knows, extends for some forty leagues round Paris.

After fourteen years of business, he had sixty thousand francs in hand
and a well-stocked shop. He lived in the Rue de Normandie because the
rent was low, but casual customers were scarce, most of his goods were
sold to other dealers, and he was content with moderate gains. All his
business transactions were carried on in the Auvergue dialect or
_charabia_, as people call it.

Remonencq cherished a dream! He wished to establish himself on a
boulevard, to be a rich dealer in curiosities, and do a direct trade
with amateurs some day. And, indeed, within him there was a formidable
man of business. His countenance was the more inscrutable because it
was glazed over by a deposit of dust and particles of metal glued
together by the sweat of his brow; for he did everything himself, and
the use and wont of bodily labor had given him something of the
stoical impassibility of the old soldiers of 1799.

In personal appearance Remonencq was short and thin; his little eyes
were set in his head in porcine fashion; a Jew's slyness and
concentrated greed looked out of those dull blue circles, though in
his case the false humility that masks the Hebrew's unfathomed
contempt for the Gentile was lacking.

The relations between the Cibots and the Remonencqs were those of
benefactors and recipients. Mme. Cibot, convinced that the Auvergnats
were wretchedly poor, used to let them have the remainder of "her
gentlemen's" dinners at ridiculous prices. The Remonencqs would buy a
pound of broken bread, crusts and crumbs, for a farthing, a
porringer-full of cold potatoes for something less, and other scraps
in proportion. Remonencq shrewdly allowed them to believe that he was
not in business on his own account, he worked for Monistrol, the rich
shopkeepers preyed upon him, he said, and the Cibots felt sincerely
sorry for Remonencq. The velveteen jacket, waistcoat, and trousers,
particularly affected by Auvergnats, were covered with patches of
Cibot's making, and not a penny had the little tailor charged for
repairs which kept the three garments together after eleven years of

Thus we see that all Jews are not in Israel.

"You are not laughing at me, Remonencq, are you?" asked the portress.
"Is it possible that M. Pons has such a fortune, living as he does?
There is not a hundred francs in the place--"

"Amateursh are all like that," Remonencq remarked sententiously.

"Then do you think that my gentleman has worth of seven hundred
thousand francs, eh?--"

"In pictures alone," continued Remonencq (it is needless, for the sake
of clearness in the story, to give any further specimens of his
frightful dialect). "If he would take fifty thousand francs for one up
there that I know of, I would find the money if I had to hang myself.
Do you remember those little frames full of enameled copper on crimson
velvet, hanging among the portraits? . . . Well, those are Petitot's
enamels; and there is a cabinet minister as used to be a druggist that
will give three thousand francs apiece for them."

La Cibot's eyes opened wide. "There are thirty of them in the pair of
frames!" she said.

"Very well, you can judge for yourself how much he is worth."

Mme. Cibot's head was swimming; she wheeled round. In a moment came
the thought that she would have a legacy, _she_ would sleep sound on
old Pons' will, like the other servant-mistresses whose annuities had
aroused such envy in the Marais. Her thoughts flew to some commune in
the neighborhood of Paris; she saw herself strutting proudly about her
house in the country, looking after her garden and poultry yard,
ending her days, served like a queen, along with her poor dear Cibot,
who deserved such good fortune, like all angelic creatures whom nobody
knows nor appreciates.

Her abrupt, unthinking movement told Remonencq that success was sure.
In the _chineur's_ way of business--the _chineur_, be it explained,
goes about the country picking up bargains at the expense of the
ignorant--in the _chineur's_ way of business, the one real difficulty
is the problem of gaining an entrance to a house. No one can imagine
the Scapin's roguery, the tricks of a Sganarelle, the wiles of a
Dorine by which the _chineur_ contrives to make a footing for himself.
These comedies are as good as a play, and founded indeed on the old
stock theme of the dishonesty of servants. For thirty francs in money
or goods, servants, and especially country servants, will sometimes
conclude a bargain on which the _chineur_ makes a profit of a thousand
or two thousand francs. If we could but know the history of such and
such a service of Sevres porcelain, _pate tendre_, we should find that
all the intellect, all the diplomatic subtlety displayed at Munster,
Nimeguen, Utrecht, Ryswick, and Vienna was surpassed by the _chineur_.
His is the more frank comedy; his methods of action fathom depths of
personal interest quite as profound as any that plenipotentiaries can
explore in their difficult search for any means of breaking up the
best cemented alliances.

"I have set La Cibot nicely on fire," Remonencq told his sister, when
she came to take up her position again on the ramshackle chair. "And
now," he continued, "I shall go to consult the only man that knows,
our Jew, a good sort of Jew that did not ask more than fifteen per
cent of us for his money."

Remonencq had read La Cibot's heart. To will is to act with women of
her stamp. Let them see the end in view; they will stick at nothing to
gain it, and pass from scrupulous honesty to the last degree of
scoundrelism in the twinkling of an eye. Honesty, like most
dispositions of mind, is divided into two classes--negative and
positive. La Cibot's honesty was of the negative order; she and her
like are honest until they see their way clear to gain money belonging
to somebody else. Positive honesty, the honesty of the bank collector,
can wade knee-deep through temptations.

A torrent of evil thoughts invaded La Cibot's heart and brain so soon
as Remonencq's diabolical suggestion opened the flood-gates of
self-interest. La Cibot climbed, or, to be more accurate, fled up the
stairs, opened the door on the landing, and showed a face disguised in
false solicitude in the doorway of the room where Pons and Schmucke
were bemoaning themselves. As soon as she came in, Schmucke made her a
warning sign; for, true friend and sublime German that he was, he too
had read the doctor's eyes, and he was afraid that Mme. Cibot might
repeat the verdict. Mme. Cibot answered by a shake of the head
indicative of deep woe.

"Well, my dear monsieur," asked she, "how are you feeling?" She sat
down on the foot of the bed, hands on hips, and fixed her eyes
lovingly upon the patient; but what a glitter of metal there was in
them, a terrible, tiger-like gleam if any one had watched her.

"I feel very ill," answered poor Pons. "I have not the slightest
appetite left.--Oh! the world, the world!" he groaned, squeezing
Schmucke's hand. Schmucke was sitting by his bedside, and doubtless
the sick man was talking of the causes of his illness.--"I should have
done far better to follow your advice, my good Schmucke, and dined
here every day, and given up going into this society, that has fallen
on me with all its weight, like a tumbril cart crushing an egg! And

"Come, come, don't complain, M. Pons," said La Cibot; "the doctor told
me just how it is--"

Schmucke tugged at her gown.--"And you will pull through," she
continued, "only we must take great care of you. Be easy, you have a
good friend beside you, and without boasting, a woman as will nurse
you like a mother nurses her first child. I nursed Cibot round once
when Dr. Poulain had given him over; he had the shroud up to his eyes,
as the saying is, and they gave him up for dead. Well, well, you have
not come to that yet, God be thanked, ill though you may be. Count on
me; I would pull you through all by myself, I would! Keep still, don't
you fidget like that."

She pulled the coverlet over the patient's hands as she spoke.

"There, sonny! M. Schmucke and I will sit up with you of nights. A
prince won't be no better nursed . . . and besides, you needn't refuse
yourself nothing that's necessary, you can afford it.--I have just
been talking things over with Cibot, for what would he do without me,
poor dear?--Well, and I talked him round; we are both so fond of you,
that he will let me stop up with you of a night. And that is a good
deal to ask of a man like him, for he is as fond of me as ever he was
the day we were married. I don't know how it is. It is the lodge, you
see; we are always there together! Don't you throw off the things like
that!" she cried, making a dash for the bedhead to draw the coverlet
over Pons' chest. "If you are not good, and don't do just as Dr.
Poulain says--and Dr. Poulain is the image of Providence on earth--I
will have no more to do with you. You must do as I tell you--"

"Yes, Montame Zipod, he vill do vat you dell him," put in Schmucke;
"he vants to lif for his boor friend Schmucke's sake, I'll pe pound."

"And of all things, don't fidget yourself," continued La Cibot, "for
your illness makes you quite bad enough without your making it worse
for want of patience. God sends us our troubles, my dear good
gentlemen; He punishes us for our sins. Haven't you nothing to
reproach yourself with? some poor little bit of a fault or other?"

The invalid shook his head.

"Oh! go on! You were young once, you had your fling, there is some
love-child of yours somewhere--cold, and starving, and homeless. . . .
What monsters men are! Their love doesn't last only for a day, and
then in a jiffy they forget, they don't so much as think of the child
at the breast for months. . . . Poor women!"

"But no one has ever loved me except Schmucke and my mother," poor
Pons broke in sadly.

"Oh! come, you aren't no saint! You were young in your time, and a
fine-looking young fellow you must have been at twenty. I should have
fallen in love with you myself, so nice as you are--"

"I always was as ugly as a toad," Pons put in desperately.

"You say that because you are modest; nobody can't say that you aren't

"My dear Mme. Cibot, _no_, I tell you. I always was ugly, and I never
was loved in my life."

"You, indeed!" cried the portress. "You want to make me believe at
this time of day that you are as innocent as a young maid at your time
of life. Tell that to your granny! A musician at a theatre too! Why,
if a woman told me that, I wouldn't believe her."

"Montame Zipod, you irritate him!" cried Schmucke, seeing that Pons
was writhing under the bedclothes.

"You hold your tongue too! You are a pair of old libertines. If you
were ugly, it don't make no difference; there was never so ugly a
saucepan-lid but it found a pot to match, as the saying is. There is
Cibot, he got one of the handsomest oyster-women in Paris to fall in
love with him, and you are infinitely better looking than him! You are
a nice pair, you are! Come, now, you have sown your wild oats, and God
will punish you for deserting your children, like Abraham--"

Exhausted though he was, the invalid gathered up all his strength to
make a vehement gesture of denial.

"Do lie quiet; if you have, it won't prevent you from living as long
as Methuselah."

"Then, pray let me be quiet!" groaned Pons. "I have never known what
it is to be loved. I have had no child; I am alone in the world."

"Really, eh?" returned the portress. "You are so kind, and that is
what women like, you see--it draws them--and it looked to me
impossible that when you were in your prime--"

"Take her away," Pons whispered to Schmucke; "she sets my nerves on

"Then there's M. Schmucke, he has children. You old bachelors are not
all like that--"

"_I!_" cried Schmucke, springing to his feet, "vy!--"

"Come, then, you have none to come after you either, eh? You both
sprung up out of the earth like mushrooms--"

"Look here, komm mit me," said Schmucke. The good German manfully took
Mme. Cibot by the waist and carried her off into the next room, in
spite of her exclamations.

"At your age, you would not take advantage of a defenceless woman!"
cried La Cibot, struggling in his arms.

"Don't make a noise!"

"You too, the better one of the two!" returned La Cibot. "Ah! it is my
fault for talking about love to two old men who have never had nothing
to do with women. I have roused your passions," cried she, as
Schmucke's eyes glittered with wrath. "Help! help! police!"

"You are a stoopid!" said the German. "Look here, vat tid de toctor

"You are a ruffian to treat me so," wept La Cibot, now released,--"me
that would go through fire and water for you both! Ah! well, well,
they say that that is the way with men--and true it is! There is my
poor Cibot, _he_ would not be rough with me like this. . . . And I
treated you like my children, for I have none of my own; and
yesterday, yes, only yesterday I said to Cibot, 'God knew well what He
was doing, dear,' I said, 'when He refused us children, for I have two
children there upstairs.' By the holy crucifix and the soul of my
mother, that was what I said to him--"

"Eh! but vat did der doctor say?" Schmucke demanded furiously,
stamping on the floor for the first time in his life.

"Well," said Mme. Cibot, drawing Schmucke into the dining-room, "he
just said this--that our dear, darling love lying ill there would die
if he wasn't carefully nursed; but I am here, in spite of all your
brutality, for brutal you were, you that I thought so gentle. And you
are one of that sort! Ah! now, you would not abuse a woman at your
age, great blackguard--"

"Placard? I? Vill you not oonderstand that I lof nopody but Bons?"

"Well and good, you will let me alone, won't you?" said she, smiling
at Schmucke. "You had better; for if Cibot knew that anybody had
attempted his honor, he would break every bone in his skin."

"Take crate care of him, dear Montame Zipod," answered Schmucke, and
he tried to take the portress' hand.

"Oh! look here now, _again_."

"Chust listen to me. You shall haf all dot I haf, gif ve safe him."

"Very well; I will go round to the chemist's to get the things that
are wanted; this illness is going to cost a lot, you see, sir, and
what will you do?"

"I shall vork; Bons shall be nursed like ein brince."

"So he shall, M. Schmucke; and look here, don't you trouble about
nothing. Cibot and I, between us, have saved a couple of thousand
francs; they are yours; I have been spending money on you this long
time, I have."

"Goot voman!" cried Schmucke, brushing the tears from his eyes. "Vat
ein heart!"

"Wipe your tears; they do me honor; this is my reward," said La Cibot,
melodramatically. "There isn't no more disinterested creature on earth
than me; but don't you go into the room with tears in your eyes, or M.
Pons will be thinking himself worse than he is."

Schmucke was touched by this delicate feeling. He took La Cibot's hand
and gave it a final squeeze.

"Spare me!" cried the ex-oysterseller, leering at Schmucke.

"Bons," the good German said when he returned "Montame Zipod is an
anchel; 'tis an anchel dat brattles, but an anchel all der same."

"Do you think so? I have grown suspicious in the past month," said the
invalid, shaking his head. "After all I have been through, one comes
to believe in nothing but God and my friend--"

"Get bedder, and ve vill lif like kings, all tree of us," exclaimed

"Cibot!" panted the portress as she entered the lodge. "Oh, my dear,
our fortune is made. My two gentlemen haven't nobody to come after
them, no natural children, no nothing, in short! Oh, I shall go round
to Ma'am Fontaine's and get her to tell my fortune on the cards, then
we shall know how much we are going to have--"

"Wife," said the little tailor, "it's ill counting on dead men's

"Oh, I say, are _you_ going to worry me?" asked she, giving her spouse
a playful tap. "I know what I know! Dr. Poulain has given up M. Pons.
And we are going to be rich! My name will be down in the will. . . .
I'll see to that. Draw your needle in and out, and look after the
lodge; you will not do it for long now. We will retire, and go into
the country, out at Batignolles. A nice house and a fine garden; you
will amuse yourself with gardening, and I shall keep a servant!"

"Well, neighbor, and how are things going on upstairs?" The words were
spoken with the thick Auvergnat accent, and Remonencq put his head in
at the door. "Do you know what the collection is worth?"

"No, no, not yet. One can't go at that rate, my good man. I have
begun, myself, by finding out more important things--"

"More important!" exclaimed Remonencq; "why, what things can be more

"Come, let me do the steering, ragamuffin," said La Cibot

"But thirty per cent on seven hundred thousand francs," persisted the
dealer in old iron; "you could be your own mistress for the rest of
your days on that."

"Be easy, Daddy Remonencq; when we want to know the value of the
things that the old man has got together, then we will see."

La Cibot went for the medicine ordered by Dr. Poulain, and put off her
consultation with Mme. Fontaine until the morrow; the oracle's
faculties would be fresher and clearer in the morning, she thought;
and she would go early, before everybody else came, for there was
often a crowd at Mme. Fontaine's.

Mme. Fontaine was at this time the oracle of the Marais; she had
survived the rival of forty years, the celebrated Mlle. Lenormand. No
one imagines the part that fortune-tellers play among Parisians of the
lower classes, nor the immense influence which they exert over the
uneducated; general servants, portresses, kept women, workmen, all the
many in Paris who live on hope, consult the privileged beings who
possess the mysterious power of reading the future.

The belief of the occult science is far more widely spread than
scholars, lawyers, doctors, magistrates, and philosophers imagine. The
instincts of the people are ineradicable. One among those instincts,
so foolishly styled "superstition," runs in the blood of the populace,
and tinges no less the intellects of better educated folk. More than
one French statesman has been known to consult the fortune-teller's
cards. For sceptical minds, astrology, in French, so oddly termed
_astrologie judiciare_, is nothing more than a cunning device for
making a profit out of one of the strongest of all the instincts of
human nature--to wit, curiosity. The sceptical mind consequently
denies that there is any connection between human destiny and the
prognostications obtained by the seven or eight principal methods
known to astrology; and the occult sciences, like many natural
phenomena, are passed over by the freethinker or the materialist
philosopher, _id est_, by those who believe in nothing but visible and
tangible facts, in the results given by the chemist's retort and the
scales of modern physical science. The occult sciences still exist;
they are at work, but they make no progress, for the greatest
intellects of two centuries have abandoned the field.

If you only look at the practical side of divination, it seems absurd
to imagine that events in a man's past life and secrets known only to
himself can be represented on the spur of the moment by a pack of
cards which he shuffles and cuts for the fortune-teller to lay out in
piles according to certain mysterious rules; but then the steam-engine
was condemned as absurd, aerial navigation is still said to be absurd,
so in their time were the inventions of gunpowder, printing,
spectacles, engraving, and that latest discovery of all--the
daguerreotype. If any man had come to Napoleon to tell him that a
building or a figure is at all times and in all places represented by
an image in the atmosphere, that every existing object has a spectral
intangible double which may become visible, the Emperor would have
sent his informant to Charenton for a lunatic, just as Richelieu
before his day sent that Norman martyr, Salomon de Caux, to the
Bicetre for announcing his immense triumph, the idea of navigation by
steam. Yet Daguerre's discovery amounts to nothing more nor less than

And if for some clairvoyant eyes God has written each man's destiny
over his whole outward and visible form, if a man's body is the record
of his fate, why should not the hand in a manner epitomize the body?
--since the hand represents the deed of man, and by his deeds he is

Herein lies the theory of palmistry. Does not Society imitate God? At
the sight of a soldier we can predict that he will fight; of a lawyer,
that he will talk; of a shoemaker, that he shall make shoes or boots;
of a worker of the soil, that he shall dig the ground and dung it; and
is it a more wonderful thing that such an one with the "seer's" gift
should foretell the events of a man's life from his hand?

To take a striking example. Genius is so visible in a man that a great
artist cannot walk about the streets of Paris but the most ignorant
people are conscious of his passing. He is a sun, as it were, in the
mental world, shedding light that colors everything in its path. And
who does not know an idiot at once by an impression the exact opposite
of the sensation of the presence of genius? Most observers of human
nature in general, and Parisian nature in particular, can guess the
profession or calling of the man in the street.

The mysteries of the witches' Sabbath, so wonderfully painted in the
sixteenth century, are no mysteries for us. The Egyptian ancestors of
that mysterious people of Indian origin, the gypsies of the present
day, simply used to drug their clients with hashish, a practice that
fully accounts for broomstick rides and flights up the chimney, the
real-seeming visions, so to speak, of old crones transformed into
young damsels, the frantic dances, the exquisite music, and all the
fantastic tales of devil-worship.

So many proven facts have been first discovered by occult science,
that some day we shall have professors of occult science, as we
already have professors of chemistry and astronomy. It is even
singular that here in Paris, where we are founding chairs of Mantchu
and Slave and literatures so little professable (to coin a word) as
the literatures of the North (which, so far from providing lessons,
stand very badly in need of them); when the curriculum is full of the
everlasting lectures on Shakespeare and the sixteenth century,--it is
strange that some one has not restored the teaching of the occult
philosophies, once the glory of the University of Paris, under the
title of anthropology. Germany, so childlike and so great, has
outstripped France in this particular; in Germany they have professors
of a science of far more use than a knowledge of the heterogeneous
philosophies, which all come to the same thing at bottom.

Once admit that certain beings have the power of discerning the future
in its germ-form of the Cause, as the great inventor sees a glimpse of
the industry latent in his invention, or a science in something that
happens every day unnoticed by ordinary eyes--once allow this, and
there is nothing to cause an outcry in such phenomena, no violent
exception to nature's laws, but the operation of a recognized faculty;
possibly a kind of mental somnambulism, as it were. If, therefore, the
hypothesis upon which the various ways of divining the future are
based seem absurd, the facts remain. Remark that it is not really more
wonderful that the seer should foretell the chief events of the future
than that he should read the past. Past and future, on the sceptic's
system, equally lie beyond the limits of knowledge. If the past has
left traces behind it, it is not improbable that future events have,
as it were, their roots in the present.

If a fortune-teller gives you minute details of past facts known only
to yourself, why should he not foresee the events to be produced by
existing causes? The world of ideas is cut out, so to speak, on the
pattern of the physical world; the same phenomena should be
discernible in both, allowing for the difference of the medium. As,
for instance, a corporeal body actually projects an image upon the
atmosphere--a spectral double detected and recorded by the
daguerreotype; so also ideas, having a real and effective existence,
leave an impression, as it were, upon the atmosphere of the spiritual
world; they likewise produce effects, and exist spectrally (to coin a
word to express phenomena for which no words exist), and certain human
beings are endowed with the faculty of discerning these "forms" or
traces of ideas.

As for the material means employed to assist the seer--the objects
arranged by the hands of the consultant that the accidents of his life
may be revealed to him,--this is the least inexplicable part of the
process. Everything in the material world is part of a series of
causes and effects. Nothing happens without a cause, every cause is a
part of a whole, and consequently the whole leaves its impression on
the slightest accident. Rabelais, the greatest mind among moderns,
resuming Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Aristophanes, and Dante, pronounced
three centuries ago that "man is a microcosm"--a little world. Three
hundred years later, the great seer Swedenborg declared that "the
world was a man." The prophet and the precursor of incredulity meet
thus in the greatest of all formulas.

Everything in human life is predestined, so it is also with the
existence of the planet. The least event, the most futile phenomena,
are all subordinate parts of a scheme. Great things, therefore, great
designs, and great thoughts are of necessity reflected in the smallest
actions, and that so faithfully, that should a conspirator shuffle and
cut a pack of playing-cards, he will write the history of his plot for
the eyes of the seer styled gypsy, fortune-teller, charlatan, or what
not. If you once admit fate, which is to say, the chain of links of
cause and effect, astrology has a _locus standi_, and becomes what it
was of yore, a boundless science, requiring the same faculty of
deduction by which Cuvier became so great, a faculty to be exercised
spontaneously, however, and not merely in nights of study in the

For seven centuries astrology and divination have exercised an
influence not only (as at present) over the uneducated, but over the
greatest minds, over kings and queens and wealthy people. Animal
magnetism, one of the great sciences of antiquity, had its origin in
occult philosophy; chemistry is the outcome of alchemy; phrenology and
neurology are no less the fruit of similar studies. The first
illustrious workers in these, to all appearance, untouched fields,
made one mistake, the mistake of all inventors; that is to say, they
erected an absolute system on a basis of isolated facts for which
modern analysis as yet cannot account. The Catholic Church, the law of
the land, and modern philosophy, in agreement for once, combined to
prescribe, persecute, and ridicule the mysteries of the Cabala as well
as the adepts; the result is a lamentable interregnum of a century in
occult philosophy. But the uneducated classes, and not a few
cultivated people (women especially), continue to pay a tribute to the
mysterious power of those who can raise the veil of the future; they
go to buy hope, strength, and courage of the fortune-teller; in other
words, to ask of him all that religion alone can give. So the art is
still practised in spite of a certain amount of risk. The eighteenth
century encyclopaedists procured tolerance for the sorcerer; he is no
longer amenable to a court of law, unless, indeed, he lends himself to
fraudulent practices, and frightens his "clients" to extort money from
them, in which case he may be prosecuted on a charge of obtaining
money under false pretences. Unluckily, the exercise of the sublime
art is only too often used as a method of obtaining money under false
pretences, and for the following reasons.

The seer's wonderful gifts are usually bestowed upon those who are
described by the epithets rough and uneducated. The rough and
uneducated are the chosen vessels into which God pours the elixirs at
which we marvel. From among the rough and uneducated, prophets arise
--an Apostle Peter, or St. Peter the Hermit. Wherever mental power is
imprisoned, and remains intact and entire for want of an outlet in
conversation, in politics, in literature, in the imaginings of the
scholar, in the efforts of the statesman, in the conceptions of the
inventor, or the soldier's toils of war; the fire within is apt to
flash out in gleams of marvelously vivid light, like the sparks hidden
in an unpolished diamond. Let the occasion come, and the spirit within
kindles and glows, finds wings to traverse space, and the god-like
power of beholding all things. The coal of yesterday under the play of
some mysterious influence becomes a radiant diamond. Better educated
people, many-sided and highly polished, continually giving out all
that is in them, can never exhibit this supreme power, save by one of
the miracles which God sometimes vouchsafes to work. For this reason
the soothsayer is almost always a beggar, whose mind is virgin soil, a
creature coarse to all appearance, a pebble borne along the torrent of
misery and left in the ruts of life, where it spends nothing of itself
save in mere physical suffering.

The prophet, the seer, in short, is some _Martin le Laboureur_ making
a Louis XVIII. tremble by telling him a secret known only to the king
himself; or it is a Mlle. Lenormand, or a domestic servant like Mme.
Fontaine, or again, perhaps it is some half-idiotic negress, some
herdsman living among his cattle, who receives the gift of vision;
some Hindoo fakir, seated by a pagoda, mortifying the flesh till the
spirit gains the mysterious power of the somnambulist.

Asia, indeed, through all time, has been the home of the heroes of
occult science. Persons of this kind, recovering their normal state,
are usually just as they were before. They fulfil, in some sort, the
chemical and physical functions of bodies which conduct electricity;
at times inert metal, at other times a channel filled with a
mysterious current. In their normal condition they are given to
practices which bring them before the magistrate, yea, verily, like
the notorious Balthazar, even unto the criminal court, and so to the
hulks. You could hardly find a better proof of the immense influence
of fortune-telling upon the working classes than the fact that poor
Pons' life and death hung upon the prediction that Mme. Fontaine was
to make from the cards.

Although a certain amount of repetition is inevitable in a canvas so
considerable and so full of detail as a complete picture of French
society in the nineteenth century, it is needless to repeat the
description of Mme. Fontaine's den, already given in _Les Comediens
sans le savoir_; suffice it to say that Mme. Cibot used to go to Mme.
Fontaine's house in the Rue Vieille-du-Temple as regularly as
frequenters of the Cafe Anglais drop in at that restaurant for lunch.
Mme. Cibot, being a very old customer, often introduced young persons
and old gossips consumed with curiosity to the wise woman.

The old servant who acted as provost marshal flung open the door of
the sanctuary with no further ceremony than the remark, "It's Mme.
Cibot.--Come in, there's nobody here."

"Well, child, what can bring you here so early of a morning?" asked
the sorceress, as Mme. Fontaine might well be called, for she was
seventy-eight years old, and looked like one of the Parcae.

"Something has given me a turn," said La Cibot; "I want the _grand
jeu_; it is a question of my fortune." Therewith she explained her
position, and wished to know if her sordid hopes were likely to be

"Do you know what the _grand jeu_ means?" asked Mme. Fontaine, with
much solemnity.

"No, I haven't never seen the trick, I am not rich enough.--A hundred
francs! It's not as if it cost so much! Where was the money to come
from? But now I can't help myself, I must have it."

"I don't do it often, child," returned Mme. Fontaine; "I only do it
for rich people on great occasions, and they pay me twenty-five louis
for doing it; it tires me, you see, it wears me out. The 'Spirit'
rives my inside, here. It is like going to the 'Sabbath,' as they used
to say."

"But when I tell you that it means my whole future, my dear good Ma'am

"Well, as it is you that have come to consult me so often, I will
submit myself to the Spirit!" replied Mme. Fontaine, with a look of
genuine terror on her face.

She rose from her filthy old chair by the fireside, and went to a
table covered with a green cloth so worn that you could count the
threads. A huge toad sat dozing there beside a cage inhabited by a
black disheveled-looking fowl.

"Astaroth! here, my son!" she said, and the creature looked up
intelligently at her as she rapped him on the back with a long
knitting-needle.--"And you, Mademoiselle Cleopatre!--attention!" she
continued, tapping the ancient fowl on the beak.

Then Mme. Fontaine began to think; for several seconds she did not
move; she looked like a corpse, her eyes rolled in their sockets and
grew white; then she rose stiff and erect, and a cavernous voice

"Here I am!"

Automatically she scattered millet for Cleopatre, took up the pack of
cards, shuffled them convulsively, and held them out to Mme. Cibot to
cut, sighing heavily all the time. At the sight of that image of Death
in the filthy turban and uncanny-looking bed-jacket, watching the
black fowl as it pecked at the millet-grains, calling to the toad
Astaroth to walk over the cards that lay out on the table, a cold
thrill ran through Mme. Cibot; she shuddered. Nothing but strong
belief can give strong emotions. An assured income, to be or not to
be, that was the question.

The sorceress opened a magical work and muttered some unintelligible
words in a sepulchral voice, looked at the remaining millet-seeds, and
watched the way in which the toad retired. Then after seven or eight
minutes, she turned her white eyes on the cards and expounded them.

"You will succeed, although nothing in the affair will fall out as you
expect. You will have many steps to take, but you will reap the fruits
of your labors. You will behave very badly; it will be with you as it
is with all those who sit by a sick-bed and covet part of the
inheritance. Great people will help you in this work of wrongdoing.
Afterwards in the death agony you will repent. Two escaped convicts, a
short man with red hair and an old man with a bald head, will murder
you for the sake of the money you will be supposed to have in the
village whither you will retire with your second husband. Now, my
daughter, it is still open to you to choose your course."

The excitement which seemed to glow within, lighting up the bony
hollows about the eyes, was suddenly extinguished. As soon as the
horoscope was pronounced, Mme. Fontaine's face wore a dazed
expression; she looked exactly like a sleep-walker aroused from sleep,
gazed about her with an astonished air, recognized Mme. Cibot, and
seemed surprised by her terrified face.

"Well, child," she said, in a totally different voice, "are you

Mme. Cibot stared stupidly at the sorceress, and could not answer.

"Ah! you would have the _grand jeu_; I have treated you as an old
acquaintance. I only want a hundred francs--"

"Cibot,--going to die?" gasped the portress.

"So I have been telling you very dreadful things, have I?" asked Mme.
Fontaine, with an extremely ingenuous air.

"Why, yes!" said La Cibot, taking a hundred francs from her pocket and
laying them down on the edge of the table. "Going to be murdered,
think of it--"

"Ah! there it is! You would have the _grand jeu_; but don't take on
so, all the folk that are murdered on the cards don't die."

"But is it possible, Ma'am Fontaine?"

"Oh, _I_ know nothing about it, my pretty dear! You would rap at the
door of the future; I pull the cord, and it came."

"_It_, what?" asked Mme. Cibot.

"Well, then, the Spirit!" cried the sorceress impatiently.

"Good-bye, Ma'am Fontaine," exclaimed the portress. "I did not know
what the _grand jeu_ was like. You have given me a good fright, that
you have."

"The mistress will not put herself in that state twice in a month,"
said the servant, as she went with La Cibot to the landing. "She would
do herself to death if she did, it tires her so. She will eat cutlets
now and sleep for three hours afterwards."

Out in the street La Cibot took counsel of herself as she went along,
and, after the manner of all who ask for advice of any sort or
description, she took the favorable part of the prediction and
rejected the rest. The next day found her confirmed in her resolutions
--she would set all in train to become rich by securing a part of
Pons' collection. Nor for some time had she any other thought than the
combination of various plans to this end. The faculty of
self-concentration seen in rough, uneducated persons, explained on a
previous page, the reserve power accumulated in those whose mental
energies are unworn by the daily wear and tear of social life, and
brought into action so soon as that terrible weapon the "fixed idea"
is brought into play,--all this was pre-eminently manifested in La
Cibot. Even as the "fixed idea" works miracles of evasion, and brings
forth prodigies of sentiment, so greed transformed the portress till
she became as formidable as a Nucingen at bay, as subtle beneath her
seeming stupidity as the irresistible La Palferine.

About seven o'clock one morning, a few days afterwards, she saw
Remonencq taking down his shutters. She went across to him.

"How could one find out how much the things yonder in my gentlemen's
rooms are worth?" she asked in a wheedling tone.

"Oh! that is quite easy," replied the owner of the old curiosity shop.
"If you will play fair and above board with me, I will tell you of
somebody, a very honest man, who will know the value of the pictures
to a farthing--"


"M. Magus, a Jew. He only does business to amuse himself now."

Elie Magus has appeared so often in the _Comedie Humaine_, that it is
needless to say more of him here. Suffice it to add that he had
retired from business, and as a dealer was following the example set
by Pons the amateur. Well-known valuers like Henry, Messrs. Pigeot and
Moret, Theret, Georges, and Roehn, the experts of the Musee, in fact,
were but children compared with Elie Magus. He could see a masterpiece
beneath the accumulated grime of a century; he knew all schools, and
the handwriting of all painters.

He had come to Paris from Bordeaux, and so long ago as 1835 he had
retired from business without making any change for the better in his
dress, so faithful is the race to old tradition. The persecutions of
the Middle Ages compelled them to wear rags, to snuffle and whine and
groan over their poverty in self-defence, till the habits induced by
the necessities of other times have come to be, as usual, instinctive,
a racial defect.

Elie Magus had amassed a vast fortune by buying and selling diamonds,
pictures, lace, enamels, delicate carvings, old jewelry, and rarities
of all kinds, a kind of commerce which has developed enormously of
late, so much so indeed that the number of dealers has increased
tenfold during the last twenty years in this city of Paris, whither
all the curiosities in the world come to rub against one another. And
for pictures there are but three marts in the world--Rome, London, and

Elie Magus lived in the Chausee des Minimes, a short, broad street
leading to the Place Royale. He had bought the house, an old-fashioned
mansion, for a song, as the saying is, in 1831. Yet there were
sumptuous apartments within it, decorated in the time of Louis XV.;
for it had once been the Hotel Maulaincourt, built by the great
President of the Cour des Aides, and its remote position had saved it
at the time of the Revolution.

You may be quite sure that the old Jew had sound reasons for buying
house property, contrary to the Hebrew law and custom. He had ended,
as most of us end, with a hobby that bordered on a craze. He was as
miserly as his friend, the late lamented Gobseck; but he had been
caught by the snare of the eyes, by the beauty of the pictures in
which he dealt. As his taste grew more and more fastidious, it became
one of the passions which princes alone can indulge when they are
wealthy and art-lovers. As the second King of Prussia found nothing
that so kindled enthusiasm as the spectacle of a grenadier over six
feet high, and gave extravagant sums for a new specimen to add to his
living museum of a regiment, so the retired picture-dealer was roused
to passion-pitch only by some canvas in perfect preservation,
untouched since the master laid down the brush; and what was more, it
must be a picture of the painter's best time. No great sales,
therefore, took place but Elie Magus was there; every mart knew him;
he traveled all over Europe. The ice-cold, money-worshiping soul in
him kindled at the sight of a perfect work of art, precisely as a
libertine, weary of fair women, is roused from apathy by the sight of
a beautiful girl, and sets out afresh upon the quest of flawless
loveliness. A Don Juan among fair works of art, a worshiper of the
Ideal, Elie Magus had discovered joys that transcend the pleasure of a
miser gloating over his gold--he lived in a seraglio of great

His masterpieces were housed as became the children of princes; the
whole first floor of the great old mansion was given up to them. The
rooms had been restored under Elie Magus' orders, and with what

The windows were hung with the richest Venetian brocade; the most
splendid carpets from the Savonnerie covered the parquetry flooring.
The frames of the pictures, nearly a hundred in number, were
magnificent specimens, regilded cunningly by Servais, the one gilder
in Paris whom Elie Magus thought sufficiently painstaking; the old Jew
himself had taught him to use the English leaf, which is infinitely
superior to that produced by French gold-beaters. Servais is among
gilders as Thouvenin among bookbinders--an artist among craftsmen,
making his work a labor of love. Every window in that gallery was
protected by iron-barred shutters. Elie Magus himself lived in a
couple of attics on the floor above; the furniture was wretched, the
rooms were full of rags, and the whole place smacked of the Ghetto;
Elie Magus was finishing his days without any change in his life.

The whole of the ground floor was given up to the picture trade (for
the Jew still dealt in works of art). Here he stored his canvases,
here also packing-cases were stowed on their arrival from other
countries; and still there was room for a vast studio, where Moret,
most skilful of restorers of pictures, a craftsman whom the Musee
ought to employ, was almost always at work for Magus. The rest of the
rooms on the ground floor were given up to Magus' daughter, the child
of his old age, a Jewess as beautiful as a Jewess can be when the
Semitic type reappears in its purity and nobility in a daughter of
Israel. Noemi was guarded by two servants, fanatical Jewesses, to say
nothing of an advanced-guard, a Polish Jew, Abramko by name, once
involved in a fabulous manner in political troubles, from which Elie
Magus saved him as a business speculation. Abramko, porter of the
silent, grim, deserted mansion, divided his office and his lodge with
three remarkably ferocious animals--an English bull-dog, a
Newfoundland dog, and another of the Pyrenean breed.

Behold the profound observations of human nature upon which Elie Magus
based his feeling of security, for secure he felt; he left home
without misgivings, slept with both ears shut, and feared no attempt
upon his daughter (his chief treasure), his pictures, or his money. In
the first place, Abramko's salary was increased every year by two
hundred francs so long as his master should live; and Magus, moreover,
was training Abramko as a money-lender in a small way. Abramko never
admitted anybody until he had surveyed them through a formidable
grated opening. He was a Hercules for strength, he worshiped Elie
Magus, as Sancho Panza worshiped Don Quixote. All day long the dogs
were shut up without food; at nightfall Abramko let them loose; and by
a cunning device the old Jew kept each animal at his post in the
courtyard or the garden by hanging a piece of meat just out of reach
on the top of a pole. The animals guarded the house, and sheer hunger
guarded the dogs. No odor that reached their nostrils could tempt them
from the neighborhood of that piece of meat; they would not have left
their places at the foot of the poles for the most engaging female of
the canine species. If a stranger by any chance intruded, the dogs
suspected him of ulterior designs upon their rations, which were only
taken down in the morning by Abramko himself when he awoke. The
advantages of this fiendish scheme are patent. The animals never
barked, Magus' ingenuity had made savages of them; they were
treacherous as Mohicans. And now for the result.

One night burglars, emboldened by the silence, decided too hastily
that it would be easy enough to "clean out" the old Jew's strong box.
One of their number told off to advance to the assault scrambled up
the garden wall and prepared to descend. This the bull-dog allowed him
to do. The animal, knowing perfectly well what was coming, waited for
the burglar to reach the ground; but when that gentleman directed a
kick at him, the bull-dog flew at the visitor's shins, and, making but
one bite of it, snapped the ankle-bone clean in two. The thief had the
courage to tear him away, and returned, walking upon the bare bone of
the mutilated stump till he reached the rest of the gang, when he fell
fainting, and they carried him off. The _Police News_, of course, did
not fail to report this delightful night incident, but no one believed
in it.

Magus at this time was seventy-five years old, and there was no reason
why he should not live to a hundred. Rich man though he was, he lived
like the Remonencqs. His necessary expenses, including the money he
lavished on his daughter, did not exceed three thousand francs. No
life could be more regular; the old man rose as soon as it was light,
breakfasted on bread rubbed with a clove of garlic, and ate no more
food until dinner-time. Dinner, a meal frugal enough for a convent, he
took at home. All the forenoons he spent among his treasures, walking
up and down the gallery where they hung in their glory. He would dust
everything himself, furniture and pictures; he never wearied of
admiring. Then he would go downstairs to his daughter, drink deep of a
father's happiness, and start out upon his walks through Paris, to
attend sales or visit exhibitions and the like.

If Elie Magus found a great work of art under the right conditions,
the discovery put new life into the man; here was a bit of sharp
practice, a bargain to make, a battle of Marengo to win. He would pile
ruse on ruse to buy the new sultana as cheaply as possible. Magus had
a map of Europe on which all great pictures were marked; his
co-religionists in every city spied out business for him, and received
a commission on the purchase. And then, what rewards for all his
pains! The two lost Raphaels so earnestly sought after by Raphael
lovers are both in his collection. Elie Magus owns the original
portrait of _Giorgione's Mistress_, the woman for whom the painter
died; the so-called originals are merely copies of the famous picture,
which is worth five hundred thousand francs, according to its owner's
estimation. This Jew possesses Titian's masterpiece, an _Entombment_
painted for Charles V., sent by the great man to the great Emperor
with a holograph letter, now fastened down upon the lower part of the
canvas. And Magus has yet another Titian, the original sketch from
which all the portraits of Philip II. were painted. His remaining
ninety-seven pictures are all of the same rank and distinction.
Wherefore Magus laughs at our national collection, raked by the
sunlight which destroys the fairest paintings, pouring in through
panes of glass that act as lenses. Picture galleries can only be
lighted from above; Magus opens and closes his shutters himself; he is
as careful of his pictures as of his daughter, his second idol. And
well the old picture-fancier knows the laws of the lives of pictures.
To hear him talk, a great picture has a life of its own; it is
changeable, it takes its beauty from the color of the light. Magus
talks of his paintings as Dutch fanciers used to talk of their tulips;
he will come home on purpose to see some one picture in the hour of
its glory, when the light is bright and clean.

And Magus himself was a living picture among the motionless figures on
the wall--a little old man, dressed in a shabby overcoat, a silk
waistcoat, renewed twice in a score of years, and a very dirty pair of
trousers, with a bald head, a face full of deep hollows, a wrinkled,
callous skin, a beard that had a trick of twitching its long white
bristles, a menacing pointed chin, a toothless mouth, eyes bright as
the eyes of his dogs in the yard, and a nose like an obelisk--there he
stood in his gallery smiling at the beauty called into being by
genius. A Jew surrounded by his millions will always be one of the
finest spectacles which humanity can give. Robert Medal, our great
actor, cannot rise to this height of poetry, sublime though he is.

Paris of all the cities of the world holds most of such men as Magus,
strange beings with a strange religion in their heart of hearts. The
London "eccentric" always finds that worship, like life, brings
weariness and satiety in the end; the Parisian monomaniac lives
cheerfully in concubinage with his crotchet to the last.

Often shall you meet in Paris some Pons, some Elie Magus, dressed
badly enough, with his face turned from the rising sun (like the
countenance of the perpetual secretary of the Academie), apparently
heeding nothing, conscious of nothing, paying no attention to
shop-windows nor to fair passers-by, walking at random, so to speak,
with nothing in his pockets, and to all appearance an equally empty
head. Do you ask to what Parisian tribe this manner of man belongs? He
is a collector, a millionaire, one of the most impassioned souls upon
earth; he and his like are capable of treading the miry ways that lead
to the police-court if so they may gain possession of a cup, a
picture, or some such rare unpublished piece as Elie Magus once picked
up one memorable day in Germany.

This was the expert to whom Remonencq with much mystery conducted La
Cibot. Remonencq always asked advice of Elie Magus when he met him in
the streets; and more than once Magus had lent him money through
Abramko, knowing Remonencq's honesty. The Chaussee des Minimes is
close to the Rue de Normandie, and the two fellow-conspirators reached
the house in ten minutes.

"You will see the richest dealer in curiosities, the greatest
connoisseur in Paris," Remonencq had said. And Mme. Cibot, therefore,
was struck dumb with amazement to be confronted with a little old man
in a great-coat too shabby for Cibot to mend, standing watching a
painter at work upon an old picture in the chilly room on the vast
ground floor. The old man's eyes, full of cold feline malignance, were
turned upon her, and La Cibot shivered.

"What do you want, Remonencq?" asked this person.

"It is a question of valuing some pictures; there is nobody but you in
Paris who can tell a poor tinker-fellow like me how much he may give
when he has not thousands to spend, like you."

"Where is it?"

"Here is the portress of the house where the gentleman lives; she does
for him, and I have arranged with her--"

"Who is the owner?"

"M. Pons!" put in La Cibot.

"Don't know the name," said Magus, with an innocent air, bringing down
his foot very gently upon his artist's toes.

Moret the painter, knowing the value of Pons' collection, had looked
up suddenly at the name. It was a move too hazardous to try with any
one but Remonencq and La Cibot, but the Jew had taken the woman's
measure at sight, and his eye was as accurate as a jeweler's scales.
It was impossible that either of the couple should know how often
Magus and old Pons had matched their claws. And, in truth, both rabid
amateurs were jealous of each other. The old Jew had never hoped for a
sight of a seraglio so carefully guarded; it seemed to him that his
head was swimming. Pons' collection was the one private collection in
Paris which could vie with his own. Pons' idea had occurred to Magus
twenty years later; but as a dealer-amateur the door of Pons' museum
had been closed to him, as for Dusommerard. Pons and Magus had at
heart the same jealousy. Neither of them cared about the kind of
celebrity dear to the ordinary collector. And now for Elie Magus came
his chance to see the poor musician's treasures! An amateur of beauty
hiding in a boudoir or a stolen glance at a mistress concealed from
him by his friend might feel as Elie Magus felt at that moment.

La Cibot was impressed by Remonencq's respect for this singular
person; real power, moreover, even when it cannot be explained, is
always felt; the portress was supple and obedient, she dropped the
autocratic tone which she was wont to use in her lodge and with the
tenants, accepted Magus' conditions, and agreed to admit him into
Pons' museum that very day.

So the enemy was to be brought into the citadel, and a stab dealt to
Pons' very heart. For ten years Pons had carried his keys about with
him; he had forbidden La Cibot to allow any one, no matter whom, to
cross his threshold; and La Cibot had so far shared Schmucke's
opinions of _bric-a-brac_, that she had obeyed him. The good Schmucke,
by speaking of the splendors as "chimcracks," and deploring his
friend's mania, had taught La Cibot to despise the old rubbish, and so
secured Pons' museum from invasion for many a long year.

When Pons took to his bed, Schmucke filled his place at the theatre
and gave lessons for him at his boarding-schools. He did his utmost to
do the work of two; but Pons' sorrows weighing heavily upon his mind,
the task took all his strength. He only saw his friend in the morning,
and again at dinnertime. His pupils and the people at the theatre,
seeing the poor German look so unhappy, used to ask for news of Pons;
and so great was his grief, that the indifferent would make the
grimaces of sensibility which Parisians are wont to reserve for the
greatest calamities. The very springs of life had been attacked, the
good German was suffering from Pons' pain as well as from his own.
When he gave a music lesson, he spent half the time in talking of
Pons, interrupting himself to wonder whether his friend felt better
to-day, and the little school-girls listening heard lengthy
explanations of Pons' symptoms. He would rush over to the Rue de
Normandie in the interval between two lessons for the sake of a
quarter of an hour with Pons.

When at last he saw that their common stock was almost exhausted, when
Mme. Cibot (who had done her best to swell the expenses of the
illness) came to him and frightened him; then the old music-master
felt that he had courage of which he never thought himself capable
--courage that rose above his anguish. For the first time in his life
he set himself to earn money; money was needed at home. One of the
school-girl pupils, really touched by their troubles, asked Schmucke
how he could leave his friend alone. "Montemoiselle," he answered,
with the sublime smile of those who think no evil, "ve haf Montame
Zipod, ein dreasure, montemoiselle, ein bearl! Bons is nursed like ein

So while Schmucke trotted about the streets, La Cibot was mistress of
the house and ruled the invalid. How should Pons superintend his
self-appointed guardian angel, when he had taken no solid food for a
fortnight, and lay there so weak and helpless that La Cibot was
obliged to lift him up and carry him to the sofa while she made the

La Cibot's visit to Elie Magus was paid (as might be expected) while
Schmucke breakfasted. She came in again just as the German was bidding
his friend good-bye; for since she learned that Pons possessed a
fortune, she never left the old bachelor; she brooded over him and his
treasures like a hen. From the depths of a comfortable easy-chair at
the foot of the bed she poured forth for Pons' delectation the gossip
in which women of her class excel. With Machiavelian skill, she had
contrived to make Pons think that she was indispensable to him; she
coaxed and she wheedled, always uneasy, always on the alert. Mme.
Fontaine's prophecy had frightened La Cibot; she vowed to herself that
she would gain her ends by kindness. She would sleep secure on M.
Pons' legacy, but her rascality should keep within the limits of the
law. For ten years she had not suspected the value of Pons'
collection; she had a clear record behind her of ten years of
devotion, honesty, and disinterestedness; it was a magnificent
investment, and now she proposed to realize. In one day, Remonencq's
hint of money had hatched the serpent's egg, the craving for riches
that had lain dormant within her for twenty years. Since she had
cherished that craving, it had grown in force with the ferment of all
the evil that lurks in the corners of the heart. How she acted upon
the counsels whispered by the serpent will presently be seen.

"Well?" she asked of Schmucke, "has this cherub of ours had plenty to
drink? Is he better?"

"He is not doing fery vell, tear Montame Zipod, not fery vell," said
poor Schmucke, brushing away the tears from his eyes.

"Pooh! you make too much of it, my dear M. Schmucke; we must take
things as we find them; Cibot might be at death's door, and I should
not take it to heart as you do. Come! the cherub has a good
constitution. And he has been steady, it seems, you see; you have no
idea what an age sober people live. He is very ill, it is true, but
with all the care I take of him, I shall bring him round. Be easy,
look after your affairs, I will keep him company and see that he
drinks his pints of barley water."

"Gif you vere not here, I should die of anxiety--" said Schmucke,
squeezing his kind housekeeper's hand in both his own to express his
confidence in her.

La Cibot wiped her eyes as she went back to the invalid's room.

"What is the matter, Mme. Cibot?" asked Pons.

"It is M. Schmucke that has upset me; he is crying as if you were
dead," said she. "If you are not well, you are not so bad yet that
nobody need cry over you; but it has given me such a turn! Oh dear! oh
dear! how silly it is of me to get so fond of people, and to think
more of you than of Cibot! For, after all, you aren't nothing to me,
you are only my brother by Adam's side; and yet, whenever you are in
the question, it puts me in such a taking, upon my word it does! I
would cut off my hand--my left hand, of course--to see you coming and
going, eating your meals, and screwing bargains out of dealers as
usual. If I had had a child of my own, I think I should have loved it
as I love you, eh! There, take a drink, dearie; come now, empty the
glass. Drink it off, monsieur, I tell you! The first thing Dr. Poulain
said was, 'If M. Pons has no mind to go to Pere Lachaise, he ought to
drink as many buckets full of water in a day as an Auvergnat will
sell.' So, come now, drink--"

"But I do drink, Cibot, my good woman; I drink and drink till I am

"That is right," said the portress, as she took away the empty glass.
"That is the way to get better. Dr. Poulain had another patient ill of
your complaint; but he had nobody to look after him, his children left
him to himself, and he died because he didn't drink enough--so you
must drink, honey, you see--he died and they buried him two months
ago. And if you were to die, you know, you would drag down old M.
Schmucke with you, sir. He is like a child. Ah! he loves you, he does,
the dear lamb of a man; no woman never loved a man like that! He
doesn't care for meat nor drink; he has grown as thin as you are in
the last fortnight, and you are nothing but skin and bones.--It makes
me jealous to see it, for I am very fond of you; but not to that
degree; I haven't lost my appetite, quite the other way; always going
up and down stairs, till my legs are so tired that I drop down of an
evening like a lump of lead. Here am I neglecting my poor Cibot for
you; Mlle. Remonencq cooks his victuals for him, and he goes on about
it and says that nothing is right! At that I tell him that one ought
to put up with something for the sake of other people, and that you
are so ill that I cannot leave you. In the first place, you can't
afford a nurse. And before I would have a nurse here!--I have done for
you these ten years; they want wine and sugar, and foot-warmers, and
all sorts of comforts. And they rob their patients unless the patients
leave them something in their wills. Have a nurse in here to-day, and
to-morrow we should find a picture or something or other gone--"

"Oh! Mme. Cibot!" cried Pons, quite beside himself, "do not leave me!
No one must touch anything--"

"I am here," said La Cibot; "so long as I have the strength I shall be
here.--Be easy. There was Dr. Poulain wanting to get a nurse for you;
perhaps he has his eye on your treasures. I just snubbed him, I did.
'The gentleman won't have any one but me,' I told him. 'He is used to
me, and I am used to him.' So he said no more. A nurse, indeed! They
are all thieves; I hate that sort of woman, I do. Here is a tale that
will show you how sly they are. There was once an old gentleman--it
was Dr. Poulain himself, mind you, who told me this--well, a Mme.
Sabatier, a woman of thirty-six that used to sell slippers at the
Palais Royal--you remember the Galerie at the Palais that they pulled

Pons nodded.

"Well, at that time she had not done very well; her husband used to
drink, and died of spontaneous imbustion; but she had been a fine
woman in her time, truth to tell, not that it did her any good, though
she had friends among the lawyers. So, being hard up, she became a
monthly nurse, and lived in the Rue Barre-du-Bec. Well, she went out
to nurse an old gentleman that had a disease of the lurinary guts
(saving your presence); they used to tap him like an artesian well,
and he needed such care that she used to sleep on a truckle-bed in the
same room with him. You would hardly believe such a thing!--'Men
respect nothing,' you'll tell me, 'so selfish as they are.' Well, she
used to talk with him, you understand; she never left him, she amused
him, she told him stories, she drew him on to talk (just as we are
chatting away together now, you and I, eh?), and she found out that
his nephews--the old gentleman had nephews--that his nephews were
wretches; they had worried him, and final end of it, they had brought
on this illness. Well, my dear sir, she saved his life, he married
her, and they have a fine child; Ma'am Bordevin, the butcher's wife in
the Rue Charlot, a relative of hers, stood godmother. There is luck
for you!

"As for me, I am married; and if I have no children, I don't mind
saying that it is Cibot's fault; he is too fond of me, but if I cared
--never mind. What would have become of me and my Cibot if we had had
a family, when we have not a penny to bless ourselves with after
thirty years' of faithful service? I have not a farthing belonging to
nobody else, that is what comforts me. I have never wronged nobody.
--Look here, suppose now (there is no harm in supposing when you will be
out and about again in six weeks' time, and sauntering along the
boulevard); well, suppose that you had put me down in your will; very
good, I shouldn't never rest till I had found your heirs and given the
money back. Such is my horror of anything that is not earned by the
sweat of my brow.

"You will say to me, 'Why, Mme. Cibot, why should you worry yourself
like that? You have fairly earned the money; you looked after your two
gentlemen as if they had been your children; you saved them a thousand
francs a year--' (for there are plenty, sir, you know, that would have
had their ten thousand francs put out to interest by now if they had
been in my place)--'so if the worthy gentleman leaves you a trifle of
an annuity, it is only right.'--Suppose they told me that. Well, now;
I am not thinking of myself.--I cannot think how some women can do a
kindness thinking of themselves all the time. It is not doing good,
sir, is it? I do not go to church myself, I haven't the time; but my
conscience tells me what is right. . . . Don't you fidget like that,
my lamb!--Don't scratch yourself! . . . Dear me, how yellow you grow!
So yellow you are--quite brown. How funny it is that one can come to
look like a lemon in three weeks! . . . Honesty is all that poor folk
have, and one must surely have something! Suppose that you were just
at death's door, I should be the first to tell you that you ought to
leave all that you have to M. Schmucke. It is your duty, for he is all
the family you have. He loves you, he does, as a dog loves his

"Ah! yes," said Pons; "nobody else has ever loved me all my life

"Ah! that is not kind of you, sir," said Mme. Cibot; "then I do not
love you, I suppose?"

"I do not say so, my dear Mme. Cibot."

"Good. You take me for a servant, do you, a common servant, as if I
hadn't no heart! Goodness me! for eleven years you do for two old
bachelors, you think of nothing but their comfort. I have turned half
a score of greengrocers' shops upside down for you, I have talked
people round to get you good Brie cheese; I have gone down as far as
the market for fresh butter for you; I have taken such care of things
that nothing of yours hasn't been chipped nor broken in all these ten
years; I have just treated you like my own children; and then to hear
a 'My dear Mme. Cibot,' that shows that there is not a bit of feeling
for you in the heart of an old gentleman that you have cared for like
a king's son! for the little King of Rome was not so well looked
after. He died in his prime; there is proof for you. . . . Come, sir,
you are unjust! You are ungrateful! It is because I am only a poor
portress. Goodness me! are _you_ one of those that think we are

"But, my dear Mme. Cibot--"

"Indeed, you that know so much, tell me why we porters are treated
like this, and are supposed to have no feelings; people look down on
us in these days when they talk of Equality!--As for me, am I not as
good as another woman, I that was one of the finest women in Paris,
and was called _La belle Ecaillere_, and received declarations seven
or eight times a day? And even now if I liked--Look here, sir, you
know that little scrubby marine store-dealer downstairs? Very well, he
would marry me any day, if I were a widow that is, with his eyes shut;
he has had them looking wide open in my direction so often; he is
always saying, 'Oh! what fine arms you have, Ma'am Cibot!--I dreamed
last night that it was bread and I was butter, and I was spread on the
top.' Look, sir, there is an arm!"

She rolled up her sleeve and displayed the shapeliest arm imaginable,
as white and fresh as her hand was red and rough; a plump, round,
dimpled arm, drawn from its merino sheath like a blade from the
scabbard to dazzle Pons, who looked away.

"For every oyster the knife opened, the arm has opened a heart! Well,
it belongs to Cibot, and I did wrong when I neglected him, poor dear,
HE would throw himself over a precipice at a word from me; while you,
sir, that call me 'My dear Mme. Cibot' when I do impossible things for

"Do just listen to me," broke in the patient; "I cannot call you my
mother, nor my wife--"

"No, never in all my born days will I take again to anybody--"

"Do let me speak!" continued Pons. "Let me see; I put M. Schmucke

"M. Schmucke! there is a heart for you," cried La Cibot. "Ah! he loves
me, but then he is poor. It is money that deadens the heart; and you
are rich! Oh, well, take a nurse, you will see what a life she will
lead you; she will torment you, you will be like a cockchafer on a
string. The doctor will say that you must have plenty to drink, and
she will do nothing but feed you. She will bring you to your grave and
rob you. You do not deserve to have a Mme. Cibot!--there! When Dr.
Poulain comes, ask him for a nurse."

"Oh fiddlestickend!" the patient cried angrily. "_Will_ you listen to
me? When I spoke of my friend Schmucke, I was not thinking of women. I
know quite well that no one cares for me so sincerely as you do, you
and Schmucke--"

"Have the goodness not to irritate yourself in this way!" exclaimed La
Cibot, plunging down upon Pons and covering him by force with the

"How should I not love you?" said poor Pons.

"You love me, really? . . . There, there, forgive me, sir!" she said,
crying and wiping her eyes. "Ah, yes, of course, you love me, as you
love a servant, that is the way!--a servant to whom you throw an
annuity of six hundred francs like a crust you fling into a dog's

"Oh! Mme. Cibot," cried Pons, "for what do you take me? You do not
know me."

"Ah! you will care even more than that for me," she said, meeting
Pons' eyes. "You will love your kind old Cibot like a mother, will you
not? A mother, that is it! I am your mother; you are both of you my
children. . . . Ah, if I only knew them that caused you this sorrow, I
would do that which would bring me into the police-courts, and even to
prison; I would tear their eyes out! Such people deserve to die at the
Barriere Saint-Jacques, and that is too good for such scoundrels.
. . . So kind, so good as you are (for you have a heart of
gold), you were sent into the world to make some woman happy! . . .
Yes, you would have her happy, as anybody can see; you were cut out
for that. In the very beginning, when I saw how you were with M.
Schmucke, I said to myself, 'M. Pons has missed the life he was meant
for; he was made to be a good husband.' Come, now, you like women."

"Ah, yes," said Pons, "and no woman has been mine."

"Really?" exclaimed La Cibot, with a provocative air as she came
nearer and took Pons' hand in hers. "Do you not know what it is to
love a woman that will do anything for her lover? Is it possible? If I
were in your place, I should not wish to leave this world for another
until I had known the greatest happiness on earth! . . . Poor dear! If
I was now what I was once, I would leave Cibot for you! upon my word,
I would! Why, with a nose shaped like that--for you have a fine nose
--how did you manage it, poor cherub? . . . You will tell me that 'not
every woman knows a man when she sees him'; and a pity it is that they
marry so at random as they do, it makes you sorry to see it.--Now, for
my own part, I should have thought that you had had mistresses by the
dozen--dancers, actresses, and duchesses, for you went out so much.
. . . When you went out, I used to say to Cibot, 'Look! there is M.
Pons going a-gallivanting,' on my word, I did, I was so sure that
women ran after you. Heaven made you for love. . . . Why, my dear sir,
I found that out the first day that you dined at home, and you were so
touched with M. Schmucke's pleasure. And next day M. Schmucke kept
saying to me, 'Montame Zipod, he haf tined hier,' with the tears in
his eyes, till I cried along with him like a fool, as I am. And how
sad he looked when you took to gadding abroad again and dining out!
Poor man, you never saw any one so disconsolate! Ah! you are quite
right to leave everything to him. Dear worthy man, why he is as good
as a family to you, he is! Do not forget him; for if you do, God will
not receive you into his Paradise, for those that have been ungrateful
to their friends and left them no _rentes_ will not go to heaven."

In vain Pons tried to put in a word; La Cibot talked as the wind
blows. Means of arresting steam-engines have been invented, but it
would tax a mechanician's genius to discover any plan for stopping a
portress' tongue.

"I know what you mean," continued she. "But it does not kill you, my
dear gentleman, to make a will when you are out of health; and in your
place I might not leave that poor dear alone, for fear that something
might happen; he is like God Almighty's lamb, he knows nothing about
nothing, and I should not like him to be at the mercy of those sharks
of lawyers and a wretched pack of relations. Let us see now, has one
of them come here to see you in twenty years? And would you leave your
property to _them_? Do you know, they say that all these things here
are worth something."

"Why, yes," said Pons.

"Remonencq, who deals in pictures, and knows that you are an amateur,
says that he would be quite ready to pay you an annuity of thirty
thousand francs so long as you live, to have the pictures afterwards.
. . . There is a change! If I were you, I should take it. Why, I
thought he said it for a joke when he told me that. You ought to let
M. Schmucke know the value of all those things, for he is a man that
could be cheated like a child. He has not the slightest idea of the
value of these fine things that you have! He so little suspects it,
that he would give them away for a morsel of bread if he did not keep
them all his life for love of you, always supposing that he lives
after you, for he will die of your death. But _I_ am here; I will take
his part against anybody and everybody! . . . I and Cibot will defend

"Dear Mme. Cibot!" said Pons, "what would have become of me if it had
not been for you and Schmucke?" He felt touched by this horrible
prattle; the feeling in it seemed to be ingenuous, as it usually is in
the speech of the people.

"Ah! we really are your only friends on earth, that is very true, that
is. But two good hearts are worth all the families in the world.
--Don't talk of families to me! A family, as the old actor said of the
tongue, is the best and the worst of all things. . . . Where are those
relations of yours now? Have you any? I have never seen them--"

"They have brought me to lie here," said Pons, with intense

"So you have relations! . . ." cried La Cibot, springing up as if her
easy-chair had been heated red-hot. "Oh, well, they are a nice lot,
are your relations! What! these three weeks--for this is the twentieth
day, to-day, that you have been ill and like to die--in these three
weeks they have not come once to ask for news of you? That's a trifle
too strong, that is! . . . Why, in your place, I would leave all I had
to the Foundling Hospital sooner than give them one farthing!"

"Well, my dear Mme. Cibot, I meant to leave all that I had to a cousin
once removed, the daughter of my first cousin, President Camusot, you
know, who came here one morning nearly two months ago."

"Oh! a little stout man who sent his servants to beg your pardon--for
his wife's blunder?--The housemaid came asking me questions about you,
an affected old creature she is, my fingers itched to give her velvet
tippet a dusting with my broom handle! A servant wearing a velvet
tippet! did anybody ever see the like? No, upon my word, the world is
turned upside down; what is the use of making a Revolution? Dine twice
a day if you can afford it, you scamps of rich folk! But laws are no
good, I tell you, and nothing will be safe if Louis-Philippe does not
keep people in their places; for, after all, if we are all equal, eh,
sir? a housemaid didn't ought to have a velvet tippet, while I, Mme.
Cibot, haven't one, after thirty years of honest work.--There is a
pretty thing for you! People ought to be able to tell who you are. A
housemaid is a housemaid, just as I myself am a portress. Why do they
have silk epaulettes in the army? Let everybody keep their place. Look
here, do you want me to tell you what all this comes to? Very well,
France is going to the dogs. . . . If the Emperor had been here,
things would have been very different, wouldn't they, sir? . . . So I
said to Cibot, I said, 'See here, Cibot, a house where the servants
wear velvet tippets belongs to people that have no heart in them--'"

"No heart in them, that is just it," repeated Pons. And with that he
began to tell Mme. Cibot about his troubles and mortifications, she
pouring out abuse of the relations the while and showing exceeding
tenderness on every fresh sentence in the sad history. She fairly wept
at last.

To understand the sudden intimacy between the old musician and Mme.
Cibot, you have only to imagine the position of an old bachelor lying
on his bed of pain, seriously ill for the first time in his life. Pons
felt that he was alone in the world; the days that he spent by himself
were all the longer because he was struggling with the indefinable
nausea of a liver complaint which blackens the brightest life. Cut off
from all his many interests, the sufferer falls a victim to a kind of
nostalgia; he regrets the many sights to be seen for nothing in Paris.
The isolation, the darkened days, the suffering that affects the mind
and spirits even more than the body, the emptiness of the life,--all
these things tend to induce him to cling to the human being who waits
on him as a drowned man clings to a plank; and this especially if the
bachelor patient's character is as weak as his nature is sensitive and

Pons was charmed to hear La Cibot's tittle-tattle. Schmucke, Mme.
Cibot, and Dr. Poulain meant all humanity to him now, when his
sickroom became the universe. If invalid's thoughts, as a rule, never
travel beyond in the little space over which his eyes can wander; if
their selfishness, in its narrow sphere, subordinates all creatures
and all things to itself, you can imagine the lengths to which an old
bachelor may go. Before three weeks were out he had even gone so far
as to regret, once and again, that he had not married Madeleine Vivet!
Mme. Cibot, too, had made immense progress in his esteem in those
three weeks; without her he felt that he should have been utterly
lost; for as for Schmucke, the poor invalid looked upon him as a
second Pons. La Cibot's prodigious art consisted in expressing Pons'
own ideas, and this she did quite unconsciously.

"Ah! here comes the doctor!" she exclaimed, as the bell rang, and away
she went, knowing very well that Remonencq had come with the Jew.

"Make no noise, gentlemen," said she, "he must not know anything. He
is all on the fidget when his precious treasures are concerned."

"A walk round will be enough," said the Hebrew, armed with a
magnifying-glass and a lorgnette.

The greater part of Pons' collection was installed in a great
old-fashioned salon such as French architects used to build for the
old _noblesse_; a room twenty-five feet broad, some thirty feet in
length, and thirteen in height. Pons' pictures to the number of
sixty-seven hung upon the white-and-gold paneled walls; time, however,
had reddened the gold and softened the white to an ivory tint, so that
the whole was toned down, and the general effect subordinated to the
effect of the pictures. Fourteen statues stood on pedestals set in the
corners of the room, or among the pictures, or on brackets inlaid by
Boule; sideboards of carved ebony, royally rich, surrounded the walls
to elbow height, all the shelves filled with curiosities; in the
middle of the room stood a row of carved credence-tables, covered with
rare miracles of handicraft--with ivories and bronzes, wood-carvings
and enamels, jewelry and porcelain.

As soon as Elie Magus entered the sanctuary, he went straight to the
four masterpieces; he saw at a glance that these were the gems of
Pons' collection, and masters lacking in his own. For Elie Magus these
were the naturalist's _desiderata_ for which men undertake long
voyages from east to west, through deserts and tropical countries,
across southern savannahs, through virgin forests.

The first was a painting by Sebastian del Piombo, the second a Fra
Bartolommeo della Porta, the third a Hobbema landscape, and the fourth
and last a Durer--a portrait of a woman. Four diamonds indeed! In the
history of art, Sebastian del Piombo is like a shining point in which
three schools meet, each bringing its pre-eminent qualities. A
Venetian painter, he came to Rome to learn the manner of Raphael under
the direction of Michael Angelo, who would fain oppose Raphael on his
own ground by pitting one of his own lieutenants against the reigning
king of art. And so it came to pass that in Del Piombo's indolent
genius Venetian color was blended with Florentine composition and a
something of Raphael's manner in the few pictures which he deigned to
paint, and the sketches were made for him, it is said, by Michael
Angelo himself.

If you would see the perfection to which the painter attained (armed
as he was with triple power), go to the Louvre and look at the Baccio
Bandinelli portrait; you might place it beside Titian's _Man with a
Glove_, or by that other _Portrait of an Old Man_ in which Raphael's
consummate skill blends with Correggio's art; or, again, compare it
with Leonardo da Vinci's _Charles VIII._, and the picture would
scarcely lose. The four pearls are equal; there is the same lustre and
sheen, the same rounded completeness, the same brilliancy. Art can go
no further than this. Art has risen above Nature, since Nature only
gives her creatures a few brief years of life.

Pons possessed one example of this immortal great genius and incurably
indolent painter; it was a _Knight of Malta_, a Templar kneeling in
prayer. The picture was painted on slate, and in its unfaded color and
its finish was immeasurably finer than the _Baccio Bandinelli_.

Fra Bartolommeo was represented by a _Holy Family_, which many
connoisseurs might have taken for a Raphael. The Hobbema would have
fetched sixty thousand francs at a public sale; and as for the Durer,
it was equal to the famous _Holzschuer_ portrait at Nuremberg for
which the kings of Bavaria, Holland, and Prussia have vainly offered
two hundred thousand francs again and again. Was it the portrait of
the wife or the daughter of Holzschuer, Albrecht Durer's personal
friend?--The hypothesis seems to be a certainty, for the attitude of
the figure in Pons' picture suggests that it is meant for a pendant,
the position of the coat-of-arms is the same as in the Nuremberg
portrait; and, finally, the _oetatis suoe XLI._ accords perfectly with
the age inscribed on the picture religiously kept by the Holzschuers
of Nuremberg, and but recently engraved.

The tears stood in Elie Magus' eyes as he looked from one masterpiece
to another. He turned round to La Cibot, "I will give you a commission
of two thousand francs on each of the pictures if you can arrange that
I shall have them for forty thousand francs," he said. La Cibot was
amazed at this good fortune dropped from the sky. Admiration, or, to
be more accurate, delirious joy, had wrought such havoc in the Jew's
brain, that it had actually unsettled his habitual greed, and he fell
headlong into enthusiasm, as you see.

"And I?----" put in Remonencq, who knew nothing about pictures.

"Everything here is equally good," the Jew said cunningly, lowering
his voice for Remonencq's ears; "take ten pictures just as they come
and on the same conditions. Your fortune will be made."

Again the three thieves looked each other in the face, each one of
them overcome with the keenest of all joys--sated greed. All of a
sudden the sick man's voice rang through the room; the tones vibrated
like the strokes of a bell:

"Who is there?" called Pons.

"Monsieur! just go back to bed!" exclaimed La Cibot, springing upon
Pons and dragging him by main force. "What next! Have you a mind to
kill yourself?--Very well, then, it is not Dr. Poulain, it is
Remonencq, good soul, so anxious that he has come to ask after you!
--Everybody is so fond of you that the whole house is in a flutter.
So what is there to fear?"

"It seems to me that there are several of you," said Pons.

"Several? that is good! What next! Are you dreaming!--You will go off
your head before you have done, upon my word!--Here, look!"--and La
Cibot flung open the door, signed to Magus to go, and beckoned to

"Well, my dear sir," said the Auvergnat, now supplied with something
to say, "I just came to ask after you, for the whole house is alarmed
about you.--Nobody likes Death to set foot in a house!--And lastly,
Daddy Monistrol, whom you know very well, told me to tell you that if
you wanted money he was at your service----"

"He sent you here to take a look round at my knick-knacks!" returned
the old collector from his bed; and the sour tones of his voice were
full of suspicion.

A sufferer from liver complaint nearly always takes momentary and
special dislikes to some person or thing, and concentrates all his
ill-humor upon the object. Pons imagined that some one had designs
upon his precious collection; the thought of guarding it became a
fixed idea with him; Schmucke was continually sent to see if any one
had stolen into the sanctuary.

"Your collection is fine enough to attract the attention of
_chineurs_," Remonencq answered astutely. "I am not much in the art
line myself; but you are supposed to be such a great connoisseur, sir,
that with my eyes shut--supposing, for instance, that you should need
money some time or other, for nothing costs so much as these
confounded illnesses; there was my sister now, when she would have got
better again just as well without. Doctors are rascals that take
advantage of your condition to--"

"Thank you, good-day, good-day," broke in Pons, eying the marine
store-dealer uneasily.

"I will go to the door with him, for fear he should touch something,"
La Cibot whispered to her patient.

"Yes, yes," answered the invalid, thanking her by a glance.

La Cibot shut the bedroom door behind her, and Pons' suspicions awoke
again at once.

She found Magus standing motionless before the four pictures. His
immobility, his admiration, can only be understood by other souls open
to ideal beauty, to the ineffable joy of beholding art made perfect;
such as these can stand for whole hours before the _Antiope_
--Correggio's masterpiece--before Leonardo's _Gioconda_, Titian's
_Mistress_, Andrea del Sarto's _Holy Family_, Domenichino's _Children
Among the Flowers_, Raphael's little cameo, or his _Portrait of an Old
Man_--Art's greatest masterpieces.

"Be quick and go, and make no noise," said La Cibot.

The Jew walked slowly backwards, giving the pictures such a farewell
gaze as a lover gives his love. Outside on the landing, La Cibot
tapped his bony arm. His rapt contemplations had put an idea into her

"Make it _four_ thousand francs for each picture," said she, "or I do

"I am so poor! . . ." began Magus. "I want the pictures simply for
their own sake, simply and solely for the love of art, my dear lady."

"I can understand that love, sonny, you are so dried up. But if you do
not promise me sixteen thousand francs now, before Remonencq here, I
shall want twenty to-morrow."

"Sixteen; I promise," returned the Jew, frightened by the woman's

La Cibot turned to Remonencq.

"What oath can a Jew swear?" she inquired.

"You may trust him," replied the marine store-dealer. "He is as honest
as I am."

"Very well; and you?" asked she, "if I get him to sell them to you,
what will you give me?"

"Half-share of profits," Remonencq answered briskly.

"I would rather have a lump sum," returned La Cibot; "I am not in
business myself."

"You understand business uncommonly well!" put in Elie Magus, smiling;
"a famous saleswoman you would make!"

"I want her to take me into partnership, me and my goods," said the
Auvergnat, as he took La Cibot's plump arm and gave it playful taps
like hammer-strokes. "I don't ask her to bring anything into the firm
but her good looks! You are making a mistake when your stick to your
Turk of a Cibot and his needle. Is a little bit of a porter the man to
make a woman rich--a fine woman like you? Ah, what a figure you would
make in a shop on the boulevard, all among the curiosities, gossiping
with amateurs and twisting them round your fingers! Just you leave
your lodge as soon as you have lined your purse here, and you shall
see what will become of us both."

"Lined my purse!" cried Cibot. "I am incapable of taking the worth of
a single pin; you mind that, Remonencq! I am known in the neighborhood
for an honest woman, I am."

La Cibot's eyes flashed fire.

"There, never mind," said Elie Magus; "this Auvergnat seems to be too
fond of you to mean to insult you."

"How she would draw on the customers!" cried the Auvergnat.

Mme. Cibot softened at this.

"Be fair, sonnies," quoth she, "and judge for yourselves how I am
placed. These ten years past I have been wearing my life out for these
two old bachelors yonder, and neither or them has given me anything
but words. Remonencq will tell you that I feed them by contract, and
lose twenty or thirty sous a day; all my savings have gone that way,
by the soul of my mother (the only author of my days that I ever
knew), this is as true as that I live, and that this is the light of
day, and may my coffee poison me if I lie about a farthing. Well,
there is one up there that will die soon, eh? and he the richer of the
two that I have treated like my own children. Would you believe it, my
dear sir, I have told him over and over again for days past that he is
at death's door (for Dr. Poulain has given him up), he could not say
less about putting my name down in his will. We shall only get our due
by taking it, upon my word, as an honest woman, for as for trusting to
the next-of-kin!--No fear! There! look you here, words don't stink; it
is a bad world!"

"That is true," Elie Magus answered cunningly, "that is true; and it
is just the like of us that are among the best," he added, looking at

"Just let me be," returned La Cibot; "I am not speaking of you.
'Pressing company is always accepted,' as the old actor said. I swear
to you that the two gentlemen already owe me nearly three thousand
francs; the little I have is gone by now in medicine and things on
their account; and now suppose they refuse to recognize my advances? I
am so stupidly honest that I did not dare to say nothing to them about
it. Now, you that are in business, my dear sir, do you advise me to
got to a lawyer?"

"A lawyer?" cried Remonencq; "you know more about it than all the
lawyers put together--"

Just at that moment a sound echoed in the great staircase, a sound as
if some heavy body had fallen in the dining-room.

"Oh, goodness me!" exclaimed La Cibot; "it seems to me that monsieur
has just taken a ticket for the ground floor."

She pushed her fellow-conspirators out at the door, and while the pair
descended the stairs with remarkable agility, she ran to the
dining-room, and there beheld Pons, in his shirt, stretched out upon
the tiles. He had fainted. She lifted him as if he had been a feather,
carried him back to his room, laid him in bed, burned feathers under
his nose, bathed his temples with eau-de-cologne, and at last brought
him to consciousness. When she saw his eyes unclose and life return,
she stood over him, hands on hips.

"No slippers! In your shirt! That is the way to kill yourself! Why do
you suspect me?--If this is to be the way of it, I wish you good-day,
sir. Here have I served you these ten years, I have spent money on you
till my savings are all gone, to spare trouble to that poor M.
Schmucke, crying like a child on the stairs--and _this_ is my reward!
You have been spying on me. God has punished you! It serves you right!
Here I am straining myself to carry you, running the risk of doing
myself a mischief that I shall feel all my days. Oh dear, oh dear! and
the door left open too--"

"You were talking with some one. Who was it?"

"Here are notions!" cried La Cibot. "What next! Am I your bond-slave?
Am I to give account of myself to you? Do you know that if you bother
me like this, I shall clear out! You shall take a nurse."

Frightened by this threat, Pons unwittingly allowed La Cibot to see
the extent of the power of her sword of Damocles.

"It is my illness!" he pleaded piteously.

"It is as you please," La Cibot answered roughly.

She went. Pons, confused, remorseful, admiring his nurse's scalding
devotion, reproached himself for his behavior. The fall on the paved
floor of the dining-room had shaken and bruised him, and aggravated
his illness, but Pons was scarcely conscious of his physical

La Cibot met Schmucke on the staircase.

"Come here, sir," she said. "There is bad news, that there is! M. Pons
is going off his head! Just think of it! he got up with nothing on, he
came after me--and down he came full-length. Ask him why--he knows
nothing about it. He is in a bad way. I did nothing to provoke such
violence, unless, perhaps, I waked up ideas by talking to him of his
early amours. Who knows men? Old libertines that they are. I ought not
to have shown him my arms when his eyes were glittering like

Schmucke listened. Mme. Cibot might have been talking Hebrew for
anything that he understood.

"I have given myself a wrench that I shall feel all my days," added
she, making as though she were in great pain. (Her arms did, as a
matter of fact, ache a little, and the muscular fatigue suggested an
idea, which she proceeded to turn to profit.) "So stupid I am. When I
saw him lying there on the floor, I just took him up in my arms as if
he had been a child, and carried him back to bed, I did. And I
strained myself, I can feel it now. Ah! how it hurts!--I am going
downstairs. Look after our patient. I will send Cibot for Dr. Poulain.
I had rather die outright than be crippled."

La Cibot crawled downstairs, clinging to the banisters, and writhing
and groaning so piteously that the tenants, in alarm, came out upon
their landings. Schmucke supported the suffering creature, and told
the story of La Cibot's devotion, the tears running down his cheeks as
he spoke. Before very long the whole house, the whole neighborhood
indeed, had heard of Mme. Cibot's heroism; she had given herself a
dangerous strain, it was said, with lifting one of the "nutcrackers."

Schmucke meanwhile went to Pons' bedside with the tale. Their factotum
was in a frightful state. "What shall we do without her?" they said,
as they looked at each other; but Pons was so plainly the worse for
his escapade, that Schmucke did not dare to scold him.

"Gonfounded pric-a-prac! I would sooner purn dem dan loose mein
friend!" he cried, when Pons told him of the cause of the accident.
"To suspect Montame Zipod, dot lend us her safings! It is not goot;
but it is der illness--"

"Ah! what an illness! I am not the same man, I can feel it," said
Pons. "My dear Schmucke, if only you did not suffer through me!"

"Scold me," Schmucke answered, "und leaf Montame Zipod in beace."

As for Mme. Cibot, she soon recovered in Dr. Poulain's hands; and her
restoration, bordering on the miraculous, shed additional lustre on
her name and fame in the Marais. Pons attributed the success to the
excellent constitution of the patient, who resumed her ministrations
seven days later to the great satisfaction of her two gentlemen. Her
influence in their household and her tyranny was increased a
hundred-fold by the accident. In the course of a week, the two
nutcrackers ran into debt; Mme. Cibot paid the outstanding amounts,
and took the opportunity to obtain from Schmucke (how easily!) a
receipt for two thousand francs, which she had lent, she said, to
the friends.

"Oh, what a doctor M. Poulain is!" cried La Cibot, for Pons' benefit.
"He will bring you through, my dear sir, for he pulled me out of my
coffin! Cibot, poor man, thought I was dead. . . . Well, Dr. Poulain
will have told you that while I was in bed I thought of nothing but
you. 'God above,' said I, 'take me, and let my dear Mr. Pons live--'"

"Poor dear Mme. Cibot, you all but crippled yourself for me."

"Ah! but for Dr. Poulain I should have been put to bed with a shovel
by now, as we shall all be one day. Well, what must be, must, as the
old actor said. One must take things philosophically. How did you get
on without me?"

"Schmucke nursed me," said the invalid; "but our poor money-box and
our lessons have suffered. I do not know how he managed."

"Calm yourself, Bons," exclaimed Schmucke; "ve haf in Zipod ein

"Do not speak of it, my lamb. You are our children, both of you,"
cried La Cibot. "Our savings will be well invested; you are safer than
the Bank. So long as we have a morsel of bread, half of it is yours.
It is not worth mentioning--"

"Boor Montame Zipod!" said Schmucke, and he went.

Pons said nothing.

"Would you believe it, my cherub?" said La Cibot, as the sick man
tossed uneasily, "in my agony--for it was a near squeak for me--the
thing that worried me most was the thought that I must leave you
alone, with no one to look after you, and my poor Cibot without a
farthing. . . . My savings are such a trifle, that I only mention them
in connection with my death and Cibot, an angel that he is! No. He
nursed me as if I had been a queen, he did, and cried like a calf over
me! . . . But I counted on you, upon my word. I said to him, 'There,
Cibot! my gentlemen will not let you starve--'"

Pons made no reply to this thrust _ad testamentum_; but as the
portress waited for him to say something--"I shall recommend you to M.
Schmucke," he said at last.

"Ah!" cried La Cibot, "whatever you do will be right; I trust in you
and your heart. Let us never talk of this again; you make me feel
ashamed, my cherub. Think of getting better, you will outlive us all

Profound uneasiness filled Mme. Cibot's mind. She cast about for some
way of making the sick man understand that she expected a legacy. That
evening, when Schmucke was eating his dinner as usual by Pons'
bedside, she went out, hoping to find Dr. Poulain at home.

Dr. Poulain lived in the Rue d'Orleans in a small ground floor
establishment, consisting of a lobby, a sitting-room, and two
bedrooms. A closet, opening into the lobby and the bedroom, had been
turned into a study for the doctor. The kitchen, the servant's
bedroom, and a small cellar were situated in a wing of the house, a
huge pile built in the time of the Empire, on the site of an old
mansion of which the garden still remained, though it had been divided
among the three ground floor tenants.

Nothing had been changed in the doctor's house since it was built.
Paint and paper and ceilings were all redolent of the Empire. The
grimy deposits of forty years lay thick on walls and ceilings, on
paper and paint and mirrors and gilding. And yet, this little
establishment, in the depths of the Marais, paid a rent of a thousand

Mme. Poulain, the doctor's mother, aged sixty-seven, was ending her
days in the second bedroom. She worked for a breeches-maker, stitching
men's leggings, breeches, belts, and braces, anything, in fact, that
is made in a way of business which has somewhat fallen off of late
years. Her whole time was spent in keeping her son's house and
superintending the one servant; she never went abroad, and took the
air in the little garden entered through the glass door of the
sitting-room. Twenty years previously, when her husband died, she sold
his business to his best workman, who gave his master's widow work
enough to earn a daily wage of thirty sous. She had made every
sacrifice to educate her son. At all costs, he should occupy a higher
station than his father before him; and now she was proud of her
Aesculapius, she believed in him, and sacrificed everything to him as
before. She was happy to take care of him, to work and put by a little
money, and dream of nothing but his welfare, and love him with an
intelligent love of which every mother is not capable. For instance,
Mme. Poulain remembered that she had been a working girl. She would
not injure her son's prospects; he should not be ashamed by his mother
(for the good woman's grammar was something of the same kind as Mme.
Cibot's); and for this reason she kept in the background, and went to
her room of her own accord if any distinguished patient came to
consult the doctor, or if some old schoolfellow or fellow-student
chanced to call. Dr. Poulain had never had occasion to blush for the
mother whom he revered; and this sublime love of hers more than atoned
for a defective education.

The breeches-maker's business sold for about twenty thousand francs,
and the widow invested the money in the Funds in 1820. The income of
eleven hundred francs per annum derived from this source was, at one
time, her whole fortune. For many a year the neighbors used to see the
doctor's linen hanging out to dry upon a clothes-line in the garden,
and the servant and Mme. Poulain thriftily washed everything at home;
a piece of domestic economy which did not a little to injure the
doctor's practice, for it was thought that if he was so poor, it must
be through his own fault. Her eleven hundred francs scarcely did more
than pay the rent. During those early days, Mme. Poulain, good, stout,
little old woman, was the breadwinner, and the poor household lived
upon her earnings. After twelve years of perseverance upon a rough and
stony road, Dr. Poulain at last was making an income of three thousand
francs, and Mme. Poulain had an income of about five thousand francs
at her disposal. Five thousand francs for those who know Paris means a
bare subsistence.

The sitting-room, where patients waited for an interview, was shabbily
furnished. There was the inevitable mahogany sofa covered with
yellow-flowered Utrecht velvet, four easy-chairs, a tea-table, a console,
and half-a-dozen chairs, all the property of the deceased breeches-maker,
and chosen by him. A lyre-shaped clock between two Egyptian
candlesticks still preserved its glass shade intact. You asked
yourself how the yellow chintz window-curtains, covered with red
flowers, had contrived to hang together for so long; for evidently
they had come from the Jouy factory, and Oberkampf received the
Emperor's congratulations upon similar hideous productions of the
cotton industry in 1809.

The doctor's consulting-room was fitted up in the same style, with
household stuff from the paternal chamber. It looked stiff,
poverty-stricken, and bare. What patient could put faith in the skill
of any unknown doctor who could not even furnish his house? And this
in a time when advertising is all-powerful; when we gild the gas-lamps
in the Place de la Concorde to console the poor man for his poverty by
reminding him that he is rich as a citizen.

The ante-chamber did duty as a dining-room. The servant sat at her
sewing there whenever she was not busy in the kitchen or keeping the
doctor's mother company. From the dingy short curtains in the windows
you would have guessed at the shabby thrift behind them without
setting foot in the dreary place. What could those wall-cupboards
contain but stale scraps of food, chipped earthenware, corks used over
and over again indefinitely, soiled table-linen, odds and ends that
could descend but one step lower into the dust-heap, and all the
squalid necessities of a pinched household in Paris?

In these days, when the five-franc piece is always lurking in our
thoughts and intruding itself into our speech, Dr. Poulain, aged
thirty-three, was still a bachelor. Heaven had bestowed on him a
mother with no connections. In ten years he had not met with the
faintest pretext for a romance in his professional career; his
practice lay among clerks and small manufacturers, people in his own
sphere of life, with homes very much like his own. His richer patients
were butchers, bakers, and the more substantial tradespeople of the
neighborhood. These, for the most part, attributed their recovery to
Nature, as an excuse for paying for the services of a medical man, who
came on foot, at the rate of two francs per visit. In his profession,
a carriage is more necessary than medical skill.

A humdrum monotonous life tells in the end upon the most adventurous
spirit. A man fashions himself to his lot, he accepts a commonplace
existence; and Dr. Poulain, after ten years of his practice, continued
his labors of Sisyphus without the despair that made early days so
bitter. And yet--like every soul in Paris--he cherished a dream.
Remonencq was happy in his dream; La Cibot had a dream of her own; and
Dr. Poulain, too, dreamed. Some day he would be called in to attend a
rich and influential patient, would effect a positive cure, and the
patient would procure a post for him; he would be head surgeon to a
hospital, medical officer of a prison or police-court, or doctor to
the boulevard theatres. He had come by his present appointment as
doctor to the Mairie in this very way. La Cibot had called him in when
the landlord of the house in the Rue de Normandie fell ill; he had
treated the case with complete success; M. Pillerault, the patient,
took an interest in the young doctor, called to thank him, and saw his
carefully-hidden poverty. Count Popinot, the cabinet minister, had
married M. Pillerault's grand-niece, and greatly respected her uncle;
of him, therefore, M. Pillerault had asked for the post, which Poulain
had now held for two years. That appointment and its meagre salary
came just in time to prevent a desperate step; Poulain was thinking of
emigration; and for a Frenchman, it is a kind of death to leave

Dr. Poulain went, you may be sure, to thank Count Popinot; but as
Count Popinot's family physician was the celebrated Horace Bianchon,
it was pretty clear that his chances of gaining a footing in that
house were something of the slenderest. The poor doctor had fondly
hoped for the patronage of a powerful cabinet minister, one of the
twelve or fifteen cards which a cunning hand has been shuffling for
sixteen years on the green baize of the council table, and now he
dropped back again into his Marais, his old groping life among the
poor and the small tradespeople, with the privilege of issuing
certificates of death for a yearly stipend of twelve hundred francs.

Dr. Poulain had distinguished himself to some extent as a
house-student; he was a prudent practitioner, and not without
experience. His deaths caused no scandal; he had plenty of
opportunities of studying all kinds of complaints _in anima vili_.
Judge, therefore, of the spleen that he nourished! The expression of
his countenance, lengthy and not too cheerful to begin with, at times
was positively appalling. Set a Tartuffe's all-devouring eyes, and
the sour humor of an Alceste in a sallow-parchment visage, and try to
imagine for yourself the gait, bearing, and expression of a man who
thought himself as good a doctor as the illustrious Bianchon, and
felt that he was held down in his narrow lot by an iron hand. He
could not help comparing his receipts (ten francs a day if he was
fortunate) with Bianchon's five or six hundred.

Are the hatreds and jealousies of democracy incomprehensible after
this? Ambitious and continually thwarted, he could not reproach
himself. He had once already tried his fortune by inventing a
purgative pill, something like Morrison's, and intrusted the business
operations to an old hospital chum, a house-student who afterwards
took a retail drug business; but, unluckily, the druggist, smitten
with the charms of a ballet-dancer of the Ambigu-Comique, found
himself at length in the bankruptcy court; and as the patent had been
taken out in his name, his partner was literally without a remedy, and
the important discovery enriched the purchaser of the business. The
sometime house-student set sail for Mexico, that land of gold, taking
poor Poulain's little savings with him; and, to add insult to injury,
the opera-dancer treated him as an extortioner when he applied to her
for his money.

Not a single rich patient had come to him since he had the luck to
cure old M. Pillerault. Poulain made his rounds on foot, scouring the
Marais like a lean cat, and obtained from two to forty sous out of a
score of visits. The paying patient was a phenomenon about as rare as
that anomalous fowl known as a "white blackbird" in all sublunary

The briefless barrister, the doctor without a patient, are
pre-eminently the two types of a decorous despair peculiar to this
city of Paris; it is mute, dull despair in human form, dressed in a
black coat and trousers with shining seams that recall the zinc on an
attic roof, a glistening satin waistcoat, a hat preserved like a relic,
a pair of old gloves, and a cotton shirt. The man is the incarnation
of a melancholy poem, sombre as the secrets of the Conciergerie. Other
kinds of poverty, the poverty of the artist--actor, painter, musician,
or poet--are relieved and lightened by the artist's joviality, the
reckless gaiety of the Bohemian border country--the first stage of the
journey to the Thebaid of genius. But these two black-coated
professions that go afoot through the street are brought continually
in contact with disease and dishonor; they see nothing of human nature
but its sores; in the forlorn first stages and beginnings of their
career they eye competitors suspiciously and defiantly; concentrated
dislike and ambition flashes out in glances like the breaking forth of
hidden flames. Let two schoolfellows meet after twenty years, the rich
man will avoid the poor; he does not recognize him, he is afraid even
to glance into the gulf which Fate has set between him and the friend
of other years. The one has been borne through life on the mettlesome
steed called Fortune, or wafted on the golden clouds of success; the
other has been making his way in underground Paris through the sewers,
and bears the marks of his career upon him. How many a chum of old
days turned aside at the sight of the doctor's greatcoat and

With this explanation, it should be easy to understand how Dr. Poulain
came to lend himself so readily to the farce of La Cibot's illness and
recovery. Greed of every kind, ambition of every nature, is not easy
to hide. The doctor examined his patient, found that every organ was
sound and healthy, admired the regularity of her pulse and the perfect
ease of her movements; and as she continued to moan aloud, he saw that
for some reason she found it convenient to lie at Death's door. The
speedy cure of a serious imaginary disease was sure to cause a
sensation in the neighborhood; the doctor would be talked about. He
made up his mind at once. He talked of rupture, and of taking it in
time, and thought even worse of the case than La Cibot herself. The
portress was plied with various remedies, and finally underwent a sham
operation, crowned with complete success. Poulain repaired to the
Arsenal Library, looked out a grotesque case in some of Desplein's
records of extraordinary cures, and fitted the details to Mme. Cibot,
modestly attributing the success of the treatment to the great
surgeon, in whose steps (he said) he walked. Such is the impudence of
beginners in Paris. Everything is made to serve as a ladder by which
to climb upon the scene; and as everything, even the rungs of a
ladder, will wear out in time, the new members of every profession are
at a loss to find the right sort of wood of which to make steps for

There are moments when the Parisian is not propitious. He grows tired
of raising pedestals, pouts like a spoiled child, and will have no
more idols; or, to state it more accurately, Paris cannot always find
a proper object for infatuation. Now and then the vein of genius gives
out, and at such times the Parisian may turn supercilious; he is not
always willing to bow down and gild mediocrity.

Mme. Cibot, entering in her usual unceremonious fashion, found the
doctor and his mother at table, before a bowl of lamb's lettuce, the
cheapest of all salad-stuffs. The dessert consisted of a thin wedge of
Brie cheese flanked by a plate of specked foreign apples and a dish of
mixed dry fruits, known as _quatre-mendiants_, in which the raisin
stalks were abundantly conspicuous.

"You can stay, mother," said the doctor, laying a hand on Mme.
Poulain's arm; "this is Mme. Cibot, of whom I have told you."

"My respects to you, madame, and my duty to you, sir," said La Cibot,
taking the chair which the doctor offered. "Ah! is this your mother,
sir? She is very happy to have a son who has such talent; he saved my
life, madame, brought me back from the depths."

The widow, hearing Mme. Cibot praise her son in this way, thought her
a delightful woman.

"I have just come to tell you, that, between ourselves, poor M. Pons
is doing very badly, sir, and I have something to say to you about

"Let us go into the sitting-room," interrupted the doctor, and with a
significant gesture he indicated the servant.

In the sitting-room La Cibot explained her position with regard to the
pair of nutcrackers at very considerable length. She repeated the
history of her loan with added embellishments, and gave a full account
of the immense services rendered during the past ten years to MM. Pons
and Schmucke. The two old men, to all appearance, could not exist
without her motherly care. She posed as an angel; she told so many
lies, one after another, watering them with her tears, that old Mme.
Poulain was quite touched.

"You understand, my dear sir," she concluded, "that I really ought to
know how far I can depend on M. Pons' intentions, supposing that he
should not die; not that I want him to die, for looking after those
two innocents is my life, madame, you see; still, when one of them is
gone I shall look after the other. For my own part, I was built by
Nature to rival mothers. Without nobody to care for, nobody to take
for a child, I don't know what I should do. . . . So if M. Poulain
only would, he might do me a service for which I should be very
grateful; and that is, to say a word to M. Pons for me. Goodness me!
an annuity of a thousand francs, is that too much, I ask you? . . .
To. M. Schmucke it would be so much gained.--Our dear patient said
that he should recommend me to the German, poor man; it is his idea,
no doubt, that M. Schmucke should be his heir. But what is a man that
cannot put two ideas together in French? And besides, he would be
quite capable of going back to Germany, he will be in such despair
over his friend's death--"

The doctor grew grave. "My dear Mme. Cibot," he said, "this sort of
thing does not in the least concern a doctor. I should not be allowed
to exercise my profession if it was known that I interfered in the
matter of my patients' testamentary dispositions. The law forbids a
doctor to receive a legacy from a patient--"

"A stupid law! What is to hinder me from dividing my legacy with you?"
La Cibot said immediately.

"I will go further," said the doctor; "my professional conscience will
not permit me to speak to M. Pons of his death. In the first place, he
is not so dangerously ill that there is any need to speak of it, and
in the second, such talk coming from me might give a shock to the
system that would do him real harm, and then his illness might
terminate fatally--"

"_I_ don't put on gloves to tell him to get his affairs in order,"
cried Mme. Cibot, "and he is none the worse for that. He is used to
it. There is nothing to fear."

"Not a word more about it, my dear Mme. Cibot! These things are not
within a doctor's province; it is a notary's business--"

"But, my dear M. Poulain, suppose that M. Pons of his own accord
should ask you how he is, and whether he had better make his
arrangements; then, would you refuse to tell him that if you want to
get better it is an excellent plan to set everything in order? Then
you might just slip in a little word for me--"

"Oh, if _he_ talks of making his will, I certainly shall not dissuade
him," said the doctor.

"Very well, that is settled. I came to thank you for your care of me,"
she added, as she slipped a folded paper containing three gold coins
into the doctor's hands. "It is all I can do at the moment. Ah! my
dear M. Poulain, if I were rich, you should be rich, you that are the
image of Providence on earth.--Madame, you have an angel for a son."

La Cibot rose to her feet, Mme. Poulain bowed amiably, and the doctor
went to the door with the visitor. Just then a sudden, lurid gleam of
light flashed across the mind of this Lady Macbeth of the streets. She
saw clearly that the doctor was her accomplice--he had taken the fee
for the sham illness.

"M. Poulain," she began, "how can you refuse to say a word or two to
save me from want, when you helped me in the affair of my accident?"

The doctor felt that the devil had him by the hair, as the saying is;
he felt, too, that the hair was being twisted round the pitiless red
claw. Startled and afraid lest he should sell his honesty for such a
trifle, he answered the diabolical suggestion by another no less

"Listen, my dear Mme. Cibot," he said, as he drew her into his
consulting-room. "I will now pay a debt of gratitude that I owe you
for my appointment to the mairie--"

"We go shares?" she asked briskly.

"In what?"

"In the legacy."

"You do not know me," said Dr. Poulain, drawing himself up like
Valerius Publicola. "Let us have no more of that. I have a friend, an
old schoolfellow of mine, a very intelligent young fellow; and we are
so much the more intimate, because, our lives have fallen out very
much in the same way. He was studying law while I was a house-student,
he was engrossing deeds in Maitre Couture's office. His father was a
shoemaker, and mine was a breeches-maker; he has not found anyone to
take much interest in his career, nor has he any capital; for, after
all, capital is only to be had from sympathizers. He could only afford
to buy a provincial connection--at Mantes--and so little do
provincials understand the Parisian intellect, that they set all sorts
of intrigues on foot against him."

"The wretches!" cried La Cibot.

"Yes," said the doctor. "They combined against him to such purpose,
that they forced him to sell his connection by misrepresenting
something that he had done; the attorney for the crown interfered, he
belonged to the place, and sided with his fellow-townsmen. My friend's
name is Fraisier. He is lodged as I am, and he is even leaner and more
threadbare. He took refuge in our arrondissement, and is reduced to
appear for clients in the police-court or before the magistrate. He
lives in the Rue de la Perle close by. Go to No. 9, third floor, and
you will see his name on the door on the landing, painted in gilt
letters on a small square of red leather. Fraisier makes a special
point of disputes among the porters, workmen, and poor folk in the
arrondissement, and his charges are low. He is an honest man; for I
need not tell you that if he had been a scamp, he would be keeping his
carriage by now. I will call and see my friend Fraisier this evening.
Go to him early to-morrow; he knows M. Louchard, the bailiff; M.
Tabareau, the clerk of the court; and the justice of the peace, M.
Vitel; and M. Trognon, the notary. He is even now looked upon as one
of the best men of business in the Quarter. If he takes charge of your
interests, if you can secure him as M. Pons' adviser, you will have a
second self in him, you see. But do not make dishonorable proposals to
him, as you did just now to me; he has a head on his shoulders, you
will understand each other. And as for acknowledging his services, I
will be your intermediary--"

Mme. Cibot looked askance at the doctor.

"Is that the lawyer who helped Mme. Florimond the haberdasher in the
Rue Vieille-du-Temple out of a fix in that matter of her friend's

"The very same."

"Wasn't it a shame that she did not marry him after he had gained two
thousand francs a year for her?" exclaimed La Cibot. "And she thought
to clear off scores by making him a present of a dozen shirts and a
couple of dozen pocket-handkerchiefs; an outfit, in short."

"My dear Mme. Cibot, that outfit cost a thousand francs, and Fraisier
was just setting up for himself in the Quarter, and wanted the things
very badly. And what was more, she paid the bill without asking any
questions. That affair brought him clients, and now he is very busy;
but in my line a practice brings--"

"It is only the righteous that suffer here below," said La Cibot.
"Well, M. Poulain, good-day and thank you."

And herewith begins the tragedy, or, if you like to have it so, a
terrible comedy--the death of an old bachelor delivered over by
circumstances too strong for him to the rapacity and greed that
gathered about his bed. And other forces came to the support of
rapacity and greed; there was the picture collector's mania, that most
intense of all passions; there was the cupidity of the Sieur Fraisier,
whom you shall presently behold in his den, a sight to make you
shudder; and lastly, there was the Auvergnat thirsting for money,
ready for anything--even for a crime--that should bring him the
capital he wanted. The first part of the story serves in some sort as
a prelude to this comedy in which all the actors who have hitherto
occupied the stage will reappear.

The degradation of a word is one of those curious freaks of manners
upon which whole volumes of explanation might be written. Write to an
attorney and address him as "Lawyer So-and-so," and you insult him as
surely as you would insult a wholesale colonial produce merchant by
addressing your letter to "Mr. So-and-so, Grocer." There are plenty of
men of the world who ought to be aware, since the knowledge of such
subtle distinctions is their province, that you cannot insult a French
writer more cruelly than by calling him _un homme de lettres_--a
literary man. The word _monsieur_ is a capital example of the life and
death of words. Abbreviated from monseigneur, once so considerable a
title, and even now, in the form of _sire_, reserved for emperors and
kings, it is bestowed indifferently upon all and sundry; while the
twin-word _messire_, which is nothing but its double and equivalent,
if by any chance it slips into a certificate of burial, produces an
outcry in the Republican papers.

Magistrates, councillors, jurisconsults, judges, barristers, officers
for the crown, bailiffs, attorneys, clerks of the court, procurators,
solicitors, and agents of various kinds, represent or misrepresent
Justice. The "lawyer" and the bailiff's men (commonly called "the
brokers") are the two lowest rungs of the ladder. Now, the bailiff's
man is an outsider, an adventitious minister of justice, appearing to
see that judgment is executed; he is, in fact, a kind of inferior
executioner employed by the county court. But the word "lawyer" (homme
de loi) is a depreciatory term applied to the legal profession.
Consuming professional jealousy finds similar disparaging epithets for
fellow-travelers in every walk of life, and every calling has its
special insult. The scorn flung into the words _homme de loi, homme de
lettres_, is wanting in the plural form, which may be used without
offence; but in Paris every profession, learned or unlearned, has its
_omega_, the individual who brings it down to the level of the lowest
class; and the written law has its connecting link with the custom
right of the streets. There are districts where the pettifogging man
of business, known as Lawyer So-and-So, is still to be found. M.
Fraisier was to the member of the Incorporated Law Society as the
money-lender of the Halles, offering small loans for a short period at
an exorbitant interest, is to the great capitalist.

Working people, strange to say are as shy of officials as of
fashionable restaurants, they take advice from irregular sources as
they turn into a little wineshop to drink. Each rank in life finds its
own level, and there abides. None but a chosen few care to climb the
heights, few can feel at ease in the presence of their betters, or
take their place among them, like a Beaumarchais letting fall the
watch of the great lord who tried to humiliate him. And if there are
few who can even rise to a higher social level, those among them who
can throw off their swaddling-clothes are rare and great exceptions.

At six o'clock the next morning Mme. Cibot stood in the Rue de la
Perle; she was making a survey of the abode of her future adviser,
Lawyer Fraisier. The house was one of the old-fashioned kind formerly
inhabited by small tradespeople and citizens with small means. A
cabinetmaker's shop occupied almost the whole of the ground floor, as
well as the little yard behind, which was covered with his workshops
and warehouses; the small remaining space being taken up by the
porter's lodge and the passage entry in the middle. The staircase
walls were half rotten with damp and covered with saltpetre to such a
degree that the house seemed to be stricken with leprosy.

Mme. Cibot went straight to the porter's lodge, and there encountered
one of the fraternity, a shoemaker, his wife, and two small children,
all housed in a room ten feet square, lighted from the yard at the
back. La Cibot mentioned her profession, named herself, and spoke of
her house in the Rue de Normandie, and the two women were on cordial
terms at once. After a quarter of an hour spent in gossip while the
shoemaker's wife made breakfast ready for her husband and the
children, Mme. Cibot turned the conversation to the subject of the
lodgers, and spoke of the lawyer.

"I have come to see him on business," she said. "One of his friends,
Dr. Poulain, recommended me to him. Do you know Dr. Poulain?"

"I should think I do," said the lady of the Rue de la Perle. "He saved
my little girl's life when she had the croup."

"He saved my life, too, madame. What sort of a man is this M.

"He is the sort of man, my dear lady, out of whom it is very difficult
to get the postage-money at the end of the month."

To a person of La Cibot's intelligence this was enough.

"One may be poor and honest," observed she.

"I am sure I hope so," returned Fraisier's portress. "We are not
rolling in coppers, let alone gold or silver; but we have not a
farthing belonging to anybody else."

This sort of talk sounded familiar to La Cibot.

"In short, one can trust him, child, eh?"

"Lord! when M. Fraisier means well by any one, there is not his like,
so I have heard Mme. Florimond say."

"And why didn't she marry him when she owed her fortune to him?" La
Cibot asked quickly. "It is something for a little haberdasher, kept
by an old man, to be a barrister's wife--"

"Why?--" asked the portress, bringing Mme. Cibot out into the passage.
"Why?--You are going to see him, are you not, madame?--Very well, when
you are in his office you will know why."

From the state of the staircase, lighted by sash-windows on the side
of the yard, it was pretty evident that the inmates of the house, with
the exception of the landlord and M. Fraisier himself, were all
workmen. There were traces of various crafts in the deposit of mud
upon the steps--brass-filings, broken buttons, scraps of gauze, and
esparto grass lay scattered about. The walls of the upper stories were
covered with apprentices' ribald scrawls and caricatures. The
portress' last remark had roused La Cibot's curiosity; she decided,
not unnaturally, that she would consult Dr. Poulain's friend; but as
for employing him, that must depend upon her impressions.

"I sometimes wonder how Mme. Sauvage can stop in his service," said
the portress, by way of comment; she was following in Mme. Cibot's
wake. "I will come up with you, madame" she added; "I am taking the
milk and the newspaper up to my landlord."

Arrived on the second floor above the entresol, La Cibot beheld a door
of the most villainous description. The doubtful red paint was coated
for seven or eight inches round the keyhole with a filthy glaze, a
grimy deposit from which the modern house-decorator endeavors to
protect the doors of more elegant apartments by glass "finger-plates."
A grating, almost stopped up with some compound similar to the deposit
with which a restaurant-keeper gives an air of cellar-bound antiquity
to a merely middle-aged bottle, only served to heighten the general
resemblance to a prison door; a resemblance further heightened by the
trefoil-shaped iron-work, the formidable hinges, the clumsy
nail-heads. A miser, or a pamphleteer at strife with the world at
large, must surely have invented these fortifications. A leaden sink,
which received the waste water of the household, contributed its quota
to the fetid atmosphere of the staircase, and the ceiling was covered
with fantastic arabesques traced by candle-smoke--such arabesques! On
pulling a greasy acorn tassel attached to the bell-rope, a little bell
jangled feebly somewhere within, complaining of the fissure in its
metal sides.

Every detail was in keeping with the general dismal effect. La Cibot
heard a heavy footstep, and the asthmatic wheezing of a virago within,
and Mme. Sauvage presently showed herself. Adrien Brauwer might have
painted just such a hag for his picture of _Witches starting for the
Sabbath_; a stout, unwholesome slattern, five feet six inches in
height, with a grenadier countenance and a beard which far surpassed
La Cibot's own; she wore a cheap, hideously ugly cotton gown, a
bandana handkerchief knotted over hair which she still continued to
put in curl papers (using for that purpose the printed circulars which
her master received), and a huge pair of gold earrings like
cart-wheels in her ears. This female Cerberus carried a battered
skillet in one hand, and opening the door, set free an imprisoned
odor of scorched milk--a nauseous and penetrating smell, that lost
itself at once, however, among the fumes outside.

"What can I do for you, missus?" demanded Mme. Sauvage, and with a
truculent air she looked La Cibot over; evidently she was of the
opinion that the visitor was too well dressed, and her eyes looked the
more murderous because they were naturally bloodshot.

"I have come to see M. Fraisier; his friend, Dr. Poulain, sent me."

"Oh! come in, missus," said La Sauvage, grown very amiable of a
sudden, which proves that she was prepared for this morning visit.

With a sweeping courtesy, the stalwart woman flung open the door of a
private office, which looked upon the street, and discovered the
ex-attorney of Mantes.

The room was a complete picture of a third-rate solicitor's office;
with the stained wooden cases, the letter-files so old that they had
grown beards (in ecclesiastical language), the red tape dangling limp
and dejected, the pasteboard boxes covered with traces of the gambols
of mice, the dirty floor, the ceiling tawny with smoke. A frugal
allowance of wood was smouldering on a couple of fire-dogs on the
hearth. And on the chimney-piece above stood a foggy mirror and a
modern clock with an inlaid wooden case; Fraisier had picked it up at
an execution sale, together with the tawdry imitation rococo
candlesticks, with the zinc beneath showing through the lacquer in
several places.

M. Fraisier was small, thin, and unwholesome looking; his red face,
covered with an eruption, told of tainted blood; and he had, moreover,
a trick of continually scratching his right arm. A wig pushed to the
back of his head displayed a brick-colored cranium of ominous
conformation. This person rose from a cane-seated armchair, in which
he sat on a green leather cushion, assumed an agreeable expression,
and brought forward a chair.

"Mme. Cibot, I believe?" queried he, in dulcet tones.

"Yes, sir," answered the portress. She had lost her habitual

Something in the tones of a voice which strongly resembled the sounds
of the little door-bell, something in a glance even sharper than the
sharp green eyes of her future legal adviser, scared Mme. Cibot.
Fraisier's presence so pervaded the room, that any one might have
thought there was pestilence in the air; and in a flash Mme. Cibot
understood why Mme. Florimond had not become Mme. Fraisier.

"Poulain told me about you, my dear madame," said the lawyer, in the
unnatural fashion commonly described by the words "mincing tones";
tones sharp, thin, and grating as verjuice, in spite of all his

Arrived at this point, he tried to draw the skirts of his
dressing-gown over a pair of angular knees encased in threadbare felt.
The robe was an ancient printed cotton garment, lined with wadding
which took the liberty of protruding itself through various slits in
it here and there; the weight of this lining had pulled the skirts
aside, disclosing a dingy-hued flannel waistcoat beneath. With
something of a coxcomb's manner, Fraisier fastened this refractory
article of dress, tightening the girdle to define his reedy figure;
then with a blow of the tongs, he effected a reconciliation between
two burning brands that had long avoided one another, like brothers
after a family quarrel. A sudden bright idea struck him, and he rose
from his chair.

"Mme. Sauvage!" called he.


"I am not at home to anybody!"

"Eh! bless your life, there's no need to say that!"

"She is my old nurse," the lawyer said in some confusion.

"And she has not recovered her figure yet," remarked the heroine of
the Halles.

Fraisier laughed, and drew the bolt lest his housekeeper should
interrupt Mme. Cibot's confidences.

"Well, madame, explain your business," said he, making another effort
to drape himself in the dressing-gown. "Any one recommended to me by
the only friend I have in the world may count upon me--I may say

For half an hour Mme. Cibot talked, and the man of law made no
interruption of any sort; his face wore the expression of curious
interest with which a young soldier listens to a pensioner of "The Old
Guard." Fraisier's silence and acquiescence, the rapt attention with
which he appeared to listen to a torrent of gossip similar to the
samples previously given, dispelled some of the prejudices inspired in
La Cibot's mind by his squalid surroundings. The little lawyer with
the black-speckled green eyes was in reality making a study of his
client. When at length she came to a stand and looked to him to speak,
he was seized with a fit of the complaint known as a "churchyard
cough," and had recourse to an earthenware basin half full of herb
tea, which he drained.

"But for Poulain, my dear madame, I should have been dead before
this," said Fraisier, by way of answer to the portress' look of
motherly compassion; "but he will bring me round, he says--"

As all the client's confidences appeared to have slipped from the
memory of her legal adviser, she began to cast about for a way of
taking leave of a man so apparently near death.

"In an affair of this kind, madame," continued the attorney from
Mantes, suddenly returning to business, "there are two things which it
is most important to know. In the first place, whether the property is
sufficient to be worth troubling about; and in the second, who the
next-of-kin may be; for if the property is the booty, the next-of-kin
is the enemy."

La Cibot immediately began to talk of Remonencq and Elie Magus, and
said that the shrewd couple valued the pictures at six hundred
thousand francs.

"Would they take them themselves at that price?" inquired the lawyer.
"You see, madame, that men of business are shy of pictures. A picture
may mean a piece of canvas worth a couple of francs or a painting
worth two hundred thousand. Now, paintings worth two hundred thousand
francs are usually well known; and what errors in judgment people make
in estimating even the most famous pictures of all! There was once a
great capitalist whose collection was admired, visited, and engraved
--actually engraved! He was supposed to have spent millions of francs
on it. He died, as men must, and--well, his _genuine_ pictures did not
fetch more than two hundred thousand francs! You must let me see these
gentlemen.--Now for the next-of-kin," and Fraisier again relapsed into
his attitude of listener.

When President Camusot's name came up, he nodded with a grimace which
riveted Mme. Cibot's attention. She tried to read the forehead and the
villainous face, and found what is called in business a "wooden head."

"Yes, my dear sir," repeated La Cibot. "Yes, my M. Pons is own cousin
to President Camusot de Marville; he tells me that ten times a day. M.
Camusot the silk mercer was married twice--"

"He that has just been nominated for a peer of France?--"

"And his first wife was a Mlle. Pons, M. Pons' first cousin."

"Then they are first cousins once removed--"

"They are 'not cousins.' They have quarreled."

It may be remembered that before M. Camusot de Marville came to Paris,
he was President of the Tribunal of Mantes for five years; and not
only was his name still remembered there, but he had kept up a
correspondence with Mantes. Camusot's immediate successor, the judge
with whom he had been most intimate during his term of office, was
still President of the Tribunal, and consequently knew all about

"Do you know, madame," Fraisier said, when at last the red sluices of
La Cibot's torrent tongue were closed, "do you know that your
principal enemy will be a man who can send you to the scaffold?"

The portress started on her chair, making a sudden spring like a

"Calm yourself, dear madame," continued Fraisier. "You may not have
known the name of the President of the Chamber of Indictments at the
Court of Appeal in Paris; but you ought to have known that M. Pons
must have an heir-at-law. M. le President de Marville is your
invalid's sole heir; but as he is a collateral in the third degree, M.
Pons is entitled by law to leave his fortune as he pleases. You are
not aware either that, six weeks ago at least, M. le President's
daughter married the eldest son of M. le Comte Popinot, peer of
France, once Minister of Agriculture, and President of the Board of
Trade, one of the most influential politicians of the day. President
de Marville is even more formidable through this marriage than in his
own quality of head of the Court of Assize."

At that word La Cibot shuddered.

"Yes, and it is he who sends you there," continued Fraisier. "Ah! my
dear madame, you little know what a red robe means! It is bad enough
to have a plain black gown against you! You see me here, ruined, bald,
broken in health--all because, unwittingly, I crossed a mere attorney
for the crown in the provinces. I was forced to sell my connection at
a loss, and very lucky I was to come off with the loss of my money. If
I had tried to stand out, my professional position would have gone as

"One thing more you do not know," he continued, "and this it is. If
you had only to do with President Camusot himself, it would be
nothing; but he has a wife, mind you!--and if you ever find yourself
face to face with that wife, you will shake in your shoes as if you
were on the first step of the scaffold, your hair will stand on end.
The Presidente is so vindictive that she would spend ten years over
setting a trap to kill you. She sets that husband of hers spinning
like a top. Through her a charming young fellow committed suicide at
the Conciergerie. A count was accused of forgery--she made his
character as white as snow. She all but drove a person of the highest
quality from the Court of Charles X. Finally, she displaced the
Attorney-General, M. de Granville--"

"That lived in the Rue Vieille-du-Temple, at the corner of the Rue

"The very same. They say that she means to make her husband Home
Secretary, and I do not know that she will not gain her end.--If she
were to take it into her head to send us both to the Criminal Court
first and the hulks afterwards--I should apply for a passport and set
sail for America, though I am as innocent as a new-born babe. So well
I know what justice means. Now, see here, my dear Mme. Cibot; to marry
her only daughter to young Vicomte Popinot (heir to M. Pillerault,
your landlord, it is said)--to make that match, she stripped herself
of her whole fortune, so much so that the President and his wife have
nothing at this moment except his official salary. Can you suppose, my
dear madame, that under the circumstances Mme. la Presidente will let
M. Pons' property go out of the family without a word?--Why, I would
sooner face guns loaded with grape-shot than have such a woman for my

"But they have quarreled," put in La Cibot.

"What has that got to do with it?" asked Fraisier. "It is one reason
the more for fearing her. To kill a relative of whom you are tired, is
something; but to inherit his property afterwards--that is a real

"But the old gentleman has a horror of his relatives. He says over and
over again that these people--M. Cardot, M. Berthier, and the rest of
them (I can't remember their names)--have crushed him as a tumbril
cart crushes an egg--"

"Have you a mind to be crushed too?"

"Oh dear! oh dear!" cried La Cibot. "Ah! Ma'am Fontaine was right when
she said that I should meet with difficulties: still, she said that I
should succeed--"

"Listen, my dear Mme. Cibot.--As for making some thirty thousand
francs out of this business--that is possible; but for the whole of
the property, it is useless to think of it. We talked over your case
yesterday evening, Dr. Poulain and I--"

La Cibot started again.

"Well, what is the matter?"

"But if you knew about the affair, why did you let me chatter away
like a magpie?"

"Mme. Cibot, I knew all about your business, but I knew nothing of
Mme. Cibot. So many clients, so many characters--"

Mme. Cibot gave her legal adviser a queer look at this; all her
suspicions gleamed in her eyes. Fraisier saw this.

"I resume," he continued. "So, our friend Poulain was once called in
by you to attend old M. Pillerault, the Countess Popinot's
great-uncle; that is one of your claims to my devotion. Poulain goes
to see your landlord (mark this!) once a fortnight; he learned all
these particulars from him. M. Pillerault was present at his
grand-nephew's wedding--for he is an uncle with money to leave; he
has an income of fifteen thousand francs, though he has lived like a
hermit for the last five-and-twenty years, and scarcely spends a
thousand crowns--well, _he_ told Poulain all about this marriage. It
seems that your old musician was precisely the cause of the row; he
tried to disgrace his own family by way of revenge.--If you only hear
one bell, you only hear one sound.--Your invalid says that he meant
no harm, but everybody thinks him a monster of--"

"And it would not astonish me if he was!" cried La Cibot. "Just
imagine it!--For these ten years past I have been money out of pocket
for him, spending my savings on him, and he knows it, and yet he will
not let me lie down to sleep on a legacy!--No, sir! he will _not_. He
is obstinate, a regular mule he is.--I have talked to him these ten
days, and the cross-grained cur won't stir no more than a sign-post.
He shuts his teeth and looks at me like--The most that he would say
was that he would recommend me to M. Schmucke."

"Then he means to make his will in favor of this Schmucke?"

"Everything will go to him--"

"Listen, my dear Mme. Cibot, if I am to arrive at any definite
conclusions and think of a plan, I must know M. Schmucke. I must see
the property and have some talk with this Jew of whom you speak; and
then, let me direct you--"

"We shall see, M. Fraisier."

"What is this? 'We shall see?'" repeated Fraisier, speaking in the
voice natural to him, as he gave La Cibot a viperous glance. "Am I
your legal adviser or am I not, I say? Let us know exactly where we

La Cibot felt that he read her thoughts. A cold chill ran down her

"I have told you all I know," she said. She saw that she was at the
tiger's mercy.

"We attorneys are accustomed to treachery. Just think carefully over
your position; it is superb.--If you follow my advice point by point,
you will have thirty or forty thousand francs. But there is a reverse
side to this beautiful medal. How if the Presidente comes to hear that
M. Pons' property is worth a million of francs, and that you mean to
have a bit out of it?--for there is always somebody ready to take that
kind of errand--" he added parenthetically.

This remark, and the little pause that came before and after it, sent
another shudder through La Cibot. She thought at once that Fraisier
himself would probably undertake that office.

"And then, my dear client, in ten minutes old Pillerault is asked to
dismiss you, and then on a couple of hours' notice--"

"What does that matter to me?" said La Cibot, rising to her feet like
a Bellona; "I shall stay with the gentlemen as their housekeeper."

"And then, a trap will be set for you, and some fine morning you and
your husband will wake up in a prison cell, to be tried for your

"_I?_" cried La Cibot, "I that have not a farthing that doesn't belong
to me? . . . _I!_ . . . _I!_"

For five minutes she held forth, and Fraisier watched the great artist
before him as she executed a concerto of self-praise. He was quite
untouched, and even amused by the performance. His keen glances
pricked La Cibot like stilettos; he chuckled inwardly, till his
shrunken wig was shaking with laughter. He was a Robespierre at an age
when the Sylla of France was make couplets.

"And how? and why? And on what pretext?" demanded she, when she had
come to an end.

"You wish to know how you may come to the guillotine?"

La Cibot turned pale as death at the words; the words fell like a
knife upon her neck. She stared wildly at Fraisier.

"Listen to me, my dear child," began Fraisier, suppressing his inward
satisfaction at his client's discomfiture.

"I would sooner leave things as they are--" murmured La Cibot, and she
rose to go.

"Stay," Fraisier said imperiously. "You ought to know the risks that
you are running; I am bound to give you the benefit of my lights.--You
are dismissed by M. Pillerault, we will say; there is no doubt about
that, is there? You enter the service of these two gentlemen. Very
good! That is a declaration of war against the Presidente. You mean to
do everything you can to gain possession of the property, and to get a
slice of it at any rate--

"Oh, I am not blaming you," Fraisier continued, in answer to a gesture
from his client. "It is not my place to do so. This is a battle, and
you will be led on further than you think for. One grows full of one's
ideas, one hits hard--"

Another gesture of denial. This time La Cibot tossed her head.

"There, there, old lady," said Fraisier, with odious familiarity, "you
will go a very long way!--"

"You take me for a thief, I suppose?"

"Come, now, mamma, you hold a receipt in M. Schmucke's hand which did
not cost you much.--Ah! you are in the confessional, my lady! Don't
deceive your confessor, especially when the confessor has the power of
reading your thoughts."

La Cibot was dismayed by the man's perspicacity; now she knew why he
had listened to her so intently.

"Very good," continued he, "you can admit at once that the Presidente
will not allow you to pass her in the race for the property.--You will
be watched and spied upon.--You get your name into M. Pons' will;
nothing could be better. But some fine day the law steps in, arsenic
is found in a glass, and you and your husband are arrested, tried, and
condemned for attempting the life of the Sieur Pons, so as to come by
your legacy. I once defended a poor woman at Versailles; she was in
reality as innocent as you would be in such a case. Things were as I
have told you, and all that I could do was to save her life. The
unhappy creature was sentenced to twenty years' penal servitude. She
is working out her time now at St. Lazare."

Mme. Cibot's terror grew to the highest pitch. She grew paler and
paler, staring at the little, thin man with the green eyes, as some
wretched Moor, accused of adhering to her own religion, might gaze at
the inquisitor who doomed her to the stake.

"Then, do you tell me, that if I leave you to act, and put my
interests in your hands, I shall get something without fear?"

"I guarantee you thirty thousand francs," said Fraisier, speaking like
a man sure of the fact.

"After all, you know how fond I am of dear Dr. Poulain," she began
again in her most coaxing tones; "he told me to come to you, worthy
man, and he did not send me here to be told that I shall be
guillotined for poisoning some one."

The thought of the guillotine so moved her that she burst into tears,
her nerves were shaken, terror clutched at her heart, she lost her
head. Fraisier gloated over his triumph. When he saw his client
hesitate, he thought that he had lost his chance; he had set himself
to frighten and quell La Cibot till she was completely in his power,
bound hand and foot. She had walked into his study as a fly walks into
a spider's web; there she was doomed to remain, entangled in the toils
of the little lawyer who meant to feed upon her. Out of this bit of
business, indeed, Fraisier meant to gain the living of old days;
comfort, competence, and consideration. He and his friend Dr. Poulain
had spent the whole previous evening in a microscopic examination of
the case; they had made mature deliberations. The doctor described
Schmucke for his friend's benefit, and the alert pair had plumbed all
hypotheses and scrutinized all risks and resources, till Fraisier,
exultant, cried aloud, "Both our fortunes lie in this!" He had gone so
far as to promise Poulain a hospital, and as for himself, he meant to
be justice of the peace of an arrondissement.

To be a justice of the peace! For this man with his abundant capacity,
for this doctor of law without a pair of socks to his name, the dream
was a hippogriff so restive, that he thought of it as a
deputy-advocate thinks of the silk gown, as an Italian priest thinks
of the tiara. It was indeed a wild dream!

M. Vitel, the justice of the peace before whom Fraisier pleaded, was a
man of sixty-nine, in failing health; he talked of retiring on a
pension; and Fraisier used to talk with Poulain of succeeding him,
much as Poulain talked of saving the life of some rich heiress and
marrying her afterwards. No one knows how greedily every post in the
gift of authority is sought after in Paris. Every one wants to live in
Paris. If a stamp or tobacco license falls in, a hundred women rise up
as one and stir all their friends to obtain it. Any vacancy in the
ranks of the twenty-four collectors of taxes sends a flood of
ambitious folk surging in upon the Chamber of Deputies. Decisions are
made in committee, all appointments are made by the Government. Now
the salary of a justice of the peace, the lowest stipendiary
magistrate in Paris, is about six thousand francs. The post of
registrar to the court is worth a hundred thousand francs. Few places
are more coveted in the administration. Fraisier, as a justice of the
peace, with the head physician of a hospital for his friend, would
make a rich marriage himself and a good match for Dr. Poulain. Each
would lend a hand to each.

Night set its leaden seal upon the plans made by the sometime attorney
of Mantes, and a formidable scheme sprouted up, a flourishing scheme,
fertile in harvests of gain and intrigue. La Cibot was the hinge upon
which the whole matter turned; and for this reason, any rebellion on
the part of the instrument must be at once put down; such action on
her part was quite unexpected; but Fraisier had put forth all the
strength of his rancorous nature, and the audacious portress lay
trampled under his feet.

"Come, reassure yourself, my dear madame," he remarked, holding out
his hand. The touch of the cold, serpent-like skin made a terrible
impression upon the portress. It brought about something like a
physical reaction, which checked her emotion; Mme. Fontaine's toad,
Astaroth, seemed to her to be less deadly than this poison-sac that
wore a sandy wig and spoke in tones like the creaking of a hinge.

"Do not imagine that I am frightening you to no purpose," Fraisier
continued. (La Cibot's feeling of repulsion had not escaped him.) "The
affairs which made Mme. la Presidente's dreadful reputation are so
well known at the law-courts, that you can make inquiries there if you
like. The great person who was all but sent into a lunatic asylum was
the Marquis d'Espard. The Marquis d'Esgrignon was saved from the
hulks. The handsome young man with wealth and a great future before
him, who was to have married a daughter of one of the first families
of France, and hanged himself in a cell of the Conciergerie, was the
celebrated Lucien de Rubempre; the affair made a great deal of noise
in Paris at the time. That was a question of a will. His mistress, the
notorious Esther, died and left him several millions, and they accused
the young fellow of poisoning her. He was not even in Paris at the
time of her death, nor did he so much as know the woman had left the
money to him!--One cannot well be more innocent than that! Well, after
M. Camusot examined him, he hanged himself in his cell. Law, like
medicine, has its victims. In the first case, one man suffers for the
many, and in the second, he dies for science," he added, and an ugly
smile stole over his lips. "Well, I know the risks myself, you see;
poor and obscure little attorney as I am, the law has been the ruin of
me. My experience was dearly bought--it is all at your service."

"Thank you, no," said La Cibot; "I will have nothing to do with it,
upon my word! . . . I shall have nourished ingratitude, that is all! I
want nothing but my due; I have thirty years of honesty behind me,
sir. M. Pons says that he will recommend me to his friend Schmucke;
well and good, I shall end my days in peace with the German, good

Fraisier had overshot his mark. He had discouraged La Cibot. Now he
was obliged to remove these unpleasant impressions.

"Do not let us give up," he said; "just go away quietly home. Come,
now, we will steer the affair to a good end."

"But what about my _rentes_, what am I to do to get them, and--"

"And feel no remorse?" he interrupted quickly. "Eh! it is precisely
for that that men of business were invented; unless you keep within
the law, you get nothing. You know nothing of law; I know a good deal.
I will see that you keep on the right side of it, and you can hold
your own in all men's sight. As for your conscience, that is your own

"Very well, tell me how to do it," returned La Cibot, curious and

"I do not know how yet. I have not looked at the strong points of the
case yet; I have been busy with the obstacles. But the first thing to
be done is to urge him to make a will; you cannot go wrong over that;
and find out, first of all, how Pons means to leave his fortune; for
if you were his heir--"

"No, no; he does not like me. Ah! if I had but known the value of his
gimcracks, and if I had known what I know now about his amours, I
should be easy in my mind this day--"

"Keep on, in fact," broke in Fraisier. "Dying folk have queer fancies,
my dear madame; they disappoint hopes many a time. Let him make his
will, and then we shall see. And of all things, the property must be
valued. So I must see this Remonencq and the Jew; they will be very
useful to us. Put entire confidence in me, I am at your disposal. When
a client is a friend to me, I am his friend through thick and thin.
Friend or enemy, that is my character."

"Very well," said La Cibot, "I am yours entirely; and as for fees, M.

"Let us say nothing about that," said Fraisier. "Think how you can
keep Poulain at the bedside; he is one of the most upright and
conscientious men I know; and, you see, we want some one there whom we
can trust. Poulain would do better than I; I have lost my character."

"You look as if you had," said La Cibot; "but, for my own part, I
should trust you."

"And you would do well. Come to see me whenever anything happens, and
--there!--you are an intelligent woman; all will go well."

"Good-day, M. Fraisier. I hope you will recover your health. Your
servant, sir."

Fraisier went to the door with his client. But this time it was he,
and not La Cibot, who was struck with an idea on the threshold.

"If you could persuade M. Pons to call me in, it would be a great

"I will try," said La Cibot.

Fraisier drew her back into his sanctum. "Look here, old lady, I know
M. Trognon, the notary of the quarter, very well. If M. Pons has not a
notary, mention M. Trognon to him. Make him take M. Trognon--"

"Right," returned La Cibot.

And as she came out again she heard the rustle of a dress and the
sound of a stealthy, heavy footstep.

Out in the street and by herself, Mme. Cibot to some extent recovered
her liberty of mind as she walked. Though the influence of the
conversation was still upon her, and she had always stood in dread of
scaffolds, justice, and judges, she took a very natural resolution
which was to bring about a conflict of strategy between her and her
formidable legal adviser.

"What do I want with other folk?" said she to herself. "Let us make a
round sum, and afterwards I will take all that they offer me to push
their interests;" and this thought, as will shortly be seen, hastened
the poor old musician's end.

"Well, dear M. Schmucke, and how is our dear, adored patient?" asked
La Cibot, as she came into the room.

"Fery pad; Bons haf peen vandering all der night."

"Then, what did he say?"

"Chust nonsense. He vould dot I haf all his fortune, on kondition dot
I sell nodings.--Den he cried! Boor mann! It made me ver' sad."

"Never mind, honey," returned the portress. "I have kept you waiting
for your breakfast; it is nine o'clock and past; but don't scold me. I
have business on hand, you see, business of yours. Here are we without
any money, and I have been out to get some."

"Vere?" asked Schmucke.

"Of my uncle."


"Up the spout."


"Oh! the dear man! how simple he is? No, you are a saint, a love, an
archbishop of innocence, a man that ought to be stuffed, as the old
actor said. What! you have lived in Paris for twenty-nine years; you
saw the Revolution of July, you did, and you have never so much as
heard tell of a pawnbroker--a man that lends you money on your things?
--I have been pawning our silver spoons and forks, eight of them,
thread pattern. Pooh, Cibot can eat his victuals with German silver;
it is quite the fashion now, they say. It is not worth while to say
anything to our angel there; it would upset him and make him yellower
than before, and he is quite cross enough as it is. Let us get him
round again first, and afterwards we shall see. What must be must; and
we must take things as we find them, eh?"

"Goot voman! nople heart!" cried poor Schmucke, with a great
tenderness in his face. He took La Cibot's hand and clasped it to his
breast. When he looked up, there were tears in his eyes.

"There, that will do, Papa Schmucke; how funny you are! This is too
bad. I am an old daughter of the people--my heart is in my hand. I
have something _here_, you see, like you have, hearts of gold that you
are," she added, slapping her chest.

"Baba Schmucke!" continued the musician. "No. To know de tepths of
sorrow, to cry mit tears of blood, to mount up in der hefn--dat is
mein lot! I shall not lif after Bons--"

"Gracious! I am sure you won't, you are killing yourself.--Listen,


"Very well, my sonny--"


"My lamb, then, if you like it better."

"It is not more clear."

"Oh, well, let _me_ take care of you and tell you what to do; for if
you go on like this, I shall have both of you laid up on my hands, you
see. To my little way of thinking, we must do the work between us. You
cannot go about Paris to give lessons for it tires you, and then you
are not fit to do anything afterwards, and somebody must sit up of a
night with M. Pons, now that he is getting worse and worse. I will run
round to-day to all your pupils and tell them that you are ill; is it
not so? And then you can spend the nights with our lamb, and sleep of
a morning from five o'clock till, let us say, two in the afternoon. I
myself will take the day, the most tiring part, for there is your
breakfast and dinner to get ready, and the bed to make, and the things
to change, and the doses of medicine to give. I could not hold out for
another ten days at this rate. What would become of you if I were to
fall ill? And you yourself, it makes one shudder to see you; just look
at yourself, after sitting up with him last night!"

She drew Schmucke to the glass, and Schmucke thought that there was a
great change.

"So, if you are of my mind, I'll have your breakfast ready in a jiffy.
Then you will look after our poor dear again till two o'clock. Let me
have a list of your people, and I will soon arrange it. You will be
free for a fortnight. You can go to bed when I come in, and sleep till

So prudent did the proposition seem, that Schmucke then and there
agreed to it.

"Not a word to M. Pons; he would think it was all over with him, you
know, if we were to tell him in this way that his engagement at the
theatre and his lessons are put off. He would be thinking that he
should not find his pupils again, poor gentleman--stuff and nonsense!
M. Poulain says that we shall save our Benjamin if we keep him as
quiet as possible."

"Ach! fery goot! Pring up der preakfast; I shall make der bett, and
gif you die attresses!--You are right; it vould pe too much for me."

An hour later La Cibot, in her Sunday clothes, departed in great
state, to the no small astonishment of the Remonencqs; she promised
herself that she would support the character of confidential servant
of the pair of nutcrackers, in the boarding-schools and private
families in which they gave music-lessons.

It is needless to repeat all the gossip in which La Cibot indulged on
her round. The members of every family, the head-mistress of every
boarding-school, were treated to a variation upon the theme of Pons'
illness. A single scene, which took place in the Illustrious
Gaudissart's private room, will give a sufficient idea of the rest. La
Cibot met with unheard-of difficulties, but she succeeded in
penetrating at last to the presence. Kings and cabinet ministers are
less difficult of access than the manager of a theatre in Paris; nor
is it hard to understand why such prodigious barriers are raised
between them and ordinary mortals: a king has only to defend himself
from ambition; the manager of a theatre has reason to dread the
wounded vanity of actors and authors.

La Cibot, however, struck up an acquaintance with the portress, and
traversed all distances in a brief space. There is a sort of
freemasonry among the porter tribe, and, indeed, among the members of
every profession; for each calling has its shibboleth, as well as its
insulting epithet and the mark with which it brands its followers.

"Ah! madame, you are the portress here," began La Cibot. "I myself am
a portress, in a small way, in a house in the Rue de Normandie. M.
Pons, your conductor, lodges with us. Oh, how glad I should be to have
your place, and see the actors and dancers and authors go past. It is
the marshal's baton in our profession, as the old actor said."

"And how is M. Pons going on, good man?" inquired the portress.

"He is not going on at all; he has not left his bed these two months.
He will only leave the house feet foremost, that is certain."

"He will be missed."

"Yes. I have come with a message to the manager from him. Just try to
get me a word with him, dear."

"A lady from M. Pons to see you, sir!" After this fashion did the
youth attached to the service of the manager's office announce La
Cibot, whom the portress below had particularly recommended to his

Gaudissart had just come in for a rehearsal. Chance so ordered it that
no one wished to speak with him; actors and authors were alike late.
Delighted to have news of his conductor, he made a Napoleonic gesture,
and La Cibot was admitted.

The sometime commercial traveler, now the head of a popular theatre,
regarded his sleeping partners in the light of a legitimate wife; they
were not informed of all his doings. The flourishing state of his
finances had reacted upon his person. Grown big and stout and
high-colored with good cheer and prosperity, Gaudissart made no
disguise of his transformation into a Mondor.

"We are turning into a city-father," he once said, trying to be the
first to laugh.

"You are only in the Turcaret stage yet, though," retorted Bixiou, who
often replaced Gaudissart in the company of the leading lady of the
ballet, the celebrated Heloise Brisetout.

The former Illustrious Gaudissart, in fact, was exploiting the theatre
simply and solely for his own particular benefit, and with brutal
disregard of other interests. He first insinuated himself as a
collaborator in various ballets, plays, and vaudevilles; then he
waited till the author wanted money and bought up the other half of
the copyright. These after-pieces and vaudevilles, always added to
successful plays, brought him in a daily harvest of gold coins. He
trafficked by proxy in tickets, allotting a certain number to himself,
as the manager's share, till he took in this way a tithe of the
receipts. And Gaudissart had other methods of making money besides
these official contributions. He sold boxes, he took presents from
indifferent actresses burning to go upon the stage to fill small
speaking parts, or simply to appear as queens, or pages, and the like;
he swelled his nominal third share of the profits to such purpose that
the sleeping partners scarcely received one-tenth instead of the
remaining two-thirds of the net receipts. Even so, however, the tenth
paid them a dividend of fifteen per cent on their capital. On the
strength of that fifteen per cent Gaudissart talked of his
intelligence, honesty, and zeal, and the good fortune of his partners.
When Count Popinot, showing an interest in the concern, asked Matifat,
or General Gouraud (Matifat's son-in-law), or Crevel, whether they
were satisfied with Gaudissart, Gouraud, now a peer of France,
answered, "They say he robs us; but he is such a clever, good-natured
fellow, that we are quite satisfied."

"This is like La Fontaine's fable," smiled the ex-cabinet minister.

Gaudissart found investments for his capital in other ventures. He
thought well of Schwab, Brunner, and the Graffs; that firm was
promoting railways, he became a shareholder in the lines. His
shrewdness was carefully hidden beneath the frank carelessness of a
man of pleasure; he seemed to be interested in nothing but amusements
and dress, yet he thought everything over, and his wide experience of
business gained as a commercial traveler stood him in good stead.

A self-made man, he did not take himself seriously. He gave suppers
and banquets to celebrities in rooms sumptuously furnished by the
house decorator. Showy by nature, with a taste for doing things
handsomely, he affected an easy-going air, and seemed so much the less
formidable because he had kept the slang of "the road" (to use his own
expression), with a few green-room phrases superadded. Now, artists in
the theatrical profession are wont to express themselves with some
vigor; Gaudissart borrowed sufficient racy green-room talk to blend
with his commercial traveler's lively jocularity, and passed for a
wit. He was thinking at that moment of selling his license and "going
into another line," as he said. He thought of being chairman of a
railway company, of becoming a responsible person and an
administrator, and finally of marrying Mlle. Minard, daughter of the
richest mayor in Paris. He might hope to get into the Chamber through
"his line," and, with Popinot's influence, to take office under the

"Whom have I the honor of addressing?" inquired Gaudissart, looking
magisterially at La Cibot.

"I am M. Pons' confidential servant, sir."

"Well, and how is the dear fellow?"

"Ill, sir--very ill."

"The devil he is! I am sorry to hear it--I must come and see him; he
is such a man as you don't often find."

"Ah yes! sir, he is a cherub, he is. I have always wondered how he
came to be in a theatre."

"Why, madame, the theatre is a house of correction for morals," said
Gaudissart. "Poor Pons!--Upon my word, one ought to cultivate the
species to keep up the stock. 'Tis a pattern man, and has talent too.
When will he be able to take his orchestra again, do you think? A
theatre, unfortunately, is like a stage coach: empty or full, it
starts at the same time. Here at six o'clock every evening, up goes
the curtain; and if we are never sorry for ourselves, it won't make
good music. Let us see now--how is he?"

La Cibot pulled out her pocket-handkerchief and held it to her eyes.

"It is a terrible thing to say, my dear sir," said she; "but I am
afraid we shall lose him, though we are as careful of him as of the
apple of our eyes. And, at the same time, I came to say that you must
not count on M. Schmucke, worthy man, for he is going to sit up with
him at night. One cannot help doing as if there was hope still left,
and trying one's best to snatch the dear, good soul from death. But
the doctor has given him up----"

"What is the matter with him?"

"He is dying of grief, jaundice, and liver complaint, with a lot of
family affairs to complicate matters."

"And a doctor as well," said Gaudissart. "He ought to have had Lebrun,
our doctor; it would have cost him nothing."

"M. Pons' doctor is a Providence on earth. But what can a doctor do,
no matter how clever he is, with such complications?"

"I wanted the good pair of nutcrackers badly for the accompaniment of
my new fairy piece."

"Is there anything that I can do for them?" asked La Cibot, and her
expression would have done credit to a Jocrisse.

Gaudissart burst out laughing.

"I am their housekeeper, sir, and do many things for my gentlemen--"
She did not finish her speech, for in the middle of Gaudissart's roar
of laughter a woman's voice exclaimed, "If you are laughing, old man,
one may come in," and the leading lady of the ballet rushed into the
room and flung herself upon the only sofa. The newcomer was Heloise
Brisetout, with a splendid _algerienne_, such as scarves used to be
called, about her shoulders.

"Who is amusing you? Is it this lady? What post does she want?" asked
this nymph, giving the manager such a glance as artist gives artist, a
glance that would make a subject for a picture.

Heloise, a young woman of exceedingly literary tastes, was on intimate
terms with great and famous artists in Bohemia. Elegant, accomplished,
and graceful, she was more intelligent than dancers usually are. As
she put her question, she sniffed at a scent-bottle full of some
aromatic perfume.

"One fine woman is as good as another, madame; and if I don't sniff
the pestilence out of a scent-bottle, nor daub brickdust on my

"That would be a sinful waste, child, when Nature put it on for you to
begin with," said Heloise, with a side glance at her manager.

"I am an honest woman--"

"So much the worse for you. It is not every one by a long chalk that
can find some one to keep them, and kept I am, and in slap-up style,

"So much the worse! What do you mean? Oh, you may toss your head and
go about in scarves, you will never have as many declarations as I
have had, missus. You will never match the _Belle Ecaillere of the
Cadran Bleu_."

Heloise Brisetout rose at once to her feet, stood at attention, and
made a military salute, like a soldier who meets his general.

"What?" asked Gaudissart, "are you really _La Belle Ecaillere_ of whom
my father used to talk?"

"In that case the cachucha and the polka were after your time; and
madame has passed her fiftieth year," remarked Heloise, and striking
an attitude, she declaimed, "'Cinna, let us be friends.'"

"Come, Heloise, the lady is not up to this; let her alone."

"Madame is perhaps the New Heloise," suggested La Cibot, with sly

"Not bad, old lady!" cried Gaudissart.

"It is a venerable joke," said the dancer, "a grizzled pun; find us
another old lady--or take a cigarette."

"I beg your pardon, madame, I feel too unhappy to answer you; my two
gentlemen are very ill; and to buy nourishment for them and to spare
them trouble, I have pawned everything down to my husband's clothes
that I pledged this morning. Here is the ticket!"

"Oh! here, the affair is becoming tragic," cried the fair Heloise.
"What is it all about?"

"Madame drops down upon us like--"

"Like a dancer," said Heloise; "let me prompt you,--missus!"

"Come, I am busy," said Gaudissart. "The joke has gone far enough.
Heloise, this is M. Pons' confidential servant; she had come to tell
me that I must not count upon him; our poor conductor is not expected
to live. I don't know what to do."

"Oh! poor man; why, he must have a benefit."

"It would ruin him," said Gaudissart. "He might find next day that he
owed five hundred francs to charitable institutions, and they refuse
to admit that there are any sufferers in Paris except their own. No,
look here, my good woman, since you are going in for the Montyon

He broke off, rang the bell, and the youth before mentioned suddenly

"Tell the cashier to send me up a thousand-franc note.--Sit down,

"Ah! poor woman, look, she is crying!" exclaimed Heloise. "How stupid!
There, there, mother, we will go to see him; don't cry.--I say, now,"
she continued, taking the manager into a corner, "you want to make me
take the leading part in the ballet in _Ariane_, you Turk. You are
going to be married, and you know how I can make you miserable--"

"Heloise, my heart is copper-bottomed like a man-of-war."

"I shall bring your children on the scene! I will borrow some

"I have owned up about the attachment."

"Do be nice, and give Pons' post to Garangeot; he has talent, poor
fellow, and he has not a penny; and I promise peace."

"But wait till Pons is dead, in case the good man may come back

"Oh, as to that, no, sir," said La Cibot. "He began to wander in his
mind last night, and now he is delirious. It will soon be over,

"At any rate, take Garangeot as a stop-gap!" pleaded Heloise. "He has
the whole press on his side--"

Just at that moment the cashier came in with a note for a thousand
francs in his hand.

"Give it to madame here," said Gaudissart. "Good-day, my good woman;
take good care of the dear man, and tell him that I am coming to see
him to-morrow, or sometime--as soon as I can, in short."

"A drowning man," said Heloise.

"Ah, sir, hearts like yours are only found in a theatre. May God bless

"To what account shall I post this item?" asked the cashier.

"I will countersign the order. Post it to the bonus account."

Before La Cibot went out, she made Mlle. Brisetout a fine courtesy,
and heard Gaudissart remark to his mistress:

"Can Garangeot do the dance-music for the _Mohicans_ in twelve days?
If he helps me out of my predicament, he shall have Pons' place."

La Cibot had cut off the incomes of the two friends, she had left them
without means of subsistence if Pons should chance to recover, and was
better rewarded for all this mischief than for any good that she had
done. In a few days' time her treacherous trick would bring about the
desired result--Elie Magus would have his coveted pictures. But if
this first spoliation was to be effected, La Cibot must throw dust in
Fraisier's eyes, and lull the suspicions of that terrible
fellow-conspirator of her own seeking; and Elie Magus and Remonencq
must be bound over to secrecy.

As for Remonencq, he had gradually come to feel such a passion as
uneducated people can conceive when they come to Paris from the depths
of the country, bringing with them all the fixed ideas bred of the
solitary country life; all the ignorance of a primitive nature, all
the brute appetites that become so many fixed ideas. Mme. Cibot's
masculine beauty, her vivacity, her market-woman's wit, had all been
remarked by the marine store-dealer. He thought at first of taking La
Cibot from her husband, bigamy among the lower classes in Paris being
much more common than is generally supposed; but greed was like a
slip-knot drawn more and more tightly about his heart, till reason at
length was stifled. When Remonencq computed that the commission paid
by himself and Elie Magus amounted to about forty thousand francs, he
determined to have La Cibot for his legitimate spouse, and his
thoughts turned from a misdemeanor to a crime. A romantic purely
speculative dream, persistently followed through a tobacco-smoker's
long musings as he lounged in the doorway, had brought him to the
point of wishing that the little tailor were dead. At a stroke he
beheld his capital trebled; and then he thought of La Cibot. What a
good saleswoman she would be! What a handsome figure she would make in
a magnificent shop on the boulevards! The twofold covetousness turned
Remonencq's head. In fancy he took a shop that he knew of on the
Boulevard de la Madeleine, he stocked it with Pons' treasures, and
then--after dreaming his dream in sheets of gold, after seeing
millions in the blue spiral wreaths that rose from his pipe, he awoke
to find himself face to face with the little tailor. Cibot was
sweeping the yard, the doorstep, and the pavement just as his neighbor
was taking down the shutters and displaying his wares; for since Pons
fell ill, La Cibot's work had fallen to her husband.

The Auvergnat began to look upon the little, swarthy, stunted,
copper-colored tailor as the one obstacle in his way, and pondered how
to be rid of him. Meanwhile this growing passion made La Cibot very
proud, for she had reached an age when a woman begins to understand
that she may grow old.

So early one morning, she meditatively watched Remonencq as he
arranged his odds and ends for sale. She wondered how far his love
could go. He came across to her.

"Well," he said, "are things going as you wish?"

"It is you who makes me uneasy," said La Cibot. "I shall be talked
about; the neighbors will see you making sheep's eyes at me."

She left the doorway and dived into the Auvergnat's back shop.

"What a notion!" said Remonencq.

"Come here, I have something to say to you," said La Cibot. "M. Pons'
heirs are about to make a stir; they are capable of giving us a lot of
trouble. God knows what might come of it if they send the lawyers here
to poke their noses into the affair like hunting-dogs. I cannot get M.
Schmucke to sell a few pictures unless you like me well enough to keep
the secret--such a secret!--With your head on the block, you must not
say where the pictures come from, nor who it was that sold them. When
M. Pons is once dead and buried, you understand, nobody will know how
many pictures there ought to be; if there are fifty-three pictures
instead of sixty-seven, nobody will be any the wiser. Besides, if M.
Pons sold them himself while he was alive, nobody can find fault."

"No," agreed Remonencq, "it is all one to me, but M. Elie Magus will
want receipts in due form."

"And you shall have your receipt too, bless your life! Do you suppose
that _I_ should write them?--No, M. Schmucke will do that. But tell
your Jew that he must keep the secret as closely as you do," she

"We will be as mute as fishes. That is our business. I myself can
read, but I cannot write, and that is why I want a capable wife that
has had education like you. I have thought of nothing but earning my
bread all my days, and now I wish I had some little Remonencqs. Do
leave that Cibot of yours."

"Why, here comes your Jew," said the portress; "we can arrange the
whole business."

Elie Magus came every third day very early in the morning to know when
he could buy his pictures. "Well, my dear lady," said he, "how are we
getting on?"

"Has nobody been to speak to you about M. Pons and his gimcracks?"
asked La Cibot.

"I received a letter from a lawyer," said Elie Magus, "a rascal that
seems to me to be trying to work for himself; I don't like people of
that sort, so I took no notice of his letter. Three days afterwards he
came to see me, and left his card. I told my porter that I am never at
home when he calls."

"You are a love of a Jew," said La Cibot. Little did she know Elie
Magus' prudence. "Well, sonnies, in a few days' time I will bring M.
Schmucke to the point of selling you seven or eight pictures, ten at
most. But on two conditions.--Absolute secrecy in the first place. M.
Schmucke will send for you, sir, is not that so? And M. Remonencq
suggested that you might be a purchaser, eh?--And, come what may, I
will not meddle in it for nothing. You are giving forty-six thousand
francs for four pictures, are you not?"

"So be it," groaned the Jew.

"Very good. This is the second condition. You will give me
_forty-three_ thousand francs, and pay three thousand only to M.
Schmucke; Remonencq will buy four for two thousand francs, and hand
over the surplus to me.--But at the same time, you see my dear M.
Magus, I am going to help you and Remonencq to a splendid bit of
business--on condition that the profits are shared among the three of
us. I will introduce you to that lawyer, as he, no doubt, will come
here. You shall make a valuation of M. Pons' things at the prices
which you can give for them, so that M. Fraisier may know how much
the property is worth. But--not until after our sale, you understand!"

"I understand," said the Jew, "but it takes time to look at the things
and value them."

"You shall have half a day. But, there, that is my affair. Talk it
over between yourselves, my boys, and for that matter the business
will be settled by the day after to-morrow. I will go round to speak
to this Fraisier; for Dr. Poulain tells him everything that goes on in
the house, and it is a great bother to keep that scarecrow quiet."

La Cibot met Fraisier halfway between the Rue de la Perle and the Rue
de Normandie; so impatient was he to know the "elements of the case"
(to use his own expression), that he was coming to see her.

"I say! I was going to you," said she.

Fraisier grumbled because Elie Magus had refused to see him. But La
Cibot extinguished the spark of distrust that gleamed in the lawyer's
eyes by informing him that Elie Magus had returned from a journey, and
that she would arrange for an interview in Pons' rooms and for the
valuation of the property; for the day after to-morrow at latest.

"Deal frankly with me," returned Fraisier. "It is more than probable
that I shall act for M. Pons' next-of-kin. In that case, I shall be
even better able to serve you."

The words were spoken so drily that La Cibot quaked. This starving
limb of the law was sure to manoeuvre on his side as she herself was
doing. She resolved forthwith to hurry on the sale of the pictures.

La Cibot was right. The doctor and lawyer had clubbed together to buy
a new suit of clothes in which Fraisier could decently present himself
before Mme. la Presidente Camusot de Marville. Indeed, if the clothes
had been ready, the interview would have taken place sooner, for the
fate of the couple hung upon its issues. Fraisier left Mme. Cibot, and
went to try on his new clothes. He found them waiting for him, went
home, adjusted his new wig, and towards ten o'clock that morning set
out in a carriage from a livery stable for the Rue de Hanovre, hoping
for an audience. In his white tie, yellow gloves, and new wig,
redolent of _eau de Portugal_, he looked something like a poisonous
essence kept in a cut-glass bottle, seeming but the more deadly
because everything about it is daintily neat, from the stopper covered
with white kid to the label and the thread. His peremptory manner, the
eruption on his blotched countenance, the green eyes, and a malignant
something about him,--all these things struck the beholder with the
same sense of surprise as storm-clouds in a blue sky. If in his
private office, as he showed himself to La Cibot, he was the common
knife that a murderer catches up for his crime,--now, at the
Presidente's door, he was the daintily-wrought dagger which a woman
sets among the ornaments on her what-not.

A great change had taken place in the Rue de Hanovre. The Count and
Countess Popinot and the young people would not allow the President
and his wife to leave the house that they had settled upon their
daughter to pay rent elsewhere. M. and Mme. la Presidente, therefore,
were installed on the second floor, now left at liberty, for the
elderly lady had made up her mind to end her days in the country.

Mme. Camusot took Madeleine Vivet, with her cook and her man-servant,
to the second floor, and would have been as much pinched for money as
in the early days, if the house had not been rent free, and the
President's salary increased to ten thousand francs. This _aurea
mediocritas_ was but little satisfactory to Mme. de Marville. Even now
she wished for means more in accordance with her ambitions; for when
she handed over their fortune to their daughter, she spoiled her
husband's prospects. Now Amelie had set her heart upon seeing her
husband in the Chamber of Deputies; she was not one of those women who
find it easy to give up their way; and she by no means despaired of
returning her husband for the arrondissement in which Marville is
situated. So for the past two months she had teased her father-in-law,
M. le Baron Camusot (for the new peer of France had been advanced to
that rank), and done her utmost to extort an advance of a hundred
thousand francs of the inheritance which one day would be theirs. She
wanted, she said, to buy a small estate worth about two thousand
francs per annum set like a wedge within the Marville lands. There she
and her husband would be near their children and in their own house,
while the addition would round out the Marville property. With that
the Presidente laid stress upon the recent sacrifices which she and
her husband had been compelled to make in order to marry Cecile to
Viscount Popinot, and asked the old man how he could bar his eldest
son's way to the highest honors of the magistracy, when such honors
were only to be had by those who made themselves a strong position in
parliament. Her husband would know how to take up such a position, he
would make himself feared by those in office, and so on and so on.

"They do nothing for you unless you tighten a halter round their necks
to loosen their tongues," said she. "They are ungrateful. What do they
not owe to Camusot! Camusot brought the House of Orleans to the throne
by enforcing the ordinances of July."

M. Camusot senior answered that he had gone out of his depth in
railway speculations. He quite admitted that it was necessary to come
to the rescue, but put off the day until shares should rise, as they
were expected to do.

This half-promise, extracted some few days before Fraisier's visit,
had plunged the Presidente into depths of affliction. It was doubtful
whether the ex-proprietor of Marville was eligible for re-election
without the land qualification.

Fraisier found no difficulty in obtaining speech of Madeleine Vivet;
such viper natures own their kinship at once.

"I should like to see Mme. la Presidente for a few moments,
mademoiselle," Fraisier said in bland accents; "I have come on a
matter of business which touches her fortune; it is a question of a
legacy, be sure to mention that. I have not the honor of being known
to Mme. la Presidente, so my name is of no consequence. I am not in
the habit of leaving my chambers, but I know the respect that is due
to a President's wife, and I took the trouble of coming myself to save
all possible delay."

The matter thus broached, when repeated and amplified by the
waiting-maid, naturally brought a favorable answer. It was a decisive
moment for the double ambition hidden in Fraisier's mind. Bold as a
petty provincial attorney, sharp, rough-spoken, and curt as he was, he
felt as captains feel before the decisive battle of a campaign. As he
went into the little drawing-room where Amelie was waiting for him, he
felt a slight perspiration breaking out upon his forehead and down his
back. Every sudorific hitherto employed had failed to produce this
result upon a skin which horrible diseases had left impervious. "Even
if I fail to make my fortune," said he to himself, "I shall recover.
Poulain said that if I could only perspire I should recover."

The Presidente came forward in her morning gown.

"Madame--" said Fraisier, stopping short to bow with the humility by
which officials recognize the superior rank of the person whom they

"Take a seat, monsieur," said the Presidente. She saw at a glance that
this was a man of law.

"Mme. la Presidente, if I take the liberty of calling your attention
to a matter which concerns M. le President, it is because I am sure
that M. de Marville, occupying, as he does, a high position, would
leave matters to take their natural course, and so lose seven or eight
hundred thousand francs, a sum which ladies (who, in my opinion, have
a far better understanding of private business than the best of
magistrates)--a sum which ladies, I repeat, would by no means

"You spoke of a legacy," interrupted the lady, dazzled by the wealth,
and anxious to hide her surprise. Amelie de Marville, like an
impatient novel-reader, wanted the end of the story.

"Yes, madame, a legacy that you are like to lose; yes, to lose
altogether; but I can, that is, I _could_, recover it for you, if--"

"Speak out, monsieur." Mme. de Marville spoke frigidly, scanning
Fraisier as she spoke with a sagacious eye.

"Madame, your eminent capacity is known to me; I was once at Mantes.
M. Leboeuf, President of the Tribunal, is acquainted with M. de
Marville, and can answer inquiries about me--"

The Presidente's shrug was so ruthlessly significant, that Fraisier
was compelled to make short work of his parenthetic discourse.

"So distinguished a woman will at once understand why I speak of
myself in the first place. It is the shortest way to the property."

To this acute observation the lady replied by a gesture. Fraisier took
the sign for a permission to continue.

"I was an attorney, madame, at Mantes. My connection was all the
fortune that I was likely to have. I took over M. Levroux's practice.
You knew him, no doubt?"

The Presidente inclined her head.

"With borrowed capital and some ten thousand francs of my own, I went
to Mantes. I had been with Desroches, one of the cleverest attorneys
in Paris, I had been his head-clerk for six years. I was so unlucky as
to make an enemy of the attorney for the crown at Mantes, Monsieur--"

"Olivier Vinet."

"Son of the Attorney-General, yes, madame. He was paying his court to
a little person--"


"Mme. Vatinelle."

"Oh! Mme. Vatinelle. She was very pretty and very--er--when I was

"She was not unkind to me: _inde iroe_," Fraisier continued. "I was
industrious; I wanted to repay my friends and to marry; I wanted work;
I went in search of it; and before long I had more on my hands than
anybody else. Bah! I had every soul in Mantes against me--attorneys,
notaries, and even the bailiffs. They tried to fasten a quarrel on me.
In our ruthless profession, as you know, madame, if you wish to ruin a
man, it is soon done. I was concerned for both parties in a case, and
they found it out. It was a trifle irregular; but it is sometimes done
in Paris, attorneys in certain cases hand the rhubarb and take the
senna. They do things differently at Mantes. I had done M. Bouyonnet
this little service before; but, egged on by his colleagues and the
attorney for the crown, he betrayed me.--I am keeping back nothing,
you see.--There was a great hue and cry about it. I was a scoundrel;
they made me out blacker than Marat; forced me to sell out; ruined me.
And I am in Paris now. I have tried to get together a practice; but my
health is so bad, that I have only two quiet hours out of the

"At this moment I have but one ambition, and a very small one. Some
day," he continued, "you will be the wife of the Keeper of the Seals,
or of the Home Secretary, it may be; but I, poor and sickly as I am,
desire nothing but a post in which I can live in peace for the rest of
my life, a place without any opening in which to vegetate. I should
like to be a justice of the peace in Paris. It would be a mere trifle
for you and M. le President to gain the appointment for me; for the
present Keeper of the Seals must be anxious to keep on good terms with
you . . .

"And that is not all, madame," added Fraisier. Seeing that Mme. de
Marville was about to speak, he cut her short with a gesture. "I have
a friend, the doctor in attendance on the old man who ought to leave
his property to M. le President. (We are coming to the point, you
see.) The doctor's co-operation is indispensable, and the doctor is
precisely in my position: he has abilities, he is unlucky. I learned
through him how far your interests were imperiled; for even as I
speak, all may be over, and the will disinheriting M. le President may
have been made. This doctor wishes to be head-surgeon of a hospital or
of a Government school. He must have a position in Paris equal to
mine. . . . Pardon me if I have enlarged on a matter so delicate; but
we must have no misunderstandings in this business. The doctor is,
besides, much respected and learned; he saved the life of the Comtesse
Popinot's great-uncle, M. Pillerault.

"Now, if you are so good as to promise these two posts--the
appointment of justice of the peace and the sinecure for my friend--I
will undertake to bring you the property, _almost_ intact.--Almost
intact, I say, for the co-operation of the legatee and several other
persons is absolutely indispensable, and some obligations will be
incurred. You will not redeem your promises until I have fulfilled

The Presidente had folded her arms, and for the last minute or two sat
like a person compelled to listen to a sermon. Now she unfolded her
arms, and looked at Fraisier as she said, "Monsieur, all that you say
concerning your interests has the merit of clearness; but my own
interests in the matter are by no means so clear--"

"A word or two will explain everything, madame. M. le President is M.
Pons' first cousin once removed, and his sole heir. M. Pons is very
ill; he is about to make his will, if it is not already made, in favor
of a German, a friend of his named Schmucke; and he has more than
seven hundred thousand francs to leave. I hope to have an accurate
valuation made in two or three days--"

"If this is so," said the Presidente, "I made a great mistake in
quarreling with him and throwing the blame----" she thought aloud,
amazed by the possibility of such a sum.

"No, madame. If there had been no rupture, he would be as blithe as a
lark at this moment, and might outlive you and M. le President and me.
. . . The ways of Providence are mysterious, let us not seek to fathom
them," he added to palliate to some extent the hideous idea. "It
cannot be helped. We men of business look at the practical aspects of
things. Now you see clearly, madame, that M. de Marville in his public
position would do nothing, and could do nothing, as things are. He has
broken off all relations with his cousin. You see nothing now of Pons;
you have forbidden him the house; you had excellent reasons, no doubt,
for doing as you did, but the old man is ill, and he is leaving his
property to the only friend left to him. A President of the Court of
Appeal in Paris could say nothing under such circumstances if the will
was made out in due form. But between ourselves, madame, when one has
a right to expect seven or eight hundred thousand francs--or a
million, it may be (how should I know?)--it is very unpleasant to have
it slip through one's fingers, especially if one happens to be the
heir-at-law. . . . But, on the other hand, to prevent this, one is
obliged to stoop to dirty work; work so difficult, so ticklish,
bringing you cheek by jowl with such low people, servants and
subordinates; and into such close contact with them too, that no
barrister, no attorney in Paris could take up such a case.

"What you want is a briefless barrister like me," said he, "a man who
should have real and solid ability, who has learned to be devoted, and
yet, being in a precarious position, is brought temporarily to a level
with such people. In my arrondissement I undertake business for small
tradespeople and working folk. Yes, madame, you see the straits to
which I have been brought by the enmity of an attorney for the crown,
now a deputy-public prosecutor in Paris, who could not forgive me my
superiority.--I know you, madame, I know that your influence means a
solid certainty; and in such a service rendered to you, I saw the end
of my troubles and success for my friend Dr. Poulain."

The lady sat pensive during a moment of unspeakable torture for
Fraisier. Vinet, an orator of the Centre, attorney-general
(_procureur-general_) for the past sixteen years, nominated
half-a-score of times for the chancellorship, the father, moreover, of
the attorney for the crown at Mantes who had been appointed to a post
in Paris within the last year--Vinet was an enemy and a rival for the
malignant Presidente. The haughty attorney-general did not hide his
contempt for President Camusot. This fact Fraisier did not know, and
could not know.

"Have you nothing on your conscience but the fact that you were
concerned for both parties?" asked she, looking steadily at Fraisier.

"Mme. la Presidente can see M. Leboeuf; M. Leboeuf was favorable to

"Do you feel sure that M. Leboeuf will give M. de Marville and M. le
Comte Popinot a good account of you?"

"I will answer for it, especially now that M. Olivier Vinet has left
Mantes; for between ourselves, good M. Leboeuf was afraid of that
crabbed little official. If you will permit me, Madame La Presidente,
I will go to Mantes and see M. Leboeuf. No time will be lost, for I
cannot be certain of the precise value of the property for two or
three days. I do not wish that you should know all the ins and outs of
this affair; you ought not to know them, Mme. la Presidente, but is
not the reward that I expect for my complete devotion a pledge of my

"Very well. If M. Leboeuf will speak in your favor, and if the
property is worth as much as you think (I doubt it myself), you shall
have both appointments, _if_ you succeed, mind you--"

"I will answer for it, madame. Only, you must be so good as to have
your notary and your attorney here when I shall need them; you must
give me a power of attorney to act for M. le President, and tell those
gentlemen to follow my instructions, and to do nothing on their own

"The responsibility rests with you," the Presidente answered solemnly,
"so you ought to have full powers.--But is M. Pons very ill?" she
asked, smiling.

"Upon my word, madame, he might pull through, especially with so
conscientious a doctor as Poulain in attendance; for this friend of
mine, madame, is simply an unconscious spy directed by me in your
interests. Left to himself, he would save the old man's life; but
there is some one else by the sickbed, a portress, who would push him
into the grave for thirty thousand francs. Not that she would kill him
outright; she will not give him arsenic, she is not so merciful; she
will do worse, she will kill him by inches; she will worry him to
death day by day. If the poor old man were kept quiet and left in
peace; if he were taken into the country and cared for and made much
of by friends, he would get well again; but he is harassed by a sort
of Mme. Evrard. When the woman was young she was one of thirty _Belles
Ecailleres_, famous in Paris, she is a rough, greedy, gossiping woman;
she torments him to make a will and to leave her something handsome,
and the end of it will be induration of the liver, calculi are
possibly forming at this moment, and he has not enough strength to
bear an operation. The doctor, noble soul, is in a horrible
predicament. He really ought to send the woman away--"

"Why, then, this vixen is a monster!" cried the lady in thin
flute-like tones.

Fraisier smiled inwardly at the likeness between himself and the
terrible Presidente; he knew all about those suave modulations of a
naturally sharp voice. He thought of another president, the hero of an
anecdote related by Louis XI., stamped by that monarch's final praise.
Blessed with a wife after the pattern of Socrates' spouse, and
ungifted with the sage's philosophy, he mingled salt with the corn in
the mangers and forbad the grooms to give water to the horses. As his
wife rode along the Seine towards their country-house, the animals
bolted into the river with the lady, and the magistrate returned
thanks to Providence for ridding him of his wife "in so natural a
manner." At this present moment Mme. de Marville thanked Heaven for
placing at Pons' bedside a woman so likely to get him "decently" out
of the way.

Aloud she said, "I would not take a million at the price of a single
scruple.--Your friend ought to speak to M. Pons and have the woman
sent away."

"In the first place, madame, Messrs. Schmucke and Pons think the woman
an angel; they would send my friend away. And secondly, the doctor
lies under an obligation to this horrid oyster-woman; she called him
in to attend M. Pillerault. When he tells her to be as gentle as
possible with the patient, he simply shows the creature how to make
matters worse."

"What does your friend think of _my_ cousin's condition?"

This man's clear, business-like way of putting the facts of the case
frightened Mme. de Marville; she felt that his keen gaze read the
thoughts of a heart as greedy as La Cibot's own.

"In six weeks the property will change hands."

The Presidente dropped her eyes.

"Poor man!" she sighed, vainly striving after a dolorous expression.

"Have you any message, madame, for M. Leboeuf? I am taking the train
to Mantes."

"Yes. Wait a moment, and I will write to ask him to dine with us
to-morrow. I want to see him, so that he may act in concert to repair
the injustice to which you have fallen a victim."

The Presidente left the room. Fraisier saw himself a justice of the
peace. He felt transformed at the thought; he grew stouter; his lungs
were filled with the breath of success, the breeze of prosperity. He
dipped into the mysterious reservoirs of volition for fresh and strong
doses of the divine essence. To reach success, he felt, as Remonencq
half felt, that he was ready for anything, for crime itself, provided
that no proofs of it remained. He had faced the Presidente boldly; he
had transmuted conjecture into reality; he had made assertions right
and left, all to the end that she might authorize him to protect her
interests and win her influence. As he stood there, he represented the
infinite misery of two lives, and the no less boundless desires of two
men. He spurned the squalid horrors of the Rue de la Perle. He saw the
glitter of a thousand crowns in fees from La Cibot, and five thousand
francs from the Presidente. This meant an abode such as befitted his
future prospects. Finally, he was repaying Dr. Poulain.

There are hard, ill-natured beings, goaded by distress or disease into
active malignity, that yet entertain diametrically opposed sentiments
with a like degree of vehemence. If Richelieu was a good hater, he was
no less a good friend. Fraisier, in his gratitude, would have let
himself be cut in two for Poulain.

So absorbed was he in these visions of a comfortable and prosperous
life, that he did not see the Presidente come in with the letter in
her hand, and she, looking at him, thought him less ugly now than at
first. He was about to be useful to her, and as soon as a tool belongs
to us we look upon it with other eyes.

"M. Fraisier," said she, "you have convinced me of your intelligence,
and I think that you can speak frankly."

Fraisier replied by an eloquent gesture.

"Very well," continued the lady, "I must ask you to give a candid
reply to this question: Are we, either of us, M. de Marville or I,
likely to be compromised, directly or indirectly, by your action in
this matter?"

"I would not have come to you, madame, if I thought that some day I
should have to reproach myself for bringing so much as a splash of mud
upon you, for in your position a speck the size of a pin's head is
seen by all the world. You forget, madame, that I must satisfy you if
I am to be a justice of the peace in Paris. I have received one lesson
at the outset of my life; it was so sharp that I do not care to lay
myself open to a second thrashing. To sum it up in a last word,
madame, I will not take a step in which you are indirectly involved
without previously consulting you--"

"Very good. Here is the letter. And now I shall expect to be informed
of the exact value of the estate."

"There is the whole matter," said Fraisier shrewdly, making his bow to
the Presidente with as much graciousness as his countenance could

"What a providence!" thought Mme. Camusot de Marville. "So I am to be
rich! Camusot will be sure of his election if we let loose this
Fraisier upon the Bolbec constituency. What a tool!"

"What a providence!" Fraisier said to himself as he descended the
staircase; "and what a sharp woman Mme. Camusot is! I should want a
woman in these circumstances. Now to work!"

And he departed for Mantes to gain the good graces of a man he
scarcely knew; but he counted upon Mme. Vatinelle, to whom,
unfortunately, he owed all his troubles--and some troubles are of a
kind that resemble a protested bill while the defaulter is yet
solvent, in that they bear interest.

Three days afterwards, while Schmucke slept (for in accordance with
the compact he now sat up at night with the patient), La Cibot had a
"tiff," as she was pleased to call it, with Pons. It will not be out
of place to call attention to one particularly distressing symptom of
liver complaint. The sufferer is always more or less inclined to
impatience and fits of anger; an outburst of this kind seems to give
relief at the time, much as a patient while the fever fit is upon him
feels that he has boundless strength; but collapse sets in so soon as
the excitement passes off, and the full extent of mischief sustained
by the system is discernible. This is especially the case when the
disease has been induced by some great shock; and the prostration is
so much the more dangerous because the patient is kept upon a
restricted diet. It is a kind of fever affecting neither the blood nor
the brain, but the humoristic mechanism, fretting the whole system,
producing melancholy, in which the patient hates himself; in such a
crisis anything may cause dangerous irritation.

In spite of all that the doctor could say, La Cibot had no belief in
this wear and tear of the nervous system by the humoristic. She was a
woman of the people, without experience or education; Dr. Poulain's
explanations for her were simply "doctor's notions." Like most of her
class, she thought that sick people must be fed, and nothing short of
Dr. Poulain's direct order prevented her from administering ham, a
nice omelette, or vanilla chocolate upon the sly.

The infatuation of the working classes on this point is very strong.
The reason of their reluctance to enter a hospital is the idea that
they will be starved there. The mortality caused by the food smuggled
in by the wives of patients on visiting-days was at one time so great
that the doctors were obliged to institute a very strict search for
contraband provisions.

If La Cibot was to realize her profits at once, a momentary quarrel
must be worked up in some way. She began by telling Pons about her
visit to the theatre, not omitting her passage at arms with Mlle.
Heloise the dancer.

"But why did you go?" the invalid asked for the third time. La Cibot
once launched on a stream of words, he was powerless to stop her.

"So, then, when I had given her a piece of my mind, Mademoiselle
Heloise saw who I was and knuckled under, and we were the best of
friends.--And now do you ask me why I went?" she added, repeating
Pons' question.

There are certain babblers, babblers of genius are they, who sweep up
interruptions, objections, and observations in this way as they go
along, by way of provision to swell the matter of their conversation,
as if that source were ever in any danger of running dry.

"Why I went?" repeated she. "I went to get your M. Gaudissart out of a
fix. He wants some music for a ballet, and you are hardly fit to
scribble on sheets of paper and do your work, dearie.--So I
understood, things being so, that a M. Garangeot was to be asked to
set the _Mohicans_ to music--"

"Garangeot!" roared Pons in fury. "_Garangeot!_ a man with no talent;
I would not have him for first violin! He is very clever, he is very
good at musical criticism, but as to composing--I doubt it! And what
the devil put the notion of going to the theatre into your head?"

"How confoundedly contrairy the man is! Look here, dearie, we mustn't
boil over like milk on the fire! How are you to write music in the
state that you are in? Why, you can't have looked at yourself in the
glass! Will you have the glass and see? You are nothing but skin and
bone--you are as weak as a sparrow, and do you think that you are fit
to make your notes! why, you would not so much as make out mine. . . .
And that reminds me that I ought to go up to the third floor lodger's
that owes us seventeen francs, for when the chemist has been paid we
shall not have twenty left.--So I had to tell M. Gaudissart (I like
that name), a good sort he seems to be,--a regular Roger Bontemps that
would just suit me.--_He_ will never have liver complaint!--Well, so I
had to tell him how you were.--Lord! you are not well, and he has put
some one else in your place for a bit--"

"Some one else in my place!" cried Pons in a terrible voice, as he sat
right up in bed. Sick people, generally speaking, and those most
particularly who lie within the sweep of the scythe of Death, cling to
their places with the same passionate energy that the beginner
displays to gain a start in life. To hear that someone had taken his
place was like a foretaste of death to the dying man.

"Why, the doctor told me that I was going on as well as possible,"
continued he; "he said that I should soon be about again as usual. You
have killed me, ruined me, murdered me!"

"Tut, tut, tut!" cried La Cibot, "there you go! I am killing you, am
I? Mercy on us! these are the pretty things that you are always
telling M. Schmucke when my back is turned. I hear all that you say,
that I do! You are a monster of ingratitude."

"But you do not know that if I am only away for another fortnight,
they will tell me that I have had my day, that I am old-fashioned, out
of date, Empire, rococo, when I go back. Garangeot will have made
friends all over the theatre, high and low. He will lower the pitch to
suit some actress that cannot sing, he will lick M. Gaudissart's
boots!" cried the sick man, who clung to life. "He has friends that
will praise him in all the newspapers; and when things are like that
in such a shop, Mme. Cibot, they can find holes in anybody's coat.
. . . What fiend drove you to do it?"

"Why! plague take it, M. Schmucke talked it over with me for a week.
What would you have? You see nothing but yourself! You are so selfish
that other people may die if you can only get better.--Why poor M.
Schmucke has been tired out this month past! he is tied by the leg, he
can go nowhere, he cannot give lessons nor take his place at the
theatre. Do you really see nothing? He sits up with you at night, and
I take the nursing in the day. If I were to sit up at night with you,
as I tried to do at first when I thought you were so poor, I should
have to sleep all day. And who would see to the house and look out for
squalls! Illness is illness, it cannot be helped, and here are you--"

"This was not Schmucke's idea, it is quite impossible--"

"That means that it was _I_ who took it into my head to do it, does
it? Do you think that we are made of iron? Why, if M. Schmucke had
given seven or eight lessons every day and conducted the orchestra
every evening at the theatre from six o'clock till half-past eleven at
night, he would have died in ten days' time. Poor man, he would give
his life for you, and do you want to be the death of him? By the
authors of my days, I have never seen a sick man to match you! Where
are your senses? have you put them in pawn? We are all slaving our
lives out for you; we do all for the best, and you are not satisfied!
Do you want to drive us raging mad? I myself, to begin with, am tired
out as it is----"

La Cibot rattled on at her ease; Pons was too angry to say a word. He
writhed on his bed, painfully uttering inarticulate sounds; the blow
was killing him. And at this point, as usual, the scolding turned
suddenly to tenderness. The nurse dashed at her patient, grasped him
by the head, made him lie down by main force, and dragged the blankets
over him.

"How any one can get into such a state!" exclaimed she. "After all, it
is your illness, dearie. That is what good M. Poulain says. See now,
keep quiet and be good, my dear little sonny. Everybody that comes
near you worships you, and the doctor himself comes to see you twice a
day. What would he say if he found you in such a way? You put me out
of all patience; you ought not to behave like this. If you have Ma'am
Cibot to nurse you, you should treat her better. You shout and you
talk!--you ought not to do it, you know that. Talking irritates you.
And why do you fly into a passion? The wrong is all on your side; you
are always bothering me. Look here, let us have it out! If M. Schmucke
and I, who love you like our life, thought that we were doing right
--well, my cherub, it was right, you may be sure."

"Schmucke never could have told you to go to the theatre without
speaking to me about it--"

"And must I wake him, poor dear, when he is sleeping like one of the
blest, and call him in as a witness?"

"No, no!" cried Pons. "If my kind and loving Schmucke made the
resolution, perhaps I am worse than I thought." His eyes wandered
round the room, dwelling on the beautiful things in it with a
melancholy look painful to see.

"So I must say good-bye to my dear pictures, to all the things that
have come to be like so many friends to me . . . and to my divine
friend Schmucke? . . . Oh! can it be true?"

La Cibot, acting her heartless comedy, held her handkerchief to her
eyes; and at that mute response the sufferer fell to dark musing--so
sorely stricken was he by the double stab dealt to health and his
interests by the loss of his post and the near prospect of death, that
he had no strength left for anger. He lay, ghastly and wan, like a
consumptive patient after a wrestling bout with the Destroyer.

"In M. Schmucke's interests, you see, you would do well to send for M.
Trognon; he is the notary of the quarter and a very good man," said La
Cibot, seeing that her victim was completely exhausted.

"You are always talking about this Trognon--"

"Oh! he or another, it is all one to me, for anything you will leave

She tossed her head to signify that she despised riches. There was
silence in the room.

A moment later Schmucke came in. He had slept for six hours, hunger
awakened him, and now he stood at Pons' bedside watching his friend
without saying a word, for Mme. Cibot had laid a finger on her lips.

"Hush!" she whispered. Then she rose and went up to add under her
breath, "He is going off to sleep at last, thank Heaven! He is as
cross as a red donkey!--What can you expect, he is struggling with his

"No, on the contrary, I am very patient," said the victim in a weary
voice that told of a dreadful exhaustion; "but, oh! Schmucke, my dear
friend, she has been to the theatre to turn me out of my place."

There was a pause. Pons was too weak to say more. La Cibot took the
opportunity and tapped her head significantly. "Do not contradict
him," she said to Schmucke; "it would kill him."

Pons gazed into Schmucke's honest face. "And she says that you sent
her--" he continued.

"Yes," Schmucke affirmed heroically. "It had to pe. Hush!--let us safe
your life. It is absurd to vork and train your sdrength gif you haf a
dreasure. Get better; ve vill sell some prick-a-prack und end our tays
kvietly in a corner somveres, mit kind Montame Zipod."

"She has perverted you," moaned Pons.

Mme. Cibot had taken up her station behind the bed to make signals
unobserved. Pons thought that she had left the room. "She is murdering
me," he added.

"What is that? I am murdering you, am I?" cried La Cibot, suddenly
appearing, hand on hips and eyes aflame. "I am as faithful as a dog,
and this is all I get! God Almighty!--"

She burst into tears and dropped down into the great chair, a tragical
movement which wrought a most disastrous revulsion in Pons.

"Very good," she said, rising to her feet. The woman's malignant eyes
looked poison and bullets at the two friends. "Very good. Nothing that
I can do is right here, and I am tired of slaving my life out. You
shall take a nurse."

Pons and Schmucke exchanged glances in dismay.

"Oh! you may look at each other like actors. I mean it. I shall ask
Dr. Poulain to find a nurse for you. And now we will settle accounts.
You shall pay me back the money that I have spent on you, and that I
would never have asked you for, I that have gone to M. Pillerault to
borrow another five hundred francs of him--"

"It ees his illness!" cried Schmucke--he sprang to Mme. Cibot and put
an arm round her waist--"haf batience."

"As for you, you are an angel, I could kiss the ground you tread
upon," said she. "But M. Pons never liked me, he always hated me.
Besides, he thinks perhaps that I want to be mentioned in his will--"

"Hush! you vill kill him!" cried Schmucke.

"Good-bye, sir," said La Cibot, with a withering look at Pons. "You
may keep well for all the harm I wish you. When you can speak to me
pleasantly, when you can believe that what I do is done for the best,
I will come back again. Till then I shall stay in my own room. You
were like my own child to me; did anybody ever see a child revolt
against its mother? . . . No, no, M. Schmucke, I do not want to hear
more. I will bring you _your_ dinner and wait upon _you_, but you must
take a nurse. Ask M. Poulain about it."

And she went out, slamming the door after her so violently that the
precious, fragile objects in the room trembled. To Pons in his
torture, the rattle of china was like the final blow dealt by the
executioner to a victim broken on the wheel.

An hour later La Cibot called to Schmucke through the door, telling
him that his dinner was waiting for him in the dining-room. She would
not cross the threshold. Poor Schmucke went out to her with a haggard,
tear-stained face.

"Mein boor Bons in vandering," said he; "he says dat you are ein pad
voman. It ees his illness," he added hastily, to soften La Cibot and
excuse his friend.

"Oh, I have had enough of his illness! Look here, he is neither
father, nor husband, nor brother, nor child of mine. He has taken a
dislike to me; well and good, that is enough! As for you, you see, I
would follow _you_ to the end of the world; but when a woman gives her
life, her heart, and all her savings, and neglects her husband (for
here has Cibot fallen ill), and then hears that she is a bad woman--it
is coming it rather too strong, it is."

"Too shtrong?"

"Too strong, yes. Never mind idle words. Let us come to the facts. As
to that, you owe me for three months at a hundred and ninety francs
--that is five hundred seventy francs; then there is the rent that I
have paid twice (here are the receipts), six hundred more, including
rates and the sou in the franc for the porter--something under twelve
hundred francs altogether, and with the two thousand francs besides
--without interest, mind you--the total amounts to three thousand one
hundred and ninety-two francs. And remember that you will want at
least two thousand francs before long for the doctor, and the nurse,
and the medicine, and the nurse's board. That was why I borrowed a
thousand francs of M. Pillerault," and with that she held up
Gaudissart's bank-note.

It may readily be conceived that Schmucke listened to this reckoning
with amazement, for he knew about as much of business as a cat knows
of music.

"Montame Zipod," he expostulated, "Bons haf lost his head. Bardon him,
and nurse him as before, und pe our profidence; I peg it of you on
mine knees," and he knelt before La Cibot and kissed the tormentor's

La Cibot raised Schmucke and kissed him on the forehead. "Listen, my
lamb," said she, "here is Cibot ill in bed; I have just sent for Dr.
Poulain. So I ought to set my affairs in order. And what is more,
Cibot saw me crying, and flew into such a passion that he will not
have me set foot in here again. It is _he_ who wants the money; it is
his, you see. We women can do nothing when it comes to that. But if
you let him have his money back again--the three thousand two hundred
francs--he will be quiet perhaps. Poor man, it is his all, earned by
the sweat of his brow, the savings of twenty-six years of life
together. He must have his money to-morrow; there is no getting round
him.--You do not know Cibot; when he is angry he would kill a man.
Well, I might perhaps get leave of him to look after you both as
before. Be easy. I will just let him say anything that comes into his
head. I will bear it all for love of you, an angel as you are."

"No, I am ein boor man, dot lof his friend and vould gif his life to
save him--"

"But the money?" broke in La Cibot. "My good M. Schmucke, let us
suppose that you pay me nothing; you will want three thousand francs,
and where are they to come from? Upon my word, do you know what I
should do in your place? I should not think twice, I should just sell
seven or eight good-for-nothing pictures and put up some of those
instead that are standing in your closet with their faces to the wall
for want of room. One picture or another, what difference does it

"Und vy?"

"He is so cunning. It is his illness, for he is a lamb when he is
well. He is capable of getting up and prying about; and if by any
chance he went into the salon, he is so weak that he could not go
beyond the door; he would see that they are all still there."


"And when he is quite well, we will tell him about the sale. And if
you wish to confess, throw it all upon me, say that you were obliged
to pay me. Come! I have a broad back--"

"I cannot tispose of dings dot are not mine," the good German answered

"Very well. I will summons you, you and M. Pons."

"It vould kill him--"

"Take your choice! Dear me, sell the pictures and tell him about it
afterwards . . . you can show him the summons--"

"Ver' goot. Summons us. Dot shall pe mine egscuse. I shall show him
der chudgment."

Mme. Cibot went down to the court, and that very day at seven o'clock
she called to Schmucke. Schmucke found himself confronted with M.
Tabareau the bailiff, who called upon him to pay. Schmucke made
answer, trembling from head to foot, and was forthwith summoned
together with Pons, to appear in the county court to hear judgment
against him. The sight of the bailiff and a bit of stamped paper
covered with scrawls produced such an effect upon Schmucke, that he
held out no longer.

"Sell die bictures," he said, with tears in his eyes.

Next morning, at six o'clock, Elie Magus and Remonencq took down the
paintings of their choice. Two receipts for two thousand five hundred
francs were made out in correct form:--

"I, the undersigned, representing M. Pons, acknowledge the receipt of
two thousand five hundred francs from M. Elie Magus for the four
pictures sold to him, the said sum being appropriated to the use of M.
Pons. The first picture, attributed to Durer, is a portrait of a
woman; the second, likewise a portrait, is of the Italian School; the
third, a Dutch landscape by Breughel; and the fourth, a _Holy Family_
by an unknown master of the Florentine School."

Remonencq's receipt was worded in precisely the same way; a Greuze, a
Claude Lorraine, a Rubens, and a Van Dyck being disguised as pictures
of the French and Flemish schools.

"Der monny makes me beleef dot the chimcracks haf som value," said
Schmucke when the five thousand francs were paid over.

"They are worth something," said Remonencq. "I would willingly give
you a hundred thousand francs for the lot."

Remonencq, asked to do a trifling service, hung eight pictures of the
proper size in the same frames, taking them from among the less
valuable pictures in Schmucke's bedroom.

No sooner was Elie Magus in possession of the four great pictures than
he went, taking La Cibot with him, under pretence of settling
accounts. But he pleaded poverty, he found fault with the pictures,
they needed rebacking, he offered La Cibot thirty thousand francs by
way of commission, and finally dazzled her with the sheets of paper on
which the Bank of France engraves the words "One thousand francs" in
capital letters. Magus thereupon condemned Remonencq to pay the like
sum to La Cibot, by lending him the money on the security of his four
pictures, which he took with him as a guarantee. So glorious were
they, that Magus could not bring himself to part with them, and next
day he bought them of Remonencq for six thousand francs over and above
the original price, and an invoice was duly made out for the four.
Mme. Cibot, the richer by sixty-eight thousand francs, once more swore
her two accomplices to absolute secrecy. Then she asked the Jew's
advice. She wanted to invest the money in such a way that no one
should know of it.

"Buy shares in the Orleans Railway," said he; "they are thirty francs
below par, you will double your capital in three years. They will give
you scraps of paper, which you keep safe in a portfolio."

"Stay here, M. Magus. I will go and fetch the man of business who acts
for M. Pons' family. He wants to know how much you will give him for
the whole bag of tricks upstairs. I will go for him now."

"If only she were a widow!" said Remonencq when she was gone. "She
would just suit me; she will have plenty of money now--"

"Especially if she puts her money into the Orleans Railway; she will
double her capital in two years' time. I have put all my poor little
savings into it," added the Jew, "for my daughter's portion.--Come,
let us take a turn on the boulevard until this lawyer arrives."

"Cibot is very bad as it is," continued Remonencq; "if it should
please God to take him to Himself, I should have a famous wife to keep
a shop; I could set up on a large scale--"

"Good-day, M. Fraisier," La Cibot began in an ingratiating tone as she
entered her legal adviser's office. "Why, what is this that your
porter has been telling me? are you going to move?"

"Yes, my dear Mme. Cibot. I am taking the first floor above Dr.
Poulain, and trying to borrow two or three thousand francs so as to
furnish the place properly; it is very nice, upon my word, the
landlord has just papered and painted it. I am acting, as I told you,
in President de Marville's interests and yours. . . . I am not a
solicitor now; I mean to have my name entered on the roll of
barristers, and I must be well lodged. A barrister in Paris cannot
have his name on the rolls unless he has decent furniture and books
and the like. I am a doctor of law, I have kept my terms, and have
powerful interest already. . . . Well, how are we getting on?"

"Perhaps you would accept my savings," said La Cibot. "I have put them
in a savings bank. I have not much, only three thousand francs, the
fruits of twenty-five years of stinting and scraping. You might give
me a bill of exchange, as Remonencq says; for I am ignorant myself, I
only know what they tell me."

"No. It is against the rules of the guild for a barrister (_avocat_)
to put his name to a bill. I will give you a receipt, bearing interest
at five per cent per annum, on the understanding that if I make an
income of twelve hundred francs for you out of old Pons' estate you
will cancel it."

La Cibot, caught in the trap, uttered not a word.

"Silence gives consent," Fraisier continued. "Let me have it to-morrow

"Oh! I am quite willing to pay fees in advance," said La Cibot; "it is
one way of making sure of my money."

Fraisier nodded. "How are you getting on?" he repeated. "I saw Poulain
yesterday; you are hurrying your invalid along, it seems. . . . One
more scene such as yesterday's, and gall-stones will form. Be gentle
with him, my dear Mme. Cibot, do not lay up remorse for yourself. Life
is not too long."

"Just let me alone with your remorse! Are you going to talk about the
guillotine again? M. Pons is a contrairy old thing. You don't know
him. It is he that bothers me. There is not a more cross-grained man
alive; his relations are in the right of it, he is sly, revengeful,
and contrairy. . . . M. Magus has come, as I told you, and is waiting
to see you."

"Right! I will be there as soon as you. Your income depends upon the
price the collection will fetch. If it brings in eight hundred
thousand francs, you shall have fifteen hundred francs a year. It is a

"Very well. I will tell them to value the things on their

An hour later, Pons was fast asleep. The doctor had ordered a soothing
draught, which Schmucke administered, all unconscious that La Cibot
had doubled the dose. Fraisier, Remonencq, and Magus, three
gallows-birds, were examining the seventeen hundred different objects
which formed the old musician's collection one by one.

Schmucke had gone to bed. The three kites, drawn by the scent of a
corpse, were masters of the field.

"Make no noise," said La Cibot whenever Magus went into ecstasies or
explained the value of some work of art to Remonencq. The dying man
slept on in the neighboring room, while greed in four different forms
appraised the treasures that he must leave behind, and waited
impatiently for him to die--a sight to wring the heart.

Three hours went by before they had finished the salon.

"On an average," said the grimy old Jew, "everything here is worth a
thousand francs."

"Seventeen hundred thousand francs!" exclaimed Fraisier in

"Not to me," Magus answered promptly, and his eyes grew dull. "I would
not give more than a hundred thousand francs myself for the
collection. You cannot tell how long you may keep a thing on hand.
. . . There are masterpieces that wait ten years for a buyer, and
meanwhile the purchase money is doubled by compound interest. Still, I
should pay cash."

"There is stained glass in the other room, as well as enamels and
miniatures and gold and silver snuff-boxes," put in Remonencq.

"Can they be seen?" inquired Fraisier.

"I'll see if he is sound asleep," replied La Cibot. She made a sign,
and the three birds of prey came in.

"There are masterpieces yonder!" said Magus, indicating the salon,
every bristle of his white beard twitching as he spoke. "But the
riches are here! And what riches! Kings have nothing more glorious in
royal treasuries."

Remonencq's eyes lighted up till they glowed like carbuncles, at the
sight of the gold snuff-boxes. Fraisier, cool and calm as a serpent,
or some snake-creature with the power of rising erect, stood with his
viper head stretched out, in such an attitude as a painter would
choose for Mephistopheles. The three covetous beings, thirsting for
gold as devils thirst for the dew of heaven, looked simultaneously, as
it chanced, at the owner of all this wealth. Some nightmare troubled
Pons; he stirred, and suddenly, under the influence of those
diabolical glances, he opened his eyes with a shrill cry.

"Thieves! . . . There they are! . . . Help! Murder! Help!"

The nightmare was evidently still upon him, for he sat up in bed,
staring before him with blank, wide-open eyes, and had not the power
to move.

Elie Magus and Remonencq made for the door, but a word glued them to
the spot.

"_Magus_ here! . . . I am betrayed!"

Instinctively the sick man had known that his beloved pictures were in
danger, a thought that touched him at least as closely as any dread
for himself, and he awoke. Fraisier meanwhile did not stir.

"Mme. Cibot! who is that gentleman?" cried Pons, shivering at the

"Goodness me! how could I put him out of the door?" she inquired, with
a wink and gesture for Fraisier's benefit. "This gentleman came just a
minute ago, from your family."

Fraisier could not conceal his admiration for La Cibot.

"Yes, sir," he said, "I have come on behalf of Mme. la Presidente de
Marville, her husband, and her daughter, to express their regret. They
learned quite by accident that you are ill, and they would like to
nurse you themselves. They want you to go to Marville and get well
there. Mme. la Vicomtesse Popinot, the little Cecile that you love so
much, will be your nurse. She took your part with her mother. She
convinced Mme. de Marville that she had made a mistake."

"So my next-of-kin have sent you to me, have they?" Pons exclaimed
indignantly, "and sent the best judge and expert in all Paris with you
to show you the way? Oh! a nice commission!" he cried, bursting into
wild laughter. "You have come to value my pictures and curiosities, my
snuff-boxes and miniatures! . . . Make your valuation. You have a man
there who understands everything, and more--he can buy everything, for
he is a millionaire ten times over. . . . My dear relatives will not
have long to wait," he added, with bitter irony, "they have choked the
last breath out of me. . . . Ah! Mme. Cibot, you said you were a
mother to me, and you bring dealers into the house, and my competitor
and the Camusots, while I am asleep! . . . Get out, all of you!--"

The unhappy man was beside himself with anger and fear; he rose from
the bed and stood upright, a gaunt, wasted figure.

"Take my arm, sir," said La Cibot, rushing to the rescue, lest Pons
should fall. "Pray calm yourself, the gentlemen are gone."

"I want to see the salon. . . ." said the death-stricken man. La Cibot
made a sign to the three ravens to take flight. Then she caught up
Pons as if he had been a feather, and put him in bed again, in spite
of his cries. When she saw that he was quite helpless and exhausted,
she went to shut the door on the staircase. The three who had done
Pons to death were still on the landing; La Cibot told them to wait.
She heard Fraisier say to Magus:

"Let me have it in writing, and sign it, both of you. Undertake to pay
nine hundred thousand francs in cash for M. Pons' collection, and we
will see about putting you in the way of making a handsome profit."

With that he said something to La Cibot in a voice so low that the
others could not catch it, and went down after the two dealers to the
porter's room.

"Have they gone, Mme. Cibot?" asked the unhappy Pons, when she came
back again.

"Gone? . . . who?" asked she.

"Those men."

"What men? There, now, you have seen men," said she. "You have just
had a raving fit; if it hadn't been for me you would have gone out the
window, and now you are still talking of men in the room. Is it always
to be like this?"

"What! was there not a gentleman here just now, saying that my
relatives had sent him?"

"Will you still stand me out?" said she. "Upon my word, do you know
where you ought to be sent?--To the asylum at Charenton. You see

"Elie Magus, Remonencq, and--"

"Oh! as for Remonencq, you may have seen _him_, for he came up to tell
me that my poor Cibot is so bad that I must clear out of this and come
down. My Cibot comes first, you see. When my husband is ill, I can
think of nobody else. Try to keep quiet and sleep for a couple of
hours; I have sent for Dr. Poulain, and I will come up with him. . . .
Take a drink and be good--"

"Then was there no one in the room just now, when I waked? . . ."

"No one," said she. "You must have seen M. Remonencq in one of your

"You are right, Mme. Cibot," said Pons, meek as a lamb.

"Well, now you are sensible again. . . . Good-bye, my cherub; keep
quiet, I shall be back again in a minute."

When Pons heard the outer door close upon her, he summoned up all his
remaining strength to rise.

"They are cheating me," he muttered to himself, "they are robbing me!
Schmucke is a child that would let them tie him up in a sack."

The terrible scene had seemed so real, it could not be a dream, he
thought; a desire to throw light upon the puzzle excited him; he
managed to reach the door, opened it after many efforts, and stood on
the threshold of his salon. There they were--his dear pictures, his
statues, his Florentine bronzes, his porcelain; the sight of them
revived him. The old collector walked in his dressing-gown along the
narrow spaces between the credence-tables and the sideboards that
lined the wall; his feet bare, his head on fire. His first glance of
ownership told him that everything was there; he turned to go back to
bed again, when he noticed that a Greuze portrait looked out of the
frame that had held Sebastian del Piombo's _Templar_. Suspicion
flashed across his brain, making his dark thoughts apparent to him, as
a flash of lightning marks the outlines of the cloud-bars on a stormy
sky. He looked round for the eight capital pictures of the collection;
each one of them was replaced by another. A dark film suddenly
overspread his eyes; his strength failed him; he fell fainting upon
the polished floor.

So heavy was the swoon, that for two hours he lay as he fell, till
Schmucke awoke and went to see his friend, and found him lying
unconscious in the salon. With endless pains Schmucke raised the
half-dead body and laid it on the bed; but when he came to question
the death-stricken man, and saw the look in the dull eyes and heard
the vague, inarticulate words, the good German, so far from losing his
head, rose to the very heroism of friendship. Man and child as he was,
with the pressure of despair came the inspiration of a mother's
tenderness, a woman's love. He warmed towels (he found towels!), he
wrapped them about Pons' hands, he laid them over the pit of the
stomach; he took the cold, moist forehead in his hands, he summoned
back life with a might of will worthy of Apollonius of Tyana, laying
kisses on his friend's eyelids like some Mary bending over the dead
Christ, in a _pieta_ carved in bas-relief by some great Italian
sculptor. The divine effort, the outpouring of one life into another,
the work of mother and of lover, was crowned with success. In half an
hour the warmth revived Pons; he became himself again, the hues of
life returned to his eyes, suspended faculties gradually resumed their
play under the influence of artificial heat; Schmucke gave him
balm-water with a little wine in it; the spirit of life spread through
the body; intelligence lighted up the forehead so short a while ago
insensible as a stone; and Pons knew that he had been brought back to
life, by what sacred devotion, what might of friendship!

"But for you, I should die," he said, and as he spoke he felt the good
German's tears falling on his face. Schmucke was laughing and crying
at once.

Poor Schmucke! he had waited for those words with a frenzy of hope as
costly as the frenzy of despair; and now his strength utterly failed
him, he collapsed like a rent balloon. It was his turn to fall; he
sank into the easy-chair, clasped his hands, and thanked God in
fervent prayer. For him a miracle had just been wrought. He put no
belief in the efficacy of the prayer of his deeds; the miracle had
been wrought by God in direct answer to his cry. And yet that miracle
was a natural effect, such as medical science often records.

A sick man, surrounded by those who love him, nursed by those who wish
earnestly that he should live, will recover (other things being
equal), when another patient tended by hirelings will die. Doctors
decline to see unconscious magnetism in this phenomenon; for them it
is the result of intelligent nursing, of exact obedience to their
orders; but many a mother knows the virtue of such ardent projection
of strong, unceasing prayer.

"My good Schmucke--"

"Say nodings; I shall hear you mit mein heart . . . rest, rest!" said
Schmucke, smiling at him.

"Poor friend, noble creature, child of God, living in God! . . . The
one being that has loved me. . . ." The words came out with pauses
between them; there was a new note, a something never heard before, in
Pons' voice. All the soul, so soon to take flight, found utterance in
the words that filled Schmucke with happiness almost like a lover's

"Yes, yes. I shall be shtrong as a lion. I shall vork for two!"

"Listen, my good, my faithful, adorable friend. Let me speak, I have
not much time left. I am a dead man. I cannot recover from these
repeated shocks."

Schmucke was crying like a child.

"Just listen," continued Pons, "and cry afterwards. As a Christian,
you must submit. I have been robbed. It is La Cibot's doing. . . . I
ought to open your eyes before I go; you know nothing of life. . . .
Somebody has taken away eight of the pictures, and they were worth a
great deal of money."

"Vorgif me--I sold dem."

"_You_ sold them?"

"Yes, I," said poor Schmucke. "Dey summoned us to der court--"

"_Summoned?_. . . . Who summoned us?"

"Wait," said Schmucke. He went for the bit of stamped-paper left by
the bailiff, and gave it to Pons. Pons read the scrawl through with
close attention, then he let the paper drop and lay quite silent for a
while. A close observer of the work of men's hands, unheedful so far
of the workings of the brain, Pons finally counted out the threads of
the plot woven about him by La Cibot. The artist's fire, the intellect
that won the Roman scholarship--all his youth came back to him for a

"My good Schmucke," he said at last, "you must do as I tell you, and
obey like a soldier. Listen! go downstairs into the lodge and tell
that abominable woman that I should like to see the person sent to me
by my cousin the President; and that unless he comes, I shall leave my
collection to the Musee. Say that a will is in question."

Schmucke went on his errand; but at the first word, La Cibot answered
by a smile.

"My good M. Schmucke, our dear invalid has had a delirious fit; he
thought that there were men in the room. On my word, as an honest
woman, no one has come from the family."

Schmucke went back with his answer, which he repeated word for word.

"She is cleverer, more astute and cunning and wily, than I thought,"
said Pons with a smile. "She lies even in her room. Imagine it! This
morning she brought a Jew here, Elie Magus by name, and Remonencq, and
a third whom I do not know, more terrific than the other two put
together. She meant to make a valuation while I was asleep; I happened
to wake, and saw them all three, estimating the worth of my
snuff-boxes. The stranger said, indeed, that the Camusots had sent him
here; I spoke to him. . . . That shameless woman stood me out that I was
dreaming! . . . My good Schmucke, it was not a dream. I heard the man
perfectly plainly; he spoke to me. . . . The two dealers took fright
and made for the door. . . . I thought that La Cibot would contradict
herself--the experiment failed. . . . I will lay another snare, and
trap the wretched woman. . . . Poor Schmucke, you think that La Cibot
is an angel; and for this month past she has been killing me by inches
to gain her covetous ends. I would not believe that a woman who served
us faithfully for years could be so wicked. That doubt has been my
ruin. . . . How much did the eight pictures fetch?"

"Vife tausend vrancs."

"Good heavens! they were worth twenty times as much!" cried Pons; "the
gems of the collection! I have not time now to institute proceedings;
and if I did, you would figure in court as the dupe of those rascals.
. . . A lawsuit would be the death of you. You do not know what
justice means--a court of justice is a sink of iniquity. . . . At the
sight of such horrors, a soul like yours would give way. And besides,
you will have enough. The pictures cost me forty thousand francs. I
have had them for thirty-six years. . . . Oh, we have been robbed with
surprising dexterity. I am on the brink of the grave, I care for
nothing now but thee--for thee, the best soul under the sun. . . .

"I will not have you plundered; all that I have is yours. So you must
trust nobody, Schmucke, you that have never suspected any one in your
life. I know God watches over you, but He may forget for one moment,
and you will be seized like a vessel among pirates. . . . La Cibot is
a monster! She is killing me; and you think her an angel! You shall
see what she is. Go and ask her to give you the name of a notary, and
I will show you her with her hand in the bag."

Schmucke listened as if Pons proclaimed an apocalypse. Could so
depraved a creature as La Cibot exist? If Pons was right, it seemed to
imply that there was no God in the world. He went right down again to
Mme. Cibot.

"Mein boor vriend Bons feel so ill," he said, "dat he vish to make his
vill. Go und pring ein nodary."

This was said in the hearing of several persons, for Cibot's life was
despaired of. Remonencq and his sister, two women from neighboring
porters' lodges, two or three servants, and the lodger from the first
floor on the side next the street, were all standing outside in the

"Oh! you can just fetch a notary yourself, and have your will made as
you please," cried La Cibot, with tears in her eyes. "My poor Cibot is
dying, and it is no time to leave him. I would give all the Ponses in
the world to save Cibot, that has never given me an ounce of
unhappiness in these thirty years since we were married."

And in she went, leaving Schmucke in confusion.

"Is M. Pons really seriously ill, sir?" asked the first-floor lodger,
one Jolivard, a clerk in the registrar's office at the Palais de

"He nearly died chust now," said Schmucke, with deep sorrow in his

"M. Trognon lives near by in the Rue Saint-Louis," said M. Jolivard,
"he is the notary of the quarter."

"Would you like me to go for him?" asked Remonencq.

"I should pe fery glad," said Schmucke; "for gif Montame Zipod cannot
pe mit mine vriend, I shall not vish to leaf him in der shtate he is

"Mme. Cibot told us that he was going out of his mind," resumed

"Bons! out off his mind!" cried Schmucke, terror-stricken by the idea.
"Nefer vas he so clear in der head . . . dat is chust der reason vy I
am anxious for him."

The little group of persons listened to the conversation with a very
natural curiosity, which stamped the scene upon their memories.
Schmucke did not know Fraisier, and could not note his satanic
countenance and glittering eyes. But two words whispered by Fraisier
in La Cibot's ear had prompted a daring piece of acting, somewhat
beyond La Cibot's range, it may be, though she played her part
throughout in a masterly style. To make others believe that the dying
man was out of his mind--it was the very corner-stone of the edifice
reared by the petty lawyer. The morning's incident had done Fraisier
good service; but for him, La Cibot in her trouble might have fallen
into the snare innocently spread by Schmucke, when he asked her to
send back the person sent by the family.

Remonencq saw Dr. Poulain coming towards them, and asked no better
than to vanish. The fact was that for the last ten days the Auvergnat
had been playing Providence in a manner singularly displeasing to
Justice, which claims the monopoly of that part. He had made up his
mind to rid himself at all costs of the one obstacle in his way to
happiness, and happiness for him meant capital trebled and marriage
with the irresistibly charming portress. He had watched the little
tailor drinking his herb-tea, and a thought struck him. He would
convert the ailment into mortal sickness; his stock of old metals
supplied him with the means.

One morning as he leaned against the door-post, smoking his pipe and
dreaming of that fine shop on the Boulevard de la Madeleine where Mme.
Cibot, gorgeously arrayed, should some day sit enthroned, his eyes
fell upon a copper disc, about the size of a five-franc piece, covered
thickly with verdigris. The economical idea of using Cibot's medicine
to clean the disc immediately occurred to him. He fastened the thing
in a bit of twine, and came over every morning to inquire for tidings
of his friend the tailor, timing his visit during La Cibot's visit to
her gentlemen upstairs. He dropped the disc into the tumbler, allowed
it to steep there while he talked, and drew it out again by the string
when he went away.

The trace of tarnished copper, commonly called verdigris, poisoned the
wholesome draught; a minute dose administered by stealth did
incalculable mischief. Behold the results of this criminal
homoeopathy! On the third day poor Cibot's hair came out, his teeth
were loosened in their sockets, his whole system was deranged by a
scarcely perceptible trace of poison. Dr. Poulain racked his brains.
He was enough of a man of science to see that some destructive agent
was at work. He privately carried off the decoction, analyzed it
himself, but found nothing. It so chanced that Remonencq had taken
fright and omitted to dip the disc in the tumbler that day.

Then Dr. Poulain fell back on himself and science and got out of the
difficulty with a theory. A sedentary life in a damp room; a cramped
position before the barred window--these conditions had vitiated the
blood in the absence of proper exercise, especially as the patient
continually breathed an atmosphere saturated with the fetid
exhalations of the gutter. The Rue de Normandie is one of the
old-fashioned streets that slope towards the middle; the municipal
authorities of Paris as yet have laid on no water supply to flush the
central kennel which drains the houses on either side, and as a result
a stream of filthy ooze meanders among the cobblestones, filters into
the soil, and produces the mud peculiar to the city. La Cibot came and
went; but her husband, a hard-working man, sat day in day out like a
fakir on the table in the window, till his knee-joints were stiffened,
the blood stagnated in his body, and his legs grew so thin and crooked
that he almost lost the use of them. The deep copper tint of the man's
complexion naturally suggested that he had been out of health for a
very long time. The wife's good health and the husband's illness
seemed to the doctor to be satisfactorily accounted for by this

"Then what is the matter with my poor Cibot?" asked the portress.

"My dear Mme. Cibot, he is dying of the porter's disease," said the
doctor. "Incurable vitiation of the blood is evident from the general
anaemic condition."

No one had anything to gain by a crime so objectless. Dr. Poulain's
first suspicions were effaced by this thought. Who could have any
possible interest in Cibot's death? His wife?--the doctor saw her
taste the herb-tea as she sweetened it. Crimes which escape social
vengeance are many enough, and as a rule they are of this order--to
wit, murders committed without any startling sign of violence, without
bloodshed, bruises, marks of strangling, without any bungling of the
business, in short; if there seems to be no motive for the crime, it
most likely goes unpunished, especially if the death occurs among the
poorer classes. Murder is almost always denounced by its advanced
guards, by hatred or greed well known to those under whose eyes the
whole matter has passed. But in the case of the Cibots, no one save
the doctor had any interest in discovering the actual cause of death.
The little copper-faced tailor's wife adored her husband; he had no
money and no enemies; La Cibot's fortune and the marine-store dealer's
motives were alike hidden in the shade. Poulain knew the portress and
her way of thinking perfectly well; he thought her capable of
tormenting Pons, but he saw that she had neither motive enough nor wit
enough for murder; and besides--every time the doctor came and she
gave her husband a draught, she took a spoonful herself. Poulain
himself, the only person who might have thrown light on the matter,
inclined to believe that this was one of the unaccountable freaks of
disease, one of the astonishing exceptions which make medicine so
perilous a profession. And in truth, the little tailor's unwholesome
life and unsanitary surroundings had unfortunately brought him to such
a pass that the trace of copper-poisoning was like the last straw.
Gossips and neighbors took it upon themselves to explain the sudden
death, and no suspicion of blame lighted upon Remonencq.

"Oh! this long time past I have said that M. Cibot was not well,"
cried one.

"He worked too hard, he did," said another; "he heated his blood."

"He would not listen to me," put in a neighbor; "I advised him to walk
out of a Sunday and keep Saint Monday; two days in the week is not too
much for amusement."

In short, the gossip of the quarter, the tell-tale voice to which
Justice, in the person of the commissary of police, the king of the
poorer classes, lends an attentive ear--gossip explained the little
tailor's demise in a perfectly satisfactory manner. Yet M. Poulain's
pensive air and uneasy eyes embarrassed Remonencq not a little, and at
sight of the doctor he offered eagerly to go in search of M. Trognon,
Fraisier's acquaintance. Fraisier turned to La Cibot to say in a low
voice, "I shall come back again as soon as the will is made. In spite
of your sorrow, you must look for squalls." Then he slipped away like
a shadow and met his friend the doctor.

"Ah, Poulain!" he exclaimed, "it is all right. We are safe! I will
tell you about it to-night. Look out a post that will suit you, you
shall have it! For my own part, I am a justice of the peace. Tabareau
will not refuse me now for a son-in-law. And as for you, I will
undertake that you shall marry Mlle. Vitel, granddaughter of our
justice of the peace."

Fraisier left Poulain reduced to dumb bewilderment by these wild
words; bounced like a ball into the boulevard, hailed an omnibus, and
was set down ten minutes later by the modern coach at the corner of
the Rue de Choiseul. By this time it was nearly four o'clock. Fraisier
felt quite sure of a word in private with the Presidente, for
officials seldom leave the Palais de Justice before five o'clock.

Mme. de Marville's reception of him assured Fraisier that M. Leboeuf
had kept his promise made to Mme. Vatinelle and spoken favorably of
the sometime attorney at Mantes. Amelie's manner was almost caressing.
So might the Duchesse de Montpensier have treated Jacques Clement. The
petty attorney was a knife to her hand. But when Fraisier produced the
joint-letter signed by Elie Magus and Remonencq offering the sum of
nine hundred thousand francs in cash for Pons' collection, then the
Presidente looked at her man of business and the gleam of the money
flashed from her eyes. That ripple of greed reached the attorney.

"M. le President left a message with me," she said; "he hopes that you
will dine with us to-morrow. It will be a family party. M. Godeschal,
Desroches' successor and my attorney, will come to meet you, and
Berthier, our notary, and my daughter and son-in-law. After dinner,
you and I and the notary and attorney will have the little
consultation for which you ask, and I will give you full powers. The
two gentlemen will do as you require and act upon your inspiration;
and see that _everything_ goes well. You shall have a power of
attorney from M. de Marville as soon as you want it."

"I shall want it on the day of the decease."

"It shall be in readiness."

"Mme. la Presidente, if I ask for a power of attorney, and would
prefer that your attorney's name should not appear I wish it less in
my own interest than in yours. . . . When I give myself, it is without
reserve. And in return, madame, I ask the same fidelity; I ask my
patrons (I do not venture to call you my clients) to put the same
confidence in me. You may think that in acting thus I am trying to
fasten upon this affair--no, no, madame; there may be reprehensible
things done; with an inheritance in view one is dragged on . . .
especially with nine hundred thousand francs in the balance. Well,
now, you could not disavow a man like Maitre Godeschal, honesty
itself, but you can throw all the blame on the back of a miserable
pettifogging lawyer--"

Mme. Camusot de Marville looked admiringly at Fraisier.

"You ought to go very high," said she, "or sink very low. In your
place, instead of asking to hide myself away as a justice of the
peace, I would aim at the crown attorney's appointment--at, say,
Mantes!--and make a great career for myself."

"Let me have my way, madame. The post of justice of the peace is an
ambling pad for M. Vitel; for me it shall be a war-horse."

And in this way the Presidente proceeded to a final confidence.

"You seem to be so completely devoted to our interests," she began,
"that I will tell you about the difficulties of our position and our
hopes. The President's great desire, ever since a match was projected
between his daughter and an adventurer who recently started a bank,
--the President's wish, I say, has been to round out the Marville
estate with some grazing land, at that time in the market. We
dispossessed ourselves of fine property, as you know, to settle it
upon our daughter; but I wish very much, my daughter being an only
child, to buy all that remains of the grass land. Part has been sold
already. The estate belongs to an Englishman who is returning to
England after a twenty years' residence in France. He built the most
charming cottage in a delightful situation, between Marville Park and
the meadows which once were part of the Marville lands; he bought up
covers, copse, and gardens at fancy prices to make the grounds about
the cottage. The house and its surroundings make a feature of the
landscape, and it lies close to my daughter's park palings. The whole,
land and house, should be bought for seven hundred thousand francs,
for the net revenue is about twenty thousand francs. . . . But if Mr.
Wadman finds out that _we_ think of buying it, he is sure to add
another two or three hundred thousand francs to the price; for he will
lose money if the house counts for nothing, as it usually does when
you buy land in the country--"

"Why, madame," Fraisier broke in, "in my opinion you can be so sure
that the inheritance is yours that I will offer to act the part of
purchaser for you. I will undertake that you shall have the land at
the best possible price, and have a written engagement made out under
private seal, like a contract to deliver goods. . . . I will go to the
Englishman in the character of buyer. I understand that sort of thing;
it was my specialty at Mantes. Vatinelle doubled the value of his
practice, while I worked in his name."

"Hence your connection with little Madame Vatinelle. He must be very
well off--"

"But Mme. Vatinelle has expensive tastes. . . . So be easy, madame--I
will serve you up the Englishman done to a turn--"

"If you can manage that you will have eternal claims to my gratitude.
Good-day, my dear M. Fraisier. Till to-morrow--"

Fraisier went. His parting bow was a degree less cringing than on the
first occasion.

"I am to dine to-morrow with President de Marville!" he said to
himself. "Come now, I have these folk in my power. Only, to be
absolute master, I ought to be the German's legal adviser in the
person of Tabareau, the justice's clerk. Tabareau will not have me now
for his daughter, his only daughter, but he will give her to me when I
am a justice of the peace. I shall be eligible. Mlle. Tabareau, that
tall, consumptive girl with the red hair, has a house in the Place
Royale in right of her mother. At her father's death she is sure to
come in for six thousand francs, you must not look too hard at the

As he went back to the Rue de Normandie by way of the boulevards, he
dreamed out his golden dream, he gave himself up to the happiness of
the thought that he should never know want again. He would marry his
friend Poulain to Mlle. Vitel, the daughter of the justice of the
peace; together, he and his friend the doctor would reign like kings
in the quarter; he would carry all the elections--municipal, military,
or political. The boulevards seem short if, while you pace afoot, you
mount your ambition on the steed of fancy in this way.

Schmucke meanwhile went back to his friend Pons with the news that
Cibot was dying, and Remonencq gone in search of M. Trognon, the
notary. Pons was struck by the name. It had come up again and again in
La Cibot's interminable talk, and La Cibot always recommended him as
honesty incarnate. And with that a luminous idea occurred to Pons, in
whom mistrust had grown paramount since the morning, an idea which
completed his plan for outwitting La Cibot and unmasking her
completely for the too-credulous Schmucke.

So many unexpected things had happened that day that poor Schmucke was
quite bewildered. Pons took his friend's hand.

"There must be a good deal of confusion in the house, Schmucke; if the
porter is at death's door, we are almost free for a minute or two;
that is to say, there will be no spies--for we are watched, you may be
sure of that. Go out, take a cab, go to the theatre, and tell Mlle.
Heloise Brisetout that I should like to see her before I die. Ask her
to come here to-night when she leaves the theatre. Then go to your
friends Brunner and Schwab and beg them to come to-morrow morning at
nine o'clock to inquire after me; let them come up as if they were
just passing by and called in to see me."

The old artist felt that he was dying, and this was the scheme that he
forged. He meant Schmucke to be his universal legatee. To protect
Schmucke from any possible legal quibbles, he proposed to dictate his
will to a notary in the presence of witnesses, lest his sanity should
be called in question and the Camusots should attempt upon that
pretext to dispute the will. At the name of Trognon he caught a
glimpse of machinations of some kind; perhaps a flaw purposely
inserted, or premeditated treachery on La Cibot's part. He would
prevent this. Trognon should dictate a holograph will which should be
signed and deposited in a sealed envelope in a drawer. Then Schmucke,
hidden in one of the cabinets in his alcove, should see La Cibot
search for the will, find it, open the envelope, read it through, and
seal it again. Next morning, at nine o'clock, he would cancel the will
and make a new one in the presence of two notaries, everything in due
form and order. La Cibot had treated him as a madman and a visionary;
he saw what this meant--he saw the Presidente's hate and greed, her
revenge in La Cibot's behavior. In the sleepless hours and lonely days
of the last two months, the poor man had sifted the events of his past

It has been the wont of sculptors, ancient and modern, to set a
tutelary genius with a lighted torch upon either side of a tomb. Those
torches that light up the paths of death throw light for dying eyes
upon the spectacle of a life's mistakes and sins; the carved stone
figures express great ideas, they are symbols of a fact in human
experience. The agony of death has its own wisdom. Not seldom a simple
girl, scarcely more than a child, will grow wise with the experience
of a hundred years, will gain prophetic vision, judge her family, and
see clearly through all pretences, at the near approach of Death.
Herein lies Death's poetry. But, strange and worthy of remark it is,
there are two manners of death.

The poetry of prophecy, the gift of seeing clearly into the future or
the past, only belongs to those whose bodies are stricken, to those
who die by the destruction of the organs of physical life. Consumptive
patients, for instance, or those who die of gangrene like Louis XIV.,
of fever like Pons, of a stomach complaint like Mme. de Mortsauf, or
of wounds received in the full tide of life like soldiers on the
battlefield--all these may possess this supreme lucidity to the full;
their deaths fill us with surprise and wonder. But many, on the other
hand, die of _intelligential_ diseases, as they may be called; of
maladies seated in the brain or in that nervous system which acts as a
kind of purveyor of thought fuel--and these die wholly, body and
spirit are darkened together. The former are spirits deserted by the
body, realizing for us our ideas of the spirits of Scripture; the
latter are bodies untenanted by a spirit.

Too late the virgin nature, the epicure-Cato, the righteous man almost
without sin, was discovering the Presidente's real character--the sac
of gall that did duty for her heart. He knew the world now that he was
about to leave it, and for the past few hours he had risen gaily to
his part, like a joyous artist finding a pretext for caricature and
laughter in everything. The last links that bound him to life, the
chains of admiration, the strong ties that bind the art lover to Art's
masterpieces, had been snapped that morning. When Pons knew that La
Cibot had robbed him, he bade farewell, like a Christian, to the pomps
and vanities of Art, to his collection, to all his old friendships
with the makers of so many fair things. Our forefathers counted the
day of death as a Christian festival, and in something of the same
spirit Pons' thoughts turned to the coming end. In his tender love he
tried to protect Schmucke when he should be low in the grave. It was
this father's thought that led him to fix his choice upon the leading
lady of the ballet. Mlle. Brisetout should help him to baffle
surrounding treachery, and those who in all probability would never
forgive his innocent universal legatee.

Heloise Brisetout was one of the few natures that remain true in a
false position. She was an opera-girl of the school of Josepha and
Jenny Cadine, capable of playing any trick on a paying adorer; yet she
was a good comrade, dreading no power on earth, accustomed as she was
to see the weak side of the strong and to hold her own with the police
at the scarcely idyllic Bal de Mabille and the carnival.

"If she asked for my place for Garangeot, she will think that she owes
me a good turn by so much the more," said Pons to himself.

Thanks to the prevailing confusion in the porter's lodge, Schmucke
succeeded in getting out of the house. He returned with the utmost
speed, fearing to leave Pons too long alone. M. Trognon reached the
house just as Schmucke came in. Albeit Cibot was dying, his wife came
upstairs with the notary, brought him into the bedroom, and withdrew,
leaving Schmucke and Pons with M. Trognon; but she left the door ajar,
and went no further than the next room. Providing herself with a
little hand-glass of curious workmanship, she took up her station in
the doorway, so that she could not only hear but see all that passed
at the supreme moment.

"Sir," said Pons, "I am in the full possession of my faculties,
unfortunately for me, for I feel that I am about to die; and
doubtless, by the will of God, I shall be spared nothing of the agony
of death. This is M. Schmucke"--(the notary bowed to M. Schmucke)--"my
one friend on earth," continued Pons. "I wish to make him my universal
legatee. Now, tell me how to word the will, so that my friend, who is
a German and knows nothing of French law, may succeed to my
possessions without any dispute."

"Anything is liable to be disputed, sir," said the notary; "that is
the drawback of human justice. But in the matter of wills, there are
wills so drafted that they cannot be upset--"

"In what way?" queried Pons.

"If a will is made in the presence of a notary, and before witnesses
who can swear that the testator was in the full possession of his
faculties; and if the testator has neither wife nor children, nor
father nor mother--"

"I have none of these; all my affection is centred upon my dear friend
Schmucke here."

The tears overflowed Schmucke's eyes.

"Then, if you have none but distant relatives, the law leaves you free
to dispose of both personalty and real estate as you please, so long
as you bequeath them for no unlawful purpose; for you must have come
across cases of wills disputed on account of the testator's
eccentricities. A will made in the presence of a notary is considered
to be authentic; for the person's identity is established, the notary
certifies that the testator was sane at the time, and there can be no
possible dispute over the signature.--Still, a holograph will,
properly and clearly worded, is quite as safe."

"I have decided, for reasons of my own, to make a holograph will at
your dictation, and to deposit it with my friend here. Is this

"Quite possible," said the notary. "Will you write? I will begin to

"Schmucke, bring me my little Boule writing-desk.--Speak low, sir," he
added; "we may be overheard."

"Just tell me, first of all, what you intend," demanded the notary.

Ten minutes later La Cibot saw the notary look over the will, while
Schmucke lighted a taper (Pons watching her reflection all the while
in a mirror). She saw the envelope sealed, saw Pons give it to
Schmucke, and heard him say that it must be put away in a secret
drawer in his bureau. Then the testator asked for the key, tied it to
the corner of his handkerchief, and slipped it under his pillow.

The notary himself, by courtesy, was appointed executor. To him Pons
left a picture of price, such a thing as the law permits a notary to
receive. Trognon went out and came upon Mme. Cibot in the salon.

"Well, sir, did M. Pons remember me?"

"You do not expect a notary to betray secrets confided to him, my
dear," returned M. Trognon. "I can only tell you this--there will be
many disappointments, and some that are anxious after the money will
be foiled. M. Pons has made a good and very sensible will, a patriotic
will, which I highly approve."

La Cibot's curiosity, kindled by such words, reached an unimaginable
pitch. She went downstairs and spent the night at Cibot's bedside,
inwardly resolving that Mlle. Remonencq should take her place towards
two or three in the morning, when she would go up and have a look at
the document.

Mlle. Brisetout's visit towards half-past ten that night seemed
natural enough to La Cibot; but in her terror lest the ballet-girl
should mention Gaudissart's gift of a thousand francs, she went
upstairs with her, lavishing polite speeches and flattery as if Mlle.
Heloise had been a queen.

"Ah! my dear, you are much nicer here on your own ground than at the
theatre," Heloise remarked. "I advise you to keep to your employment."

Heloise was splendidly dressed. Bixiou, her lover, had brought her in
his carriage on the way to an evening party at Mariette's. It so fell
out that the first-floor lodger, M. Chapoulot, a retired braid
manufacturer from the Rue Saint-Denis, returning from the
Ambigu-Comique with his wife and daughter, was dazzled by a vision of
such a costume and such a charming woman upon their staircase.

"Who is that, Mme. Cibot?" asked Mme. Chapoulot.

"A no-better-than-she-should-be, a light-skirts that you may see
half-naked any evening for a couple of francs," La Cibot answered in
an undertone for Mme. Chapoulot's ear.

"Victorine!" called the braid manufacturer's wife, "let the lady pass,

The matron's alarm signal was not lost upon Heloise.

"Your daughter must be more inflammable than tinder, madame, if you
are afraid that she will catch fire by touching me," she said.

M. Chapoulot waited on the landing. "She is uncommonly handsome off
the stage," he remarked. Whereupon Mme. Chapoulot pinched him sharply
and drove him indoors.

"Here is a second-floor lodger that has a mind to set up for being on
the fourth floor," said Heloise as she continued to climb.

"But mademoiselle is accustomed to going higher and higher."

"Well, old boy," said Heloise, entering the bedroom and catching sight
of the old musician's white, wasted face. "Well, old boy, so we are
not very well? Everybody at the theatre is asking after you; but
though one's heart may be in the right place, every one has his own
affairs, you know, and cannot find time to go to see friends.
Gaudissart talks of coming round every day, and every morning the
tiresome management gets hold of him. Still, we are all of us fond of

"Mme. Cibot," said the patient, "be so kind as to leave us; we want to
talk about the theatre and my post as conductor, with this lady.
Schmucke, will you go to the door with Mme. Cibot?"

At a sign from Pons, Schmucke saw Mme. Cibot out at the door, and drew
the bolts.

"Ah, that blackguard of a German! Is he spoiled, too?" La Cibot said
to herself as she heard the significant sounds. "That is M. Pons'
doing; he taught him those disgusting tricks. . . . But you shall pay
for this, my dears," she thought as she went down stairs. "Pooh! if
that tight-rope dancer tells him about the thousand francs, I shall
say that it is a farce.

She seated herself by Cibot's pillow. Cibot complained of a burning
sensation in the stomach. Remonencq had called in and given him a
draught while his wife was upstairs.

As soon as Schmucke had dismissed La Cibot, Pons turned to the

"Dear child, I can trust no one else to find me a notary, an honest
man, and send him here to make my will to-morrow morning at half-past
nine precisely. I want to leave all that I have to Schmucke. If he is
persecuted, poor German that he is, I shall reckon upon the notary;
the notary must defend him. And for that reason I must have a wealthy
notary, highly thought of, a man above the temptations to which
pettifogging lawyers yield. He must succor my poor friend. I cannot
trust Berthier, Cardot's successor. And you know so many people--"

"Oh! I have the very man for you," Heloise broke in; "there is the
notary that acts for Florine and the Comtesse du Bruel, Leopold
Hannequin, a virtuous man that does not know what a _lorette_ is! He
is a sort of chance-come father--a good soul that will not let you
play ducks and drakes with your earnings; I call him _Le Pere aux
Rats_, because he instils economical notions into the minds of all my
friends. In the first place, my dear fellow, he has a private income
of sixty thousand francs; and he is a notary of the real old sort, a
notary while he walks or sleeps; his children must be little notaries
and notaresses. He is a heavy, pedantic creature, and that's the
truth; but on his own ground, he is not the man to flinch before any
power in creation. . . . No woman ever got money out of him; he is a
fossil pater-familias, his wife worships him, and does not deceive
him, although she is a notary's wife.--What more do you want? as a
notary he has not his match in Paris. He is in the patriarchal style;
not queer and amusing, as Cardot used to be with Malaga; but he will
never decamp like little What's-his-name that lived with Antonia. So I
will send round my man to-morrow morning at eight o'clock. . . . You
may sleep in peace. And I hope, in the first place, that you will get
better, and make charming music for us again; and yet, after all, you
see, life is very dreary--managers chisel you, and kings mizzle and
ministers fizzle and rich fold economizzle.--Artists have nothing left
_here_" (tapping her breast)--"it is a time to die in. Good-bye, old

"Heloise, of all things, I ask you to keep my counsel."

"It is not a theatre affair," she said; "it is sacred for an artist."

"Who is your gentleman, child?"

"M. Baudoyer, the mayor of your arrondissement, a man as stupid as the
late Crevel; Crevel once financed Gaudissart, you know, and a few days
ago he died and left me nothing, not so much as a pot of pomatum. That
made me say just now that this age of ours is something sickening."

"What did he die of?"

"Of his wife. If he had stayed with me, he would be living now.
Good-bye, dear old boy, I am talking of going off, because I can see
that you will be walking about the boulevards in a week or two, hunting
up pretty little curiosities again. You are not ill; I never saw your
eyes look so bright." And she went, fully convinced that her protege
Garangeot would conduct the orchestra for good.

Every door stood ajar as she went downstairs. Every lodger, on
tip-toe, watched the lady of the ballet pass on her way out. It was
quite an event in the house.

Fraisier, like the bulldog that sets his teeth and never lets go, was
on the spot. He stood beside La Cibot when Mlle. Brisetout passed
under the gateway and asked for the door to be opened. Knowing that a
will had been made, he had come to see how the land lay, for Maitre
Trognon, notary, had refused to say a syllable--Fraisier's questions
were as fruitless as Mme. Cibot's. Naturally the ballet-girl's visit
_in extremis_ was not lost upon Fraisier; he vowed to himself that he
would turn it to good account.

"My dear Mme. Cibot," he began, "now is the critical moment for you."

"Ah, yes . . . my poor Cibot!" said she. "When I think that he will
not live to enjoy anything I may get--"

"It is a question of finding out whether M. Pons has left you anything
at all; whether your name is mentioned or left out, in fact," he
interrupted. "I represent the next-of-kin, and to them you must look
in any case. It is a holograph will, and consequently very easy to
upset.--Do you know where our man has put it?"

"In a secret drawer in his bureau, and he has the key of it. He tied
it to a corner of his handkerchief, and put it under his pillow. I saw
it all."

"Is the will sealed?"

"Yes, alas!"

"It is a criminal offence if you carry off a will and suppress it, but
it is only a misdemeanor to look at it; and anyhow, what does it
amount to? A peccadillo, and nobody will see you. Is your man a heavy

"Yes. But when you tried to see all the things and value them, he
ought to have slept like a top, and yet he woke up. Still, I will see
about it. I will take M. Schmucke's place about four o'clock this
morning; and if you care to come, you shall have the will in your
hands for ten minutes."

"Good. I will come up about four o'clock, and I will knock very

"Mlle Remonencq will take my place with Cibot. She will know, and open
the door; but tap on the window, so as to rouse nobody in the house."

"Right," said Fraisier. "You will have a light, will you not. A candle
will do."

At midnight poor Schmucke sat in his easy-chair, watching with a
breaking heart that shrinking of the features that comes with death;
Pons looked so worn out with the day's exertions, that death seemed
very near.

Presently Pons spoke. "I have just enough strength, I think, to last
till to-morrow night," he said philosophically. "To-morrow night the
death agony will begin; poor Schmucke! As soon as the notary and your
two friends are gone, go for our good Abbe Duplanty, the curate of
Saint-Francois. Good man, he does not know that I am ill, and I wish
to take the holy sacrament to-morrow at noon."

There was a long pause.

"God so willed it that life has not been as I dreamed," Pons resumed.
"I should so have loved wife and children and home. . . . To be loved
by a very few in some corner--that was my whole ambition! Life is hard
for every one; I have seen people who had all that I wanted so much
and could not have, and yet they were not happy. . . . Then at the end
of my life, God put untold comfort in my way, when He gave me such a
friend. . . . And one thing I have not to reproach myself with--that I
have not known your worth nor appreciated you, my good Schmucke. . . .
I have loved you with my whole heart, with all the strength of love
that is in me. . . . Do not cry, Schmucke; I shall say no more if you
cry and it is so sweet to me to talk of ourselves to you. . . . If I
had listened to you, I should not be dying. I should have left the
world and broken off my habits, and then I should not have been
wounded to death. And now, I want to think of no one but you at the

"You are missdaken--"

"Do not contradict me--listen, dear friend. . . . You are as guileless
and simple as a six-year-old child that has never left its mother; one
honors you for it--it seems to me that God Himself must watch over
such as you. But men are so wicked, that I ought to warn you
beforehand . . . and then you will lose your generous trust, your
saint-like belief in others, the bloom of a purity of soul that only
belongs to genius or to hearts like yours. . . . In a little while you
will see Mme. Cibot, who left the door ajar and watched us closely
while M. Trognon was here--in a little while you will see her come for
the will, as she believes it to be. . . . I expect the worthless
creature will do her business this morning when she thinks you are
asleep. Now, mind what I say, and carry out my instructions to the
letter. . . . Are you listening?" asked the dying man.

But Schmucke was overcome with grief, his heart was throbbing
painfully, his head fell back on the chair, he seemed to have lost

"Yes," he answered, "I can hear, but it is as if you vere doo huntert
baces afay from me. . . . It seem to me dat I am going town into der
grafe mit you," said Schmucke, crushed with pain.

He went over to the bed, took one of Pons' hands in both his own, and
within himself put up a fervent prayer.

"What is that that you are mumbling in German?"

"I asked Gott dat He vould take us poth togedders to Himself!"
Schmucke answered simply when he had finished his prayer.

Pons bent over--it was a great effort, for he was suffering
intolerable pain; but he managed to reach Schmucke, and kissed him on
the forehead, pouring out his soul, as it were, in benediction upon a
nature that recalled the lamb that lies at the foot of the Throne of

"See here, listen, my good Schmucke, you must do as dying people tell

"I am lisdening."

"The little door in the recess in your bedroom opens into that

"Yes, but it is blocked up mit bictures."

"Clear them away at once, without making too much noise."


"Clear a passage on both sides, so that you can pass from your room
into mine.--Now, leave the door ajar.--When La Cibot comes to take
your place (and she is capable of coming an hour earlier than usual),
you can go away to bed as if nothing had happened, and look very
tired. Try to look sleepy. As soon as she settles down into the
armchair, go into the closet, draw aside the muslin curtains over the
glass door, and watch her. . . . Do you understand?"

"I oondershtand; you belief dat die pad voman is going to purn der

"I do not know what she will do; but I am sure of this--that you will
not take her for an angel afterwards.--And now play for me; improvise
and make me happy. It will divert your thoughts; your gloomy ideas
will vanish, and for me the dark hours will be filled with your
dreams. . . ."

Schmucke sat down at the piano. Here he was in his element; and in a
few moments, musical inspiration, quickened by the pain with which he
was quivering and the consequent irritation that followed came upon
the kindly German, and, after his wont, he was caught up and borne
above the world. On one sublime theme after another he executed
variations, putting into them sometimes Chopin's sorrow, Chopin's
Raphael-like perfection; sometimes the stormy Dante's grandeur of
Liszt--the two musicians who most nearly approach Paganini's
temperament. When execution reaches this supreme degree, the executant
stands beside the poet, as it were; he is to the composer as the actor
is to the writer of plays, a divinely inspired interpreter of things
divine. But that night, when Schmucke gave Pons an earnest of diviner
symphonies, of that heavenly music for which Saint Cecile let fall her
instruments, he was at once Beethoven and Paganini, creator and
interpreter. It was an outpouring of music inexhaustible as the
nightingale's song--varied and full of delicate undergrowth as the
forest flooded with her trills; sublime as the sky overhead. Schmucke
played as he had never played before, and the soul of the old musician
listening to him rose to ecstasy such as Raphael once painted in a
picture which you may see at Bologna.

A terrific ringing of the door-bell put an end to these visions. The
first-floor lodgers sent up a servant with a message. Would Schmucke
please stop the racket overhead. Madame, Monsieur, and Mademoiselle
Chapoulot had been wakened, and could not sleep for the noise; they
called his attention to the fact that the day was quite long enough
for rehearsals of theatrical music, and added that people ought not to
"strum" all night in a house in the Marais.--It was then three o'clock
in the morning. At half-past three, La Cibot appeared, just as Pons
had predicted. He might have actually heard the conference between
Fraisier and the portress: "Did I not guess exactly how it would be?"
his eyes seemed to say as he glanced at Schmucke, and, turning a
little, he seemed to be fast asleep.

Schmucke's guileless simplicity was an article of belief with La Cibot
(and be it noted that this faith in simplicity is the great source and
secret of the success of all infantine strategy); La Cibot, therefore,
could not suspect Schmucke of deceit when he came to say to her, with
a face half of distress, half of glad relief:

"I haf had a derrible night! a derrible dime of it! I vas opliged to
play to keep him kviet, and the virst-floor lodgers vas komm up to
tell _me_ to be kviet! . . . It was frightful, for der life of mein
friend vas at shtake. I am so tired mit der blaying all night, dat dis
morning I am all knocked up."

"My poor Cibot is very bad, too; one more day like yesterday, and he
will have no strength left. . . . One can't help it; it is God's

"You haf a heart so honest, a soul so peautiful, dot gif der Zipod
die, ve shall lif togedder," said the cunning Schmucke.

The craft of simple, straightforward folk is formidable indeed; they
are exactly like children, setting their unsuspected snares with the
perfect craft of the savage.

"Oh, well go and sleep, sonny!" returned La Cibot. "Your eyes look
tired, they are as big as my fist. But there! if anything could
comfort me for losing Cibot, it would be the thought of ending my days
with a good man like you. Be easy. I will give Mme. Chapoulot a
dressing down. . . . To think of a retired haberdasher's wife giving
herself such airs!"

Schmucke went to his room and took up his post in the closet.

La Cibot had left the door ajar on the landing; Fraisier came in and
closed it noiselessly as soon as he heard Schmucke shut his bedroom
door. He had brought with him a lighted taper and a bit of very fine
wire to open the seal of the will. La Cibot, meanwhile, looking under
the pillow, found the handkerchief with the key of the bureau knotted
to one corner; and this so much the more easily because Pons purposely
left the end hanging over the bolster, and lay with his face to the

La Cibot went straight to the bureau, opened it cautiously so as to
make as little noise as possible, found the spring of the secret
drawer, and hurried into the salon with the will in her hand. Her
flight roused Pons' curiosity to the highest pitch; and as for
Schmucke, he trembled as if he were the guilty person.

"Go back," said Fraisier, when she handed over the will. "He may wake,
and he must find you there."

Fraisier opened the seal with a dexterity which proved that his was no
'prentice hand, and read the following curious document, headed "My
Will," with ever-deepening astonishment:

  "On this fifteenth day of April, eighteen hundred and forty-five,
  I, being in my sound mind (as this my Will, drawn up in concert
  with M. Trognon, will testify), and feeling that I must shortly
  die of the malady from which I have suffered since the beginning
  of February last, am anxious to dispose of my property, and have
  herein recorded my last wishes:--

  "I have always been impressed by the untoward circumstances that
  injure great pictures, and not unfrequently bring about total
  destruction. I have felt sorry for the beautiful paintings
  condemned to travel from land to land, never finding some fixed
  abode whither admirers of great masterpieces may travel to see
  them. And I have always thought that the truly deathless work of a
  great master ought to be national property; put where every one of
  every nation may see it, even as the light, God's masterpiece,
  shines for all His children.

  "And as I have spent my life in collecting together and choosing a
  few pictures, some of the greatest masters' most glorious work,
  and as these pictures are as the master left them--genuine
  examples, neither repainted nor retouched,--it has been a painful
  thought to me that the paintings which have been the joy of my
  life, may be sold by public auction, and go, some to England, some
  to Russia, till they are all scattered abroad again as if they had
  never been gathered together. From this wretched fate I have
  determined to save both them and the frames in which they are set,
  all of them the work of skilled craftsmen.

  "On these grounds, therefore, I give and bequeath the pictures
  which compose my collection to the King, for the gallery in the
  Louvre, subject to the charge (if the legacy is accepted) of a
  life-annuity of two thousand four hundred francs to my friend
  Wilhelm Schmucke.

  "If the King, as usufructuary of the Louvre collection, should
  refuse the legacy with the charge upon it, the said pictures shall
  form a part of the estate which I leave to my friend, Schmucke, on
  condition that he shall deliver the _Monkey's Head_, by Goya, to
  my cousin, President Camusot; a _Flower-piece_, the tulips, by
  Abraham Mignon, to M. Trognon, notary (whom I appoint as my
  executor): and allow Mme. Cibot, who has acted as my housekeeper
  for ten years, the sum of two hundred francs per annum.

  "Finally, my friend Schmucke is to give the _Descent from the
  Cross_, Ruben's sketch for his great picture at Antwerp, to adorn
  a chapel in the parish church, in grateful acknowledgment of M.
  Duplanty's kindness to me; for to him I owe it that I can die as a
  Christian and a Catholic."--So ran the will.

"This is ruin!" mused Fraisier, "the ruin of all my hopes. Ha! I begin
to believe all that the Presidente told me about this old artist and
his cunning."

"Well?" La Cibot came back to say.

"Your gentleman is a monster. He is leaving everything to the Crown.
Now, you cannot plead against the Crown. . . . The will cannot be
disputed. . . . We are robbed, ruined, spoiled, and murdered!"

"What has he left to me?"

"Two hundred francs a year."

"A pretty come-down! . . . Why, he is a finished scoundrel."

"Go and see," said Fraisier, "and I will put your scoundrel's will
back again in the envelope."

While Mme. Cibot's back was turned, Fraisier nimbly slipped a sheet of
blank paper into the envelope; the will he put in his pocket. He next
proceeded to seal the envelope again so cleverly that he showed the
seal to Mme. Cibot when she returned, and asked her if she could see
the slightest trace of the operation. La Cibot took up the envelope,
felt it over, assured herself that it was not empty, and heaved a deep
sigh. She had entertained hopes that Fraisier himself would have
burned the unlucky document while she was out of the room.

"Well, my dear M. Fraisier, what is to be done?"

"Oh! that is your affair! I am not one of the next-of-kin, myself; but
if I had the slightest claim to any of _that_" (indicating the
collection), "I know very well what I should do."

"That is just what I want to know," La Cibot answered, with sufficient

"There is a fire in the grate----" he said. Then he rose to go.

"After all, no one will know about it, but you and me----" began La

"It can never be proved that a will existed," asserted the man of law.

"And you?"

"I? . . . If M. Pons dies intestate, you shall have a hundred thousand

"Oh yes, no doubt," returned she. "People promise you heaps of money,
and when they come by their own, and there is talk of paying they
swindle you like--" "Like Elie Magus," she was going to say, but she
stopped herself just in time.

"I am going," said Fraisier; "it is not to your interest that I should
be found here; but I shall see you again downstairs."

La Cibot shut the door and returned with the sealed packet in her
hand. She had quite made up her mind to burn it; but as she went
towards the bedroom fireplace, she felt the grasp of a hand on each
arm, and saw--Schmucke on one hand, and Pons himself on the other,
leaning against the partition wall on either side of the door.

La Cibot cried out, and fell face downwards in a fit; real or feigned,
no one ever knew the truth. This sight produced such an impression on
Pons that a deadly faintness came upon him, and Schmucke left the
woman on the floor to help Pons back to bed. The friends trembled in
every limb; they had set themselves a hard task, it was done, but it
had been too much for their strength. When Pons lay in bed again, and
Schmucke had regained strength to some extent, he heard a sound of
sobbing. La Cibot, on her knees, bursting into tears, held out
supplicating hands to them in very expressive pantomime.

"It was pure curiosity!" she sobbed, when she saw that Pons and
Schmucke were paying attention to her proceedings. "Pure curiosity; a
woman's fault, you know. But I did not know how else to get a sight of
your will, and I brought it back again--"

"Go!" said Schmucke, standing erect, his tall figure gaining in height
by the full height of his indignation. "You are a monster! You dried
to kill mein goot Bons! He is right. You are worse than a monster, you
are a lost soul!"

La Cibot saw the look of abhorrence in the frank German's face; she
rose, proud as Tartuffe, gave Schmucke a glance which made him quake,
and went out, carrying off under her dress an exquisite little picture
of Metzu's pointed out by Elie Magus. "A diamond," he had called it.
Fraisier downstairs in the porter's lodge was waiting to hear that La
Cibot had burned the envelope and the sheet of blank paper inside it.
Great was his astonishment when he beheld his fair client's agitation
and dismay.

"What has happened?"

"_This_ has happened, my dear M. Fraisier. Under pretence of giving me
good advice and telling me what to do, you have lost me my annuity and
the gentlemen's confidence. . . ."

One of the word-tornadoes in which she excelled was in full progress,
but Fraisier cut her short.

"This is idle talk. The facts, the facts! and be quick about it."

"Well; it came about in this way,"--and she told him of the scene
which she had just come through.

"You have lost nothing through me," was Fraisier's comment. "The
gentlemen had their doubts, or they would not have set this trap for
you. They were lying in wait and spying upon you. . . . You have not
told me everything," he added, with a tiger's glance at the woman
before him.

"_I_ hide anything from you!" cried she--"after all that we have done
together!" she added with a shudder.

"My dear madame, _I_ have done nothing blameworthy," returned
Fraisier. Evidently he meant to deny his nocturnal visit to Pons'

Every hair on La Cibot's head seemed to scorch her, while a sense of
icy cold swept over her from head to foot.

"_What?_" . . . she faltered in bewilderment.

"Here is a criminal charge on the face of it. . . . You may be accused
of suppressing the will," Fraisier made answer drily.

La Cibot started.

"Don't be alarmed; I am your legal adviser. I only wished to show you
how easy it is, in one way or another, to do as I once explained to
you. Let us see, now; what have you done that this simple German
should be hiding in the room?"

"Nothing at all, unless it was that scene the other day when I stood
M. Pons out that his eyes dazzled. And ever since, the two gentlemen
have been as different as can be. So you have brought all my troubles
upon me; I might have lost my influence with M. Pons, but I was sure
of the German; just now he was talking of marrying me or of taking me
with him--it is all one."

The excuse was so plausible that Fraisier was fain to be satisfied
with it. "You need fear nothing," he resumed. "I gave you my word that
you shall have your money, and I shall keep my word. The whole matter,
so far, was up in the air, but now it is as good as bank-notes. . . .
You shall have at least twelve hundred francs per annum. . . . But, my
good lady, you must act intelligently under my orders."

"Yes, my dear M. Fraisier," said La Cibot with cringing servility. She
was completely subdued.

"Very good. Good-bye," and Fraisier went, taking the dangerous
document with him. He reached home in great spirits. The will was a
terrible weapon.

"Now," thought he, "I have a hold on Mme. la Presidente de Marville;
she must keep her word with me. If she did not, she would lose the

At daybreak, when Remonencq had taken down his shutters and left his
sister in charge of the shop, he came, after his wont of late, to
inquire for his good friend Cibot. The portress was contemplating the
Metzu, privately wondering how a little bit of painted wood could be
worth such a lot of money.

"Aha!" said he, looking over her shoulder, "that is the one picture
which M. Elie Magus regretted; with that little bit of a thing, he
says, his happiness would be complete."

"What would he give for it?" asked La Cibot.

"Why, if you will promise to marry me within a year of widowhood, I
will undertake to get twenty thousand francs for it from Elie Magus;
and unless you marry me you will never get a thousand francs for the

"Why not?"

"Because you would be obliged to give a receipt for the money, and
then you might have a lawsuit with the heirs-at-law. If you were my
wife, I myself should sell the thing to M. Magus, and in the way of
business it is enough to make an entry in the day-book, and I should
note that M. Schmucke sold it to me. There, leave the panel with me.
. . . If your husband were to die you might have a lot of bother over
it, but no one would think it odd that I should have a picture in the
shop. . . . You know me quite well. Besides, I will give you a receipt
if you like."

The covetous portress felt that she had been caught; she agreed to a
proposal which was to bind her for the rest of her life to the
marine-store dealer.

"You are right," said she, as she locked the picture away in a chest;
"bring me the bit of writing."

Remonencq beckoned her to the door.

"I can see, neighbor, that we shall not save our poor dear Cibot," he
said lowering his voice. "Dr. Poulain gave him up yesterday evening,
and said that he could not last out the day. . . . It is a great
misfortune. But after all, this was not the place for you. . . . You
ought to be in a fine curiosity shop on the Boulevard des Capucines.
Do you know that I have made nearly a hundred thousand francs in ten
years? And if you will have as much some day, I will undertake to make
a handsome fortune for you--as my wife. You would be the mistress--my
sister should wait on you and do the work of the house, and--"

A heartrending moan from the little tailor cut the tempter short; the
death agony had begun.

"Go away," said La Cibot. "You are a monster to talk of such things
and my poor man dying like this--"

"Ah! it is because I love you," said Remonencq; "I could let
everything else go to have you--"

"If you loved me, you would say nothing to me just now," returned she.
And Remonencq departed to his shop, sure of marrying La Cibot.

Towards ten o'clock there was a sort of commotion in the street; M.
Cibot was taking the Sacrament. All the friends of the pair, all the
porters and porters' wives in the Rue de Normandie and neighboring
streets, had crowded into the lodge, under the archway, and stood on
the pavement outside. Nobody so much as noticed the arrival of M.
Leopold Hannequin and a brother lawyer. Schwab and Brunner reached
Pons' rooms unseen by Mme. Cibot. The notary, inquiring for Pons, was
shown upstairs by the portress of a neighboring house. Brunner
remembered his previous visit to the museum, and went straight in with
his friend Schwab.

Pons formally revoked his previous will and constituted Schmucke his
universal legatee. This accomplished, he thanked Schwab and Brunner,
and earnestly begged M. Leopold Hannequin to protect Schmucke's
interests. The demands made upon him by last night's scene with La
Cibot, and this final settlement of his worldly affairs, left him so
faint and exhausted that Schmucke begged Schwab to go for the Abbe
Duplanty; it was Pons' great desire to take the Sacrament, and
Schmucke could not bring himself to leave his friend.

La Cibot, sitting at the foot of her husband's bed, gave not so much
as a thought to Schmucke's breakfast--for that matter had been
forbidden to return; but the morning's events, the sight of Pons'
heroic resignation in the death agony, so oppressed Schmucke's heart
that he was not conscious of hunger. Towards two o'clock, however, as
nothing had been seen of the old German, La Cibot sent Remonencq's
sister to see whether Schmucke wanted anything; prompted not so much
by interest as by curiosity. The Abbe Duplanty had just heard the old
musician's dying confession, and the administration of the sacrament
of extreme unction was disturbed by repeated ringing of the door-bell.
Pons, in his terror of robbery, had made Schmucke promise solemnly to
admit no one into the house; so Schmucke did not stir. Again and again
Mlle. Remonencq pulled the cord, and finally went downstairs in alarm
to tell La Cibot that Schmucke would not open the door; Fraisier made
a note of this. Schmucke had never seen any one die in his life;
before long he would be perplexed by the many difficulties which beset
those who are left with a dead body in Paris, this more especially if
they are lonely and helpless and have no one to act for them. Fraisier
knew, moreover, that in real affliction people lose their heads, and
therefore immediately after breakfast he took up his position in the
porter's lodge, and sitting there in perpetual committee with Dr.
Poulain, conceived the idea of directing all Schmucke's actions

To obtain the important result, the doctor and the lawyer took their
measures on this wise:--

The beadle of Saint-Francois, Cantinet by name, at one time a retail
dealer in glassware, lived in the Rue d'Orleans, next door to Dr.
Poulain and under the same roof. Mme. Cantinet, who saw to the letting
of the chairs at Saint-Francois, once had fallen ill and Dr. Poulain
had attended her gratuitously; she was, as might be expected,
grateful, and often confided her troubles to him. The "nutcrackers,"
punctual in their attendance at Saint-Francois on Sundays and
saints'-days, were on friendly terms with the beadle and the lowest
ecclesiastical rank and file, commonly called in Paris _le bas
clerge_, to whom the devout usually give little presents from time to
time. Mme. Cantinet therefore knew Schmucke almost as well as Schmucke
knew her. And Mme. Cantinet was afflicted with two sore troubles which
enabled the lawyer to use her as a blind and involuntary agent.
Cantinet junior, a stage-struck youth, had deserted the paths of the
Church and turned his back on the prospect of one day becoming a
beadle, to make his _debut_ among the supernumeraries of the
Cirque-Olympique; he was leading a wild life, breaking his mother's
heart and draining her purse by frequent forced loans. Cantinet senior,
much addicted to spirituous liquors and idleness, had, in fact, been
driven to retire from business by those two failings. So far from
reforming, the incorrigible offender had found scope in his new
occupation for the indulgence of both cravings; he did nothing, and he
drank with drivers of wedding-coaches, with the undertaker's men at
funerals, with poor folk relieved by the vicar, till his morning's
occupation was set forth in rubric on his countenance by noon.

Mme. Cantinet saw no prospect but want in her old age, and yet she had
brought her husband twelve thousand francs, she said. The tale of her
woes related for the hundredth time suggested an idea to Dr. Poulain.
Once introduce her into the old bachelor's quarters, and it would be
easy by her means to establish Mme. Sauvage there as working
housekeeper. It was quite impossible to present Mme. Sauvage herself,
for the "nutcrackers" had grown suspicious of every one. Schmucke's
refusal to admit Mlle. Remonencq had sufficiently opened Fraisier's
eyes. Still, it seemed evident that Pons and Schmucke, being pious
souls, would take any one recommended by the Abbe, with blind
confidence. Mme. Cantinet should bring Mme. Sauvage with her, and to
put in Fraisier's servant was almost tantamount to installing Fraisier

The Abbe Duplanty, coming downstairs, found the gateway blocked by the
Cibots' friends, all of them bent upon showing their interest in one
of the oldest and most respectable porters in the Marais.

Dr. Poulain raised his hat, and took the Abbe aside.

"I am just about to go to poor M. Pons," he said. "There is still a
chance of recovery; but it is a question of inducing him to undergo an
operation. The calculi are perceptible to the touch, they are setting
up an inflammatory condition which will end fatally, but perhaps it is
not too late to remove them. You should really use your influence to
persuade the patient to submit to surgical treatment; I will answer
for his life, provided that no untoward circumstance occurs during the

"I will return as soon as I have taken the sacred ciborium back to the
church," said the Abbe Duplanty, "for M. Schmucke's condition claims
the support of religion."

"I have just heard that he is alone," said Dr. Poulain. "The German,
good soul, had a little altercation this morning with Mme. Cibot, who
has acted as housekeeper to them both for the past ten years. They
have quarreled (for the moment only, no doubt), but under the
circumstances they must have some one in to help upstairs. It would be
a charity to look after him.--I say, Cantinet," continued the doctor,
beckoning to the beadle, "just go and ask your wife if she will nurse
M. Pons, and look after M. Schmucke, and take Mme. Cibot's place for a
day or two. . . . Even without the quarrel, Mme. Cibot would still
require a substitute. Mme. Cantinet is honest," added the doctor,
turning to M. Duplanty.

"You could not make a better choice," said the good priest; "she is
intrusted with the letting of chairs in the church."

A few minutes later, Dr. Poulain stood by Pons' pillow watching the
progress made by death, and Schmucke's vain efforts to persuade his
friend to consent to the operation. To all the poor German's
despairing entreaties Pons only replied by a shake of the head and
occasional impatient movements; till, after awhile, he summoned up all
his fast-failing strength to say, with a heartrending look:

"Do let me die in peace!"

Schmucke almost died of sorrow, but he took Pons' hand and softly
kissed it, and held it between his own, as if trying a second time to
give his own vitality to his friend.

Just at this moment the bell rang, and Dr. Poulain, going to the door,
admitted the Abbe Duplanty.

"Our poor patient is struggling in the grasp of death," he said. "All
will be over in a few hours. You will send a priest, no doubt, to
watch to-night. But it is time that Mme. Cantinet came, as well as a
woman to do the work, for M. Schmucke is quite unfit to think of
anything: I am afraid for his reason; and there are valuables here
which ought to be in the custody of honest persons."

The Abbe Duplanty, a kindly, upright priest, guileless and
unsuspicious, was struck with the truth of Dr. Poulain's remarks. He
had, moreover, a certain belief in the doctor of the quarter. So on
the threshold of the death-chamber he stopped and beckoned to
Schmucke, but Schmucke could not bring himself to loosen the grasp of
the hand that grew tighter and tighter. Pons seemed to think that he
was slipping over the edge of a precipice and must catch at something
to save himself. But, as many know, the dying are haunted by an
hallucination that leads them to snatch at things about them, like men
eager to save their most precious possessions from a fire. Presently
Pons released Schmucke to clutch at the bed-clothes, dragging them and
huddling them about himself with a hasty, covetous movement
significant and painful to see.

"What will you do, left alone with your dead friend?" asked M. l'Abbe
Duplanty when Schmucke came to the door. "You have not Mme. Cibot

"Ein monster dat haf killed Bons!"

"But you must have somebody with you," began Dr. Poulain. "Some one
must sit up with the body to-night."

"I shall sit up; I shall say die prayers to Gott," the innocent German

"But you must eat--and who is to cook for you now?" asked the doctor.

"Grief haf taken afay mein abbetite," Schmucke said, simply.

"And some one must give notice to the registrar," said Poulain, "and
lay out the body, and order the funeral; and the person who sits up
with the body and the priest will want meals. Can you do all this by
yourself? A man cannot die like a dog in the capital of the civilized

Schmucke opened wide eyes of dismay. A brief fit of madness seized

"But Bons shall not tie! . . ." he cried aloud. "I shall safe him!"

"You cannot go without sleep much longer, and who will take your
place? Some one must look after M. Pons, and give him drink, and nurse

"Ah! dat is drue."

"Very well," said the Abbe, "I am thinking of sending your Mme.
Cantinet, a good and honest creature--"

The practical details of the care of the dead bewildered Schmucke,
till he was fain to die with his friend.

"He is a child," said the doctor, turning to the Abbe Duplanty.

"Ein child," Schmucke repeated mechanically.

"There, then," said the curate; "I will speak to Mme. Cantinet, and
send her to you."

"Do not trouble yourself," said the doctor; "I am going home, and she
lives in the next house."

The dying seem to struggle with Death as with an invisible assassin;
in the agony at the last, as the final thrust is made, the act of
dying seems to be a conflict, a hand-to-hand fight for life. Pons had
reached the supreme moment. At the sound of his groans and cries, the
three standing in the doorway hurried to the bedside. Then came the
last blow, smiting asunder the bonds between soul and body, striking
down to life's sources; and suddenly Pons regained for a few brief
moments the perfect calm that follows the struggle. He came to
himself, and with the serenity of death in his face he looked round
almost smilingly at them.

"Ah, doctor, I have had a hard time of it; but you were right, I am
doing better. Thank you, my good Abbe; I was wondering what had become
of Schmucke--"

"Schmucke has had nothing to eat since yesterday evening, and now it
is four o'clock! You have no one with you now and it would be wise to
send for Mme. Cibot."

"She is capable of anything!" said Pons, without attempting to conceal
all his abhorrence at the sound of her name. "It is true, Schmucke
ought to have some trustworthy person."

"M. Duplanty and I have been thinking about you both--"

"Ah! thank you, I had not thought of that."

"--And M. Duplanty suggests that you should have Mme. Cantinet--"

"Oh! Mme. Cantinet who lets the chairs!" exclaimed Pons. "Yes, she is
an excellent creature."

"She has no liking for Mme. Cibot," continued the doctor, "and she
would take good care of M. Schmucke--"

"Send her to me, M. Duplanty . . . send her and her husband too. I
shall be easy. Nothing will be stolen here."

Schmucke had taken Pons' hand again, and held it joyously in his own.
Pons was almost well again, he thought.

"Let us go, Monsieur l'Abbe," said the doctor. "I will send Mme.
Cantinet round at once. I see how it is. She perhaps may not find M.
Pons alive."

While the Abbe Duplanty was persuading Pons to engage Mme. Cantinet as
his nurse, Fraisier had sent for her. He had plied the beadle's wife
with sophistical reasoning and subtlety. It was difficult to resist
his corrupting influence. And as for Mme. Cantinet--a lean, sallow
woman, with large teeth and thin lips--her intelligence, as so often
happens with women of the people, had been blunted by a hard life,
till she had come to look upon the slenderest daily wage as
prosperity. She soon consented to take Mme. Sauvage with her as
general servant.

Mme. Sauvage had had her instructions already. She had undertaken to
weave a web of iron wire about the two musicians, and to watch them as
a spider watches a fly caught in the toils; and her reward was to be a
tobacconist's license. Fraisier had found a convenient opportunity of
getting rid of his so-called foster-mother, while he posted her as a
detective and policeman to supervise Mme. Cantinet. As there was a
servant's bedroom and a little kitchen included in the apartment, La
Sauvage could sleep on a truckle-bed and cook for the German. Dr.
Poulain came with the two women just as Pons drew his last breath.
Schmucke was sitting beside his friend, all unconscious of the crisis,
holding the hand that slowly grew colder in his grasp. He signed to
Mme. Cantinet to be silent; but Mme. Sauvage's soldierly figure
surprised him so much that he started in spite of himself, a kind of
homage to which the virago was quite accustomed.

"M. Duplanty answers for this lady," whispered Mme. Cantinet by way of
introduction. "She once was cook to a bishop; she is honesty itself;
she will do the cooking."

"Oh! you may talk out loud," wheezed the stalwart dame. "The poor
gentleman is dead. . . . He has just gone."

A shrill cry broke from Schmucke. He felt Pons' cold hand stiffening
in his, and sat staring into his friend's eyes; the look in them would
have driven him mad, if Mme. Sauvage, doubtless accustomed to scenes
of this sort, had not come to the bedside with a mirror which she held
over the lips of the dead. When she saw that there was no mist upon
the surface, she briskly snatched Schmucke's hand away.

"Just take away your hand, sir; you may not be able to do it in a
little while. You do not know how the bones harden. A corpse grows
cold very quickly. If you do not lay out a body while it is warm, you
have to break the joints later on. . . ."

And so it was this terrible woman who closed the poor dead musician's

With a business-like dexterity acquired in ten years of experience,
she stripped and straightened the body, laid the arms by the sides,
and covered the face with the bedclothes, exactly as a shopman wraps a

"A sheet will be wanted to lay him out.--Where is there a sheet?" she
demanded, turning on the terror-stricken Schmucke.

He had watched the religious ritual with its deep reverence for the
creature made for such high destinies in heaven; and now he saw his
dead friend treated simply as a thing in this packing process--saw
with the sharp pain that dissolves the very elements of thought.

"Do as you vill----" he answered mechanically. The innocent creature
for the first time in his life had seen a man die, and that man was
Pons, his only friend, the one human being who understood him and
loved him.

"I will go and ask Mme. Cibot where the sheets are kept," said La

"A truckle-bed will be wanted for the person to sleep upon," Mme.
Cantinet came to tell Schmucke.

Schmucke nodded and broke out into weeping. Mme. Cantinet left the
unhappy man in peace; but an hour later she came back to say:

"Have you any money, sir, to pay for the things?"

The look that Schmucke gave Mme. Cantinet would have disarmed the
fiercest hate; it was the white, blank, peaked face of death that he
turned upon her, as an explanation that met everything.

"Dake it all and leaf me to mein prayers and tears," he said, and

Mme. Sauvage went to Fraisier with the news of Pons' death. Fraisier
took a cab and went to the Presidente. To-morrow she must give him the
power of attorney to enable him to act for the heirs.

Another hour went by, and Mme. Cantinet came again to Schmucke.

"I have been to Mme. Cibot, sir, who knows all about things here," she
said. "I asked her to tell me where everything is kept. But she almost
jawed me to death with her abuse. . . . Sir, do listen to me. . . ."

Schmucke looked up at the woman, and she went on, innocent of any
barbarous intention, for women of her class are accustomed to take the
worst of moral suffering passively, as a matter of course.

"We must have linen for the shroud, sir, we must have money to buy a
truckle-bed for the person to sleep upon, and some things for the
kitchen--plates, and dishes, and glasses, for a priest will be coming
to pass the night here, and the person says that there is absolutely
nothing in the kitchen."

"And what is more, sir, I must have coal and firing if I am to get the
dinner ready," echoed La Sauvage, "and not a thing can I find. Not
that there is anything so very surprising in that, as La Cibot used to
do everything for you--"

Schmucke lay at the feet of the dead; he heard nothing, knew nothing,
saw nothing. Mme. Cantinet pointed to him. "My dear woman, you would
not believe me," she said. "Whatever you say, he does not answer."

"Very well, child," said La Sauvage; "now I will show you what to do
in a case of this kind."

She looked round the room as a thief looks in search of possible
hiding-places for money; then she went straight to Pons' chest, opened
the first drawer, saw the bag in which Schmucke had put the rest of
the money after the sale of the pictures, and held it up before him.
He nodded mechanically.

"Here is money, child," said La Sauvage, turning to Mme. Cantinet. "I
will count it first and take enough to buy everything we want--wine,
provisions, wax-candles, all sorts of things, in fact, for there is
nothing in the house. . . . Just look in the drawers for a sheet to
bury him in. I certainly was told that the poor gentleman was simple,
but I don't know what he is; he is worse. He is like a new-born child;
we shall have to feed him with a funnel."

The women went about their work, and Schmucke looked on precisely as
an idiot might have done. Broken down with sorrow, wholly absorbed, in
a half-cataleptic state, he could not take his eyes from the face that
seemed to fascinate him, Pons' face refined by the absolute repose of
Death. Schmucke hoped to die; everything was alike indifferent. If the
room had been on fire he would not have stirred.

"There are twelve hundred and fifty francs here," La Sauvage told him.

Schmucke shrugged his shoulders.

But when La Sauvage came near to measure the body by laying the sheet
over it, before cutting out the shroud, a horrible struggle ensued
between her and the poor German. Schmucke was furious. He behaved like
a dog that watches by his dead master's body, and shows his teeth at
all who try to touch it. La Sauvage grew impatient. She grasped him,
set him in the armchair, and held him down with herculean strength.

"Go on, child; sew him in his shroud," she said, turning to Mme.

As soon as this operation was completed, La Sauvage set Schmucke back
in his place at the foot of the bed.

"Do you understand?" said she. "The poor dead man lying there must be
done up, there is no help for it."

Schmucke began to cry. The women left him and took possession of the
kitchen, whither they brought all the necessaries in a very short
time. La Sauvage made out a preliminary statement accounting for three
hundred and sixty francs, and then proceeded to prepare a dinner for
four persons. And what a dinner! A fat goose (the cobbler's pheasant)
by way of a substantial roast, an omelette with preserves, a salad,
and the inevitable broth--the quantities of the ingredients for this
last being so excessive that the soup was more like a strong

At nine o'clock the priest, sent by the curate to watch by the dead,
came in with Cantinet, who brought four tall wax candles and some
tapers. In the death-chamber Schmucke was lying with his arms about
the body of his friend, holding him in a tight clasp; nothing but the
authority of religion availed to separate him from his dead. Then the
priest settled himself comfortably in the easy-chair and read his
prayers while Schmucke, kneeling beside the couch, besought God to
work a miracle and unite him to Pons, so that they might be buried in
the same grave; and Mme. Cantinet went on her way to the Temple to buy
a pallet and complete bedding for Mme. Sauvage. The twelve hundred and
fifty francs were regarded as plunder. At eleven o'clock Mme. Cantinet
came in to ask if Schmucke would not eat a morsel, but with a gesture
he signified that he wished to be left in peace.

"Your supper is ready, M. Pastelot," she said, addressing the priest,
and they went.

Schmucke, left alone in the room, smiled to himself like a madman free
at last to gratify a desire like the longing of pregnancy. He flung
himself down beside Pons, and yet again he held his friend in a long,
close embrace. At midnight the priest came back and scolded him, and
Schmucke returned to his prayers. At daybreak the priest went, and at
seven o'clock in the morning the doctor came to see Schmucke, and
spoke kindly and tried hard to persuade him to eat, but the German

"If you do not eat now you will feel very hungry when you come back,"
the doctor told him, "for you must go to the mayor's office and take a
witness with you, so that the registrar may issue a certificate of

"_I_ must go!" cried Schmucke in frightened tones.

"Who else? . . . You must go, for you were the one person who saw him

"Mein legs vill nicht carry me," pleaded Schmucke, imploring the
doctor to come to the rescue.

"Take a cab," the hypocritical doctor blandly suggested. "I have given
notice already. Ask some one in the house to go with you. The two
women will look after the place while you are away."

No one imagines how the requirements of the law jar upon a heartfelt
sorrow. The thought of it is enough to make one turn from civilization
and choose rather the customs of the savage. At nine o'clock that
morning Mme. Sauvage half-carried Schmucke downstairs, and from the
cab he was obliged to beg Remonencq to come with him to the registrar
as a second witness. Here in Paris, in this land of ours besotted with
Equality, the inequality of conditions is glaringly apparent
everywhere and in everything. The immutable tendency of things peeps
out even in the practical aspects of Death. In well-to-do families, a
relative, a friend, or a man of business spares the mourners these
painful details; but in this, as in the matter of taxation, the whole
burden falls heaviest upon the shoulders of the poor.

"Ah! you have good reason to regret him," said Remonencq in answer to
the poor martyr's moan; "he was a very good, a very honest man, and he
has left a fine collection behind him. But being a foreigner, sir, do
you know that you are like to find yourself in a great predicament
--for everybody says that M. Pons left everything to you?"

Schmucke was not listening. He was sounding the dark depths of sorrow
that border upon madness. There is such a thing as tetanus of the

"And you would do well to find some one--some man of business--to
advise you and act for you," pursued Remonencq.

"Ein mann of pizness!" echoed Schmucke.

"You will find that you will want some one to act for you. If I were
you, I should take an experienced man, somebody well known to you in
the quarter, a man you can trust. . . . I always go to Tabareau myself
for my bits of affairs--he is the bailiff. If you give his clerk power
to act for you, you need not trouble yourself any further."

Remonencq and La Cibot, prompted by Fraisier, had agreed beforehand to
make a suggestion which stuck in Schmucke's memory; for there are
times in our lives when grief, as it were, congeals the mind by
arresting all its functions, and any chance impression made at such
moments is retained by a frost-bound memory. Schmucke heard his
companion with such a fixed, mindless stare, that Remonencq said no

"If he is always to be idiotic like this," thought Remonencq, "I might
easily buy the whole bag of tricks up yonder for a hundred thousand
francs; if it is really his. . . . Here we are at the mayor's office,

Remonencq was obliged to take Schmucke out of the cab and to
half-carry him to the registrar's department, where a wedding-party
was assembled. Here they had to wait for their turn, for, by no very
uncommon chance, the clerk had five or six certificates to make out
that morning; and here it was appointed that poor Schmucke should
suffer excruciating anguish.

"Monsieur is M. Schmucke?" remarked a person in a suit of black,
reducing Schmucke to stupefaction by the mention of his name. He
looked up with the same blank, unseeing eyes that he had turned upon
Remonencq, who now interposed.

"What do you want with him?" he said. "Just leave him in peace; you
can plainly see that he is in trouble."

"The gentleman has just lost his friend, and proposes, no doubt, to do
honor to his memory, being, as he is, the sole heir. The gentleman, no
doubt, will not haggle over it, he will buy a piece of ground outright
for a grave. And as M. Pons was such a lover of the arts, it would be
a great pity not to put Music, Painting, and Sculpture on his tomb
--three handsome full-length figures, weeping--"

Remonencq waved the speaker away, in Auvergnat fashion, but the man
replied with another gesture, which being interpreted means "Don't
spoil sport"; a piece of commercial free-masonry, as it were, which
the dealer understood.

"I represent the firm of Sonet and Company, monumental stone-masons;
Sir Walter Scott would have dubbed me _Young Mortality_," continued
this person. "If you, sir, should decide to intrust your orders to us,
we would spare you the trouble of the journey to purchase the ground
necessary for the interment of a friend lost to the arts--"

At this Remonencq nodded assent, and jogged Schmucke's elbow.

"Every day we receive orders from families to arrange all
formalities," continued he of the black coat, thus encouraged by
Remonencq. "In the first moment of bereavement, the heir-at-law finds
it very difficult to attend to such matters, and we are accustomed to
perform these little services for our clients. Our charges, sir, are
on a fixed scale, so much per foot, freestone or marble. Family vaults
a specialty.--We undertake everything at the most moderate prices. Our
firm executed the magnificent monument erected to the fair Esther
Gobseck and Lucien de Rubempre, one of the finest ornaments of
Pere-Lachaise. We only employ the best workmen, and I must warn you,
sir, against small contractors--who turn out nothing but trash," he
added, seeing that another person in a black suit was coming up to say
a word for another firm of marble-workers.

It is often said that "death is the end of a journey," but the aptness
of the simile is realized most fully in Paris. Any arrival, especially
of a person of condition, upon the "dark brink," is hailed in much the
same way as the traveler recently landed is hailed by hotel touts and
pestered with their recommendations. With the exception of a few
philosophically-minded persons, or here and there a family secure of
handing down a name to posterity, nobody thinks beforehand of the
practical aspects of death. Death always comes before he is expected;
and, from a sentiment easy to understand, the heirs usually act as if
the event were impossible. For which reason, almost every one that
loses father or mother, wife or child, is immediately beset by scouts
that profit by the confusion caused by grief to snare others. In
former days, agents for monuments used to live round about the famous
cemetery of Pere-Lachaise, and were gathered together in a single
thoroughfare, which should by rights have been called the Street of
Tombs; issuing thence, they fell upon the relatives of the dead as
they came from the cemetery, or even at the grave-side. But
competition and the spirit of speculation induced them to spread
themselves further and further afield, till descending into Paris
itself they reached the very precincts of the mayor's office. Indeed,
the stone-mason's agent has often been known to invade the house of
mourning with a design for the sepulchre in his hand.

"I am in treaty with this gentleman," said the representative of the
firm of Sonet to another agent who came up.

"Pons deceased! . . ." called the clerk at this moment. "Where are the

"This way, sir," said the stone-mason's agent, this time addressing

Schmucke stayed where he had been placed on the bench, an inert mass.
Remonencq begged the agent to help him, and together they pulled
Schmucke towards the balustrade, behind which the registrar shelters
himself from the mourning public. Remonencq, Schmucke's Providence,
was assisted by Dr. Poulain, who filled in the necessary information
as to Pons' age and birthplace; the German knew but one thing--that
Pons was his friend. So soon as the signatures were affixed, Remonencq
and the doctor (followed by the stone-mason's man), put Schmucke into
a cab, the desperate agent whisking in afterwards, bent upon taking a
definite order.

La Sauvage, on the lookout in the gateway, half-carried Schmucke's
almost unconscious form upstairs. Remonencq and the agent went up with

"He will be ill!" exclaimed the agent, anxious to make an end of the
piece of business which, according to him, was in progress.

"I should think he will!" returned Mme. Sauvage. "He has been crying
for twenty-four hours on end, and he would not take anything. There is
nothing like grief for giving one a sinking in the stomach."

"My dear client," urged the representative of the firm of Sonet, "do
take some broth. You have so much to do; some one must go to the Hotel
de Ville to buy the ground in the cemetery on which you mean to erect
a monument to perpetuate the memory of the friend of the arts, and
bear record to your gratitude."

"Why, there is no sense in this!" added Mme. Cantinet, coming in with
broth and bread.

"If you are as weak as this, you ought to think of finding some one to
act for you," added Remonencq, "for you have a good deal on your
hands, my dear sir. There is the funeral to order. You would not have
your friend buried like a pauper!"

"Come, come, my dear sir," put in La Sauvage, seizing a moment when
Schmucke laid his head back in the great chair to pour a spoonful of
soup into his mouth. She fed him as if he had been a child, and almost
in spite of himself.

"Now, if you were wise, sir, since you are inclined to give yourself
up quietly to grief, you would find some one to act for you--"

"As you are thinking of raising a magnificent monument to the memory
of your friend, sir, you have only to leave it all to me; I will

"What is all this? What is all this?" asked La Sauvage. "Has M.
Schmucke ordered something? Who may you be?"

"I represent the firm of Sonet, my dear madame, the biggest monumental
stone-masons in Paris," said the person in black, handing a
business-card to the stalwart Sauvage.

"Very well, that will do. Some one will go with you when the time
comes; but you must not take advantage of the gentleman's condition
now. You can quite see that he is not himself----"

The agent led her out upon the landing.

"If you will undertake to get the order for us," he said
confidentially, "I am empowered to offer you forty francs."

Mme. Sauvage grew placable. "Very well, let me have your address,"
said she.

Schmucke meantime being left to himself, and feeling the stronger for
the soup and bread that he had been forced to swallow, returned at
once to Pons' rooms, and to his prayers. He had lost himself in the
fathomless depths of sorrow, when a voice sounding in his ears drew
him back from the abyss of grief, and a young man in a suit of black
returned for the eleventh time to the charge, pulling the poor,
tortured victim's coatsleeve until he listened.

"Sir!" said he.

"Vat ees it now?"

"Sir! we owe a supreme discovery to Dr. Gannal; we do not dispute his
fame; he has worked miracles of Egypt afresh; but there have been
improvements made upon his system. We have obtained surprising
results. So, if you would like to see your friend again, as he was
when he was alive--"

"See him again!" cried Schmucke. "Shall he speak to me?"

"Not exactly. Speech is the only thing wanting," continued the
embalmer's agent. "But he will remain as he is after embalming for all
eternity. The operation is over in a few seconds. Just an incision in
the carotid artery and an injection.--But it is high time; if you wait
one single quarter of an hour, sir, you will not have the sweet
satisfaction of preserving the body. . . ."

"Go to der teufel! . . . Bons is ein spirit--und dat spirit is in

"That man has no gratitude in his composition," remarked the youthful
agent of one of the famous Gannal's rivals; "he will not embalm his

The words were spoken under the archway, and addressed to La Cibot,
who had just submitted her beloved to the process.

"What would you have, sir!" she said. "He is the heir, the universal
legatee. As soon as they get what they want, the dead are nothing to

An hour later, Schmucke saw Mme. Sauvage come into the room, followed
by another man in a suit of black, a workman, to all appearance.

"Cantinet has been so obliging as to send this gentleman, sir," she
said; "he is coffin-maker to the parish."

The coffin-maker made his bow with a sympathetic and compassionate
air, but none the less he had a business-like look, and seemed to know
that he was indispensable. He turned an expert's eye upon the dead.

"How does the gentleman wish 'it' to be made? Deal, plain oak, or oak
lead-lined? Oak with a lead lining is the best style. The body is a
stock size,"--he felt for the feet, and proceeded to take the measure
--"one metre seventy!" he added. "You will be thinking of ordering the
funeral service at the church, sir, no doubt?"

Schmucke looked at him as a dangerous madman might look before
striking a blow. La Sauvage put in a word.

"You ought to find somebody to look after all these things," she said.

"Yes----" the victim murmured at length.

"Shall I fetch M. Tabareau?--for you will have a good deal on your
hands before long. M. Tabareau is the most honest man in the quarter,
you see."

"Yes. Mennesir Dapareau! Somepody vas speaking of him chust now--"
said Schmucke, completely beaten.

"Very well. You can be quiet, sir, and give yourself up to grief, when
you have seen your deputy."

It was nearly two o'clock when M. Tabareau's head-clerk, a young man
who aimed at a bailiff's career, modestly presented himself. Youth has
wonderful privileges; no one is alarmed by youth. This young man
Villemot by name, sat down by Schmucke's side and waited his
opportunity to speak. His diffidence touched Schmucke very much.

"I am M. Tabareau's head-clerk, sir," he said; "he sent me here to
take charge of your interests, and to superintend the funeral
arrangements. Is this your wish?"

"You cannot safe my life, I haf not long to lif; but you vill leaf me
in beace!"

"Oh! you shall not be disturbed," said Villemot.

"Ver' goot. Vat must I do for dat?"

"Sign this paper appointing M. Tabareau to act for you in all matters
relating to the settlement of the affairs of the deceased."

"Goot! gif it to me," said Schmucke, anxious only to sign it at once.

"No, I must read it over to you first."

"Read it ofer."

Schmucke paid not the slightest attention to the reading of the power
of attorney, but he set his name to it. The young clerk took
Schmucke's orders for the funeral, the interment, and the burial
service; undertaking that he should not be troubled again in any way,
nor asked for money.

"I vould gif all dat I haf to be left in beace," said the unhappy man.
And once more he knelt beside the dead body of his friend.

Fraisier had triumphed. Villemot and La Sauvage completed the circle
which he had traced about Pons' heir.

There is no sorrow that sleep cannot overcome. Towards the end of the
day La Sauvage, coming in, found Schmucke stretched asleep at the
bed-foot. She carried him off, put him to bed, tucked him in
maternally, and till the morning Schmucke slept.

When he awoke, or rather when the truce was over and he again became
conscious of his sorrows, Pons' coffin lay under the gateway in such a
state as a third-class funeral may claim, and Schmucke, seeking vainly
for his friend, wandered from room to room, across vast spaces, as it
seemed to him, empty of everything save hideous memories. La Sauvage
took him in hand, much as a nurse manages a child; she made him take
his breakfast before starting for the church; and while the poor
sufferer forced himself to eat, she discovered, with lamentations
worthy of Jeremiah, that he had not a black coat in his possession. La
Cibot took entire charge of his wardrobe; since Pons fell ill, his
apparel, like his dinner, had been reduced to the lowest terms--to a
couple of coats and two pairs of trousers.

"And you are going just as you are to M. Pons' funeral? It is an
unheard-of thing; the whole quarter will cry shame upon us!"

"Und how vill you dat I go?"

"Why, in mourning--"


"It is the proper thing."

"Der bropper ding! . . . Confound all dis stupid nonsense!" cried poor
Schmucke, driven to the last degree of exasperation which a childlike
soul can reach under stress of sorrow.

"Why, the man is a monster of ingratitude!" said La Sauvage, turning
to a personage who just then appeared. At the sight of this
functionary Schmucke shuddered. The newcomer wore a splendid suit of
black, black knee-breeches, black silk stockings, a pair of white
cuffs, an extremely correct white muslin tie, and white gloves. A
silver chain with a coin attached ornamented his person. A typical
official, stamped with the official expression of decorous gloom, an
ebony wand in his hand by way of insignia of office, he stood waiting
with a three-cornered hat adorned with the tricolor cockade under his

"I am the master of the ceremonies," this person remarked in a subdued

Accustomed daily to superintend funerals, to move among families
plunged in one and the same kind of tribulation, real or feigned, this
man, like the rest of his fraternity, spoke in hushed and soothing
tones; he was decorous, polished, and formal, like an allegorical
stone figure of Death.

Schmucke quivered through every nerve as if he were confronting his

"Is this gentleman the son, brother, or father of the deceased?"
inquired the official.

"I am all dat and more pesides--I am his friend," said Schmucke
through a torrent of weeping.

"Are you his heir?"

"Heir? . . ." repeated Schmucke. "Noding matters to me more in dis
vorld," returning to his attitude of hopeless sorrow.

"Where are the relatives, the friends?" asked the master of the

"All here!" exclaimed the German, indicating the pictures and
rarities. "Not von of dem haf efer gifn bain to mein boor Bons. . . .
Here ees everydings dot he lofed, after me."

Schmucke had taken his seat again, and looked as vacant as before; he
dried his eyes mechanically. Villemot came up at that moment; he had
ordered the funeral, and the master of the ceremonies, recognizing
him, made an appeal to the newcomer.

"Well, sir, it is time to start. The hearse is here; but I have not
often seen such a funeral as this. Where are the relatives and

"We have been pressed for time," replied Villemot. "This gentleman was
in such deep grief that he could think of nothing. And there is only
one relative."

The master of the ceremonies looked compassionately at Schmucke; this
expert in sorrow knew real grief when he saw it. He went across to

"Come, take heart, my dear sir. Think of paying honor to your friend's

"We forgot to send out cards; but I took care to send a special
message to M. le Presidente de Marville, the one relative that I
mentioned to you.--There are no friends.--M. Pons was conductor of an
orchestra at a theatre, but I do not think that any one will come.
--This gentleman is the universal legatee, I believe."

"Then he ought to be chief mourner," said the master of the
ceremonies.--"Have you a black coat?" he continued, noticing
Schmucke's costume.

"I am all in plack insite!" poor Schmucke replied in heartrending
tones; "so plack it is dot I feel death in me. . . . Gott in hefn is
going to haf pity upon me; He vill send me to mein friend in der
grafe, und I dank Him for it--"

He clasped his hands.

"I have told our management before now that we ought to have a
wardrobe department and lend the proper mourning costumes on hire,"
said the master of the ceremonies, addressing Villemot; "it is a want
that is more and more felt every day, and we have even now introduced
improvements. But as this gentleman is chief mourner, he ought to wear
a cloak, and this one that I have brought with me will cover him from
head to foot; no one need know that he is not in proper mourning
costume.--Will you be so kind as to rise?"

Schmucke rose, but he tottered on his feet.

"Support him," said the master of the ceremonies, turning to Villemot;
"you are his legal representative."

Villemot held Schmucke's arm while the master of the ceremonies
invested Schmucke with the ample, dismal-looking garment worn by
heirs-at-law in the procession to and from the house and the church.
He tied the black silken cords under the chin, and Schmucke as heir
was in "full dress."

"And now comes a great difficulty," continued the master of the
ceremonies; "we want four bearers for the pall. . . . If nobody comes
to the funeral, who is to fill the corners? It is half-past ten
already," he added, looking at his watch; "they are waiting for us at
the church."

"Oh! here comes Fraisier!" Villemot exclaimed, very imprudently; but
there was no one to hear the tacit confession of complicity.

"Who is this gentleman?" inquired the master of the ceremonies.

"Oh! he comes on behalf of the family."

"Whose family?"

"The disinherited family. He is M. Camusot de Marville's

"Good," said the master of the ceremonies, with a satisfied air. "We
shall have two pall-bearers at any rate--you and he."

And, happy to find two of the places filled up, he took out some
wonderful white buckskin gloves, and politely presented Fraisier and
Villemot with a pair apiece.

"If you gentlemen will be so good as to act as pall-bearers--" said

Fraisier, in black from head to foot, pretentiously dressed, with his
white tie and official air, was a sight to shudder at; he embodied a
hundred briefs.

"Willingly, sir," said he.

"If only two more persons will come, the four corners will be filled
up," said the master of the ceremonies.

At that very moment the indefatigable representative of the firm of
Sonet came up, and, closely following him, the man who remembered Pons
and thought of paying him a last tribute of respect. This was a
supernumerary at the theatre, the man who put out the scores on the
music-stands for the orchestra. Pons had been wont to give him a
five-franc piece once a month, knowing that he had a wife and family.

"Oh, Dobinard (Topinard)!" Schmucke cried out at the sight of him,
"_you_ love Bons!"

"Why, I have come to ask news of M. Pons every morning, sir."

"Efery morning! boor Dobinard!" and Schmucke squeezed the man's hand.

"But they took me for a relation, no doubt, and did not like my visits
at all. I told them that I belonged to the theatre and came to inquire
after M. Pons; but it was no good. They saw through that dodge, they
said. I asked to see the poor dear man, but they never would let me
come upstairs."

"Dat apominable Zipod!" said Schmucke, squeezing Topinard's horny hand
to his heart.

"He was the best of men, that good M. Pons. Every month he use to give
me five francs. . . . He knew that I had three children and a wife. My
wife has gone to the church."

"I shall difide mein pread mit you," cried Schmucke, in his joy at
finding at his side some one who loved Pons.

"If this gentleman will take a corner of the pall, we shall have all
four filled up," said the master of the ceremonies.

There had been no difficulty over persuading the agent for monuments.
He took a corner the more readily when he was shown the handsome pair
of gloves which, according to custom, was to be his property.

"A quarter to eleven! We absolutely must go down. They are waiting for
us at the church."

The six persons thus assembled went down the staircase.

The cold-blooded lawyer remained a moment to speak to the two women on
the landing. "Stop here, and let nobody come in," he said, "especially
if you wish to remain in charge, Mme. Cantinet. Aha! two francs a day,
you know!"

By a coincidence in nowise extraordinary in Paris, two hearses were
waiting at the door, and two coffins standing under the archway;
Cibot's funeral and the solitary state in which Pons was lying was
made even more striking in the street. Schmucke was the only mourner
that followed Pons' coffin; Schmucke, supported by one of the
undertaker's men, for he tottered at every step. From the Rue de
Normandie to the Rue d'Orleans and the Church of Saint-Francois the
two funerals went between a double row of curious onlookers for
everything (as was said before) makes a sensation in the quarter.
Every one remarked the splendor of the white funeral car, with a big
embroidered P suspended on a hatchment, and the one solitary mourner
behind it; while the cheap bier that came after it was followed by an
immense crowd. Happily, Schmucke was so bewildered by the throng of
idlers and the rows of heads in the windows, that he heard no remarks
and only saw the faces through a mist of tears.

"Oh, it is the nutcracker!" said one, "the musician, you know--"

"Who can the pall-bearers be?"

"Pooh! play-actors."

"I say, just look at poor old Cibot's funeral. There is one worker the
less. What a man! he could never get enough of work!"

"He never went out."

"He never kept Saint Monday."

"How fond he was of his wife!"

"Ah! There is an unhappy woman!"

Remonencq walked behind his victim's coffin. People condoled with him
on the loss of his neighbor.

The two funerals reached the church. Cantinet and the doorkeeper saw
that no beggars troubled Schmucke. Villemot had given his word that
Pons' heir should be left in peace; he watched over his client, and
gave the requisite sums; and Cibot's humble bier, escorted by sixty or
eighty persons, drew all the crowd after it to the cemetery. At the
church door Pons' funeral possession mustered four mourning-coaches,
one for the priest and three for the relations; but one only was
required, for the representative of the firm of Sonet departed during
mass to give notice to his principal that the funeral was on the way,
so that the design for the monument might be ready for the survivor at
the gates of the cemetery. A single coach sufficed for Fraisier,
Villemot, Schmucke, and Topinard; but the remaining two, instead of
returning to the undertaker, followed in the procession to
Pere-Lachaise--a useless procession, not unfrequently seen; there are
always too many coaches when the dead are unknown beyond their own
circle and there is no crowd at the funeral. Dear, indeed, the dead
must have been in their lifetime if relative or friend will go with
them so far as the cemetery in this Paris, where every one would fain
have twenty-five hours in the day. But with the coachmen it is
different; they lose their tips if they do not make the journey; so,
empty or full, the mourning coaches go to the church and cemetery and
return to the house for gratuities. A death is a sort of
drinking-fountain for an unimagined crowd of thirsty mortals. The
attendants at the church, the poor, the undertaker's men, the drivers
and sextons, are creatures like sponges that dip into a hearse and
come out again saturated.

From the church door, where he was beset with a swarm of beggars
(promptly dispersed by the beadle), to Pere-Lachaise, poor Schmucke
went as criminals went in old times from the Palais de Justice to the
Place de Greve. It was his own funeral that he followed, clinging to
Topinard's hand, to the one living creature besides himself who felt a
pang of real regret for Pons' death.

As for Topinard, greatly touched by the honor of the request to act as
pall-bearer, content to drive in a carriage, the possessor of a new
pair of gloves,--it began to dawn upon him that this was to be one of
the great days of his life. Schmucke was driven passively along the
road, as some unlucky calf is driven in a butcher's cart to the
slaughter-house. Fraisier and Villemot sat with their backs to the
horses. Now, as those know whose sad fortune it has been to accompany
many of their friends to their last resting-place, all hypocrisy
breaks down in the coach during the journey (often a very long one)
from the church to the eastern cemetery, to that one of the
burying-grounds of Paris in which all vanities, all kinds of display,
are met, so rich is it in sumptuous monuments. On these occasions those
who feel least begin to talk soonest, and in the end the saddest listen,
and their thoughts are diverted.

"M. le President had already started for the Court." Fraisier told
Villemot, "and I did not think it necessary to tear him away from
business; he would have come too late, in any case. He is the
next-of-kin; but as he has been disinherited, and M. Schmucke gets
everything, I thought that if his legal representative were present
it would be enough."

Topinard lent an ear to this.

"Who was the queer customer that took the fourth corner?" continued

"He is an agent for a firm of monumental stone-masons. He would like
an order for a tomb, on which he proposes to put three sculptured
marble figures--Music, Painting, and Sculpture shedding tears over the

"It is an idea," said Fraisier; "the old gentleman certainly deserved
that much; but the monument would cost seven or eight hundred francs."

"Oh! quite that!"

"If M. Schmucke gives the order, it cannot affect the estate. You
might eat up a whole property with such expenses."

"There would be a lawsuit, but you would gain it--"

"Very well," said Fraisier, "then it will be his affair.--It would be
a nice practical joke to play upon the monument-makers," Fraisier
added in Villemot's ear; "for if the will is upset (and I can answer
for that), or if there is no will at all, who would pay them?"

Villemot grinned like a monkey, and the pair began to talk
confidentially, lowering their voices; but the man from the theatre,
with his wits and senses sharpened in the world behind the scenes,
could guess at the nature of their discourse; in spite of the rumbling
of the carriage and other hindrances, he began to understand that
these representatives of justice were scheming to plunge poor Schmucke
into difficulties; and when at last he heard the ominous word
"Clichy," the honest and loyal servitor of the stage made up his mind
to watch over Pons' friend.

At the cemetery, where three square yards of ground had been purchased
through the good offices of the firm of Sonet (Villemot having
announced Schmucke's intention of erecting a magnificent monument),
the master of ceremonies led Schmucke through a curious crowd to the
grave into which Pons' coffin was about to be lowered; but here, at
the sight of the square hole, the four men waiting with ropes to lower
the bier, and the clergy saying the last prayer for the dead at the
grave-side, something clutched tightly at the German's heart. He
fainted away.

Sonet's agent and M. Sonet himself came to help Topinard to carry poor
Schmucke into the marble-works hard by, where Mme. Sonet and Mme.
Vitelot (Sonet's partner's wife) were eagerly prodigal of efforts to
revive him. Topinard stayed. He had seen Fraisier in conversation with
Sonet's agent, and Fraisier, in his opinion, had gallows-bird written
on his face.

An hour later, towards half-past two o'clock, the poor, innocent
German came to himself. Schmucke thought that he had been dreaming for
the past two days; if he could only wake, he should find Pons still
alive. So many wet towels had been laid on his forehead, he had been
made to inhale salts and vinegar to such an extent, that he opened his
eyes at last. Mme. Sonet make him take some meat-soup, for they had
put the pot on the fire at the marble-works.

"Our clients do not often take things to heart like this; still, it
happens once in a year or two--"

At last Schmucke talked of returning to the Rue de Normandie, and at
this Sonet began at once.

"Here is the design, sir," he said; "Vitelot drew it expressly for
you, and sat up last night to do it. . . . And he has been happily
inspired, it will look fine--"

"One of the finest in Pere-Lachaise!" said the little Mme. Sonet. "But
you really ought to honor the memory of a friend who left you all his

The design, supposed to have been drawn on purpose, had, as a matter
of fact, been prepared for de Marsay, the famous cabinet minister. His
widow, however, had given the commission to Stidmann; people were
disgusted with the tawdriness of the project, and it was refused. The
three figures at that period represented the three days of July which
brought the eminent minister to power. Subsequently, Sonet and Vitelot
had turned the Three Glorious Days--"_les trois glorieuses_"--into the
Army, Finance, and the Family, and sent in the design for the
sepulchre of the late lamented Charles Keller; and here again Stidmann
took the commission. In the eleven years that followed, the sketch had
been modified to suit all kinds of requirements, and now in Vitelot's
fresh tracing they reappeared as Music, Sculpture, and Painting.

"It is a mere trifle when you think of the details and cost of setting
it up; for it will take six months," said Vitelot. "Here is the
estimate and the order-form--seven thousand francs, sketch in plaster
not included."

"If M. Schmucke would like marble," put in Sonet (marble being his
special department), "it would cost twelve thousand francs, and
monsieur would immortalize himself as well as his friend."

Topinard turned to Vitelot.

"I have just heard that they are going to dispute the will," he
whispered, "and the relatives are likely to come by their property. Go
and speak to M. Camusot, for this poor, harmless creature has not a

"This is the kind of customer that you always bring us," said Mme.
Vitelot, beginning a quarrel with the agent.

Topinard led Schmucke away, and they returned home on foot to the Rue
de Normandie, for the mourning-coaches had been sent back.

"Do not leaf me," Schmucke said, when Topinard had seen him safe into
Mme. Sauvage's hands, and wanted to go.

"It is four o'clock, dear M. Schmucke. I must go home to dinner. My
wife is a box-opener--she will not know what has become of me. The
theatre opens at a quarter to six, you know."

"Yes, I know . . . but remember dat I am alone in die earth, dat I haf
no friend. You dat haf shed a tear for Bons enliden me; I am in teep
tarkness, und Bons said dat I vas in der midst of shcoundrels."

"I have seen that plainly already; I have just prevented them from
sending you to Clichy."

"_Gligy!_" repeated Schmucke; "I do not understand."

"Poor man! Well, never mind, I will come to you. Good-bye."

"Goot-bye; komm again soon," said Schmucke, dropping half-dead with

"Good-bye, mosieu," said Mme. Sauvage, and there was something in her
tone that struck Topinard.

"Oh, come, what is the matter now?" he asked, banteringly. "You are
attitudinizing like a traitor in a melodrama."

"Traitor yourself! Why have you come meddling here? Do you want to
have a hand in the master's affairs, and swindle him, eh?"

"Swindle him! . . . Your very humble servant!" Topinard answered with
superb disdain. "I am only a poor super at a theatre, but I am
something of an artist, and you may as well know that I never asked
anything of anybody yet! Who asked anything of you? Who owes you
anything? eh, old lady!"

"You are employed at a theatre, and your name is--?"

"Topinard, at your service."

"Kind regards to all at home," said La Sauvage, "and my compliments to
your missus, if you are married, mister. . . . That was all I wanted
to know."

"Why, what is the matter, dear?" asked Mme. Cantinet, coming out.

"This, child--stop here and look after the dinner while I run round to
speak to monsieur."

"He is down below, talking with poor Mme. Cibot, that is crying her
eyes out," said Mme. Cantinet.

La Sauvage dashed down in such headlong haste that the stairs trembled
beneath her tread.

"Monsieur!" she called, and drew him aside a few paces to point out

Topinard was just going away, proud at heart to have made some return
already to the man who had done him so many kindnesses. He had saved
Pons' friend from a trap, by a stratagem from that world behind the
scenes in which every one has more or less ready wit. And within
himself he vowed to protect a musician in his orchestra from future
snares set for his simple sincerity.

"Do you see that little wretch?" said La Sauvage. "He is a kind of
honest man that has a mind to poke his nose into M. Schmucke's

"Who is he?" asked Fraisier.

"Oh! he is a nobody."

"In business there is no such thing as a nobody."

"Oh, he is employed at the theatre," said she; "his name is Topinard."

"Good, Mme. Sauvage! Go on like this, and you shall have your
tobacconist's shop."

And Fraisier resumed his conversation with Mme. Cibot.

"So I say, my dear client, that you have not played openly and
above-board with me, and that one is not bound in any way to a
partner who cheats."

"And how have I cheated you?" asked La Cibot, hands on hips. "Do you
think that you will frighten me with your sour looks and your frosty
airs? You look about for bad reasons for breaking your promises, and
you call yourself an honest man! Do you know what you are? You are a
blackguard! Yes! yes! scratch your arm; but just pocket that--"

"No words, and keep your temper, dearie. Listen to me. You have been
feathering your nest. . . . I found this catalogue this morning while
we were getting ready for the funeral; it is all in M. Pons'
handwriting, and made out in duplicate. And as it chanced, my eyes
fell on this--"

And opening the catalogue, he read:

  "No. 7. _Magnificent portrait painted on marble, by Sebastian del
  Piombo, in 1546. Sold by a family who had it removed from Terni
  Cathedral. The picture, which represents a Knight-Templar kneeling
  in prayer, used to hang above a tomb of the Rossi family with a
  companion portrait of a Bishop, afterwards purchased by an
  Englishman. The portrait might be attributed to Raphael, but for
  the date. This example is, to my mind, superior to the portrait of
  Baccio Bandinelli in the Musee; the latter is a little hard, while
  the Templar, being painted upon 'lavagna,' or slate, has preserved
  its freshness of coloring._"

"When I come to look for No. 7," continued Fraisier, "I find a
portrait of a lady, signed 'Chardin,' without a number on it! I went
through the pictures with the catalogue while the master of ceremonies
was making up the number of pall-bearers, and found that eight of
those indicated as works of capital importance by M. Pons had
disappeared, and eight paintings of no special merit, and without
numbers, were there instead. . . . And finally, one was missing
altogether, a little panel-painting by Metzu, described in the
catalogue as a masterpiece."

"And was _I_ in charge of the pictures?" demanded La Cibot.

"No; but you were in a position of trust. You were M. Pons'
housekeeper, you looked after his affairs, and he has been robbed--"

"Robbed! Let me tell you this, sir: M. Schmucke sold the pictures, by
M. Pons' orders, to meet expenses."

"And to whom?"

"To Messrs. Elie Magus and Remonencq."

"For how much?"

"I am sure I do not remember."

"Look here, my dear madame; you have been feathering your nest, and
very snugly. I shall keep an eye upon you; I have you safe. Help me, I
will say nothing! In any case, you know that since you deemed it
expedient to plunder M. le President Camusot, you ought not to expect
anything from _him_."

"I was sure that this would all end in smoke, for me," said La Cibot,
mollified by the words "I will say nothing."

Remonencq chimed in at this point.

"Here are you finding fault with Mme. Cibot; that is not right!" he
said. "The pictures were sold by private treaty between M. Pons, M.
Magus, and me. We waited for three days before we came to terms with
the deceased; he slept on his pictures. We took receipts in proper
form; and if we gave Madame Cibot a few forty-franc pieces, it is the
custom of the trade--we always do so in private houses when we
conclude a bargain. Ah! my dear sir, if you think to cheat a
defenceless woman, you will not make a good bargain! Do you
understand, master lawyer?--M. Magus rules the market, and if you do
not come down off the high horse, if you do not keep your word to Mme.
Cibot, I shall wait till the collection is sold, and you shall see
what you will lose if you have M. Magus and me against you; we can get
the dealers in a ring. Instead of realizing seven or eight hundred
thousand francs, you will not so much as make two hundred thousand."

"Good, good, we shall see. We are not going to sell; or if we do, it
will be in London."

"We know London," said Remonencq. "M. Magus is as powerful there as at

"Good-day, madame; I shall sift these matters to the bottom," said
Fraisier--"unless you continue to do as I tell you" he added.

"You little pickpocket!--"

"Take care! I shall be a justice of the peace before long." And with
threats understood to the full upon either side, they separated.

"Thank you, Remonencq!" said La Cibot; "it is very pleasant to a poor
widow to find a champion."

Towards ten o'clock that evening, Gaudissart sent for Topinard. The
manager was standing with his back to the fire, in a Napoleonic
attitude--a trick which he had learned since be began to command his
army of actors, dancers, _figurants_, musicians, and stage carpenters.
He grasped his left-hand brace with his right hand, always thrust into
his waistcoat; he head was flung far back, his eyes gazed out into

"Ah! I say, Topinard, have you independent means?"

"No, sir."

"Are you on the lookout to better yourself somewhere else?"

"No, sir--" said Topinard, with a ghastly countenance.

"Why, hang it all, your wife takes the first row of boxes out of
respect to my predecessor, who came to grief; I gave you the job of
cleaning the lamps in the wings in the daytime, and you put out the
scores. And that is not all, either. You get twenty sous for acting
monsters and managing devils when a hell is required. There is not a
super that does not covet your post, and there are those that are
jealous of you, my friend; you have enemies in the theatre."

"Enemies!" repeated Topinard.

"And you have three children; the oldest takes children's parts at
fifty centimes--"


"You want to meddle in other people's business, and put your finger
into a will case.--Why, you wretched man, you would be crushed like an
egg-shell! My patron is His Excellency, Monseigneur le Comte Popinot,
a clever man and a man of high character, whom the King in his wisdom
has summoned back to the privy council. This statesman, this great
politician, has married his eldest son to a daughter of M. le
President de Marville, one of the foremost men among the high courts
of justice; one of the leading lights of the law-courts. Do you know
the law-courts? Very good. Well, he is cousin and heir to M. Pons, to
our old conductor whose funeral you attended this morning. I do not
blame you for going to pay the last respects to him, poor man. . . .
But if you meddle in M. Schmucke's affairs, you will lose your place.
I wish very well to M. Schmucke, but he is in a delicate position with
regard to the heirs--and as the German is almost nothing to me, and
the President and Count Popinot are a great deal, I recommend you to
leave the worthy German to get out of his difficulties by himself.
There is a special Providence that watches over Germans, and the part
of deputy guardian-angel would not suit you at all. Do you see? Stay
as you are--you cannot do better."

"Very good, monsieur le directeur," said Topinard, much distressed.
And in this way Schmucke lost the protector sent to him by fate, the
one creature that shed a tear for Pons, the poor super for whose
return he looked on the morrow.

Next morning poor Schmucke awoke to a sense of his great and heavy
loss. He looked round the empty rooms. Yesterday and the day before
yesterday the preparations for the funeral had made a stir and bustle
which distracted his eyes; but the silence which follows the day, when
the friend, father, son, or loved wife has been laid in the grave--the
dull, cold silence of the morrow is terrible, is glacial. Some
irresistible force drew him to Pons' chamber, but the sight of it was
more than the poor man could bear; he shrank away and sat down in the
dining-room, where Mme. Sauvage was busy making breakfast ready.

Schmucke drew his chair to the table, but he could eat nothing. A
sudden, somewhat sharp ringing of the door-bell rang through the
house, and Mme. Cantinet and Mme. Sauvage allowed three black-coated
personages to pass. First came Vitel, the justice of the peace, with
his highly respectable clerk; third was Fraisier, neither sweeter nor
milder for the disappointing discovery of a valid will canceling the
formidable instrument so audaciously stolen by him.

"We have come to affix seals on the property," the justice of the
peace said gently, addressing Schmucke. But the remark was Greek to
Schmucke; he gazed in dismay at his three visitors.

"We have come at the request of M. Fraisier, legal representative of
M. Camusot de Marville, heir of the late Pons--" added the clerk.

"The collection is here in this great room, and in the bedroom of the
deceased," remarked Fraisier.

"Very well, let us go into the next room.--Pardon us, sir; do not let
us interrupt with your breakfast."

The invasion struck an icy chill of terror into poor Schmucke.
Fraisier's venomous glances seemed to possess some magnetic influence
over his victims, like the power of a spider over a fly.

"M. Schmucke understood how to turn a will, made in the presence of a
notary, to his own advantage," he said, "and he surely must have
expected some opposition from the family. A family does not allow
itself to be plundered by a stranger without some protest; and we
shall see, sir, which carries the day--fraud and corruption or the
rightful heirs. . . . We have a right as next of kin to affix seals,
and seals shall be affixed. I mean to see that the precaution is taken
with the utmost strictness."

"Ach, mein Gott! how haf I offended against Hefn?" cried the innocent

"There is a good deal of talk about you in the house," said La
Sauvage. "While you were asleep, a little whipper-snapper in a black
suit came here, a puppy that said he was M. Hannequin's head-clerk,
and must see you at all costs; but as you were asleep and tired out
with the funeral yesterday, I told him that M. Villemot, Tabareau's
head-clerk, was acting for you, and if it was a matter of business, I
said, he might speak to M. Villemot. 'Ah, so much the better!' the
youngster said. 'I shall come to an understanding with him. We will
deposit the will at the Tribunal, after showing it to the President.'
So at that, I told him to ask M. Villemot to come here as soon as he
could.--Be easy, my dear sir, there are those that will take care of
you. They shall not shear the fleece off your back. You will have some
one that has beak and claws. M. Villemot will give them a piece of his
mind. I have put myself in a passion once already with that abominable
hussy, La Cibot, a porter's wife that sets up to judge her lodgers,
forsooth, and insists that you have filched the money from the heirs;
you locked M. Pons up, she says, and worked upon him till he was
stark, staring mad. She got as good as she gave, though, the wretched
woman. 'You are a thief and a bad lot,' I told her; 'you will get into
the police-courts for all the things that you have stolen from the
gentlemen,' and she shut up."

The clerk came out to speak to Schmucke.

"Would you wish to be present, sir, when the seals are affixed in the
next room?"

"Go on, go on," said Schmucke; "I shall pe allowed to die in beace, I

"Oh, under any circumstances a man has a right to die," the clerk
answered, laughing; "most of our business relates to wills. But, in my
experience, the universal legatee very seldom follows the testator to
the tomb."

"I am going," said Schmucke. Blow after blow had given him an
intolerable pain at the heart.

"Oh! here comes M. Villemot!" exclaimed La Sauvage.

"Mennesir Fillemod," said poor Schmucke, "rebresent me."

"I hurried here at once," said Villemot. "I have come to tell you that
the will is completely in order; it will certainly be confirmed by the
court, and you will be put in possession. You will have a fine

"_I?_ Ein fein vordune?" cried Schmucke, despairingly. That he of all
men should be suspected of caring for the money!

"And meantime what is the justice of the peace doing here with his wax
candles and his bits of tape?" asked La Sauvage.

"Oh, he is affixing seals. . . . Come, M. Schmucke, you have a right
to be present."

"No--go in yourself."

"But where is the use of the seals if M. Schmucke is in his own house
and everything belongs to him?" asked La Sauvage, doing justice in
feminine fashion, and interpreting the Code according to their fancy,
like one and all of her sex.

"M. Schmucke is not in possession, madame; he is in M. Pons' house.
Everything will be his, no doubt; but the legatee cannot take
possession without an authorization--an order from the Tribunal. And
if the next-of-kin set aside by the testator should dispute the order,
a lawsuit is the result. And as nobody knows what may happen,
everything is sealed up, and the notaries representing either side
proceed to draw up an inventory during the delay prescribed by the
law. . . . And there you are!"

Schmucke, hearing such talk for the first time in his life, was
completely bewildered by it; his head sank down upon the back of his
chair--he could not support it, it had grown so heavy.

Villemot meanwhile went off to chat with the justice of the peace and
his clerk, assisting with professional coolness to affix the seals--a
ceremony which always involves some buffoonery and plentiful comments
on the objects thus secured, unless, indeed, one of the family happens
to be present. At length the party sealed up the chamber and returned
to the dining-room, whither the clerk betook himself. Schmucke watched
the mechanical operation which consists in setting the justice's seal
at either end of a bit of tape stretched across the opening of a
folding-door; or, in the case of a cupboard or ordinary door, from
edge to edge above the door-handle.

"Now for this room," said Fraisier, pointing to Schmucke's bedroom,
which opened into the dining-room.

"But that is M. Schmucke's own room," remonstrated La Sauvage,
springing in front of the door.

"We found the lease among the papers," Fraisier said ruthlessly;
"there was no mention of M. Schmucke in it; it is taken out in M.
Pons' name only. The whole place, and every room in it, is a part of
the estate. And besides"--flinging open the door--"look here, monsieur
le juge de la paix, it is full of pictures."

"So it is," answered the justice of the peace, and Fraisier thereupon
gained his point.

"Wait a bit, gentlemen," said Villemot. "Do you know that you are
turning the universal legatee out of doors, and as yet his right has
not been called in question?"

"Yes, it has," said Fraisier; "we are opposing the transfer of the

"And upon what grounds?"

"You shall know that by and by, my boy," Fraisier replied,
banteringly. "At this moment, if the legatee withdraws everything that
he declares to be his, we shall raise no objections, but the room
itself will be sealed. And M. Schmucke may lodge where he pleases."

"No," said Villemot; "M. Schmucke is going to stay in his room."

"And how?"

"I shall demand an immediate special inquiry," continued Villemot,
"and prove that we pay half the rent. You shall not turn us out. Take
away the pictures, decide on the ownership of the various articles,
but here my client stops--'my boy.'"

"I shall go out!" the old musician suddenly said. He had recovered
energy during the odious dispute.

"You had better," said Fraisier. "Your course will save expense to
you, for your contention would not be made good. The lease is

"The lease! the lease!" cried Villemot, "it is a question of good

"That could only be proved in a criminal case, by calling witnesses.
--Do you mean to plunge into experts' fees and verifications, and
orders to show cause why judgment should not be given, and law
proceedings generally?"

"No, no!" cried Schmucke in dismay. "I shall turn out; I am used to

In practice Schmucke was a philosopher, an unconscious cynic, so
greatly had he simplified his life. Two pairs of shoes, a pair of
boots, a couple of suits of clothes, a dozen shirts, a dozen bandana
handkerchiefs, four waistcoats, a superb pipe given to him by Pons,
with an embroidered tobacco-pouch--these were all his belongings.
Overwrought by a fever of indignation, he went into his room and piled
his clothes upon a chair.

"All dese are mine," he said, with simplicity worthy of Cincinnatus.
"Der biano is also mine."

Fraisier turned to La Sauvage. "Madame, get help," he said; "take that
piano out and put it on the landing."

"You are too rough into the bargain," said Villemot, addressing
Fraisier. "The justice of the peace gives orders here; he is supreme."

"There are valuables in the room," put in the clerk.

"And besides," added the justice of the peace, "M. Schmucke is going
out of his own free will."

"Did any one ever see such a client!" Villemot cried indignantly,
turning upon Schmucke. "You are as limp as a rag--"

"Vat dos it matter vere von dies?" Schmucke said as he went out. "Dese
men haf tiger faces. . . . I shall send somebody to vetch mein bits of

"Where are you going, sir?"

"Vere it shall blease Gott," returned Pons' universal legatee with
supreme indifference.

"Send me word," said Villemot.

Fraisier turned to the head-clerk. "Go after him," he whispered.

Mme. Cantinet was left in charge, with a provision of fifty francs
paid out of the money that they found. The justice of the peace looked
out; there Schmucke stood in the courtyard looking up at the windows
for the last time.

"You have found a man of butter," remarked the justice.

"Yes," said Fraisier, "yes. The thing is as good as done. You need not
hesitate to marry your granddaughter to Poulain; he will be
head-surgeon at the Quinze-Vingts." (The Asylum founded by St. Louis
for three hundred blind people.)

"We shall see.--Good-day, M. Fraisier," said the justice of the peace
with a friendly air.

"There is a man with a head on his shoulders," remarked the justice's
clerk. "The dog will go a long way."

By this time it was eleven o'clock. The old German went like an
automaton down the road along which Pons and he had so often walked
together. Wherever he went he saw Pons, he almost thought that Pons
was by his side; and so he reached the theatre just as his friend
Topinard was coming out of it after a morning spent in cleaning the
lamps and meditating on the manager's tyranny.

"Oh, shoost der ding for me!" cried Schmucke, stopping his
acquaintance. "Dopinart! you haf a lodging someveres, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"A home off your own?"

"Yes, sir."

"Are you villing to take me for ein poarder? Oh! I shall pay ver'
vell; I haf nine hundert vrancs of inkomm, und--I haf not ver' long
ter lif. . . . I shall gif no drouble vatefer. . . . I can eat
onydings--I only vant to shmoke mein bipe. Und--you are der only von
dat haf shed a tear for Bons, mit me; und so, I lof you."

"I should be very glad, sir; but, to begin with, M. Gaudissart has
given me a proper wigging--"


"That is one way of saying that he combed my hair for me."

"_Combed your hair?_"

"He gave me a scolding for meddling in your affairs. . . . So we must
be very careful if you come to me. But I doubt whether you will stay
when you have seen the place; you do not know how we poor devils

"I should rader der boor home of a goot-hearted mann dot haf mourned
Bons, dan der Duileries mit men dot haf ein tiger face. . . . I haf
chust left tigers in Bons' house; dey vill eat up everydings--"

"Come with me, sir, and you shall see. But--well, anyhow, there is a
garret. Let us see what Mme. Topinard says."

Schmucke followed like a sheep, while Topinard led the way into one of
the squalid districts which might be called the cancers of Paris--a
spot known as the Cite Bordin. It is a slum out of the Rue de Bondy, a
double row of houses run up by the speculative builder, under the
shadow of the huge mass of the Porte Saint-Martin theatre. The
pavement at the higher end lies below the level of the Rue de Bondy;
at the lower it falls away towards the Rue des Mathurins du Temple.
Follow its course and you find that it terminates in another slum
running at right angles to the first--the Cite Bordin is, in fact, a
T-shaped blind alley. Its two streets thus arranged contain some
thirty houses, six or seven stories high; and every story, and every
room in every story, is a workshop and a warehouse for goods of every
sort and description, for this wart upon the face of Paris is a
miniature Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Cabinet-work and brasswork,
theatrical costumes, blown glass, painted porcelain--all the various
fancy goods known as _l'article Paris_ are made here. Dirty and
productive like commerce, always full of traffic--foot-passengers,
vans, and drays--the Cite Bourdin is an unsavory-looking neighborhood,
with a seething population in keeping with the squalid surroundings.
It is a not unintelligent artisan population, though the whole power
of the intellect is absorbed by the day's manual labor. Topinard, like
every other inhabitant of the Cite Bourdin, lived in it for the sake
of comparatively low rent, the cause of its existence and prosperity.
His sixth floor lodging, in the second house to the left, looked out
upon the belt of green garden, still in existence, at the back of
three or four large mansions in the Rue de Bondy.

Topinard's apartment consisted of a kitchen and two bedrooms. The
first was a nursery with two little deal bedsteads and a cradle in it,
the second was the bedroom, and the kitchen did duty as a dining-room.
Above, reached by a short ladder, known among builders as a
"trap-ladder," there was a kind of garret, six feet high, with a
sash-window let into the roof. This room, given as a servants' bedroom,
raised the Topinards' establishment from mere "rooms" to the dignity of
a tenement, and the rent to a corresponding sum of four hundred francs.
An arched lobby, lighted from the kitchen by a small round window, did
duty as an ante-chamber, and filled the space between the bedroom, the
kitchen, and house doors--three doors in all. The rooms were paved
with bricks, and hung with a hideous wall-paper at threepence apiece;
the chimneypieces that adorned them were of the kind called
_capucines_--a shelf set on a couple of brackets painted to resemble
wood. Here in these three rooms dwelt five human beings, three of them
children. Any one, therefore, can imagine how the walls were covered
with scores and scratches so far as an infant arm can reach.

Rich people can scarcely realize the extreme simplicity of a poor
man's kitchen. A Dutch oven, a kettle, a gridiron, a saucepan, two or
three dumpy cooking-pots, and a frying-pan--that was all. All the
crockery in the place, white and brown earthenware together, was not
worth more than twelve francs. Dinner was served on the kitchen table,
which, with a couple of chairs and a couple of stools, completed the
furniture. The stock of fuel was kept under the stove with a
funnel-shaped chimney, and in a corner stood the wash-tub in which the
family linen lay, often steeping over-night in soapsuds. The nursery
ceiling was covered with clothes-lines, the walls were variegated with
theatrical placards and wood-cuts from newspapers or advertisements.
Evidently the eldest boy, the owner of the school-books stacked in a
corner, was left in charge while his parents were absent at the
theatre. In many a French workingman's family, so soon as a child
reaches the age of six or seven, it plays the part of mother to
younger sisters and brothers.

From this bare outline, it may be imagined that the Topinards, to use
the hackneyed formula, were "poor but honest." Topinard himself was
verging on forty; Mme. Topinard, once leader of a chorus--mistress,
too, it was said, of Gaudissart's predecessor, was certainly thirty
years old. Lolotte had been a fine woman in her day; but the
misfortunes of the previous management had told upon her to such an
extent, that it had seemed to her to be both advisable and necessary
to contract a stage-marriage with Topinard. She did not doubt but
that, as soon as they could muster the sum of a hundred and fifty
francs, her Topinard would perform his vows agreeably to the civil
law, were it only to legitimize the three children, whom he worshiped.
Meantime, Mme. Topinard sewed for the theatre wardrobe in the morning;
and with prodigious effort, the brave couple made nine hundred francs
per annum between them.

"One more flight!" Topinard had twice repeated since they reached the
third floor. Schmucke, engulfed in his sorrow, did not so much as know
whether he was going up or coming down.

In another minute Topinard had opened the door; but before he appeared
in his white workman's blouse Mme. Topinard's voice rang from the

"There, there! children, be quiet! here comes papa!"

But the children, no doubt, did as they pleased with papa, for the
oldest member of the family, sitting astride a broomstick, continued
to command a charge of cavalry (a reminiscence of the
Cirque-Olympique), the second blew a tin trumpet, while the third did
its best to keep up with the main body of the army. Their mother was
at work on a theatrical costume.

"Be quiet! or I shall slap you!" shouted Topinard in a formidable
voice; then in an aside for Schmucke's benefit--"Always have to say
that!--Here, little one," he continued, addressing his Lolotte, "this
is M. Schmucke, poor M. Pons' friend. He does not know where to go,
and he would like to live with us. I told him that we were not very
spick-and-span up here, that we lived on the sixth floor, and had only
the garret to offer him; but it was no use, he would come--"

Schmucke had taken the chair which the woman brought him, and the
children, stricken with sudden shyness, had gathered together to give
the stranger that mute, earnest, so soon-finished scrutiny
characteristic of childhood. For a child, like a dog, is wont to judge
by instinct rather than reason. Schmucke looked up; his eyes rested on
that charming little picture; he saw the performer on the tin trumpet,
a little five-year-old maiden with wonderful golden hair.

"She looks like ein liddle German girl," said Schmucke, holding out
his arms to the child.

"Monsieur will not be very comfortable here," said Mme. Topinard. "I
would propose that he should have our room at once, but I am obliged
to have the children near me."

She opened the door as she spoke, and bade Schmucke come in. Such
splendor as their abode possessed was all concentrated here. Blue
cotton curtains with a white fringe hung from the mahogany bedstead,
and adorned the window; the chest of drawers, bureau, and chairs,
though all made of mahogany, were neatly kept. The clock and
candlesticks on the chimneypiece were evidently the gift of the
bankrupt manager, whose portrait, a truly frightful performance of
Pierre Grassou's, looked down upon the chest of drawers. The children
tried to peep in at the forbidden glories.

"Monsieur might be comfortable in here," said their mother.

"No, no," Schmucke replied. "Eh! I haf not ver' long to lif, I only
vant a corner to die in."

The door was closed, and the three went up to the garret. "Dis is der
ding for me," Schmucke cried at once. "Pefore I lifd mid Bons, I vas
nefer better lodged."

"Very well. A truckle-bed, a couple of mattresses, a bolster, a
pillow, a couple of chairs, and a table--that is all that you need to
buy. That will not ruin you--it may cost a hundred and fifty francs,
with the crockeryware and strip of carpet for the bedside."

Everything was settled--save the money, which was not forthcoming.
Schmucke saw that his new friends were very poor, and recollecting
that the theatre was only a few steps away, it naturally occurred to
him to apply to the manager for his salary. He went at once, and found
Gaudissart in his office. Gaudissart received him in the somewhat
stiffly polite manner which he reserved for professionals. Schmucke's
demand for a month's salary took him by surprise, but on inquiry he
found that it was due.

"Oh, confound it, my good man, a German can always count, even if he
has tears in his eyes. . . . I thought that you would have taken the
thousand francs that I sent you into account, as a final year's
salary, and that we were quits."

"We haf receifed nodings," said Schmucke; "und gif I komm to you, it
ees because I am in der shtreet, und haf not ein benny. How did you
send us der bonus?"

"By your portress."

"By Montame Zipod!" exclaimed Schmucke. "She killed Bons, she robbed
him, she sold him--she tried to purn his vill--she is a pad creature,
a monster!"

"But, my good man, how come you to be out in the street without a roof
over your head or a penny in your pocket, when you are the sole heir?
That does not necessarily follow, as the saying is."

"They haf put me out at der door. I am a voreigner, I know nodings of
die laws."

"Poor man!" thought Gaudissart, foreseeing the probable end of the
unequal contest.--"Listen," he began, "do you know what you ought to
do in this business?"

"I haf ein mann of pizness!"

"Very good, come to terms at once with the next-of-kin; make them pay
you a lump sum of money down and an annuity, and you can live in

"I ask noding more."

"Very well. Let me arrange it for you," said Gaudissart. Fraisier had
told him the whole story only yesterday, and he thought that he saw
his way to making interest out of the case with the young Vicomtesse
Popinot and her mother. He would finish a dirty piece of work, and
some day he would be a privy councillor, at least; or so he told

"I gif you full powers."

"Well. Let me see. Now, to begin with," said Gaudissart, Napoleon of
the boulevard theatres, "to begin with, here are a hundred crowns--"
(he took fifteen louis from his purse and handed them to Schmucke).

"That is yours, on account of six months' salary. If you leave the
theatre, you can repay me the money. Now for your budget. What are
your yearly expenses? How much do you want to be comfortable? Come,
now, scheme out a life for a Sardanapalus--"

"I only need two suits of clothes, von for der vinter, von for der

"Three hundred francs," said Gaudissart.

"Shoes. Vour bairs."

"Sixty francs."


"A dozen pairs--thirty-six francs."

"Half a tozzen shirts."

"Six calico shirts, twenty-four francs; as many linen shirts,
forty-eight francs; let us say seventy-two. That makes four hundred
and sixty-eight francs altogether.--Say five hundred, including
cravats and pocket-handkerchiefs; a hundred francs for the laundress
--six hundred. And now, how much for your board--three francs a day?"

"No, it ees too much."

"After all, you want hats; that brings it to fifteen hundred. Five
hundred more for rent; that makes two thousand. If I can get two
thousand francs per annum for you, are you willing? . . . Good

"Und mein tobacco."

"Two thousand four hundred, then. . . . Oh! Papa Schmucke, do you call
that tobacco? Very well, the tobacco shall be given in.--So that is
two thousand four hundred francs per annum."

"Dat ees not all! I should like som monny."

"Pin-money!--Just so. Oh, these Germans! And calls himself an
innocent, the old Robert Macaire!" thought Gaudissart. Aloud he said,
"How much do you want? But this must be the last."

"It ees to bay a zacred debt."

"A debt!" said Gaudissart to himself. What a shark it is! He is worse
than an eldest son. He will invent a bill or two next! We must cut
this short. This Fraisier cannot take large views.--What debt is this,
my good man? Speak out."

"Dere vas but von mann dot haf mourned Bons mit me. . . . He haf a
tear liddle girl mit wunderschones haar; it vas as if I saw mein boor
Deutschland dot I should nefer haf left. . . . Baris is no blace for
die Germans; dey laugh at dem" (with a little nod as he spoke, and the
air of a man who knows something of life in this world below).

"He is off his head," Gaudissart said to himself. And a sudden pang of
pity for this poor innocent before him brought a tear to the manager's

"Ah! you understand, mennesir le directeur! Ver' goot. Dat mann mit
die liddle taughter is Dobinard, vat tidies der orchestra and lights
die lamps. Bons vas fery fond of him, und helped him. He vas der
only von dat accombanied mein only friend to die church und to die
grafe. . . . I vant dree tausend vrancs for him, und dree tausend for
die liddle von--"

"Poor fellow!" said Gaudissart to himself.

Rough, self-made man though he was, he felt touched by this nobleness
of nature, by a gratitude for a mere trifle, as the world views it;
though for the eyes of this divine innocence the trifle, like
Bossuet's cup of water, was worth more than the victories of great
captains. Beneath all Gaudissart's vanity, beneath the fierce desire
to succeed in life at all costs, to rise to the social level of his
old friend Popinot, there lay a warm heart and a kindly nature.
Wherefore he canceled his too hasty judgments and went over to
Schmucke's side.

"You shall have it all! But I will do better still, my dear Schmucke.
Topinard is a good sort--"

"Yes. I haf chust peen to see him in his boor home, vere he ees happy
mit his children--"

"I will give him the cashier's place. Old Baudrand is going to leave."

"Ah! Gott pless you!" cried Schmucke.

"Very well, my good, kind fellow, meet me at Berthier's office about
four o'clock this afternoon. Everything shall be ready, and you shall
be secured from want for the rest of your days. You shall draw your
six thousand francs, and you shall have the same salary with Garangeot
that you used to have with Pons."

"No," Schmucke answered. "I shall not lif. . . . I haf no heart for
anydings; I feel that I am attacked--"

"Poor lamb!" Gaudissart muttered to himself as the German took his
leave. "But, after all, one lives on mutton; and, as the sublime
Beranger says, 'Poor sheep! you were made to be shorn,'" and he
hummed the political squib by way of giving vent to his feelings. Then
he rang for the office-boy.

"Call my carriage," he said.

"Rue de Hanovre," he told the coachman.

The man of ambitions by this time had reappeared; he saw the way to
the Council of State lying straight before him.

And Schmucke? He was busy buying flowers and cakes for Topinard's
children, and went home almost joyously.

"I am gifing die bresents . . ." he said, and he smiled. It was the
first smile for three months, but any one who had seen Schmucke's face
would have shuddered to see it there.

"But dere is ein condition--"

"It is too kind of you, sir," said the mother.

"De liddle girl shall gif me a kiss and put die flowers in her hair,
like die liddle German maidens--"

"Olga, child, do just as the gentleman wishes," said the mother,
assuming an air of discipline.

"Do not scold mein liddle German girl," implored Schmucke. It seemed
to him that the little one was his dear Germany. Topinard came in.

"Three porters are bringing up the whole bag of tricks," he said.

"Oh! Here are two hundred vrancs to bay for eferydings . . ." said
Schmucke. "But, mein friend, your Montame Dobinard is ver' nice; you
shall marry her, is it not so? I shall gif you tausend crowns, and die
liddle vone shall haf tausend crowns for her toury, and you shall
infest it in her name. . . . Und you are not to pe ein zuper any more
--you are to pe de cashier at de teatre--"

"_I_?--instead of old Baudrand?"


"Who told you so?"

"Mennesir Gautissart!"

"Oh! it is enough to send one wild with joy! . . . Eh! I say, Rosalie,
what a rumpus there will be at the theatre! But it is not possible--"

"Our benefactor must not live in a garret--"

"Pshaw! for die few tays dat I haf to lif it ees fery komfortable,"
said Schmucke. "Goot-pye; I am going to der zemetery, to see vat dey
haf don mit Bons, und to order som flowers for his grafe."

Mme. Camusot de Marville was consumed by the liveliest apprehensions.
At a council held with Fraisier, Berthier, and Godeschal, the two
last-named authorities gave it as their opinion that it was hopeless
to dispute a will drawn up by two notaries in the presence of two
witnesses, so precisely was the instrument worded by Leopold
Hannequin. Honest Godeschal said that even if Schmucke's own legal
adviser should succeed in deceiving him, he would find out the truth
at last, if it were only from some officious barrister, the gentlemen
of the robe being wont to perform such acts of generosity and
disinterestedness by way of self-advertisement. And the two officials
took their leave of the Presidente with a parting caution against
Fraisier, concerning whom they had naturally made inquiries.

At that very moment Fraisier, straight from the affixing of the seals
in the Rue de Normandie, was waiting for an interview with Mme. de
Marville. Berthier and Godeschal had suggested that he should be shown
into the study; the whole affair was too dirty for the President to
look into (to use their own expression), and they wished to give Mme.
de Marville their opinion in Fraisier's absence.

"Well, madame, where are these gentlemen?" asked Fraisier, admitted to

"They are gone. They advise me to give up," said Mme. de Marville.

"Give up!" repeated Fraisier, suppressed fury in his voice. "Give up!
. . . Listen to this, madame:--

  "'At the request of' . . . and so forth (I will omit the
  formalities) . . . 'Whereas there has been deposited in the hands
  of M. le President of the Court of First Instance, a will drawn up
  by Maitres Leopold Hannequin and Alexandre Crottat, notaries of
  Paris, and in the presence of two witnesses, the Sieurs Brunner
  and Schwab, aliens domiciled at Paris, and by the said will the
  Sieur Pons, deceased, has bequeathed his property to one Sieur
  Schmucke, a German, to the prejudice of his natural heirs:

  "'Whereas the applicant undertakes to prove that the said will
  was obtained under undue influence and by unlawful means; and
  persons of credit are prepared to show that it was the testator's
  intention to leave his fortune to Mlle. Cecile, daughter of the
  aforesaid Sieur de Marville, and the applicant can show that the
  said will was extorted from the testator's weakness, he being
  unaccountable for his actions at the time:

  "'Whereas as the Sieur Schmucke, to obtain a will in his favor,
  sequestrated the testator, and prevented the family from
  approaching the deceased during his last illness; and his
  subsequent notorious ingratitude was of a nature to scandalize the
  house and residents in the quarter who chanced to witness it when
  attending the funeral of the porter at the testator's place of

  "'Whereas as still more serious charges, of which applicant is
  collecting proofs, will be formally made before their worships the

  "'I, the undersigned Registrar of the Court, etc., etc., on
  behalf of the aforesaid, etc., have summoned the Sieur Schmucke,
  pleading, etc., to appear before their worships the judges of the
  first chamber of the Tribunal, and to be present when application
  is made that the will received by Maitres Hannequin and Crottat,
  being evidently obtained by undue influence, shall be regarded as
  null and void in law; and I, the undersigned, on behalf of the
  aforesaid, etc., have likewise given notice of protest, should the
  Sieur Schmucke as universal legatee make application for an order
  to be put into possession of the estate, seeing that the applicant
  opposes such order, and makes objection by his application bearing
  date of to-day, of which a copy has been duly deposited with the
  Sieur Schmucke, costs being charged to . . . etc., etc.'

"I know the man, Mme. le Presidente. He will come to terms as soon as
he reads this little love-letter. He will take our terms. Are you
going to give the thousand crowns per annum?"

"Certainly. I only wish I were paying the first installment now."

"It will be done in three days. The summons will come down upon him
while he is stupefied with grief, for the poor soul regrets Pons and
is taking the death to heart."

"Can the application be withdrawn?" inquired the lady.

"Certainly, madame. You can withdraw it at any time."

"Very well, monsieur, let it be so . . . go on! Yes, the purchase of
land that you have arranged for me is worth the trouble; and, besides,
I have managed Vitel's business--he is to retire, and you must pay
Vitel's sixty thousand francs out of Pons' property. So, you see, you
must succeed."

"Have you Vitel's resignation?"

"Yes, monsieur. M. Vitel has put himself in M. de Marville's hands."

"Very good, madame. I have already saved you sixty thousand francs
which I expected to give to that vile creature Mme. Cibot. But I still
require the tobacconist's license for the woman Sauvage, and an
appointment to the vacant place of head-physician at the Quinze-Vingts
for my friend Poulain."

"Agreed--it is all arranged."

"Very well. There is no more to be said. Every one is for you in this
business, even Gaudissart, the manager of the theatre. I went to look
him up yesterday, and he undertook to crush the workman who seemed
likely to give us trouble."

"Oh, I know M. Gaudissart is devoted to the Popinots."

Fraisier went out. Unluckily, he missed Gaudissart, and the fatal
summons was served forthwith.

If all covetous minds will sympathize with the Presidente, all honest
folk will turn in abhorrence from her joy when Gaudissart came twenty
minutes later to report his conversation with poor Schmucke. She gave
her full approval; she was obliged beyond all expression for the
thoughtful way in which the manager relieved her of any remaining
scruples by observations which seemed to her to be very sensible and

"I thought as I came, Mme. la Presidente, that the poor devil would
not know what to do with the money. 'Tis a patriarchally simple
nature. He is a child, he is a German, he ought to be stuffed and put
in a glass case like a waxen image. Which is to say that, in my
opinion, he is quite puzzled enough already with his income of two
thousand five hundred francs, and here you are provoking him into

"It is very generous of him to wish to enrich the poor fellow who
regrets the loss of our cousin," pronounced the Presidente. "For my
own part, I am sorry for the little squabble that estranged M. Pons
and me. If he had come back again, all would have been forgiven. If
you only knew how my husband misses him! M. de Marville received no
notice of the death, and was in despair; family claims are sacred for
him, he would have gone to the service and the interment, and I myself
would have been at the mass--"

"Very well, fair lady," said Gaudissart. "Be so good as to have the
documents drawn up, and at four o'clock I will bring this German to
you. Please remember me to your charming daughter the Vicomtesse, and
ask her to tell my illustrious friend the great statesman, her good
and excellent father-in-law, how deeply I am devoted to him and his,
and ask him to continue his valued favors. I owe my life to his uncle
the judge, and my success in life to him; and I should wish to be
bound to both you and your daughter by the high esteem which links us
with persons of rank and influence. I wish to leave the theatre and
become a serious person."

"As you are already, monsieur!" said the Presidente.

"Adorable!" returned Gaudissart, kissing the lady's shriveled fingers.

At four o'clock that afternoon several people were gathered together
at Berthier's office; Fraisier, arch-concocter of the whole scheme,
Tabareau, appearing on behalf of Schmucke, and Schmucke himself.
Gaudissart had come with him. Fraisier had been careful to spread out
the money on Berthier's desk, and so dazzled was Schmucke by the sight
of the six thousand-franc bank-notes for which he had asked, and six
hundred francs for the first quarter's allowance, that he paid no heed
whatsoever to the reading of the document. Poor man, he was scarcely
in full possession of his faculties, shaken as they had already been
by so many shocks. Gaudissart had snatched him up on his return from
the cemetery, where he had been talking with Pons, promising to join
him soon--very soon. So Schmucke did not listen to the preamble in
which it was set forth that Maitre Tabareau, bailiff, was acting as
his proxy, and that the Presidente, in the interests of her daughter,
was taking legal proceedings against him. Altogether, in that preamble
the German played a sorry part, but he put his name to the document,
and thereby admitted the truth of Fraisier's abominable allegations;
and so joyous was he over receiving the money for the Topinards, so
glad to bestow wealth according to his little ideas upon the one
creature who loved Pons, that he heard not a word of lawsuit nor

But in the middle of the reading a clerk came into the private office
to speak to his employer. "There is a man here, sir, who wishes to
speak to M. Schmucke," said he.

The notary looked at Fraisier, and, taking his cue from him, shrugged
his shoulders.

"Never disturb us when we are signing documents. Just ask his name--is
it a man or a gentleman? Is he a creditor?"

The clerk went and returned. "He insists that he must speak to M.

"His name?"

"His name is Topinard, he says."

"I will go out to him. Sign without disturbing yourself," said
Gaudissart, addressing Schmucke. "Make an end of it; I will find out
what he wants with us."

Gaudissart understood Fraisier; both scented danger.

"Why are you here?" Gaudissart began. "So you have no mind to be
cashier at the theatre? Discretion is a cashier's first


"Just mind your own business; you will never be anything if you meddle
in other people's affairs."

"Sir, I cannot eat bread if every mouthful of it is to stick in my
throat. . . . Monsieur Schmucke!--M. Schmucke!" he shouted aloud.

Schmucke came out at the sound of Topinard's voice. He had just
signed. He held the money in his hand.

"Thees ees for die liddle German maiden und for you," he said.

"Oh! my dear M. Schmucke, you have given away your wealth to inhuman
wretches, to people who are trying to take away your good name. I took
this paper to a good man, an attorney who knows this Fraisier, and he
says that you ought to punish such wickedness; you ought to let them
summon you and leave them to get out of it.--Read this," and
Schmucke's imprudent friend held out the summons delivered in the Cite

Standing in the notary's gateway, Schmucke read the document, saw the
imputations made against him, and, all ignorant as he was of the
amenities of the law, the blow was deadly. The little grain of sand
stopped his heart's beating. Topinard caught him in his arms, hailed a
passing cab, and put the poor German into it. He was suffering from
congestion of the brain; his eyes were dim, his head was throbbing,
but he had enough strength left to put the money into Topinard's

Schmucke rallied from the first attack, but he never recovered
consciousness, and refused to eat. Ten days afterwards he died without
a complaint; to the last he had not spoken a word. Mme. Topinard
nursed him, and Topinard laid him by Pons' side. It was an obscure
funeral; Topinard was the only mourner who followed the son of Germany
to his last resting-place.

Fraisier, now a justice of the peace, is very intimate with the
President's family, and much valued by the Presidente. She could not
think of allowing him to marry "that girl of Tabareau's," and promised
infinitely better things for the clever man to whom she considers she
owes not merely the pasture-land and the English cottage at Marville,
but also the President's seat in the Chamber of Deputies, for M. le
President was returned at the general election in 1846.

Every one, no doubt, wishes to know what became of the heroine of a
story only too veracious in its details; a chronicle which, taken with
its twin sister the preceding volume, _La Cousine Bette_, proves that
Character is a great social force. You, O amateurs, connoisseurs, and
dealers, will guess at once that Pons' collection is now in question.
Wherefore it will suffice if we are present during a conversation that
took place only a few days ago in Count Popinot's house. He was
showing his splendid collection to some visitors.

"M. le Comte, you possess treasures indeed," remarked a distinguished

"Oh! as to pictures, nobody can hope to rival an obscure collector,
one Elie Magus, a Jew, an old monomaniac, the prince of
picture-lovers," the Count replied modestly. "And when I say nobody,
I do not speak of Paris only, but of all Europe. When the old Croesus
dies, France ought to spare seven or eight millions of francs to buy
the gallery. For curiosities, my collection is good enough to be
talked about--"

"But how, busy as you are, and with a fortune so honestly earned in
the first instance in business--"

"In the drug business," broke in Popinot; "you ask how I can continue
to interest myself in things that are a drug in the market--"

"No," returned the foreign visitor, "no, but how do you find time to
collect? The curiosities do not come to find you."

"My father-in-law owned the nucleus of the collection," said the young
Vicomtess; "he loved the arts and beautiful work, but most of his
treasures came to him through me."

"Through you, madame?--So young! and yet have you such vices as this?"
asked a Russian prince.

Russians are by nature imitative; imitative indeed to such an extent
that the diseases of civilization break out among them in epidemics.
The bric-a-brac mania had appeared in an acute form in St. Petersburg,
and the Russians caused such a rise of prices in the "art line," as
Remonencq would say, that collection became impossible. The prince who
spoke had come to Paris solely to buy bric-a-brac.

"The treasures came to me, prince, on the death of a cousin. He was
very fond of me," added the Vicomtesse Popinot, "and he had spent some
forty odd years since 1805 in picking up these masterpieces
everywhere, but more especially in Italy--"

"And what was his name?" inquired the English lord.

"Pons," said President Camusot.

"A charming man he was," piped the Presidente in her thin, flute
tones, "very clever, very eccentric, and yet very good-hearted. This
fan that you admire once belonged to Mme. de Pompadour; he gave it to
me one morning with a pretty speech which you must permit me not to
repeat," and she glanced at her daughter.

"Mme. la Vicomtesse, tell us the pretty speech," begged the Russian

"The speech was as pretty as the fan," returned the Vicomtesse, who
brought out the stereotyped remark on all occasions. "He told my
mother that it was quite time that it should pass from the hands of
vice into those of virtue."

The English lord looked at Mme. Camusot de Marville with an air of
doubt not a little gratifying to so withered a woman.

"He used to dine at our house two or three times a week," she said;
"he was so fond of us! We could appreciate him, and artists like the
society of those who relish their wit. My husband was, besides, his
one surviving relative. So when, quite unexpectedly, M. de Marville
came into the property, M. le Comte preferred to take over the whole
collection to save it from a sale by auction; and we ourselves much
preferred to dispose of it in that way, for it would have been so
painful to us to see the beautiful things, in which our dear cousin
was so much interested, all scattered abroad. Elie Magus valued them,
and in that way I became possessed of the cottage that your uncle
built, and I hope you will do us the honor of coming to see us there."

Gaudissart's theatre passed into other hands a year ago, but M.
Topinard is still the cashier. M. Topinard, however, has grown gloomy
and misanthropic; he says little. People think that he has something
on his conscience. Wags at the theatre suggest that his gloom dates
from his marriage with Lolotte. Honest Topinard starts whenever he
hears Fraisier's name mentioned. Some people may think it strange that
the one nature worthy of Pons and Schmucke should be found on the
third floor beneath the stage of a boulevard theatre.

Mme. Remonencq, much impressed with Mme. Fontaine's prediction,
declines to retire to the country. She is still living in her splendid
shop on the Boulevard de la Madeleine, but she is a widow now for the
second time. Remonencq, in fact, by the terms of the marriage
contract, settled the property upon the survivor, and left a little
glass of vitriol about for his wife to drink by mistake; but his wife,
with the very best intentions, put the glass elsewhere, and Remonencq
swallowed the draught himself. The rascal's appropriate end vindicates
Providence, as well as the chronicler of manners, who is sometimes
accused of neglect on this head, perhaps because Providence has been
so overworked by playwrights of late.

Pardon the transcriber's errors.


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

Baudoyer, Isidore
  The Government Clerks
  The Middle Classes

Berthier (Parisian notary)
  Cousin Betty

Berthier, Madame
  The Muse of the Department

Bixiou, Jean-Jacques
  The Purse
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  The Government Clerks
  Modeste Mignon
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  The Firm of Nucingen
  The Muse of the Department
  Cousin Betty
  The Member for Arcis
  A Man of Business
  Gaudissart II.
  The Unconscious Humorists

  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Cousin Betty

Brisetout, Heloise
  Cousin Betty
  The Middle Classes

  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  The Muse of the Department
  Cesar Birotteau
  At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

Camusot de Marville
  Jealousies of a Country Town
  The Commission in Lunacy
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Camusot de Marville, Madame
  The Vendetta
  Cesar Birotteau
  Jealousies of a Country Town
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Cardot (Parisian notary)
  The Muse of the Department
  A Man of Business
  Jealousies of a Country Town
  Pierre Grassou
  The Middle Classes

  Cousin Betty

Crevel, Celestin
  Cesar Birotteau
  Cousin Betty

Crottat, Alexandre
  Cesar Birotteau
  Colonel Chabert
  A Start in Life
  A Woman of Thirty

  The Atheist's Mass
  Lost Illusions
  The Thirteen
  The Government Clerks
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  The Seamy Side of History
  Modeste Mignon
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

  Cousin Betty

Fontaine, Madame
  The Unconscious Humorists

Gaudissart, Felix
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Cesar Birotteau
  Gaudissart the Great

Godeschal, Francois-Claude-Marie
  Colonel Chabert
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  A Start in Life
  The Commission in Lunacy
  The Middle Classes

Godeschal, Marie
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  A Start in Life
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Gouraud, General, Baron

Graff, Wolfgang
  Cousin Betty

Granville, Vicomte de (later Comte)
  The Gondreville Mystery
  A Second Home
  Farewell (Adieu)
  Cesar Birotteau
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  A Daughter of Eve

Grassou, Pierre
  Pierre Grassou
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  Cousin Betty
  The Middle Classes

Hannequin, Leopold
  Albert Savarus
  Cousin Betty

Haudry (doctor)
  Cesar Birotteau
  The Thirteen
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  The Seamy Side of History

Lebrun (physician)
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Magus, Elie
  The Vendetta
  A Marriage Settlement
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  Pierre Grassou

Matifat (wealthy druggist)
  Cesar Birotteau
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  The Firm of Nucingen

Minard, Prudence
  The Middle Classes

Pillerault, Claude-Joseph
  Cesar Birotteau

Popinot, Anselme
  Cesar Birotteau
  Gaudissart the Great
  Cousin Betty

Popinot, Madame Anselme
  Cesar Birotteau
  A Prince of Bohemia
  Cousin Betty

Popinot, Vicomte
  Cousin Betty

Rivet, Achille
  Cousin Betty

Schmucke, Wilhelm
  A Daughter of Eve
  Ursule Mirouet
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Stevens, Dinah
  A Marriage Settlement

  Modeste Mignon
  The Member for Arcis
  Cousin Betty
  The Unconscious Humorists

  Cesar Birotteau

  The Member for Arcis
  The Middle Classes

Vinet, Olivier
  The Member for Arcis
  The Middle Classes

Vivet, Madeleine
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

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