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Title: The Bath Keepers, v.1 (Novels of Paul de Kock Volume VII)
Author: Kock, Charles Paul de, 1794-1871
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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[Illustration: _Copyright 1903 by G. Barrie & Sons_]

_LÉODGARD RETURNS TO HIS FRIENDS_

_All the young men ran to meet Léodgard, for it was really he who was
approaching. As they drew near him they were struck by his pallor and by
the sinister gleam of his eyes, which avoided theirs._



NOVELS

BY

Paul de Kock

VOLUME VII

THE BATH KEEPERS;

OR,

PARIS IN THOSE DAYS

VOL. I

PRINTED BY ARRANGEMENT WITH

[Illustration]

GEORGE BARRIE'S SONS

THE JEFFERSON PRESS

BOSTON NEW YORK

_Copyrighted, 1903-1904, by G. B. & Sons._



THE BATH KEEPERS;

OR,

PARIS IN THOSE DAYS



I

RUE COUTURE-SAINTE-CATHERINE


It was two o'clock on a cold, damp morning; the fine snow, which melted
as soon as it touched the ground, made the streets slippery and dirty,
and Rue Culture-Sainte-Catherine,--then called
Couture-Sainte-Catherine,--although it was one of the broadest streets
in Paris, was as black and gloomy as any blind alley in the Cité to-day.

But these things took place in the year one thousand six hundred and
thirty-four; and I need not tell you that in those days no such devices
for street lighting as lanterns, gas, or electric lights were known. The
man who should have discovered the last-named invention, which, in
truth, savors strongly of the magical, would surely have been subjected
to the ordinary and extraordinary torture for a recompense.

Those were the good old times!

Everything new aroused suspicion; people believed much more readily in
sorcerers, the devil, and magic, than in the results of study and
learning and the reasoning of the human intellect.

Was it that men were too modest in those days? If so, they have reformed
most effectually since then.

In those days, very few persons ventured to be out late in the streets
of Paris, where the police was most inefficient and often worse.

The young noblemen sometimes indulged in the pastime of beating the
watch; that diversion was permitted to the nobility. To-day, the
prowlers about the barriers are the only class who undertake to beat the
gendarmes from time to time; but the gendarmes are not so accommodating
as the watch of the old days.

There were not then some thirty or more theatres open every evening for
the entertainment of the people of the capital and of the strangers
drawn thither by its renown. A single one had been founded and was
patronized by Cardinal de Richelieu, who, unfortunately for his glory,
had undertaken to add to his other titles thereto the title of author.

But all great men have had their weaknesses. Alexander drank too much,
which was infinitely more reprehensible than to write wretched verses;
Frederick the Great insisted that he was a talented performer on the
flute; and Louis XIV danced in the comédies-ballets which Molière
composed for him.

The farces which were then being performed by Turlupin, Gros-Guillaume,
and Gauthier-Garguille ended with the daylight, their theatres being in
the open air. People dined at noon and supped at six o'clock; and when a
worthy bourgeois remained at a friend's house as late as nine o'clock,
he looked upon it as a genuine revel, as a youthful escapade, and
hurried home at the top of his speed, carrying a lantern, and shuddering
with terror many a time as he passed through the lanes which were then
called streets, and in which, if he should happen to meet any
evil-minded person, he was certain of obtaining no assistance from any
house or shop; for when the curfew had rung, everything must be closed,
and you might not even have a light in your house, if you wished to read
or work, or for any reason not to go to bed.

Why do we call that period "the good old time"?

That is a question I have often asked myself.

Is it because people were not entitled to go to bed, to work, to
entertain their friends, to amuse themselves when they had the desire,
the need, or the fancy so to do?

Is it because people broke their necks after dark in the streets?
because thieves, then called _Truands_, _Mauvais Garçons_, _Tireurs de
Laine_, or _Coupeurs de Bourses_, plied their trade in broad daylight on
Pont Neuf and in other localities, laughing in your face if you ventured
to remonstrate?

Was it because the shops were dark and filthy, devoid of taste and
refinement?

Was it because duels were fought on street corners, or in the public
squares, two or four or twelve a day, as unconcernedly as we go boating
to-day; and the authorities took no steps to prevent this butchery?

Was it because edicts were promulgated every day whereby such a one was
forbidden to wear silk, another to wear velvet, this woman to have a
gilt girdle, another to dress in certain colors, which were too
brilliant, too conspicuous for her walk in life?

O short-sighted politicians! O paltry critics! who anathematize luxury,
who seek to restrict refinement, who censure coquetry, and who do not
understand that by such theories you strike at our commerce, our
manufacturers, our mechanics--in a word, all our _workers_!

In heaven's name, what harm is done if a plebeian who has money dresses
fashionably, luxuriously even, if such be his taste, his caprice?

Are you afraid that he may eclipse you, who assume to belong to the beau
monde? Try to make yourself distinguished by your manners, your bearing,
your grace, your courtesy, your language; surely you must know that
those are things that cannot be bought!

For my own part, I would be glad to see all the working girls in silk
dresses, velvet bonnets, and lace-trimmed caps, and all the workingmen
in patent-leather shoes and white gloves.

Where would be the harm?

Is not the picture of refinement more attractive than that of
slovenliness, poverty, and want?

Does not the money that a man spends on his dress do him more honor than
that which he throws away at the wine shop?

But let us return to Rue Culture-Sainte-Catherine, and to the period
when the events that we are about to describe took place.

A young man came out of Rue des Francs-Bourgeois and passed the Hôtel de
Carnavalet, before which artists and admirers of sculpture always paused
to gaze at the waving lines of the great portal, and the masks and
bas-reliefs that adorned the arches of the windows--the work of the
immortal Jean Goujon.

Fortunate structure, which the genius of an artist was to make famous
forever, and to which, at a later time, a woman of intellect was to add
renewed lustre by making it her residence!

But at the period of which we write, Madame de Sévigné had not taken up
her abode at the Hôtel de Carnavalet.

The hour was not propitious for halting in front of the mansion, for it
was very near Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, which at that time extended to
Rue Culture-Sainte-Catherine; moreover, the person who came from the
first-named street did not seem to be in that frame of mind which fits
us to pass judgment on the objects of beauty we may meet on our road.

He was, as we have said, a young man. Twenty-five years was his age; he
was tall, slender, and well built; there was in his carriage and in
every movement the ease of bearing which denotes the man of the world,
and the manners which point to familiarity with cultivated society, and
which one does not lose, even in low company, when one has inherited
them from a long line of ancestors.

In addition to grace of form, this young man possessed a handsome face
and clean-cut features; his brow was lofty and proud; his black eyes
were large and bright, and surmounted by very dense eyebrows which
almost met, thus imparting at times a somewhat sombre expression to the
organs of vision below them, which flashed fire when animated by wrath,
but could, on occasion, assume an expression of gentleness and
tenderness which it was difficult to resist; a small mouth, well
supplied with teeth, and shaded by a small moustache; an oval chin
adorned by a _royale_; and a forest of black hair which fell in thick
curls over his neck and shoulders--such, physically, was Léodgard de
Marvejols.

As for his moral character, this story will instruct us sufficiently
therein.

Clad in a handsome doublet of crimson silk, slashed with white satin;
knee-breeches of the same material, held in place by a white belt with
silver fringe, to which was attached a long sword, with a hilt of the
finest steel, ornamented with fringe and bows of ribbon; the young
cavalier's feet and legs were encased in funnel-shaped top-boots of
yellow leather, with buckles at the instep; spurs affixed to those
light boots indicated that they seldom contributed to wear out the
pavements. A broad collarette, trimmed with lace, served as a cravat,
and a small velvet cloak was thrown over the shoulders and clasped on
one side. Lastly, a hat with a pointed crown and broad brim, turned up
in front, and surmounted by a long white plume attached by a steel
button, was the young man's headgear; and it must be said that it was
infinitely more graceful and refined than the hideous hats that we wear
to-day.

We must do justice to the "good old times" in this respect: the costumes
worn by men were much more graceful, more dignified, more attractive,
than they now are; for we must, before everything, be impartial, and
award praise as well as blame.

Léodgard de Marvejols walked rather quickly, but sometimes he stopped,
like a person who is very much preoccupied, and to whom it matters
little that it is two o'clock in the morning, and that the streets are
deserted.

At these times he usually thought aloud, or talked to himself--a
practice which is more common than is generally supposed; and as the
young nobleman had supped very copiously, his monologues were quite as
energetic as if he were still accompanied by boisterous revellers.

At this time Léodgard was very near the new convent of the _Annonciades
Célestes_, or _Filles Bleues_, which one of the mistresses of Henri IV,
the Marquise de Verneuil, had founded in the year 1626.

The blue girdle and cloak worn by the Annonciades had already caused
them to be styled _Filles Bleues_; which fact did not prevent those
saintlike women from being held in great veneration in their quarter; so
that, in broad daylight, people would have been terribly scandalized to
hear our young man swear roundly so near that asylum of repentance, and
exclaim, as he leaned against the wall of the convent:

"Par la mordieu! if that Jarnonville had not left the game, I should
have won twice as much, thrice as much; I was in luck; I should have won
until morning. And that D'Artigues, and Cournac--to refuse to take the
dice--when I offered them their revenge at lansquenet--that swindlers'
game! and when I was losing! God damn me! I would stake my patrimony, my
moustaches, my mistress, if anyone would give me anything on them, and
my soul, if the devil would take it.--Let me see: how much did I win
from them? five or six hundred pistoles at most; and even so, I am not
sure that their rose crowns aren't clipped or counterfeit. A noble
night's work, on my word! as if that would make up what I have lost! I
know that I may continue to win to-morrow, and the day after to-morrow;
that I may win as often as I have lost.--Ah! I will win! I must! I must
win enough to buy another _petite maison_, as I have lost mine to that
infernal De Montrevers.--Where in the devil am I to take my pretty
courtesan, Camilla, to-morrow?--This is strange; I feel dizzy; that
Jurançon wine was good, but it is heady.--Where in the devil shall I
take my new conquest to-morrow? Cournac refused to lend me his _petite
maison_, on the pretext that he was to have company there. The coxcomb!
he boasts of it, but it is a lie; I know from his esquire that when he
goes there he is always alone! However, we shall find some place of
shelter to take our belle; I am in funds now, and with a well-filled
purse one is welcomed cordially everywhere.--Apropos of my purse, let us
be sure that I haven't lost it. By hell! I am quite capable of it, I am
so dizzy!"

At that thought, the young man hastily put his hand to his belt; but his
eyes almost immediately resumed a serene expression, as he felt his
purse, which was round and full. He could not resist the desire to take
it in his hands and feel the weight of it, saying to himself:

"At last, I am not going home with an empty purse. Ten thousand devils!
it is a long time since that has happened to me!"

And Léodgard was about to restore the purse to his belt, when a person
who had drawn near to him, quietly and unperceived, caught his arm,
saying:

"It is unnecessary; don't give yourself the trouble to put it back."



II

A ROBBER


The man who had halted in front of Léodgard was tall and strong, and
seemed rather young than old; he was so strangely attired, that, after
meeting him once, it would be difficult not to remember him.

A black doublet fitted close to his body, like a silk shirt; he wore
laced half-boots; a leather belt, in which were thrust pistols and a
poniard; and a broad baldric, from which hung a short sabre--a sort of
dagger with a very broad blade. All this part of his costume was
concealed by an ample caftan of olive-green cloth, which had a hood of
the same material, and which we may compare to a modern _caban_.[A] His
head was covered with a red cap, trimmed with long wild boar's hair.
This cap was pulled down so far that one could hardly see his eyes; only
a long, thin nose could be distinguished, the lower part of the face
being completely hidden by moustaches and a heavy beard of the same
color as the hair on his cap.

[A] A thick woollen cloak, with a hood.

All these details formed a most unprepossessing whole, and gave the man
the aspect of a porcupine.

But one was taken by surprise when there came from that bearded face,
instead of a harsh and threatening voice, a soft, almost melodious
sound; there was in the bandit's speech something mellow and vibrating,
which, with a rather pronounced Italian accent, gave it a decided charm.

Léodgard raised his head and was completely taken aback when he saw this
individual standing in front of him; but, instead of complying with his
suggestion and refraining from putting his purse away, he instantly
withdrew his arm, replaced the gold in his belt, and, stepping back,
scrutinized the robber; who stood quietly in his place and submitted to
the examination, like one who was in no hurry at all and was content to
await the convenience of the traveller he proposed to plunder.

"Pardieu! I cannot be mistaken," cried Léodgard, after a moment; "you
are the famous Giovanni, the Italian robber, but lately arrived in
France, who has already filled Paris with the fame of his exploits, his
audacity, and, above all, his address!"

The man in the olive-green caftan bent his head slightly, replying in a
flute-like voice, as if highly flattered by the compliment:

"Yes, signor, I am he."

"Ah! By my faith, I do not regret the meeting! Since the beginning of
the winter, I have heard so much of you and your prowess, Master
Giovanni, that I have more than once longed to make your acquaintance.
For you are no ordinary robber--everybody does you that justice; you
are ceremonious and well-mannered, and, it is said, very agreeable to
the persons you rob. That is a decided change for us; our French thieves
are so vulgar, such pitiful wretches! Come, since chance has served me
so well to-night, let us talk a little. Have you a few moments to give
me before we decide the fate of this purse?"

"I shall be very glad to talk with you, signor; I have time enough, for
yours is the last business I shall do to-night."

"And it will not be the most profitable for you, I warn you, Giovanni;
for I am not in the mood to give up my purse to you; it is too well
filled for that!"

The robber's only reply was a satirical laugh.

Léodgard de Marvejols had found a stone, on which he seated himself;
Giovanni remained standing with arms folded, and the conversation began.

"Why did you leave your beautiful Italy to come to France? Would you not
be more at ease in the vast plains that surround Rome, or on the slopes
of the Pausilippo, or lying lazily beside the blue sea that bathes the
feet of Naples, than in this dark and filthy street, beneath this gray
sky, in this cold mist which chills us to the bone as it clings to our
garments?"

"The sky of Italy is beautiful, signor, but love of change lies deep in
the heart of man."

"That is true; I grant you that. Moreover, since the days of Queen
Catherine de' Medici, of sinister memory, it seems that all Italians
have agreed to meet in Paris. We see your compatriots everywhere--at
court, in the city, in exalted positions, in the finances. The Italians
have brought us poisons,--with the way to make use of them,--the art of
telling fortunes by cards, of reading the stars, of learning the
future.--I try in vain to think what they have given us in exchange for
all this----"

"Music, signor."

"Ah! to be sure: music! They do, in fact, sing better than we do; but,
frankly, I do not think that that makes the balance even. I should have
supposed that Concini's tragic end would have allayed to some extent the
ardor of your compatriots for living in Paris. But I see that it is not
so, and that we have not yet seen the last of the Italians."

"One finds much to entertain one in France, signor."

"That must needs be so, since everybody desires to come here!--But tell
me,--for your manners and language seem to denote a man of some
education, and that you are not such a devil as you seek to appear, with
that shocking cap, in which you probably disguise yourself for a
purpose,--what train of events has led you to adopt the hazardous
profession in which you are now so famous? Do you feel disposed to tell
me?--For my own part, I confess that I am very curious to know your
adventures, assuming that you are not resolved to keep them secret."

"Mon Dieu! signor, I am ready to gratify you: the events of my life are
very simple--like those that come to multitudes of young men in all
lands. I am the son of a most respectable physician of Florence; indeed,
my father had amassed some wealth; he desired to make me a _dottore_
like himself, but I had not the slightest calling for the medical
profession. By way of compensation, I had a decided calling for
gambling, the joys of love, and of the table. I played, and contracted
debts. At first, my father paid them; but in time he tired of paying
money for me; he besought me to abandon the sort of life I was leading.
_Que diavolo!_--it was too late, the twig was bent! I allowed myself to
be led astray by fellows to whom all means of procuring money were
justifiable. I left Florence, I changed my name, from regard for my
family, and I followed the current. One travels rapidly on that road! As
I was dexterous and fearless, I soon left behind all those whose
imitator I had been. I became famous at Naples, at Rome, at Milan,
throughout Italy. But my description was spread broadcast, and, in spite
of the care with which I concealed my features, I was obliged to leave
my native land. Then it was that I came to France, to Paris, where I
have been plying my trade for six months, in the teeth of the watch, and
despite the efforts of the police and of monsieur le cardinal's
bloodhounds. However, I will confess to you in confidence that I have as
yet found no one among all your lovely Frenchwomen comparable to the
pretty girls of Florence and Milan. I have left some tender memories in
those cities. Indeed, I would stake my head that I am not yet entirely
forgotten there; and on my own part--but, pardon me! I am too
loquacious, I abuse your patience.--That is my story, signor; as you
see, there is nothing very extraordinary in it."

While listening to the robber, Léodgard had become gloomy and pensive;
his head had fallen on his breast, and it was difficult to say whether
he was still listening or was lost in thought.

Giovanni, having for some moments refrained from disturbing the silence
of the young man to whom he had related his adventures, said at last:

"I beg pardon, signor; I have told you what you wished to know, but the
night is hastening, and I must soon think of returning to my lair. So,
give me your purse, and I will take leave of you."

"Have you any companions, any confederates?" asked Léodgard abruptly,
without answering the robber.

"No, indeed; I am no such fool! I work alone, and I am the better for so
doing. If I had had confederates, I should have been caught long ago! As
you must know, in all ranks of society, a man is never betrayed, except
by his own people. Come, my young gentleman, let us finish our business.
I know that this street abounds in memories, and that it is well worth
while to pause and consider it. A few steps from here, during the night
of June 13, 1392, the Connétable Olivier de Clisson, coming from the
Hôtel Saint-Pol, where he had supped with the king, was treacherously
assaulted and murdered by Pierre de Craon, chamberlain and favorite of
the Duc d'Orléans, brother of King Charles VI. By a most fortunate
chance, Clisson wore a coat of mail under his clothes; he received more
than sixty sword and knife thrusts which did not reach his body; but he
was finally wounded in the head and thrown from his horse; he fell
against the door of a baker's shop, which was ajar, and his assassins
took flight."

"Malpeste! Giovanni, so you know our history too!" said Léodgard,
apparently taking pleasure in listening to the brigand.

"And why not, signor? I have told you that I am the son of a
_dottore_!--And that Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, which you have just
left--I have been following you for some time, you see--that Rue des
Francs-Bourgeois will always figure in your annals. There it was that
two miserable wretches lived toward the close of the last century--two
poor brothers, beggars, in short, who possessed the talent of imitating
perfectly the baying of a pack of hounds and the notes of a number of
hunting horns. Certain leaders of the League formed the plan of using
those beggars to lead your King Henri IV into a trap, knowing his
passion for the chase. One day when the king was enjoying that sport in
the forest of Vincennes, the noise of a pack of hounds, of horns, and of
hunters, very distant at first, suddenly drew near; a black man, forcing
his way through the underbrush, appeared before Henri IV and said to him
in an awe-inspiring voice: 'Did you hear me?'--But neither the king nor
any one of his train ventured to follow that man, who, it is said, was
to have hurled a lance at the king if he had tried to come up with him.
And all this was the work of the Leaguers and of the two beggars from
Rue des Francs-Bourgeois!"

"By my faith, Master Giovanni, you have told me something that I did not
know!--Pray go on; I see that one cannot fail to profit by your
conversation."

"I am extremely sorry, my young gentleman, but I can talk no longer. As
I reminded you just now, the hastening night forces me to retire, for I
know that my description is so well known that it is impossible for me
to show myself by daylight in this costume."

"Aha! that means that you have another for the sunlight? Pardieu! you
are wise, for this one is very well known. Those persons who have had
dealings with you have not failed to draw your portrait. I have already
heard of this olive-green robe de chambre, so to speak, and of this
horrible hairy cap."

"In that case, signor, you will understand that it is time for me to
disappear."

"Very well! go! what prevents you? You have been too courteous to me for
me to seek to cause your arrest. No, no! that would be a downright
felony on my part!"

"In that case, signor, add to your complaisance the favor of handing me
your purse, and I will go at once."

"My purse!" rejoined Léodgard, with a slight contraction of his heavy
eyebrows; "you shall not have it! I told you that I would keep it. But
as I do not wish to have made you talk for nothing, I will give you two
pretty rose crowns."

"No, my young gentleman; I cannot assent to that bargain; I have told
you that I must have your purse just as it is, and have it I will!"

"Come, then, and take it!"

As he spoke, Léodgard sprang to his feet and quickly drew his sword;
then he glanced at Giovanni as if to defy him. The Italian did not show
the slightest excitement, but simply shook his head, murmuring:

"Oh! I knew that the young Comte Léodgard de Marvejols was a gallant
youth!"

"Ah! you know me, do you?"

"Per Dio! Do I not always know those whom I address? Otherwise I should
run the risk of wasting my time by attacking poor devils without a sou!"

"But you might often have found me in that condition."

"I know that too; but to-night you played lansquenet at the Sire de
Jarnonville's, and luck smiled upon you; that is why I attacked you."

"Clearly, you add to your other talents that of being a sorcerer. All
Italians smell of the stake!"

"I should regret extremely, signor, to resort to my weapons; surely you
must have been told that that is not my habit! I must always be driven
to it. But if you do not give up your purse with a good grace----"

"No, a thousand times no! Do you expect to frighten me, I wonder?"

Giovanni gave the young count hardly time to finish his sentence; he
drew his broad sword, and, leaping upon his adversary with a rapidity
and address which left him no time to attack, in a few seconds he had
sent Léodgard's gleaming rapier flying through the air; and placing the
point of his weapon against the young nobleman's breast, with his left
hand he swiftly took the purse from his belt, saying, with a slight
movement of the head:

"You see, my young gentleman, it was not worth while to go through so
many forms!"

And in an instant the brigand had vanished.

As for Léodgard, thoroughly ashamed of his discomfiture, he stood as if
stupefied, and could only mutter:

"Beaten! beaten by that Giovanni!--Ah! I will have my revenge!"



III

THE BATH KEEPERS


In the days of royal licenses, when the grocers and apothecaries formed
but a single guild, it was the same with the barbers and surgeons.

In the year 1620, forty-eight patents had been granted to
_barbiers-baigneurs-étuvistes_, who were perruquiers following the
court. Later, their number was largely increased.

The right to keep hot or cold baths was specially attached to the guild
of master perruquiers.

A fashionable bathing establishment, with both hot and cold baths, stood
on Rue Saint-Jacques, near the corner of Rue des Mathurins. From a long
distance one could see its basins, painted a light blue as the ordinance
required; and over the door were these words in huge letters:

  BEARDS PROPERLY SHAVED WITHIN; HOT AND
             COLD BATHS

At this time the price of a bath varied from six to twelve livres
[francs]; and when we consider that a livre then was worth almost three
times as much as to-day, we must agree that there is a vast difference
between that price and the price in our modern bathing establishments,
where one obtains five tickets for three francs. The result is a great
improvement in respect to health and cleanliness, for everybody cannot
go to the river to bathe.

What did the poor people do in those days; for six livres was an
enormous sum to them?

If, in the good old times, a bath was such an expensive luxury, on the
other hand, the houses where they were supplied bore a very bad
reputation; they were, it is said, places of assignation for lewd women,
who, because of their rank or condition, were obliged to try to cloak
their evil conduct.

Many preachers thundered from the pulpit against these places, which had
been adorned with an honest name.

Maillard, in sermons noteworthy for their power and their crudity of
expression, said, as he declaimed against the scandal caused by these
establishments:

"Mesdames, do not go to the baths, and do not do there what I need not
name!"

Sauval tells us that the baths continued their existence for a long
time; people did not cease to frequent them until the end of the
seventeenth century. They had become so common then that a person could
hardly take a step without passing one.

Let us return to our shop on Rue Saint-Jacques. It was kept by a stout
old fellow of some fifty years, as strong and bright and active as a
young man, whose name was Hugonnet. He was a red-faced _compère_, hasty
of speech and of gesture; his round, full, rubicund face exhaled health
and good humor; his little round gray eyes had a slightly mischievous
expression; his chin was beginning to become double, and his hair to
turn gray; but Master Hugonnet worried little about that; so long as his
place was well patronized, whether it was resorted to by cavaliers,
bachelors, esquires, courtiers, people from the city, or even from the
country, mattered little to him, if the customers paid promptly; for
after a profitable day, the bath keeper rarely failed to go to the
nearest wine shop, to regale and enjoy himself, whence he commonly
returned home tipsy; he called it having "a little point."

The peculiar feature of Master Hugonnet's intoxication was that it
totally changed his disposition; and instead of intensifying his
passions and his vices, as wine so generally does, it endowed him with
qualities of which no one would ever have suspected him when he was
sober, and deprived him entirely of those which distinguished him in his
normal condition.--For instance, the bath keeper was far from patient;
he lost his temper easily, was quick to quarrel, would never give way,
and was always ready to fight. To be sure, when blows had once been
exchanged, Hugonnet bore his adversary no malice, and would soon be
laughing and drinking with him. But in his cups the old fellow became as
gentle and timid as a child; disposed to do what anyone desired, he was
easily moved to compassion for the misfortunes of his neighbor; and if
anyone told him some pitiful tale, it was no uncommon thing to see him
weep, and disturb the neighborhood by his groans as he stumbled home.
That always indicated that the libations had been copious, the bumpers
frequent, and that the bath keeper was completely drunk.

Hugonnet was a widower and had but one child, a daughter, who, when our
tale opens, had just reached her eighteenth year. Ambroisine was a fine
girl, tall and strong, well set up and shapely. Her foot was not very
small, but her calf was symmetrical and of good size; her hand might
have been smaller, more tapering, but it was pink and white, and plump.

Her bearing and her gestures were somewhat brusque at times, and gave
her rather too disdainful an air; but her smile was so frank and
pleasant that it excused any possible rudeness in her manner to persons
who did not know her well.

Ambroisine was very good-looking; her hair was as black as jet; her dark
brown eyes were neither too large nor too small, and were amply fringed
by long lashes of the color of her hair; she fastened them with perfect
self-possession upon the person with whom she was speaking; but although
they did not express the ordinary shyness of a girl of her years, they
were so compassionate to the wretched, so amiable in joy, so fiery in
wrath, that they were always fine eyes.

A mouth somewhat large, but well supplied with teeth, lips a little
heavy, but ruddy and smiling, a round chin, a high, white forehead, and
eyebrows clearly marked without being too thick--such was the daughter
of Master Hugonnet, who was usually spoken of in the Quartier
Saint-Jacques as La Belle Baigneuse.

Ambroisine's charms undoubtedly had much to do with the popularity of
her father's establishment.

Master Hugonnet's house was never empty; it was the rendezvous of young
noblemen, of the king's arquebusiers and halberdiers, of lordlings, of
country squires and students, of men of the sword and men of the pen, of
law clerks of the Basoche, and sometimes of a royal princess's pages.

The ladies who came to the baths--and we have already said that there
were many of them--liked to be waited upon, cared for, and dressed by
Ambroisine, who was quick, active, skilful, and acquitted herself of her
task with a charming good humor which made it a pleasure to employ her.

It is probable that among all the young sparks and popinjays who came to
Master Hugonnet's, more than one would have been equally glad to obtain
the services of the daughter of the house; but they were obliged to do
without them, for La Belle Baigneuse naturally was at the orders of the
ladies only. Still, when there was a crowd in the barber's shop
clamoring for the good offices of his razor and his comb, Ambroisine,
who could shave a beard as surely and rapidly as her father, sometimes
consented to lend him a hand, and to attend to the needs of one of the
cavaliers who were waiting to be put in trim. The man for whom she
offered to perform that service always accepted it as a favor, and
strove to impart to his face a most seductive expression; and he never
failed thereafter to proclaim all over the city that he had been shaved
by Master Hugonnet's daughter, while everyone gazed enviously at the
chin which La Belle Baigneuse had lathered.

But such opportunities were rare. Ambroisine was too much occupied with
the baths to be often in her father's shop. And he loved his daughter
too well ever to require her to do anything against her will. In vain
did the young coxcombs, nay, even the great nobles, say to the barber:

"Shall we not see your daughter to-day, Master Hugonnet?" or: "Messire
barbier, I have been awaiting my turn a long while, pray send for the
fair Ambroisine to shave me"; or "By my sword! I would gladly pay double
to be shaved by her!"

To all these and many other like remarks, the good-natured gossip would
reply simply:

"My lords, I am in despair that I am unable to gratify you; but my
daughter is engaged with some ladies who are pleased to patronize my
baths. I have two young men there; but to wait on the fair sex I have
only my daughter, who is sufficient for the task, because she is
fortunately endowed; and because she does in a few moments the work that
would take others an hour. Oh! she is a girl in a thousand, is my
Ambroisine! And as for shaving you, I know that she would do that
perfectly, too; she is my pupil! Such a sure, light, quick hand! Never
has she cut the skin of any man's chin, and yet even I have sometimes
done that! it may happen to the most skilful. But, I tell you again,
Ambroisine is at the orders of none but the ladies of all ranks who
choose to come to my establishment to take baths; and, frankly, that is
more suitable. When I see her shaving a gentleman with the dexterity and
self-possession which distinguish her, I am proud of my pupil! But, on
the other hand, I am humiliated to see her do that work, and I say to
myself: 'By Notre-Dame de Paris! this is no place for my
daughter!'--Moreover, you have little hesitation in making gallant
speeches to her, in saying obscene things.--However, I am not disturbed!
If Ambroisine cares to laugh sometimes,--and in our profession one would
be very foolish to be too surly,--she is well able none the less to keep
in their place those who presume to take too many liberties. My daughter
is a determined wench, I tell you; she has a hand as quick and a fist as
solid as her father's! And woe to those who take the risk of having it
proved to them!"

By such harangues did Master Hugonnet reply to the young men who
displayed a too ardent desire to see his daughter. As a general rule,
the students, the country gentlemen, and the simple esquires listened to
reason; but it was not always so with the young nobles, who considered
themselves at liberty to do anything, because they were received at
court, and because the lieutenant of police closed his eyes too often to
their escapades. When one of them had taken it into his head that he
would see Ambroisine, all that the barber could say to convince him that
that might not be was of no avail, and sometimes was received in bad
part.

But although he was very glad to have noble customers, Master Hugonnet
was not of a humor to endure the impertinences of any man whatsoever;
the marquis, no less than the humble bachelor, felt the effects of his
wrath. And when a young gentleman seemed disposed to take up his abode
in his shop, saying:

"I will not go away until I have seen the fair Ambroisine!"

The barber would shout in stentorian tones:

"Well! you shall not see her, _triple savonnette_! there's no law to
compel her to be at your beck and call!"

But the sonorous voice of Master Hugonnet would reach the ears of
Ambroisine, who, divining from her father's tone that he was in a
passion, would at once leave her work and run to the shop, to put an end
to the dispute.

At sight of the girl, the person who had caused all the uproar would
begin to laugh and would exclaim, with a bantering glance at the barber:

"I told you that I would not go away without a sight of the charming
Ambroisine! I have succeeded, you see!"

Whereupon Master Hugonnet would look sheepish; but a word or two from
his daughter would speedily allay his anger, and more than one among the
witnesses of the scene would resolve to employ the same method when he
wished to see La Belle Baigneuse.

Now that we are acquainted with Master Hugonnet's house and household,
we must pay a visit to the establishment of another bath keeper, on Rue
Dauphine. That street, which had been laid out twenty years earlier, on
the site of the garden of the Augustinians and of the buildings of the
Collège Saint-Denis, was already lined by fine houses, and had an air of
refinement and a class of inhabitants in striking contrast to Quartier
Saint-Jacques.



IV

BATHILDE


The baths on Rue Dauphine were kept by one Landry. He was a man of
sixty, but still vigorous and robust, despite his gray moustache, which
he wore very long. By his soldierly bearing and the way he carried his
head, one could divine that he had seen military service. And Landry
was, in fact, an ex-soldier. He had fought under Henri IV, whose name he
never mentioned without carrying the back of his right hand to his
forehead, or without manifesting his emotion by the change in his voice.

At the great king's death, Landry, then thirty-six years of age, had
left the service. Later, although his face was scarred, his martial
set-up and his military gait had fascinated Dame Ragonde, a widow with a
small hoard. She had married Landry, and they had obtained, by purchase,
a license to keep hot and cold baths.

Landry was a tall, thin, stiff individual. He had an uncommunicative
air, and his long gray moustache tended to make his expression even less
inviting. However, Master Landry was not a bad-tempered man. He had
never been known to seek a quarrel with anyone; and when quarrels arose
among his neighbors, it was usually he who intervened to restore peace.
It is true that his voice was strong and that his moustache produced an
imposing effect on the vulgar.

He performed his duties as bath keeper and barber with the scrupulous
exactness which old soldiers retain in civil life with respect to
everything that they consider a duty. But it was not wise to speak ill
of Henri IV or of his minister Sully in the old soldier's presence. When
such a thing occurred, a sudden change would take place in the whole
aspect of the man; usually calm and cold, he would become as quick to
explode as powder; his blood would boil anew with all the fervor of his
younger days; and the unhappy wight who had presumed to utter a word
derogatory to his idols would be chastised before he had time to
apologize.

But such episodes were likely to be very infrequent, for the memory of
good King Henri was held in too great veneration by Frenchmen for anyone
to venture to impugn it.

Dame Ragonde, the bath keeper's wife, was fifteen years younger than her
husband, but she seemed almost as old as he.

She was a tall, thin, yellow-skinned woman. Had she ever been pretty?
That she had been seemed more than doubtful. Her small, pale-green eyes
were very bright, but they had an arrogant--yes, evil expression; they
were eyes of the sort that seem never to look in any direction with any
other purpose than that of finding something to blame, to reprove, or to
forbid. Her long nose, hooked at the end like a parrot's, made her
resemble in some degree a bird of prey. And her thin, bloodless, tightly
closed lips seemed destined to open only to emit harsh or bitter words.

Since the day of her marriage to Landry, her second husband, nobody
remembered having seen Dame Ragonde smile; indeed, it was not certain
that she smiled on that day.

Her voice was shrill and piercing, her words always short and sharp;
this fact, by the way, was creditable to the lady; she was no gossip and
never said a word more than she had to say.

Who would have guessed that of that union between a man who was not
handsome and a woman who was downright ugly a daughter would be born who
would prove to be a veritable model of beauty, grace, and charm?

Such, nevertheless, was Bathilde, the only child of Landry and Ragonde.

At eighteen, her beauty had reached its perfect development: she was one
of those types which painters delight to find, when they wish to paint a
virgin, an angel, or a demon of temptation.

Bathilde was blond, but the tint was not one of those dull blonds in
which there is a reflection of white; her long, thick, silky hair verged
rather on the chestnut. Her skin had that whiteness in which there is
life, and not that dull tone which imparts an aspect of inanition to a
living person. On the contrary, the lovely girl's cheeks had a rosy
tinge; and at the slightest word of reproof that was addressed to her,
they at once became a most brilliant carmine. Large, deep-blue eyes,
almond shaped, and shaded by long chestnut lashes; a small, fresh,
red-lipped mouth; irreproachable teeth of dazzling whiteness; a chin
slightly oval in shape; fine, but clearly marked eyebrows; a noble,
beautiful brow, over which thick curls seemed proud to be placed.

Such was Bathilde, who possessed, in addition, a slender, lithe, dainty
figure, a remarkably small foot, and a hand worthy to serve as a model.

But a mere enumeration of her advantages affords but a faint idea of the
fascination of that young girl, of the charm with which her whole person
was instinct, of the sweet melody of her voice, and of the pleasure that
one felt in hearing it.

Sometimes one remains unmoved before the most unexceptionable beauty;
for that which attracts and captivates us is not so much the perfection
of the features, the regularity of the outlines of a face, as its
amiable and gracious expression--a second element of beauty which many
times exerts more power than the first; but when the two are combined,
when nature has endowed a single woman with both, then it is that it is
very difficult to avoid losing one's heart and one's reason.

And that lovely, graceful, fascinating girl was the daughter of Landry
and Dame Ragonde!

Nature sometimes indulges in such strange whims. Do we not see flowers
whose perfume intoxicates us and whose gorgeous colors dazzle our eyes,
blooming upon stunted, thorny stalks?

As Bathilde's beauty would have attracted too many gallants, too many
seducers, to Master Landry's shop, the girl never appeared there, nor
did she wait upon the ladies who patronized her father's baths.

Bathilde had been brought up very strictly; almost always confined to
her bedroom, which did not look on the street, the girl never went out
except with her mother; and then a long veil, attached to her hood,
covered almost the whole of her face, leaving nothing in sight save the
end of her nose. If the sweet girl ventured to disarrange the veil and
to expose one of her pink and white cheeks to the air for a moment, Dame
Ragonde would instantly exclaim in her shrill, harsh voice:

"Your veil! your veil! Take care!"

Bathilde knew what that meant, and would hasten to swathe her lovely
face anew.

Certainly, if Master Landry had desired that his establishment should be
besieged by crowds of customers, he could easily have gratified his
wish: nothing more would have been necessary than to allow his daughter
to come to the shop now and then. Bathilde's beauty would have made a
sensation, the court and the city would have been stirred to their
depths, everyone would have desired to know that plebeian
chef-d'œuvre, and, with the inevitable vogue of his place of
business, the bath keeper's fortune would have been assured.

But in this respect Bathilde's parents proved that their own honor and
their child's virtue were to them treasures more precious than gold.

Some neighbors, knowing how strictly Bathilde had been brought up, said,
and with some show of reason, that a mother should be able to watch over
her daughter without converting her house into a prison. That to keep a
child from knowledge of the world was not the way to protect her from
the dangers that are encountered there at every step; and that it was
downright barbarity to deprive a girl of all the pleasures suited to her
years because it had pleased the Creator to endow her with all those
physical qualities which charm and fascinate.

If these or other similar remarks reached Dame Ragonde's ears, it is
probable that she paid little heed to them and that they made little
impression on her. Immovable in her determination, impassible in her
nature, rigorous in her conduct, she made no change whatever in her
methods with her daughter.

And as for Master Landry, although he loved Bathilde dearly and was very
proud of her, he looked upon his wife as the general whose duty it was
to manage the internal economy of his household. As such general, he
obeyed her promptly, reserving to himself only the command of the two
apprentices employed in his baths.

However, Landry's establishment was prosperous, as were almost all the
baths of those days, because they were very few in number.

The neighborhood of Rue Dauphine, which was less thickly populated than
Rue Saint-Jacques, already contained some noble mansions and fine
houses, occupied by magistrates, members of the Parliament, men of the
robe, and rich annuitants. Moreover, the proximity of the
Pré-aux-Clercs, which was still a favorite promenade, although some
buildings were beginning to be erected there, contributed to attract to
Master Landry's baths a more distinguished and more fashionable
clientèle, better society, in a word, than the ordinary patrons of his
confrère, Master Hugonnet.

Furthermore, although the fascinating Bathilde was concealed from prying
eyes, beauty spreads about it a perfume which causes its presence to be
divined, and which attracts connoisseurs, even though they are destined
to have nothing to show for their pains.

Despite all the precautions taken by Dame Ragonde, she could not prevent
her neighbors from talking; they repeated, to whoever chose to listen,
that Master Landry had a daughter more beautiful than the marvellous
princesses of the _Thousand and One Nights_; that her surpassing beauty
was the reason that her father and mother concealed her from all eyes,
because they feared that somebody would take her away from them; and
that they destined her for some wealthy foreign prince.

Others declared, on the contrary, that Master Landry's daughter was a
monster of ugliness and deformity, and that it was to shelter the poor
girl from the ridicule which was certain to be poured out upon her that
they were careful to keep her out of sight.

This last version, however, obtained little credence. As a general rule,
people do not take so many precautions with an ugly girl, or keep such
close watch over one who has no reason to fear the enterprises of
gallants.

Mystery always arouses curiosity, and the veil in which Dame Ragonde
swathed Bathilde's face intensified the general desire to see it.
Extremes are dangerous in everything: the man who puts too many bolts on
his door arouses a suspicion that he possesses a treasure.

Chance had brought Landry and his confrère Hugonnet together. One
evening, when the latter was returning home, as usual, after a merry
evening over the bottle at a wine shop recently opened in the Cité, at
some distance from his house, he lost his way. Alone, late at night, the
barber wandered for a long while through the dark and muddy lanes which
were then called streets, feeling his way along the walls, seeking his
own door, and cursing because he did not find it.

Two men, emerging suddenly from a blind alley, walked toward the drunken
man, who at once asked them to direct him. But he had applied to a pair
of vagabonds, whose only reply was to set about robbing Master Hugonnet
of his purse, his cloak, his great fur cap--in fact, of a large part of
his clothes. At the outset, as a result of his intoxication, which
entirely changed his disposition, Hugonnet placidly allowed himself to
be stripped, thinking that he had to do with unfortunate creatures who
needed all those things for their families. But one of the marauders
having been so imprudent as to strike him on the head, the blow, by
sobering the barber, instantly changed the face of affairs. Restored to
his senses, and realizing with what manner of men he had to do, he
defended himself stoutly; he dealt the two robbers some lusty blows, and
they, irritated at meeting with such stubborn resistance from an
intoxicated man, were already brandishing the daggers which they
proposed to use, when Master Landry appeared upon the stage of this
nocturnal attack.

To draw the rapier which he always carried under his cloak, to rush to
the assistance of the man who was beset, to attack the two robbers with
cut and thrust, to put them to flight, and to restore to Master Hugonnet
his cloak, which had fallen to the ground--all this was the affair of a
moment for the old trooper of Henri IV.

Hugonnet, completely sobered by the combat, offered Landry his hand and
exclaimed:

"Vertudieu! I am inclined to think, comrade, that but for you those
scoundrels would have made me pass a bad quarter of an hour!"

"I thank heaven that I arrived in time to offer you my assistance!"

"Sapristi! you went about it in the right way. You seemed to be at home!
How you handle your sword! I think that my knaves went off with the
marks you made on them."

"It would be a great pity if I did not know how to fight. When one has
had the honor of serving under the great Henri IV; when one has fought
under him at Arques and Ivry----"

"Do you say that you served with the good king who wanted all his
subjects to have a fowl to put in the pot? Shake hands! I am doubly
happy to have met you; and, with your permission, I consider myself from
this moment one of your friends."

"With all my heart, for you too are a brave man; I saw that by the way
you defended yourself against those cutthroats. And yet, you had no
weapons."

"Well! I did my best. Besides--I can afford to confess it, now that it's
all over--those thieves surprised me rather easily, because I was a
little--er--tipsy. I was on my way home from a new wine shop just opened
in the Cité. The wine was good--it always is good in a new place--and we
did not spare it. When I set out to go home, I missed my way--for the
devil take me if I know where I am now!"

"At the Carrefour de Bussy; see, this is the street leading from the
Porte de Bussy to the Pré-aux-Clercs."

"In God's name, what road did I take?--I, who live on Rue Saint-Jacques,
corner of Rue des Mathurins, where I have baths, hot and cold--Master
Hugonnet, at your service; for it is right that you should know whose
life you have saved."

"You are a bath keeper?--Pardieu! this is a strange meeting! I, too, am
one--Master Landry, Rue Dauphine, near Quai Conti."

"Is it possible!--you are the bath keeper on Rue Dauphine? I have heard
of you.--You have a wife, I am a widower. You have a daughter, and so
have I. How old is yours?"

"Twelve years."

"So is mine. Parbleu! confrère, our daughters must be friends, as their
fathers will be; are you willing?"

"Shake hands, ventre-saint-gris! as our good king used to say."

The two bath keepers shook hands once more. Landry started Hugonnet on
the right road, and they returned to their respective homes.

This meeting took place about five years before the time at which our
tale opens. Bathilde and Ambroisine were still children; people took
little notice of them, for we do not pause to consider whether little
girls of twelve are likely to be very beautiful some day. We prefer, and
wisely, to wait until they have become so, before ogling them.

Dame Ragonde's surveillance was naturally less active then; being still
a mere child, Bathilde enjoyed some liberty. So she was allowed to see
her new friend, for Master Hugonnet did not fail to pay a visit to his
confrère.

Landry was not expansive; he was not a frequenter of wine shops, and
never drank too much; but when he had pressed anyone's hand in token of
friendship, that person might be sure that he could rely upon the old
soldier's assistance, upon his arm, under all circumstances.

Dame Ragonde had not looked with great pleasure upon this new intimacy
contracted by her husband; but she knew that it would be useless for her
to try to break it up. Landry was not one of those weathercocks who
change their sentiments and affections according to the advice that is
given them. The husband and wife each had a will of iron. A concession
once made, neither of them attempted to encroach on the other's rights;
it was doubtless to this mutual respect for each other's rights and each
other's will that they were indebted for the peace which reigned in
their household.

The two little girls very soon learned to love each other; there was
between them just that difference in humor, in spirit, in temperament,
which attracts and binds together, and leads to those strong and lasting
attachments which defy time and the blows of fortune.--Observe that we
are speaking of friendship, not of love. As to the last-named sentiment,
we have never known an instance of it which resisted the slightest test
of its strength, when that test was applied with skill!

That which people are pleased to call sympathy cannot be the similitude
between two natures. For, put together two gossips, two testy or
obstinate or irascible, quarrelsome and satirical characters, and see
whether they will love each other, whether they will be able to live
together. There would be a constant state of war.

On the contrary, nature created the strong to support the weak, patience
to allay irascibility, gentleness to appease wrath, gayety to charm away
melancholy.

Bathilde was shy and timid; she trembled at the slightest sharp word,
and her gentle and affectionate nature was more inclined to melancholy
than to gayety.

Ambroisine was of a very different temperament: active, merry,
thoughtless, often angry; she said fearlessly whatever came into her
head; frankness lay at the foundation of her character; her heart was
susceptible, but it did not like to be sad for long. With her the tears
came quickly and disappeared no less quickly.

When Bathilde seemed to be unhappy, when her lovely eyes seemed to
express some hidden grief, her little friend would say to her:

"Somebody has been cross to you, I am sure. I can see that you have been
crying. Tell me who made you cry, and I will go to him and make him come
here and beg your pardon."

But Bathilde would simply look down and murmur:

"It was my mother."

"Did you do anything naughty?" Ambroisine would inquire.

"I asked her if I might go to see you soon."

Ambroisine would not dare to say anything more, but she would turn her
head aside and furtively wipe away the tears that stood in her eyes;
then she would again look at her friend, seize both her hands, and make
her dance around the room, crying:

"You mustn't think about that any more!"

When the girls had reached their fourteenth year, Dame Ragonde began to
think that Ambroisine was too lively, too mischievous, too self-willed,
and that her companionship might be dangerous for her daughter; she
would no longer allow her daughter to go to see her friend under the
escort of a servant; she alleged as an excuse the necessity that
Bathilde should study; and when Ambroisine came to see her, Dame Ragonde
never left them together; she was always by to prevent those
affectionate confidences which she believed to be dangerous. Her
presence, her stern manner, her curt speech, froze Bathilde's heart, and
she forced back those impulsive outbursts of affection which she would
have liked to lavish on Ambroisine. But the latter, although
disappointed at being unable to chat at her ease with little Bathilde,
retained in Dame Ragonde's presence her playful humor, her vivacity, her
frankness, and she often found a way to bring a smile to her young
friend's lips.

And so, as soon as Master Hugonnet's daughter had left the house,
Bathilde's mother never failed to exclaim:

"What an ill-bred child that is! What a bold-faced creature she will be
some day! But, patience: I will put this matter to rights."

And as the girls grew older, they were allowed to see each other less
and less. On Bathilde's side, the surveillance to which she was
subjected became more minute; she seldom went out, and she paid no more
visits. At Master Hugonnet's, on the other hand, Ambroisine, when she
grew tall and strong, was placed by her father at the head of the
establishment; and as a great many people came to the baths, she had
little time left to give to friendship.

But as soon as Ambroisine had a moment to herself, she hastened to Rue
Dauphine, to exchange a clasp of the hand with her friend.

Sometimes Dame Ragonde, who also had to overlook her apprentices and her
servants, was busy at the baths, and Bathilde was alone in her bedroom.
Then, what joy for the two friends! with what ardor they took advantage
of that moment of liberty! for the older they grew, the more interesting
their conversations became. At seventeen, two girls have other things to
say to each other than at twelve or thirteen. It is useless to keep them
sequestered all the time--they will always have something interesting to
tell each other.

Ambroisine especially, who was entirely her own mistress, was certain to
have very many things to tell. And so, when a lucky accident enabled the
two girls to exchange their thoughts, they would hardly take the time
to embrace; questions and answers succeeded one another with astounding
rapidity.

"Your mother isn't here? What luck!"

"What a long time it is since I saw you!"

"We are always so busy at home!"

"I am so bored!"

"I haven't a moment to myself during the day; such a lot of fine ladies
come to bathe!"

"It's the same way here; but I am not allowed to wait on them."

"I wait on them; I dress them when they don't bring their servants, and
that very often happens--they prefer to come alone; I don't know why--or
rather, yes, I think that I can guess why."

"Oh! tell me, Ambroisine!"

"No, no, it isn't worth while! Besides, I am not sure; it is just an
idea of mine."

"Tell me your idea, please, Ambroisine! Mon Dieu! if you don't tell me
anything, if you don't teach me a little, how do you expect me to know
anything, when I am always shut up in this room and only go downstairs
to dinner; when I see nobody but my father and mother, who hardly ever
speak to me? Why do the fine ladies prefer to come to the baths alone?"

"Why, you see, I do not quite know how to tell you.--But, no matter!
what difference does it make, after all? Many cavaliers, young men, come
to the baths also."

"So they do here, but I never see them. Do you see them?"

"Sometimes--when I go down to the shop, and when I help father; for I
know how to shave, I do; I can shave very well when I set about it."

"What! you shave--men?"

"Well! I surely don't shave women, as they have no beards."

"Oh! what a lucky girl you are! what fun that must be!--Do you really
dare to take a man by the chin?"

"Well, why not? I assure you that it doesn't frighten me; indeed, I must
not be frightened, for if my hand shook I should shave badly and cut the
customer.--Don't tell your mother this; for she thinks now that I am too
bold."

"Oh! there is no danger of that!"

"To be sure, it may be that my father tells yours."

"Yes; but my father will never say a word to my mother about it--they
talk so little!--But these cavaliers whom you shave--they speak to you,
I suppose?"

"To be sure--and those whom I don't shave speak to me, too; indeed, I
never know whom to answer, for as soon as I go down to the shop they are
all after me."

"And you are not afraid?"

"Not a bit; what do you suppose I am afraid of?"

"Indeed, I don't know! but my mother tells me that a young girl runs so
much risk when she listens to a man; and you, who listen to more than
one, must run a much greater risk!"

"But nothing happens to me, you see! for when the young gentlemen
presume to do things that are not nice, or make too--too gallant remarks
to me, why, it doesn't take me long to send them about their business!"

"What are the too gallant remarks, and the things that are not nice?"

"Mon Dieu! must I tell you everything? It is strange that you know
nothing!"

"Where, then, do you suppose that I can learn anything?"

"The too gallant remarks--those are when men tell us that we are pretty
or attractive--that they love us, that they adore us."

"Oh! but it must be nice to have that said to you! Is it necessary to be
angry? what a pity!"

"One must be very angry when they add: 'Love me, I implore you;
reciprocate my love, give me your heart; I will be faithful to
you!'--and a lot of oaths, of which they don't mean a word!"

"Ah! do you think that they don't mean a word of them? In that case, why
do they say them?"

"Because it amuses them. But if we listened to them, they would say much
more."

"And the things that are not nice?"

"That is when these fine fellows presume to suit the action to the word.
The ones who do that are the boldest; they take your hand, and, while
pretending to admire it, they don't hesitate to kiss it; or they put an
arm about your waist, and, if they can catch you napping, they try to
kiss you."

"What! are there men so presumptuous as that?"

"Indeed there are! the presumptuous ones are much more numerous than the
respectful ones; that is a great pity, for if it were not so----"

"Well?"

"Why, one might talk with them a little."

"Have they ever tried to kiss you?"

"Yes, indeed, and more than once; but I know how to defend myself. I box
their ears, and I don't do it with any gentle hand, either."

"What! you box your customers' ears?"

"When the customers make too free with me; but no matter how well you
defend yourself, sometimes you cannot escape the kiss."

"Have you ever been kissed, Ambroisine?"

"Mon Dieu! yes! some of those little pages are so quick, and some of the
young nobles so audacious! There is one in particular, Comte Léodgard de
Marvejols--you must have heard of him?"

"I! why, you forget that I hear nothing, see nothing, know
nothing!--What about Comte Léodgard?"

"Oh! he's a terrible scapegrace, I tell you! a rake, a roisterer, a
seducer! There is only one opinion about him, and not a week passes that
he does not set people talking about him. He abducts girls, yes, married
women even; he beats their fathers or husbands; he fights duels,
cudgels the watch, passes whole days and nights in gambling hells,
gambling and drinking; in short, he is worse than the devil!"

"O mon Dieu! how frightened I should be of him! He must be very ugly,
isn't he?"

"Why, no, and that is just what deceives you; unfortunately, he is not
ugly at all; for if he were hideous to look at, he would be much less
dangerous. He is a handsome young man, with a forest of long black hair,
and eyes of the same color, that shine like carbuncles; and when he
looks at you, he has a way of giving them such a benignant expression!
You would think sometimes that he is a little saint; but you very soon
find out your mistake."

"What a pity! A scapegrace is a reprobate, and that ought to appear on
his face. Has that young nobleman ever tried to kiss you?"

"I should say so! there was a time when he came to our place every day;
he laid traps for me, tried to make appointments with me, and brought me
presents."

"Presents?"

"Which I never received.--It did no good for me to lose my temper, to
fly into a passion, to threaten to scratch him--that only made him
laugh; he declared that I was even prettier when I was angry.--As you
can imagine, it is when my father is not at home that they torment me
so; for he would not stand it. But one day I lost my patience: Comte
Léodgard had seized my hands, in spite of my struggles, and he was just
about to kiss me, when I called father. If you had seen how quickly he
took the young nobleman up in his arms and set him down in the street!
The count was frantic; he drew his sword and rushed at father. But you
know Master Hugonnet--it isn't wise to irritate him. In an instant, he
had seized Comte Léodgard's sword and had broken it across his knee. The
count strode away, uttering the most horrible threats, swearing that he
would teach father what it costs to lack respect for a great nobleman.
Father began to laugh, and in a moment he had forgotten all about it.
But, for my part, I confess that the count's threats frightened me, and
for a long time after I trembled whenever father left me, when he came
home later at night than usual; but that was three months ago, and
nothing has happened."

"And the young man has not been to your shop again?"

"Oh, no! not since that time."

"In all this, you have not told me why the fine ladies who come to the
baths prefer not to bring their servants with them?"

"Ah! what a memory you have!--Well, I have noticed very often that there
is a young gentleman below who knows one of the ladies; when she leaves
the bath, the young man is there, waiting for her; they talk together,
they go away together; so, you see, when a lady knows that she will have
a cavalier to escort her home, she does not need to bring a servant."

"If you knew, Ambroisine, how I love to listen to you--you tell me
things that are so entirely new to me! Oh! please tell me some more of
your adventures!"

But when Ambroisine was about to gratify her friend, perhaps they would
hear Dame Ragonde's slow, regular steps approaching. Thereupon, the
subject of conversation would instantly be changed, and they would talk
exclusively of serious or religious matters until Bathilde's mother
said:

"You have talked enough; bid your friend adieu, it is time to separate."

Thereupon Ambroisine would leave her young friend; but all that she had
heard furnished Bathilde with food for thought for many days.



V

AN OLD MANSION.--AN OLD NOBLE


Alone in a large and handsome room, richly furnished, the hangings of
which, however, were very old and seemed to denote, on the part of the
proprietors, a profound respect for whatever had belonged to their
ancestors, an old man sat in an enormous easy-chair, whose carved and
gilded frame seemed as ancient as the hangings, before a desk on which
lay several boxes, books, and papers, which he was apparently engaged in
examining with care.

Sometimes he paused in his labors; his brow was clouded, his expression
stern, and a deep sigh escaped from his breast.

The Marquis de Marvejols was at this time nearly seventy years of age.
He was a tall, spare man, who still carried his head erect, whose gait
was firm and his grasp strong, while his proud and assured bearing would
have held in respect anyone who should attempt to impose upon him.

The old man's face was handsome, although severe. His white hair left
bare a large part of his forehead, on which could be seen a scar caused
by a blow from a lance; his moustaches and his beard, also snow-white,
harmonized well with that martial countenance, which seemed to defy all
dangers; and if the old marquis's keen gray eyes ordinarily wore a
haughty expression that inspired fear rather than confidence, on the
other hand, the extreme urbanity of his manners soon made one forget the
stern and imposing effect of his general appearance.

Knee-breeches and doublet of violet velvet, a leather belt, a very high
ruff, funnel-shaped top-boots, with spurs attached--such was the old
man's costume, which had something military about it. Over all this he
wore a long cloak, trimmed with ermine, which descended almost to his
spurs.

Pushing aside with an angry gesture the papers he had been examining,
Monsieur de Marvejols threw himself back in his chair, and turned his
eyes upon several large portraits which hung on the walls. Two
represented cavaliers with helmets on their heads, and their hands on
their swords; a third was that of a young man wearing the little cap in
vogue in the time of Henri III; and the fourth was the portrait of a
young and lovely woman with a little boy on her knees.

In the immense apartments of olden time, space was not spared; people
were not shut up, as we are to-day, in the foul atmosphere of rooms six
and a half feet in height; the lungs had an opportunity to do their work
freely and the chest must have been in much better case.

In those days, it was easy to find room in a salon for those huge
full-length portraits, which are ordinarily larger than life. Indeed,
one sometimes saw them hung in two rows, and the furniture never reached
to the frames.

To-day, in the apartments which our architects measure out for us so
sparingly, we must renounce all thought of having large canvases, fine
paintings of vast historical subjects, and in many cases even the
full-length portrait of one of our ancestors, unless we choose to take
the risk, when we sit down, of striking our heads against the painting
at the first unpremeditated movement we chance to make.

The Marquis de Marvejol's mansion was on Rue Royale, where one may still
see, in our day, some relics of the magnificent apartments of an earlier
time. But what a difference! Although, on the outside, it still
presents a reasonably well preserved image of what it was under Louis
XIII; although it is still red and white, with its bricks surrounded by
courses of stone, with its slated roof, its light balconies, its tall
windows set in stone frames; although it has retained its low, dark,
heavy galleries, which seem to have been built to defy the ages and the
elements--on the other hand, the interior of its various wings is no
longer the same, and, except in some few instances, the grandeur and
magnificence of the olden time have entirely disappeared.

But at the time of our narrative there were, in the neighborhood of the
Hôtel de Marvejols, the Hôtels de Lesdiguières, de Guémenée, de Sully,
d'Effiat, d'Aumont, de Chevreuse, de Chaulnes, de Saint-Paul, de
Liancourt, etc., etc.

At that time, too, the Place Royale was the scene of all the fêtes and
_carrousels_, which attracted the nobility, the bourgeoisie, and the
people of Paris, who were called in those days _the good people_. When
the marriage of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria was announced, fêtes
lasting three days were given on that square, although it was not
entirely finished.

In later times, on that same spot where noble knights broke lances to
entertain the ladies of their thoughts, who, seated on the balconies of
the neighboring houses, enjoyed the jousting, and encouraged the
champions of their charms by tender glances and by showing them in
advance the knot of ribbon which was to be the guerdon of victory--on
that same spot, we have seen and may still see the peaceable inhabitant
of the Marais, who has nothing in common with the paladins of old,
exercising his faithful dog and selecting a bench whereon to rest a
moment in the sunshine, whose beneficent warmth allays his rheumatic
pains. And the young nursemaid, too, with the children in her care, whom
she often leaves to bump against trees, or to fall as they run hither
and thither, while she is gossiping with other maids on the subject of
their employers, which is much more amusing than to watch children. And
the modest seamstress, on her way to carry home the work intrusted to
her, who crosses the Place Royale, although it is not directly on her
road, because she ordinarily meets there a young man who makes
flattering remarks to her; there is no law against seeking pleasant
meetings.

All this is far removed from the tourneys, the fanfares of trumpets, the
sound of clarion and drum; from the great ladies at the windows, from
the knights in the arena, from the esquires and pages and servants
carrying their masters' weapons and bucklers, and from the charming
troubadours, or _trouvères_, who had seats of honor beside the high and
mighty nobles, because they were destined, later, to sing in laudation
of it all.

Other times, other manners!

The old Marquis de Marvejols gazed gloomily enough at the portraits
which adorned his study--for the enormous room in which he sat was
nothing more than that. Soon he leaned over his desk once more, and
seizing a bell rang it violently.

A valet, almost as old as his master, instantly showed his bald head
beneath a velvet portière which he raised. His face, in respect to the
general effect of the features and their mild expression, might have
served as a model for a painting of Obedience, as personified in a
servant, except that when he raised the corners of his mouth in a smile
there were some slight indications of a tendency to be cunning; but if
that tendency actually existed in the old servant, it never went beyond
the corners of his mouth.

"Did monsieur le marquis ring?" inquired a shrill, cracked voice.

"Has my son gone out this morning, Hector?"

Old Hector pressed his lips together, and the corners of his mouth
assumed their sly expression, as he replied in a drawling tone:

"Monsieur le Comte Léodgard de Marvejols certainly has not left the
house this morning; I am certain of that."

"In that case, go to my son and tell him that I wish to speak with
him--at once, before he goes out."

The old servant looked down at his feet, but did not budge.

"Well! did you not hear me, Hector?" continued the marquis, testily;
"have your ears grown dull, that I have to give you the same order
twice?"

"No, monsieur le marquis, no, thank heaven! my ears are still good. I
have not the least occasion to reproach them. And if I have not obeyed
the command you have done me the honor to give me, it is because----"

"Well! because what? finish, I say!"

"I cannot tell Monsieur le Comte Léodgard to come to speak with you,
because he is not in the house."

"Not in the house? Why, you told me only a moment ago that my son had
not gone out this morning!"

"That is true, monseigneur; he has not gone out this morning, because he
did not come in last night."

The marquis put his hand to his forehead.

"Ah!" he cried; "of course, I understand! You did not wish to tell me
that, my poor Hector; you would like to conceal my son's disorderly
conduct from me! But it is useless for you to try to deceive me. I know
everything; and it is much better that I should know everything; for one
must know where the trouble lies, in order to put a stop to it. All this
has been going on a very long while, and it must come to an end!"

"Monsieur le Comte Léodgard is still very young," murmured Hector, still
draped by the portière.

"Very young--when he has nearly reached his twenty-sixth year! A man is
a man at that age, and he no longer has the first effervescence of youth
for an excuse! Ah! when I was at that age, you were already in my
service--do you remember, Hector?"

"As if it was yesterday, monseigneur; my memory is as sound as my
ears."

"Very well! I served in the army, I fought, I lived in camp. But,
although I was a bachelor,--for I married quite late,--did I ever lead
this life of licentiousness, of debauchery, which makes me blush for my
son?"

"All young men are not as irreproachable as monseigneur has always
been--as bachelor, husband, and widower."

"I do not expect that he shall be faultless! I do not demand the
impossible! But I do not propose that weaknesses shall become vices;
faults, crimes!"

"Oh! monsieur le marquis! be indulgent to monsieur your son!"

"I have been indulgent enough, too much so, perhaps. I must see
Léodgard; he must be made acquainted with my irrevocable
determination!--And that rascally Latournelle, his valet--is he still in
the house?"

"No, monseigneur; I have not seen him for several days."

"I told my son to discharge that knave; a scoundrel, a blackleg, a
gambler, who ought to be hanged."

At that moment, the conversation was interrupted by the sound of a horse
galloping into the courtyard.

Hector let the portière fall, went into a reception room, looked out of
the window, and returned with a radiant face, saying to his master:

"Here is Monsieur le Comte Léodgard, just coming in."

"Go to him, then; tell him that I await him. Go--do not lose an instant,
for he may have gone away again."

Old Hector disappeared to execute his master's command.

In a few moments, Léodgard entered his father's apartment. The young
count was pale, his face was drawn and haggard, his eyes sunken from
loss of sleep; and the disorder of his clothes, the dust with which they
were covered, seemed to indicate that he had recently ridden a long
distance on horseback.

He walked forward with a respectful air, but was evidently out of
temper. He bowed to his father and remained standing in the middle of
the room.

The old marquis pointed to a chair, saying in a stern tone:

"Be seated, monsieur; what I have to say to you will take some moments,
and deserves to be listened to with attention."

"I beg pardon, monsieur, but you see the disordered state of my dress; I
am ashamed to appear before you in such disarray; allow me simply the
necessary time to change, and I will at once return."

"No, monsieur! your dress is a matter of great consequence, in very
truth! By Saint Jacques! what matters it to me whether your doublet is
more or less fresh? It is not the dust with which your clothes are
covered that will mar your escutcheon, but your disgraceful conduct!
That it is which sullies the honor of your name much more than the storm
has injured your cloak! Be seated--I insist!"

Léodgard restrained with difficulty an impatient outburst; but he threw
himself on a chair, and his father continued:

"I have remonstrated with you several times, monsieur, concerning your
dissolute conduct; you have not listened to me, you have despised your
father's judicious counsel. To-day, when your misconduct has gone beyond
all bounds, when your evil deeds--for they are no longer the escapades
of a young man, but evil deeds, of which you are guilty----"

"Father----"

"Do not interrupt me!--To-day, when your evil deeds recognize no
restraint, I no longer advise, I command you; and you will respect my
commands, or this _lettre de cachet_ will deal with you for me.--Look,
monsieur; you know that I do not indulge in empty threats; here is your
passport to the Bastille, sent me by Monsieur le Cardinal de Richelieu,
who also is aware of all your misconduct and has given me permission to
make use of this whenever I may think best, leaving in my hands the
punishment of him who bears my name."

Léodgard could not help shuddering inwardly when he saw the _lettre de
cachet_ which his father took from his desk, and he faltered in a
tremulous voice:

"What have I done--what more than many young gentlemen of my age, to
deserve to be treated so harshly?"

"Ah! you ask what you have done? That, I presume, is because you hope
that I know only a part of it. Unhappily, monsieur, your conduct is too
notorious, your vices make too much noise in the world; you are cited
too often by all the wellborn debauchees, for the echo not to reach your
father's ears. Stealing wives from their husbands, young girls from
their parents, passing the night in wine shops and gambling hells,
fighting with the king's archers, with the watch, with citizens,
incurring debts and not paying them, breaking shop windows and offering
no other compensation than a sword thrust, binding yourself to Jews and
usurers, thrashing your creditors when they presume to demand what you
owe them, what they have been waiting for so long--such are your noble
exploits, monsieur! a descendant of the Marvejols does not blush to
conduct himself thus!--And yet, cast your eyes about you, look at these
portraits which surround you, your ancestors who have left you a
glorious name--are not you of their blood, you, who debase it? Ah! if
they could come forth from their tombs,--and your excellent mother, who
was so proud to have brought forth a descendant of our line,--it would
be to crush you with their wrath!"

"Monsieur le marquis, allow me to say a word in my own defence.--My
faults have been exaggerated. I have committed some faults, I admit; but
they are not so serious as you seem to think."

"And your debts--will you say that they are a mere trifle? You owe five
thousand pistoles at this moment, monsieur."

"I do not know, monsieur le marquis, whether you have also been told
that I have been stripped clean by that miserable Giovanni, that Italian
brigand, who terrorizes all Paris?"

"Yes, I have heard of that. But how did you allow yourself to be robbed
by that man?"

"I venture to believe that my father has no doubt that if I was overcome
it was not without a vigorous resistance on my part."

"Oh! I do justice to your courage; you would not be my son if you were a
coward!"

"It was late at night, about a fortnight ago. I was returning home alone
and was passing through Rue Couture-Sainte-Catherine. Suddenly this
Giovanni appeared before me, and demanded my purse as courteously as if
he were inquiring for my health. The robber seemed to me such an
original character that I talked with him a few minutes. But when he
repeated his demand, I drew my sword. He had some sort of a short, broad
weapon. Practised as I am in fighting, that devil of a man dealt me a
thrust,--I do not know how to describe it,--and I was beaten. I felt the
point of his sword against my breast; but he was content to take my
purse, and disappeared as he had come, without giving me time to see
which way he went."

"If I were lieutenant of police of this realm, that adroit thief would
have been hanged before this.--However, monsieur, this Giovanni did not
rob you of five thousand pistoles, I imagine?"

"No; but I had a considerable sum upon me----"

"Which you had won in some hell, I doubt not.--But let us have done, for
the subject of this interview is a painful one to both of us. Here,
Léodgard, are papers containing a statement of the amount of your debts;
here are your obligations to the Jews who are ruining you; here are your
receipts for various sums lent you at exorbitant rates, with a view,
doubtless, to my death, which does not come quickly enough to supply you
with another fortune to squander."

"Ah! monsieur le marquis----"

"All these papers cost me fifty thousand livres; but I paid it, to save
once more your honor, so seriously compromised."

A ray of joy lighted up Léodgard's face; he stepped toward the old man,
crying:

"What, father! you have deigned----"

The marquis made a gesture as if to forbid his son to approach, and
continued with unabated austerity:

"Yes, monsieur, I have paid the money; but mark well what I say: long
ago you squandered the last of the property which your mother left you.
I do not choose that you should have debts, but neither do I propose
that the fortune of my ancestors, which enables me to maintain my rank
becomingly, shall be the prey of harlots, gamblers, and rakes; so attend
closely to what I say: if I learn that you have contracted any new debt,
I shall instantly make use of this _lettre de cachet_, and send you to
the Bastille; and when you are once there, it may well be that you will
remain there for some time! This, monsieur, I will do--I swear it before
the portraits of my ancestors! You know now whether I will keep my
oath.--Mend your ways, Léodgard; make yourself worthy once more of the
name you bear. You know that it is my dearest wish to marry you to
Mademoiselle Valentine de Mongarcin. I was her father's comrade in arms;
the idea that our children would be united some day made the baron's
heart beat fast with joy. Mademoiselle de Mongarcin is worthy of you,
her family is on a par with ours; she has a large fortune and is one of
the most beautiful women in France. Six months ago, she left the convent
where she had completed her education, and took up her abode with her
aunt; and she will soon be nineteen years old. What objection have you
to urge against this alliance, Léodgard?"

"None, father. I agree that Mademoiselle de Mongarcin is very lovely,
although I have seen her but rarely."

"What prevents you from paying court to her? Madame de Ravenelle,
Valentine's aunt, is aware of the baron's wishes.--Cease to be a
libertine, a rake, and she will give you the hand of this wealthy and
noble heiress.--Well, monsieur! what have you to say?"

"Pardon me, monsieur le marquis--but--to marry--to put myself in chains
already----"

"Already! A man cannot be happy too soon, monsieur; and you will be
happy with a woman who is worthy of you. You will realize the difference
between family joys and the orgies of debauchery. Furthermore, numerous
suitors for Mademoiselle de Mongarcin's hand have already entered the
lists; if you do not come forward, do you suppose that she will send to
beg for your homage? Hasten to present yourself, to disperse your
rivals! This marriage must take place ere long.--I have often repented,
myself, that I married so late in life! I was forty-three when I married
your excellent mother. What was the result? that I was already old when
you became a man; and that, instead of finding in me a friend, a
companion, my son has seen in me only an old man, to whom he has never
confided his secrets."

"Father----"

"You have heard me, Léodgard. It rests with you now to be happy and to
regain your father's affection. You know how you must conduct yourself
for that.--Go; I will keep you no longer."

Léodgard bent his head respectfully before the old man, who responded
with a slight nod which indicated no great amount of confidence as yet.

When he was out of range of his father's eyes, Léodgard tore his hair,
saying to himself:

"Not incur debts! why, I have no money!--But I must have some! For I
promised Camilla that beautiful pearl necklace that she wants so much!
Now that I no longer owe anything, I can easily borrow.--But that
_lettre de cachet_!--Ah! I know my father; he did not threaten me
heedlessly; he would have me put in the Bastille, and I have no desire
to go to that horrible prison!"



VI

CHAUDOREILLE'S GODSON


Among the numerous habitués of the various bathing establishments might
be noticed a tall, lean man, with a yellow complexion, like the
description of the Knight of the Rueful Countenance. This personage had
one of those elongated faces, with prominent cheek bones which call
attention to the hollowness of the cheeks; also a long, pointed nose, a
chin of the same type, an enormous mouth with a full complement of long
teeth, each one of which resembled a tusk, and which terrified beyond
words all the little children in whose presence this gentleman was
pleased to smile; for he then appeared exactly as if he proposed to
swallow the innocent creatures. A low forehead, yellow hair, and
moustaches of the same color, the latter twisted at the ends so that
they nearly joined the corners of the eyes--such was the Chevalier
Passedix, who claimed to be Chaudoreille's godson.

We like to believe, dear reader, whichever your sex, that you have known
a certain _Barber of Paris_, whose adventures made some noise long ago;
in that case, you may not have forgotten entirely his friend the
Chevalier Chaudoreille, that vain, cowardly Gascon, gambler and
shameless liar, who boasted so loudly of his long sword, which he called
Roland, and who came to such a tragic end, falling from a roof, and
running himself through in his fall with his faithful Roland, which he
held in his hand to feel his way along the slippery roof on which he was
walking.

The Chevalier Passedix, then, claimed to be the godson of Chaudoreille,
albeit the latter, in his negotiations with Touquet the barber, had
never mentioned his godson. But there are many people who forget that
they ever held a child over the baptismal font, or who do not choose to
remember that they have been godparents, in order to evade the duties
which that relation imposes on them.

However, Passedix, himself a Gascon, resembled his godfather in many
respects; like him, he was a glutton, a gambler, and a liar; like him,
he sighed for every woman who looked at him, believing himself to be a
very attractive gallant, whereas he might fittingly have served as a
scarecrow in a community of women.

But there was one respect in which the resemblance between him and his
godfather had no existence. Chaudoreille was always a coward, his
battles were mere bluster, and his very death was tragic only because
he was fleeing over the roofs from an imaginary danger.

Passedix, on the contrary, was really brave; he would draw his sword on
the most trivial pretext, would often take up the cudgels for a perfect
stranger, and like Don Quixote, whom he resembled in his great height
and his leanness, he would readily have fought against a windmill. But
his courage was rarely fortunate, and whether because he handled Roland
unskilfully,--for he possessed his godfather's famous rapier,--or
because his excessive ardor made him imprudent, or because he was too
sure of victory, the chevalier was almost always beaten; indeed, he was
very lucky when he came off with a few scratches and was not nailed to
his bed to await the healing of his wounds.

On a certain beautiful warm spring morning, several young nobles were
chatting and laughing in Master Hugonnet's shop. Some were waiting for
their inamoratas to come from the baths, others had come thither in the
hope of seeing Ambroisine, La Belle Baigneuse, and perhaps of being
shaved by her. The majority were there because it was a favorite
rendezvous of idlers, lady killers, and all the young dandies and rakes
who were eager to learn the news, the spicy anecdotes of the court and
city, to inquire concerning the scandalous intrigue of the moment, in
order that they might make merry at the expense of the poor betrayed
husband; for we must not forget that husbands were betrayed in the good
old times no less than they are to-day.

As there were no cafés in those days for the idlers and gossips, the
bathing establishments filled their place. As there were no newspapers
to read, people were accustomed to collect to listen to the man who came
there to tell some anecdote or some new occurrence. The gossips were
welcome and held the floor. Many falsehoods were told, as will always be
the case in such assemblages; the man who lied with the most assurance
was almost always the one who was most eagerly listened to, and most
loudly applauded by those at whom he laughed in his sleeve. To-day, we
find _blagueurs_ who delight to hoodwink their auditors. The words have
changed, but the characters are the same.

Some of the idlers who were assembled at Master Hugonnet's stood in the
doorway of the shop, both wings of the door being thrown open, and
amused themselves by watching the passers-by. Rue Saint-Jacques was
frequented by students, clerks of the Basoche, and a great number of the
lower classes; moreover, the proximity of the Hôtel de Cluny brought to
the quarter many ecclesiastics and doctors of the Sorbonne.

Our young gentlemen did not always confine themselves to ogling the
passers-by. When a woman who was at all attractive, or a clown with a
particularly idiotic face, passed the barber's shop, they addressed a
compliment or an obscene jest to the one, to the other some unflattering
epithet or some insulting question. And woe to the unlucky wight who
should take the jest in bad part! for if he lost his temper and
presumed to reply, all the idlers and all the customers assembled at the
baths instantly ran out to listen to the complainant; and then, instead
of one jest, he had to undergo a perfect hailstorm of witticisms from
all sides.

"Pardieu! messeigneurs," said one young blade, all covered with ribbons
and lace, as he left the door and threw himself carelessly on one of the
hard chairs in the shop, "I have just seen two women of rather
attractive aspect go in at the door leading to the baths."

"How were they dressed, Sénange?" inquired the young man who was at that
moment in the barber's hands.

"Oh! how curious this little Monclair is! He wants to make us believe
that he is waiting here for a fair; that someone is to come here to
fetch him!"

"Yes, sambleu! I am expecting someone; what is there so surprising in
that? Haven't you at least one mistress yourself, Sénange?"

"One mistress! Vertudieu! if I had but one, it seems to me that it would
be almost the same as if I had none."

"Very pretty! but I shouldn't expect it from anyone but Léodgard.--Come,
Sénange, be decent; how were the damsels dressed who have just gone into
the baths?"

"One--and she must have been the dowager--wore a brown pelisse and hood;
her head was all wrapped up in the hood, and there was a thick veil over
all; guess at the face, if you can!"

"And the other?"

"The other was dressed in pink; there was a border of black lace to her
hood, and it fell over her eyes; but her feet were small, her slippers
embroidered with silver thread, and her leg well turned, as one could
easily see, for she raised her skirts very generously!"

"Oh! it is she, I am sure!"

"By Notre-Dame de Paris!" cried Master Hugonnet, holding his razor in
the air; "if you move about like this, my lord, something will happen to
your face; that leap of yours nearly cost you your nose, and I assure
you that it would not have been my fault. Keep quiet, or I will not
answer for the consequences!"

"'Tis well, barber; go on, do your duty; I will try to be calm.--By the
way, messieurs, it seems to me that it is a long while since we last saw
Passedix in this quarter!"

"True; the valiant Passedix no longer shows himself; where can he
be?--Have you seen him lately, Hugonnet?"

"No, messeigneurs; it is several weeks since the Chevalier Passedix has
been here."

"That is the more surprising, because, if I remember aright, he was
deeply in love with your daughter Ambroisine."

"In love with my daughter--he! He is in love with all women; but it
amounts to nothing."

"Did you treat him a little--harshly? You are quite capable of it."

"No, I was not put to that trouble; the chevalier has always been too
respectful for me to be angry with him."

"Then it must be that poor Passedix has had some new affair of honor; he
has probably fought a duel and come out second best, as usual; and
doubtless he is stretched out on his bed of pain at this moment."

"Perhaps he has been attacked by Giovanni, the fashionable robber!"

"Giovanni would not have wounded him; he contents himself with robbing
and never does any harm."

"But if a man doesn't choose to be robbed, and defends himself----"

"Look at Léodgard, messieurs; he defended himself gallantly, and yet
Giovanni robbed him and did not hurt a hair of his head."

At that moment, loud exclamations were heard at the shop door.



VII

A YOUNG WOMAN _EN CROUPE_


"Oh! what a fine head, my friends!" cried a cavalier who was standing in
the doorway.

"What is it, La Valteline?"

"A great clodhopper--some peasant from the South, doubtless, for he
wears the Béarnais costume, I believe. He is coming along on an enormous
horse. Come, look! it's worth the trouble!"

"Do you expect us to put ourselves out for a country lout?"

"But he has something very seductive _en croupe_; a fresh, red-cheeked
little wench, who, in her rustic costume, would carry off the palm from
all the fair who come to visit the baths!"

"Oho! we must see that! we must see that!"

A horse was coming along at a footpace, with two persons on his back.
First, a countryman with straight hair brushed flat, which fell to his
shoulders, and was partly hidden by a sort of woollen cap ending in a
point and surmounted by a small black plume; beneath that original
headgear appeared a broad, round, chubby, red face, a most perfect
specimen of careless health, with big eyes on a level with the face,
which expressed amazement at everything they saw, and at the same time
seemed happy to be amazed. The rest of his costume was that of a
Béarnais peasant. In his right hand he held a long branch of dogwood,
which he used as a crop to accelerate his horse's gait.

Behind this rustic, on his horse's crupper, and clinging tightly to her
cavalier, was a young girl of eighteen years at most, as pretty as the
Italian madonnas to whom the painters make you long to pray, and as
fresh as a rosebud just opening.

Her embarrassment and alarm made her even more beautiful, for she seemed
a little alarmed by her position; and while trying to seat herself more
firmly, she displayed every moment the upper part of a shapely calf, and
sometimes even the red garter that held her coarse woollen stocking in
place.

"Jarnidié! that's a dainty morsel!" exclaimed the young men in chorus.

"See the lovely black hair!"

"And eyes quite as black, on my word!--fine lashes, heavy eyebrows!"

"A straight nose, neither too large nor too small!"

"A perfect chin and a tiny mouth!"

"Oh! did you see, messieurs? She uttered a little cry of fright, and I
saw the prettiest teeth!"

"Then she lacks nothing, for she is as fresh as she is pretty!"

"Where in the devil is that clown taking this seductive morsel?"

"Pardieu! messieurs, we will find out."

"It shall not be said that a charming creature shall pass us like this,
without our taking measures to find her again."

"But this girl, with her square cap and her veil on top of her head,
with her striped waist and skirt of such brilliant colors, certainly is
not a Frenchwoman; she wears an Italian costume."

"Do you think so, La Valteline?"

"I am sure; it's the costume of the peasants in the suburbs of Milan.
Pardieu! I ought to know; I was at Milan last year!"

"You are right; the girl has something Italian or Israelitish in her
face, and her slightly bronzed complexion also tends to confirm your
conjectures."

The horse and his riders had by this time reached the bath keeper's
house, and were about to pass it on their way down Rue Saint-Jacques,
when the young Marquis de Sénange ran out and placed himself in front of
the peaceful beast, which instantly halted.

Thereupon the young noble, doffing his hat, saluted the girl and her
escort with respect, and all the other bystanders made haste to do the
like.

The Béarnais peasant, astounded by all these courtesies, deemed it
advisable none the less to remove his cap and return the salutations of
all those young men who treated him so politely.

As for the girl, she raised her great black eyes and, with an expression
in which there was more surprise than timidity, looked about at the
persons who were gazing at her.

"Par la sambleu! my dear monsieur, how fortunate we are to fall in with
you, and to be the first to present you our respectful homage. But we
have been waiting for you a long while.--Pray put on your hat--we
entreat you! You must surely see by the joy which your arrival causes us
how impatiently you and your charming travelling companion were awaited
in Paris!"

"Eh! damme! what's that? we were expected in Paris?" cried the big
countryman, who had listened with a dazed expression to young Sénange's
harangue.

"Can you doubt it?" said the Chevalier de La Valteline, in his turn,
walking nearer to the horse's hind quarters in order to examine the girl
more closely. "Do you not know that we are notified in advance at Paris
when such interesting travellers as you are to arrive here? Deputations
were sent to all the barriers to welcome you. It is very strange that
you did not meet them--eh, messeigneurs?"

Shouts arose on all sides, accompanied by roars of laughter, which the
clerks of the Basoche and the students could not restrain, and in which
the valets and all the blackguards of the quarter did not hesitate to
join.

"Pray dismount, my master, and come with us to take some refreshment,
you and this lovely child; we will give you a taste of a certain choice
wine which we have put aside for the express purpose of celebrating your
arrival. I will help your companion to dismount first."

As he spoke, the jovial Sénange offered his knee to the girl for use as
a stepping stone, while the peasant, bewildered by what he heard and, it
may be, a little tempted by the offer of wine, seemed to hesitate as to
what he ought to do, and to be inclined to accept the invitation. But
his pretty companion, instead of dismounting as she was invited to do,
seized her escort's arm with little ceremony, and said to him, under her
breath, but in a firm tone:

"Don't get down, Cédrille; don't you see that all these fine gentlemen
are making sport of you and me, for all their courtesies and fine
manners? They say that they expected us, but I will wager that they do
not even know who we are. Just ask that most dandified one, who has such
a smooth tongue, to tell you your name and why we have come to Paris;
and you'll see that he won't be able to answer you."

These words changed the peasant's plans. He sat more firmly in his
saddle, and, addressing the man who had spoken first, said in a tone
wherein it was easy to detect distrust:

"One moment, my fine gentleman; we don't make acquaintances so fast, we
peasants don't, especially as we were told that we must be on the
lookout in Paris; and that there was a lot of fellows, law students and
ne'er-do-wells, yes, and some great nobles, who like to poke fun at
poor folks, especially peasants and people who work in the fields.
That's an entertainment that we don't care about giving, d'ye see!--You
say we were expected in Paris--so you know me and the little one, I
suppose? Well, if you know us--who are we?--tell us who we are? Answer,
if you please, messeigneurs."

The young men looked at one another and winked.

"This clod is not so stupid as he looks," said one.

"That didn't come from him," said a page; "the little one prompted him
to say it."

"He was all ready to dismount, but the girl held him back."

"You ask me who you are," rejoined young Sénange, twirling his
moustache; "why, you know who you are! So what need is there for me to
tell you what you already know?--Nonsense! come with us, my master, and
drink and touch glasses; the wine we will give you is much better than
that you drink in your village."

"Oh, no! oh, no! not till you have answered my questions; but you can't
do that!"

"Your questions! By what right, pray, do you put questions to us, when
we are offering you a civil attention? Do you know, my handsome
traveller, that it is not decent to refuse to drink a glass, to empty a
goblet, to our health?--Are you afraid to drink? In that case, you would
make a dismal companion!--I say, messieurs, what do you think of this
lout who fears to compromise himself by drinking with us?"

"Probably the knave has never tasted wine; he thinks that we intend to
purge him."

"He is sadly in need of having the rust rubbed off--the clown!"

"Ah! but he must drink! We will pour a pint or two down his throat from
the Souris Blanche, which is just across the way."

"We will teach the fool what courtesy is!"

"Ah! so silly talk is taking the place of your civilities now!" said the
peasant, with a frown.

His companion touched him on the shoulder and murmured:

"Go on, Cédrille! whip your horse. Don't stay in the midst of all these
young gentlemen. They look to me like bad fellows; their shouts and the
way they look at me--I am beginning to be frightened."

"Whip Bourriquet! why, they have got hold of his bridle; and how can we
go on in the middle of all this crowd? I wouldn't like to ride over
anyone, for then they would make trouble for me.--Jarny! Miretta, I am
sorry already that you insisted on coming to this Paris!"

"Pray dismount, my pretty Milanese," said the Chevalier de La Valteline,
offering his hand to the girl, whose name, as we now know, was Miretta.

"Milanese!" she retorted, refusing the young nobleman's hand. "Ah! you
guess that from my costume; it is true that I have lived in the
neighborhood of Milan from infancy, but I was not born in Italy; I am
from the same province as Cédrille."

"And Cédrille is a Béarnais?"

"Yes, messieurs; from Pau, by your leave," said the peasant.

"Vive Cédrille!"

"Vive Cédrille of Pau!"

And the young nobles, as they shouted the name, waved their hats and
handkerchiefs, while the bachelors and squires joined hands and began to
dance and caper around the horse and his riders.

The girl's face flushed, her impatience got the better of her; she
struck the horse's flank with her hand, while the peasant did his best
to urge his steed forward, crying:

"Let go of Bourriquet's rein, seigneurs! let go of my horse, ten
thousand devils!"

"Ah! Bourriquet! the horse's name is Bourriquet!"

"His rider should bear that name!"

"Poor _bourrique_,[B] who has to carry another of his kind!"

[B] _Bourrique_, an ass; _bourriquet_, an ass's colt.

"No, no! your horse shall not take a step!"

"Don't worry him with your rein."

"Dismount, Cédrille of Pau; if not, we will forcibly remove you and your
companion from Bourriquet's back!"

Some of Master Hugonnet's customers were already preparing to carry out
this threat; but at that crisis, the Béarnais peasant, whose face had
turned purple and had assumed a menacing expression, quickly raised his
right arm, and brandishing in the air the dogwood staff with which his
right hand was armed, twirled it about in the faces of those who
approached, with such fearless and uncompromising dexterity that in a
moment there was a large space cleared in front of the travellers; and
yet, some of the jokers did not move back quickly enough to avoid a blow
from the redoubtable dogwood staff.

Meanwhile, the pretty girl threw both arms about her companion, and,
raising her head, seemed to defy with her glance those who surrounded
her, and to say to them:

"Come forward now, if you dare!"

All this had taken place in an instant; but the panic was soon over, and
all the young men, who were in the habit of beating the watch, fighting
with citizens, and brawling every night in the streets of Paris, were in
no humor to fly from a peasant's club. Having retired to a safe
distance, they turned about once more and drew their swords; the
bachelors, students, pages, and esquires did the same; for at that
blessed epoch almost every man wore a sword or a rapier of some sort, in
order to be always in a position to fight on the most trivial pretext: a
consequence of the gentle manners and pacific customs of the good old
times.

At sight of the bare swords, Miretta said to her companion:

"Come, push on, Cédrille! beat your horse! Let us get away from here, or
some disaster will happen to us."

The peasant shook Bourriquet's rein with no gentle force; but although
the beast no longer felt a hand on his bit, he stood like a statue in
his tracks, and, in spite of the urging of his rider, refused to advance
a step, terrified doubtless by the noise that he heard and by the crowd
that stood in a circle about him.

Meanwhile, the young men again approached, half threateningly, half
laughingly; they brandished their swords, and some of the points were
already in contact with the dogwood staff which Cédrille continued to
handle with much address, while they shouted in his ears:

"Down! down, rustic!"

"Dismount at once, and ask our pardon on your knees!"

"Yes, let him apologize! or else we will carry off the girl!"

"And Bourriquet too!"

"And we will break the staff over Cédrille's back!"

"Break my staff!--Oh! jarnidieu! there's more than one of you who will
have a few ribs broken first!"

But when she saw all those gleaming blades directed against her
companion, and often, by inadvertence, threatening her own person,
pretty Miretta uttered piercing shrieks; she called imploringly for
help. To her cries, uttered as they were in a plaintive, grief-stricken
tone, the young men replied by a storm of jests and lamentations; they
tried to reassure the girl, to make her understand that they would do
her no harm; but she, too terrified to hear what they said, continued
her outcries.

Thereupon Master Hugonnet, who thus far had continued to shave Monsieur
de Monclair, abandoned his customer and ran into the street to find out
what was happening. At the same time, Ambroisine left the baths to
ascertain the cause of the uproar and the shrieks that she heard.

As the father and the daughter reached the street, two other persons
arrived on the scene, one by Rue des Mathurins, the other from
Saint-Benoît cemetery; and, having quickened their pace in order to
arrive sooner, they made their appearance at almost the same
moment--forcing their way through the crowd without ceremony, and
distributing blows to right and left among those who did not move aside
quickly enough to make way for them.



VIII

A BATTLE


"Ah! here's our friend Passedix, whom we were so anxious about!" cried
several of the reckless youths, when they spied the long, lank,
yellow-faced chevalier, who always wore a helmet, which heightened his
resemblance to Don Quixote, although his helmet was not of the shape of
that worn by the Knight of the Rueful Countenance.

"Ah! here is the Sire de Jarnonville!" exclaimed others of the young
men, at sight of the second of the two new-comers, who, by rough
handling of the crowd, had arrived in front of the barber's shop.

He was a tall, handsome man, dressed in a rich but very sombre costume;
his black doublet, slashed with white satin, had the appearance of a
mourning garment; a black velvet cloak, faced with white, covered his
shoulders; his full, funnel-shaped top-boots also were black, although
most gentlemen wore yellow ones except when they went to war. His
broad-brimmed hat, turned up in front, had no other ornament than a long
plume of the same color as the cloak. So that the Sire de Jarnonville
was sometimes given the sobriquet of the _Black Chevalier_.

He was thirty-eight years of age, but seemed much older, because his
brown hair was beginning to turn gray; because his noble and regular
features were almost always clouded, as if under the burden of painful
thoughts; because his eyes also had ordinarily an expression of profound
sadness; and lastly, because his brow was furrowed with premature
wrinkles, and the clouds which darkened it were rarely dissipated.

And yet this gentleman, whose aspect was so gloomy, and whom one would
have taken to be the enemy of all pleasure, had for several years past
participated in all the amusements and festivities, and especially in
all the brutal tricks which were played on bourgeois, tradesmen, and
even attachés of the court. Whenever one of the most dissolute
frequenters of the bathing establishments proposed some new escapade--to
abduct a woman, to hoodwink a guardian, or to thrash the watch and throw
a whole quarter into dismay, he could be certain beforehand that the
Sire de Jarnonville would join him; he was one of the first volunteers
in all perilous undertakings; he always rushed to the spot where the
danger was greatest, fought like four men, and was the last to leave the
field.

If anyone had a duel on hand and lacked a second, the Black Chevalier
was always ready to render him that service, without even inquiring as
to the subject of the dispute or the name of the adversary; but always
on condition that he should fight with the opposing seconds.--Did anyone
propose to gamble and drink, Jarnonville gambled and drank, and
sometimes drank too much. Amid the companions of his revels, at the
banquet table, in a midnight affray, in a duel, he almost always
retained that melancholy expression which had aged his features before
their time; to one who watched him fight and gamble and drink, it seemed
that he did all those things without inclination or pleasure, but solely
in the hope of diverting his thoughts; and that he could not succeed in
doing it. Such was the personage who had forced his way through the
crowd and taken his stand beside the Marquis de Sénange, while the
Chevalier de Passedix approached Bourriquet's hind quarters and
contemplated with admiration the pretty girl who was seated thereon.

"Ah! here is Jarnonville! Vivat! the victory is ours!"

"Come on our side, O Black Chevalier! you arrive in the nick of time;
there's a girl to be kidnapped, and a clown to be beaten!"

"Vrai Dieu! it seems to me that there are a good many of you for such a
small matter!" rejoined the Sire de Jarnonville, casting his eye over
the crowd assembled before the barber's house.

"Yes; but the task is not so simple as you might think, my master; for
we must obtain possession of this pretty wench without doing her the
slightest harm; and yonder idiot, with his club, is capable of wounding
the little one in trying to defend her."

"Ah! he knows how to handle the staff, does he? So much the better! we
will judge of his talent."

"Sandioux! messeigneurs," cried Passedix, "why do you attack this child?
and this stout youth whom she presses to her heart, rolling her lovely
eyes to beseech our compassion?--I wish, first of all, to know the
subject of the quarrel; and I object beforehand to any sort of force
being put upon such a charming wench!"

"Come, come, valiant Passedix, just move away from that nag's hind
quarters and come over to our side! Do you mean to desert our camp? are
you going over to the Greeks?"

"Beware, second Don Quixote; we shall have no mercy for traitors!"

"Cadédis! if you think to frighten me, my boy, you waste your time and
your words! With my good Roland, this trusty blade which came to me from
my godfather Chaudoreille, I will spit you all like smelts, provided
that this lovely child accepts me for her knight. One word from her
sweet mouth, and I make mincemeat of you all!"

Bursts of laughter greeted the Gascon chevalier's braggadocio; but he,
drawing his long sword, put the point to the ground before Miretta, and
bent his knee as he said to her:

"Answer, O marvellous queen of Paphos and Cythera! Will you accept me
for your champion in the combat which I beg the privilege of undertaking
for you? Give me a pledge--the merest trifle--your glove; you have none?
then your pretty hand, that I may kiss it; and I am victor!"

Miretta stared in utter amazement at that tall man, thin as an asparagus
stalk, who was almost kneeling at her horse's tail; she seemed not at
all inclined to accept him for her knight, for ugliness inspires women
with little confidence, and the Chevalier Passedix was perfectly ugly.

But the Béarnais peasant, still twirling his staff, said to the Gascon:

"Thanks for your offer, seigneur cavalier; it isn't to be refused.--Here
are I don't know how many of them setting on me, and I am all alone to
defend my travelling companion! My opinion is that it's a cowardly
trick! But come and take my side, and I'll warrant that with my club and
your spit we'll prevent these gentry from carrying off Miretta."

Although he considered the term _spit_ in very bad taste as applied to
Roland, the valorous Passedix, whom Miretta's eyes had already taken
captive, instantly took his stand in front of the horse, threatening the
assailants with his sword.

While these things were taking place about the travellers, Master
Hugonnet and his daughter, having learned the subject of the quarrel,
were striving to make the reckless youths drawn up in battle array in
front of the shop listen to reason. But that which at first was a simple
jest had become, in the eyes of those young dandies, a matter of
self-esteem, almost of honor. No one of them was willing to give ground
before Cédrille's staff. In order that the dispute should come to an
end without violence, it would have been necessary for the peasant to
agree to apologize to those who had jeered at him and insulted him, and
he was in no mood to humble himself before them.

"By Notre-Dame! messeigneurs," said Hugonnet, going from one to another
of his customers, with his basin of soapsuds in one hand and his shaving
brush in the other, "what have this peasant and his companion done to
you that you should pick a quarrel with them? What an idea--to throw a
whole quarter into commotion and bring the whole neighborhood to the
windows, for two travellers who have only one horse between them!"

"Leave us in peace, Hugonnet; attend to your own affairs; this doesn't
concern you!"

"Pardieu! yes, it does concern me; for you are blocking the whole
street, you are in battle order in front of my house, so that it would
be impossible for anyone to come near who might happen to want a bath or
a shave! So you see that you injure me with your quarrelling, and that
it does concern me."

"For heaven's sake, messieurs," said Ambroisine, in her turn, "do not
torment this poor traveller like this! What pleasure can you find in
frightening a woman? Let these people go their way. They are not
Parisians--anyone can see that! They do not know that you are only
threatening them in joke."

"In joke!" repeated young La Valteline, with a frown. "But you are not
aware, _belle baigneuse_, that that peasant's staff has soiled my
cloak!--Oh! I must chastise him for that! These knaves must be taught
the respect that they owe us."

"And why do you jeer at them and attack them, if you wish them to
respect you?"

"Enough, fair Ambroisine! sermons are all right for preachers, but they
amount to nothing in a pretty girl's mouth!"

"Come, Jarnonville! forward! have at him! have at him! let us trounce
the peasant!"

"Not without my helping to defend him!" ejaculated Master Hugonnet,
running to take his stand beside the travellers, still carrying his
basin and shaving brush.

"And I will not allow that girl to be insulted, without doing what I can
to help her!" cried Ambroisine, following her father and placing herself
in front of Miretta.

"That is right! good! good for _la baigneuse_!" cried all the women, who
had been drawn to the scene by the noise of the quarrel. "You are on the
girl's side, and we too will defend her!"

"All these ne'er-do-wells are fit for nothing but to insult women!"

"Let us pick up stones and throw them at the villains!"

"No, no! by Notre-Dame!" cried Hugonnet. "No stones, I entreat you! You
will break my windows and my sign, and I shall have to pay for all the
damage! We shall be able to settle this business without you!"

The young gentlemen were embarrassed, for, although eager to fight and
having little fear of their adversaries, they were afraid that in the
scrimmage they might injure the pretty traveller and Ambroisine.

The latter, divining what held them back, took delight in defying all
those fine cavaliers, who were in the habit of making love to her, and
several of whom called out to her:

"Come away from there, _belle baigneuse_; that is no place for you!"

"You are in our way. Besides, you ought not to take sides against your
customers!"

"I don't care a fig for customers! Let these travellers go their way,
and I will agree to shave all of you."

This proposition seemed to make an impression on several of the young
men; but the Sire de Jarnonville, irritated by all this discussion, drew
his sword and strode toward the horse's head. With a few passes he soon
sent the famous Roland flying through the air. Passedix, disarmed,
called loudly for another weapon.

The Black Chevalier thereupon turned his attention to the dogwood staff,
but he had not so simple a task as with the Gascon's sword.

At that moment, a young page, who had stolen forward to unseat Miretta,
was confronted by Master Hugonnet; and he, having no other weapons than
his basin and shaving brush, instantly covered the page with a thick
coating of lather, filling his nose and mouth and even his eyes with it;
whereupon the assailant began to shriek at the top of his voice. All
eyes were turned in that direction. At sight of that face completely
covered with lather, a roar of laughter burst from all who were present,
friends and foes, combatants and lookers-on; it was as if they were
trying to see who could laugh the loudest.

This incident suspended the combat for a moment. But the Sire de
Jarnonville, who alone had taken no part in the general merriment,
immediately renewed his attack on the peasant's staff. Whether because
Cédrille's arm was tired, or because the sight of that gleaming weapon,
whirling through the air and sometimes striking sparks, dazzled his
eyes, he began to defend himself less vigorously. At last, a blow dealt
with more force than usual broke the staff.

The peasant was beaten; the Black Chevalier's weapon was already on the
point of forcing him to dismount, when Ambroisine, who had left her post
a moment before, suddenly reappeared, carrying in her arms a little boy
of three or four years; and darting in front of Jarnonville, she held
the child out to him, crying:

"Take care, seigneur, you will wound this child!"

Those words and the sight of the little boy produced a magical effect on
the Black Chevalier. He paused and dropped his arm, which was raised to
strike; the warlike ardor which enlivened his face gave way to an
expression of sadness, almost of tenderness. He gazed for some seconds
at the little fellow, who, not realizing that he was in the midst of a
battle, was not in the least frightened, but smiled up at the chevalier,
crying:

"I'd like to fight, too!"

Jarnonville stooped to kiss the child's forehead, and replaced his sword
in its sheath. Then, turning to the young noblemen, who were utterly
amazed at the change that had taken place in him, he said to them:

"It's all over, messieurs; the treaty of peace is signed!"

"What! all over? How so, if we are not satisfied?"

"I tell you that it is all over! This peasant has been conquered,
disarmed; what more do you want?"

"We want him to apologize."

"We want most of all to kiss the pretty girl whom he has _en croupe_."

Jarnonville's only reply was to push aside with his arm all those who
stood in front of the horse, thus clearing a passage for him. Then he
made a sign to the peasant, who understood him and dug his heels into
Bourriquet's ribs. This time the poor beast seemed to share his master's
desire, and asked nothing better than to leave the field of battle. He
trotted off at full speed down Rue Saint-Jacques, and Cédrille and his
pretty companion soon disappeared from the eyes of the crowd.

All this had happened so quickly that Miretta hardly had time to grasp
Ambroisine's hand and say:

"Thanks! thanks! you have saved us! I shall come to see you, and to tell
you how grateful I am!"

"Come; you will ask for Ambroisine, the daughter of Master Hugonnet the
bath keeper, on Rue Saint-Jacques."



IX

CAUSES AND EFFECTS


Ambroisine's first care was to take the child back to its mother, a
woman of the people, who was there by the merest chance, having come to
find out why such a crowd had collected in front of the bath keeper's
establishment, little dreaming that her child would be the means of
adjusting that great quarrel.

Hugonnet's daughter kissed the little fellow, put a coin in his hand
with which to buy a cake, and returned to her home, curious to learn how
the gentlemen had taken the conclusion of the affair.

Sénange, La Valteline, Monclair, and their friends, were dazed for a
moment by the sudden departure of Cédrille and his companion. Some of
them were inclined to run after the peasant, others wanted to fight
Jarnonville, whom they accused of betraying them; they were all
displeased, and another battle was imminent perhaps, when general
attention was attracted by shouts and oaths proceeding from the place
recently occupied by Bourriquet.

A battle with fists was in progress between Master Hugonnet and one of
his neighbors, named Lambourdin, a dealer in ribbons, tags, fringes, and
other toilet articles, whose shop was not more than fifty yards from the
baths.

The two neighbors were ordinarily very good friends; they met sometimes
at the wine shop, which both were fond of frequenting; they laughed and
talked and drank together, and no one would ever have supposed that they
would one day entertain the inhabitants of the quarter with a genuine
pugilistic bout.

But who can foretell the future?

The most trivial cause is sometimes sufficient to embroil ambassadors
and to bring about war between two nations that could get along very
well without it; and we too often see old friends suddenly become
declared enemies.

In our day, politics sometimes produces such revolutions by its gentle
and benignant influence. In the good old times, there were sometimes
conspiracies of great personages, nobles, and persons in high station,
but the people paid little heed to their plots. They went to see them
hanged at Montfaucon, but they were not tempted to meddle with matters
that led to such results. In those days, the workman thought of nothing
but working to support his family, to save a marriage portion for his
daughter, and to make sure of a home in his old age. That was the sum
total of his politics; it made him neither ill, nor infuriate, nor
insane, nor sophistical, nor evil-minded! It made him happy!

In that respect we may well regret the good old times.

Let us return to the two neighbors.

Lambourdin, the dealer in small wares, was by inclination, and, above
all, by virtue of his trade, of the faction of the young nobles and the
courtiers. When a noble personage entered his shop and made a purchase,
Lambourdin puffed himself out like the frog in the fable, and never
failed to proclaim from the housetops that he supplied monsieur le
comte, or monsieur le marquis, or messieurs the pages attached to the
court.

And so, when he learned the cause of the gathering, which he could see
from his shop, the dealer in small wares hastened to the scene of the
combat, fully disposed to take up the cudgels for the young nobles, to
whom he was intensely anxious to display his entire devotion.

But the young men did not require the assistance of Master Lambourdin,
and he had had no other opportunity to show his interest in their
victory than by addressing an insulting remark or a threat to Cédrille
from time to time.

But when Master Hugonnet besmeared a page so successfully with his
lather, Lambourdin, far from finding that amusing, flew into a transport
of rage, especially as the page who was so thoroughly lathered had
bought two beautiful bows of ribbon at his shop that morning.

And so, as soon as the Black Chevalier's sword play had ceased, as soon
as Bourriquet had trotted away with his travellers on his back,
Lambourdin elbowed his way through the crowd to Master Hugonnet, and
said, eying him with a furious expression:

"Do you know, Neighbor Hugonnet, that you have behaved very badly
throughout this affair?"

"Ah! do you think so, Neighbor Lambourdin?" rejoined the barber, in a
bantering tone; for the wrathful expression blazing in the other's eyes
gave him a comical appearance, which inspired merriment rather than
alarm.

"Yes, I do think so!--What! you, to whose place the young nobles come by
preference, whether to bathe, or to have their hair and beards arranged,
and bring customers to your establishment and make it fashionable!--you
take sides against them in this quarrel, instead of going to their
assistance, as every self-respecting man should do! You take part with
strangers--a rustic and a strumpet from no one knows where!"

"I do what I please, what suits me, neighbor! I consult my heart before
my pocket. I look to see on which side the right and not the profit
is.--But why do you interfere? Is it any of your business?"

"Yes, monsieur le baigneur; yes, it is my business--And that young page
whom you smeared with soapsuds so shamefully! He even had it in his
eyes! You spoiled a superb bow of ribbon that I sold him this morning!"

"So much the better for you; he'll buy another one of you!"

"No, he will not--I mean, yes, he will buy another one.--But your
conduct is none the less indecent!"

"By Notre-Dame de Paris! you are beginning to make my ears burn,
Neighbor Lambourdin! Not another word, or I strike you!"

"Do you think to frighten me, you low-lived bath keeper, unworthy to
shave noble chins! I am no boy of fifteen; and if you should touch me
with your shaving brush, I'd trample you under foot like an old
blanket!"

"Ah! so! Well, take that! I won't touch you with my shaving brush!"

As he spoke, Hugonnet buried his fist in Lambourdin's side; the latter
had gone too far to retreat; and then, too, there were so many
witnesses! So he answered the blow with a kick, but he measured the
distance so inaccurately that he kicked into space.

Lambourdin was a little fellow, strong enough, but not of the build to
contend with Master Hugonnet. After a struggle that was not of long
duration, the two neighbors fell, still clinging to each other.
Unluckily, poor Lambourdin was underneath, and had to endure
simultaneously the weight of his adversary's body and the numerous blows
which he continued to administer. Then it was that the little man's
cries attracted the attention of the young gentlemen who had remained in
front of the bath keeper's house.

They ran to the scene of conflict; Hugonnet was excited and would not
release his neighbor; but when he heard the voice of his daughter, who
came up to see who the combatants were, the barber grew calmer, rose,
and entered his shop, saying:

"No matter! he got what he deserved! What need had he to meddle in the
affair?"

As for Lambourdin, who was completely done up and could hardly walk, he
required the assistance of two arms to return to his home, but they were
neither pages nor nobles who supplied them, although it was in their
behalf that he had fought!--So much for the gratitude of those whose
quarrels one embraces!

This incident diverted the young dandies, and made them forget Cédrille
and Miretta for a moment; and with a Frenchman, when the first ardor has
passed away, it very rarely returns.

Furthermore, a number of fair dames, who had had time to leave the bath
and to dress, came from the house, with a wink to one, a slight nod to
another; so that in a few moments the whole crowd dispersed, the idlers
sauntered away, the neighbors returned to their homes, and there was no
one left in the barber's shop save the Chevalier Passedix, who was
wiping Roland, which he had picked out of the gutter, and the Sire de
Jarnonville, who had thrown himself into a chair and was apparently lost
in thought and entirely oblivious to what was going on about him.

"Par la sandioux! my _belle baigneuse_," said the Gascon knight to
Ambroisine, who had remained in the shop, and who, as if by accident,
glanced very frequently in Jarnonville's direction, "I am very glad to
tell you that in this affair you comported yourself like a man of heart!
First, it was well done of you to take that stranger's part; what a
lovely face! sandis! what a fascinating profile! and the full face--it
is enough to bring one to one's knees! So that I knelt with ardor!--You
will pardon me, I trust, _belle baigneuse_, for praising another woman
in your presence. You too are superb, after a different type."

"Oh! say on, monsieur le chevalier, do not hesitate. Why should I take
it ill of you that you praise that girl? In the first place, she
deserves it, for she is very pretty. And then, have you not the right to
fall in love with her, if you please? does it concern me?"

"True, true! it could not affect you, since you have refused the homage
of my heart--for I think that I offered it to you----"

"But you are not quite sure, eh?"

"Why, you see, I have disposed of it so often! But let us return to the
stranger, to pretty Miretta--for her name is Miretta, is it not?"

"Yes, that is the name by which her companion, the stout peasant, called
her."

"And she is an Italian?"

"No; she told us that she was from Béarn; but it seems that she has
lived in Italy a long while."

"O mia cara!--I know a few words of Italian--they may be very useful to
me. As I was saying, superb Ambroisine, your conduct was glorious! You
showed a courage--a valor--if you had been of my family, you could have
done no better. That damned Jarnonville---- He does not hear me; I think
that he's asleep."

"Oh, no! he is not asleep; he is thinking, but not of us. Indeed, I
would wager that he doesn't even see that we are here!"

"He may hear me or not, I snap my fingers at him! That damned
Jarnonville, by a bungler's thrust--for it is never used, everybody
scorns to use it--however, he knocked my sword from my hand; and I said
to myself just now: 'How in the deuce could I have let Roland go? There
must have been some deviltry about it, for it is the first time I was
ever disarmed!'--Well, sandioux! I have found the cause, while wiping
the hilt of my weapon.--What do you suppose I found on it, just at the
spot where one grasps it? I will give you ten thousand guesses."

"I prefer that you should tell me at once."

"Well, my beauty, I found a strip of pork twisted around the hilt of
Roland. So you will see that it is not surprising that my sword slipped
from my hand. Ah! cadédis! if I knew who played me that vile trick of
larding my sword like a partridge!--You laugh, I believe----"

"Bless me! monsieur le chevalier, it seems to me so amusing that your
rapier should have been treated like a fowl; it is laughable enough!"

"Do you doubt what I say? Never has a lie soiled my lips!--Look, lovely
girl! yonder is that accursed pork which I found on Roland; I threw it
into that corner; you can see for yourself."

"I do not doubt what you say, monsieur le chevalier; but as the quarrel
attracted many people to this spot, and as there were several housewives
among them, returning from market with well-filled baskets on their
arms, it is probable that one of them dropped that fine strip of pork on
your sword as it lay on the ground; and she is probably looking
everywhere for it now."

This explanation did not seem to the liking of Passedix, for he
compressed his lips angrily and muttered:

"There are some people who distort the simplest things.--But enough of
that. Tell me now, young Hugonnetté, by what miracle you so suddenly
appeased the wrath of that miscreant Jarnonville? How did it happen that
at sight of a little brat of three or four years that madman, who knows
neither God nor the devil, became absolutely calm. I confess that I was
so surprised that I feel it yet."

Ambroisine motioned to Passedix to follow her to the rear of the shop,
where the Sire de Jarnonville could neither see nor hear them.

The Gascon, who was very curious to know what the girl had to tell him,
lost no time in seating himself by her side on a bench; whereupon
Ambroisine resumed the conversation, taking care, however, to speak in
undertones.

"Have you known the Sire de Jarnonville long?"

"No--about a year; and even so, I know him only from having been with
him in several affrays. He fights well, I am bound to admit, but he's a
good-for-nothing fellow. He doesn't believe in anything, and I don't
like atheists. I am a bad man with the fair, a libertine, a rake, a
seducer!--anything you please, I will not say _nay_. But all that does
not prevent my being religious, for without religion there is no true
chivalry; and all those stainless knights who fought in Palestine would
then be mere braggarts.--But why do you ask me that question?"

"Because, if you had known the Sire de Jarnonville long, you would
probably know as much about him as I do, and you would have a very
different opinion of him.--I will tell you what I have heard here. About
five or six months ago, the Black Chevalier, for he is sometimes so
called, had just left our house, where he had been telling the story of
one of his exploits--he had broken everything in a tavern, I believe.
When he had gone, a gentleman quite advanced in years, but with a face
that inspired respect, said to another gentleman who was with him: 'Poor
Jarnonville! how he has changed! who would believe, to look at him now,
that he was once the mildest, most obliging, most virtuous of men! the
man who was held up as a model to young gentlemen who were just entering
the world!'--'What can have changed him so?' the other
inquired.--'Jarnonville was married, and he lost his wife, whom he loved
very dearly; but she had left him a child, a little girl, who was, they
say, an angel of beauty, sweetness, and docility. Jarnonville adored
little Blanche--that was his daughter's name; she had become his only
love, his sole joy, his whole hope for the future; constantly intent
upon providing some pleasure, some delight for his darling child, his
grief for his wife's death gradually faded away. Happy and proud to be
all in all to his daughter, who became every day more charming in body
and mind, Jarnonville hardly ever left little Blanche. At four years of
age--and that is very, very young!--at four years of age, the child
understood all that she owed to her father, all the sacrifices to which
he submitted for her sake; but she repaid them all by her love. Never
did a child of that age manifest such affection for its father! If he
left her for an instant, her eyes filled with tears; but as soon as she
saw him, an enchanting smile lighted up her lovely face.--Poor child!
You will understand how he must have loved her!--Well! that child,
already so far beyond her years in her feelings and her intelligence,
that pretty Blanche--he lost her after an illness of a few days only!
One of those cruel diseases which feed upon childhood, and which the
doctors are as yet unable to cure, carried off the poor little
darling!--I will not try to describe her father's grief; it would be
impossible. But the frightful calamity that had befallen him changed his
character absolutely. Jarnonville accused heaven, Providence. Having
never been guilty in his whole life of any evil deed, he rebelled
against the fate that dealt him such a cruel blow, which snatched away
that little creature to whom life seemed to offer such a beautiful and
peaceful prospect--in short, that man, who had always been so religious,
ceased utterly to be so, and blasphemed God. Deaf to all consolation, he
lived a long while in retirement. When, by dint of constant
solicitation, his friends succeeded in luring him back into society, he
was no longer the Jarnonville of other days. To divert his thoughts from
his grief, he joins all the parties conceived by the worst scapegraces
in the city; not a duel, not a nocturnal affray, in which he does not
take part. He drinks, drinks to excess, gambles, passes whole nights in
debauchery, serves as second to all the young scatterbrains who sow
discord in families. He has become the bugbear of the petits bourgeois,
the terror of cabaretiers, tavern keepers, of all decent folk; in a
word, he is just the opposite of all that he used to be.--But, for my
part, I cannot help pitying him; it is his head which is at fault, not
his heart; it is despair that has changed his nature. Nor do I believe
that he is altogether lost! He still wears mourning for his daughter. In
the midst of his debauchery, he has not chosen to lay aside his sombre
garments; and when he seems most excited by gambling, wine, or passion,
show him a child of about the age of his little Blanche when she died,
and you will see a magical change take place in him instantly; his eyes
will fill with tears, and that man, whose glance made you tremble a
moment before, will become silent and as gentle as a child.'

"That is what the gentleman told his friend. I listened, at first from
curiosity, then with deep interest; and since then, whenever I see the
Sire de Jarnonville, despite his harsh or brusque manner, he does not
seem to me such a bad man as he used.--To-day, when I saw him interfere
in that battle and take sides against us with his long sword, which he
uses so skilfully, I said to myself: 'Those poor travellers are lost!'
And, in fact, your Roland was already on the ground and the peasant's
staff was beginning to give way, when I remembered what I had heard. A
little boy was close by, in his mother's arms; I ran and seized him--and
you saw how successful my idea was; for the Black Chevalier instantly
ceased to fight, and himself looked to the safe departure of the
travellers."

Passedix had listened to Ambroisine, making from time to time one of
those little grimaces which indicate that one places little credence in
what one hears. When she had finished her narrative, he said, shaking
his head:

"Between ourselves, _belle baigneuse_, what you have told me seems most
extraordinary, and in my opinion this story of the Sire de Jarnonville
is a trifle chimerical!"

"Why so, seigneur?" replied Ambroisine, leaving the bench. "It seems to
me no more extraordinary than your story of the pork twisted round your
sword hilt; and I should say that the event has proved that the
gentleman's story was true."

Passedix did not think it best to reply. He walked toward Jarnonville,
who had risen and was standing in the doorway.

"Sire de Jarnonville," said the Gascon, offering him his hand, "we both
fought like brave men; you were victorious, but I bear you no ill will!
especially as I am able to explain why Roland slipped from my hand. We
were not on the same side, but, since peace has been concluded, shake
hands, and let bygones be bygones!"

Instead of putting his hand in the hand that was offered him,
Jarnonville, who had seemed not to listen to the Gascon, suddenly
hurried away, without a word in reply.

"Sandioux! what does that mean?" cried Passedix, still standing with
outstretched hand, while Ambroisine turned her face away to laugh.
"Damme! is this the way that discourteous _sombrinos_ responds to my
civility! Evidently, this Jarnonville is nothing more than a felon, a
boor, whom I will chastise handsomely at our first meeting. And let no
one presume to thrust a child in between us, sandis! or I will give him
a good kick somewhere!"

At that moment, a young bachelor, who had been in front of Master
Hugonnet's house when Cédrille and his companion were blockaded there,
and who had disappeared simultaneously with Bourriquet, returned to the
shop, shouting:

"Ah! I know where the pretty girl has gone! I know what that charming
Milanese came to Paris for!"

"You know that, boy!" cried the Chevalier Passedix, running up to the
young man. "Oh! tell me quickly what you know, and I swear to you, by
Roland and my godfather Chaudoreille, that I will treat you to a jar of
wine at the next _fête carillonnée_."

"I had just as lief tell you for nothing!"

"Well, tell me for nothing; I agree, I will consent to whatever you
wish; but speak, I am dying with impatience!"

"While everybody else stood here in open-mouthed amazement at the sudden
departure of the travellers, I followed the horse at a distance. He went
at a fast trot, but I have good legs, and I am not broken-winded."

"Arrive at the point, accursed chatterbox!"

"It was the travellers who arrived; that is to say, they stopped first
to inquire the way of a dealer in pottery; then they trotted off again
to Rue Saint-Honoré and stopped in front of a fine house."

"On Rue Saint-Honoré! Are you sure of that? Why, sandis! that is my
quarter; it could not happen better! But to whom does the house belong?"

"It was the Hôtel de Mongarcin, where Mademoiselle Valentine de
Mongarcin is now living with her aunt, Madame de Ravenelle."

"Very good! this boy is no fool; go on."

"All three of the travellers entered the courtyard--I say all three,
counting the horse."

"Go on, I say, sandioux!"

"As I was curious to know what they were going to do there, I strolled
back and forth in front of the house."

"That was very ingenious."

"And, sure enough, before long came out an old servant who knows my
father. I ran up to him and questioned him, and he said: 'That young
girl has come here to enter the service of Mademoiselle Valentine de
Mongarcin. She has been recommended to her, it seems; so it's all
settled. As for the peasant who brought her here, he is going to rest a
day or two and then go back to his province, unless he also prefers to
find a place in Paris; but it seems that that is not to his
taste.'--That is what I have learned."

"Thanks! a thousand thanks, my boy! Hôtel de Mongarcin, Rue
Saint-Honoré. I shall be seen frequently in that vicinity.--Sandis! I am
sorry that she is only a lady's-maid. But, after all, Dulcinea del
Toboso was not a princess; and whatever anyone may say, Don Quixote was
a hearty blade, and as good a man as another.--Au revoir, my boy! I will
treat you whenever you choose, you know."

And Chevalier Passedix walked away by Rue des Mathurins, and the young
bachelor by Place Cambray.

After a day so well employed, it was natural enough that Master Hugonnet
should visit his usual wine shop in the evening; and he did not fail to
do so. Doubtless there was a large assemblage of patrons, and the events
of the morning, as they gave rise to much talk, naturally resulted in a
proportionate amount of drinking.

The consequence was that Master Hugonnet returned home very late,
completely drunk, and exceedingly susceptible to emotion, as he always
was when in that condition.

Ambroisine, who was sitting up for her father, was not at all surprised
by his state, and she urged him to go up to bed.

But Hugonnet had tears in his eyes, and he groaned mournfully as he
stammered:

"Poor Lambourdin--it breaks my heart! Just imagine, daughter--he was
shamefully beaten this morning!"

"I know it, father, and so do you, as it was you who beat him."

"I! do you think so?--Oh! what a calamity!--my dear friend Lambourdin!
Just imagine--he was beaten so--it's an outrage! Poor Lambourdin! my
heart is heavy!--How could anyone beat such an honorable man?"

"Why, it was you who beat him."

"I! impossible!--When I heard of it, I wept with grief.--Poor
Lambourdin! I will avenge him!"

And Master Hugonnet would not consent to go to bed until he had wept
freely over the fate of his friend Lambourdin, and had sworn again to
avenge him.



X

THE PLACE AUX CHATS


The Chevalier Passedix lived on Place aux Chats.

You will not be sorry, reader, to know where that square was situated,
for you would seek in vain for the slightest trace of it to-day. We will
proceed to enlighten you upon that subject.

In the year 1634, Place aux Chats was near Rue de la Ferronnerie, close
by the Impasse des Bourdonnais, where Rue de la Limace had recently been
cut through.

The Cemetery of the Innocents was on one side, and had one entrance on
the square, another on Rue de la Ferronnerie, and a third on Rue aux
Fers. Before it was christened Place aux Chats, it was called Place aux
Pourceaux; and in 1575 Rue de la Limace bore the name of Vieille Place
aux Pourceaux.

Do not imagine one of those spacious, airy squares, such as you are
familiar with in our day. What was called a square [_place_] in those
days was often nothing more than the junction of two streets.

The houses which surrounded Place aux Chats bore no resemblance to one
another. One had four stories, its next neighbor only two; but in all
alike the heavy framework, the enormous beams, were visible, as it was
not then thought worth while to cover them with plaster.

The roof of each of the houses hung over far beyond the gable end, thus
diminishing the air and light; the windows were small, irregular, and
loosely set, the panes of glass were tiny and dirty; the doors were low
and narrow; the halls dark and begrimed with dirt; the staircases, which
were gloomy, dirty, and slippery, had huge posts of stone or wood for
rails; and there were absolutely no lights.

Let us not regret the disappearance of Place aux Chats.

Over the door of one of the tallest houses on this square, which stood
opposite the Cemetery of the Innocents, there was a long, wide board,
painted yellow, bearing these words written in red on the yellow
background:

  HÔTEL DU SANGLIER. FURNISHED LODGINGS FOR MAN,
             BUT NOT FOR BEAST

The Hôtel du Sanglier had three windows on the square; that was almost
luxurious; and it boasted five stories, counting the attics nestled in
the roof.

It was one of the largest houses on Place aux Chats; and although the
sign stated that horses would not be entertained, it was no infrequent
occurrence for a mounted man to stop and take up his quarters there; in
such cases, his nag was taken to an ass keeper's, on the same square,
who did not entertain horsemen, but was glad to take care of their
beasts, and he almost always had tenants.

The Hôtel du Sanglier was kept by a widow, already past middle age,
named Dame Cadichard. She was a short, fat woman, who had been rather
piquant and alluring in her springtime and even during her summer; her
great fault was that she was determined to be piquant and alluring
still, and to forget that her hair was no longer black, her waist no
longer slender, and her complexion no longer fresh. She still had the
flashing glance, the merry laugh, and the sly jest; and from time to
time she talked of remarrying, of giving the late Cadichard a successor.
But at such times the neighbors of the Hôtel du Sanglier asked one
another where the future spouse could be, for, among the guests of the
house or the strangers who frequented it, no one ever had been observed
to pay court to the Widow Cadichard.

Chaudoreille's godson had lived at the Hôtel du Sanglier for more than a
year; he occupied a very modest little chamber under the eaves, above
the fourth floor. His room was lighted only by a little round window
looking on the square, which, however, he could not see on account of
the overhanging roof; the window, moreover, was so small that only one
person could possibly have looked out at one time.

The furniture of the apartment was extremely modest; it consisted of a
white wooden bedstead, of the simplest construction, the headboard and
footboard being so insecure that when, in a moment of forgetfulness, the
long, lank chevalier tried to stretch his legs, he instantly started
all the screws from their holes, the bed fell apart and vanished, and
the man who was lying upon it found himself stretched on the floor.

Two straw beds, a mattress as flat as a pancake, and a bolster of hay
composed the bed furnishings. Beside that far from luxurious couch were
a small oak table, two stools, and an enormous chest without a cover, in
which the tenant was entitled to keep his effects; it was probably
intended to serve as a commode.

A few boards nailed to the wall served the purpose of a wardrobe, and
were embellished by those articles which the tenant found indispensable.
This was called a furnished lodging.

It is probable, however, that all the rooms in the Hôtel du Sanglier
were not furnished so shabbily; and the Chevalier Passedix knew
something about it; for when he first became a tenant of Dame Cadichard,
he occupied a room on the first floor; at the next quarter day, the
Gascon had gone up to the second floor; three months later, he had been
consigned to the third; the following term, he had occupied the fourth;
and the fifth term, which was now running, he had been relegated to the
eaves. In case the chevalier should prolong his residence at Madame
Cadichard's, he could be sure, at all events, that they would send him
no higher.

Why these peregrinations of the gallant Passedix on each succeeding
quarter day? That we shall probably learn in the sequel.

On leaving Master Hugonnet's house, the Gascon returned with long
strides to Place aux Chats, his mind engrossed by the pretty foreigner
with whom he had fallen in love so suddenly. He was already meditating
the means to which he might resort in order to see her; and from time to
time he put his hand to his belt, in which he usually carried his purse;
but the little leather bag in which he kept his money contained at that
moment only a few copper coins.

"Sandioux! my family is very dilatory about sending me money!" muttered
Passedix, shaking his head angrily. "And without money it is very
difficult to corrupt servants, to procure the delivery of a billet-doux.
I know that my genius will supply the lack, but it would go more quickly
with the help of funds.--But, no matter! first of all, I must put on an
entirely clean ruff. I must also have those two buttons sewn on my
doublet; then I will take my stand as a sentinel in front of the Hôtel
de Mongarcin, and I will observe what goes on there, and what persons
come from and go to the citadel."

Passedix, arrived at his hotel, entered by the low door, then, turning
to the right, passed into a room where the mistress of the house was
usually to be found, and where each tenant's keys hung on the wall, with
the numbers attached.

Widow Cadichard was seated in a capacious armchair, before a table; she
was in the act of eating a vegetable soup so thick that one could eat it
with a fork; beside the soup tureen, which exhaled a vapor by no means
disagreeable to a keen appetite, four very fine eggs lay on a napkin in
a plate. An egg glass and a bountiful supply of small squares of toast,
which were beside the plate, indicated in what manner the eggs were to
be eaten.

When her tenant entered the room, the short, stout dame flashed a glance
at him in which there was vexation and anger; but in an instant she
resumed her sprightly manner and went on eating her soup.

The chevalier bowed to the widow and walked toward the place where the
keys were hanging.

"Well, well!" he cried; "what does this mean, cadédis! my key is not on
its nail! Have you it in your possession, Madame Cadichard?"

"I! On my word! Why should I have the key to your room, I should like to
know? Do I go to your room? Do I have any occasion to go there?"

"Then it must be Popelinette, the servant, who has it?"

"Apparently!"

"So she is doing my housework, is she? That happens very conveniently,
for I will ask her to sew two buttons on my doublet. I suppose that she
is supplied with needles and thread, as every good servant should be."

"I don't know whether Popelinette has needles and thread with her; but
what I can tell you is this--that she isn't in your room now."

"Then she must be here; do me the favor to call her, Dame Cadichard; I
am in haste to go up and make a bit of a toilet."

"I am distressed to be unable to gratify you, monsieur le chevalier, but
Popelinette is not in the house; she has gone out; she has gone to do an
errand for the new tenant who came a week ago, and who occupies my fine
apartment on the first floor."

"Ah! your first floor is let, is it? I am very glad for you, my
respected hostess, although I might be justified in complaining of the
rather harsh manner in which you have behaved toward me! Capédébious!
every quarter day, you make me move--go up one flight--on the pretext
that my last lodging is let; whereas only the mice take my place. Do you
know, Widow Cadichard, that I should be fully justified in complaining
of such treatment?"

"You would be justified also in paying me your rent each quarter, and
that is what you haven't done, monsieur le chevalier; for I don't know
the color of your money, and you have been living in my house more than
a year!"

"It is true, my family is very dilatory; I haven't received my allowance
for a long time; but they will send it all to me in a lump!--After all,
how have I injured you? You never have a cat in your Hôtel du Sanglier!
You ought to thank me for brightening up this old house a bit!"

"Thank you! yes, if you had been agreeable, gallant, attentive to me, I
might not have made you go up so high, perhaps; but you never passed an
evening here chatting with me! Monsieur always has to go running about
the city! Monsieur has so many intrigues!"

Passedix turned his face away, biting his lips, and hastened to change
the subject.

"Sandioux! how good that soup smells!" he cried. "I don't know what it's
made of, but, judging from the odor, it must be a most delicious
compound!"

The stout hostess refused to be melted by this exclamation; she
continued to eat and talk:

"But luckily all my tenants do not resemble Monsieur de Passedix! There
are some who pay, and who are very amiable with me besides. For
instance, this new-comer, this foreigner who has been here a week--he
paid a fortnight in advance, he didn't haggle at all over the price, and
yet he pays me forty crowns a month for my first floor!"

"Bigre! that's rather good!"

"But I am sure that that man is a grand seigneur--but that doesn't
prevent him from often talking with me; he isn't a bit proud!--Yesterday
I dined alone--well! he sat down here and kept me company. He's a very
good-looking fellow, and quite young still--thirty at most!"

"What do you call this fascinating cavalier?"

"The Comte de Carvajal; he's a Spaniard."

"The deuce! the Comte de Carvajal!--Yes, I believe that is a great
Spanish family.--Sandis! but I must confess, lovely hostess, that it
seems to me rather strange that this grand seigneur, instead of
occupying a handsome mansion in the neighborhood of the Palais-Cardinal
or the Arsenal, comes to Place aux Chats to nest--with the Cemetery of
the Innocents opposite! It is not absolutely cheerful--and a hotel where
his horses and carriages cannot be accommodated!"

"What does this mean, Monsieur Passedix? you are crying down my hotel
now! You call this a bad quarter--then why did you come here to lodge?
And why have you lodged more than a year on this Place aux Chats, which
you despise?"

"I, despise Place aux Chats! God forbid, dear Madame Cadichard! On the
contrary, I consider it most romantic; and then I, being afraid of
nothing, not even of ghosts and phantoms, am not at all sorry to live
just opposite a cemetery; for if it should happen to occur to some dead
man to come to say a word to me at night, I swear to you that I should
be overjoyed to have news from the other world."

"Hush--impious man!--He makes me shudder over my soup!--You know
perfectly well that the dead don't return!"

"I know that there are a great many things that don't return, unhappily;
and you know it, too, plump Cadichard!"

"What do you mean by that, monsieur le chevalier?"

"Mon Dieu! how time flies with us all!--But let us return to your
Spanish grandee, who has chosen the Hôtel du Sanglier for his abode; he
must have a numerous suite of servants and horses and carriages?"

"Not at all; he has none of those things. He is alone; it seems that he
is at Paris incognito!"

"What! not an esquire, not a valet, not even a single little mule to
prance along the Fossés Jaunes?"

"Nothing, I tell you; for he doesn't go to court, so that the grands
seigneurs of his acquaintance need not know that he is in Paris."

Passedix shook his head and muttered:

"Hum! a Spanish grandee who hasn't one poor lackey in his service--that
seems suspicious to me! Where does this noble cavalier pass his time,
pray, if he doesn't frequent good society, the agreeable rakes of the
court, and dandies like myself."

"Monsieur de Carvajal doesn't often go out during the day. In the first
place, he rises very late; but, to tell the truth, he comes home very
late, too. As he doesn't want to disturb anyone, he has told Popelinette
not to sit up for him; he asked me to give him a duplicate key to the
street door, so that he can come in at whatever hour of the night he
pleases; and he takes pains not to make any noise, for we never hear him
coming and going; it seems that in Spain people are in the habit of
walking about at night."

"In Spain, perhaps, because it's warm there and the nights are fine; but
here, where it still freezes in the morning--for our spring is
devilishly behindhand! I believe that your gallant stranger is a blade
who does his work under the rose. There must be some love intrigue on
the carpet--some husband to be deceived.--Sandioux! I don't blame your
Spaniard for that. Love is such a delicious thing--and when it attacks
us--ah!"

Here Passedix heaved a sigh which lasted so long that his hostess
dropped her spoon and stared at him, as if trying to make out whether
she had anything to do with that prolonged groan. But the Gascon,
instead of responding to the Widow Cadichard's alluring glance, turned
away abruptly and began to pace the floor, crying:

"Cadédis! Popelinette does not return! it is insufferable! I want to
dress!"

"Dress? I didn't know that you had any other doublet than that."

"Possibly not; but there are different ways of wearing it; besides, I
want to put on a clean ruff, and I need to have two buttons sewn on."

"Mon Dieu! have you an assignation for this afternoon?"

"If that were so, it seems to me, Widow Cadichard, that it is my
business!--Will you sew on my buttons?"

"I! I should think not! Go to your mistress!"

Passedix stamped the floor in vexation. At that moment the door of the
room was suddenly thrown open, and the Gascon uttered an exclamation of
satisfaction, for he expected to see the maid-servant of the hotel; but
he was speedily undeceived. Instead of Popelinette, it was the foreigner
who appeared in the doorway.



XI

THE FOREIGNER


The new tenant of the Hôtel du Sanglier paused on the threshold when he
saw that there was someone with his hostess; he even took a step
backward, as if he did not intend to enter. But in a moment, changing
his mind, he walked into the room with a certain gravity of demeanor
which was not without distinction.

The Gascon chevalier scrutinized the new arrival with interest, for he
suspected that it was the foreigner whom Dame Cadichard was so proud to
have under her roof, and he was curious to see whether he deserved the
high-flown praise which his hostess had lavished on him.

A single glance was sufficient to satisfy Passedix that the sprightly
widow had not exaggerated at all. The gentleman who had just entered the
room was still young, tall and well built; his features were handsome
and refined, his eyes slightly veiled, but full of fire and expression;
he wore no beard on his chin, but only small moustaches curled a little
upward at the ends.

He wore with easy grace a rich velvet cloak, over an elegant pale-blue
doublet; a beautiful white plume lay along the broad brim of his hat,
and the sword at his side was suspended from a belt trimmed with rich
lace.

The stranger bowed most courteously as he walked into the room. Passedix
made haste to return his salutation, saying to himself:

"He is a good-looking fellow, sandioux! I am too just to deny it. Almost
as handsome a man as myself, and that is no small thing to say!"

Widow Cadichard had risen hastily on the entrance of her tenant, to whom
she made a low reverence.

"Monsieur de Carvajal, your servant," she exclaimed; "I have the honor
to salute you! Pray be kind enough to take a seat, monsieur le comte; do
you wish for anything? Perhaps you are looking for Popelinette? She
hasn't returned yet, and that annoys you. She is not very quick when she
has an errand to do. Would you like me to go to meet her, monseigneur?"

The stranger waited till this torrent of words had ceased, then replied,
with a smile:

"What I wish first of all, my dear hostess, is that you will not put
yourself out and that you will continue your repast."

"Oh! indeed I will do nothing of the sort, monsieur le comte; I know too
well what I owe to you."

"In that case, madame, you will compel me to withdraw, for I do not like
ceremony."

"Oh! monsieur le comte, since you insist, since you command me, I will
do it to obey you. But allow me first to offer you a chair."

While Madame Cadichard bustled about the room, looking for her best
easy-chair and the best place in the room to put it, Passedix approached
the new-comer and addressed him, trying all the while to hide with his
cloak that part of his doublet from which the buttons were missing.

"I presume that I have the honor to salute one of my neighbors? I say
_neighbors_, because we both live in the same hotel; only I am at the
top and monsieur le comte is at the bottom. But men of honor are always
on the same level."

"Ah! does monsieur live in this hotel?" rejoined the stranger, bowing to
the Gascon.

"With your kind permission."

"What, monsieur! why, I can only be flattered to have monsieur for my
neighbor."

"Castor Pyrrhus de Passedix, godson of the most honorable Chaudoreille,
who left me only this sword, his trusty Roland, a finely tempered blade,
which I dare to say that I use in an honorable way! My reputation in
that regard is made!--And monsieur is the Comte de Carvajal, the noble
Spaniard whom Dame Cadichard is so fortunate as to have as her tenant in
the Hôtel du Sanglier?"

"Madame Cadichard would do well, then, to be a little more discreet, and
to respect the incognito which her guests desire to maintain."

The stout landlady blushed when she heard that; she realized that she
deserved the rebuke, and in her despair dropped the spoon which she was
about to raise to her mouth, and which remained standing upright in the
soup.

But the stranger, as he lay back in the easy-chair she had offered him,
continued, with something very like a smile:

"However, I do not feel that I have the courage to bear any ill will to
our excellent hostess, since I owe to her the acquaintance of so
illustrious a knight as Monsieur de Passedix, who, I am convinced, will
not betray the incognito which important considerations compel me to
adopt at this moment, in Paris."

The Gascon bowed again, taking care not to relax his hold of the corners
of his cloak, and replied:

"You may rely on my discretion, monsieur le comte; the secrets that are
intrusted to me will go down with me into the darkness of the grave,
unless I am released from my oath."

Thereupon the chevalier seized a chair and placed it at the table,
opposite Madame Cadichard, who had taken one of the eggs from the plate
and was trying to devise some refined method of breaking the shell and
dipping her pieces of toast into the egg, in her illustrious tenant's
presence.

"I will not presume to ask monsieur le comte how he passes his time in
Paris; that is his business, and I never meddle in other people's
affairs! But I venture to say that I should be an invaluable guide for a
stranger who wished to become acquainted with the pleasures, the merry
gatherings, of the capital. I go about a great deal in the best society.
I am a jovial companion, a sturdy toper; all the dandies, all the young
noblemen who love to fight and drink and make love to the fair, are my
friends. Does anyone need a second for a duel, a fourth for a party of
four, Passedix is always there! I do not like to boast, but I could
mention exploits of my own which the Amadises and Renauds would not have
disavowed!"

"One needs only to see you, chevalier, to entertain no manner of doubt
that you would be successful in whatever you might undertake!"

"Monsieur le comte is too kind! But it is quite true that I count only
victories, sandioux!"

"If I remember aright," murmured the little widow, carefully placing a
bit of toast in her egg, "you were on your back a fortnight as a result
of the blows you received the last time that you tried to rob several
bourgeois on Rue Mauconseil of their sleep!"

Passedix cast a savage glance at his landlady, as he cried:

"No, no! you are wrong, Dame Cadichard. I covered myself with glory in
that affair; and if I did keep my bed for some time after, it was only
because, in the heat of the affray, I gave myself a strain which kept me
from going to my usual resorts for a few days. Your eggs are too hard,
_belle dame_, you will never be able to dip your toast in them. I advise
you to eat them as a salad."

"They are all right, monsieur le chevalier; I like them this way.--Mon
Dieu! how sorry I am, monsieur le comte, that my servant keeps you
waiting like this!"

"There is no harm done, madame, I am in no hurry."

"If only I had something to offer monsieur le comte; but this breakfast
is not worthy of him."

"I should think it very nice, if I had not already eaten mine."

"In any case," observed Passedix, "you wouldn't offer your tenants
boiled eggs, I trust; for these are as hard as rocks--like Easter eggs."

"Oh! what a tease you are, monsieur le chevalier! But I think that you
know very little about cooking!"

"Sandioux! Dame Cadichard--on the contrary, I know a great deal about
it. My godfather Chaudoreille used to give his friends banquets that
lasted a whole week; I remember that he used to have delicacies from the
four quarters of the globe, and he was not satisfied unless his guests
had indigestion.--If Monsieur de Carvajal has no restaurant to which he
is attached, I could take him to a cabaret where they serve the most
delicious calves' heads, and stewed rabbits _en crapaudine_--you would
swear they were hares."

"I thank you, chevalier; but I do not take my meals at wine shops."

"I understand--I understand. You prefer darkness and mystery, with some
fair lady who awaits you in her _petite maison_; for we have ladies who
have them, as well as men; I know something about it, for I have supped
in more than one of those enchanting retreats--near Porte Saint-Antoine,
on the other side of the Fossés Jaunes. I am not inquisitive, I do not
mean to ask you indiscreet questions; but, between us, monsieur le
comte, I will take the liberty to give you a piece of advice; it is
this: it is not very safe in certain quarters of Paris at night; people
are attacked, robbed, and sometimes murdered, without anyone interfering
to prevent it. I warn you of this, because our landlady told me that you
went out very late, and returned at very advanced hours of the night.
That is imprudent! extremely imprudent!"

"Ah! madame told you that, did she?" rejoined the stranger, with a
glance at Widow Cadichard that arrested one of the pieces of toast on
its way to her mouth.

"I," murmured the little woman--"I said--that is--no, I said nothing. I
don't know why monsieur le chevalier brings me into all the fables he
invents. He would do better to pay the rent he owes me!"

"What is that, Widow Cadichard? I believe that you dared to say that I
invent!--Cadédis! that is too much! I, invent anything!--I suppose that
you didn't tell me also just now that monsieur had asked you for a
duplicate key to the street door, so that he could go in and out at
night without disturbing anyone; and that he had forbidden Popelinette
to sit up for him; and that it was the fashion in Spain to walk the
streets at night? To which I replied that it was not so warm in France
as in the beautiful land of the Andalusians.--Ah! I invented all
that--sandioux! If all that I have just said was not told me by you, I
hope that this egg will choke me while I speak!--Look! didn't I tell you
that they were all hard? But I am an ignoramus, I don't know anything
about cooking. And this one is just the same; as they all are!"

As he spoke, the Gascon took up an egg and dexterously stripped it of
its shell; after which, he made but one mouthful of it, and was about to
do as much with a second one, when the landlady angrily pounced on the
plate in which the others were and put it in her lap, saying:

"Well, monsieur, have you nearly finished swallowing my eggs as if they
were little tarts? Really, you don't stand on ceremony! If it wasn't for
my respect for monsieur le comte, I would tell you what I think of your
conduct."

"What would you tell me, alluring Cadichard?--that I am a libertine, a
scatterbrain, and that I owe you for four quarters? Cadédis! that is no
crime; every day, gentlemen of good family find themselves short of
money; and a few days later they roll in gold and doubloons.--Isn't that
so, Monsieur de Carvajal?"

"It is, in truth, a common occurrence, monsieur le chevalier."

"At this moment, I know several noble lords who are in my plight. Among
others, the young Comte Léodgard de Marvejols, of whom you have heard,
doubtless?"

"Yes, the name is not unknown to me."

"It is one of the oldest families of Languedoc. The old Marquis de
Marvejols is very rich, but he is a little strict with his son, although
he has no other child. To be sure, Léodgard did run through the fortune
he got from his mother rather rapidly. He's a young buck who travels
fast--a gallant of my stamp; he loves cards and wine and the
ladies.--Yes, sweet Cadichard, we love the ladies; but they must not fly
into a passion when we condescend to taste a little egg in their
honor.--To return to Léodgard, he has had hard luck of late! He had won
a very neat little sum at cards, contrary to his custom, and was
returning to his house at night, when he was attacked by Giovanni, that
famous brigand, you know, who is at this moment the terror of the
capital. You must have heard of him, monsieur le comte?"

"No; this is the first time that I have heard that name."

"You surprise me! Sandioux! Giovanni already has a tremendous reputation
in this country. He must be very skilful with the sword to have beaten
young Marvejols, who fights--almost as well as I do.--The result is that
everybody is afraid of the man. But so far as I am concerned, the
contrary is true; indeed, I would like very much to meet this famous
robber!"

"Oh! that's because you are not afraid of being robbed!" said the little
landlady, pressing her lips together spitefully.

"Always some piquant little remark, sweet Cadichard!--I overlook them, I
overlook anything in the fair sex!"

"And why would you like to meet this--this Giovanni, monsieur le
chevalier?" asked the stranger, playing with his sword hilt.

"Why, monsieur le comte, because I flatter myself that I should be more
fortunate than poor Léodgard! And that infernal knave would receive at
my hand the reward of his brigandage! I would give myself the pleasure
of burying six inches of Roland in his throat. Ah! sandioux! I can see
from here the wry face he would make!--Does that make you laugh,
Monsieur de Carvajal?"

"Why, yes, because it occurs to me, too, that in such a battle as you
suggest one of the two would, in fact, be likely to cause the other to
make a strange grimace."

"One of the two! Do you doubt that I should triumph?"

"I in no wise doubt your valor, monsieur le chevalier; but as for your
triumph, permit me to think that it is better not to make any assertions
beforehand--the most valiant are conquered sometimes; fortune is
capricious to fighting men as well as to lovers."

Passedix bit his lips and drew his eyebrows together. The hostess, who
had decided to remove the shells from her eggs, said to the tenant of
her first floor:

"In any case, monsieur le comte, it is always prudent not to go out at
night unless you are well armed; for my part, I don't dare to go to the
theatre at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, because it ends too late! It's
half-past eight sometimes when they finish the beautiful tragedy of
_Sophonisbé_, by Monsieur Mairet, which I would have liked to see, all
the same!"

"_Sophonisbé!_ Faith! I prefer his last tragedy, the _Duc d'Ossone_--the
verses are more sonorous, the subject more warlike.--What say you,
monsieur le comte?"

"I do not go to the play."

"Where in the devil does the Spaniard go?" thought Passedix, draping
himself in his cloak; "never to the court, never to a wine shop, never
to the play! He wants to make us think that he's always shut up with
some petticoat!"

And the Gascon swayed to and fro on his chair and caressed his chin, as
he continued:

"For my part, I am a great frequenter of the theatre."

"You go to Brioché's theatre on Pont Neuf!" laughed Madame Cadichard;
"there's a show outside; that doesn't cost anything!"

"I go where I choose, madame! It seems to me that I am entitled to.
Brioché's marionettes are not to be despised, and the proof is that
great crowds go there--leaders of society and idlers, _belles dames_ and
_bourgeoises_. But that does not interfere with my being one of the most
assiduous spectators at the Hôtel de Bourgogne; I know all Alexandre
Hardy's plays, and I believe he has written over six hundred; he is my
favorite author, and I prefer him to this Jean Mairet, who is laden
with favors by the Cardinal de Richelieu, the Duc de Longueville, and
the Comte de Soissons, because he has written a dozen or so of
tragedies! A fine showing, forsooth, beside Hardy's six hundred
plays!--Ah! cadédis! if I had ever undertaken to write, it would have
been a different story!--But I prefer the sword to the pen; one must not
derogate from his rank!"

At that moment, an old servant of more than sixty years, whose skin had
such a dark-yellow tinge that she might at need have been passed off as
a Moor, entered the room and approached the stranger. It was
Popelinette, just returned from performing her commission.

"Here are all the things you told me to get, monsieur le comte--gloves,
perfumery--the nicest and daintiest I could find; and _mouches_ and
paint; and here is the money that is left."

"Very good; keep that for your trouble."

"Oh! you are very kind, monseigneur! I thank you very humbly!"

"Does the fellow mean to disguise himself as a woman?" Passedix thought,
glancing furtively at Popelinette's purchases, which she had placed on a
table. "Paint! _mouches!_ perfumery! Fie, fie! all those things do very
well for shepherds in Arcady. I begin to conceive a very singular
opinion of this Spaniard!"

"It took you a very long time to do the errand monsieur le comte gave
you to do!" said the plump Cadichard to her servant. "You must try to
make your legs work a little livelier when you go out."

"But, madame, I went to the best perfumer on Rue Saint-Honoré, near the
Couvent des Capucines; that's a long way."

"Monsieur le Chevalier Passedix has been waiting impatiently for you; he
needs your help--some buttons to sew on his doublet."

"Again!" muttered Popelinette, with a most disrespectful gesture.

"What do you mean by that?" cried the Gascon, raising his head; "I
should like to know if you are not here to wait upon the tenants? I
consider your reply a little impertinent, my girl!"

"Mon Dieu! don't be angry, monsieur le chevalier; I don't refuse to do
what you want; but I meant that your doublet has been patched and mended
so often that the buttons I sew on are likely not to hold, for lack of
material to sew them to."

"It is easy to see, old Popelinette, that you no longer have your eyes
of twenty years! otherwise, you would not abuse thus a garment which is
almost new, and which owes the numerous patches that cover it solely to
the sword thrusts I have received in single combats and others. But they
are titles to renown, and that is why I am fond of this doublet; if I
should buy a new one, within a week it would be riddled by sword thrusts
as this one is; one doesn't go to the water without getting wet.--Well!
my girl, take a needle and thread and let us have done with it, for the
day is advancing, and I should already be somewhere else!"

The old servant grumblingly took what she needed to repair the Gascon's
doublet. For some moments, the stranger had been examining what
Popelinette had brought him; at last he carefully replaced all the
articles in paper and put them in his pocket one after another, as if he
were preparing to take his leave.

"Yes, sandioux!" cried Passedix, partly unbuttoning his doublet so that
the servant could work more conveniently; "yes, I long to pursue a
certain adventure, the heroine of which surpasses the Venus of Medici!"

"Oh! monsieur le chevalier makes Venuses out of every retroussé nose he
meets!" said Dame Cadichard, shrugging her shoulders.

"Do you think so, charming hostess? I should say that I have never given
you reason to think that my taste was bad!"

The landlady turned her little eyes on the Gascon, like a person who
does not know whether she ought to take in good or ill part what is said
to her. Passedix continued:

"By the way, I made her acquaintance in such singular fashion!--Ah! be
careful, Popelinette, you are pricking me as if I were a pincushion!"

"Goodness! it isn't my fault, monsieur; you keep moving all the time!"

"That is my nature; I could not keep still for a moment; that is due to
the heat of my blood--to the smoking lava that flows in my veins! I am a
volcano! and then, the image of that Italian was well adapted to make my
legs twitch!"

"Ah! your conquest is an Italian, is she, monsieur le chevalier?" said
the stranger, who had taken a step or two toward the door, but who
turned at that and looked at Passedix.

"Yes, monsieur le comte; that is to say, she isn't exactly an Italian,
although she wears the costume of a Milanese; she was born in Béarn, but
it seems that she has lived in Milan many years. I give you my word that
she is a dainty morsel, that little Miretta!"

When he heard the name Miretta, the foreigner could not restrain a
gesture of surprise; but he recovered himself instantly, walked back to
the easy-chair he had just left, and resumed his seat, saying:

"Really, monsieur le chevalier, you make me very curious; and if I were
not afraid of being indiscreet in asking you how you made the
acquaintance of this girl, who, you say, is so pretty, I should take
great pleasure in hearing of it."

"There is no indiscretion in your request, count; indeed, the affair
took place in the presence of numerous witnesses and made quite a
sensation this morning. I will stake my head that it will be the talk of
the court and the whole city this evening. I will tell you all about
it.--Go on, Popelinette; it needn't prevent you from sewing on my
buttons."

Thereupon the Gascon chevalier described what had taken place that
morning in front of Master Hugonnet's house; and in his narrative,
carried away doubtless by his interest in the pretty Milanese, Passedix
embellished the truth with a number of episodes which he deemed likely
to heighten the effect. For instance, he did not fail to say that on
several occasions he had saved Cédrille from certain death by throwing
himself in front of the swords that threatened him; in a word, it was
due to his courage that the two travellers succeeded in escaping from
the fury of those who surrounded them.

The foreigner listened to the Gascon with the closest attention. When
the latter had finished, the other looked fixedly at him and said:

"Now, what do you expect to do, chevalier?"

"What! By Venus! follow up the adventure, watch for the little one to
come out, join her, declare my passion, soften her heart--a mere trifle!
The rest will go of itself."

"No doubt!" muttered Dame Cadichard; "if the girl is a good-for-nothing
who listens to the first comer!"

"Whom do you call a first comer, madame? do you dare to apply those
words to Castor Pyrrhus de Passedix?--Sandioux! you are pricking me,
Popelinette! do be careful!"

"I mean to say, monsieur, that this girl does not know you; and if she
is virtuous----"

"Cadédis! all women are virtuous before they have sinned; and since the
days of Eve, who allowed herself to be tempted by a serpent, how many
women have stumbled---- Oh! this old woman is determined to spit me like
a roasted hare!"

"But in order to watch for this Italian," observed the Spaniard, "it is
necessary first of all that you should know where she lives in Paris."

"Oh! I know that; I know where Miretta is at this moment; I even know
why she has come to Paris. I am perfectly informed--but upon this matter
you will allow me to keep silent. The little one is too dainty a morsel
for me to show her nest to other men, and I am sure that you will
consider that I am right to act thus."

The foreigner rose and bowed to the Gascon.

"Good luck in your love affairs, Chevalier Passedix!"

"Infinitely obliged! Much pleasure in your nocturnal walks, monsieur le
comte!"

The foreigner took his leave. The landlady renewed her humble
reverences, and Passedix muttered:

"A singular man, this Monsieur de Carvajal!"

"You are all sewed up, monsieur," said Popelinette; "but, bless me! I
won't swear it will hold long, the stuff is so rotten!"

"Very good! all right! I didn't ask you about that!--He buys paint,
_mouches_, perfumes!--he's an effeminate creature!"

"I don't think," said the little hostess, "that it is so unpleasant to
perfume one's self, and to leave an agreeable odor behind one as one
passes!"

"I have never needed that to please the fair! And when I eat wild duck,
I don't like to have it smell of musk!"

The Gascon hurried from the room and went up to his fifth floor, while
Dame Cadichard exclaimed:

"Ah! if I only had a loft over his room!"

Popelinette put away her needle and thread, muttering:

"Oh, no! he doesn't smell of musk, that fellow! he doesn't need to deny
it!"



XII

VALENTINE DE MONGARCIN


Let us transport ourselves to Rue Saint-Honoré, to the interior of a
magnificent mansion, where everything is eloquent of wealth, splendor,
and refinement, where the furniture and hangings represent all that is
most beautiful and dainty in the products of that age. There we shall
find Madame de Ravenelle and her niece, Valentine de Mongarcin.

Madame de Ravenelle was seventy-two years of age; she had once been
pretty, she was still fresh and plump; for the anxieties, the cares,
the griefs, which often make one old much more rapidly than time, had
never darkened her life, which had flowed on as placidly and gently as
the waters of a stream hidden by tall grasses and never disturbed by the
traveller's oar.

The old lady, blessed with a cheerful, heedless, and, above all, selfish
disposition, had known how to submit philosophically to those petty
disagreements from which no one is wholly exempt throughout the course
of a long life. Having an excellent stomach, and very little
susceptibility, she always sat down at the table with a good appetite,
and never had recourse to the doctors. Incapable of doing anything
unkind or spiteful, which would have disturbed the harmony of her
temperament, she listened without emotion to the tale of another
person's woes; and yet, she was quite ready to be humane, and often did
a kind deed, when it was not likely to cause her either fatigue or
trouble.

Valentine de Mongarcin had been brought up at a convent; but there, no
less than in society, she had been fully aware that she was the sole
inheritress of a great name and a great fortune; flattery, which
insinuates itself everywhere, makes its way into convents; pretty,
clever, but proud of her name and her rank, Valentine had discovered too
early in life that people were eager to gratify all her desires; she had
grown up with the idea that her will was never to be thwarted; and,
although possessed of a sensitive heart, and of a noble soul capable of
noble deeds, she had contracted a haughty, disdainful manner, which had
made her but few friends.

At the age of eighteen, her figure had developed, her bearing had become
noble and dignified, her features were regular, and the outlines of her
face exquisitely pure; her hair was as black as ebony, and her great
gray eyes, with their long black lashes, had a most seductive expression
when they did not choose to express arrogance or scorn.

On leaving the convent to occupy her father's mansion, Valentine had not
presented herself to her aunt in the guise of a timid girl who claims
the support and protection of her only remaining relation; she had
appeared like a conqueror making his triumphal entry into a city which
he has compelled to capitulate; but she had to deal with a person who
worried her head very little over the airs and tone which other people
adopted toward her.

Madame de Ravenelle received her niece with the smile which had become
stereotyped on her face; she considered her beautiful and well made, and
was gratified that that was the case; but if Valentine had been ugly or
deformed, the old lady would speedily have consoled herself. Between two
persons of such temperaments, there was no danger that there would ever
be any lack of harmony; for to every question that Valentine asked on
her arrival, Madame de Ravenelle replied:

"Do whatever you please in the house; command and you will be obeyed,
provided that you disturb nothing in my apartment and my personal
service. I have my women, you will have yours; I shall not thwart you in
anything, for my brother's daughter would be incapable of doing anything
unworthy of her rank. And if the company I receive should bore you, you
will be at liberty not to appear in the salon."

Mademoiselle de Mongarcin could not ask for more liberty or greater
power; the confidence that her aunt manifested in her pleased her; she
would have rebelled against a stern affection that would have tried to
guide her, but she was amiable and affectionate with one who was simply
indifferent to her.

Young Valentine considered the old hangings of the Hôtel de Mongarcin
gloomy and repellent; she had them all changed or renewed, and the
furniture as well. But nothing was disturbed in the apartment occupied
by Madame de Ravenelle. Some of the servants having failed to carry out
the girl's orders quickly enough, she dismissed them and engaged others;
but her aunt's maid and her old male attendant were outside of her
authority.

The Hôtel de Mongarcin became more fashionable; it assumed a more
youthful, a gayer aspect; frequent entertainments were given there by
musicians, jugglers, and gypsies; it amused Valentine, and it was all a
matter of indifference to Madame de Ravenelle.

One day, however, the old lady said to her niece:

"By the way, Valentine, have you ever heard of the young Comte Léodgard
de Marvejols?"

"The name is familiar to me, and I have an idea that my father often
mentioned it.--Why do you ask me that question, aunt?"

"Because my brother was very desirous that young Léodgard should some
day become your husband."

"Ah! my father desired it?"

"Yes; he told me so again just before he died. He was very closely
attached to young Léodgard's father, who had the same wish."

"Well, aunt?"

"Well, niece, you shall marry the young count, if that meets your
views!"

"Oh! there's time for that! for my father surely would not desire to
force my inclination, if he were alive."

"I cannot say what your father would have done if he had lived; but I
know very well that I have no desire to torment you."

"You are so good, aunt!"

"Why, yes, I am tolerably good!"

"And do you know this young Comte de Marvejols?"

"I have seen him two or three times in company."

"What is he like, aunt?"

"A very good-looking young man; very well built, and with a decidedly
rakish air. But young men sometimes assume those airs in society, in
order to give themselves an appearance of aplomb and self-assurance;
very often they mean nothing at all!"

"Well, if this Monsieur Léodgard desires to become my husband, I suppose
that he will come to pay court to me first."

"Why, that is to be presumed. However, you will see his father, Monsieur
le Marquis de Marvejols, at my receptions before long; he is a man very
highly considered, in very good odor at court, but of a rather severe
humor."

"What does that matter to me? it is not the father who wishes to marry
me!"

"That is true."

"And if this Monsieur Léodgard shared his father's wishes, it seems to
me, aunt, that he would manifest more eagerness to see me; for it is
nearly two months since I left the convent, and he has not called here
as yet."

"That is true, niece; but perhaps the young man is travelling."

Madame de Ravenelle's invariably placid and equable temperament
sometimes irritated Valentine, whose blood was ardent and boiling; but
she dissembled her impatience, for she could not be angry with her aunt,
who always agreed with her.

About a month after this conversation, Valentine had attended a large
party given by the Duchesse de Longueville, and had met Léodgard there.
The young count had presented his respects to Madame de Ravenelle and
her niece, but with the cold and formal manner of a man who had the
greatest disinclination to marriage and did not desire to gratify his
parents' wishes.

On her side, Valentine de Mongarcin, piqued by the young man's lack of
zeal in cultivating her acquaintance, had received his compliments with
an air of indifference, almost of disdain, which deprived her face of
all the fascination it sometimes had.

We have seen that the result of the meeting had been to confirm Léodgard
in his repugnance to that alliance.

As for Valentine, she had not said a single word on the subject of
Léodgard, and Madame de Ravenelle had thought it advisable to imitate
her silence.

One evening, after receiving a visit from one of her friends, or rather
acquaintances, at the convent, Valentine said to her aunt:

"Mademoiselle de Vertmonteil spoke to me this morning of a girl whom her
sister has seen at Milan. This girl wishes to find a place in Paris. She
is said to be clever at millinery work and dressmaking; in fact,
Mademoiselle de Vertmonteil recommended her to me. My maid is a fool,
who does not know how to dress my hair, and I am tempted to discharge
her and take this Italian in her place. What do you think about it,
aunt?"

Madame de Ravenelle, who had listened as to something that was utterly
indifferent to her, replied:

"You will do well to do whatever is most agreeable to you, my dear."

It was a fortnight after this conversation that Miretta appeared at the
Hôtel de Mongarcin, escorted by Cédrille, and still greatly excited by
the risks she had run in front of Master Hugonnet's house.

Valentine was impatiently awaiting the arrival of the girl of whom she
had heard such marvellous things. She was in an immense salon, where her
aunt persisted in having a fire, although the weather was no longer
cold, when the young traveller was announced. Valentine uttered a joyful
exclamation and said:

"Bring her to speak to me; I wish to see her at once!--Will you allow
her to come to this salon, aunt?"

"It is entirely indifferent to me, niece. However, if any visitor should
come, I presume that this girl will know that it is her duty to
withdraw."

Miretta soon made her appearance before the two ladies; she walked into
the salon with an assured step; there was embarrassment, but neither
awkwardness nor stupidity in her bearing. The reverence that she made
was not without a certain charm. Add to this the beauty of her face, her
fresh complexion, her youth, and her piquant costume, and you will
understand Valentine's exclamation:

"Ah! why, the child is very pretty!--Come nearer, come nearer! Your name
is Miretta?"

"Yes, mademoiselle, Miretta Dartaize. Here is the letter of
recommendation with which I have been favored, for mademoiselle."

"Very well; but it is unnecessary--I have seen the sister of the person
who gave you the letter.--You are a Milanese?"

"No, mademoiselle; I was born at Pau, in Béarn; but I have lived at
Milan, or in the suburbs, ever since I was a child."

"And your relations?"

"I lost them when I was very young, all except an old female cousin, who
still lives at Pau, and whose son, who is very fond of me, was kind
enough to undertake to bring me to Paris."

"Where is this youth?"

"In the courtyard, mademoiselle."

"How did you make the journey?"

"On Bourriquet's back, both of us. Bourriquet is Cédrille's horse; he's
a good beast and carried us finely; but we made short days, so as not to
tire him."

"And your travelling companion--does he too hope to find a place in
Paris?"

"Oh! no, mademoiselle; Cédrille came with me only as a favor to me; and
he is going right back to his province, after he has rested a little in
Paris."

"This Cédrille, who is your cousin, is your betrothed too, perhaps?"
said Madame de Ravenelle, carelessly turning her head toward the girl.
But she replied:

"Oh, no! Cédrille is not my betrothed, madame; he loves me very dearly
though, and he has asked me if I would be his wife; but I refused him,
refused him flatly, telling him that I should never have anything but a
sisterly affection for him. Cédrille made the best of it and is content
with that."

"Why did you refuse to marry your cousin? Was it because he has nothing,
and can't do anything?"

"I beg pardon, madame, Cédrille has quite enough to live comfortably;
he's a worthy, honest man--a hard worker, who knows more about
agriculture and plowing than anybody in our neighborhood."

"And in spite of all that, you would not consent to be his wife?"
continued the old lady, fixing her eyes on Miretta, who looked down and
blushed as she faltered:

"No, madame."

"You had some reason for refusing him, doubtless?"

"Mon Dieu! a single one, madame; but it seems to me that it should be
sufficient in such a matter: I have no love for him, and I do not care
to marry without love."

"Ah! very well answered!" cried Valentine, smiling at the girl;
"certainly that reason is quite sufficient! As if a woman ought to marry
a man she does not love! that would be equivalent to deliberately
choosing to be unhappy all her life!"

"Such things have been seen, however, niece! And a woman is not always
unhappy on that account; it often turns out just the other way."

"Well, aunt, I consider that Miretta has done well not to marry her
cousin, as she has no love for him."

"Perhaps you will not always talk so, my dear!"

"Miretta," continued Valentine, turning to the girl, "I take you into my
service, that is settled; and I will give you---- How much should I
give her, aunt?"

"Whatever you please, niece."

"Very well! two hundred livres a year.--Is that enough, Miretta? does
that satisfy you?"

"Oh! that is a great deal, mademoiselle! I probably am not worth so much
as that, and I shall always be satisfied with whatever you give me; I do
not care for money!"

"You don't care for money, you don't care to marry," murmured Madame de
Ravenelle, shaking her head; "nor do you care for your province, since
you leave it--Pray, little one, to what do you aspire?"

Miretta was silent a moment, then replied:

"I aspire to be in the service of honorable persons, and to show myself
deserving of their kindness."

"Well said!" exclaimed Valentine; "that is an answer that does you
honor.--Oh! you will be happy with me, I trust. In the first place, all
the dresses I have ceased to wear will belong to you, and I am very fond
of changing often. But you must serve me promptly, you must always be at
hand when I ring for you, and never step foot outside of the house
unless I send you to do some errand."

The girl raised her head quickly and cried:

"What, mademoiselle! never go out of this house? Why, in that case, I
shall be a prisoner! I shall not be able to take a free step! Oh, no!
no! I did not come to Paris to be deprived of my liberty; I will serve
you faithfully, mademoiselle, I will be submissive to your lightest
word, I will work day and night if you desire; but I wish to be able,
when I feel the need of it, to fly away as freely as the birds of our
fields! I shall return to my cage far happier, when I know that the door
is not closed upon me!"

"Well, well, hothead!" said Valentine, with a smile; "never fear; you
will not be a prisoner! I will not prevent your flying away
sometimes.--Ah! how her eyes sparkle when she hears me say that! She has
a little will of her own, I see. So much the better! I do not like
people who are incapable of having a will!"

"But," interposed Madame de Ravenelle, "as you have just arrived in
Paris, where you know no one; and as your cousin is going away--whom
will you go to see when you go out? or will it be simply to take a
walk?"

"Pardon me, madame, but there is already one person whom I wish to see,
to thank her for the service she rendered my cousin and myself just now.
Ah! madame does not know that we barely escaped a very great danger this
morning--before we reached this house."

"A danger! Pray tell us about it, little one."

"Come here," said Valentine, "and sit on this stool, for your journey on
horseback must have tired you. There! that is right; and now tell us
what happened to you this morning."

Miretta gave them an exact account of what had taken place on Rue
Saint-Jacques; she omitted no detail, nor did she add anything. The
truth was sufficiently interesting to engross the attention of those
who listened to her. Madame de Ravenelle could not help taking an
interest in it, and Valentine was much excited--so much so that she
exclaimed:

"Why, it was shameful behavior on the part of those gentlemen! To try to
compel people who are passing to stop and act as their playthings! Did
you hear the names of those who insulted you?"

"I heard several, mademoiselle, but I remember only two: the gentleman
who took up our defence and fought for us, after offering to be my
knight--in jest, doubtless--his name was Passedix."

"Passedix!--Do you know any gentleman of that name, aunt?"

"No, no one! He must be some _chevalier d'industrie!_"

"Then the man who was so fierce against us, and whose terrible sword
beat down all obstacles--him they called the Sire de Jarnonville. Oh!
that man had a terrifying look!"

"The Sire de Jarnonville!" repeated Madame de Ravenelle. "That is a very
old name--a noble family; but it is a long while since the descendant of
the Jarnonvilles ceased to appear in society--that is to say, in the
society frequented by self-respecting persons."

"And you did not hear any one of those young nobles called Léodgard de
Marvejols?"

"No, mademoiselle, I am quite sure that I did not hear that name."

"What are you worrying about now, niece?"

"I am not worrying at all, aunt; but as it was a gathering of
scapegraces, it seemed to me quite natural that Monsieur Léodgard should
be there.--Miretta, I understand your gratitude for the brave girl
who--I do not quite know how--rescued you from your dangerous position.
You will do well to go to thank her, for ingratitude is the vice of base
minds, and it always indicates the presence of other vices. Go to the
reception room and ask for Béatrix; she will take you to the room that
has been prepared for you; it is not far from mine, and you can hear my
bell there.--But, by the way, this Cédrille, your cousin--what have you
done with him?"

"Mon Dieu! mademoiselle, he stayed below, in the courtyard, with his
horse; I will go and bid him adieu, and he will go away."

"But surely the boy does not mean to start for Béarn at once? He is
probably curious to see a little of Paris, is he not?"

"Yes, mademoiselle, but he will find an inn for himself and Bourriquet.
Oh! Cédrille is not hard to please; he is capable of sleeping in a
stable, with his horse."

"I do not see why your cousin should go elsewhere in search of lodgings;
we have enough unoccupied rooms upstairs, and stables sufficiently
extensive to make it unnecessary for him and his horse to go to an
inn.--This youth may remain here a few days, aunt, may he not? There is
room in the servants' quarters; he may eat with our people, when it
suits his pleasure to stay in the house."

"I have no objection, niece; arrange everything as you choose."

"Oh! madame and mademoiselle are too kind; and Cédrille will come
himself to thank them."

"It is not worth while!" said the old lady; "I excuse him from all
thanks."

"Go, Miretta," said Valentine, "go tell your cousin that we will
accommodate him with my servants; then find Béatrix, who will install
you."

Miretta made several reverences and left the salon.

"That girl pleases me," said Valentine, after watching her leave the
room. "Do not you agree with me, madame, that there is something
original about her--a sort of firmness, and an indefinable naïveté,
which is charming?"

"Yes, yes!" replied Madame de Ravenelle, slowly shaking her head; "but I
believe that there is something in the girl's heart that she has not
told us."

"What can it be, aunt?"

"I have no desire to fatigue my brain trying to guess!"

"Well, I will try, aunt; it will amuse me instead of fatiguing me."

"As you please, niece."

Miretta ran quickly down into the courtyard, and found Cédrille there,
doing sentry duty beside his horse. The poor fellow stood close to
Bourriquet's side, having given him the last wisps of hay from the
bundle attached to his crupper.

The young Béarnais peasant was gazing with respectful admiration at the
sculptures and decorations which embellished the mansion; nothing so
magnificent had met his eye since he had left his fields; for, on
entering Paris, he had been too much occupied in breaking out a path and
guiding his horse through the crowd to have any leisure to look about
him.

Cédrille smiled sadly when he saw the girl coming toward him.

"Ah! I was waiting to see you before going away, Miretta," he said; "and
I am going to say adieu at once, for I wouldn't dare to come to this
splendid palace and ask for you; I feel all dazed here; I don't dare to
walk, for fear of making a noise!"

"And yet, my dear Cédrille, here is where you are to live, as long as
you stay in Paris. They are going to give you a room in this house; my
new mistress will have it so. She has a noble and generous manner, and
this that she is doing for you to-day, cousin, makes me love her
already."

"Ah, ah! is it possible? What do you say, cousin--I am to be lodged
here--I?--Why, it's a palace!"

"No; it's a private mansion."

"Ah! but wait a minute! What about my horse--this poor Bourriquet? I
don't want to leave him, you know."

"You will not have to leave him; Bourriquet will be put in the stable,
and you may be sure that the horses are well taken care of there."

"Do you mean it? Bourriquet will be fed? and what about me?"

"You will be, too, when you happen to be here at the hour when the
household of these ladies dines."

"If this is the way one is treated in Paris, I begin to believe that you
may be happy here, cousin; but, in that case, I must go and thank the
masters of the house for offering to take me in."

"No, no; that is not necessary; there are no masters here, only
mistresses: Mademoiselle Valentine de Mongarcin, in whose service I am
now, and her aunt--an old lady, who does whatever her niece wishes; I
saw that at once."

"Oh! you are shrewd, you are, Miretta! So I needn't go and thank those
ladies?"

"They excuse you. In Paris, you see, everyone is expected to keep in his
own place.--But that reminds me that there is someone whom I must thank;
but she is not a great lady, and I am sure that she will be very glad to
see me."

"Who is it?"

"That fine girl who stationed herself in front of us and defended us,
when we were being insulted. What! have you forgotten already?"

"Oh, no! no! I know whom you mean; and I remember that those young
gentlemen called out to her: 'Stand away from there, Ambroisine; that's
no place for you!'"

"Yes, you are right: her name is Ambroisine. But I must go now to find a
lady who is to show me my room and tell me what I have to do. You are
free, Cédrille; you can go out and see Paris--walk about, amuse
yourself, do whatever you choose."

"But it isn't the same with you, cousin; you're at other people's orders
now; but you would have it, you preferred to come to Paris and go into
service, rather than be your cousin's wife. And yet, you know that you
would always have been the mistress of the house, and that I would have
been your servant!"

"Enough, Cédrille, enough! I thought that it was agreed that you would
not go back to that subject. I told you once for all that I could not be
your wife."

"Yes, that's true; but you didn't tell me why you couldn't be."

"Because it doesn't suit me, apparently; it seems to me that my wish
should be sufficient."

"Oh! of course, if it is because you don't love me. It's true enough
that we can't compel a woman to love us!"

"I love you like a friend, like a brother, Cédrille."

"Well, I'd have been content to be your husband on those terms; and
then, nobody knows, love might have come afterward!--But here you are
looking cross at me, and drawing your eyebrows together.--It's all
over, cousin; I will keep my word and never speak of the subject
again."

"Good! otherwise, I would save you the trouble of saying adieu to
me.--By the way, Cédrille, if you would, you might take me to Rue
Saint-Jacques this evening. I will come out, if I can, at nightfall."

"I should like to, cousin; I will wait for you in the street."

At that moment a middle-aged woman came to Miretta and told her to
follow her.

While the girl, with an _au revoir_ to her companion, returned to the
house, a servant wearing a handsome livery with heavy gold lace
approached the Béarnais peasant and courteously invited him to come to
the servants' quarters and refresh himself.

Cédrille returned with interest all the servant's salutations, and
followed him, crying:

"Jarni! that isn't to be refused, monsieur! I shall be glad to take
something, and I would even eat a bit, with your permission."

"You shall have whatever you may wish," replied the valet, with a smile.

"Well, well!" said Cédrille to himself; "this reconciles me to Paris and
makes me forget this morning's battle."



XIII

THE _LOUP DE MER_ WINE SHOP


Cédrille found a large company in the offices: footmen, coachmen,
lackeys, scullions, and household servants vied with one another in
being kind to the new-comer, who had been commended to them by their
young mistress and was not there as a competitor for her favor; for they
knew that the peasant was to return to his province as soon as he should
have recovered from the fatigues of his journey. That was an additional
reason why they should give him a cordial welcome.

They made the Béarnais relate his adventures; the battle in the street
amused the servants immensely. They drank to Cédrille's courage and his
cousin Miretta's; they drank to their mistresses, and to the peasant's
safe return to his hearth and home.

By dint of drinking toasts in excellent wines, such as he had never
tasted before, Cédrille felt considerably bewildered; and when he left
the table and the house, to take a little walk about Paris, it was all
the Béarnais could do to walk straight. He had not walked a hundred
yards from the house, opening his eyes to their utmost extent and
stopping constantly to straighten out his legs, when he felt an arm
slip through his and heard a voice say to him:

"Sandioux! a happy meeting! I did not expect it, but I rejoice. I will
say more: it causes me extreme pleasure, on my honor!--Why, my dear
friend, you gaze at me with a surprised air, as if you did not recognize
me! Can it be that you have forgotten a gallant knight who defended you
sturdily this morning at a moment when your danger was most
threatening?"

Cédrille, after straining his eyes and examining the long, lean, yellow
man who had seized his arm, cried at last:

"Ah! why, yes, to be sure--your long face--that's so--I have seen it
before; and this morning, when all those fine sparks tried to make me
dismount, it was you who came and took our part--with your long sword,
as long as a turnspit!"

"Ah! this is very fortunate; you recognize me at last, do you, my fine
fellow?--If my sword is long, I trust that that didn't prevent my
handling it rather prettily against your assailants this morning."

"Certainly not, monsieur le chevalier. Oh! you wasn't afraid!"

"Afraid! I! I never could understand how there could be such a thing as
a coward!"

"Yes, yes! now I remember it all. What a pity that that tall black
chevalier knocked your sword out of your hand at the first blow!"

"Sandis! my dear fellow, I will tell you why. Lean on me; you will walk
more firmly."

"Faith! I'd be glad to.--I don't know what's the matter with me
to-night; or, rather, yes--I do know; they made me drink so much at that
house, and such good wine, that it made me a little dizzy; but it will
pass off.--What were you saying?"

"I was saying that I would explain what made Roland slip out of my
hand."

"Jarni! it was the blow the other man--the black one--hit it. He strikes
hard, that fellow does!"

"No, no! cadédis! that wasn't it!--He might have struck ten times as
hard, and I would never have let go Roland, that fiercer assaults than
that have not lowered! But just fancy, my boy---- Lean on me, don't be
afraid; I am firm on my legs.--Just fancy, my worthy Béarnais, that
someone had played me the despicable trick of twisting a strip of pork
around Roland's hilt! So you see, it was just when I brandished it most
vigorously that it slipped from my hand!"

"Well, well! pardi! that was a curious idea; to twist pork round a
sword! But didn't you notice it when you drew your sword from the
sheath?"

"What do you expect?--in the heat of battle, when it is a question of
saving a lovely girl and an excellent youth, one does not amuse one's
self examining one's sword hilt.--However, it's all over, we were
victors, and, thanks to my assistance, you were able to continue your
journey. I trust that you reached the safe harbor for which you were
bound?"

"Yes, seigneur chevalier. Mon Dieu! my cousin is already settled in the
Hôtel de Mongarcin."

"Ah! that charming little brunette whom you had _en croupe_ is your
cousin?"

"To be sure! my mother and I, we are the only relations she has."

"Well! I congratulate you; you have a charming cousin; and, in fact, now
that I look at you--yes, there is a resemblance, at the corners of the
mouth."

"You are the first person who ever thought that I resembled
Miretta.--Ah! jarni! there's holes here. If it hadn't been for you,
monsieur le chevalier, I believe I should have fallen full length in the
street."

"You must have turned your foot."

"Yes; and then, my head is in the same fix."

"Hold fast to me; don't be afraid to lean on me. I am made of iron, of
steel."

"For my part, I feel as if my legs were made of cotton; it's because
I've had so much to drink. Oh! what famous wines! How polite those
liveried servants are! they kept filling my glass for me.--Ha! hold me
up!"

"They filled you, finally. So it was the servants at the Hôtel de
Mongarcin who treated you so well?"

"To be sure.--By the way, did I tell you that I came to Paris to bring
Miretta to Mademoiselle de Mongarcin?"

"You must have told me, as I know it."

"To be sure, that's so; as you know it, I must have told you.--Bah!
there's another hole; and then, I don't know whether it's because I am
dizzy, but it seems to me that I can't see very plain."

"Oh! that is no mistake; it is growing dark. Look you, it is after
half-past seven. Where were you going, my worthy man, my dear fellow,
when I met you?--Sandis! I know your name, but it doesn't come to my
lips."

"Cédrille, at your service."

"Cédrille--that's it.--Whither were you bending your steps, my good
Cédrille?"

"I--mon Dieu! I don't know; you see, Monsieur le Chevalier--what d'ye
call it--what _is_ your name?"

"Castor Pyrrhus de Passedix."

"Oh! those names are pretty hard to remember. Must I say them all?"

"No! call me Passedix; that will be enough."

"Ah! good! Passe--six."

"No, no! deuce take it! Passedix, not _six!_ You cut me down four
points!"

"That makes no difference! Well, monsieur le chevalier, I came away from
the house because I felt as if I needed the fresh air--and then, to see
a little of Paris, which I don't know at all."

"In that case, my friend Cédrille--will you allow me to call you my
friend? When two people have met on the field of battle, it seems to me
that that brings them together at once. Brave men understand each other
at a glance."

"You are very polite! It's a great honor to me, Chevalier
Passe--Passe----"

"Dix.--Well, to return to our subject, if you will permit me, dear
friend, I will be your pilot, your guide, this evening. But I shall not
be able to show you what Paris contains in the way of beautiful and
interesting churches, palaces, squares, and promenades, for the reason
that it is dark, and, none of those lovely things being lighted, you
would see nothing and your steps would be wasted."

"Then you can't take me anywhere to-night? The deuce! that's a pity, for
I feel just in the mood to enjoy myself. I don't want to go home to bed
already, for I am not in the least sleepy."

Passedix, who had had nothing to eat during the day except the two eggs
he had swallowed so rapidly before his landlady's eyes, passed his hand
across his forehead and, after pretending to reflect a moment, cried:

"Yes, yes, cadédis! we will enjoy ourselves this evening. If we go along
Rue Saint-Honoré, we shall find, just before we reach the Couvent des
Capucines, a certain wine shop, the resort of lusty blades, good fellows
like you and me; the curfew has not rung yet, so it will still be open;
and even if the doors were closed, the habitués always have a way of
gaining admission. Moreover, the keeper of the Loup de Mer--that is the
name of the place--is an old soldier, an ex-trooper, who has friends in
the watch--and they allow him to keep his guests later; indeed, I know
some who pass the whole night there. Forward, my good friend, and let us
betake ourselves to the Loup de Mer!"

"All right; I will go I don't care where to-night, provided that we have
some sport."

"But I tell you that this wine shop is frequented by all the jovial
blades and lovers of the sex in Paris. And then, it has a famous name
for omelets _au lard_; they are excellent there. I once ate a dozen at a
sitting; it was a wager, and I won it in a trice."

"Ah! they make omelets _au lard_, do they?" muttered the Béarnais
peasant, shaking his head; "what a pity that I ain't hungry! But I ate
so much at the house that I couldn't eat a mouthful, on my word! I would
much rather see something besides omelets."

"If you are not hungry, you must be thirsty; good fellows are always
thirsty."

"Oh! as for drinking, why, I'll drink some more, although I have had a
good deal now."

"That doesn't matter; you will drink, and I will eat and drink with you;
we will play cards, we will sing, we will pass a delightful
evening.--Lean upon me--steady now, and forward!"

Cédrille suffered himself to be led away, and, his companion almost
carrying him, they soon reached the Loup de Mer.

It would have been useless in those days to seek in taverns the blaze of
light which dazzles our eyes to-day when we enter a café; a smoky lamp
or two lighted but dimly the room and the drinkers; but the latter,
being accustomed to nothing better, found the place where they assembled
very much to their liking, so there was always a numerous company at the
Loup de Mer; it was not so select as the Chevalier Passedix had tried to
persuade Cédrille; but, by way of compensation, it was very hilarious
and animated, and, above all, exceedingly noisy.

Almost all the tables were occupied, and covered with pewter pots and
goblets; they were not so pretty to look at as our bottles and glasses,
but they were less fragile.

Not without difficulty did Passedix succeed in finding an unoccupied end
of a table and in obtaining two stools. Although an habitué of the
place, the chevalier did not seem to be greeted with great cordiality,
and the first words of the waiter to whom he applied were:

"There's no more room, monsieur le chevalier; it isn't worth while for
you to come in."

But the Gascon, pushing aside the waiter, who was standing in front of
him, glared savagely around the room and cried:

"Ah! there's no room, eh?--Capédébious! we will see about that! There
must always be room for me and my friends! and, at need, Roland will
find a way to make room!"

"Let Monsieur de Passedix come in," said a woman of uncertain age, who
sat at the desk; and she added, with a slight shrug of her shoulders:
"if you don't, you know that he will make a scene, pick a quarrel with
someone, and end by bringing the watch here."

"Well! I only said what the master ordered me to say," muttered the
waiter, sulkily.

But meanwhile our Gascon had found a corner at a table, and had
established himself there with Cédrille. The latter tried to look about;
but the crowd, the noise, the heat, and the fumes of wine that filled
the room, added to his intoxication instead of sobering him.

"Poussinet! Poussinet!" cried the chevalier, hammering the table with
his sword hilt; "come here, knave! are you deaf to-night?"

The waiter approached, making a grimace, and stared at Cédrille as if he
were a strange beast.

"Come, Poussinet, listen carefully to my orders. You will serve us an
omelet of fifteen eggs, with half of a small ham inside; also, a large
jug of your best, and some fresh bread if possible."

"Fifteen eggs! an omelet of fifteen eggs for you two! Do you expect more
friends?"

"That doesn't concern you! do what you are told, and don't keep your
great, stupid eyes fastened on my companion; that isn't polite, and I
don't ever allow anyone to insult the persons who are in my company! Do
you hear, clown?"

As he spoke, the chevalier seized the waiter by one ear and twisted it
so hard in his fingers that the unlucky Poussinet was beginning to
shriek with pain, when a gray-bearded man in jacket and apron came up
and said to the chevalier, in a decidedly unamiable tone:

"What are you pulling my waiter's ears for? What has he done to you,
Monsieur Passedix? Must you always make trouble here as soon as you
arrive? I am tired of it, I warn you! Although you fight with everybody,
I warn you that you don't frighten me; and when the day comes that I
make up my mind to turn you out of my place, you will never come into it
again; and your sword will stay here in pawn for all that you owe me!"

"Let's go away," said Cédrille, trying to rise; "I am not having any fun
here!"

But Passedix forced Cédrille to remain on his stool; and having
reflected that if he should beat the keeper of the wine shop he would
have no supper, he restrained his wrath and tried to smile as he
replied:

"La, la! old sea-wolf [_loup de mer_]--for you well deserve the name
written on your sign!--here's a lot of pother because I hardly pinched
the tip of an ear. I do not seek a quarrel with anyone who is courteous
to me. If you have in your place louts who tread on my toes, I am never
in a mood to put up with it. If I owe you money, that proves that you
have given me credit."

"And I am very sorry that I ever gave you credit; but after this,
nothing will be served you here unless you pay cash. As to that matter,
I have given Poussinet my orders, and it will do you no good to pull his
ears! Nothing without the money--those are his orders."

"Yes," muttered the waiter, "and he beats me; that's all the _pourboire_
I get from him!"

Passedix rose and made a motion with his arm as if to strike Poussinet;
but the wine shop keeper caught his arm in mid-air and shouted, with a
horrible oath:

"So we are going to begin again, eh?"

"I want to go away; I don't enjoy myself here!" said Cédrille, half
rising; but the chevalier threw him back on his seat, and continued in a
haughty and dignified tone:

"Cabaretier, you may serve us in all confidence this evening; it is not
I who treat, but my friend, this excellent Béarnais here; and his
pockets are well filled."

"That makes a difference!" murmured the host; and he walked away with
his waiter, saying to him: "No matter, you will make them pay when you
serve; if they don't, take the dishes away."

"Yes, and look out for my ears!--Ah! what a lousy customer that lanky,
hamstringing villain of a Gascon is!"



XIV

A GAME WITH DICE


Cédrille sat as if glued to his seat, from which he dared not stir since
his friend had forced him back into it so unceremoniously; but he cut a
singular figure as he rolled his eyes around the room, staring at all
the people about him; and he had not the slightest appearance of a
person who had come there for amusement.

As for the Chevalier Passedix, his eyes seemed to be trying to discover
the contents of the Béarnais's pockets; and, as he caressed his chin, he
reflected thus:

"I said that his pockets were well filled, but I know nothing about it;
he didn't whisper a word when I said it Sandis! if it should turn out
that he hasn't a sou about him--that old pirate of a cabaretier would
take back his omelet. But I feel that Dame Cadichard's two little eggs
are at the bottom of Roland's sheath. I dare not question this stout
little Béarnais. But, come what may, I don't propose to go away from
here without filling my belly. The proverb well says: 'Without Bacchus
and Ceres, Venus congeals!'--Now, then, as I do not choose that my love
shall congeal, I absolutely must do a little work with my jaws!"

Thereupon, turning to the other persons seated at the table at which he
had taken his place, tall Passedix observed that they were bourgeois,
very well dressed and having all the appearance of shopkeepers from the
vicinity come thither for recreation. In front of them were goblets and
a generous measure of wine; also dice and diceboxes.

"These fellows are probably playing for their reckoning!" thought the
Gascon. "An idea! suppose I should suggest a game to the little fellow,
especially as he seems inclined to go to sleep.--Holà! I say, worthy
Cédrille!"

"What is it?" cried the peasant, staring in order to see better.

"Suppose we have a game of dice, like our neighbors.--You gentlemen are
playing _quinze_, I think?"

One of the players looked up at the lean chevalier, and contented
himself with an assenting nod.

"Good! what do you say to a game of _quinze_, friend Cédrille? I'll play
you for a rose crown. There's a pleasant suggestion for you?"

"No, thanks! I have never played; I don't know any game. At our house,
my mother used to say very often: 'Don't let anybody induce you to
gamble, my son, it's too dangerous a sport; it becomes a vice and it may
lead to crime!'"

"Ta ta ta! that speech smells strongly of the barn! If gambling is
dangerous in your province, it isn't so in Paris; and the proof is that
everybody gambles, from the lowest to the highest. The greatest nobles
set us the example; they wouldn't be gentlemen if they didn't gamble."

"Oh! I don't claim to be a gentleman, myself!"

"Sandis! that's lucky!" said Passedix to himself. "What a blockhead this
young Béarnais is; he doesn't gamble and he won't eat; he doesn't know
how to carry his wine! If only he has money!--but I must make sure of
that before they bring us that famous omelet."--And, addressing his
young companion once more, Passedix said: "Can it be that we are
miserly, by any chance, my young shepherd? Fie! fie! that would be a
wretched failing, and one that is much ridiculed in Paris, where every
man of heart, if he wants to enjoy himself, should pay, without
reckoning, every bill presented to him."

"I, miserly!" rejoined Cédrille, with a smile; "oh! I am not afraid of
anyone charging me with that; I have never had anything of my own!
Whenever my fob is full, what there is in it is at my friends' service!"

"Bravo! very good! shake! I am just like that, myself!--Well, then, my
good Cédrille, as you don't know the game of dice, and as I am
absolutely determined to lose a rose crown to you, we will play for it
at _wet finger_. I trust that you know that game, at least!"

"At wet finger!" muttered Cédrille, putting his hands to his pockets.
"Oh! I know that game, yes. But, by the way, I just remember that I
can't play to-night, unless I play on credit----"

"On credit! What does that mean?"

"It means that the servants at the Hôtel de Mongarcin--all those
splendid fellows in handsome livery, who treated me so handsomely at the
offices----"

"Well! what then? Let us have it, mordioux!"

"Well! when I left them, saying that I was going to walk round the city
a bit, they said: 'Have you got any money about you?'--I said _yes_, and
took a good fat purse out of my pocket.--Oh! I didn't start out on my
travels without the means of travelling.--'Well,' they said, 'leave your
purse here; don't take it with you, or it will be stolen; and it won't
do you any good to be on your guard, for you won't see anything; Paris
is full of vagabonds, cloak snatchers, cutpurses, who strip you without
your knowing how it's done. You don't need your purse to walk about the
city; so, leave it here, where it will be safe, the maître d'hôtel will
be responsible for it; and then you can stroll all over Paris and snap
your fingers at the robbers.'--Faith! I followed their advice and left
my purse in their hands; and I haven't a sou about me!"

It would be difficult to describe the expression of his valiant
companion's face while Cédrille was speaking. Chevalier Passedix,
ordinarily yellow, became green one moment, then violet, then
ash-colored; his features seemed to lengthen, his cheeks to sink in more
than usual; his eyes flashed fire, and he muttered, clenching his fists:

"This passes all bounds! He hasn't a sou, and he wants to enjoy himself
in Paris! What an ignorant fool!--Ah! if you were not your cousin's
cousin! what pleasure it would give me to thrash you, knave! to teach
you to hang on my arm when your pockets are empty!--But the omelet will
soon be here, and they will take it away again! That will be an outrage!
Vertuchoux! at embarrassing moments one must be bold; fortune favors the
brave!--another proverb. Let us stake all to win all!"

And Passedix, turning to his neighbors the dice throwers, suddenly
exclaimed:

"Twelve! that's a good throw, but, damn the odds! I will stake six
livres _tournois_ against monsieur!"

The bourgeois who had just thrown the dice stared at the chevalier and
rejoined:

"You don't know the game; we have three dice, and the one who throws
nearest to fifteen wins; I have thrown twelve; I have a great many
chances in my favor, for anything above fifteen loses."

"I know the game as well as the man who invented it; that doesn't
prevent my saying that I will stake six livres _tournois_ against you."

"Very good! I take your bet."

"All right! agreed!--Now, it's your turn, monsieur, on whom I am
betting."

The other gambler, after casting a surprised glance at the Gascon, took
the dicebox and shook it, saying:

"Ah! you bet on me, do you, seigneur chevalier? Faith! I hope with all
my heart that I may win for you."

Cédrille turned toward his neighbors, curious to see the result of the
wager.

As for Passedix, he had risen, his long body towered above the table,
but his eyes never swerved from the box in which the dice were; and his
anxious expression, the way in which he twisted the ends of his cloak in
his hands, and the trembling of his whole person, all tended to show how
important it was to him that he should win the stake.

At last the bourgeois threw the three dice on the table, and the sum of
the points was only eleven.

"Faith! that was rather near!" said the man who had thrown; "but it is
not enough--I have lost!"

"And you too, chevalier!" exclaimed the other; "come, hand over your
rose crown--it was your own suggestion."

Passedix, whose face had assumed a threatening aspect when he saw the
result of the throw, slowly caressed his moustache and replied, dwelling
on each word:

"I have lost? that may be!--It was monsieur's fault for throwing badly."

"What's that? I threw badly?"

"Why, yes, to be sure; you shouldn't spend two hours shaking the dice in
the box--it tires them, and they can only turn up small numbers!"

"Ah! that's a pretty good one! I play as I please. Why did you bet on
me? who forced you to?"

"Oh! God bless me! enough of this! I have lost--that is all right; but I
demand my revenge; I should say that that is one of the things no
gentleman refuses."

"Your revenge--very good! I agree!"

"That is lucky for you! Sandis!"

"Here, throw the dice yourself!" said the man who had lost, offering the
Gascon the box; "then you cannot say that I play badly."

"With pleasure, I prefer it so!" cried the chevalier, seizing the
dicebox and resuming his seat.

Thereupon he rattled the dice in the box in his turn, and, having raised
his hand above his head, threw them on the table; the throw was
fourteen.

A joyful cry escaped from Passedix's lips and he looked about with a
triumphant air, saying:

"That is what I call throwing! that is how we throw dice at court!
Fourteen! what do you say to that, _compère_?"

"That's a good throw," replied his adversary; "but I may equal it."

And having picked up the three dice and put them in his box, he played,
and threw only five.

Passedix was radiant; his face lighted up, and he began to laugh
uproariously, opening his enormous mouth and showing his sharp fangs.

"I have lost," said the shopkeeper; "well, we are just where we
started.--I think it's time to go home, _compère_."

But at that moment the odor of cooked eggs reached their nostrils.
Poussinet appeared, carrying in both hands a pewter platter upon which
was the enormous omelet; under one arm he had a jug of wine, and under
the other a round loaf.

The waiter gazed admiringly at the omelet, but he walked with slow and
measured steps, like a person who expects a catastrophe, or one who is
marching to the sacrifice.

The odor of the dish so eagerly coveted dilated the chevalier's
nostrils; he seized the shopkeeper by his doublet as he was about to
leave the table, and said:

"Well! are we to stop at that? Don't you know that among gentlemen, when
each wins a game, the rubber is always played?"

"The rubber! the rubber! But it is late, and I ought to be at home."

"You will be there a few minutes late! What a misfortune! But we cannot
afford to play like children, with no result; everyone would laugh at
us! Come! it will take but a minute!"

And Passedix retained his hold on the tradesman's doublet, which he was
very careful not to release, for Poussinet had already said twice:

"Here's the omelet _au lard_, the wine, and the bread--total, two livres
eight sous six deniers, which you must pay me now, or I shall take it
all away."

"'Tis well! 'tis well! Sandis! Wait a moment, Poussinet; as you see, I
am just finishing a game with monsieur. Let us finish!"

Tired of being detained by his doublet, the shopkeeper decided to resume
his seat.

"Well, monsieur," he exclaimed; "since I absolutely must do it to
satisfy you, let us play this rubber, which, however, I should be
justified in refusing, for, after all, I do not know you! You
interfered in the game of dice I was playing with my friend, not with
you."

"Par la mordioux! are you afraid of compromising yourself by playing
with me, my friend? You do not know me, evidently! Very well! learn that
I am Chevalier Castor Pyrrhus de Passedix, the favorite of Monseigneur
le Cardinal de Richelieu, and an officer in the queen's
_Mousquetaires_!--Say--are you satisfied now?--In a moment,
Poussinet--don't go. Let us settle this business, and don't put your
nose so near the omelet!"

The two tradesmen had glanced at each other with a sneering expression
while the Gascon chevalier enumerated his name and offices, and they
whispered to each other:

"The cardinal's favorite, forsooth! Just look at his doublet; there's a
hole in the elbow, and his ruff is all ragged!"

"He is some schemer, some scurvy knave! Shall I play with him?"

"Yes; it would be a good job to win his rose crown."

"But, if he loses, by Notre-Dame! he will have to pay! I will not be put
off with his bluster!"

"Well! what about that rubber! Capédébious! shall we finish to-night?"
cried Passedix, assuming a surly air and bringing his fist down on the
table.

"I am ready, monsieur le favori du cardinal. But you will not ask me for
your revenge again. I declare now that I will not throw after this."

"All right! that is understood. Who the devil asks you to?"

"There are the dice, monsieur; will you begin?"

"I have no objection."

Passedix put the three dice in the box that he held; this time, despite
his efforts, one could see that his hand trembled and that he did not
raise the box with the same confidence. However, the dice were thrown,
and again the sum was fourteen.

Passedix jumped for joy, so that he nearly overturned the table; he
breathed like a man who had been stifling for five minutes, then burst
out in a roar of laughter that extinguished one of the lamps. His
demonstration ended with the words:

"I think that you have lost, my boy! You will pay for our supper."

"But I believe that I am entitled to take my throw first."

"Oh! that is true; take your throw, it's your right; but if I were in
your place, I would give it up and pay at once."

"No, indeed! Fortune is like the sun; it shines for everybody!"

"There's a proverb that I never heard! I believe it to be absolutely
false!"

However, the chevalier's adversary calmly took up the dice, shook them
with the air of a man to whom it matters little whether he loses a rose
crown, but who is amused by the impatience of his opponent.

"Sandis! have you nearly finished shaking your dicebox?" said Passedix;
"you trifle too much."

The shopkeeper threw--fifteen! It was his turn to laugh, which he did
with a good heart, in company with his friend, who cried:

"Pardieu! there's a throw that's worth all of yours, monsieur le
cardinal's friend!"

But Passedix did not seem to hear these words; he was so thunderstruck
when he counted his opponent's points, that he stood like one turned to
stone, with his eyes fixed on the six, the five, and the four.

"Come, monsieur le chevalier, give me the rose crown you were so anxious
to lose. Quickly, if you please! I ought to have gone long ago!"

"I, pay you!" cried Passedix, drawing himself up to his full height, and
with the back of his hand giving a tilt over one ear to the sort of cap
he wore; "pay you! No, indeed! for the throw was not fair; it doesn't
count!"

"Doesn't count! that throw of mine! I suppose that you say that in jest,
_beau sire_, but I don't like that sort of pleasantry, I warn you. Pay
me quickly, and let us have done with it!"

"Once more I tell you, I will not pay! The throw was bad. You threw the
dice with your left hand. I don't play with a left-handed----"

"Chevalier, you are trying to find a pretext for not paying. In the
first place, I did not throw with my left hand; and in the second
place, if I did, the throw would be perfectly fair."

"No; in that case, you are bound to notify your opponent."

"I did not play with my left hand!"

"Then I lie, do I?"

"Yes; and you are nothing but a blackleg!"

"Ah! by Roland! you shall pay dearly for that insult--you vile
clodhopper!"

"Meanwhile, you are going to get what you deserve, you long-legged
sharper who wanted to sup at our expense!"

As he spoke, that one of the tradesmen who had played with the Gascon
put out his arm and rushed forward to strike him with his fist. But his
opponent had anticipated the blow and jumped back quickly. As ill luck
would have it, Cédrille had risen when he saw that the quarrel had
become serious, and muttering: "I want to go away; I am not enjoying
myself at all here!" received full in the face the blow intended for his
friend. He uttered a cry of pain. Instantly Passedix whipped out his
sword, and Roland's blade was directed at the shopkeeper, who had seized
the pewter pot with which to defend himself.

But a new personage had entered the café and forced his way through the
crowd that already surrounded the combatants.



XV

A BOHEMIAN


The man who had entered the wine shop wore a long cloak of dark-colored
cloth, which reached almost to his feet and was caught in at the waist
by a striped red and black belt adorned with a fringe. On his head was a
sort of pointed cap trimmed with fur. Cloak and cap alike were soiled
and in wretched condition.

This was the type of costume worn at that period by those persons who
undertook to draw horoscopes, and who were commonly called Bohemians.
They were very different from the Bohemians of our day, who dress well
and have not a sou, for they wore shabby clothes and often had gold
hidden in the pockets or the lining of their shabby garments.

Gray hair and an almost snow-white beard indicated a man of advanced
years. However, he seemed to be robust still, for he easily put aside
the bystanders and forced a passage for himself through the crowd.

Reaching the Gascon's side, he seized the arm that held Roland; and his
pressure must have been very powerful, for the chevalier made a horrible
grimace and slowly lowered his sword, crying:

"Zounds! what an iron grip!"

"What does this mean?" cried the Bohemian, in a cracked but piercing
voice. "Do people draw their swords in a wine shop? Fie! seigneur
chevalier, this is not a battlefield worthy of you! accustomed as you
are to conquer in single combat and to excel in jousting!--And you,
Master Bougard, you are out very late; the curfew rang long ago; your
shopboys pay little heed to it when their master is not there. And God
knows whether your shop is not at the mercy of cutpurses and footpads
to-night!--As for you, neighbor Dupont, you have a pretty young wife,
and it seems to me that you do not watch her very closely. Beware!
gallants abound in your neighborhood; they know that you come to this
wine shop every night and stay late. That makes it very convenient for
them to go sparking your wife."

The two tradesmen listened to nothing more; they hurriedly pushed aside
those who stood in their way, and rushed from the shop, paying no
further heed to the Gascon and abandoning the idea of following up their
quarrel.

Meanwhile, Passedix, flattered by the words that the Bohemian had
addressed to him, replaced Roland in his sheath, saying:

"After all, this old man is right. And then, those two clowns are not
foemen worthy of my wrath. But still----"

And the Gascon glanced languishingly at the superb omelet, which
Poussinet was preparing to carry away, when the Bohemian stopped him
and said, putting a piece of money in his hand:

"Do not carry that away; put the supper on the table--before these two
gallant fellows, who will permit me to entertain them and to sup with
them. Fetch also a piece of your best cheese and another full pint of
your oldest wine, so that we may drink longer."

The waiter, being paid, made haste to execute the orders he had
received. Meanwhile, Passedix, who could hardly believe his ears, gazed
at the Bohemian as the Incas gazed at the sun, then opened his long arms
and threw himself into those of the man with the gray beard, crying:

"By the shades of my ancestors! you are a noble old man! I do not know
you; but it would seem that you know me; for your behavior toward me is
that of an old friend!"

"Oh! who has not heard of the valiant Chevalier Passedix, godson of the
worthy Chaudoreille!--of his exploits, of his prowess, and of his
triumphs with the ladies! I am only a poor Bohemian, but, by virtue of
my profession, I know very well what is happening in Paris. So do not be
surprised, seigneur chevalier, that I am so well informed with respect
to your affairs."

"Capédébious! this old man talks better than our ediles!--Don't you
think so, friend Cédrille, eh? Why do you refuse to speak, and keep your
hand over your left eye?"

Cédrille took his hand from his face and showed his left eye, which had
received the full force of the shopkeeper's blow, and which was
surrounded by a black and blue circle and weeping profusely.

"Bigre! what is all this, my boy? Did you fall on something unhealthy?"

"Yes, I fell on the fisticuff that was intended for you; and it was well
directed, as you see; that miserable man didn't strike with a light
hand!"

"Ah! poor fellow! can it be? I am sorry now that I didn't run that clown
through!"

"Come, come! to table, and let us forget about all that!" said the
Bohemian, seating himself and filling the glasses. "After all is said,
life is always a mixture of battles and pleasures, of strife and
feasting; we must forget the former and make the most of the latter."

"Yes, that is so; to table! the old Bohemian talks like Nostradamus,
from whom he is probably descended."

"Not in a direct line, but that makes no difference; I try to walk in
his footsteps by reading the future as best I may. Let us drink,
messeigneurs, and let us attack this omelet."

"Ah, yes! let us attack the omelet and give it no quarter."

Passedix took his place in front of the supper, the Bohemian being
opposite; Cédrille was still standing, and seemed undecided as to what
he should do.

"Well, young man, is my company not agreeable to you, that you do not
take a seat with us?" said the old man, glancing at the Béarnais
peasant.

"Your company cannot help flattering him!" cried Passedix, stuffing
enormous slices of omelet into his mouth, and pieces of bread of equal
dimensions. "Sandioux! who wouldn't be happy to drink with such a
venerable old man, who has the grip of a Hercules?--Come, comrade
Cédrille, sit you down there."

"Oh! I'll tell you what," replied Cédrille, as he seated himself; "I
don't feel a bit hungry, and that blow made me sick!"

"The idea of a man of your age paying any attention to that little tap!
you are strong enough to stand harder knocks than that!--Come! drink, as
you are not hungry, and we will eat for you."

"Well said, venerable Bohemian! He need have no fear, I will eat his
share; but let us drink; one can always drink, even when one is not
thirsty."

The Bohemian was careful not to leave the glasses of his guests empty;
and Cédrille, led on by the example set him, finally decided to partake
of the omelet.

"All the same," he muttered, "I haven't enjoyed myself much here!"

"Bigre! my boy, you are hard to please! You see before you a delicious
supper--with two jovial companions; this venerable Bohemian fills your
glass every instant; this wine is very good--and you are not satisfied.
Is it because we had a quarrel with two boors? But in Paris it rarely
happens that one passes a day without an affair, more or less serious.
Why, I myself, as you see me, when I return home at night without
having drawn my sword, am not content with my day; I feel that something
is lacking.--You must know, respected Bohemian, that this young man has
been in Paris only since this morning; he cannot as yet be acquainted
with our customs; but I have undertaken his education, and I will push
him!"

"Thanks!" said Cédrille to himself; "if he pushes me the way he has this
evening, I shall risk nothing by keeping on my guard."

"Yes, yes," said the old man, caressing his beard, "I know that this
young man arrived in Paris to-day, with his cousin, a very pretty young
woman--a fascinating brunette."

"I say! you know that?" exclaimed Cédrille, staring at the old man in
amazement. "You're a sorcerer, are you?"

"That is my profession."

"And I bow before your magic power!" cried Passedix, emptying his glass
at a draught.

"But they burn sorcerers!" muttered the peasant, moving his chair away
from the table and looking at the Bohemian with a distrustful
expression.

"And so I fully expect to be roasted some day! But meanwhile I must make
merry during the time I still have to pass on this earth.--Waiter,
eau-de-vie--a large measure!"

Passedix grasped the Bohemian's hand and shook it effusively, saying:

"If anyone should ever be so ill-advised as to touch a hair of your
head!--You know that I am devoted to you and that I am fearless?--I will
undertake to deliver you, even from the Bastille, if they should
imprison you there!"

Poussinet brought the eau-de-vie, for which the old man paid on the
spot.

Meanwhile, most of the drinkers and habitués of the establishment had
gone; and the proprietor, approaching our three friends, bowed to them,
very respectfully this time, and said:

"Messeigneurs, the curfew has rung; I must warn you that I shall soon be
obliged, to my regret, to send you away; for if the watch should see a
light in my shop, I----"

"Very good, very good, my man!" replied the Bohemian; "we are drinking
quietly, we are making no disturbance, and we have some time before us
still. Moreover, there are ways of arranging matters with the watch."

As he spoke, the old man slipped into the cabaretier's hand a piece of
silver which he took from his belt.

The proprietor of the Loup de Mer bowed again, saying:

"Well, messeigneurs, do as you please; my first duty is to satisfy my
customers."

"Sandis! let the watch come!" cried Passedix, drinking eau-de-vie as if
it were wine. "We will give them a warm reception; they'll find someone
to talk to, eh! friend Cédrille?--Let us take a drink! this young
new-comer hangs back!"

"No, I don't; but my eye pains me!"

"An additional reason for drinking! this eau-de-vie is nectar.--Here's
the health of the man who treats us so courteously! Our host is a sly
rascal! he pretends to be afraid of the watch, but the watch isn't so
strict, so severe, as formerly. It doesn't date from yesterday, you
know; as long ago as the time of Clotaire II, every large town in the
kingdom had a night watch. In 595, an edict was issued, of which the
principal provisions were:

"When a robbery is committed at night, those who are of the watch in the
quarter will be held responsible if they do not arrest the robber; if
the robber, fleeing from them, is seen in another quarter, and the guard
of that other quarter, being forthwith notified, fail to arrest him, the
loss occasioned by the robbery shall fall upon them, and they will be
condemned in addition to pay a fine of five sous; and in like manner
from quarter to quarter.--Peste! there was no joking about such matters
in those days!"

"What I admire most of all, monsieur le chevalier," said the Bohemian,
filling the glasses, "is your profound erudition; you know
everything--yes, everything! I will wager that you are able to quote the
_Capitulaires_ of Charlemagne."

"In truth, I am rather well informed; and but for this infernal vocation
for the sword and for fighting, I believe that I should have become a
troubadour, a trouvère, of the first rank; I should have contended for
the palm with Clémence Isaure and all her supporters!--Delicious
eau-de-vie! it is like whey!"

"Come, come, Seigneur Cédrille; you do not drink, you do not follow your
gallant companion's example!"

"Oh! you see, I am not empty, like the chevalier; I had a good lot to
drink at the hôtel."

"At the hôtel where you lodge?"

"No; at the Hôtel de Mongarcin, where I took my cousin Miretta and left
her."

"Ah! so your pretty cousin is at the Hôtel de Mongarcin?"

"Yes, on Rue Saint-Honoré--close by."

"On this same street, eh?"

"She has a fine place there with the young lady of the house; and
I--they are kind enough to keep me too, as long as I stay in Paris. But
I shall not stay long; I have no desire to enjoy myself every evening
the way I have this evening."

The Bohemian seemed to reflect; Passedix, whose eyes were beginning to
close and his utterance to thicken, heaved a profound sigh and muttered:

"Look you, comrade Cédrille, I am going to tell you something in
confidence: you can't be in love with your cousin, as you leave her here
in Paris and go back to your mountains!"

"You think I ain't in love with her, do you? Well, that is where you are
mistaken! On the contrary, I love Miretta with all my heart, and I'd
have liked right well to marry her! But she won't have me! So all I can
do is make the best of it! She refused me flat, and she's a girl with a
very strong will! When she says no, that's the end of it; she never
changes her mind."

"Since she has refused you, we are friends once more; for you are no
longer my rival."

"Your rival?"

"Sandis! yes! I do not choose to dissemble any longer. I am in love with
your enchanting cousin! Ah! so much in love that it would make me an
idiot if that were possible! And with me, I venture to think that she
will not say _no_!"

Cédrille rubbed his uninjured eye, and stared for several seconds at the
long, lank, yellow chevalier, who had declared his love for his pretty
cousin; then, without replying, he began to laugh heartily.

This outburst of hilarity seemed to displease Passedix, who said:

"What are you laughing at, young countryman? I am not fond of having
anyone laugh at me without telling me why, capédébious! I am your
friend, but you must not presume upon the rights which that title gives
you."

"Seigneur chevalier," said the Bohemian, "you seem to me to forget at
this moment that this young man is the kinsman of the woman you love."

"You are right, venerable old man.--Your hand, Cédrille; no quarrel
between us! I drink to your health!"

"Ah! jarni!" cried the Béarnais peasant, putting his hand to his brow.
"I remember now--and it had gone entirely out of my head!"

"What, my fine fellow?"

"My cousin told me that she would look for me this evening, at dusk, to
take her to Rue Saint-Jacques, to Master Hugonnet's bath keeper, whose
daughter came to our assistance this morning during that infernal
battle."

"What, little cousin! pretty Miretta makes an appointment with you, and
you forget it!--Mordioux! if she had said that to me! But perhaps it is
not too late; let us go there."

Passedix tried to rise, as did Cédrille, but neither of them was able to
stand on his legs, and they fell back heavily on their chairs.

Meanwhile, the Bohemian had taken from beneath his cloak a small phial
filled with a reddish liquid, from which he poured into his companions'
goblets, pretended to put some into his own glass, and took it up,
saying:

"Can you think of such a thing, _beaux sires_? it is too late now, a
young girl cannot go out at this time of night; the fair Miretta must
have abandoned her walk, and you will take her some other time.
Meanwhile, taste this _rozolio_, of which my lucky star enabled me to
obtain a flask, and which I could not drink in better company!"

Passedix hastened to drink the liqueur which had been put before him,
not, however, without pausing now and then to smack his lips; Cédrille
did the same, stammering:

"Ah! jarnigué! that's good! That smacks of all sorts of things; I never
drank anything so sweet. What do you call this?"

"Our venerable friend has just told you," hiccoughed Passedix, resting
his arms on the table. "It's _ro--ro--rozo_----"

He was unable to finish the word. In a moment, his head sank on his arms
and he fell asleep; Cédrille soon followed his example.

Thereupon the Bohemian rose, left the table, and walked hastily from the
wine shop.



XVI

THE NIGHT


As soon as he was in the street, the pretended Bohemian walked at a gait
which did not resemble that of an old man; he went hastily along Rue
Saint-Honoré toward the Hôtel de Mongarcin. There he stopped, looked
about in all directions, and listened for sounds inside the house, where
some windows were still lighted; then he tried to pierce the darkness
that prevailed in the street; for at that time Paris was very poorly
lighted, or, rather, was not lighted at all.

Toward the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Parisians had been
ordered to place lighted lanterns in front of their houses, but the
order had never been strictly complied with. And even when a lantern was
placed before a door, it contained only a candle; so that you can judge
how much light it was likely to give and how long it would burn. From
time to time, one spied a bright light in the distance, but it did not
remain in one place; and when it happened to come toward you, you
discovered that it was a torchbearer. In most cases, that industry was
carried on by children; there was a bureau on the Estrapade, where boys
were supplied with torches to provide light for persons using the
streets at night.

After a few moments' reflection, our Bohemian suddenly walked on; he
continued up the street, and took what seemed to him the shortest road
to Rue Saint-Jacques. But, as he walked, he scrutinized carefully every
woman whom he met; to be sure, his curiosity found few subjects to
investigate, for it was nearly ten o'clock, which was very late at that
period; so that but few people were abroad; and a woman who appeared in
the street alone, at that time of night, might well expect that people
would form a very poor opinion of her and treat her accordingly.

But as he drew near the fortress called the Grand Châtelet, the Bohemian
stopped; he had espied a woman, alone, who was looking about her and
seemed not to know which way to turn.

She made up her mind at last, and was starting toward the Petit-Pont,
when a voice called to her:

"Where are you going, Miretta? You are wrong; that is not your road."

At the first sound of that voice, Miretta--for it was she--stopped as if
paralyzed by surprise; but it had no sooner ceased to speak than she
cried out, with a delight which she could not hold in check:

"That voice--oh! it is his! I cannot be mistaken! Where are you,
Giova----"

Before the girl could finish the name, the pretended Bohemian had taken
her in his arms and strained her to his heart, saying in an undertone:

"Hush! hush! never utter that name! for it would be my destruction! it
would be condemning me to death!"

"To death! Oh! forgive me, forgive me! but I am so happy, you see, at
this moment! I see you once more, I find you the very first day that I
am in Paris. Ah! I did not hope for so much good fortune! My dearest
friend, my only love! oh! tell me that you still love me, and I will
forget all the tears I have shed since you abandoned me. Tell me that
you are still my lover, my beloved, my Giova----"

"Again! Ah! Miretta, you will cause my ruin!"

"Oh! forgive me! but the pleasure, the joy of seeing you after such a
long separation---- I am mad, you see; I do not know what I say! Here,
feel how my heart beats! it is you, it is you, who are the cause! Oh!
speak to me, let me hear your loved voice again; let me be quite certain
that I am not the plaything of an illusion; for this costume, this gray
beard---- Oh! but it makes no difference! I see your eyes, I am sure
that I am not mistaken!"

"Come, come!" said Giovanni, passing the girl's arm through his; "let us
go away, first of all, from this fortress; the neighborhood of the Grand
Châtelet is not healthy for me."

The girl allowed her lover to lead her away; it mattered little to her
whither he took her; she was with the man to whom she had given her
heart and had sworn to devote her life. That great city which she did
not know, the darkness that encompassed her, the distant outcries that
reached her ears from time to time--thenceforth none of those things
frightened her, for she held Giovanni's arm.

The false Bohemian kept the girl walking for some time, pressing her arm
as soon as she attempted to speak, and motioning to her to maintain the
most profound silence. But Miretta's conductor seemed to know Paris
perfectly, and its most crooked, most deserted streets. After leading
her through several dark and narrow lanes, he came out on a small
square, stopped in front of a house, took a key from his pocket, opened
the door, and led his companion into the hall, saying:

"This is the hôtel where I live; give me your hand and let me lead you.
Don't be afraid; in a moment we shall be able to see; make no noise."

"Afraid! afraid! when I am with you! ah! you know me very little! See,
here is my hand! does it tremble? I am with you; what does it matter to
me where you take me? I shall always be happy with you."

A slight pressure of the hand replied to these words from Miretta; then
her guide led her up a staircase, stopped on the first floor, softly
opened a door, and ushered the girl into an apartment, where, by means
of a lamp burning at the back of the hearth, he speedily lighted several
candles. Giovanni then laid aside his cap, his wig, his great cloak, and
revealed a young man with a refined Italian face, whom we have already
seen in the plumed hat of the _soi-disant_ Comte de Carvajal, a guest at
the Hôtel du Sanglier, to which he had taken Miretta.

When she saw her lover stripped of all that paraphernalia which
disguised him, the girl ran to him and threw herself into his arms,
crying:

"Ah! now you are as I knew you at Milan; as you were when you invited me
to dance, the first time we met at the Balestrino. How gladly I
accepted! How happy I felt even then to be dancing with you! for, you
know, I fell in love with you on the spot. That sentiment which was
destined to bind me to you struck me to the heart like thought, like
lightning. It is always like that when love is genuine, when it is
destined to last forever. Isn't it so, my beloved? And you loved me at
once, too, did you not?"

As Giovanni listened to Miretta, his eyes assumed an expression of
tender melancholy. He had thrown himself on a sofa; he drew the young
girl to a seat by his side, took one of her hands, which he put to his
lips from time to time, and said in an undertone:

"Speak, speak on; you recall a very happy time!"

"Very happy, do you say? But in that case, my love, why not have
prolonged it? I was free, my own mistress, and, listening only to my
heart, I gave myself to you; Giovanni was my idol, my god! How
impatiently I awaited your coming at night, under the shade of the
orange trees where you used to meet me! I asked nothing of you but to
love me and to tell me so. Ah! you know, Giovanni, how little I envied
the jewels and fine dresses of other girls! I had no desire for those
costly pleasures which one enjoys in cities! I wanted only you--only
your love! But after a few short months of that happiness, which I
believed was to last forever, you grew sad and anxious, you began to
fail frequently to keep our appointments. When I reproached you, you
lost your temper instead of apologizing. At last, one evening you told
me that you were going to start for Paris. 'With me?' I instantly asked.
But you turned your head away. All my entreaties were useless. I wept a
long while at your feet; you said to me simply: 'I will return!'"

"Yes," Giovanni replied, looking the girl in the face; "and I forbade
you to follow me."

"And so I did not follow you."

"But why have you come to Paris, then?"

"And why have you not returned? It is six months since you went
away--six months! Cannot you understand that that is a fearfully long
time when one loves, when one is waiting, when one lives only on hope?"

"I would have returned."

"Oh! don't tell me that, Giovanni! No, you would not have returned--or
else you would have come too late and would have found me dead! Clearly,
you do not understand how much I love you; you know not that to me this
love is above and beyond the whole world, that it makes me capable of
defying everything, of undertaking any enterprise.--But why do I disturb
the happiness that is mine now that I have found you?--Why these clouds
on your brow? I will not utter one word of reproach--I will not ask a
question. Let me live in the same city with you, let me see you, speak
to you sometimes, and I shall be happy; and I will not even ask you what
you are doing in Paris, or why you are afraid to have me mention your
name!"

"But I propose to tell you!" muttered Giovanni, in a gloomy voice,
dropping the girl's hand, so that she shuddered, although she did not
yet know why her heart was turned to ice. "Since you have chosen to come
to Paris despite my prohibition, you must know what your lover is doing;
otherwise, you might unsuspectingly compromise his safety every day."

The young man rose and walked about the room, with a sinister
expression, saying:

"Ah! why did you come to Paris, Miretta?"

"Mon Dieu! in what a tone you say that! You would make me tremble if I
did not love you so dearly!"

"Your love will not resist, I will swear, the confidence I am about to
make to you."

"My love is stronger than everything! You may put it to the test!"

"But if your lover were--a man banished from society--a--a criminal, in
short?"

Miretta ran to Giovanni and threw herself into his arms, crying in a
tone of savage joy:

"Ah! I was afraid that you were going to say that you loved someone
else! I breathe again, since it is not that."

Giovanni kept his eyes fixed for some moments on the girl's, then said,
shaking his head:

"Ah! it is the truth! she loves me truly!"

Thereupon he resumed his seat and continued, but more calmly:

"Listen, Miretta: there has been in Paris, for several months past, a
man who spreads terror through all classes of society, but especially
among the wealthiest; this man--this robber, for I am talking of a
robber--attacks every night those people whose purses he knows to be
well lined. Adroit, active, fearless, he intimidates his victims by his
audacity, he inspires terror by his mere presence, and never, up to the
present moment, has he been obliged to shed blood in order to accomplish
his ends. When--which rarely happens--he falls in with a gentleman who
is brave enough to defend himself, he easily disarms him, and then
contents himself with taking his gold. You may imagine that the police
are straining every nerve to capture this brigand; but thus far all
their efforts have been fruitless. And yet his description, or rather
his costume, is known everywhere; for the robber always wears the same
dress when he performs his exploits. An ample olive-green cloak envelops
his body, a red cap with a fringe of boar's hair covers his head and
comes down to his eyes, and a long black beard conceals the lower part
of his face."

"Mon Dieu!" said Miretta; "the man must present a terrifying appearance,
in very truth! But what have I to do with this robber? I am not afraid
that he will take my gold. And why do you tell me of all his doughty
deeds?"

Giovanni rose without replying; he went to an old chest secured by a
stout padlock, opened it, and took out the olive-green cloak, the cap
with the boar's hair, and the enormous black beard. He threw them all at
the girl's feet, saying:

"See! here is the costume that this redoubtable brigand assumes every
night; for this man whom the police seek and pursue to no purpose, this
man who spreads terror and dismay throughout Paris--is I--your
lover--Giovanni!"

Miretta covered her face with her hands.

"You!" she murmured; "you! Oh! it is impossible!"

"I have told you the truth, Miretta; indeed, why should I tell you this
story, if it were untrue?"

"O mon Dieu! But what can have induced you to take up this horrible
trade?"

"Oh! it goes back a long way! Alas! in life, one thing leads to another,
all things are connected. The child who refuses to study, the youth who
leads a vagabond life, the young man who seeks only to enjoy himself and
to gratify his passions--all these are insensibly marching on to the
goal which I have reached. They approach it less openly, perhaps! Some
become swindlers, others Greeks--that is to say, they cheat at cards in
fashionable society. I consider myself as good as they are; I run
greater risks, that is all the difference! Yes, the man who seeks
nothing but pleasure comes to this, unless he has the strength, the
common sense, to stop in time. But I did not stop. I determined to
indulge myself with all the forms of pleasure which the favorites of
fortune enjoy--or those men whose talents raise them to the highest
positions, to the greatest honors. But I had neither fortune nor talent.
I might tell you that it was the decree of fate, that my destiny was
written in advance, that I could not avoid it. I will not say that,
because I do not believe it; because, on the contrary, everything tends
to prove that men make themselves what they are.--Besides, why should I
seek to excuse myself? I had a momentary respite from my passions--a
moment of calm and almost unalloyed happiness; that was when I knew you,
Miretta! Your sincere love made me think, for a brief period, that to
love was all that was necessary to be happy. But soon those passions,
which you had had the art to lull to sleep, reawoke in my being; it was
impossible for me to resist them. You yourself unsuspectingly aroused
them sometimes; for when I saw you dressed so simply, so shabbily, I
would say to myself:

"'Ah! how lovely she would be in a handsome silk dress! in the jewels
with which so many old and ugly women bedeck themselves! What joy to
drive with her in a fine carriage! to see everyone admire her and envy
my good fortune!'"

"Ah! did I need fine clothes to love you, Giovanni?"

"No, not you; but I--I wanted to give them to you, to see you dressed in
them.--Well, Miretta, that desire I am able to satisfy now. Come, look!"

Giovanni took Miretta's hand, led her to the chest, opened a false
bottom, and showed her a heap of gold pieces, jewels, and diamonds,
which half filled the great box.

"Do you see that gold? do you see all those treasures? A few more months
in Paris, and I shall have twice as much! Then I will return to Italy;
and if you will go with me, you shall be the most fashionable, the most
coquettish, the most richly dressed of women!"

Miretta turned away from the chest with a gesture of horror.

"I! array myself in jewels that you have stolen! Oh! never! never! That
gold makes me ill! Look you, Giovanni--I must needs love you very dearly
to be still in the room with you after the confession you have made to
me! And yet, I am grateful to you for having confided this terrible
secret to me; I thank you for having such confidence in me.--Ah! you
know full well that I will not betray it!--Yes, my love is so great that
I can forgive everything, forget everything! But, in pity's name! for
the love of God! renounce this ghastly career; leave this path of crime
in which, sooner or later, you will meet your punishment! You wanted
wealth--well, have you not enough? Take what you have acquired by such
evil means, since you have the courage to make use of it without
remorse. But come with me; let us leave Paris, and France,
to-morrow--nay, this very night! I will stay with you, to watch over
your safety, to turn aside the dangers that may threaten you. When all
danger is at an end, then I will leave you, if my presence annoys you;
but, near or far, I will watch over you, and every morning and every
evening I will pray God to forgive your crimes and open your heart to
repentance.--Giovanni, my Giovanni, do not spurn my entreaties; trust a
secret voice which tells me that death awaits you in the frightful trade
you ply. I beg you on my knees--abandon it, and let us fly--far, far
from Paris--to the end of the world--so far that you will be in no
danger.--Oh! I was mad just now when I preferred to know that you were a
criminal rather than in love with another woman; heaven is punishing me
for that blasphemy.--Giovanni, I give you back your liberty, your
oaths; I will forgive you if you do love another woman. But, in the name
of the Madonna who presided over your birth, tell me, oh! tell me that
you will abandon this career, which will surely lead you to the
scaffold!"

The girl had thrown herself at her lover's feet, she held his hands, she
raised to his face her eyes wet with tears; and at that moment there was
something sublime in the expression of her features.

But Giovanni had listened to her with no outward evidence of emotion.
When she ceased to speak, he raised her, seated her on the sofa, took
his seat beside her, and said with perfect tranquillity:

"My dear love, I forbade you to follow me, to come to France. I was wise
to do so; I anticipated some such scene as this. If you will take my
advice, you will return instantly to Milan."

"With you?"

"No; without me."

"Never! My mind is made up: I shall remain where you are. I have nothing
left to lose! I have sacrificed to you a maiden's most precious
treasure, and it is easy for me to give you now my repose and my life."

"But I do not ask you for either. You are too excitable, my poor
Miretta! you have an ardent imagination. Now, I am thoroughly practical.
You choose to remain in Paris--very good! But you must understand that
it is impossible for you to live with me; you would embarrass me; in
this trade of mine, a woman is always in the way; when she thinks that
she is helping us, she ruins us!"

"So you are not willing to abandon this--this infamous trade?"

Giovanni darted a glance at the girl which almost made her shudder, as
he replied:

"No woman will ever change my resolutions; when it pleases me to enjoy
my wealth, to return to Italy, the robber will vanish, and Giovanni,
favored of fortune, assuming a stately name and title, will make a
brilliant appearance in the world, where everyone will cringe to him
without trying to ascertain the source of his fortune.--You have heard
me, Miretta; so never recur to this subject, or you will see me no
more."

Miretta made no other reply than to let her head sink sadly on her
breast.

"You have a place in Paris, I am told: you are in the service of
Mademoiselle Valentine de Mongarcin?"

"Yes; how do you know that?"

"I know much more! It was Cédrille, your cousin, who brought you to
Paris?"

"Yes; and I had arranged to meet him in front of the house this evening,
at dusk; I thought that he would be my escort and would take me to see a
young girl who lives on Rue Saint-Jacques, where her father keeps baths;
for that girl rendered us a great service this morning, when we arrived
in Paris. You do not know that----"

"I know all! the miserable jests, the jibes that they discharged at your
travelling companion, poor Cédrille; and the compliments they paid to
the pretty foreigner; and the quarrel and the battle that followed!--Oh!
I recognized in all that the untamed highborn youth, which is determined
to be master in France--more master than the king, in truth! But let
them beware! There is at the head of the government a certain Cardinal
de Richelieu, who, I fancy, will straighten all this out! He will be
called a tyrant, for every man is so called who attempts to put down
abuses, to put a curb on license and disorder, to give power to the
laws, and, above all, to have them executed, whatever the name, the
rank, or the exalted position of the person whom they strike!--But the
man of genius, the strong man, is not at all disturbed by the clamor
which he stirs up about him; he goes his way and reaches his goal, often
calumniated by his contemporaries; it is posterity that takes it upon
itself to do him justice!--Well! it seems to me, Miretta, that I reason
rather well for a robber, eh? You see that, even though one lives at war
with society, that does not prevent one from doing justice to those who
are able to protect it.--But let us return to yourself: you waited in
vain for Cédrille, for I was plying him with drink at a wine shop, with
a certain Gascon chevalier, as long and lean as a beanpole, who claims
also to be your liberator."

"Oh, yes! I remember; a tall man, and very thin; he almost knelt in
front of our horse; he insisted on kissing my hand and on my accepting
him for my knight! But he is horribly ugly!"

"That is true; but that does not prevent him from being in love with
you. Ah! Seigneur Passedix--that is this hero's name--is not discreet in
his love affairs. Beware, Miretta! he has sworn to triumph over your
rigor."

"He is not dangerous! But even if he were the handsomest, most
fascinating man in the kingdom of France, you well know that my heart is
no longer mine to give!"

Giovanni bestowed an affectionate glance on the girl and pressed her
hand lovingly, murmuring:

"Poor girl! I know well that that is true! You are not like other
women!"

But soon, as if regretting that momentary weakness, the Italian resumed
his indifferent air and began to pace the floor.

"Well," he said, "have you been to see the bath keeper's daughter on Rue
Saint-Jacques?"

"Mon Dieu! no; in the first place, I waited for Cédrille a long while;
and when he did not come, I decided to go alone, for I am not timid, as
you know. But when I found myself all alone, at night, in the streets of
this great city, of which I have heard so many terrible things, I felt
troubled, my heart beat fast; however, I walked on, thinking that I knew
my road. At last, as I was afraid of going astray, I spoke to a
gentleman who was passing, and asked him to direct me to Master
Hugonnet's baths, on Rue Saint-Jacques.--Ah! how I regretted speaking to
that man! If you knew how he treated me!--'Aha! you wanton!' he said;
'going to the baths so late? then the assignation must be very
important!'--And he added a lot of insulting remarks, and tried to put
his arm about my waist and to detain me by force. But anger gave me
strength; I pushed the man away so violently that he seemed dazed, and I
fled, running at random; then it was that I lost my way altogether. I
walked a long, long while, trying to find my way back to the Hôtel de
Mongarcin; but I would have passed the whole night in the street rather
than ask my way again! Then you met me."

"This should serve you as a lesson, Miretta; you must not venture out
alone in Paris at night; it is dangerous for a man, much more so for a
pretty young girl; and if the watch had fallen in with you, they would
have taken you to the Filles Repenties. But the clock struck ten long
ago; I will take you back to the Hôtel de Mongarcin. Do you know that
they will form a strange opinion of you there? On the very day of your
arrival, you disappear for a large part of the evening."

"I shall tell my young mistress what happened to me; I shall tell her
the whole truth; Mademoiselle Valentine will forgive me, for I will
promise to be more prudent hereafter."

"You will tell her the _whole_ truth?" repeated Giovanni, fastening his
eyes on the girl's face.

"Yes, but without naming you. Oh! never fear: I will not tell--your
secret."

"I rely upon it; come! But wait a moment."

Giovanni took the horrible hairy cap, the huge beard, and the
olive-green cloak, and held them all up before Miretta, saying:

"Look at these carefully; if you should ever see a man dressed in these
clothes, fly, fly at once--do not go near that man!--Do you swear,
Miretta?"

"I swear," faltered the girl, in a trembling voice.

"On that condition, you will see me again sometimes, now as a wealthy
gentleman, now as a simple artisan, or a bourgeois; but I will speak
first to you."

With that, the Italian hastily resumed the costume of an old Bohemian;
when that was done, he said:

"Come, now, let us make haste; but, above all things, make no noise."

Giovanni quickly extinguished the candles and replaced in its corner the
smoking lamp, which but dimly lighted the apartment. Then he took
Miretta's hand and led her from the room and the house with the same
precautions and without meeting anybody. Once in the street, he drew his
companion's arm through his and forced her to walk rapidly.

They walked the whole distance in silence; the girl was oppressed by
grief and alarm; when they met anyone, she pressed her guide's arm
tight, for she imagined that he would be recognized and arrested. But
Giovanni knew Paris and its most crooked streets perfectly; in a very
short time he and his companion stopped in front of a large house, and
he said to her:

"This is the place; here is the Hôtel de Mongarcin; you are at home."

"Already!"

"You say _already_, and you are trembling like a leaf, my poor girl!"

"Oh! not for myself! For now I must leave you; but when shall I see you
again?"

Giovanni made a movement with his head which seemed to indicate that he
did not himself know. Then, before Miretta had had time to detain him,
he disappeared, and she soon ceased to hear his footsteps.

Thereupon Miretta gave free vent to her sobs and went into the house,
murmuring:

"Ah! the unhappy man!"



XVII

THE FIRE OF SAINT-JEAN


Long before the reign of King Louis XIII, the sheriffs of Paris were
wont, on Saint-Jean's Eve, to cause huge piles of sticks of all
dimensions, with thorn bushes and small twigs quick to ignite, to be
constructed on Place de Grève, whither the king would come, in solemn
state, to set fire to that enormous mass with his own hand.

In 1471, Louis XI followed the example of his predecessors and presided
at that ceremony, which eventually came to be attended with fêtes and
entertainments to which the good people of Paris always looked forward
with impatience.

The Fire of Saint-Jean in 1573 was a magnificent ceremony, so it is
said. A mast about sixty feet in height had been erected on Place de
Grève, with many wooden crossbars, to which an enormous quantity of
fagots and bundles of brushwood was attached. A number of loads of wood
and countless bundles of straw were heaped about the base of this
structure. The whole was decorated, or rather disguised, by wreaths and
garlands. Bouquets were distributed to the king and his suite, to the
notables of the city, and to the magistrates. Fireworks also were
placed under the fagots. A hundred and twenty archers from the city, a
hundred bowmen, and a hundred arquebusiers kept order. Lastly, they hung
on the mast a large basket containing two dozen cats and a fox. This
last then was, no doubt, the _ne plus ultra_ of the fête. Poor cats!
poor foxes! We leave you in peace now when we have public rejoicings;
and to say the truth, I am persuaded that they are none the less
attractive for that reason.

Under Cardinal de Richelieu, the ceremony of the Fire of Saint-Jean had
lost much of its brilliancy; cats were no longer burned, as it was
natural that they should not be, the first minister having a deep
affection for those animals, by which he loved to be surrounded.

However, the ceremony continued to take place, and still attracted a
goodly number of sightseers, idlers, students, young girls, and even
young gentlemen, who came thither in search of adventures, or to play
tricks on rustics.

A few weeks after the events we have narrated, the Place de Grève was
adorned by a pile of combustibles, which, while it could not be compared
with those which we have described, was very presentable none the less.

When the night began to fall, there was a large number of people
assembled on the square; but that was a mere nothing, for every moment
thereafter the quays or the narrow streets leading into the square
poured forth a constant stream of bourgeois parties, bands of young
clerks of the Basoche, young men arm in arm, people of the lower
classes, esquires, pages, and elegant young gentlemen carefully
enveloped in their cloaks, beneath which they tried to conceal the
richness of their costumes, but always betrayed it by the too gorgeous
plumes that adorned their hats or the magnificence of the spurs attached
to their boots.

By the time that it was quite dark, the square was crowded, and one
could not move without difficulty, especially in the direction of the
pile. But what life! what animation! what a fusillade of voices! what a
din of remarks and questions bandied about in all directions! It was an
incessant humming sound.

Many people reflected aloud, in order to be overheard by everybody
within earshot; for at all times there have been plenty of those fine
talkers, those pretentious personages who deem themselves called upon to
declaim, to put themselves forward, and who often put forward nothing
but their folly or their conceit!

"This way, father; let us go this way; I promise you that we shall have
a much better place to see the fire!" said a tall, fine-looking girl, in
whom we meet once more a pleasant acquaintance from Rue Saint-Jacques.

It was Ambroisine, whose right arm was passed through the arm of a girl
even prettier than herself, but with a shy, timid air, who was evidently
surprised beyond measure to find herself in the midst of that tumult.
That girl was Bathilde, the daughter of Landry the bath keeper of Rue
Dauphine.

How did it happen that she was so far from home, and without her mother,
in the midst of that bold and curious crowd, where beauty and youth were
the objective point of the glances of most of the sightseers? How did it
happen that she was arm in arm with Ambroisine, upon whom Dame Ragonde
had looked coldly for so long a time, and with whom she seemed afraid to
allow her daughter to talk?

The reason was that Bathilde's mother had an old kinswoman in Normandie,
who had always manifested much affection for her, and had refrained from
marrying, with the intention of leaving all her property to Ragonde some
day. That property consisted of a few acres of land and a wretched
house--the whole being worth, perhaps, fifteen hundred livres; but we
must remember that in those days fifteen hundred livres was equal to six
thousand to-day; that Landry had no other property than his business;
and lastly, that in Ragonde's eyes that fifteen hundred livres would be
a sufficient dowry to obtain for Bathilde the hand of some respectable
Parisian tradesman.

It happened that one fine day a message arrived from Caudebec, the old
kinswoman's residence. A neighbor of hers wrote to Dame Landry, to
inform her that her cousin was very ill, and was most anxious to have
her by her side, to close her eyes. He added that haste was important,
because the old maid seemed to have only a short time to live.

On receipt of this message, Dame Ragonde instantly made preparations for
her journey; the famous inheritance being at stake, she felt that she
must not hesitate! But as she was about to start, she thought of
Bathilde, whom in her absorption she had forgotten. Should she take her
or leave her with her father? To trust the old trooper of Henri IV to
watch over a young girl was imprudent, perhaps. But, on the other hand,
to take on a journey the child whom she had guarded so carefully up to
that time was to expose her to the risk of listening to the chatter of
every comer; of being the object of gallant attentions, perhaps even of
bold enterprises, on the part of their fellow travellers. For Dame
Ragonde had not the means to travel in a litter; and in those days
travel was so slow, the means of transport so difficult, that one was
obliged to pass a long time in a coach or other vehicle, even when one
had not a long distance to travel. And then there was the matter of
expense, which was of great importance to the bath keeper's wife. It
cost a great deal to travel; and the expense would be doubled if she
should take her daughter.

The result of her reflections was that Dame Ragonde set out alone, but
not without saying to her husband many times:

"Keep a sharp eye on your daughter! Don't let her leave the house or
receive any visits; make no change in the order which I have
established in our household, so that no one may notice that I am
absent! And always tell everyone that I am coming back in the course of
the day."

If the person who goes away knew how soon her injunctions are forgotten,
she would not take the trouble to repeat them so many times. It is not
always disinclination to comply with them on the part of those whom you
leave in your place; but when you give your instructions, you cannot at
the same time impart your habits, your intelligence, your rigidity, your
searching glance, your observant mind--in a word, your nature; and
everyone acts according to his nature.

Landry, despite his moustaches and his surly manner, had a softer heart
than his wife; and then, too, this persistent watching, this making
one's self a spy upon one's daughter, is much more consonant with a
woman's habit than with a man's. Moreover, as the old soldier had not
the slightest doubt of his child's virtue, he did not understand why he
must be incessantly on his guard, as with a prisoner who is always
trying to escape.

The first days that followed Dame Ragonde's departure brought about no
change in Bathilde's usual mode of life, for it did not occur to her to
ask leave to go out, and no one came to divert her.

But one morning Ambroisine came to Landry's establishment, and was much
surprised to be able to reach Bathilde's room without meeting her
mother's sour face and hearing her say:

"My daughter is busy; don't stay long, for it disturbs her."

When she learned that her friend's mother was away from Paris,
Ambroisine uttered a cry of joy, and said to Bathilde:

"What! you have been free for several days, and you haven't sent me word
or come to see me?"

"You know very well that I never go out."

"Because your mother is not willing; but when she is away----"

"Oh! father wouldn't let me go out, either; mother is sure to have told
him not to!"

"Well, I will bet that he would; I will bet that your father will not be
so strict, that he will understand that you have no pleasure, no
distraction at all, and that it is not fair that a poor girl should pass
her best days shut up in her room. Look you, I have a godmother, a nice
old woman, a farmer's wife, who lives in the village of Vincennes. I
never have time to go there, nor does my father; and yet Mère
Moulineau--that is my godmother--often sends us little cheeses and
cream, and begs us to come to see her. The poor woman is old and infirm
and can't come to Paris. Every day, I say to father: 'To-morrow I will
go to see my godmother Moulineau;' and he says: 'Go, my child.'--Well,
Bathilde, if you like, I will take you with me, and we will sleep at
godmother's. Ah! she will give us a warm welcome; she will be so glad to
see me!"

"Oh! father wouldn't allow me to sleep away from our house."

"After all, perhaps you would find it tiresome at my godmother's.--By
the way, it just occurs to me--the day after to-morrow is the day for
the Fire of Saint-Jean on Place de Grève. Father has promised to take me
there; I have never seen it, and they say it's beautiful; will you come
with us?"

"Will I! Why, you know very well that I should be overjoyed--I who know
nothing and have never seen anything. But I shall never dare to ask
father to let me go; he would refuse."

"Perhaps so, if you asked him; but if my father, his friend, his
comrade, should undertake the mission----"

"Your father! do you think that he would be willing to ask him that?"

"Why not? Father is kind-hearted, he loves me dearly, he sees no harm in
his daughter having a little enjoyment sometimes. When it is a
respectable kind of pleasure, where is the harm? Because one enjoys
one's self a little, does that prevent one from behaving decently. Never
fear--I will send him here, to your father, to-morrow, and the day after
to-morrow you will come with us."

"Oh! if it might be true!"

"I have made up my mind, and it shall be. I have a will of my own, you
see!"

And in fact, on the day following this interview, Master Hugonnet, to
gratify his daughter's wish, betook himself to his confrère Landry's
shop, and, while emptying a jug of wine with him, said:

"I have a request to make of you, comrade."

"Speak; you know that if I can be of service to you in any way, I am at
your disposal--I and my old blade, which is still serviceable at need!"

"Oh! I know the worth of your blade and the strength of your arm, but
there is no question of them in what I have to ask.--You know that my
girl is a friend of yours, that it is her greatest joy to be with
her--for they have known each other a number of years; they were
children when their acquaintance began; but now they are big girls, and
their friendship has grown like their bodies!"

While Master Hugonnet was speaking, Landry played with his moustache,
but did not frown.

"I know all that," he said at last, when his friend paused to take a
drink. "Well! what then?"

"Well! I myself seize every opportunity that presents itself to provide
my daughter with a little pleasure; for Ambroisine deserves it! The
wench keeps my house in fine shape! she has brains and activity and
character! She's a good girl, I tell you, and doesn't let the coxcombs
and gallants, no, nor the grands seigneurs themselves,--and many of them
come to my shop, God knows!--talk nonsense to her. When they try to be
too free in their manners with Ambroisine--jernidié! she has a tongue
and nails, and a stout fist. You should see how she makes them dance!"

"She does well. But what then?"

"Why, to-morrow is the ceremony of the Fire of Saint-Jean on Place de
Grève; Ambroisine has never seen it, so she asked me to take her there,
and I promised; but she told me, too, that she would be much happier if
her young friend Bathilde could come with us, because she knew it would
be a great pleasure for your daughter, who--who--who has none too many!
You see, comrade, it isn't right to work all the time and never have any
amusement; on the contrary, when one is young is when one should enjoy
one's self. We old fellows still make merry once in a way, when we have
an opportunity; and then, after all, where's the harm in a young girl
having a little amusement, when it's with the knowledge of her parents
and under their eyes? To cut it short, comrade, the purpose of all this
is to ask you to confide your daughter Bathilde to me to-morrow, in the
latter part of the afternoon, so that I may take her with Ambroisine to
see the Fire of Saint-Jean; unless you will come with us, which would be
much better."

As he listened to this request from his old friend, the ex-trooper's
brow became clouded, and he caressed his gray moustache for a long while
before replying:

"But, you see, I promised Ragonde not to let Bathilde go out."

"Alone! I understand that; but won't she be as safe with me and my
daughter as with you? Come, come! jernidié! let us not be so strict with
our children; if our parents had always been so with us, it wouldn't
have tended to make us worship them."

"Well!" Landry said at last, after a moment's hesitation; "come
to-morrow and fetch Bathilde; I will try to join you later."

You know now by what concatenation of circumstances Bathilde found
herself on Ambroisine's arm on the square where the Fire of Saint-Jean
was to be celebrated.



XVIII

THE CROWD


"I say, Bahuchet! come this way; we can see the show explode much
better!"

"Just wait, Plumard; before I can pass, this lady in front of me will
have to move; and her equilibrium is stable, I tell you! Once planted,
she's like the tower of Notre-Dame! there's no way of moving her."

"What's that you say, blackguards, ne'er-do-wells, miserable little
Basochians! You come here to insult ladies! you're good for nothing
else! The idea of moving for such gentry!"

"Oh! mon Dieu! madame seems to be getting excited! because she has a
fine new petticoat with fal-lals on it, and a silver buckle on her
belt!--I say, Plumard, I thought there was an edict providing that only
strumpets and pickpockets might wear gold or silver on their clothes?"

"Oh, yes! an edict of Henri IV. But perhaps this stout lady is within
her rights!"

"Ah! you little villains, if the watch was passing, I'd have you
apprehended!"

"Oho! the watch!"

"Aha! apprehended! she must be an attorney's wife."

"Don't push me, or I'll box your ears!"

"If you don't choose to be pushed here, you should come in a sedan
chair."

"Or on your husband's mule."

"With his junior clerk.--Well! I must pass, all the same."

"You are treading on my foot, monsieur!"

"Why do you put your feet on the ground? in a crowd like this, you
should stand on the air or perch on your neighbors."

"Oh! look yonder, Bahuchet! there's a lady with a mask!"

"Because she is ugly; that is why she doesn't choose to show her face."

"Or else she is here on the sly."

"Look you! I prefer to look at the faces of those two little hussies in
blue caps."

"Yes, they are very pretty; but I know them by sight; they come here to
meet a couple of pages; I often meet them walking with their lovers on
the Pré-aux-Clercs."

"I say, Plumard, do you know whether they are going to broil any cats in
the fire to-night?"

"Why, no; don't you see that there isn't a single basket hung on the
great tree?"

"Well, if they have stopped burning cats, there's no more sport! That's
the way that all our noblest customs are being allowed to fall into
decay! If I had known that, I'd have brought a bag of mice!"

"Do you sell mice?"

"No; but my landlord is very fond of them, for his house is always full;
I believe he eats them."

The two young blades who were conversing thus in the midst of the crowd
as unconcernedly as if they were alone were two attorney's clerks, but
of the class that one meets more frequently in the streets, in front of
shops and open-air theatres, than in the employer's office; genuine
idlers, who, in the excitement of playing a joke on some passer-by,
entirely forget the errand on which they have been sent, important
though it may be, and who always remain under clerks, unless their
parents have the means to buy them an office.

Bahuchet was very short--less than four feet nine; he had a wretched
figure, in addition to his shortness, and an ugly face as well; his
forehead was low, his too retroussé nose displayed two nostrils of
enormous size, which played a very important rôle in his countenance;
his mouth was too wide and his eyes too narrow; but in those small eyes
there was an intelligent and mocking expression, which his cunning smile
intensified.

Monsieur Bahuchet, albeit he was always disposed to laugh at other
people, took in very bad part the jests that were aimed at his person;
he lost his temper very easily. As a general rule, short men are much
more choleric than tall ones; why? Rabelais will give you the
explanation, which I dare not quote here.

Plumard, Bahuchet's friend and usual companion, measured just the five
feet necessary for military service; but beside his comrade he
considered himself a fine figure of a man, and ostentatiously looked
down on him.

Monsieur Plumard, while he was not handsome, was less ugly than
Bahuchet; he had a nose of respectable appearance; an ordinary mouth,
but of modest dimensions; and his eyes, level with his face, might have
attracted attention by their size had it not been that they did so first
of all by the utter idiocy of their expression. But all that did not
prevent Monsieur Plumard from esteeming himself a very good-looking
youth.

There was something, however, that poisoned the enjoyment of this
diminutive Apollo; his hair did not correspond with his other physical
advantages. At the age of twenty-seven, the young clerk of the Basoche,
who had never possessed more than a few scanty locks, saw with dismay
that that scant supply was diminishing; an affection of the skin had
already caused three-fourths of it to drop out. He had for a long time
flattered himself that it would grow again, but he found that even the
little that remained was growing less.

In vain did the clerk rub himself--in default of pomades, which were
then very expensive--with all the greasy substances that he thought
capable of restoring the fertility of his scalp; the fatal round spot,
having appeared on the summit of his head, had grown so much larger, and
the brow had so extended its limits, that Monsieur Plumard was almost
bald.

The result was that he wore almost always the small cap, in the shape of
a hood, which the clerks of the Basoche then affected, and removed it
only when he was absolutely obliged to do so.

Bahuchet, who knew his comrade from top to toe, and knew that his hair
was the subject on which his self-esteem was most sensitive, often
amused himself by attacking him at that point. It was not very manly;
but Plumard retaliated by jeering at his comrade's small stature and his
nose. Thus the two friends were quits, if we may call two persons
friends who continually make fun of each other. But I am inclined to
think that we may, for those who call themselves friends nowadays behave
in much the same way.

"Are you in a good place, Bathilde? Can you see the pile?" Ambroisine
asked her young friend, who had not eyes enough to look about the
square, which was lighted by a vast number of torches which the
shopkeepers had placed in front of their shops, and by lanterns which
had been brought there by order of the lieutenant of police.

"Yes, yes, my dear Ambroisine, I am all right; I can see enough. I see
so many things! all these people, all these costumes--it all seems so
strange to me! Oh! but it is amusing!"

"If you like, children," said Master Hugonnet, "we might go somewhere
and sit at a table? At one of yonder wine shops, we should have a very
comfortable place to wait for the fire, and you would be sitting down,
at all events, instead of standing all the time."

"Oh, no! my dear father, I see what you are aiming at--you would like
something to drink. Upon my word! that would be very nice! When you have
two girls to take care of, you don't drink, father--do you hear?"

"Ah! you would have me catch the pip, then?--And to think that devil of
a Landry promised to join us! To be sure, he may be on the square; I
should like to see anyone find an acquaintance in a mob like this! If we
could find him, he would relieve me for a while. This crowd causes a
heat that--that makes one thirsty."

"Ah! sandis! what a pleasant meeting! 'Tis the haughty Ambroisine, with
her worthy father, whom I see before me!"

"Oho! it is Monsieur le Chevalier Passedix!" replied Ambroisine, as the
long, lean gentleman planted himself in front of her. "Have you also
come to see the Fire of Saint-Jean?"

"Ah! little do I care for these celebrations. The fire that burns in the
depths of my heart would eclipse all possible Saint-Jeans. Do not be
alarmed, cruel girl! it is no longer to you that those words are
addressed. You spurned me, and I have carried elsewhere my sighs and my
prayers!"

"Oh! I know it, monsieur le chevalier, and I congratulate you."

"You know it? Ah, yes! I remember; you even know for whom I sigh. You
know Miretta?"

"Do I know her! Oh! she is my friend, too. I am very fond of her! She
has shown such gratitude to me for the trivial service I rendered! She
comes to see me now and then."

"Pardieu! I know it. The little one doesn't take a step without my
knowledge, without having me at her heels!"

"She told me so, monsieur le chevalier, and I warn you that she dislikes
it extremely. She has said to me several times: 'If that tall, thin,
yellow man continues to follow me as soon as I set foot in the street, I
shall be obliged to tell him that he is wasting his time and his
steps.'"

"Ha! ha! ha! First of all, I will wager that Miretta did not say: 'that
tall, thin, yellow man'; those are your own words, cruel tongue! Oh! I
know women! They complain when we follow them; but they would be sorely
disappointed if we did not follow them!"

"Well! try to disappoint Miretta; that will gratify her."

"I hoped to meet her here.--Bigre! I had not noticed; you have a most
charming young lady on your arm!"

"Is she not? This is Bathilde, my closest friend. I suppose, of course,
that you will at once fall in love with her too?"

"Oh, no! it is all over with me! You judge me ill, fair Ambroisine; I
have given my heart to Miretta! For her alone do I propose henceforth to
perform doughty deeds.--Sandis! what in the devil is this slipping
between my legs like a lizard? Is it a man? is it an eel?"

"Don't disturb yourself, seigneur," replied Bahuchet; "I have got
through. You must understand that I couldn't remain behind you; you are
as tall as a giant!"

"And you are a dwarf, apparently! Ought atoms to be allowed in the
crowd? Someone will crush you without noticing it, my little fellow!"

"Ouiche! I won't allow myself to be flattened out without saying
_beware_!--I say, Plumard! do you hear this long asparagus stalk, who
thinks that I am to be crushed like a grain of salt?"

Plumard was a few feet away, gazing at Bathilde, and apparently
speechless with admiration.

"Plumard! Plumard! _ubi es_?--Ah! there he is!--Why don't you answer?
What's the matter with you, pray? One would say that you were changed
into a wooden man!"

Plumard simply motioned with his head, calling his comrade's attention
to the fascinating girl. Whereupon Bahuchet looked at Bathilde and said,
with a wink:

"Ah! famous! that's famous!--You see, Plumard, when I see such an
attractive young woman, I begin by saluting her, to show my respect. Do
as I do."

And Monsieur Bahuchet took off his cap to Bathilde, who paid no
attention to him.

But Plumard, who did not choose to uncover his head, made an impatient
gesture and moved a little farther away, muttering:

"I have a cold in my head."

From time to time Ambroisine turned, and her eyes seemed to seek someone
in that multitude, made up of people of all ranks and classes, who
seemed to have appointed to meet on Place de Grève.

"Do you see Landry?" Master Hugonnet asked his daughter, who shook her
head, murmuring:

"No, father, no, I don't see Monsieur Landry."

But was it Landry for whom she was looking? Was it not rather Miretta,
who had told her that she too would try to go to see the Fire of
Saint-Jean? Indeed, I would not swear that the _belle baigneuse_ was not
looking for someone else, for there was in her eyes a certain expression
that might have aroused the suspicions of a jealous husband.

"Well! aren't they going to light the fire this evening? Are they going
to make us wait till Saint-Martin's? I say! Plumard! Plumard! are you
still playing the wooden man?"

"Come here, Bahuchet; this is a much better place, it's nearer the
fire."

"What! do you dare to go so near as that? Look out, Plumard! the flame
may singe your hair. Give me a lock first; I am sure that before long it
will bring a high price, your hair! and, even so, everyone won't get it
who would like some of it."

"You have forgotten something, Bahuchet!"

"What is that?"

"The two corks that you put in your nose when you go out on a windy
night. Look out! there's a man with a torch beside you; don't turn, your
nose would blow it out."

"Ah! Monsieur Plumard is pleased to be sarcastic.--However, you have a
right to swagger; you know that I won't take you by the hair."

"Wait! just wait! I will give you a drubbing, you miserable dwarf!"

The two clerks approached to exchange blows; but as the Chevalier
Passedix was between them, they used him as a rampart behind which to
shelter themselves, and that rampart received many of the blows which
the young gentlemen intended for each other.

"Sandioux! here are two rascals fighting between my legs now! Have you
nearly finished, pygmies? If you force me to draw Roland from its
sheath, I promise you that you will both be spitted like starlings!"

The two clerks, trying to run away in order to escape the effects of the
Gascon's wrath, collided with two women from the market, who pushed them
away with so much force that Monsieur Plumard fell to the ground, and,
to put the finish to his misfortunes, he lost his cap in the fall, so
that that youthful head was disclosed to view, already almost bald,
having only a narrow band of vegetation left, just above the ears.

A general laugh arose, and the merriment was increased by the furious
manner in which the unfortunate clerk ran through the crowd on all
fours, looking between every pair of legs, and shouting:

"My cap! my cap! don't step on it!"



XIX

TWO MEN ON ALL FOURS


Ambroisine laughed like the rest when she saw Monsieur Plumard's bald
head. She turned toward her friend, to see if she had noticed that
sight; but she was thunderstruck by the strange expression presented by
Bathilde's face at that moment.

The charming girl seemed happy and confused at the same time. Her eyes,
half lowered, but in such wise that she could look out of the corners,
were more brilliant than usual. Her cheeks wore a deeper flush, her
mouth was half open in a smile. All this was not natural; and
Ambroisine, with the knowledge that she possessed of the human heart,
tried to discover what could cause her friend's emotion. Thereupon
Master Hugonnet's daughter saw at Bathilde's left a young man wrapped in
a cloak, his head covered by a broad-brimmed hat adorned with waving
plumes, and beneath that hat a very comely face, haughty and
distinguished, but most seductive when it chose to take the trouble, and
that is what it was doing at that moment.

"Mon Dieu! it is Comte Léodgard!" said Ambroisine to herself, as she
recognized the young man who held Bathilde as if fascinated by the
eloquence of his glance; and almost instantly, as if she divined the
danger that threatened her friend, she seized her arm and shook it,
saying:

"Well, well! what is the matter? what are you thinking about, Bathilde?
I speak to you, and you do not answer!"

"I, Ambroisine? oh! forgive me! I did not hear you."

"You seem confused, excited; has anyone been pushing you or incommoding
you? would you like to take my other arm?"

"Oh, no! no! nobody has troubled me; nothing is the matter."

"But I say that there is; it is that young gentleman beside you, who
keeps his eyes on you all the time! It is intolerable, isn't it?"

"Oh! it doesn't trouble me; just look at him, Ambroisine, without
seeming to; you will see what a handsome man that gentleman is."

"I don't need to look at him again; I know him perfectly well!"

"You know him?"

Before Ambroisine had had time to reply, Léodgard, who had recognized
the _belle baigneuse_ in her whose arm was passed through that of the
girl who had taken his fancy, quickly stepped toward her and accosted
her with his most affable air:

"Hail to the fair Ambroisine! Ah! and Master Hugonnet too! Really, this
Fire of Saint-Jean is a delightful ceremony; one makes pleasant meetings
here, and I congratulate myself that I came!"

"Your servant, Monsieur le Comte Léodgard! You are very glad that you
came, perhaps; but, faith! I can't say as much. I have to stay here to
watch these two girls--impossible to go to quench my thirst. I don't
find it amusing, myself!"

"Why, my good Hugonnet, if you are anxious to take something, intrust
your daughter and her young friend to me for a few moments; I promise
you, on my honor, that they will be as safe as with you."

Master Hugonnet, who was exceedingly thirsty, seemed to hesitate a
moment; but his daughter squeezed his arm tightly and whispered:

"Surely, father, you will not listen to that suggestion! you will not
leave two young girls with the Comte de Marvejols, who is so notorious
as a rake and a seducer! with his pretty speeches! If I were alone, I
could defend myself; for, as you know, this gentleman tried to make
love to me once, and I gave him such a reception that he never tried it
again. But Bathilde, who knows nothing of the world, who is likely to
believe whatever anyone tells her--Bathilde, whom her father placed in
your care, because you promised him that she should not run any
risk--oh! you won't intrust her to this young nobleman!"

"No, no! you are right, my child! I will not leave you," replied the
bath keeper, whom his daughter's words had caused to reflect. "You talk
sensibly; it would be imprudent, especially with the Comte de
Marvejols."

"Oh! yes, father!"

"All the same, Landry might have joined us!"

While father and daughter conversed thus in undertones, Léodgard did not
take his eyes from Bathilde, whose beauty had made a profound impression
on him. She had begun to tremble when she heard the name of Léodgard de
Marvejols, for she instantly remembered all that Ambroisine had said to
her touching that young nobleman. The terrifying portrait that she had
drawn of him was well adapted to take from Bathilde any wish to look at
him again. But, on the contrary, whether from a spirit of contradiction,
or from mere curiosity, or from that desire to learn which has so much
potency in woman's heart, all the evil that one may say to them of a man
will never induce them to shun his presence, and their eyes will seek
him in preference to any other.

Léodgard saw that his proposition was not accepted; but what did it
matter to him? Place de Grève belonged to everybody. If that fascinating
girl remained there, he would remain by her side; if she went away, he
would follow her. So that his face wore a pleasant smile as he addressed
Master Hugonnet again:

"Well, my good man, you do not answer me? Is it because you no longer
feel the inclination to take a little walk to one of the nearby wine
shops?"

"Oh! no, monsieur le comte; I should lie if I said that it was the
inclination that was lacking; but I cannot do it; for monsieur le comte
himself well knows that I ought not to intrust two young girls to him.
No, thanks! one might as well put two lambs in the custody of a fox!"

"Eh! why so, Hugonnet? Is it because of the little dispute we had some
time ago? But you see that I have forgotten all about it. Besides, I was
in the wrong; I admit it.--Oh! I am not one of those men who will not
hear reason; look you--in those days I was a good-for-nothing fellow--a
roisterer, a libertine! But since then I have turned over a new leaf. If
you but knew how virtuous I am now!"

"I congratulate you, seigneur; it must be a great source of satisfaction
to monsieur le marquis, your father."

Léodgard concealed a faint smile, and his glance rested sweetly on
Bathilde's face, who, although she kept her eyes on the ground, did not
lose a word of what was said.

"Yes, my good Hugonnet, yes, my father felicitates himself now on having
a son who is radically cured of his evil tastes; who no longer cudgels
the watch, drives peaceful citizens to frenzy, raises the deuce with
tradesmen, and, above all things, who no longer talks nonsense to every
woman he sees! For, as to that----"

"Cadédis! the assemblage is becoming most select! Here is our dear Comte
Léodgard de Marvejols!"

"Ah! is it you, Chevalier Passedix?"

"Myself, who deeply regretted my inability to join the jovial party with
you and your friends and divers charming ladies, the day before
yesterday. Ah! you rascal! I fancy that you enjoyed yourselves!--Cards,
wine, women! You always were the king of kings for handling such
affairs. It seems that everybody was drunk the next morning; there was
fighting, and a general scandal; and the ladies were taken to the
Repenties! That is what I call sport!"

"May the devil fly away with you, you long-legged idiot!" muttered
Léodgard, turning his head away, while Ambroisine nudged Bathilde and
whispered:

"Do you hear? That is how he has turned virtuous, how he has reformed,
the scapegrace! That is how he turns over a new leaf!"

"Mon Dieu! Ambroisine, what difference does it make to me? You say that
as if it interested me."

"Well! he stared at you so! And then, you think him good-looking."

"I think him so, because he is. But what does that prove? Are you going
to scold me now because that young gentleman looked at me? Is it my
fault?"

"Scold you, dear Bathilde! oh, no! But, you see, it is my duty to look
after you, as if I were your older sister; for we made ourselves
responsible for you to your father, and I should not want any misfortune
to happen to you; it would seem to me as if I were the cause."

"Misfortune! Mon Dieu! what misfortune do you dread for me?"

Ambroisine dared not reply. Suddenly the Chevalier Passedix stood on
tiptoe and exclaimed:

"Sandioux! she is over there! I see her in the light of a torch. She is
a Venus, the little dear! By Roland! I must join her, even though I have
to push this whole crowd out of my way!"

And the tall Gascon, beginning at once to work his arms and legs like a
windmill, forced aside all those who stood in his path, and soon reached
that part of the square where Miretta had stopped.

Ambroisine followed Passedix with her glance, and she also spied her new
friend in the crowd at some distance; but in order to join her she would
have had to plunge into the midst of the mob that separated them and to
give up the good places they had secured; and Master Hugonnet had
declared that he would not stir. Ambroisine tried in vain, by raising
her arms and making signs, to attract Miretta's attention.

Nevertheless, Cédrille's pretty cousin turned her eyes in every
direction. Surely she too was looking for someone; but was it her friend
Ambroisine?

Suddenly Miretta felt a hand on her arm, and a shrill voice exclaimed:

"Ah! sandis! so I have found you at last, O my goddess! I was seeking
you, I will not say _per montes et vitulos_, but among all the groups of
pretty women. Will you do me the honor to accept my arm?"

Miretta assumed a stern expression and answered curtly:

"No, monsieur, I will not accept your arm; and since I meet you here, I
will take the opportunity to tell you that you are wasting your time by
following me constantly, that your obstinacy in pursuing me is most
annoying to me----"

"Eh! cadédis! the little one plays the haughty dame! So you refuse my
homage--and this is the way you acknowledge the services I rendered you,
ingrate! I, who saved you from the most imminent danger! Your cousin
Cédrille did me more justice! I was his friend, his faithful companion.
I am very sorry that he has returned to Pau; he would have spoken to you
in my behalf."

"Cédrille would not have encouraged your undertakings, monsieur le
chevalier; he knew too well that you had nothing to hope from me. I do
not know whether he had reason to congratulate himself on having taken
you for a comrade, but I know very well that he made only a very brief
stay in Paris, and that he went away with a black eye, saying that he
had had enough of the capital and that he had not enjoyed himself here
at all.--However, monsieur, if you did take up my defence when I was
insulted, it seems to me that you should not regret it; it was your duty
as a man of honor. But I do not consider that it gave you the right to
spy upon my every movement and to be always at my heels."

The Gascon chevalier was cut to the quick, and the firm and decided tone
in which Miretta had answered him added to his irritation; for a woman's
voice, while it may sometimes soften the most severe words, is no less
able to impart greater bitterness to the simplest rebuke. In all things,
it is the tone that makes the music.

The tone adopted by the pretty brunette exasperated Passedix; he ran his
fingers through his beard and tried to sneer, as he muttered:

"Ah! so that's the way it is! so we choose to adopt that tone! By
Roland! it is very pretty! And it is a paltry serving maid--a
lady's-maid--a mere fille de chambre, who indulges in these manners of a
grand duchess, when I condescend to honor her by letting my glance rest
on her back hair! Ah! my love, beware! I have never met any cruel
charmers--especially among your kind--and if you do not take my arm, I
am capable----"

"Capable of what?" demanded a young man, dressed as a simple mechanic,
who had suddenly stepped between Miretta and Passedix, at the latter of
whom he gazed fixedly, while forcing him back several steps with his
left arm.

"What business is it of yours, clown, who presume to question me? I find
you exceedingly bold! Knave! stand aside instantly, or I unsheathe----"

And the Gascon chevalier, crimson with wrath, was already standing on
guard, with his right hand on the hilt of Roland; while Miretta, having
glanced at the young man who had come to her rescue, uttered an
exclamation of surprise, while her eyes beamed with joy and delight.

"I will not stand aside, unless it is mademoiselle's pleasure to accept
my arm and leave this crowd which is pressing upon her," rejoined the
new-comer.

"You! take this little one away from under my nose--from my very beard!
You shall die ten deaths first!"

And Passedix instantly drew Roland from its sheath. The sight of that
bare sword waving in the midst of the crowd made the women shriek and
the children weep; but before he who held it could make use of it the
young man's hand seized the chevalier's wrist and squeezed it with such
force that the fingers opened and the sword fell to the ground.

"Sandioux! I know that grip; I have felt it before somewhere!" cried
Passedix. "Disarm me! Shame! that is unfair! it is treachery!"

But while the Gascon shouted, and shook his benumbed arm, the
_soi-disant_ mechanic took Miretta's arm and disappeared with her in the
crowd.

At that moment loud cries arose on all sides; the great pile had been
set on fire. Thereupon the crowd swayed hither and thither, some trying
to draw nearer the fire in order to see better, others to move away
because they were afraid.

A powerful wave carried Passedix ten or fifteen yards away from the spot
where his sword had fallen. Thereupon he began to whine and lament in
the midst of the crowd, these words being distinguishable:

"Look out, my friends! In the name of what you hold most dear, do not
step on it! If it is broken, I shall not survive; I shall bury the
fragments in my heart!"

But the multitude, engrossed by what it had come to see, paid no heed to
the cries and groans and entreaties of the unhappy chevalier, who
struggled in vain to return to the place where he had lost Roland, and
who before long had no idea himself in which direction it was.

This lasted until the fire died out.

As soon as it was entirely extinct, the crowd scattered; everyone
returned home discussing the pleasure he had had, and some looking
forward to that which the evening promised them.

Soon nobody was left on the square except two men, one very short, the
other quite tall, both of whom were on their hands and knees searching
in every corner, one for his cap, the other for his sword. Suddenly
they came nose to nose, or rather head to head, in that occupation.

"Are you helping me to look for it!" Passedix asked the clerk of the
Basoche; "thanks, my boy, that is very amiable on your part. If you find
it, I will give you six deniers; I have received some funds from my
family."

"If I find it, I don't want your deniers!" rejoined Plumard, in a surly
tone. "It is mine, my own property, and if you find it you will have to
give it to me; don't think for a moment that I will let you keep it!"

"What is the little fellow chattering about? If you find it, you propose
to keep it? Why, you are mad, my dear fellow! What would you do with it,
pray? It is twice too long for you; you could not even wear it."

"I couldn't wear it! that's a good one, that is! On the contrary, it
fits me like an angel; while you don't need it, for you have a cap on
your head."

"Why should my cap prevent me from wearing it, fool that you are?"

"Do you mean to say that you would put it on over your cap? That would
look very pretty! At all events, it's my property."

"Hold your tongue, you little thief! just let me find it and I'll punish
you with it!"

The two worthies who had had this altercation, being still on all fours,
were about to rush at each other like two frantic cats, when a third
personage appeared on the scene, laughing and singing. It was Bahuchet,
with long Roland in his hand, twirling his comrade's cap at the end of
the blade.

"I say! you fellows! here's a find! the cap is mine, and the sword is
mine!"

At sight of the objects they were seeking, Passedix and Plumard rose
spontaneously and pounced upon them. The former seized his sword, the
latter his cap, which he pulled over his eyes, and ran away at full
speed. The chevalier replaced Roland in its sheath, and then he strode
rapidly away.

Bahuchet, left alone in the square, looked after them and said to
himself:

"Well! they are very polite! they did not so much as thank me!"



XX

THE ROSEBUSH


A week after the memorable night on which the Fire of Saint-Jean
attracted so many people to Place de Grève and gave rise to so many
adventures, one evening, just at nightfall, a young man enveloped in a
brown cloak was walking on Rue Dauphine in front of Landry the bath
keeper's house, toward which he glanced every minute, scrutinizing with
especial care a window on the first floor, with a jutting balcony, on
which could be seen a superb rosebush covered with flowers and buds.
And as, when one is looking in the air, one does not see before one's
face, the young man suddenly collided with a person who was walking
along the street at a rapid pace.

"Ten thousand devils! be careful! can you not see where you are going?"

"Par le mordieu! you had only to look, yourself!"

"That voice! why, it is the young Comte de Marvejols!"

"Ah! it is the Sire de Jarnonville. Pray excuse me; but I was too
distraught to see you. I am waiting--I am watching."

"Very good; I understand; you are _en bonne fortune_--there is some new
intrigue on the carpet?"

"A new intrigue, yes; but _en bonne fortune_--not yet. Oh! it will be a
hard task; there are great obstacles; but I must come out of it with
credit to myself!"

"Are there blows to be dealt, sword thrusts to be exchanged? Do you need
me to cudgel someone? to break down a door or to scale a wall?"

"Thanks, Jarnonville, thanks; but my intrigue must be carried on quietly
and without fighting.--It has to do with a young and pretty girl! Oh!
the word _pretty_ falls far short of describing her! She is an
enchanting creature, an angel of innocence and beauty, whom I met by
chance, a week ago, at the Fire of Saint-Jean. She was with Ambroisine
and her father--you know whom I mean, the bath keeper on Rue
Saint-Jacques?"

"Yes, Master Hugonnet.--Well?"

"It was impossible to talk with the girl, for Ambroisine watched her
like a duenna! But I saw that my aspect did not displease her; she
blushed, and lowered her eyes. Her head is worthy of Titian's brush. Ah!
I am mad over her!--You will understand that I did not lose sight of
that adorable girl! After the fire, they left the square; I followed
them and found that they brought that angel to this house. She is the
daughter of Landry, the bath keeper; I tell you this in confidence,
Jarnonville, because I know that you will not try to rob me of my
conquest."

"I! oh, no! My heart is closed henceforth to all such tender sentiments;
it no longer knows aught but regret and grief!"

As he spoke, the Black Chevalier let his head sink on his breast.

"Come, come, Jarnonville! do not abandon yourself constantly to your sad
memories; you are still young; my word for it, you may again see happy
days!--But let me finish my story:

"The next day I went boldly to Master Hugonnet's shop. Ambroisine had
surprised me with my eyes fixed on her friend; I did not choose to feign
with her, so I asked her about her pretty companion of the preceding
night. She received me very harshly, as I expected; she told me that I
would have nothing to show for my sighs, my amorous enterprises; that
Bathilde--that is the divine creature's name--that Bathilde never went
out; that it was an exceptional event, her going to see the fire the
night before; but that her father and mother kept watch over her day and
night as their most precious treasure--in fact, the haughty _baigneuse_
went so far as to read me a lecture. She told me that it would be
frightful in me to think of seducing so much innocence and
simplicity.--Poor Ambroisine! she did not realize that the more she
expatiated on Bathilde's virtue, the more she increased my desire to
possess her.--But I think that you are not listening, Jarnonville."

"I beg pardon; go on."

"I left Ambroisine, swearing that I would respect her friend, and I came
at once to this street and began to do sentry duty here. For two days I
saw no sign of the girl. I entered the baths--nothing. I was shaved in
the shop--still nothing--no Bathilde. At last, three days ago, the
window looking on yonder balcony opened, and a young woman appeared
carrying a pot of flowers. She placed it carefully where it is now.--It
was she, it was Bathilde. But had she seen me pacing the street? had she
recognized me? That was something that I could not know; but the sight
of her gave me hope. That beautiful rosebush had never been at that
window; to place it on the balcony was to afford herself an excuse for
coming there again. And, in fact, a few hours after the rosebush was
placed there, the sweet girl appeared again and examined her flowers
with much care. Never was a rosebush more scrupulously cleaned. She did
not look at me while she was thus engaged, but I was certain that she
saw me. Now and then a furtive glance was cast in my direction; but as
it always met mine, she hastened to turn her head away.--However, since
that day Bathilde continues to tend her flowers, to water them, to come
several times a day to look at them. At first, I sent her kisses;
yesterday, I did better--I wrote a few words, rolled the note around a
stone, and, after dark, seizing a moment when no one was passing through
the street, I tossed it on the balcony. I am certain that she picked it
up, for the stone is no longer there. But to-day she has not once
appeared at the window; the rosebush has been pitilessly neglected! Is
it to punish me for writing to her? Is it to make me understand that she
does not share my love, that I must renounce all hope? Oh, no! that is
impossible! I read that charming girl's eyes, her whole expression; she
has not yet learned the art of concealing what she feels. I noticed her
cheeks flush when she saw me, her lovely eyes kindle with a brighter
light, a gleam of joy illumine her face!--Oh! she loves me! she loves
me, Jarnonville! And she will be mine!"

The Black Chevalier had listened to Léodgard with a gloomy expression;
when the young man had finished his story, he shook his head, saying:

"I do not like this business of seducing young girls! There is at the
root of the whole matter something that offends and oppresses the heart.
Tell me of a deceived husband, of a jealous rival, of a cruel guardian,
if you please. In such cases there is some danger, some risk to be run;
there are often sword thrusts or dagger thrusts to be received or
exchanged.--You fight, and that occupies, distracts, the mind. But in
this instance! seduction! desertion! To make a poor creature weep who
has not had the power to defend herself!"

"Ha! ha! ha! On my word, my dear Jarnonville, I cannot help laughing to
listen to you! What! is it really you, the bully, the miscreant, the man
who believes in nothing--for that is what you are called--who shed tears
over the fate of a girl, because I propose to make love to her, and she
is likely to hear me? A terrible catastrophe, truly!--How does it happen
that you, whose heart, as you have just told me, is closed henceforth to
all tender sentiments; that you who have taken the world in hatred and
who look upon existence as a burden; who seek, in short, by doing ill to
others, to avenge yourself for the ill that destiny has done to
you--that you blame me for gratifying my passions at the risk of causing
a few tears to flow?"

The Sire de Jarnonville drew his heavy eyebrows together and muttered
some words which Léodgard could not hear; then he raised his head
abruptly and said to the young count:

"As I cannot be of any service to you here, I will leave you. Adieu!
good luck!"

"Oh! I beg your pardon--another word, Jarnonville," cried Léodgard,
detaining the Black Chevalier. "I have a favor to ask of you--that is,
if you are in a position to grant it. I lost yesterday at brelan all
that I possessed; I have not a sou.--Money! money! When, in God's name,
shall I have enough to gratify my desires? to enjoy life? For there is
no enjoyment when one is constantly obliged to borrow, to have recourse
to usurers. I have been in such straits of late that my valet, that
knave Latournelle, has left me, on the pretext that I gambled away his
wages! I no longer have any servants, except my father's; but I prefer
to go without. That old villain Isaac Lehmann, the money lender, who
ordinarily supplies me with funds, is away from Paris at this moment. Do
you know another, Jarnonville? If so, will you give me his address;
especially as Isaac is beginning to make trouble about lending me any
more, although the old rascal knows well enough that he will be paid
sooner or later."

"I thought that your father paid all your debts some time ago?"

"Yes, and forbade me to incur any more. Ah! if he knew!--Why, he
threatened me with the Bastille!"

"And that does not prevent your running in debt again?"

"Can I live on the miserable allowance he gives me?--Well, Jarnonville,
do you know a money lender who may consent to help me at this moment?"

"No, I do not know one, for I have never had any relations with those
gentry; but I have two hundred gold pieces about me bearing the effigy
of our monarch; I intended to play lansquenet to-night. Here is my
purse; if you would like it, it is at your disposal."

"Faith! Jarnonville, it would be a great service to me; but I am afraid
of being importunate."

"Not at all--take it."

"And your game of lansquenet?"

"If need be, I will play on credit; but, instead of going to La
Valteline's to gamble, I will go to Durfeuille the financier's, and get
drunk; that will be one way of employing my time."

"Very well; in that case, I accept; but it is my duty to warn you that I
do not now know when I shall be able to repay this loan."

"No matter! no matter! Do not worry about that; it is the least of my
anxieties. Adieu, count, adieu!"

The Sire de Jarnonville walked rapidly away, without listening to his
debtor's thanks; and Léodgard placed the purse filled with gold in his
belt, saying to himself:

"He has done me a great service. He's an original fellow, but he has his
good points.--When I have spent this money, what shall I do to get some
more?--But what am I thinking about? I have a well-lined purse upon me
and I am sighing for a lovely girl. Pardieu! this is not the time to
worry about the future! What disturbs me now is to see that window
remain closed. It has been dark a long while; can it be that Bathilde
will not come to the balcony?--Ah! it seems to me that I have never
loved a woman as I love her. How different she is from the coquettes of
the court! from our courtesans--aye, from our _petites bourgeoises_! The
purest innocence shines on that child's brow.--What bliss to teach her
what love is--to be the first to make her heart beat!--But she does not
appear!"

Léodgard stamped his foot impatiently and began to pace the street,
without losing sight of the bath keeper's house.

Let us see what Bathilde was doing at that moment.

I need not tell you that on leaving the Place de Grève to return to her
home Landry's daughter had not failed to discover that the handsome
Comte de Marvejols was following her. She had not seemed to notice it,
she had not released her hold of Ambroisine's arm for an instant, she
had not turned her head; and yet she had seen that the young man was
following her.

How had she done it?

That is a mystery which I am unable to solve. I can simply assure you
that all women, young or old, from the most sophisticated to the most
innocent, possess that faculty. Probably it is the second-sight of the
Scotch, except that they have it in the back of the head.

Bathilde returned to her little room, disturbed by a sentiment that was
entirely novel to her; her bosom rose and fell more rapidly, she felt
happier than she had ever felt.

Was it her pride that was flattered, or her self-esteem?

No; the sweet child did not as yet know either of those sentiments.

It was something sweeter, more tender, which had found its way into her
heart with the fiery glances of the handsome cavalier, and against which
she had not known how to defend herself, for she was unaware of the
danger; it had not occurred to her that it was wrong to glance
occasionally at a comely youth who kept his eyes constantly fixed on
her.

When she learned that the comely youth was Comte Léodgard de Marvejols,
the girl had felt perhaps a secret thrill of terror; but it had not
lasted--the young man's glances had soon dispelled it.

Bathilde occupied a room that looked on a yard behind the house. It was
impossible for her to see from her window anything that took place in
the street. But since her mother had been absent, the girl had enjoyed
more liberty; so long as she avoided the baths, a place which it would
have been imprudent for her to frequent, she was free to range over the
whole first floor at her pleasure. Knowing that his daughter was in the
house, Landry asked nothing more.

On the day following the Fire of Saint-Jean, Bathilde, although she did
not know why, could not keep still. She went in and out, from one room
to another, arranging the furniture, or rather disarranging it, in order
to have an excuse for putting it to rights again.

In her peregrinations she visited most frequently a room at the front of
the house, which Dame Ragonde used as a linen closet; it was the room
with the balcony. Bathilde had put aside the curtain and glanced into
the street from time to time, without opening the window. She had soon
discovered the young seigneur of the preceding night walking back and
forth in front of the baths, and stopping frequently to scrutinize the
house from top to bottom.

Bathilde had felt the blood rush to her cheeks, although no one could
have seen her put aside the curtain. She had left the window, but had
returned to it a moment later.

"He is there!" she said to herself, trembling with excitement; "he is
still there! Mon Dieu! why does he keep looking at our house?"

The little innocent guessed well enough why he did it; but there are
things which we do not choose to admit at once, even to ourselves,
especially when they give us pleasure; we are much less ceremonious with
those that make us unhappy.

The next day, Bathilde did not fail to go early to the linen closet; she
resumed her manœuvres of the day before, and looked into the street
after cautiously raising a corner of the curtain.

This lasted four days, during which she saw the handsome cavalier almost
always in the street, gazing sadly at the windows, with his hand to his
heart, and probably sighing; she did not hear the sigh, but she divined
it.

On the fifth day, she no longer had the heart to keep the window closed,
and yet she did not wish to appear on the balcony without a reason for
going there.

Suddenly she remembered that she had a rosebush in her chamber, where,
by the way, it rarely received a ray of sunlight.

She ran instantly to Master Landry and said:

"Father, you know I have a lovely rosebush, which Ambroisine gave me two
years ago, on my birthday."

"Very likely; what then?"

"It is in my room, on the window sill, but I have just noticed that it's
dying, the leaves are turning yellow. It's because it doesn't get enough
air. The yard is so small, and then the steam from the baths is bad for
it, perhaps. I should be awfully sorry if it should die. Will you let me
put it on the balcony outside the window of the linen closet? There is
nothing there, so it won't be in the way; it will have the sun, and I am
sure that it will do better there."

"Put your rosebush where you please, my child; what hinders you?"

"Oh! thank you, father!"

And Bathilde went away, pleased beyond words. Dame Ragonde would never
have allowed her to put a rosebush at a window on the front of the
house. A woman would have felt, divined, an intrigue therein. But the
old soldier saw nothing but a rosebush.



XXI

LOVE TRAVELS FAST


Bathilde made haste to take advantage of the permission her father had
given her.

Before carrying the rosebush to the balcony, she cast a glance at her
mirror. Was it coquetry? No. But the daughter of a master bath keeper
did not wish to show herself to the eyes of chance passers-by without
being quite sure that nothing was lacking in her dress.

We know already that for three days the girl did not forget to visit the
balcony several times during the day, and even after dark, to make sure
that her beautiful rosebush needed nothing. Never was flower more
sedulously tended, never were rosebuds examined with such care; and
certainly no insect could have found a resting place on their stems,
unless it had shown the most determined obstinacy in returning thither.

On the third day, or rather the third evening, Bathilde heard the stone
fall on the balcony, where she did not happen to be at the time,
although she was always close at hand. She instantly detected the paper
wrapped about the stone. Her first impulse was to rush out and pick it
up; but she reflected that he who had thrown it must still be in the
street, and that, if she picked up his note at once, she would show him
that she was there, watching behind the curtain.

See how slyly even the most innocent can act sometimes! La Fontaine
tells us _how wit comes to young maids_; for my part, I believe that it
is all there as soon as they feel love for a man.

Bathilde waited, therefore, until the evening was well advanced before
she stole noiselessly out and picked up the stone and the paper. Then
she hastened to her room and locked herself in, to read at her ease that
first love letter, which was destined to put the finishing touch to this
turmoil in her heart, and perhaps to cause her much suffering, and which
it would have been wiser for her not to read.

But wisdom is often the fruit of experience, and Bathilde had had none.

She opened Léodgard's letter with a trembling hand, and eagerly read
these words:

     "CHARMING BATHILDE:

     "Need I tell you that I love you, that from the moment I first saw
     you your cherished image has not gone from my memory and my heart?
     You must know who I am: your friend Ambroisine called me by name
     before you, but she has slandered me if she has told you that I am
     incapable of keeping my faith.

     "I shall love you always, Bathilde; because my love is sincere,
     because you are the first woman who ever caused me to know a
     genuine passion.

     "You will say, perhaps, that too great a distance separates us,
     that my name, my rank, keep us apart.--But only tell me that you
     love me a little, and I will find a way to remove all obstacles.
     What does it matter to me in what station of life you were born? In
     my eyes, you are far above the _grandes dames_ of the court.

     "My fortune, my name--I lay everything at your feet! Yes, before
     God, I swear to take you for my wife!

     "But come to your balcony, do not fly at night when I come near;
     and, in pity's name, grant a few moments' interview to one who will
     die if you refuse to love him.

     "LÉODGARD DE MARVEJOLS."

Such a loving, ardent note was certain to make great ravages in an
inexperienced heart, in a heart which was conscious of a craving to
love. Love travels fast when it follows an unbeaten path.

Moreover, a secret sympathy drew the girl on; she too loved Léodgard.
Only an instant, a single glance, was necessary for that.

Bathilde read and reread and read again the young count's letter; she
held it in her hand when she went to bed, she kept it against her heart
all night. Ah! a first love letter is such a priceless treasure! A woman
may receive many of them in the course of her life, but the others are
never worth so much as that one.

The next morning Bathilde knew the letter by heart, and she said to
herself every instant:

"He loves me! he will always love me! I am the first woman whom he has
ever really loved! My birth is no obstacle, he says; in that case, he
will ask my parents for my hand, and will marry me. What joy! how happy
I shall be! Not because I shall be a countess; what do I care for that?
But I shall be his wife! and I shall be able, in my turn, to tell him
that I love him!--But then, I must go out on the balcony to-night and
speak to him. Suppose I consult my father first, and show him this
letter? But perhaps he would scold me for receiving it and reading it
without his permission!"

Bathilde was in dire perplexity, not knowing what she ought to do. But
her heart was bursting with joy and happiness because she knew that
Léodgard loved her.

She was still hesitating about going to her window, when Ambroisine
suddenly appeared.

The _belle baigneuse_ had not had time to visit her friend since the
Fire of Saint-Jean; and yet a secret presentiment told her that her
friendship was more than ever necessary to Bathilde. At last, she stole
a moment during the morning and hastened to Rue Dauphine; she ran up to
her friend's room and did not find her there; a servant told her that
her master's daughter passed almost all her time now in the linen
closet, and pointed it out to her.

This change of habit surprised Ambroisine. However, she went to the
small room where Bathilde was. The latter, when she saw her friend, was
confused for a moment, and hastily thrust into her bosom the letter
which she was reading for the hundredth time.

Ambroisine ran to Bathilde and kissed her, saying:

"Well! here I am at last! I succeeded in making my escape to-day.--We
have so many people at our baths, and so many young men come to be
shaved by father! But I found a moment this morning, and I ran away. I
was so anxious to see you! And you--have you no desire to talk over our
evening on the Place de Grève? We have so many things to say to each
other! haven't we?"

"Oh, yes! yes! I longed to see you, too."

"It's strange, but you don't say that with all your heart, as I do! You
have a curious manner. Have you been sick? You are quite pale.--Oh!
there is certainly something wrong!"

"Why, no--you are mistaken; I am not sick at all!"

"So much the better.--But how does it happen that you are in this room
looking on the street--you, who never used to leave your own bedroom?"

"Why, I am here--I am here----"

"Yes, I see that you are here!"

"I am here because I asked father's permission to put my lovely rosebush
on this balcony, which is a much better place for it; and then--I--I
have to come here to tend it."

"Ah! so it's on account of your rosebush?"

"And then, it is much livelier here than in my room."

"That is true enough. But when your mother comes home, I am very sure
that she will make you carry your rosebush back to your room, and will
forbid your coming here any more."

"Do you think so? O mon Dieu!"

"Well! now you are as pale as a ghost! Come, Bathilde, kiss me and tell
me all; you have something on your mind, and you do not want to confide
it to me. Am I no longer your sister, your friend? Do you propose to
have secrets from me? Oh, no! that is impossible! You are going to tell
me why it is that you are so distressed, that your eyes are full of
tears, that you are afraid to look me in the face. Do you mean to tell
me that you will not open your heart to me any more? Come, speak out!"

Bathilde hesitated, but at last she faltered:

"Ah! but you will say more unkind things about him!"

Ambroisine shuddered; those few words told her the whole story. Her face
assumed an expression of profound sadness.

"About him! him! Mon Dieu! have you seen Comte Léodgard again?"

"Did I say that?"

"Yes. The words you have just dropped tell me that it is so.--Come,
Bathilde, tell me everything now. You cannot have anything to conceal
from your sister, who loves you so dearly. I will not scold you, I have
no right to; but my friendship may be useful to you.--Speak, I entreat
you!"

Bathilde no longer felt strong enough to resist her friend's entreaties;
she had not yet learned to dissemble. She seated herself beside
Ambroisine and told her all that had happened since they had met; and
finally, taking Léodgard's letter from her bosom with a trembling hand
she gave it to her friend.

Ambroisine shuddered as she read the letter, then turned her eyes on
Bathilde, who was gazing into her face and waiting to hear what she
would say.

But Hugonnet's daughter was silent for several minutes; her eyes were
swimming in tears. At last she took Bathilde's head in her hands,
pressed it to her breast, and covered it with tears and kisses,
murmuring:

"No! no! I do not propose that you shall be ruined! Poor child, I am
determined to save you. It is my duty; for is it not my fault that this
man, who is now trying to seduce you, ever saw you? Was it not I who
insisted on taking you to see the Fire of Saint-Jean? Mon Dieu! was it
possible for one to foresee, to divine, that the Evil One would be there
in the person of this Comte Léodgard, seeking to ruin you? For he is the
Evil One, I tell you; that man is the fallen angel!--But I trust that
you do not believe him? Surely you place no faith in what he has written
you? This letter--why, there is not a word of truth in it!"

"Not a word of truth!" cried Bathilde, in a heart-rending tone. "But in
that case, why should he write me all this, if he did not think it? Why
should he pass whole days walking in front of our house? Why should he
come here again in the evening--always looking at this window? And I am
not sure that he is not here at night too.--Ah! when I go out on the
balcony to tend my rosebush, if you could see how he looks at me--how
happy he seems all the time that I am there!"

"So you look at him too, do you? O Bathilde!"

"Oh, no! I don't look at him; indeed, I should not dare to. But, you
know, one can see, out of the corner of one's eye, without seeming to
look."

"My poor dear! can it be that you already love this Monsieur Léodgard?"

"Oh! I don't know--I don't dare to tell you. But since I read his
letter, in which he swears that he will always love me--ah! I no longer
know how I feel, what I am doing, what I am saying; my head is on fire,
and my whole body is like my head. I believe that I have a fever; I
think of nothing but him, I cannot drive away his image; I seem to feel
pain and pleasure at the same time.--Mon Dieu! I no longer know myself!"

"Dear child! be calm. Listen to me; you have too much good sense not to
understand me.--Now, Bathilde, let us admit that the count loves you at
this moment; in the first place, his love will very soon pass away. But
even if it should be more sincere than all the loves that he has
promised, sworn, to other women, how would that help you? You know
perfectly well that you can never become the wife of a count, of a great
nobleman."

"But you see that in his letter he says that he cares nothing for rank
and fortune."

"In his letter he has put down everything that was likely to turn your
head!--Ah! Bathilde, do the great nobles ever marry us poor girls, the
daughters of humble tradesmen? When we are pretty, they make love to us
and try to seduce us, and they are not sparing of lies and promises to
effect that purpose! But if we are unfortunate enough to listen to them,
they very soon abandon us, leaving us nothing but shame and
regret.--What I say is absolutely true, Bathilde. You know perfectly
well that I desire nothing but your happiness. But if you listen to
Comte Léodgard, you will be unhappy, you will be ruined!--Think of your
father, who is so proud of you. Think of your mother, who has watched
over you so carefully. They would curse you!"

"Oh! do not say any more! Yes, you are right; I was mad! But you bring
me back to myself.--Tell me how I must act; I will do whatever you
wish."

Ambroisine embraced her friend again, and said:

"Dear Bathilde, you suffer at this moment, because I am tearing away
illusions that made you happy. But I do it so that you may enjoy truer
happiness in the future. Listen: first of all, you must not appear on
this balcony for a week, at least; nay, you must not even come into
this room, for you would look into the street in spite of yourself.
Resume your usual mode of life, work as if your mother were by your
side.--In the second place, you must--you must not read this letter any
more; and, in order to be certain of not yielding to temptation, you
must burn it."

"Burn his letter! the only token I shall have of his love--the only
souvenir of him when he has ceased to think of me! Oh, no! let me keep
it, Ambroisine, I implore you! I will do everything that you have said;
but don't burn his letter!"

And Bathilde almost fell at her friend's knees. Ambroisine raised her
and replied:

"How do you expect to be cured if you keep that paper with you, in which
he says such sweet things--things that turn the heads of us poor women?
You will read it every day, and it will simply keep your grief alive."

"Very well! take it, Ambroisine, carry it away, but keep it for me; and
later--in a very long time--when I am cured, if I ever can be cured,
then you will give the letter back to me, and I shall be very glad to
read it again."

"Very well; then I will take the letter away."

"But you won't burn it, will you?"

"No, I promise."

"And you will take good care of it? you will not lose it?"

"I will put it away in my little jewel box. How do you suppose that I
can lose it?"

"But you--you won't read it, either, will you? For, if I deprive myself
of that happiness, it would not be fair for another to enjoy it in my
place!"

"Dear Bathilde! this letter, which is so priceless in your eyes, is of
no value at all to another woman.--Never fear, I will not touch it.--Now
I must leave you, I must go home.--You will surely do as I have told
you. And first of all, my dear, to begin with, you will leave this
room?"

"Yes."

"And you will not come here again--for ten days?"

"You said a week!"

"Well, so long as Comte Léodgard continues to walk this street."

"I will not come here."

"And your mother--will she not return soon?"

"I think not. It seems that she is having litigation about her
inheritance there in Normandie, where she is; for our kinswoman is dead;
but our mother has all the right on her side, so she is not alarmed."

"Litigation--in Normandie! That will take some time!" muttered
Ambroisine, shaking her head. Then she kissed her young friend again.
"Adieu! I will come to see you as soon as possible. Courage, my poor
Bathilde! Your heart is heavy at this moment; but that will pass away.
And then, you see, when one is doing one's duty, it gives one strength
to endure sorrow."

"Adieu, Ambroisine! I will try to be brave. But take good care of my
letter; don't lose it on your way home. I shall never be consoled if you
lose it!"

"Never fear, I am no child. Au revoir!"

Ambroisine ran down the staircase; and Bathilde followed her to the
foot, whispering to her:

"Remember that you are to give it back to me!"



XXII

THE BALCONY


Bathilde having followed her friend's advice to the letter, Léodgard
walked Rue Dauphine in vain on the evening of his meeting with the Sire
de Jarnonville. And as Léodgard was very much in love, as he flattered
himself that he would win a facile triumph over Landry's daughter, he
remained until midnight in front of the barber's house; but the balcony
was deserted, the window dark; the girl did not appear.

Thereupon vexation and wrath took possession of our lover. Accustomed as
he was to defy and surmount all obstacles, his desires were sharpened by
the disdain with which he was treated. He was especially enraged
because his note, instead of completing his conquest of Bathilde, had
produced just the contrary effect.

He struck the ground impatiently with his spurs and measured with his
eye the height of the balcony. If some friend had been there to lend him
his shoulders, he would already have tried to scale it. But, instead of
a friend, Léodgard spied a patrol coming down the street; and as he was
not anxious to fight a patrol single-handed, he decided to decamp. But
as he walked away, he said to himself, looking back at the balcony:

"Oh! it is useless for you to conceal yourself, Bathilde; it is useless
for you to try to escape from my love; you shall be mine, for I have
sworn it--for you are the loveliest, the most fascinating girl whom I
know in Paris to-day!"

Early the next morning Léodgard entered the barber's shop; he ordered a
bath, and while it was being prepared he looked at all the windows on
the yard, and entered into conversation with the attendant who waited on
him.

"Is Master Landry married?"

"Yes, seigneur."

"Where is his wife?"

"Travelling at present; she has gone to Normandie to secure an
inheritance."

"Master Landry has a daughter?"

"Yes, seigneur."

"Very pretty, I am told?"

"That is true, seigneur."

"Why do we never see her in the shop or about the baths?"

"For the very reason, seigneur, that she is so pretty."

"Is she watched so closely, pray?"

"When Dame Ragonde, her mother, is here, she doesn't leave her daughter
for an instant."

"But now that she is away, is there no way of obtaining a word with the
girl--a single word? Here--take this piece of gold and just tell me
where Bathilde's room is."

But Léodgard had applied in the wrong quarter. Landry was an old soldier
who had a keen eye for an honest man; he had selected his attendants
with care, and they esteemed him too highly to betray him. The gold
piece was declined; Léodgard insisted to no purpose, for the attendant
merely replied:

"I don't work on the women's side, seigneur; I don't know where their
rooms are. I am too well treated in Master Landry's service to do
anything that would cause my discharge."

"Pardieu! I have bad luck!" said Léodgard to himself. "All our valets
and esquires are ready to be bribed; and I must come to a bath keeper's
to find an incorruptible servant. And people calumniate these houses!
They say that they serve to cloak clandestine love affairs, that the
most delicious intrigues are formed and consummated in them.--Gad! that
surely is not true of Master Landry's!"

And Léodgard cast his eye over all the windows looking on the yard; but
they were closed and supplied with very heavy curtains; it was
impossible to discover anything, to guess where Bathilde's room was; for
the young man was confident that she did not occupy the front room with
the balcony, as there had been no light there throughout the preceding
evening.

The young count left the establishment without taking the bath he had
ordered; once more he marched up and down the street, but with no better
fortune; and at last, weary of the struggle, he left the place, saying
to himself:

"I am very sure, none the less, that I did not displease her."

The two following days, Léodgard played sentinel again to no purpose.
Bathilde did not appear. The windows on the balcony remained closed, and
she did not even come to tend the poor rosebush, which, however, was
sorely in need of being watered, for the buds were beginning to droop on
their stems.

"What! she will allow her rosebush to die, for fear of seeing me!" said
Léodgard to himself. "She must be terribly afraid of me, then! Ah! when
a woman is so afraid of a man, it is a good sign; she does not fear
those who are indifferent to her. But I will stake my head that
Ambroisine has been to see her, that it was she who urged her not to
show herself any more. How do I know that Bathilde, without letting
herself be seen, is not hidden somewhere, at some other window, whence
she watches what I do, and says to herself: 'He is still thinking of
me!'--If I thought that!--However, I will try this method: I will force
myself to stay away for several days, to avoid passing through this
street; she will believe that I have ceased to think of her; and perhaps
her vexation, or her confidence, will serve me better than this
fruitless watching."

Thereupon our lover wrapped himself in his cloak, pulled his hat over
his eyes, and, with the air of a man who has suddenly decided upon a
course of action, he walked rapidly away and disappeared, without once
turning his head.

Léodgard had read only too well Bathilde's guileless heart, that heart
which longed to love, and which found happiness even in the pangs which
that sentiment already caused it to feel.

The girl had kept the promise she had made her friend; she had not
returned to the room with the balcony; but adjoining that room, and,
like it, at the front of the house, there was another, occupied by
Master Landry and his wife. Since Dame Ragonde had been away, that room
had been deserted throughout the day; for the old soldier went down
early to his baths, and did not go up to his room again until bedtime.

On the day following Ambroisine's visit, Bathilde remembered that her
father had given her an old jacket to mend; the work was not at all
urgent, but Bathilde hastened to do it so that she might have an excuse
for going to her parents' bedroom. She went there to return the garment
belonging to her father; and once she was in that room, which looked on
the street, but had no balcony at the windows--because the architects of
those days did not make a point of regularity in their buildings--once
there, Bathilde could not resist the temptation to go to one of the
windows; and, while she pretended to adjust a curtain which presumably
did not fall gracefully, she allowed her glance to wander into the
street, where she instantly espied the man she had promised to forget.

This first step once taken, Bathilde found other excuses for going every
day to her father's chamber, where, by putting the curtain aside the
least bit in the world, she could look into the street--the eye requires
such a narrow space to see so many things!

To excuse herself to her own conscience, Bathilde reasoned thus:

"I promised Ambroisine not to go to the linen closet for a week; and I
do not go there. I have business in this room, and I am obliged to come
here! It isn't my fault that there are windows here from which I can
look into the street."

This reasoning was that of a lawyer rather than of an innocent maiden;
wit, you see, comes to the most inexperienced simultaneously with love.

Thus Bathilde knew that Léodgard was there, always there, with his eyes
fixed on the balcony; and with every moment that passed, she put less
faith in what her friend had said to her.

"If he did not love me sincerely," she said to herself, "would he pass
his days like this, trying to see me?"

It is so pleasant to make excuses for those whom we love.

But when the young count changed his plan of attack, when he ceased
entirely to appear on Rue Dauphine, a new form of torture, a pang
sharper than all the rest, tore the poor child's heart.

A whole day passed, and Léodgard did not appear. At first she flattered
herself with the thought that he had come just at the time when she was
not peering from behind the curtain; for, with the best will in the
world, one cannot pass every moment with one's face glued against a
window.

But on the following day there was no lover on the street, and so on the
day following that.

Bathilde's heart was heavy and oppressed; the tears longed to flow, but
she forced them back; she was pale; she was consumed by fever and she
could not eat.

Landry noticed his daughter's depression and was disturbed by it; he
asked her if she was in pain, if she felt sick.

"Nothing is the matter with me, father, nothing!"--Such is the
invariable reply of a maiden whose suffering has its source in her
heart.

But Ambroisine was determined not to leave her friend without
consolation, and one morning she paid her a hurried visit. She was
alarmed by her pallor, her prostration, and the grief-stricken
expression of her face.

When she saw Ambroisine, however, Bathilde strove to conceal the misery
that was devouring her.

"I came to find out if you have been brave, if you have kept the
promises you made me?" said Ambroisine, as she embraced Bathilde, who
submitted to her friend's caresses without responding to them.

"Yes," she faltered, "I have done what you ordered."

"Ordered!--As if I gave you any orders! don't you know that it is my
affection which leads me to advise you, to keep watch over you?--But how
pale you are! Are you so very unhappy?"

"I? oh, no!"

"You have not been on the balcony again?"

"No; but I might as well go there now; for it is all over; he doesn't
come any more; he has not passed the house, not once, for four days."

"How do you know? So you have been looking out of the window, have you?"

"Indeed! I was in father's room, and I could not help seeing. Besides, I
wanted to be certain that he was not there.--It is all over; he has
forgotten me!"

As she said these words, Bathilde, despite all her efforts, could no
longer restrain her tears; she let her head fall on Ambroisine's
shoulder and gave free vent to her sobs.

Hugonnet's daughter mingled her tears with her friend's, for at that
moment she could think of no better way to comfort her. A grief which
is able to find a vent always loses its force; it is a torrent changed
into a brook.

Bathilde recovered her courage to some degree, and wiped her tears away,
saying:

"I will be sensible; I will forget him, too; I will imitate him!--Ah!
you were right, Ambroisine, his letter contained nothing but falsehoods;
for he told me that he would die rather than cease to love me. Yes, it
was nothing but lies, false oaths--so I never want to read it again; you
may burn that letter, which deceived me so, you may destroy it; I must
not keep anything to remind me of that--that fatal meeting."

"What you say is very wise, my dear child; yes, I will burn his letter
this very day--as soon as I go home.--Ah! he well deserves to be
roasted, too, the villain! who has caused my poor Bathilde so much
misery!"

"Oh, no! you must not wish him ill, Ambroisine! On the contrary, I wish
that he may be happy! And when I pray, I will beseech God to watch over
him too, and to give him every felicity!"

"Upon my word! you are too kind! But heaven will take pity on you; and
before long, I am sure, it will have banished from your memory, from
your heart, everything that can possibly recall that seducer! If you
could come to see me--if you could go out a little to divert your
thoughts.--But, no! no! that would be dangerous; he might be on the
watch for you and follow you again! I will come here; I will come
whenever I have a moment to myself. I would have liked to bring my
other friend with me,--Miretta, the girl I have spoken to you about; she
is very agreeable, and she has so many interesting things to tell about
Italy! But she never comes to see me, except in the evening; and father
will not let me go out after dark, because there is a very dangerous
brigand in Paris who attacks everybody, and whom they cannot succeed in
arresting. So that many people declare that he is not a natural person
at all, that he has dealings with the devil! Indeed, there are some who
say that this Giovanni is the devil in person! As if that was not
absurd! Why should the devil amuse himself robbing and stripping people
in the streets?--But my friend Miretta is no coward, I tell you. She
isn't afraid of the brigand, for she sometimes stays at our house quite
late; and when father hasn't gone out to drink with the neighbors, he
always offers to take Miretta home to the Hôtel de Mongarcin, but she
will never accept anybody's escort. Several times father has said to
her: 'Beware! you will fall in with Giovanni, and he will attack
you!'--But she simply shakes her head and replies: 'I am not afraid of
robbers.'--I am not very timid myself; but I confess that I haven't as
much courage as Miretta, that I would not dare to go out alone so late,
especially as they say that this Giovanni is horrible to look at. It
seems that his head is all covered with bristling black hair like a wild
beast, and that he has a beard that reaches to his breast.--He must be a
frightful creature, mustn't he?"

Bathilde, who had ceased to listen when her friend no longer spoke of
Léodgard, answered with a sigh:

"Look you, Ambroisine, I have been reflecting. You must not burn his
letter; I prefer to keep it, because it is a proof--because it shows
that men tell us things that they don't mean! Oh, no! you must not burn
it, but you must give it back to me, after a while, when I can read it
without danger, you know!"

Ambroisine shrugged her shoulders; and finding that it was useless to
try to divert Bathilde's thoughts, she decided to leave her.

"Very well," she said; "I will not burn that wicked letter, since you
wish to treasure it!--Adieu! you no longer listen to my words of
consolation, but I trust that time will have more power than I have."

And the _belle baigneuse_ took her leave.

It was midnight; the hour which it is said that lovers and burglars
select for their enterprises.

Everything was quiet in Landry's house; it was the hour of repose. But
one does not sleep at eighteen, when one's heart is torn by the torments
and pangs of love.

Bathilde was in her room; she had risen because it was impossible for
her to find rest on her solitary couch; she opened her window, which
looked on the yard, and after standing there for a moment left it
because there was no air; only that which came from the street could do
her any good.

Suddenly the girl remembered her rosebush, which she had neglected for a
week; she thought that it must be dying for lack of water, or that it
must at least be very sickly; and taking her lamp, which was still
burning on the table, she softly opened her door and went to the linen
closet, delighted to have found a pretext for going out on the balcony.

Bathilde placed her lamp in a corner, then opened the window without
noise, and in a moment was on the balcony, beside the rosebush. But
instead of examining the plant, she gazed into the darkness that
surrounded her.

The street was dark and seemed entirely deserted. Now and then she could
hear shouts in the distance and shrill whistles that seemed to answer
one another--signals far from reassuring to the belated bourgeois, who
quickened his pace as he hurried homeward preceded by a hired
torchbearer.

At other moments the silence of the night was disturbed by the songs of
students and pages, assembled to make an uproar and break windows.

But these lasted only an instant, then everything became quiet once
more.

The girl could see nothing in the dark street; there was no moon to
dissipate the gloom; and yet, she could not make up her mind to leave
the balcony. She felt better there; it seemed to her almost as if she
were with him of whom she thought constantly.

Suddenly she heard her name; the voice came from beneath the balcony.
She shuddered, but not with fear; she listened--her name was called
again. The voice was soft and supplicating.

"Who is there?" faltered Bathilde.

"He who thinks only of you, who cannot exist without you!"

"Oh! that is not true, monsieur; for you have not been here for four
days, you have not even tried to see me; therefore, you no longer think
of me!"

"Oh! you were so cruel, Bathilde! Not a word in reply to my letter; but,
instead of that, you ceased to come out, you no longer appeared on the
balcony!--Yes, I tried to forget you, to return here no more! But that
was impossible; my love is stronger than your disdain!"

"Ah! if that were true! But, no, I must not believe you! You seduce all
the women--Ambroisine told me so."

"Ambroisine simply repeats what she hears. Ought you to give credit to
the assertions of people who do not know me? Dear Bathilde, you should
believe your heart alone, for the heart never deceives."

"But I must not listen to you, for you are a great noble and I am only a
poor girl."

"You are an angel! and angels so rarely appear on earth!"

"Ambroisine told me that you were making sport of me when you swore that
I should be your wife!"

"Why have you more confidence in another person's word than in my oaths,
Bathilde?"

"Ah! I should be very happy if I could believe you!"

"You restore my hope, my life!"

"O mon Dieu! I think I hear my father coughing! adieu! fly!"

Bathilde hurriedly left the balcony, closed the window, took her lamp,
and returned to her room, without giving a thought to the poor rosebush,
which was the pretext of her nocturnal venture. We are ungrateful
creatures; in our happiness, we forget all those to whom we owe it.

And Bathilde was so happy now! he still loved her, he had not for one
instant ceased to think of her! His tender oaths intoxicated her heart
with joy and love. The love that possessed her was so true, so pure, so
sincere, that she no longer felt strong enough to contend against it.

Léodgard went his way no less happy than she; being perfectly certain
now of her love, he had but one thought: to possess her person whose
heart was already his; and with the young count it was a short interval
between the desire and its gratification.

The next night, about half-past eleven, Léodgard was in front of
Landry's house. He listened attentively; everything was quiet; not a
light was to be seen, and the night was as dark as the preceding one.

But the young count was well acquainted with the position of the
balcony, and he had measured its height from the ground beforehand.
Taking from beneath his cloak a short silk ladder to which a strong
iron hook was attached, he dexterously threw the hook over the balcony
rail, satisfied himself that it was firm, then climbed the ladder with
the agility of a squirrel, stepped onto the balcony, drew up the ladder,
and softly opened the window. On the preceding night, Bathilde in her
haste had closed the window without fastening it, so that everything
favored Léodgard's audacious enterprise.

But although he was in the linen closet, he must still find the girl's
bedroom. He opened the door, stepped into the hall, and cautiously felt
his way along, stopping frequently to listen. Something told him that
Bathilde herself would point out the direction he must follow.

And so it proved; he heard a sweet voice singing an old villanelle with
a slow and melancholy refrain.

Léodgard walked in the direction from which the sound came, and soon
spied a light shining through the crack of a door not entirely closed.

It was Bathilde's bedroom.

Suddenly she saw the door open and Léodgard appear before her; she
screamed, but her lover fell at her feet; she tried to fly from him, but
he already held her in his arms.

Poor Bathilde! she loved him too dearly to be capable of defending
herself.

The next morning her rosebush was dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us allow two months to elapse, during which the lovers rarely passed
a night without meeting. The silk ladder remained in Bathilde's room,
and she herself fastened it to the balcony at the hour agreed upon with
Léodgard, who no longer appeared in the morning in front of Master
Landry's abode.

Thus the lovers were able to enjoy their happiness in peace; no one was
in their confidence, therefore they feared no treachery.

Ambroisine had come more than once to see her friend, and had asked her
if she was beginning to be consoled, to forget Comte Léodgard. And
Bathilde had lied; for her lover had told her that their liaison must be
kept a profound secret until the time when he could mention it to her
father; and to obey Léodgard, Bathilde had pretended, in answer to her
friend, to be cured of her love.

But at the end of the two months which had passed so swiftly for
Bathilde, a message arrived for Landry: he learned that his wife, having
finished her litigation at last and received the amount of her
inheritance, was returning to Paris, and that she would arrive in two
days.

The thought that she was about to stand once more in her mother's
presence made the guilty girl tremble; it seemed to her that her mother
would read her shame on her forehead; and on the night following the
receipt of the news, being with her lover, she looked up at him with her
eyes full of tears, and said:

"Save me! My mother will be here to-morrow! If she learns of my fault, I
shall be undone! Oh! I implore you, delay no longer! Ask my father for
my hand; avow your love to him, so that I may be your wife, so that I
may love you without blushing! Otherwise, my mother will find a way to
prevent me from seeing you; and I shall die of shame and grief
combined!"

Léodgard tried to allay Bathilde's terror and grief; he did not seem
deeply afflicted to learn that Dame Ragonde's return would put an end to
those pleasant nocturnal meetings. But for two months he had had nothing
more to wish for, and he was only waiting for an opportunity to break
off an intrigue in which he had obtained all that he sought.

However, he concealed what was taking place in his mind from the girl,
who wept bitterly; he pretended to share her chagrin; he was most lavish
of oaths and promises, and swore that before long they would meet to
part no more.

The next day Dame Ragonde returned home, bringing the funds which she
destined for her daughter's marriage portion.



XXIII

THE HÔTEL DE MONGARCIN


It was the morrow of a grand reception given at the Hôtel de
Mongarcin,--a function which had brought together the most noble dames
and the gentlemen of the first families of France then residing in the
capital.

Madame de Ravenelle and her niece had done the honors of the fête; but
Valentine especially had displayed that grace and refinement of manner
which made her a noteworthy figure everywhere.

It was she who had conceived the idea of giving a reception; and her
aunt had consented, but on condition that her niece should take it upon
herself to arrange and manage everything.

The guests had conversed; they had played lansquenet, brelan, primero,
dice, and other fashionable games; they had danced sarabands,
_passe-pieds, branles_, and all the dances then in vogue. In fact,
everybody had seemed delighted with the evening's entertainment, and had
lavished compliments upon Valentine and Madame de Ravenelle,
congratulating the latter upon having a niece who did the honors of her
house so gracefully.

And as the givers of a large party are usually very tired on the
following day, the old aunt was stretched out on a reclining chair,
from which she did not stir; while Valentine sat on a sofa, with her
feet on a soft hassock, holding in her hands a piece of embroidery upon
which she was not working.

"Are you asleep, aunt?" inquired Valentine, after a very long silence.

"I think not, niece; at all events, if I had been, your question would
have waked me!"

"Oh! I see that you were not asleep at all.--Our reception last night
was very brilliant, was it not?"

"If it is to ask me that that you interfere with my doze----"

"No; I wanted to ask you also if you noticed that all those whom we
invited came?"

"All! do you think so?"

"Yes, aunt, with the exception of a single one.--Oh! I am quite sure
that you noticed that, too."

"It is true," said Madame de Ravenelle, partly rising, "that the young
Comte de Marvejols did not come."

"He is the one I mean. I trust that now you will not give another
thought to my marrying this gentleman, who shows--I will not say so
little zeal, for he has shown zeal in avoiding me!--but who is almost
discourteous to us!"

"But, Valentine, young Léodgard's father, the Marquis de Marvejols,
accepted our invitation; he apologized for his son and said that
fatigue, an attack of fever, kept him at home."

"Of course you do not suppose that I believe a word of that! Fatigue!
fever! If he were ill, would his father have come to our party?"

"He may be only indisposed; the marquis, his father, was delightfully
amiable with me! He is a man of the old school; he stands very well at
court; it is said that the king is much attached to him, and that the
cardinal himself has the highest esteem for Monsieur de Marvejols."

"Mon Dieu! aunt, I have never ventured to doubt any of monsieur le
marquis's estimable qualities, although his manner seems to me rather
stern than amiable. That he stands very well at court is possible; but
that does not make it any the less true that his son will never be my
husband. Upon my word! fancy my taking for my husband a man who despises
me!"

"Oh! my dear niece!"

"Why, my dear aunt, since this gentleman does not deign to take the
trouble to pay court to me, since he even avoids my society, does it not
mean that he disdains an alliance with me?"

"Have you heard of his paying court to any other woman? No!--If you
could name some nobly born person, some _grande dame_, whose assiduous
attendant he was, I could understand your irritation. But young Léodgard
goes most rarely into society; he likes those parties of young men,
where they gamble and drink and fight and raise the deuce with
passers-by.--Mon Dieu! niece, such amusements have been indulged in by
many young men of illustrious birth. Why, some even go so far as to say
that one of our kings took great pleasure in going out at night with his
favorites, his _mignons_, and that they used to steal cloaks from the
people they met!"

"Oh! aunt! do you approve of that?"

"No, surely not! But I simply mean to say that young Léodgard may be
only a heedless youth, who dreads the moment when he must marry; because
he knows that then he will have to reform, to change his mode of life
altogether and live in a circle where he must maintain his rank
worthily."

Valentine made no reply.

A few moments later she rang, and said to Madame de Ravenelle:

"I am going to tell Miretta to finish this tapestry; the work tires me,
and the little Béarnaise does it so beautifully!--She did that corner,
and it's much better than I can do. She is running over with talent,
that girl--she has excellent taste in everything; she trims a cap with
marvellous skill!--Will you allow her to work here, aunt, on my stool?
We shall not have any visitors to-day."

The old lady confined herself to a nod of assent.

Miretta entered the salon.

"Come here, Miretta," said Valentine, pointing to the stool; "sit here,
and work on my embroidery; this work bores me; in any event, I am in no
mood to hold a needle this morning; I am tired. Sit down. Are you
comfortable?"

"Yes, mademoiselle."

"Don't hurry, work at your ease; this foot rest is not needed at
present.--Did you see everybody last night, Miretta?"

"Yes, mademoiselle; I helped the ladies to take off their cloaks and
mantles and shawls in the small reception room."

"Ah! to be sure. There were some very pretty ladies, were there not?"

"Oh, yes! but----"

"Well! finish."

"Mademoiselle will think that I mean to pay her a compliment; but I am
not given to flattery--I say just what I think."

"Well, say it; what do you think?"

"That mademoiselle was the most beautiful of all the ladies, married or
single, who were at the house last evening."

"Really? Why, that is very prettily said.--Do you hear what Miretta says
to me, aunt?"

Madame de Ravenelle did not reply, but they heard a sound as of
prolonged breathing.

"Ah! my aunt is asleep this time," continued Valentine; "so much the
better; we can talk more freely; but we will speak a little
lower.--Well! my poor Miretta, so you consider me beautiful enough to
carry the day over many other women. Several gentlemen told me last
night what you have just told me. I received a multitude of compliments,
attentions, even declarations! I am well aware that I must look upon
them as the little courtesies which it is customary to address to
ladies, but, after all, I know also that I am not ugly! And,
nevertheless, there is one young man who does not choose to see me, for
fear that he may be obliged to show me a little attention."

"Oh! that is most surprising, mademoiselle; unless, indeed, this young
noble has some other passion in his heart!"

"That is what I thought, myself; but I am told that it is not so!"

"But can anyone know such things?"

"Oh! you are right, Miretta; is it possible to know the secrets of the
heart? But look you, Miretta: I am very sure of one thing--that is, that
you love someone!"

"I, mademoiselle?" replied the girl, blushing.

"Yes, yes! you! Come, tell me the secrets of your heart; since you have
been in my service, I have watched you closely; in the first place, you
are not light-hearted and merry, as a girl should be; you sigh very
often; and when you think that you are not observed, you raise your eyes
to heaven as if in entreaty--for whom? Ah! it can only be for the man
whom one loves that one addresses such eloquent glances to heaven! Am I
wrong, Miretta? have you not in your heart a love which makes you
unhappy? Come, confess it!"

"Yes, mademoiselle, you are not mistaken; it is true that my heart
is--is no longer mine."

"Ah! I was perfectly sure of it; but then the man whom you love so
dearly does not reciprocate, since you sigh so much?"

"I beg pardon, mademoiselle; the man I love does return my love."

"Then why are you sad so often? Perhaps it is because there are
obstacles; you are not allowed to see each other, you are forbidden to
love."

"There are many obstacles, mademoiselle, in truth, and I meet him very
rarely."

"But he is in Paris, is he?"

"Yes, mademoiselle."

"And it was to join him that you came hither, I will warrant."

"That is true, mademoiselle."

"See what a power of divination I possess! But what does your lover do?
Is he not free? Are you not able to marry?"

Miretta lowered her eyes, her bosom heaved painfully, the pallor of
deadly alarm overspread her brow.

"Well! I see that I make you unhappy!" continued Valentine; "let us say
no more about it. But still, you do see your lover sometimes, and then
you are very happy. Oh! when that happens, I can detect it by your
face; you are no longer the same girl that you were the day before; you
smile and are almost gay. Because, as I believe it is as difficult to
conceal one's happiness as one's suffering.--For my part, I have no love
for the man they would like me to marry; no, indeed! I have not the
slightest love for him, although he is a very well-favored young man."

"Ah! do you know him, mademoiselle?"

"Very little; I have seen him once or twice in society. He is the son of
that old nobleman who was here last night--that tall, thin man with a
severe expression, dressed all in black, in the style of the time of
Henri IV, with a ruff that concealed his chin--the Marquis de Marvejols,
in fact."

"The Marquis de Marvejols! Is it his son whom you are expected to marry,
mademoiselle?"

"To be sure! why that exclamation?"

"Because, last night I was in the main vestibule when that old gentleman
arrived."

"Well! what then?"

"All your servants were there, and also a clerk from the office of your
aunt's solicitor, who had come to give her some information about some
business--a debt due her, or something else, I don't know what! But, as
you may imagine, they told the little clerk--for he is a very small
fellow--they told him that there was a grand reception going on, and
that madame could not receive him."

"What relation has all this to the old Marquis de Marvejols?"

"Why, mademoiselle, when Monsieur Bahuchet--that is the little clerk's
name--when he found that he could not be received, he put his papers in
his pocket, saying: 'Very well; I will return to-morrow.'--But, instead
of going away at once, as the guests were arriving, he remained a long
while in the vestibule, talking with the major-domo and the servants. He
is a great gossip, but he is amusing; for he made comments on everybody
who arrived, and I assure you, mademoiselle, that sometimes he said some
very comical things.--So, when this old gentleman arrived, and the
servant announced Monsieur le Marquis de Marvejols, the little clerk
cried:

"'Ah! I know that nobleman, and his son too. He had a pretty little pile
of debts, had the son; but the father paid them all some time ago; it
was my master, my solicitor, who called the creditors together. Comte
Léodgard promised to reform, but he doesn't reform; he is beginning to
run in debt again; and then, he's a great fellow for midnight intrigues!
I'll wager that he won't come here to-night; he is too fully occupied
elsewhere!'"

"The clerk said that?"

"Yes, mademoiselle; I was quite near him and I heard him plainly."

"Well! what else did he say? go on!"

"He said nothing more on that subject, mademoiselle; for other persons
arrived, and he had comments to make on them. It seems that that young
man knows all Paris; but nothing more was said about the son of Monsieur
le Marquis de Marvejols."

"What a pity! I should be so glad to know something more; and it is very
probable that this clerk--what did you call him?"

"Bahuchet, mademoiselle; a bit of a man, not so tall as I am, and with a
most original face!"

"This Monsieur Bahuchet must know more; and as he is so talkative, if
one had an opportunity to question him----"

At that moment the door of the salon opened, and a servant appeared and
said:

"The clerk from the office of madame's solicitor, who came last evening,
wishes to know if he may speak to Madame de Ravenelle."

"Oh, yes! yes!" cried Valentine, jumping for joy. "Let him come in; he
could not come more opportunely!"

"Eh! mon Dieu! what is it? why this noise, these cries?" demanded the
old lady, rudely awakened from her nap. "What is the matter, Valentine?"

"Your solicitor's clerk wishes to speak with you, aunt."

"And that is your reason for shrieking so! Let them send the clerk away;
I do not care to attend to any business to-day, I am too tired."

"But, aunt, he came last night; and then, if you knew--he will tell us
some very interesting things about the young Comte de Marvejols."

"What! my solicitor?"

"His clerk. I beg you, my dear aunt, let me question him; do not you
take the trouble to speak, if it tires you; I will speak for you."

Madame de Ravenelle threw herself back in her reclining chair, and at
the same instant Monsieur Bahuchet was ushered into the presence of the
ladies.



XXIV

THE WHITE PLUME


At sight of that young man of four feet eight, with his enormous head,
his huge mouth, his gaping nostrils, and, with all the rest, a
self-assured and pretentious air which bordered closely upon
impertinence, Valentine turned her head away in order not to laugh in
his face.

Bahuchet took four steps into the salon, then made two very low
reverences, one to Madame de Ravenelle, the other to her niece. As for
Miretta, he simply bestowed a patronizing smile upon her, as if to say:

"I know you, my dear; I know that you are the lady's-maid."

"What do you want with me, monsieur?" inquired the old lady, without
moving.

"Madame, I am sent hither by my employer, Maître Pierre-Guillaume
Bourdinard, your solicitor before the courts, and am instructed to
inform you, on the part of said Bourdinard, that Sieur Benoît-Gervais
Cocatrix, your tenant and debtor, now occupying your property on Rue des
Lions-Saint-Paul, has not yet paid his rent for the current term, or for
previous terms since he has occupied the said property, albeit we have
duly and frequently served upon him notices and citations on stamped
paper, which citations, engrossed by your humble servant, Nicolas
Bahuchet, should be paid for by the debtor, who, however----"

"Enough! enough!" said the old lady, motioning to the little clerk to
hold his peace; "you drive me mad with your pettifogger's jargon. Come
to the point, if you please; has my tenant paid his rent?"

"I was proceeding to certify the contrary by my peroration, if madame
had allowed me to finish.--I continue: And Maître Bourdinard, my worthy
employer, having to no purpose threatened your tenant, desires to know
whether he shall grant him still more time, or shall force him to vacate
the premises _ex abrupto_."

"How now, monsieur! Are you talking Latin to me? Do you imagine that by
any chance I can understand it? Let my solicitor procure my money for
me; he may employ whatever method he chooses--that is his affair. But I
do not choose to be pestered any more with this business; that, I trust,
is understood."

"Perfectly, madame; your orders shall be carried out. I will transmit
them to Maître Bourdinard personally, as I now have the honor to speak
with you, and the law will take its course. _Dixi!_ Whereupon I have the
honor----"

And the little clerk was already preparing to take his leave, when
Valentine said to him:

"One moment, monsieur; I have a question or two--some information to
request from you. But I would be very glad if, in answering me, you
would employ neither Latin nor the phraseology of the courtroom."

"Oh! with pleasure, mademoiselle; now that my employer's errand is done,
I become once more a jovial Basochian, master of his acts and his
tongue. But when we are performing our duties as clerk, we must needs
adopt the manner and language of the office. Moreover, it is always well
to show that one has education! That is what I constantly tell Plumard,
who thinks of nothing but finding pomades to make his hair grow. Plumard
is my fellow clerk, but he is bald and----"

"I do not desire to speak to you of your fellow clerk Plumard, monsieur;
but last evening you made comments in a loud tone upon a large number of
persons who came to our reception."

"That is quite possible, mademoiselle; comments of no consequence. One
must talk and laugh a bit, and show that one has conversational
powers."

"All your comments were not without consequence, monsieur; especially
those in which you indulged concerning the son of Monsieur le Marquis de
Marvejols."

"Concerning the marquis's son? Ah, yes! Monsieur le Comte Léodgard; what
did I say about him?--In the first place, I do not know him personally;
I have never seen him except at a distance; I may have repeated what
everybody says: that he was in debt; that his father paid fifty thousand
livres for him lately! That is true, for Maître Bourdinard, my employer,
called the creditors together in his office, in order to obtain the best
conditions and the greatest possible abatement."

"That is not all; you added that Comte Léodgard certainly would not come
to our reception.--What made you think so, monsieur?"

Bahuchet smiled cunningly, scratched his forehead, and shifted from one
leg to the other like a canary; he seemed to hesitate before replying,
and looked now at the old lady, now at her niece, and again at Miretta.

"Well, monsieur, did you not hear my question?" added Mademoiselle de
Mongarcin impatiently, and in an imperious tone.

"I beg your pardon, mademoiselle, I heard you perfectly; but there are
some things which we young clerks of the Basoche say to one another, or
when talking with the common people, which we should not dare to say to
a young lady of noble birth."

"Since you have had a good education, monsieur, you should be able to
use suitable terms in which to state a fact, and to refrain from saying
anything that can offend my ears. So much the worse for you, if you
cannot find a way to express yourself becomingly."

Bahuchet's self-esteem was stung to the quick; Valentine had hit upon
the way to make him speak. He rested the hand in which he held his hat
on his hip, and, striking an attitude like an advocate, said:

"Mademoiselle, I am very well able to express myself, and to select my
words according to my audience. Thank heaven, I have fitted myself for
the profession! My parents were poor, but poverty is not a vice! I do
not know who it was that dared to say: 'It is something much worse!' but
I do not share his opinion. Ignorance is a vice, and so is stupidity!
Wealth does not always go hand in hand with merit! On the contrary, it
seems to take pleasure in sneering at it!--Homer, poor and blind,
wandered through the streets and public squares, reciting verses to
obtain a crust of bread. Plautus, that original, satirical comic poet,
turned the wheel of a mill for his livelihood. Agrippa died in the
hospital. And it is said that the illustrious author of _Don Quixote_,
Miguel Cervantes, died of want. Tasso was often reduced to the necessity
of borrowing a crown."

"Mon Dieu! will he never be done?" said Valentine, turning to Miretta;
"I am sure that my aunt has fallen asleep again."

The little clerk, observing that the beautiful young lady paid no
attention to him, decided to return to the subject upon which she had
questioned him.

"Pardon me, mademoiselle; I allow myself to be led astray by my
schoolboy reminiscences. I return to the question which you did me the
honor to ask me. I did say, it is true, that I believed Monsieur le
Comte Léodgard to be too much engrossed by new intrigues at this moment
to have time to come to your fête. My reason for saying that was that I
have a friend--that is to say, a confrère--or a friend, no matter
which!--one Plumard, who is bald already, at twenty-six! That is rather
early to be bald!--Now, Plumard lives on Rue Dauphine--a small room
under the eaves. And a few days ago we were leaning out of his window,
looking into the street, and I recognized the young Comte de Marvejols
walking back and forth and watching, out of the corner of his eye, the
house of a bath keeper, who it seems has a charming daughter, a model of
grace, beauty, and innocence. The parents never allow this enchanting
creature to go out; the mother especially watches her with the greatest
care. But Plumard said to me, laughingly: 'That young gentleman comes
prowling about the house every day--he even comes in the evening! and it
is probable that he comes late at night! He surely must have seen the
bath keeper's daughter, and it is on her account that he passes his time
in this quarter.'"

"A bath keeper's daughter!" exclaimed Valentine, with a disdainful air.
"Is it possible that the son of the Marquis de Marvejols forgets himself
to such a degree as to address his sighs to one so far beneath him!"

"But if the little one is a model of beauty, as they say," murmured the
undersized clerk, "that causes much to be overlooked!"

"You know a bath keeper's daughter, Miretta; you go to see her
sometimes, do you not? Can it be the same one?"

"No, mademoiselle; the one I know is very good-looking too, but she
lives on Rue Saint-Jacques; she lost her mother long ago."

"I know whom you mean!" cried Bahuchet; "you mean Ambroisine, whom they
call La Belle Baigneuse. Ah! she's a very handsome girl--tall and well
built! She is Master Hugonnet's daughter, whose baths are very
popular.--Oh! I know her; I know all Paris, I do! But she isn't the one
in question, for my friend Plumard--his name ought to be _Plumé_
[plucked], for before long he will not have three hairs on his scalp----
But, no matter; Plumard told me about the daughter of his neighbor, the
bath keeper on Rue Dauphine. His name is Landry; he is an old soldier,
who will not look on it as a joke if he learns that a gallant is making
love to his daughter, whatever the gallant's name and rank may be!"

"And--was it long ago, monsieur, that you had this conversation at your
friend's window on Rue Dauphine?"

"About six weeks, mademoiselle."

"Have you seen your friend again since? Has he told you anything more
concerning Monsieur Léodgard de Marvejols's love affairs?"

"I have seen Plumard very often since. We sometimes dine together at the
cook shop. A few days, or rather a few nights ago, I escorted my comrade
home; it was very late, almost midnight; we had been singing and playing
cards and drinking a long, long while, and Plumard, who is not over
brave, was afraid to go home alone. He was in dread of falling in with
Giovanni the robber--the famous Italian brigand whom our archers, our
arquebusiers, our watch, in fact, all our soldiery, have not succeeded
in catching. They are not shrewd. To secure that villain's arrest, I
shall have to take a hand in it. But I will show them how to catch him.
I know how they must go to work to do it, and----"

"You will have Giovanni arrested?" cried Miretta, whose face had turned
deathly pale.

"Well, well! what has happened to you, child?" said Valentine, almost
alarmed by her maid's abrupt exclamation. "Mon Dieu! how excited you
are!"

"I beg pardon, mademoiselle; excuse me; but monsieur said that he knew
how they could arrest this Italian--this Giovanni."

"How does that concern you? You do not seem to be afraid of him, for you
never go out except at night, and you come home quite late, so Béatrix
tells me."

"That is true, mademoiselle; but, for all that, I would like to
know----"

"But I wish to know what concerns Monsieur Léodgard. I am not at all
interested in this famous robber.--For heaven's sake, Monsieur Bahuchet,
go on. You were taking your friend Plumard home, to Rue Dauphine."

"Yes, mademoiselle; we were walking quietly along, arm in arm, talking
together, and he was assuring me that he had discovered three more hairs
on his head since the night before, and he attributed that capillary
recrudescence to some grease made from a man who had been hanged, which
an old woman had presented to him."

"Ah! monsieur, you abuse my patience!"

"A thousand pardons, mademoiselle! I continue.--About a hundred yards
from the bath keeper's house, Plumard stopped and squeezed my arm.

"'What is it?' I asked, without wincing. 'I am not afraid of anything; I
am as brave as a lion. What did you see, Plumard?'

"'What I saw,' he replied, 'was a man climbing into a window on the
first floor of yonder house.'

"And he pointed to Master Landry's house.

"'Let us hurry,' said I; 'we must make sure of the fact.'

"And I pulled Plumard along by the arm; but he did not go any more
quickly for that. When we drew near the window in question, at which
there is a balcony, we thought that we saw a rope, or a rope ladder,
which someone hastily drew up. When we were in front of the house, we
saw nothing.--Was it a lover? was it a thief?--I recalled Comte
Léodgard's watches in front of the bathing establishment, and I said to
Plumard:

"'This must be the sequel of what we saw from your window.'

"But Plumard, who sees thieves everywhere, did not agree with me; he
wanted to call the watch and the neighbors; but, happening to glance at
my feet, directly beneath the balcony, I saw something white on the
ground. I stooped, and picked up a beautiful white plume, like those
with which our young seigneurs adorn their hats. Then I remembered that
Comte Léodgard had one of them on his hat, and I said to my friend,
showing him the plume:

"'Look! here is something that our climber lost on the way. Thieves
don't wear such plumes as this on their nocturnal expeditions; so this
is some lovers' affair. Let us leave them in peace; go home to bed and
stop trembling.'

"Thereupon I left Plumard at his door and went home."

"And the plume that you found?"

"I carried it home with me, and I still have it; it's a very fine one!
too fine for me to wear it, with my modest clothes. But no one knows; if
I should have a handsome cloak and rich doublet some day, and a velvet
cap, why, the plume would go very well with all those things!"

Valentine seemed to reflect; she glanced at her aunt, who was sound
asleep, then continued, taking care to speak in a low tone:

"Is that all you know concerning Monsieur Léodgard?"

"No, indeed! Oh! I have not emptied my bag yet, as my employer says.
Mademoiselle must know that I have a relation who lives near Vincennes;
he is a simple farmer; he has a little cottage with a sizable piece of
land, where he grows vegetables and fruit, which he brings to Paris to
sell. Thomas's cottage--Thomas is my kinsman's name--is in a very lonely
spot, just this side of the village and château of Vincennes. Ah! how
frightened Plumard would be there! so when I suggest to him to go to
Thomas's with me, he always refuses; and yet, my relative has a very
nice little wine.--But to come to my story: when you leave our quarter
of the Cité, you have to cross Pont Saint-Louis, otherwise called the
Pont-aux-Choux. And that is a very dangerous place, especially at this
time, for it is the favorite resort of Giovanni, the robber whom I
mentioned just now. I am confident that he has his lair in the
neighborhood. About five days ago, no more, Thomas's ass was stolen on
the Pont-aux-Choux; he did not see the robber, therefore it was
Giovanni. Also, an old peasant woman of Vincennes was found murdered
within fifty yards of that infernal bridge; that too was done by that
damned brigand!"

"No, monsieur, no; that is not true!" cried Miretta. "Giovanni did not
murder that woman! it is impossible!"

"And why is it impossible, I pray to know, young lady's-maid?" demanded
Bahuchet, staring at the girl in amazement.

Miretta tried to dissemble her emotion as she replied:

"Why, because I have been assured--I have heard everybody say that
Giovanni never sheds blood, that no one had ever been injured by him!"

"Really, my pretty child! And why do they not also say that when he
pillages travellers, the brigand gives them sweetmeats and preserves to
make up to them for the money he steals? What an absurd idea--that a man
who attacks with arms in his hand does not use his arms when he is
resisted! But there are people who delight to tell such foolish tales,
and who pretend to know everything better than anybody else.--I would
just like to have a hundred men, well armed; I would lie in ambush under
the Pont-aux-Choux, and within a week I would have captured, hanged, or
shot the famous Giovanni!"

"Ah! so that is how you expect to capture him?" muttered Miretta in a
trembling voice, gazing at the little man with eyes that flashed fire.

"It seems to me to be very easy; when you know almost the spot where a
bird has its nest, you can find it. But I beg pardon, mademoiselle; I
see that you consider me too talkative.--I was saying that Thomas's
cottage is isolated; but within about three gunshots of it, toward
Paris, there is a very pretty place, a very elegant sort of pavilion,
which belongs now, I believe, to the Baron de Montrevert, but which
formerly belonged to Comte Léodgard, who lost it at cards. This pavilion
is what our seigneurs of the court call a _petite maison_, a place to
which they go to enjoy themselves in secret, to which they take their
mistresses or courtesans; and the young count----"

"Enough, monsieur, enough!" said Valentine, with a glance at the young
man which cut him short. "This does not interest me. That the Comte de
Marvejols should ruin himself like a gentleman, that he should commit a
thousand follies--fight, drink too much, run in debt--all that I can
understand! But that he should fall in love with a bath keeper's
daughter, that that passion should keep him away from the world--that is
what seems inconceivable to me!--But this plume that you found--are you
willing to give it to me?"

Bahuchet rubbed his chin, assumed his mocking expression, and said at
last:

"Give it to you, mademoiselle?--You are most worthy of it, certainly,
but I have tried it on my hood, and it was not unbecoming to me; on the
word of a Basochian, it made me quite the dandy! Ha! ha!"

"Not so loud, monsieur; you will wake my aunt!"

"Ah! to be sure; the honorable and venerable lady is taking a nap."

"When I ask you for this plume, which is of some value doubtless, I do
not mean to suggest, monsieur, that you should make me a present of it;
and I will beg you to accept this purse in exchange, not as the price of
what I ask of you, but as a souvenir of me."

The little clerk hastily cast a furtive glance at the pretty velvet
purse, which was not unlike an alms purse, and from which issued a sound
very pleasant to his ear. He bowed to the floor before the noble maiden,
and, almost kneeling, took the purse from her hand.

"I accept this in obedience to you, mademoiselle," he said; "to-morrow
you shall have the plume. I am too happy to be able to do anything that
is agreeable to you!"

"Very well, monsieur; now, leave us."

Bahuchet bowed once more, then smiled at Miretta, who answered his smile
by a wrathful glance. But the little clerk hurried from the room and the
house, paying no heed to the young lady's-maid's threatening expression.
He was no sooner in the street than he opened the purse and found four
gold pieces inside.

Thereupon he shouted for joy, tossed his cap in the air, bumped against
the passers-by, and finally ran off at full speed, crying:

"O Plumard! I say, Plumard! where are you? I have got enough to buy you
a wig! but I won't buy it!"



XXV

THE MAN WITH FIVE FACES


When the messenger from her aunt's solicitor had gone, Valentine rose
noiselessly and beckoned to her maid to follow her. They soon reached
Mademoiselle de Mongarcin's bedroom, and the latter, after bidding
Miretta to lock the door, said to her:

"We can talk more at ease here, Miretta. I do not know how to tell you
what is taking place in my heart. I am chagrined, angry, almost furious.
And yet, I do not love this Léodgard; but I would be glad to make sure
that that youth has not been telling us a parcel of lies.--Miretta, you
must help me to discover the truth; you are in my service to do whatever
I wish; you will help me, will you not?"

"I am devoted to you, mademoiselle, and you may rely upon me."

"Good! good! Oh! I will reward you handsomely, I promise you!"

"Do not speak of rewards, mademoiselle; I am in need of nothing; you are
too kind to me now; I shall be happy to prove to you that I am not
ungrateful."

"You are not moved by selfish motives, I have noticed that already; you
are not an ordinary lady's-maid; besides, you love, you adore your
lover. Therefore, you will understand me.--The Comte de Marvejols, the
man whom my friends have selected for my husband, make love to a bath
keeper's daughter! pass all his time with her! and, to be with her,
refuse to attend balls and receptions! Oh! I cannot believe it yet; but
if it is so, you will agree that I shall be justified in refusing him,
in spurning that alliance; and if anyone should ask me for my reasons,
how sweet it would be to me to avenge myself by revealing the noble
conduct, the honorable love affairs of Comte Léodgard! that fashionable
nobleman, that soul of honor, that gentleman of the court of Louis XIII!
A noble gentleman, on my word! who does not shrink from marring his
escutcheon!--Oh! I don't know what is the matter with me! Give me water;
give me that phial of salts! I need to inhale it a moment."

Miretta zealously waited upon her young mistress, whose nerves were in a
state of high tension because her self-esteem was humiliated and she
could not endure the thought that a bath keeper's daughter had prevented
her destined husband from accepting her invitation.

At last, when she had become somewhat calmer, Valentine sat for some
time deep in thought. Miretta awaited in silence the commands of the
nobly born heiress, who already felt that she hated the plebeian maiden
whom she did not know.

"You are not timid, Miretta; you must be brave, since you are not afraid
to go out alone at night, here in Paris, which is said to be such a
dangerous place.--Well! you must go to Rue Dauphine, you must see this
girl, this wonderful beauty."

"Yes, mademoiselle."

"You will ascertain whether there are, in fact, any rumors afloat
respecting her love affairs; make the neighbors and servants talk; in a
word, I rely upon you to discover the truth."

"Mademoiselle, the bath keeper's daughter whom I go to see, Ambroisine,
knows this Landry's daughter, I think.--Yes, I remember now that she has
often spoken to me of her friend Bathilde--that is the name of the girl
on Rue Dauphine."

"Bathilde!--oh! her name is Bathilde! I thought that her name would
prove to be Marion, or Margot!"

"I will go first to see Ambroisine; and through her I shall perhaps
learn more than from others!"

"Do as you think best; I leave you entirely free. From this moment I
relieve you from all service and give you permission to go out whenever
you please, and to stay away as long as you please. The concierge will
have orders to await your return; and if anyone in the house should
venture to make any impertinent comments on your conduct, he will be
dismissed at once; for I am mistress here!--As you see, my aunt is good
for nothing but to sleep! She paid no attention to that young clerk's
story, and yet her niece's future and happiness were directly concerned.
Henceforth I myself will look after everything that concerns my repose,
my name, my honor.--Here is money--you may need it to bribe someone, to
induce people to speak. Do not spare it, spend it lavishly if necessary;
but act, act promptly."

On the evening following this interview between Valentine and Miretta,
the latter left the house as soon as it was dark.

But do not think that she bent her steps toward Ambroisine's abode.
While Mademoiselle de Mongarcin had been profoundly impressed by the
little clerk's gossip, Cédrille's pretty cousin had been no less moved
by what she had heard concerning Giovanni. Monsieur Bahuchet's words
with respect to him had struck her to the heart; she saw her lover
arrested and led to execution; and her feeling for Giovanni was stronger
than her devotion to her mistress.

On leaving the house, she proposed first of all to try to meet Giovanni
that night. The little clerk had declared that his favorite lurking
place was the neighborhood of the Pont-aux-Choux, and Miretta said to
herself:

"I will go in that direction; I have no idea where that bridge is, but
someone will tell me."

The first person whom Miretta addressed, on Rue Saint-Honoré, to ask for
directions, seemed much surprised.

"Pont-aux-Choux, mademoiselle!" he exclaimed. "The deuce! it's a long
way from here; it's outside of the city, beyond the Fossés Jaunes,
between the Porte du Temple and Porte Saint-Antoine; you don't expect
to go there to-night, I presume?"

"Pardon me, I do."

"And you are all alone! Beware! it's a lonely neighborhood, and very
dangerous at night."

"I am not afraid; but please tell me which way I must go."

He directed her as well as he could, concluding with the usual phrase:

"When you get there, inquire again."

Miretta walked a long while; she was not sufficiently familiar with
Paris to tell where she was, so that she did not know if she was
approaching her destination.

Most of the shops were already closed; and the girl, remembering that
she had money about her, regretted that she had not secured the
assistance of a torchbearer or messenger, who would have guided her
directly to the place to which she wished to go; but it was too late now
to find any of those hard-worked men in the street.

More than once, bands of students and pages had attempted to accost the
girl, offering her their services in very familiar fashion; but she had
run away from them without replying.

She had just made her escape from a group of young men who seemed well
disposed for mirth, when, as she halted, all out of breath from running,
at the corner of a street, a well-known voice fell upon her ear.

"Eh! sandis! my eyes do not deceive me! it is in very truth our cruel
infanta whom I see before me!--By Roland, my dear, you expose yourself
to great risk, rambling about alone at night in such an unsavory
quarter; none but knights of my temper should haunt such places by
night!"

When she recognized the voice of her faithful suitor, the Gascon
chevalier, Miretta felt relieved; for although Passedix pestered her
with his love, at all events she knew him; and while she found him
intolerable as a lover, she believed him to be incapable of attempting
any enterprise calculated to offend a woman's modesty. It was with
something like pleasure, therefore, that the pretty brunette recognized
the chevalier at that moment, the result being that she answered in a
much more amiable tone than she usually adopted with him.

"Is it you, monsieur le chevalier? I confess that I did not expect to
meet you here!"

"That is because you were not looking for me, little one; whereas I am
always hoping to meet you!"

"As you are here, you will help me out of my perplexity."

"I will help you in whatever you wish to undertake! Do you wish to
ascend to the moon--to revolve about a planet? I will escort you to the
celestial empire; I have no very clear idea what road we must take; but,
no matter! I would act as your escort, even to hell, if such were your
whim!"

"I thank you, monsieur le chevalier, but I have no intention of asking
you to go so high or so low; I do not deem myself worthy as yet to dwell
with the angels, but I have no desire, either, to pay a visit to the
demons!"

"Sandis! I would gladly sell myself to the devil to win your love!"

"Be kind enough not to talk to me of love, and please be my guide to the
Pont-aux-Choux, for that is where I am going."

"Ah! I understand; that is where you make assignations with your lover;
probably you are going there to join that rough fellow, that rustic,
that artisan, who was awkward enough to make Roland drop from my hand on
the Place de Grève, solely by favor of the crowd that pushed me from
behind!--Ah! ten thousand _bombardes_! I would like right well to meet
your spark again; I would show him this time that I know how to use my
sword, and that it is not in the habit of escaping from my hand."

"But if I remember aright, chevalier, it escaped from your hand on the
day you were kind enough to espouse my cause and to stand in front of
Cédrille and myself on Rue Saint-Jacques."

"That day there was another reason," muttered Passedix, with a frown.
"But let us return to the present; you wish to go to Pont Saint-Louis?"

"No; to the Pont-aux-Choux."

"It is the same thing. You are going there very late, my dear. Is your
lover a market gardener, pray? has he his lair among the cabbages and
carrots that cover the road toward Vincennes?"

"If you propose to begin your questions again, monsieur, I will leave
you and try to find some more obliging cavalier."

"No! no!" cried the Gascon, detaining the girl, who had already started
to leave him; "why, the child is like a train of powder! what a hothead!
If you were a man, we should have killed each other ten or twelve times
before this. But I love this effervescent nature; it bears some
resemblance to mine.--So you want to go to the Pont-aux-Choux? Take my
arm, my love; I shall have the honor of escorting you thither."

Miretta decided to put her arm through the chevalier's; and he,
overjoyed to have beside him the pretty girl of whom he was enamored,
drew himself up and tossed his head, which made him appear even taller
and diminished the stature of his companion.

They walked on for some time, the Gascon making his rusty spurs and
Roland's scabbard ring on the stones; Miretta thinking of Giovanni and
glancing all about at the slightest sound.

"Are we still far from the place to which I am going?" the girl asked
her guide at last.

Passedix did not reply for some seconds. Since he had felt Miretta's arm
in his, his love for the dark maiden had made rapid progress; his heart
beat violently beneath his patched doublet, his head burned, and his
imagination indulged in a multitude of wild antics.

At last he argued the matter out with himself thus:

"Since my good star has caused me to meet my inhuman fair, I should be
very stupid to take her to my rival, that knave who nearly made me lose
Roland; should I not rather seize the opportunity which offers to avenge
myself and to triumph over a cruel enslaver? The little one does not
know her way; instead of taking her to her rendezvous, I will take her
to the Place aux Chats, and tell her that it is the Pont-aux-Choux!
Then, by frightening her with tales of robbers, I will try to induce her
to accept shelter in the Hôtel du Sanglier; and once there!--Sandioux!
it's a daring plan, it has a suggestion of felony about it! But this
girl is a demon, and I shall not vanquish her unless I resort to heroic
means!"

"Well, monsieur le chevalier, you have not yet answered me; are we still
far from the Pont-aux-Choux?"

"Why, yes, my sweet child, rather far. Oh! you had gone entirely astray,
you were not going in the right direction."

"That is strange; I followed the directions that were given me."

"Some persons are so unkind! they take delight in making people go
astray who ask them to point out their road.--Lean on me, tender
blossom! Do not be afraid of wearying me; it is a joy to me to feel your
round arm in mine. Ah! ye gods!"

"It would be a great joy to me to arrive. I cannot understand this; it
seems to me that you are making me retrace my steps."

"As you were not going toward your destination, I must, of course, take
you back. This is one of the most blissful evenings of my life!"

"Do not press my arm so tightly, I beg you."

"This loving pressure is a magnetic effect of the fire which consumes my
heart, and which snaps devilishly so near to you!"

"Are you going to begin again to talk to me of your love? I thought that
you were cured."

"Cured! I!--Better to die than to be cured! What would you have me talk
about, sweet friend, when I am with you?"

"Have you forgotten, pray, that I am only a servant, upon whom you
conferred too much honor simply by looking at her?"

"A man may say that when he is angry, my dear; but, in reality, he does
not mean a word of it."

"Oh!" cried Miretta, suddenly stopping at a street corner; "I am sure
now that it is you who have lost your way! I recognize this street
perfectly; it runs into the street I live on; you have brought me back
to the quarter I came from."

"Sandis! I am taking you where you want to go. Come, we shall soon be
there."

"No!" cried the girl, as she withdrew her arm from the chevalier's,
refusing to go any farther; "no! I will not go with you, for it is not
possible that the Pont-aux-Choux is in this direction."

Passedix tried to take Miretta's arm again; she resisted, but the Gascon
was excited, and he was determined not to let the girl escape him anew.

Suddenly a new personage, whose approach neither of them had observed or
heard, appeared on the scene and put an end to the contest by releasing
Miretta from the chevalier's grasp.

The new-comer wore the costume of a citizen of the middle class; his
chin was cleanly shaven.

The girl had no sooner glanced at him than her face regained its
serenity; and she hastened to take her place by his side, while the
unknown said to the Gascon:

"How now, my master! Do you propose to make this young girl go with you
against her will? For a chevalier who wears a helmet and sword, that is
hardly chivalrous."

"Eh! where in the devil did this fellow spring from? I neither heard nor
saw him coming. Do me the favor to go your way, my dear fellow; this
young shepherdess is in my company, and we do not require your
interference in our affairs."

"But it seemed to me that you were hardly in accord, and I always
protect the ladies.--Tell me, my lovely child, did not this gentleman
try to make you take a road which you did not wish to take?"

"He did indeed, monsieur; for I wished to go to the Pont-aux-Choux, and
I am sure that he was not taking me there!"

"Oh, no! by no means! He was taking you to the Place aux Chats, to the
Hôtel du Sanglier; a most excellent hotel, i' faith! of which he
proposed to do the honors for you, I doubt not."

"Sandioux! it seems that you know me! But whoever you are, I forbid you
to take this girl's arm! Back, instantly!"

Passedix tried to push away the stranger, who had already taken the
girl's arm in his; but with his free hand the _soi-disant_ bourgeois
seized the Gascon's wrist and pressed it with his fingers with such
force that he cried:

"Oh! oh! That cursed grip again! Ah! it is the very same, I recognize
it! You are the mechanic of the Place de Grève; you are the Bohemian of
the Loup de Mer!"

"Search your memory--it is possible that I am still another person."

"Yes--those eyes, that expression! Ten thousand devils! it is the face
of the Comte de Carvajal, the noble guest of Dame Cadichard! But whoever
you may be, double, triple, or quadruple! even though you be the devil
in person--if you are a man of heart, you will give me satisfaction like
a gallant champion, sword in hand!"

"Ah! you wish to measure swords with me, do you, chevalier? Very good!
it shall be as you wish. On guard!--Have no fear, my girl! it is a
matter of an instant."

As he spoke, the pretended bourgeois drew from beneath his cloak a short
sword with a broad blade. Meanwhile, Passedix had drawn Roland from the
scabbard; but when he saw his adversary's weapon, he paused and
exclaimed:

"What in the devil do you expect to do with that little cutlass against
my noble blade? Sandis! I have too great an advantage over you!"

"Let not that deter you, chevalier, but try to hold your long sword more
firmly in your hand this time."

With that, the stranger attacked Roland with such vigor and dexterity,
that in less than two minutes the long sword went flying through the
air, and Passedix, stepping back, put his foot in a hole, fell over, and
rolled at the feet of his adversary, who placed the point of his short
sword against the prostrate man's breast, saying:

"Well! do you think that my little cutlass is worthy to measure itself
against your illustrious blade?"

"I cannot understand it! You have a way of fighting that bewilders one!
deceives one! Sandis! it is impossible; it must be that I have the gout
in my right hand!--But, no matter! I am vanquished! Strike!"

"I should be very sorry to do so. Au revoir, Chevalier Passedix! try to
find your sword; it went in that direction. But take my advice and do
not again lead young girls astray."

As he spoke, the victor joined Miretta, drew her arm through his, and
walked rapidly off with her, paying no further heed to his adversary,
who made a piteous face when he saw them go away together.

"Ah! what good fortune to have met you, Giovanni!" said Miretta, when
they were far enough away to have no fear of being overheard. "I was not
afraid for a single instant during the battle I have just been watching;
I was perfectly sure that you would be the victor!"

"But why did you wish to go to the Pont-aux-Choux so late?"

"Why! Because I want to save you; because you are in danger; because,
guilty as you are, I do not want you to be arrested and put to death!"

"_Què diavolo è questo?_ What is the source of this dread, of these new
alarms?"

"Ah! because I heard a young man say: 'I know where Giovanni's usual
lurking place is; it is near the Pont-aux-Choux that he ordinarily lies
in hiding; if they would surround that place with archers, it would be
very easy to capture the famous brigand.'"

"Ah! indeed!"

"'It is in that neighborhood,' he added, 'that he usually attacks
people; not long ago he stole an ass from my cousin, and murdered an old
peasant woman of Vincennes!'--Oh! those words made me shudder; I said
that it was not true, that Giovanni never shed blood.--Was I right in
saying that?"

"You did right to think it, but you did wrong to say it. Do you wish
people to suspect that you know me? You are an imprudent child, Miretta;
you forget what I have told you.--Never a word about me, never a comment
that may lead anyone to infer that we are not strangers to each other!
Listen, but do not seem to pay any attention to what people say about
me."

"Oh! do you think that it is possible for me to remain unmoved when I
hear someone say that he knows where you hide, that you will be
arrested, that you will be---- Oh! I will not utter that horrible word!"

"In the first place, my dear love, why are you so silly as to place any
faith in these fables, invented by one person to give himself
importance, and repeated by others because lies always find fools enough
who are ready to spread them? I, kill a peasant! to take her vegetables,
I presume? I, steal an ass! Why, what on earth should I do with it?--And
you could believe that, Miretta! you, who have seen my wealth, and who
know of the thirst for gold that possesses me now!"

"Mon Dieu! will it never be satisfied, this passion which drives you to
crime? Giovanni, do you mean to pass your whole life in this way?"

"No; a few months more.--Hark ye, next spring I mean to return to my
lovely Italy."

"You will take me, will you not?"

"Yes, I will take you. I will buy a palace, a superb villa. I will have
splendid equipages. You shall be covered with diamonds! I propose that
Milan and Florence shall be dazzled by my magnificence and my luxurious
mode of life."

"Why do you not carry out your plan now?"

"No; this will be a good winter in Paris; we will go in the spring."

"Giovanni, no one can defy danger forever with impunity! No one can be
always stronger than the laws and his fellow men! The moment of
retribution arrives when he believes that he is safe from all danger."

"Enough, Miretta, enough! I have told you before that your arguments are
of no avail.--Let us take this street--we shall soon be at the Hôtel de
Mongarcin."

"Then let us take another, for I do not want to leave you so soon,
Giovanni. I do not know why, but it seems to me that I shall not see you
again for a long while. I have a heavy weight on my heart; do not leave
me yet, I implore you, unless your safety requires it!"

"My safety has nothing to fear. But it is very late, and I thought that
it was necessary for you to return."

"Oh! I am in no hurry now; I may remain as long as I please; my mistress
herself gave me permission, for she thinks that I am employing my time
in her service."

"What does that mean?"

"That Mademoiselle Valentine de Mongarcin, furious with rage because she
is disdained by the young Comte Léodgard de Marvejols, who was to marry
her, wishes to know if he is really in love with the daughter of a bath
keeper on Rue Dauphine, and if it is really he who obtains access to her
at night by scaling the balcony of a window on the first floor.
Mademoiselle instructed me to investigate, to resort to every possible
means of ascertaining the truth."

"Your investigation is all made, the truth is ascertained for you.--I
know better than anyone what takes place in Paris at night. I know Comte
Léodgard; on a certain night last winter I had quite a long conversation
with him; and for some time past I have, in fact, noticed him several
times scaling the bath keeper Landry's balcony. It would never have
occurred to me to interfere with him; I should have been more inclined
to assist him, if he had needed assistance."

"In that case, my errand is done. Mademoiselle Valentine is not happy in
her love; for, although she will not admit it, I am very certain that
she loves this young seigneur; but not so much, surely, as I love my
Giovanni! O Giovanni! why must I leave you again? If you would----"

"The day will soon break," said Giovanni, interrupting her, "and I must
not wait for it. Let us go this way and walk faster; I am going to take
you home."

Miretta dared not remonstrate; but she sighed as she quickened her pace,
and they walked along in silence.

They were soon within a few yards of the Hôtel de Mongarcin. Giovanni
released his companion's arm, saying:

"Here you are at home; adieu!"

"Already! what! must I leave you so soon? Just a moment more!"

"Really, Miretta, you are not reasonable to-night; do you not see that
point of light in the sky, which announces the dawn? The stars are
growing dim, the darkness is beginning to fade away. Do not keep me
longer; adieu!"

Giovanni dropped the hand which tried to press his once more; he hurried
away and disappeared.

Miretta stood like a statue when he had left her; she was conscious of a
sharp pain at her heart, as if she had been stabbed.



XXVI

THE PONT-AUX-CHOUX


Historians are not agreed as to the first two encircling walls which
were built around Paris; but there is no doubt as to the location of the
third, which we owe to Philippe-Auguste, and which was begun in 1190.

This wall, starting from the right bank of the Seine, where the Pont des
Arts now is, traversed the site of the Louvre in the direction of the
Oratoire Saint-Honoré, where Porte Saint-Honoré stood; it then described
a curve to the _carrefour_ now formed by Rues Jean-Jacques Rousseau,
Coquillière, and de Grenelle. When it reached Rue Montmartre, the wall
was broken by Porte Montmartre. It continued along the northern side of
Rue Mauconseil to Rue Saint-Martin, where there was a gate called Porte
de Nicolas Huidelon. Crossing the sites of Rues Michel-le-Comte,
Geoffroy-Langevin, du Chaume, de Paradis, where Porte de Braque stood,
to Vieille Rue du Temple, it went on to Porte Beaudoyer, crossed the
enclosure of the Convent of the Ave Maria and Rue des Barres, and ended
at the right bank of the Seine.

The work on the wall south of the river began in 1208. This wall, built
through gardens and vineyards as far as Porte Saint-Marcel, skirted the
enclosure of Sainte-Geneviève to the Château de Hautefeuille, cut across
Clos Bruneau to Porte de Bussy, and, following the outer wall of the
Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the smaller Pré-aux-Clercs, came to
an end at the Tour de Nesle.

This third wall had round towers at intervals to protect it. But the
most formidable ones were at the extremities, on the banks of the Seine.

Under the reign of François I, the wall had been considerably enlarged.
But, in the year 1536, the Cardinal du Bellai, lieutenant-general of the
armies of King François, being informed of the approach of the English,
who were already devastating Normandie and Picardie, and dreading the
result of an attack upon Paris, ordered trenches and moats to be dug
from Porte Saint-Antoine to Porte Saint-Honoré. These were afterward
called the Fossés Jaunes [yellow moats].

This little digression into the domain of history is necessary to recall
old Paris to the minds of our readers, especially so that they may be
able to form an accurate idea of the localities where the events took
place which we are about to describe.

Pont Saint-Louis, otherwise called the Pont-aux-Choux, because of the
proximity of Faubourg Saint-Antoine, and because it was principally used
by the market gardeners, who crossed it to carry their vegetables into
the heart of the city, was situated between Porte du Temple and Porte
Saint-Antoine, and was built over the moats of which we have just
described the origin. Over this bridge, which was a dismal and often
deserted structure, there was a gate of a commonplace type of
architecture, called Porte Saint-Louis. But as it had not been closed
for many years, there was no keeper; it was very dilapidated, and on the
point of falling in ruins.

All about the Pont-aux-Choux were swamps, a large portion of which was
uncultivated. Tall grass grew along the edges of the moat, which
contained nothing but a little slimy water, through which it would have
been difficult to force a boat. Thus the whole locality had a sort of
wild and forbidding aspect, well calculated to inspire terror in the
solitary traveller whom the darkness surprised on that road.

However, on a certain lovely night in summer, several young gentlemen,
some of whom were acquaintances of ours, having crossed the
Pont-aux-Choux on their way back to Paris, halted about three hundred
yards beyond it, and one of them threw himself on the turf, crying:

"Faith, I don't care! go on if you choose, my masters; but I am going to
rest here; it is very comfortable on the grass. Besides, I feel that I
am drunk; I cannot stand on my legs."

"How now, my poor Monclair! Can you carry your wine no better than this?
What a pity!"

"Don't put on airs, Sénange! You are at least as drunk as I am, if not
more so."

"The fact is that I am quite as willing to sit down as to stumble at
every step on these horrible roads.--What an infernal way for Léodgard
to make us take!--I say, Comte de Marvejols, where are you? I want to
congratulate you!--Where in the devil is my valet Bruno? Let him bring a
torch here, and we will have another game."

"Your esquire is ahead; he walked on."

"I must call him.--Messieurs, messieurs, you fellows who are still on
your legs, have the kindness to call my esquire, my page, my
varlet--that rascal who is going off with the lanterns yonder, without
taking the trouble to see if his master is following him."

These words were addressed to three other young gentlemen who had halted
a few yards away. Among them was Léodgard de Marvejols, whose features
were far from denoting hilarity, and who did not seem, like some of his
friends, to have left his reason at the bottom of his glass.

The servant, being recalled, came back and placed a lighted lantern on
the ground, near the two gentlemen who were already seated on the grass.
The others decided to join them; but Léodgard remained a little behind,
leaning thoughtfully against a solitary tree.

"Do you propose to stay here, my fine fellows?" he asked.

"Yes; the fresh air has finished us, we cannot stand on our legs any
longer."

"It is a fact that the supper was delicious and the wines exquisite.
Montrevert did things very handsomely; his _petite maison_ is a
delightful place."

"Speaking of Montrevert, did he not say that he was coming with us?"

"Yes; he said: 'Go on, and I will overtake you.'"

"Well, he does not seem to have overtaken us, and we are a good quarter
of a league from his house."

"That is true, and it is an additional reason why we should rest here
and wait for him."

"Bah! he won't come; he has probably remained with his infanta. She is a
very pretty girl, that Herminie!"

"But I tell you, messieurs, that Montrevert will come; he cannot stay at
his _petite maison_, for he must be in Paris to-morrow for the king's
_lever_. He has hopes of being admitted to the company of Gray
Mousquetaires, which his majesty has just organized; it is a bodyguard
that is to attend him everywhere, even to the hunt.--Vive Dieu!
messieurs, but it is a fine corps! Such a coquettish uniform--red,
trimmed with gold. Ah! what conquests those fellows will make with that
uniform!"

"Look you, I too have some hope of entering this corps of
mousquetaires," said the young Marquis de Sénange, trying to straighten
up and maintain a sitting posture on the grass. "I too ought to be at
the king's _lever_ to-morrow--or rather, this morning. But I think that
I shall not be there! I am too dizzy--deuce take it! Youth is the age of
folly and pleasure.--Ah! I wish I could find someone who would sit back
to back with me; we would support each other.--Monclair, sit behind me."

"No; I am very comfortable, I refuse to stir."

"What a selfish beast that little Monclair is!--Come, La Valteline, and
you, Beausseilly--come and sit down with us."

The two young men who were still standing decided to seat themselves on
the grass near their companions. But he who was called La Valteline
turned toward Léodgard and shouted:

"Well! Comte de Marvejols, aren't you going to join us? What the deuce
are you doing there, all alone, with your eyes fixed on the sky? are you
going into astrology? Beware! you know that a commission is sitting at
the Arsenal, in the Poison Chamber, for the express purpose of trying
persons accused of magic! And astrologers are very closely related to
sorcerers!"

"Messieurs," said the Sire de Beausseilly, lowering his voice, "poor
Léodgard is in no laughing mood, and you must understand why: he was
very unlucky at cards to-night, he lost all that he possessed to
Montrevert, and, I believe, a hundred pistoles more on credit."

"He is always unlucky with Montrevert, he ought never to play with him;
for that charming _petite maison_ where we supped, which is decorated so
suggestively, used to belong to Marvejols; he staked it against heaven
knows what sum with Montrevert! And now that delicious resort no longer
belongs to him! To be sure, Montrevert often invites him there."

"If he does it in order to win his money, as he has done to-night, it is
not very amusing for Léodgard. I have noticed that fortune has been very
adverse to him for some time past. He always loses, poor fellow!"

"And I believe he is in debt; he owes everybody!"

"Vive Dieu! messieurs, should a man torment himself because he is in
debt? As for myself, I have creditors, and plenty of them--I am proud of
the fact! But when the knaves have the impudence to ask me for money,
then I draw my sword and shout and curse and excite myself to such a
frenzy that they run away as if the devil was at their heels! That is
the way to arrange one's affairs!"

Léodgard had not heard La Valteline's call, for he was still looking at
the stars.

"Stay, messieurs; I will wager that I will make him come; I know the
way.--Holà! Bruno! come here, knave! Have you the dice and diceboxes in
your pocket?"

"Yes, seigneur."

"Give them to me."

The valet handed to his master, the Marquis de Sénange, two ivory
diceboxes and the dice; the young man placed the dice in one of the
boxes and shook them a long while, then began to exclaim:

"Seven--eleven--twelve! I have won! I have won!"

The rattling of the dice produced the effect which Sénange anticipated:
Léodgard, roused from his reverie, left his place and drew near the
gentlemen who were seated about the torch.

"What, messieurs! are you shaking dice on the grass?" he asked.

"Sénange is shaking all by himself at this moment."

"I heard him say that he had won."

"Pardieu! yes, for I have won; I bet that with my dice I would draw the
Comte de Marvejols hither.--Tell me, my masters, did I succeed?--Come,
Léodgard, sit down and laugh a bit with us! What is the use of losing
your temper with Fortune? What good does it do? She's a woman; what she
will not grant to-day, she will grant to-morrow."

"Moreover, Comte Léodgard cannot accuse Fortune with a good grace; for
if she is adverse to him at play, with the fair she seems to treat him
like a spoiled child."

"There is a report of a certain _bonne fortune_ with a damsel on Rue
Dauphine; and I hear that the little one is as beautiful as Cupid. She
was kept carefully concealed, but that devil of a Léodgard would
discover her kind at the bottom of a well or on top of the steepest
cliffs!"

"Come, Léodgard, tell us about this intrigue."

"Yes, yes! tell us about this bourgeois _bonne fortune_. It will help us
to pass the time until Montrevert comes; he must have fallen into some
hole in the road."

Léodgard stretched himself out carelessly on the grass and looked at his
companions, saying:

"Has anyone anything to drink? I am extremely thirsty, and I can't tell
my story unless I have something to drink."

"By Saint Jacques! I would like a drink, too!" muttered young Monclair,
making vain efforts to sit up.

"What! not a drop? and no wine shops near by!"

"A cheerful spot, the neighborhood of this horrible
Pont-aux-Choux!--There is not a house in sight--not even a hovel!"

"Wait, my friends, wait.--Holà! Bruno!"

The Marquis de Sénange's valet approached the group.

"Bruno, do you not always carry a gourd, like the pilgrims when they set
out on a long journey?"

"Yes, seigneur, I do."

"What is there in your gourd?"

"There is some--some very bad eau-de-vie."

"Very bad!--Ah! you rascal! from the way in which you say that, I would
swear that you are lying. Give us your gourd; and we will judge whether
its contents are so bad as you say."

"But, seigneur, I have been drinking from it, and I could not allow----"

"Give it to me, all the same; we must be governed by circumstances.
Come, gallows bird! I verily believe that you hesitate!"

Repressing a sigh, the valet handed his master an enormous gourd.
Sénange swallowed a mouthful, then cried:

"Ah! I suspected as much; it is exquisite, delicious,--it is thirty
years old, I will stake my head! The villain must have stolen it from my
father's cellar.--Here, Léodgard, judge for yourself."

Léodgard took the gourd and drank slowly but at great length, so that
the young men called out:

"Enough, count, enough!--He will drink it all! We too want a chance to
judge of the liquor!"

At last Léodgard passed the gourd to his neighbor, who, after drinking,
passed it to another. They did not cease to drink, until they had
exhausted the contents of the gourd. Then they returned it to Bruno and
made themselves comfortable on the grass, some half reclining, others at
full length. Léodgard, who had maintained a sitting posture, with his
head resting on his left hand, said to his companions:

"What do you wish me to tell you about, messieurs? an amourette among
the common people? Mon Dieu! it is always the same story! They kept the
girl closely confined, but not so closely that she did not see me pacing
the street under her window."

"So long as parents leave windows in their houses," said Monclair, "they
cannot answer for the innocence of their daughters!"

"There was a balcony on which she had placed a pot of flowers, which she
used to come out to water."

"Messieurs, it is not without a motive that women display so much love
for flowers; intrigues almost always begin with bouquets."

"Hold your tongue, Monclair! sleep off your wine, and allow the count to
finish his story."

"Sleep off your eau-de-vie, you fellows!"

"I threw a billet-doux in at the window; she pretended to be angry at
first; I did not appear again for four days, and on the fifth I found
the little one on the balcony at midnight, peering into the darkness in
quest of me!"

"Ah! that's the way! it is always like that!"

"The next day, with the aid of a silk ladder, I stood by my charmer's
side!--You see, messieurs, that this affair was like every other;
indeed, it was too easy--no jealous husband, no guardian keeping watch."

"Oh! that sort of thing is very insipid; when there's no danger, there's
no pleasure."

"Oh! Sire de Beausseilly, what you say is altogether false; there is
always pleasure in the conquest of a pretty girl! And it seems that this
one is an angel of beauty.--Is that so, Léodgard?"

"Yes, she was very pretty."

"She _was_! Is she dead, pray?"

"No, but I have not seen her for several weeks; that is why I use the
past tense."

"Oho! so it is already over?"

"Already? An amourette that lasts two months--is not that long enough?"

"It's a long time!"

"It is too long!"

"It is never too long when one is happy."

"And then a mother arrived--a very unamiable person, so it seems, who
had been absent a long while. If I had still been in love, the obstacles
that would thenceforth have made our rendezvous an affair of some
difficulty would have served only to sharpen my desires; but my love was
extinct. Faith! the little one may look out for herself now as best she
can; it is no longer any concern of mine."

"Well said! Of course, a gentleman could not run the risk of a
controversy with churls!"

"Faith! messieurs, for my part, I care for none but _grandes dames_!
They are so adroit in carrying on an intrigue, they display so much
coquetry, that it keeps you in breathless suspense! A fellow is much
more in love when he is not certain that he is loved in return!"

"And you, Sire de Beausseilly?"

"I! do you suppose that I have patience to make love to a woman? to
dance attendance on her and languish and sigh? Nonsense! never! I like
the love affairs that give one no trouble!"

"Oh, yes! we all know what that means! He frequents Rue Fromenteau, Rue
Tire-Boudin, Rue Brisemiche, Rue du Hurleur, Rue de la
Vieille-Bouclerie."

"Peste! La Valteline, you seem to know perfectly where all the wantons'
houses are; for you mention all the streets to which _girls who are mad
over their bodies_, as they are called, are obliged to confine
themselves."

"One must needs know his Paris, messieurs."

"Yes; especially when one desires to meet _golden girdles_."

"Oh! messeigneurs, the edict of King Louis VIII has long been forgotten,
and those damsels no longer comply with it; so that the proverb: 'A good
reputation is worth more than a golden girdle' has no meaning now."

"I say, messieurs, it must be very late."

"You mean that it must be very early in the morning!"

"About three o'clock, I fancy."

"Oh! more than that; it is four o'clock at least; I am sure that the
dawn will soon be here."

"Do we propose to finish the night in this place?"

"It is very strange that Montrevert has not overtaken us!"

"He certainly will not come now!"

"I do not propose to wait for daylight to return to Paris, in the
condition in which I am! If some _âme damnée_ of the cardinal should
happen to meet me, Richelieu would hear of it, and I should receive a
sharp reprimand.--Come, messieurs, let us get up and go on."

"No, no!" murmured the Marquis de Sénange, rolling over on the grass; "I
am very comfortable here. Let La Valteline go, if he pleases! I shall
stay; for when day breaks, the little dairymaids from the country will
cross the Pont-aux-Choux; we will watch for the prettiest ones, and they
will have to pay toll,--eh, Léodgard?--Well, he is still thinking of his
losses at cards!"

"Sénange, you have dice there," cried Léodgard suddenly, raising his
head; "I will play you for my cloak--you were admiring it last night. I
will stake it against fifty livres, and, on my word as a gentleman, it
cost me more than a hundred--which I have not yet paid, it is true, but
which I still owe to my tailor."

"What, Léodgard! do you want to play again?" cried Beausseilly; "but you
are not in luck, and if you lose your cloak, how can you return to
Paris?"

"I will stake my sword, my doublet, my knee-breeches! I will stake
myself, when I have nothing else left! But I must play! So long as I
have anything left to stake, by hell! it will always be so.--Well,
Sénange, do you accept the stake I propose?"

"Yes, I agree; your cloak against fifty livres. But what shall we play
on? We can't throw dice on the grass; they would not lie evenly, and the
result would be doubtful."

"Play on my back, messieurs," said Monclair, lying flat on his stomach
on the grass. "I promise not to stir."

"So be it; on Monclair's back."

The two young men each took a dicebox, and their companions drew near to
watch the game. The valet brought the lantern nearer, while Monclair
lay on his stomach and did not stir.

"Begin!" said Léodgard in a gloomy voice, handing the dice to his
adversary.

"As you please," said Sénange; and placing the dice in the box, he threw
them on Monclair's back.

"Four!" cried Beausseilly and La Valteline.

"Four!" echoed Léodgard, with a smile of satisfaction.

"What a beastly throw!" muttered Sénange; "I fancy that I may say
good-bye to my fifty livres.--Go on, count--play!"

Léodgard took the dice and threw them with a trembling hand.

"Three!" cried Sénange. "Pardieu! but I am in luck! Your cloak belongs
to me, Léodgard!"

The young Comte de Marvejols dropped his head on his breast, while the
other gentlemen held their peace and seemed distressed by the ill
fortune which pursued Léodgard.

At that moment a distant, indistinct noise reached the ears of the young
men.

"Do you hear, messieurs?" said La Valteline, listening intently; "do you
hear?"

"I hear nothing," said Monclair.

"I do," said Beausseilly; "I hear a noise that seems to be coming
nearer; it sounds like outcries, imprecations."

"It seems to me that someone is coming toward us. Listen! listen! the
footsteps are becoming more distinct."

"Suppose it were Montrevert?"

"Can he have been attacked? We must go to his assistance!"

"We had better hail him first.--Take that lantern, Bruno, and hold it in
the air.--Do as I do, messieurs.--Holà, Montrevert! is that you?"

The shouts of the young men were met by an answering shout.

"It is he," said Léodgard; "and he is not far away."

"There he is! there he is!"

"Come this way! this way!"

A young man of twenty-eight to thirty years, dressed with elegance, but
with his garments in disorder, his belt gone, his face transformed by
excitement, and without his sword, crossed the Pont-aux-Choux at full
speed and joined the friends whose shouts had guided him.

"It is Montrevert!"

"Mon Dieu! what is the matter with him? what a ghastly pallor!"

"What a state his clothes are in!"

"What has happened to you, Montrevert?"

"Have you been attacked?"

"Wait a moment, messieurs; give me a chance to breathe.--Yes, I have
been attacked."

"Are you wounded?"

"No, not a scratch! And yet, I assure you that I tried to defend myself.
It was Giovanni, the famous brigand, who attacked me--yonder, on the
other side of the bridge, on the right."

"Giovanni?"

"Oh, yes! he was dressed just as those whom he has robbed describe him,
just as he was when Léodgard saw him: the long olive-green cloak, and
the cap bristling with hair---- Ah! the villain!--Look you, messieurs,
this is how it happened. I stayed behind longer than I expected after
your departure; so that when I started, wishing to make up for lost time
and to overtake you the sooner, I walked very rapidly; I lengthened my
strides, sometimes cutting across the market gardeners' gardens, and
devoting all my thought to keeping my feet out of the holes and ruts and
excavations which make such cross cuts extremely dangerous. So it is not
surprising that I did not see my robber approaching. However, I think
that he must have been hiding behind a tree, for he suddenly blocked my
path without my hearing the sound of his footsteps. I was thunderstruck
at seeing before me a man whose aspect was so truly frightful, and I
instantly put my hand to my sword hilt; but instead of the raucous tones
which I expected to hear, it was almost a falsetto voice that said to
me:

"'Do not draw your sword, but give me your purse, seigneur; that will be
the quickest way.'

"'My purse!' I cried. 'Ah! do you expect to obtain it without striking a
blow? I propose to kill you instead of giving you my money.'

"As I spoke, I drew my sword and expected to transfix the robber with
ease. But the rascal must be a powerful hand at fence. With two blows of
a weapon which he held, he shattered mine; then, throwing me to the
ground, he snatched my purse from my belt! Vive Dieu! my purse, which
contained two hundred gold pieces! Ah! the gallows bird!--And it was all
done so dexterously and so quickly that I was hardly on the ground when
it was all over; no purse, no robber--Giovanni had disappeared!--Then it
was that I began to shout imprecations, to relieve myself a little. I am
not wounded, it is true; but to be beaten and robbed like that by that
bandit! It is enough to make a man damn himself!"

The young men were stupefied by what they had heard. Léodgard alone
sprang to his feet, crying:

"Damnation! I will not let this opportunity escape. It was on the
right-hand side of the road, beyond the bridge, that you were attacked,
you said, Montrevert, did you not? It was on the path leading to
Vincennes, then?"

"Yes; but what do you mean to do, Léodgard?"

"To avenge you, or rather to avenge us both; for I, like yourself, have
been beaten and stripped by Giovanni! But this time I will kill him, or
he will kill me!"

"Can you think of such a thing, Léodgard? Pursue that brigand? Why, he
must be far away before now! He will not have remained near the scene
of his latest exploit."

"Perhaps he will. However, I will go a long distance, if need be; but I
will find that man!"

"In that case," said La Valteline, "we will go with you; we will not
allow you to run such a risk alone."

"No, messieurs, I beg you, do not come with me; you will make success
impossible. If the robber can be surprised, it must be done by cunning.
He would hear the footsteps of several people, and that would put him on
his guard. Once more, I say, let me make the attempt alone. One man
against one man--that is enough; and if I meet my death in this
undertaking, do not pity me; at this moment I care very little for
life!"

When he had finished speaking, Léodgard ran across the Pont-aux-Choux
and disappeared in the darkness.

"Léodgard! Léodgard!" called Beausseilly; "we will wait for you here; we
will not move until you return.--I don't know if he heard me."

"What the devil ever put that idea into his head?"

"There is no sense in what he has undertaken to do," said Montrevert;
"judging from the address and agility that this Giovanni shows in his
attacks, it is inconceivable that he should allow himself to be taken by
surprise."

"I agree with you; but Léodgard is intensely excited! He has gambled
away all that he possessed--even more. Life has little attraction for
him at this moment! Faith! if he meets Giovanni, I fancy that the
villain will not come off so cheaply."

"Pardieu!" said Sénange, half rising; "you remind me that the handsome
cloak which the count is wearing is my property now, as I won it from
him a moment ago at dice. I ought not to have let him go off with it!"

"Ah! Sénange, you are a very pitiless creditor!"

"Look you, if he meets Giovanni, the latter will be the victor, in my
opinion; and as he will not find an obolus on Léodgard, he will take his
cloak. Would it not be better that I should have it than that brigand?"

"Listen, messieurs! don't you hear a noise?"

"No, nothing."

"Oh! how the time drags! I wish Léodgard would come back."

Ten minutes passed, and with each minute the young men became more
anxious; they no longer laughed, they even ceased to talk, for they
listened with all their ears.

"Here comes the day," muttered Montrevert, "and Léodgard does not
return! I begin to tremble lest he has been the victim of his own
boldness."

"Messieurs," said La Valteline, "if he does not return in five minutes,
we must go in search of him."

"Yes, yes!"

"Wait--I hear footsteps."

"Bah! it's a peasant going to market; look--you can make her out now on
the bridge."

"True; the time for thieves to be abroad has passed."

"Poor Léodgard!"

"Messieurs, see that man walking so fast across the bridge. Ah! this
time it is he! it is our friend!"

"Victory! it must be that he has carried the day!"

All the young men ran to meet Léodgard, for it was really he who was
approaching. As they drew near him they were struck by his pallor and by
the sinister gleam of his eyes, which avoided theirs.

"Well, comte, did you win the fight?"

"Or did you fail to find the brigand?"

"Oh! messieurs, they fought; for, see, Léodgard has blood on his
clothes!"

"Ah! Giovanni has ceased to live!"

"You are mistaken," murmured Léodgard, in an altered voice; "it is true
that I fought with the brigand; I wounded him, for his blood spurted on
me. But it seems that his wound was of trifling consequence, for it did
not prevent him from running away, and it was impossible for me to
overtake him! He disappeared behind the hedges, and I saw him no more."

"Ah! so much the worse!"

"What a pity!"

"The poor count has nothing to show for his exploit.--Luckily, you are
not wounded, are you?"

"No, not at all."

"That is the principal thing, for we were beginning to be very anxious
about you!"

"Messieurs, messieurs, it is broad daylight; let us hasten home, or we
too shall be taken for robbers."

"Yes, yes, let us go!"

"Are not you coming with us, Léodgard?"

"No, messieurs; I am in no hurry to return to Paris. This adventure,
this fight, has tired me; the country air will do me good."

"Au revoir, then!"

"Au revoir!"

The young men walked rapidly away toward the city, while Léodgard slowly
crossed the Pont-aux-Choux, glancing furtively behind him from time to
time.



XXVII

THE FOSSÉS JAUNES


Valentine de Mongarcin was reclining carelessly on a sofa in her music
room. That was her usual place of refuge when she was not with her aunt;
but for several days past the study of the zither and mandolin had been
abandoned.

The noble heiress had learned from her maid that the little clerk's
tales were founded on truth; Miretta had told her what she had learned
from Giovanni. From that moment Valentine's lovely features had shown
signs of gloomy preoccupation. If a smile sometimes played about her
lips, it seemed inspired rather by the hope of vengeance than by one of
those agreeable thoughts which usually cause young girls to smile.

Valentine rang a bell, and Miretta soon stood before her.

"Did you do my errand, Miretta? Did you go to the office of my aunt's
solicitor?"

"Yes, mademoiselle; I went there this morning. I easily found Maître
Bourdinard's office; it is on Rue du Bac. I crossed Pont-Rouge, which,
they say, was built not long ago to take the place of the ferry [_bac_]
that used to be established there, opposite that street, which took its
name therefrom.--Oh! I am beginning to know Paris very well now!"

"Well, did you find that little clerk who came here the other day, and
to whom I owe such--such valuable discoveries?"

"Monsieur Bahuchet? No, mademoiselle, he was not at the office; but
there were several other clerks, who stared at me so insolently that I
was very much embarrassed. When I asked for Monsieur Bahuchet, all the
scribblers began to laugh; and they made some very coarse jests among
themselves, which brought the blood to my cheeks.

"'Ah! you want to see Bahuchet, do you?' they said; 'ah! it is that
villain, that seducer of a Bahuchet, whom you want to see?--On my word,
he's a lucky rascal!--It seems that you don't go in for height, or for
physique!--Who would believe that such a pygmy would be picked out by
such a pretty girl?--I say, when you take his arm, you must tower above
him! and if he doesn't walk fast enough to suit you, you can easily take
him under your arm and carry him; he weighs only thirty-three pounds and
a half.'

"To put an end to all this nonsense, I said loudly:

"'Messieurs, I wish to see Monsieur Bahuchet in behalf of Mademoiselle
Valentine de Mongarcin, who is my mistress, and who desires to speak
with him.'

"Ah! mademoiselle, you should have seen what a change took place in the
office when they heard your name! All the clerks assumed a most sedate
air, and the jests instantly came to an end; they became very polite,
and one of them, who, when he took off his cap to salute me, showed a
head prematurely bald, said: 'Mademoiselle, Bahuchet is out, on business
for the master, and he will not return for an hour at the earliest. But
if mademoiselle your mistress wishes to speak with Bahuchet on business,
one of us might take his place; myself, for example, Eudoxe Plumard; I
am ready to go at once to the Hôtel de Mongarcin. Unless you prefer to
speak to the solicitor himself; but he is not in, he has just mounted
his mule to go to the Palais.'

"I answered that it was about a matter with which Monsieur Bahuchet was
already familiar, and that, for that reason, you desired to speak with
him personally. Thereupon they promised to send him to you as soon as he
returned.

"'But,' added the clerk who called himself Plumard, 'don't expect him
very early; for when Bahuchet goes out, it is always an eternity before
he comes back.'

"And that, mademoiselle, is the result of my visit to the solicitor's
office."

"Very well," said Valentine, apparently lost in thought. After a few
moments, she added: "Is it a long while, Miretta, since you have been to
see your acquaintance the bath keeper's daughter on Rue Saint-Jacques?"

"No, mademoiselle, not more than a week."

"Did you ask her about--about her friend, the other bath keeper's
daughter?"

"Yes, mademoiselle; I asked her if she had seen her lately. She answered
that, as Bathilde's mother had returned, she could see her only very
rarely. And when I tried to question her further on the subject, she
abruptly changed the conversation. Which led me to think that, if she is
in her friend's confidence, she does not propose to betray her secret."

"A fine secret, on my word! which must be known ere this to the whole
city, except perhaps those who are most deeply interested in it; but it
is always so.--At what time were you on Rue du Bac, Miretta?"

"At half-past ten, mademoiselle."

"And it is now?"

"After twelve."

"Well, we must wait until it pleases Monsieur Bahuchet to return to his
desk. Really, these solicitors are very patient with messieurs their
clerks! Go, Miretta; and as soon as the fellow arrives at the house,
bring him hither yourself--instantly! Above all things, do not let my
aunt know anything of all this!"

"Never fear, mademoiselle; in fact, Madame de Ravenelle is at this
moment shut up in her oratory, and she is paying little heed to what
goes on in the house."

The clock on the Capucines Church, which could be heard at the Hôtel de
Mongarcin, struck four. Valentine had been for a long time in a state of
the most intense impatience; she could not stay in one place; she
wandered hither and thither; took up a book and threw it down again in a
moment; attempted to play on her zither, but let the instrument fall
from her hands; and exclaimed continually:

"He will not come! Four o'clock, and he went out early this morning! And
a solicitor keeps such clerks in his employ! Ah! how quickly I would
dismiss such fellows if I were in his place!--Suppose I should intrust
to Miretta the execution of my plan? But, no! no woman can perform such
a commission; besides, she is in my service--she would be recognized,
and I do not want to be compromised; I want to be revenged! but in such
wise that no one will know from what quarter the vengeance comes."

Valentine had abandoned all hope of seeing the solicitor's clerk that
day, when the door of the room in which she was sitting was suddenly
thrown open, and Miretta announced:

"Monsieur Bahuchet."

At a sign from her mistress she admitted the little man, who confounded
himself in reverences to Mademoiselle de Mongarcin.

"Here you are at last, monsieur! that is most fortunate!" cried
Valentine; "it seems that it is very difficult to have speech with
you.--Stay, Miretta, stay; I have no secrets from you, as you
know.--When you go out for an hour, monsieur le clerc, does it mean that
you will not return during the day?"

"A thousand pardons, mademoiselle!" replied Bahuchet, trying to assume a
graceful attitude; "most certainly, if I had known, if I had been able
to guess, that mademoiselle wished to speak with me, I would have
returned to the office much sooner; and yet, mademoiselle, I am very
excusable this time. I did not pass my time, as I often do, watching the
open-air exhibitions of Turlupin and Gauthier-Garguille, or Brioché's
Marionettes. No, indeed! The news was too interesting to-day; it had to
do with so serious an event, accompanied by such mysterious
circumstances, that--I give you my word, mademoiselle--the least
inquisitive man could not have resisted the desire to see what I saw."

"Some new amourette, I suppose? some nocturnal rendezvous that you
surprised?"

"No, mademoiselle; this is no question of amourettes, but of a murder
committed last night. When I say _last night_, I am wrong; it was
perhaps a fortnight ago, perhaps longer; but the victim was not
discovered until last night."

"A murder! and you witnessed it?"

"No, thank God! When I say _thank God_, I do not mean that I am not very
curious to know how it came about. But, no, although I am very brave,
there are things that make one shudder simply to think of them!"

"Come, monsieur, pray explain to us what you have learned that is so
shocking?"

"Mademoiselle, I had been as far as the corner of Rue Barbette on
business for the office; I was about to return to Maître Bourdinard's,
planning, I admit, to go by way of Pont-Neuf, for I know no more
attractive, more diverting spot for the curious observer. It is the
rendezvous of the whole city! Who does not cross Pont-Neuf? One sees
there at the same moment, soldiers, bourgeois, priests, students, abbés,
courtiers, pages, peasants, and women!"

"Do you propose to tell us the history of Pont-Neuf, Monsieur Bahuchet?"

"No, mademoiselle, no; excuse me. My story has to do with a much less
cheerful bridge, the dismal Pont-aux-Choux!"

At the mention of the Pont-aux-Choux, Miretta involuntarily shuddered
and listened more closely to what the little clerk said.

"Yes, mademoiselle; it was close by the Pont-aux-Choux that the horrible
tragedy, which was discovered only this morning, took place.--I was
saying--where was I?--Oh, yes! I was about to return to my solicitor's
office, when, as I was taking a glass in a wine shop, I heard a peasant
say to a good woman--I say a good woman, she may have been a bad one,
but it's the custom, you know, to say _good woman_ when you are speaking
of a woman advanced in years--he said: 'Yes, mother, there has been
someone murdered on the road I take from Faubourg Saint-Antoine to the
Market. And I tell you, it isn't very pleasant; I don't know yet whether
I shall dare to go across Pont-aux-Choux after dark.'

"My curiosity being aroused at that, I accosted the peasant and asked
him what he meant, and he answered:

"'About two hours ago, they found in the Fossés Jaunes----'"

"What are the Fossés Jaunes, Monsieur Bahuchet?" said Valentine; "I am
very ignorant, am I not? but we are taught so few things!"

"The Fossés Jaunes, mademoiselle, were made in the time of King Charles
V, and they surrounded the outer wall of Paris that was built long ago,
in the time of Philippe-Auguste; they extend from the Bastille to Porte
Saint-Honoré."

"Are they filled with water?"

"There used to be water in them, no doubt, mademoiselle, but for a long
time they have contained nothing but muddy pools, in which very tall
grass grows, and from which it isn't at all easy to get out if you
happen to fall in. But as they are no longer of any use, I presume they
will very soon be filled up.--I resume my narrative. The peasant said:

"'They found a dead man in the Fossés Jaunes, near Porte Saint-Antoine,
on the other side of the Pont-aux-Choux. From the condition of his
wounds, they know that he must have been killed quite a while ago;
consequently, no one knows just when the crime was committed. And to
think that I went by there at three o'clock in the morning, monsieur!
Suppose the brigands had seen me! No doubt they would have murdered me
too!'

"'But,' I said to the peasant, 'as you passed the place at three o'clock
this morning, how do you know that they found a dead man there two hours
ago? Have you been back there?'

"'No; but I just heard about it from a neighbor, a market gardener like
myself, who just came from the faubourg. He saw the poor fellow they had
taken out of the Fossés Jaunes; it seems he is a young man, and as
handsome as a picture! He is still lying there at full length on the
bank. Near the place where they found him, there are archers and
soldiers keeping watch; and they have gone to tell the magistrates, who
will make an investigation, of course, and search the neighborhood, and
try to find something to put them on the track of the guilty ones.'

"I' faith, mademoiselle, I no sooner heard that than I felt a most
intense longing to see the unfortunate man, who was found last night in
the Fossés Jaunes. And I said to myself: 'If they need the magistrates,
they may need a solicitor's clerk too; I must go and see the man, and
then I can tell the whole story _de visu_!'

"So I took my legs around my neck--the phrase is still in use, although
it lacks sense--and I can assure you that I ran without stopping,
although I overturned two children, an ass, and a milkwoman on the way;
but that is a detail.

"When I arrived at the Pont-aux-Choux, someone pointed out the spot
where the poor young man still lay. I hurried to the place, and I was
not the only one whom curiosity had drawn thither; there was a large
crowd, and the soldiers had much ado to keep a space clear about the
corpse. But as I am never at a loss for an expedient, I said to one of
the guards that I was a clerk and employed in the magistracy, so he let
me go near."

"So that you saw the man who was found dead?" said Miretta, in a voice
trembling with emotion.

"Yes, my pretty lady's-maid, I saw it as plainly as I see you.--Ah! what
a calamity! It was a young man--that is to say, a man of twenty-seven or
twenty-eight at most, with a graceful figure, very well built, and a
face--oh! a fascinating face! so refined and distinguished! He must have
been a nobleman, or a gentleman of some ancient family."

"He was not disfigured, then, not wounded in the face?"

"Not a scratch! A surgeon who was there, with the lieutenant of
police--for the lieutenant had come in person to examine the victim--the
surgeon said, after looking at the wounds:

"'This young man was struck from behind, evidently when he was seated;
he received a sword thrust in the back, which went completely through
his body, and then another in the heart; but the latter when he had
already fallen to the ground and lost consciousness. There cannot have
been any struggle; death must have been instantaneous, and the
unfortunate man had no time to defend himself.'"

"But did no one recognize the young man?" said Valentine; "his rank or
his profession must have been indicated by his clothing. Did the
lieutenant of police discover anything to put him on the track?"

"Mon Dieu! mademoiselle, it was very difficult to guess. In the first
place, the victim had been robbed of his cloak and hat and belt. The
poor young man had nothing on him but his doublet and short-clothes,
both of black cloth, and boots of a very common sort. But there was
nothing in his pockets--neither money, nor papers, nor weapons;
absolutely nothing! How is it possible, then, to guess who he is?--The
lieutenant of police, after a careful examination of the body and the
clothes, said:

"'Evidently this young gentleman had just arrived in Paris, for we do
not remember having seen him before. He must have been attacked and
robbed by Giovanni, who took his money, his papers, his weapons, and
even a part of his clothes. Yes, such a crime can have been committed by
none but that bold Italian, who then hurled the body of his victim into
the moat, so that this latest crime might be less quickly discovered.'"

"Giovanni!" cried Miretta; "always Giovanni! As soon as a murder is
committed, everyone agrees to charge it to his account! What is there to
prove that it was he who killed this young man?"

"Hoity-toity! here is the little brunette defending the robber again!"
exclaimed Bahuchet, with a laugh. "Really, my dear, I begin to think
that you are one of his band!"

Miretta flushed crimson.

"I say that," she faltered, "because people tell so many lies, and
invent so many stories that----"

"Mon Dieu! you do not need to justify yourself!" said Valentine, smiling
at her.--"But is that all, Monsieur Bahuchet? Is your terrible story at
an end?"

"Yes, mademoiselle, that is all. The lieutenant of police has had a
search made in the neighborhood, hoping that something might be found
belonging to the victim; but what is the use of searching now, when the
crime was committed perhaps three weeks ago? If it had not been for a
dog, nothing would have been discovered! But those excellent beasts are
often much cleverer and more cunning than we are, and they have a most
astonishing scent! This one stopped on the edge of the Fossés Jaunes,
and his master called him in vain--he would not budge. As such
persistence on the dog's part seemed very strange, his master went to
him to find out what he was doing. By peering intently into the high
grass in the moat, he finally discovered something that looked like a
man's arm; he ran for a ladder, and they found the unfortunate victim.
But that was all; for they have not succeeded in finding anything in the
fields round about, or in the moat where the poor young man lay!
Doubtless he was coming to Paris for enjoyment and diversion, and he met
death before he had put his foot in the city.--But so it goes!"

"I am very, very sorry for the poor fellow who perished so miserably!"
said Valentine; "but I did not know him; and as I can do nothing to
avenge him, you will allow me, Monsieur Bahuchet, to turn my attention
now to the subject that led me to ask you to call here."

"I am listening, mademoiselle; I am entirely at your service; I desired
simply to prove to you that if I returned late to the office, I was not
without some excuse. That idiot of a Plumard began at once to make
remarks!"

"Enough, monsieur!--Listen: I expect a service from you. Are you
disposed to oblige me, and, above all things, never to say a word which
may lead anyone to suspect that you have acted by my orders?"

"Mademoiselle, I am entirely devoted to you; and as for my
discretion---- Oh! there is no danger!"

"But you are very fond of talking, monsieur, and of telling everything
you have learned!"

"Everything! That depends; I know many things now that nobody else
knows--secrets; for instance, when Plumard----"

"Well! do you propose to betray them now, monsieur?"

"No, mademoiselle, no! I was about to say; even if Plumard should
question me, he would learn nothing.--But what sort of service does
mademoiselle require of me?"

"Something very simple and very easy," said Valentine, opening a small
desk and taking from it the white plume that Bahuchet had sold her.
"Look, Monsieur Bahuchet, do you recognize this plume?"

"Perfectly: it is the one I picked up on Rue Dauphine, under the balcony
which Monsieur Léodgard de Marvejols had just scaled."

"That is right. Well, I wish you to go to Landry's bathing
establishment, and ask to see the fascinating Bathilde's mother. I know
that she has returned home. You will hand this white plume to that woman
and say to her: 'Your daughter's lovers lose their plumes at night when
they scale balconies to join her; here is one belonging to a noble lord,
whose name Mademoiselle Bathilde will be able to give you.'--Then you
will bow and take your leave; and that is all. As I do not wish to put
you out for nothing, be kind enough to accept this purse as compensation
for the trouble I cause you."

The little clerk observed at a glance the plumpness of the purse which
Valentine offered him with the plume; but he hesitated about taking
them.

"Well?" continued the nobly born maiden, testily; "are you not willing
to do what I ask?"

"Pardon, pardon, mademoiselle; assuredly, I am too fortunate in the
confidence which you manifest in me."

"Then take this plume and this purse!"

"But, you see, I am wondering in my own mind how Dame Ragonde will take
it--that is young Bathilde's mother's name. I know the family. Dame
Ragonde is a very bad one, they say; and when I tell her that her
daughter receives lovers at night, that will not afford her great
pleasure! What if she should fall on me with fists and claws?"

"What, Monsieur Bahuchet! You, who claim to be so brave, afraid of a
woman's anger?"

"Because with a woman one must accept anything without retaliating;
whereas, with a man--what a difference! If he ventures to lack respect,
to strike us, why, we fall on him and pay him back twice or thrice what
we have received."

"Very well, monsieur; instead of taking the plume to this Bathilde's
mother, hand it to her father, Landry the bath keeper; then, if he
resorts to violence, you can pay him back twice or thrice."

The little clerk scratched his ear and opened his nostrils wider than
ever; he saw that the young lady had no faith in his courage; however,
he made up his mind at last and took both plume and purse, saying:

"I will do as you first suggested, mademoiselle; I will hand this plume
to Dame Ragonde; I think that that will be the better way; and as for
her claws, I will brave them without a tremor."

"And if she should ask who sent you?"

"No one! I am acting on my own account. I picked up the plume, and I
bring it back; and that will be no falsehood."

"Very good; discretion so far as I am concerned, monsieur, is what I
especially enjoin upon you. You will carry this plume to the bath
keeper's to-day?"

"It shall be handed to Dame Ragonde to-day."

"If my errand is left undone, I warn you that I shall know it!"

"It shall be done; I swear it by the Basoche!"

"Au revoir, Monsieur Bahuchet!"

"Mademoiselle, I have the honor to present my respectful
homage.--Bonsoir, pretty brunette! Oh! what eyes you make at me, my
dear!--Come, come! be calm! I won't speak ill of robbers again!"

"Well!" said Valentine to Miretta, who sat as if lost in thought after
the solicitor's clerk had gone. "You say nothing, Miretta; is it because
you do not approve of what I have done?"

"That poor girl! She will be very unhappy when her parents know of her
fault!" murmured Miretta, with a sigh.

"And suppose another woman should become the mistress of the man you
love?" rejoined Valentine, seizing her maid's arm; "would not you be
revenged?"

"Oh, yes! yes! You have done well!"

And Miretta raised her eyes, which seemed to emit flames.



XXVIII

PLUMARD


On leaving the Hôtel de Mongarcin on this occasion, Bahuchet did not
jostle the passers-by or jingle the money in his purse; the little clerk
was beginning to be accustomed to windfalls. Moreover, at that moment
his joy was moderated by another sentiment. He had carefully concealed
the white plume under his doublet; then he had counted the contents of
the purse twice over. He found therein a hundred livres tournois in
coins of various denominations, and he gazed with admiration at the
money; then he carefully bestowed the purse in his belt, saying to
himself:

"It is a great pity that I have to carry this plume to Landry the bath
keeper! There is nothing pleasant about that commission; it may even be
dangerous! Pardieu! Mademoiselle de Mongarcin knows it well enough! She
would not pay such a price to have an errand done that is apparently so
simple, if she did not foresee that the messenger would be exposed to
great risk!--Let me see, let me see! I must cudgel my brain a bit and
try to think if there is not some way of keeping my back or my face out
of reach of cudgels or claws.--I have promised that this white plume
shall be handed to-day to young Bathilde's parents; it shall be, for an
honest youth has only his word! Moreover, I am in a solicitor's office!
But solicitors know how to get around the most knotty questions; suppose
I should get around this errand of mine--suppose I should send somebody
else in my place to carry this infernal plume, prescribing the words he
was to say? Why, that would come to precisely the same thing in the end,
and my person would run no risk whatever!"

Having decided upon this plan, Bahuchet bent his steps toward the
wretched eating house where he and his comrade Plumard generally dined.

On entering the place, he saw his friend seated at his usual table; he
took his seat opposite him, with an even more than ordinarily expansive
smile.

"Enchanted to find you, Plumard, my boy! I should have been disappointed
if you had not come here to-night. You are having supper--I will do
likewise, for I have a keen appetite. What you are eating looks very
good, Plumard; what in the devil is it?"

"It is a rabbit stew, according to our host; but it's too good to be
rabbit, it must be cat at least!"

"Ah! bigre! I propose to have some of it, too.--Holà! waiter! bring me a
portion of the same dish that my friend has; if it isn't the same
animal, I won't have it! And by the way, waiter, you may also bring me
some fricot of veal, with small onions--a large portion! Make it double,
and I will give my friend Plumard some; he has a weakness for veal, like
myself. And, waiter, I could eat some of that delicious fish which is
noted for its bones--a carp, as fine as those at Fontainebleau, where
they resemble whales; a fried carp! That is a feast in itself--with a
sprig of parsley on it; and I know that my friend Plumard does not
profess a profound contempt for the carp. Moisten it all with that
Argenteuil light wine that is so well _stripped_--you know what I mean,
don't you? the old, not the new; the really old, that you don't make
yourself.--Go, waiter, and if I am content with you I will grease your
palm, as we say at the office."

"But I say!" said Plumard, fixing his great round eyes on his vis-à-vis;
"what does this mean, Bahuchet? Have you had a legacy left you? or has a
fair lady of mature years let her favors fall upon you?"

"No! nothing of the sort! Certainly, a lady might fall in love with me
as well as with another. I am not a foe of the fair sex. Although there
is always a reverse side to the medal, I will not say of women, with
Suetonius, that we must _missam facere uxorem_!--That Suetonius was not
a gallant man."

"Answer what I ask you, instead of quoting your classics!"

"It seems to me, Plumard, that with you I may venture to take a few
strides into the domain of science. You are a clerk like myself; you
must understand Latin. If you do not understand it, I grieve for you."

"What an infernal chatterbox! he keeps branching off from his subject."

"That proves that I have facility in elocution, elasticity in my ideas.
There are many people who would like to branch off from their subject,
and who cannot. They have to remain nailed fast to it, for lack of
imagination to think up anything else;--_quid agis_? You wish to know
why I treat you so handsomely this evening, do you not? Well, I propose
to tell you: I won a dozen livres in a game of _brisque_ with a churl,
and I propose to consume a part of it with you. Do you think that I do
wrong?"

"No, no! far from it; it is an excellent idea of yours!"

"Ah! it is very lucky that you approve of my action."

"Do you play at _brisque_?"

"I play at all games at which I win; they are the only ones that amuse
me.--But here comes the veal. Let us attend strictly to business. There
are idiots who say: _Non ut edam vivo, sed ut vivam edo_. For my part, I
am not ashamed to say that I live for nothing else except to eat; for if
I did not eat, I should die. Why, then, should not one do with pleasure,
with sensuous delight, a thing which we are bound to do every day?--Let
us fall to!"

Bahuchet, possessor of a stomach whose capacity was extraordinary,
swallowed with surprising rapidity everything that the waiter placed
between him and Plumard; he consumed, unaided, almost the entire
contents of the dishes which he had ordered for two; so that his friend
stopped him at last, saying:

"It was hardly worth while to offer to treat me, if you propose to eat
everything!"

"_Quid rogas_, comrade? why do you eat so slowly? I concluded that you
were not hungry, and I thought that it was useless to leave anything."

"If I ate as fast as you, I should choke to death!"

"Well, I will go slower now.--Besides, I want to talk with you; and when
one is talking, one cannot eat; that is why I laid in a stock in
advance.--Plumard, I am going to tell you something which will make you
very happy."

"Bah! is it that our solicitor is going to give us a crown more a
month?"

"Ouiche! I advise you to count on that! He is more likely to cut us
down; he has already threatened to do it to me!--Come, think, think of
something that might be of immense benefit to you."

Plumard raised his great eyes to the beams which sustained the ceiling.

"Have you met a rich woman who wishes to marry me?"

"You haven't guessed yet; but with what I have discovered, I make no
doubt that you will very soon fascinate some wealthy dowager, who will
lay her crowns at your feet."

"Come, explain yourself, Bahuchet; you know that I am not very strong at
guessing, and you keep me in suspense too long!"

"_Quid festinas_? What's the hurry? Think; take your time!"

"If you don't tell me, I will go away!"

"What a keg of powder!"

"That is my nature!"

"Well, listen: I have discovered in a _cul-de-sac_ an old hag who has
invented a pomade that infallibly makes the hair grow on the baldest
skulls and those most rebellious under cultivation!"

Plumard frowned and looked at his comrade with a wrathful air,
muttering:

"Do you mean to make sport of me, as usual? You know, Bahuchet, that I
don't like that. You have already told me a lot of stories about pomades
that did not exist. You have sent me to ask for them to people who have
laughed in my face. I want no more of your practical jokes! I will fight
you if you begin that game again. I am not afraid to fight; I am no
coward! Look out, or I will hit you a crack!"

"Ta! ta! ta! What a nice, amiable boy it is!--You treat a person, and
try to make yourself agreeable to him, and to reward you he threatens to
beat you!--All right; we will say no more about it, my dear fellow; I
will keep my discovery to myself, and if a few of my hairs should fall
out some day I shall know how to remedy it."

Plumard was silent for a moment, nibbling a piece of dry bread.

Then he murmured, in a softer tone:

"Then why have you fooled me so often? How do you expect me to have
confidence in you?"

"It's all right! it's all right! let us say no more about it."

"But this old hag who makes the pomade--do you know her address?"

"No, I tell you, I no longer know anything; I was lying, I was trying to
make fun of you! I deserve nothing better than the rope's end or the
cudgel!"

"Come, come, Bahuchet! I was too quick; I am sorry."

"Ah! when a friend tells me that he is sorry, I cannot harbor ill will
against him.--Yes, I know where to find the hag."

"And she sells this pomade?"

"No, she won't sell it to anybody!--but to me, having taken a fancy to
me, she will give a jar."

"Oh! that is much more agreeable! And when will you have this jar?"

"To-morrow, if I choose."

"And you will give it to me?--Ah! you are a friend!"

"Yes, I will give it to you, but on one little condition, and that is
that you will do me a favor in return. Between friends, you know, when
one obliges the other, he always expects reciprocity."

"What is it that I must do?" asked Plumard, with a frown.

"A very simple thing, which will not disturb you in the least. When you
go home to-night, go into Landry the bath keeper's place--he is your
neighbor--and hand his wife this white plume, which I picked up under
their balcony one night when I walked home with you. Then you will say
to Dame Ragonde: 'Your daughter's lovers lose their plumes at night,
scaling your balcony; here is one which I picked up, and which belongs
to a young nobleman whose name your daughter will tell you.'--And then
you will go away. It's the simplest thing in the world."

Plumard pushed his stool away from the table, crying:

"A very pretty commission that! I shall be well treated when I deliver
that message.--No, no! do your errand yourself--you may have all the
profit."

"As you please; but since you refuse to do it, we will say no more about
the jar of pomade."

And Bahuchet began to whistle with an indifferent air. After a few
minutes Plumard said, between his teeth:

"What an idea, to send to that girl's mother the plume her lover
lost!--That is downright wicked, it's a villainous trick!--Have you any
reason to complain of pretty Bathilde? I am surprised at that; I thought
that you didn't know her."

"Plumard! there are mysteries which it is impossible to divulge.--As for
the girl, she will say to her mother: 'It is not true, I have no lover';
and that will be the end of it."

"Do you think so?"

"Parbleu! are girls who have lovers ever at a loss for a lie?"

"That is true.--But another suggestion occurs to me."

"State it."

"Let us assume that I undertake this--thorny commission; how do I know
that you will give me the jar of pomade then? You will laugh in my face
when I claim it."

"I understand your suspicion, having now and then played some rather
neat tricks on you; and I am so far from being angry with you, that I
propose to prove to you that it will not be so this time."

And taking from his belt the purse he had received, Bahuchet produced a
beautiful rose crown and placed it in Plumard's hand, saying:

"See, here is gold--and of good alloy. If I do not give you the jar of
pomade when you claim it, I will allow you to keep this gold piece and
not return it to me.--Do you think that I am tricking you, now?"

Plumard turned the coin over and over in his hand; he weighed it, rang
it on the table, then put it in his pocket, and offered his comrade his
hand, saying:

"It is a bargain; I will deliver the plume."

"And you will say exactly what I have told you?"

"I will say it without omitting a word. Where is the plume?"

"Here it is; conceal it under your doublet, as I have done. Let us empty
this jug of wine, then you must go about your commission."

"This evening?"

"Why not? It is better to have it done with at once."

"And you will go for the jar of pomade?"

"I told you that I would give it to you to-morrow, and you may rely upon
it. In any event, it seems to me that you have a sufficient guaranty."

"That is true."

The two clerks emptied the jug of wine, and Bahuchet paid the bill.

They left the wine shop.

The day was nearing its end.

"Until to-morrow!" said Bahuchet, shaking hands with his comrade.

"Until to-morrow!"

And the little man ran off in the opposite direction to that which
Plumard took to go to Rue Dauphine. And as he ran, he laughed in his
sleeve, saying to himself:

"Take the plume, dear boy; I am going to enjoy myself, to pass the night
in jollification at a wine shop, and to make up a pomade to redeem my
gold piece!"

As Plumard drew near to Master Landry's establishment, he felt that his
resolution weakened; a nervous shiver ran through his limbs. To restore
his courage, he passed his hand over his bald head several times, saying
to himself:

"Hair! it will make my hair grow! I shall have as much as Samson,
perhaps! How handsome I shall be when I have some hair! No woman will be
able to resist me then. And when they ask me for a lock, I shall not be
compelled to refuse them, as I am to-day.--Ah! corbleu! sacrebleu!
morbleu! I must shrink at nothing in face of that hope! How beautifully
I will dress my hair! I will have curls falling over my ears.--But
suppose that old woman should rush at me and claw my eyes out! Peste!
then I should not see my hair grow!--My eyes are superb; I should never
be able to console myself for the loss of even half of one of
them.--This is a very embarrassing, very delicate affair! Let me think a
little. Might I not make some change in what I have to say when I
deliver the plume? After all, Bahuchet won't be at my back to listen to
what I say! He has taken me in many times; and if I should cheat him a
little, where would be the harm?--And then, I should be sorry to make
trouble for that girl, who, they say, is so pretty! Who knows whether
some day, when I have some hair, she may not feel a tender affection for
me, on being told of the service I rendered her?--Yes, I must be
generous to beauty, and shelter my face from scratches."

In due time, Plumard reached the bath keeper's house.

It was dark and the shopkeepers were beginning to close their doors.

The old trooper of Henri IV sat in his doorway, smoking his pipe.

The clerk walked up and down the street several times; at last he
decided to accost Landry, saying to himself:

"It matters little whether I give the plume to the father or the mother.
I prefer to address myself to the father; men understand each other
better. I must be shrewd and subtle.--Ah! good evening, Master Landry!
How are you this evening? You are smoking, I see; that is a pleasant
pastime. I should like very much to smoke, if it did not make me sick
and make my head ache so that I can't see. I have an uncle who went into
consumption from smoking a pipe, and two cousins who were made
insane!--Ah! how pleasant it is to smoke!--The skies are dark to-night,
and I am afraid we shall have a storm to-morrow; that would be a
disappointment to me. I have a longing to take a ride in a _chaise à
porteurs_, or a _brouette_--the new invention, you know? it is very
convenient, and very fashionable in the best society; _brouettes_ cost
only sixteen sous for the trip, or eighteen by the hour; while the
_chaise à porteurs_ costs thirty sous for the trip. That is dear--yes,
it's very dear! But how comfortable it must be in one!--Still, it's very
nice in a _brouette_!"

Landry listened tranquilly to this outflow of words, eying the young
clerk the while; when it was at an end, he answered coldly:

"As I don't know you, and as it makes no difference to me whether you
ride in a _chaise_ or in a _brouette_, I am going to bed. Good-night!"

"Oh! stay a moment! You are in a terrible hurry. You do not recognize
me, because it is beginning to grow dark, but I am one of your best
customers; I bathe as many as fifteen times a week!--But so many people
come to your place that you can't recognize all their faces!"

"That is possible! In that case, excuse me; but I am tired, and I am
going to bed."

"One moment more, I beg!--Does your charming daughter also enjoy perfect
health, like her worthy father?"

The old soldier began to examine the clerk more closely, muttering:

"My daughter! do you know my daughter, monsieur de la Basoche?"

"Ah! I know her--without knowing her. I know that she is enchanting,
because I have seen her sometimes on your balcony, when she was watering
her flowers."

"Ah! you have seen her, have you? Very good; I begin to
understand.--Well, what are you trying to come at to-night?"

"I' faith! I will tell you. See--I have here a superb white plume; I had
it from an aunt who had it from an uncle, who was train bearer at the
court of King Charles IX.--To make a long story short, I said to
myself: 'Such a handsome plume as this is a pure luxury in my hands; if
I should offer it to Master Landry's daughter, it would be a gift worthy
of her charms, and it would shade becomingly her brow of roses and
lilies.'--That idea once conceived, I determined to put it in execution.
Here, excellent bath keeper, is the plume in question; you see how
beautiful it is! Pray take it and hand it to your fascinating progeny; I
desire no other reward than the pleasure of knowing that she is
gratified by the gift."

"Aha! my rascal! so you presume to offer a plume to my daughter, do you?
And you dare to ask her father to be your messenger? Ten thousand cannon
balls! this passes all bounds! It was probably you who prowled about
this street so much that it made the neighbors gossip!"

"Master Landry, I live on this street, it is true; but I have never
prowled about your----"

"Enough! enough! you impertinent rascal! coming to ask a father to take
charge of a present intended to seduce his daughter!"

"Why, not at all! you are off the track, my good Landry; I have no such
purpose."

"Ah! you take me for one of those half-witted or obliging fathers who
shut their eyes to such manœuvres! I am going to show you how I
receive gallants who would like to talk nonsense to my daughter!--Here,
you blackguard, here is the price of your gift!"

As he spoke, the bath keeper planted his foot in Plumard's
short-clothes, and repeated the movement several times, running after
the young clerk, who fled, yelling at the top of his voice.

Satisfied with the chastisement he had administered to the man whom he
believed to be in love with his daughter, Landry returned to his house
and locked the door.

As for the ill-fated Plumard, he hastened to his lodgings, holding his
hand to the portion of his frame that had been so roughly treated by the
bath keeper, and saying to himself:

"I should have done as well to execute my commission without making any
change in the text, without diverging from my instructions!--What a
brutal wretch that bath keeper is! He thinks now that I am in love with
his daughter! I shall not dare to pass his door--I shall have to
move.--However, if the pomade has the virtue that Bahuchet attributes to
it, I shall find some consolation for my late disagreeable experience. I
shall be so handsome with plenty of hair! I will go about bareheaded, I
will carry my cap in my hand all the time!"

       *       *       *       *       *

These typographical errors were corrected by the etext transcriber:

Collége Saint-Denis=>Collège Saint-Denis

this underaking, do not pity me=>this undertaking, do not pity me

Turlupin and Gautier-Garguille=>Turlupin and Gauthier-Garguille





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