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Title: The Bashful Lover (Novels of Paul de Kock Volume XIX)
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 1904 by G. Barrie & Sons.]

_CHÉRUBIN IN A DILEMMA_

_He tried to retrace his steps, but Madame de
Noirmont and her daughter had seated themselves
in front of him and closed the way by which he had
come; so that he was blockaded in a very confined
space, which he could not leave except by compelling
the ladies in front of him to rise._



NOVELS

BY

Paul de Kock

VOLUME XIX

THE BASHFUL LOVER

PRINTED BY ARRANGEMENT WITH

GEORGE BARRIE’S SONS

THE JEFFERSON PRESS

BOSTON NEW YORK

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



THE BASHFUL LOVER

    Shyness is a failing for which it is
    dangerous to reprove those whom we
    wish to correct of it.

    _Maxims_ of LA ROCHEFOUCAULD.



PART I



I

AN OLD YOUNG HUSBAND AND WIFE


It was the year 1818, I will not say of happy memory, because I do not
remember whether that year was happier than other years; probably it was
so to certain people, and just the opposite to others; and sometimes,
often, I may say almost always, the same cause produces contrary
results; that is to say, the thing that causes one person’s happiness
causes the unhappiness of another person.

But this has been so in all times, and doubtless it will continue to be
so till the end of time, assuming that time is to have an end. Nature
loves contrasts; I cannot guess why, but that does not prevent me from
believing that she is right, for Nature always does perfectly whatever
she does.

It was, then, the year 1818.

In an old mansion in Faubourg Saint-Germain, situated on I do not know
what street,--and that is of little importance,--a large company was
assembled; they were dancing, enjoying themselves--or, at least,
pretending to do so, which is not always the same thing; in short, it
was a wedding party, the wedding of Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain
and Mademoiselle Aménaïde Dufoureau.

There was a choice orchestra, in which, however, there were no cornets,
because that instrument had not then acquired a commanding position in
our ballrooms; there was a select company also; the dancing was marked
by that decency, that gravity, that good-breeding which prevents French
dancing from being amusing, and which has given rise to the saying that
the merriest people on earth dance with the least indication of
merriment.

It is true that since that time a certain much more décolleté dance has
found its way from the dance hall to the masked ball, and from the
masked ball has insinuated itself into some salons; a dance which would
be fascinating, and which would have a genuine character of its own,
were it not that most of the people who dance it substitute burlesque
for grace and indecency for _abandon_. But that dance was not in
evidence at Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain’s wedding.

And then the bridegroom did not set the example for the dancers; he did
not run from one to the other, inviting them to dance and offering them
his hand. After opening the ball with his wife, he had thrown himself
into an immense easy-chair, contented to watch the others, smiling at
the ladies and beating time with his head.

You are surprised without doubt at the bridegroom’s behavior, and you
would like to know the explanation; your surprise will cease when I tell
you that on his wedding day Monsieur de Grandvilain was entering his
sixty-ninth year. At that age you will understand that a man is no
longer one of those inveterate dancers who refuse to leave the floor,
one of those dancers who engage partners for six quadrilles ahead.

Perhaps now you will say that monsieur le marquis was as old for
marriage as for balls; that it is folly to marry at sixty-nine years.

In the first place, what do you know about it? Has it ever happened to
you? And even if it be folly, what harm is there in it, if it makes one
happy? The maddest people are sometimes the wisest. Let us marry so long
as we are inclined, and let us dance as long as we can. Cato learned to
dance at sixty. Plato praises dancing; and you must be well aware that
King David gambolled in front of the Ark of the Covenant. I agree that
that was a strange way to manifest his faith and devotion, and I am glad
to think that, at all events, David did not know the dance which I have
just mentioned.

Let us return to the groom. Monsieur de Grandvilain deserved a different
name from the one which he bore: he was of medium height and well
proportioned; he had once had a fine figure, and he still possessed a
well-shaped leg and sufficient calf for a man about to marry. His face,
although it was a little like a sheep’s, lacked neither dignity nor
charm; his features were regular, his eyes had been very fine, and they
had retained an amiable expression; lastly, his smile was still passably
mischievous.

You see that that gentleman still retained many good qualities, and that
it was very excusable for him to have thought of marrying in order to
turn them all to some account.

Aménaïde Dufoureau, who had given her hand to Monsieur de Grandvilain,
was entering her forty-fourth year and had hitherto remained single.

Single! do you realize the full force of that word? It indicates an
inexperienced heart, an inexperienced soul, an untried love, and
charms--like all the rest! A single maiden of forty-four, and a flower
that has never been plucked! But what a flower, great heaven! and what a
long time it has had to go to seed!

For my part, I confess with all humility that I should prefer ten
married women at that age to one flower which has been left so long on
its stalk.

Probably Monsieur de Grandvilain did not agree with me. Opinions are
free, and if we all had the same opinions, it would be very tiresome,
because we should no longer have the pleasure of arguing and disputing.

Monsieur de Grandvilain had known Mademoiselle Aménaïde Dufoureau in
1798. At that time she was only twenty-four years old; it is to be
presumed that her heart was at least as fresh as at forty-four; and it
is certain that her face was more so.

At that time Aménaïde was a very pretty young woman, slender, graceful
and ethereal; her black eyes, level with her face, gleamed with health
and animation; her mouth, which was a little large, laughed frequently
to display a double row of faultless teeth; and although her nose was a
little coarse, her forehead a little low, and her complexion a little
dark, Mademoiselle Dufoureau might have passed for a very attractive
person.

Monsieur de Grandvilain, who was forty-nine at that time, and considered
himself still a young man, because he had retained the tastes and the
temperament of a young man, had met Aménaïde in society and had paid
court to her; but with the frivolity of a man accustomed to making
conquests, with the self-assurance of a rake who had never found women
cruel, and with the fatuity of a marquis, who thought that he bestowed
much honor upon a young woman of the middle class by allowing his eyes
to rest upon her.

Mademoiselle Dufoureau was, in fact, only a simple bourgeoise; her
parents, worthy tradespeople, had died, leaving her fifteen hundred
francs a year and excellent principles.

The fifteen hundred francs a year was but a slender fortune; but
combined with the young lady’s virtue and innocence, it formed a
marriage portion which some very wealthy young women would be sorely at
a loss to offer their husbands.

Monsieur de Grandvilain, still proud and magnificent, fluttered about
that flower of twenty-four years.

Mademoiselle Aménaïde found monsieur le marquis very agreeable; she was
flattered to be noticed by him; and she even allowed him to see that her
heart was not indifferent to his homage. But when she discovered that
Monsieur de Grandvilain had no idea of making her a marchioness, she
proudly repulsed him, saying:

“For what do you take me, monsieur?”

The marquis, offended by her resistance, turned on his heel, humming a
tune from _Blaise et Babet_, an opera-comique, then in great vogue; the
operas of those days abounded in tunes which were easily remembered, and
were sung and whistled on the streets. Other times, other music!

Monsieur de Grandvilain carried elsewhere his glances, his passions, his
homage and his heart. Mademoiselle Aménaïde Dufoureau concealed in the
depths of her heart her regrets, her sighs, and her ardor.

Think how fortunate men are! A woman resists them, they simply apply
elsewhere, and they always end by finding a place for their love, which
they offer to every pretty face they see. They are like those people who
have their pockets full of money and say to themselves: “I will buy
whatever I please, I will have the best and finest things I can find,
for I pay cash!” On the other hand, virtuous women are obliged to ask
for credit; for they are willing to promise their love, but they do not
propose to give it at once.

Six years passed, during which monsieur le marquis, passing constantly
from conquest to conquest, spending his time in a life of pleasure, did
not again see poor Aménaïde Dufoureau, who led a very tranquil, very
modest life, and did not frequent the society in which Monsieur de
Grandvilain moved.

At the end of that time, an outdoor fête in the suburbs of Paris brought
about a meeting between those two people who had ceased to seek each
other. The marquis still found Aménaïde attractive, and Aménaïde could
not restrain a sigh or two, which indicated that the past had not been
entirely forgotten.

Once more the marquis played the amiable seducer; he thought that the
flower of thirty years would be plucked more easily than that of
twenty-four; but he was mistaken; he encountered the same virtue, the
same resistance, as before, and yet she did not conceal from him that
she loved him. She desired to be a marchioness, however, and she did not
propose to give herself to anybody but her husband.

Once more our seducer turned on his heel. He travelled; he was away from
France six years. When he returned, he was much less active, much less
volatile; his bearing was still distinguished, but his step was slow and
heavy. However, although he was then sixty-one years old, the marquis
believed himself still to be very fascinating; there are people who
refuse to grow old; they are perfectly right, but in that case it is
time which is in the wrong.

Monsieur de Grandvilain once more met Aménaïde Dufoureau; she was still
unmarried, although she had seen thirty-six springs.--We must never
reckon except by springs, for that gives an air of youth.--Had she
remained unmarried for lack of opportunity to marry, or because she had
preferred to keep her heart for the marquis? We are too gallant not to
believe that it was for the last reason, and the marquis probably
thought the same, because that flattered his self-esteem.

Aménaïde was no longer so slender, so graceful or so willowy as she was
at twenty-four, but she was still fresh enough, and her eyes, while
losing their vivacity, had become more tender. Monsieur de Grandvilain,
always pleased to meet the only woman over whom he had not triumphed,
began again to pay court to the flower of thirty-six years. But he was
no more fortunate, and that was certain to be the case. After having had
the strength to resist him when he was young and good-looking, it was
not probable that she would falter when he was old and faded. Monsieur
de Grandvilain, still haughty and pretentious, turned on his heel once
more, swearing that he would never return again, and that he would carry
his homage elsewhere.

Poor old fellow, who had passed his sixtieth year, and who believed
himself still capable of inconstancy! The opportunities to forget
Aménaïde no longer offered themselves; time passed and brought no
distraction; all the ladies became as cruel to the marquis as
Mademoiselle Dufoureau, and our old rake said to himself:

“It is amazing how the fair sex changes! women no longer have such
susceptible hearts as they used to have!”

At last the marquis decided to return to Aménaïde; she was approaching
her forty-fourth spring, and Monsieur de Grandvilain said to himself:

“If I wait until her springs become more numerous, she will strongly
resemble a winter. I am beginning to be old enough to settle down.
Mademoiselle Dufoureau is not of noble birth, but she is virtuous; for
twenty years she has loved me, and that deserves a reward; I will marry
her.”

And our lover of sixty-nine years at last offered his hand to the maiden
whom he might have married twenty years earlier.

When Mademoiselle Dufoureau heard him offer her his heart and his
sixty-nine years, she was tempted to reply:

“It is hardly worth while to marry now!”

But she accepted him; and that is why the wedding of those old lovers
was celebrated in the hôtel de Grandvilain, in the year 1818.



II

A LITTLE GRANDVILAIN


When a man marries at sixty-nine, can he look forward to having heirs,
to living again in his children? It seems to me not; however, it is
probable that such men always look forward to it.

When such a thing happens, when an old man’s wife becomes a mother,
jests rain down upon the husband; but the puns and jocose remarks go
astray sometimes; in such a case, even if you do not choose to believe,
it is very difficult to prove that you are wrong.

“An ass can deny more than a philosopher can prove.”

About five months after Aménaïde Dufoureau had become Madame de
Grandvilain, she went to her husband one morning, blushing, with
downcast eyes and an embarrassed air, and informed him that she hoped to
present him with a pledge of her love.

Monsieur de Grandvilain uttered a cry of joy; he rose, ran about the
room, tried to perform a pirouette, and fell to the floor; but madame
assisted him to rise, and he began again to indulge in innumerable
follies, for the pleasure he felt made him forget his age. He was proud
to have a child, and with good reason, especially as his wife’s virtue
was like that of Caesar’s wife: it was absolutely above suspicion.

From that moment, they devoted all their attention to the child that was
not yet born.

Monsieur le marquis was persuaded that it would be a boy. And in order
to believe that, he said to himself: “Good fortune never comes singly.”

Madame la marquise was overjoyed to have a child. Boy or girl, she was
certain of loving it equally; but in order to please her husband she too
pretended to count on a boy.

“I will nurse him myself!” cried Aménaïde, smiling at her husband.

“Yes, yes, we will nurse him!” repeated the marquis; “we will raise him
better than any nurse could do. What the devil! people like us ought to
understand such things better than peasants; we will make a hearty blade
of him! for I want my son to resemble his father in everything.”

As he spoke, the old marquis stuck out his leg and tried to play the
exquisite. Since he had known that his wife was enceinte, he fancied
that he was twenty years old once more.

They bought a magnificent layette for the little one which was expected;
they made great preparations to receive that scion of Monsieur de
Grandvilain becomingly; and the intoxication which they felt was
perfectly natural: if a young couple celebrate the birth of their
child, surely they have much more reason to do so who have no hope of a
repetition of such an occurrence.

As the time approached when madame la marquise was to become a mother,
the more her old husband overwhelmed her with attentions and care; it
went so far sometimes that Madame de Grandvilain lost her appetite with
her freedom of action. Monsieur le marquis would not allow her to go out
on foot, he was apprehensive of the least fatigue, he watched to see
that she ate nothing that might injure her; and his espionage became
sheer cruelty to her who was the object of it, for the marquis detected
peril in the simplest thing, and it was at once irrevocably forbidden;
so that, toward the end of her pregnancy, Madame de Grandvilain was
given nothing but bread soup, the only sort of food which, according to
Monsieur de Grandvilain, was not dangerous for his wife. There was a
physician in attendance on the marchioness who prescribed an entirely
different diet; but the marquis depended more on himself than on the
physician, and as he grew older, he became very obstinate.

The great day arrived at last; and it was high time, for the poor
marchioness was not at all reconciled to eating nothing but bread soup.
Aménaïde brought a son into the world.

Monsieur de Grandvilain did not feel strong enough to remain with his
wife while she was in the pains of childbirth; but a servant, who had
first been a jockey, then a groom, then his master’s valet, and who had
now reached the age of fifty years, hastened to carry him the great
news.

When he caught sight of his old Jasmin, whose red and blotched face wore
a more stupid expression than usual, the marquis cried:

“Well, is it all over, Jasmin?”

“Yes, monsieur le marquis, it’s done! Ah! we had a very hard time, but
it’s all right at last.”

Everyone knows that the old servants in great families are in the habit
of saying _we_, when speaking of their master’s affairs, and Monsieur de
Grandvilain forgave his former jockey for employing that form of
expression.

“What! it is all over, Jasmin? Ah! the poor marchioness! But go on, you
villain! what is it?”

“It is something magnificent, monsieur, you will be well pleased!”

“But the sex, you rascal, the sex; hasn’t the child any sex?”

“Oh! yes, indeed! a superb sex! we have been delivered of a boy, my dear
master.”

“A boy, Jasmin? a boy! Oh! what happiness! but I said so; I was sure of
it; I would have bet on it; don’t I always know what I am doing?”

“You are very clever, monsieur le marquis.”

“A boy--I have a son--I have an heir to my name! Jasmin, I will give you
a present of ten crowns for bringing me this good news.”

“Thanks, my dear master. Vive les Grandvilains!”

“I have a boy--such pleasure--such--Ah! I can’t stand it any longer.
Jasmin, pass me my phial of salts--no, give me a small glass of madeira;
I feel as if my heart were stopping.”

“Come, come, monsieur le marquis, pull yourself together,” said Jasmin,
as he handed a glass of madeira to his master. “This is not the time to
be ill.”

“You are right; but what can you expect?--the shock, the joy--This is
the first time I have ever been a father,--to my knowledge, at
least--and it produces such an impression! Pray tell me some details
while I recover myself; for I haven’t the strength to go to my wife as
yet.”

“Well, monsieur le marquis, understand that I had stationed myself
outside madame’s door, so that I might come and tell you as soon as the
child was born; for I thought that you would be impatient to know about
it.”

“Very good, Jasmin; go on, go on.”

“After some time I heard cries. I was tempted to run away, but I held my
ground, and to give myself courage, I took a good pinch of snuff.
Suddenly the door opened; it was the doctor. He was looking for someone;
he saw me and motioned for me to go in. I obeyed.”

“What! you went into madame la marquise’s room, you rascal, while----”

“No, monsieur, I stayed in the little reception room. Everybody was
excited; the nurse, the lady’s maid,--that great idiot of a Turlurette
had chosen to be ill instead of making herself useful----”

“That proves her attachment to my wife; go on.”

“I beg pardon, monsieur, I must blow my nose first. Well, I was called
to help Turlurette; and as I was much more anxious about madame, I
asked:

“‘First tell me if we are delivered.’

“‘Yes,’ the doctor replied.

“‘Well then, what have we?’

“‘Look, you idiot.’

“As he spoke, the doctor put a little bundle in my arms. Just imagine,
monsieur, that at first I thought it was a cheese. It was round and it
had a funny smell; but on looking at it closely, I found it was a little
boy, just out of his shell.”

“What does this mean, Jasmin? What! it was my son that you mistook for a
cheese?”

“Bless my soul! when one has never seen a new-born child before,
monsieur,--and it was the first one that I ever saw.”

“Take my son for a cheese! You are a stupid lout, and you shall have no
present!”

“O monsieur le marquis! it isn’t that I regret the money, but I didn’t
think that I had deserved your anger; especially, as on looking at the
little boy that I had in my arms, I saw with delight that he has all our
features--he is the living image of us!”

“What! the living image of _us_!--Have you been drinking, Jasmin?”

“Pardon me, monsieur le marquis, but it is my affection that carries me
away! When I say we, my dear master knows very well that I mean him! In
fact, it is your noble face, monsieur, your fine aquiline nose, your
pretty little chin; and he will have your fine teeth, which you no
longer have. I would bet that he will have them.”

The old marquis could not help smiling, and he replied in a milder tone:

“The dear child!--Well, I promised you a present, and you shall have it.
I know that you are a faithful servant, my poor Jasmin, but you should
be careful what you say when you are speaking of your master’s son.”

“The little fellow is a real Love, monsieur. Ah! if I could have suckled
him, how happy I would have been!”

“I feel strong enough to go to see my wife and my son now. Come, Jasmin,
escort me.”

“Yes, monsieur, let us go to see our child.”

The old marquis, overjoyed to be born again at seventy, rose, took his
valet’s arm, and tried to run to his wife’s apartment; but as both
master and servant were heavy of foot, their progress was confined to a
rather swift walk, which did not, however, prevent them from being out
of breath when they reached the marchioness’s room.

Monsieur hastened forward to embrace madame, shedding tears of joy; and
in his emotion, he fell upon her bed, from which they had all the
difficulty in the world to raise him, because happiness changed his legs
and arms to cotton. When they had succeeded in placing Monsieur de
Grandvilain in a chair, he asked for a glass of madeira in order to
restore his strength and put him in a condition to embrace his son.
Jasmin went again to fetch the madeira; he filled a glass for his
master, and one for himself also, to drink which he retired behind a
long window curtain, finding that he too needed to replenish his
strength.

“And now, where is my son?” said the marquis in a trembling voice,
glancing about the room.

“He will be brought to you in a moment, monsieur,” said the buxom
Turlurette; “the nurse is fixing him to show you.”

“I don’t want him to be dressed,” said the marquis; “on the contrary, I
want to see him naked; then I shall be better able to judge of his
strength, of his constitution.”

“Yes, yes,” said Jasmin, “we shall be very glad to see what we have
made!”

“You hear, Turlurette,--tell the nurse to bring me my son as naked as a
worm.”

“Yes, let her bring him to us at once, like a savage, without any
fig-leaf.”

“Jasmin, will you be good enough to keep your tongue quiet for a
moment?”

“I beg pardon, monsieur le marquis; it is my impatience to admire our
dear love.”

Turlurette made haste to perform her errand, and the nurse soon
appeared, carrying before her a large basin, wherein the new-born child,
entirely naked, moved about and stretched out at pleasure its little
pink and white limbs.

The nurse handed the child to the marquis, as the keys of a city used in
the old days to be presented to a conqueror.

At sight of his son, Monsieur de Grandvilain uttered a joyful cry, and
put out his arms to take him; but his emotion caused another attack of
faintness; he had not the strength to take the child, but fell back in
his chair. Meanwhile, the nurse, thinking that the father was going to
take what she held out to him, had relaxed her hold of the child and the
basin alike, and both would have fallen to the floor if stout Turlurette
had not luckily caught the child by the part which presented itself
first to her grasp.

The bowl fell to the floor and broke into a thousand pieces. When she
heard the crash, madame la marquise thought that her son was killed.

“My child! what has happened to him?”

“Nothing, madame,” said Turlurette, giving the little boy to her
mistress; “he didn’t fall; I caught him by--I got hold of him.”

“The dear love! I had a terrible fright!--Great heaven! Turlurette, what
a very strange way to hold the child!”

“Bless me! it’s very lucky that I caught hold of him as I did! If it
hadn’t been so, he might have fallen with the basin, and God knows if he
wouldn’t have been smashed like it.”

While all this was taking place, Jasmin, seeing his master lying back in
his chair, pale and trembling, hastily poured out another glass of
madeira for him, and then retired behind the curtain once more.

Monsieur de Grandvilain, having recovered his strength for the third
time, took the child whom Turlurette still held, and embraced him
heartily; then held him up in the air, exclaiming:

“So this is my son! my heir! Corbleu! I was sure that I should have a
son.”

But the marchioness, fearing that her husband would faint again, and
that he would then drop the child altogether, begged him to sit down
beside her bed; Monsieur de Grandvilain complied, and then began to turn
the child over and over, scrutinizing every part.

“What a lovely child!” he cried; “and to think that I begot him!”

“Yes, we begot him!” muttered Jasmin, who stood behind his master’s
chair, with the bottle of madeira in his hand, in case of an emergency.

“How plump and pink he is; what pretty little calves!”

“Faith, I haven’t as much calf as that now!” said Jasmin, glancing at
his own legs.

“What a pretty little round head!”

“One would swear that it was a Dutch cheese,” muttered Jasmin; but
luckily for him, his master did not hear his reflection that time, or it
would have caused the suppression of his present for good and all.

“He is built like an Apollo!--and he has--why, it is herculean! Look,
Jasmin,--see how--how he has developed already!”

“It is marvelous,” said Jasmin, who, after examining the proportions of
the child, made mentally the same reflection that he had made on the
subject of his legs.

After Monsieur de Grandvilain had thoroughly scrutinized his son _per
fas et nefas_, he handed him to his spouse, saying:

“By the way, my dear love, what shall we call him?”

“That is what I have been thinking of, my dear husband, ever since he
was born.”

“My son must have a noble name. My own name is Sigismond; that is a good
name, but I don’t like the idea of sons having their fathers’ names;
that leads to mistakes, until you don’t know where you are.”

“Listen, monsieur le marquis, the most appropriate name for the dear
love would be Chérubin. What do you say to that? Isn’t it a very pretty
name?”

“Chérubin!” said the marquis, shaking his head; “that is very girlish;
there is nothing warlike about it.”

“Why, monsieur, what’s the necessity of giving a warrior’s name to our
son? That would have been very well in Napoléon’s time, but now it is no
longer the fashion; let us call our son Chérubin, I beg you!”

“Marchioness,” replied the marquis, kissing his wife’s hand, “you have
given me a son and I can refuse you nothing. His name shall be Chérubin;
that rather reminds one of the _Mariage de Figaro_; but after all,
Beaumarchais’s Chérubin is an attractive little rascal; all the women
dote on him, and it would not be a bad thing if our son should resemble
the little page.”

“Yes, yes,” murmured Jasmin, who stood behind his master’s chair,
swaying from side to side, for the visits behind the curtain had begun
to make his legs unsteady. “Yes, Chérubin is very nice; it rhymes with
Jasmin.”

The marquis turned, and was tempted to strike his servant; but he,
finding that he had made another foolish speech, assumed such a piteous
expression that his master simply said to him:

“You are impertinent beyond all bounds to-day, Jasmin!”

“I beg pardon, monsieur le marquis, it is my delight, my enthusiasm. I
am so happy, that it seems to me that everything in the room is
dancing.”

At that moment Turlurette appeared and said that all the servants in the
house had assembled and requested permission to offer their mistress a
bouquet, and their master their congratulations.

The marquis ordered his servants to be admitted.

They arrived in single file, and Jasmin, as the oldest, at once placed
himself at their head and began a complimentary harangue of which he
could not find the end, because he lost control of his tongue. But he
made the best of it, and cut his speech short by crying:

“Long live monsieur le marquis’s son and his august family!”

All the servants repeated this cry, tossing their hats or caps into the
air. Once more Monsieur de Grandvilain was deeply moved, tears came to
his eyes, and, fearing another attack of weakness, he motioned to
Jasmin, who, anticipating his command, instantly handed him a glass of
madeira.

The marquis drank it; then he thanked his people, gave them money and
sent them away to drink to the health of the newly-born. Jasmin left the
room with them, carrying a bottle of madeira, the rest of which he drank
before he joined his comrades. And that evening, the marquis’s valet was
completely drunk, and monsieur le marquis had himself taken something to
restore his strength so frequently, that he was obliged to retire
immediately on leaving the dinner table.

But one does not have a child every day, especially when one has reached
the age of seventy years.



III

JASMIN ARRANGES A SURPRISE


Little Chérubin’s baptism took place a few days after his birth; on that
occasion there were more festivities in the old mansion.

The marquis was open-handed and generous; those qualities are ordinarily
found in libertines. He spent money lavishly, and told Jasmin to despoil
the cellar. The valet, whose blotched nose betrayed his favorite
passion, promised his master to carry out his orders to the letter.

A select and fashionable company came to attend the baptism of little
Chérubin. The salons were resplendent with light; the guests chatted,
played cards, and then went to see the mother, and to admire her little
one--but not more than two at a time, for such was the doctor’s order.

The child, who had come into the world so plump and fresh and rosy, was
beginning to grow thin and yellow; one could still rave over his pretty
face, but no longer over his health.

And yet the marquis’s son was the object of the incessant care of his
mother, who had the most intense affection for him, who kept him
constantly by her side, and would not allow him to be out of her sight
for a single moment.

All this was very well; but children are not to be brought up with
affection, caresses, kisses and sweet words: nature demands a more
substantial nourishment; now, that which madame la marquise supplied to
her first-born was evidently of poor quality, and not only was not
abundant but was exceedingly deficient in quantity. In short, whether
because the bread soup diet had impaired Madame de Grandvilain’s
health--which was very probable--or for some entirely different reason,
concealed or apparent, it was a fact that little Chérubin’s mamma had
only a very little wretched milk to give her son, who had come into the
world with a hearty appetite.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau said that a mother should nurse her child, that it
was a crime to put the poor little creatures in the hands of mercenary
persons who could not have a mother’s affection for them and simply made
a business of hiring out their bodies; and in support of that argument
he cited the animals, which nurse their young themselves and never seek
others to replace them.

But, in the first place, we might remind Jean-Jacques that animals lead
a regular life--regular, that is to say, according to their nature and
their physical strength. Have you ever heard of lionesses, she-bears, or
cats even, passing their nights at balls, giving receptions, and dining
out frequently? I think not; nor have I!

We may be allowed then to insist upon a difference between animals and
men; and despite our profound regard for the philosopher of Geneva, we
will say to him further, that in this world of ours there are positions,
trades, branches of business, which make it impossible for a woman to
perform that maternal duty to which he insists that all women should
submit. When a woman, in order to earn her living, is obliged to sit all
day at a desk, or to work constantly with her needle, how do you expect
her to take her child in her arms every instant? There is a still
stronger reason for her not doing it, if her health is poor and failing.

Nurses sell their milk, you say, and never have a mother’s affection for
a strange child.

In the first place, it is not proved that a nurse does not love her
nursling dearly; there is every reason to believe, on the contrary, that
she becomes attached to the little creature whose life she sustains; and
after all, even if it were simply a matter of business, has the baker
any affection for the people to whom he sells bread? But that does not
prevent us from living on that bread.

Philosophers, men of genius, aye, even the greatest men, sometimes put
forth propositions which are far from being orthodox; and they make
mistakes like other men.

But there are people who take for very noble thoughts everything which
comes from the pen of a man who has written great things. Such people
are very generous. We rarely find gold without alloy; and can man
produce what Nature cannot produce? There are people also, who, when
they walk through a cemetery, believe in the truth of all the
inscriptions carved upon the tombs, according to which the people there
interred were models of virtue, goodness, uprightness, etc., etc. I have
infinite respect for the dead, but I do not see the necessity of trying
to deceive the living. Those who are no more were no better than we, and
we are no better than those who will come after us.

We were saying then that little Chérubin was no longer as beautiful as
an angel, although he bore the name of one; but that did not prevent all
those who went to pay their respects to the mother from complimenting
her upon her child. Honest Aménaïde listened with a sweet smile to all
the flattering words which were addressed to her son. Meanwhile,
Monsieur de Grandvilain lay back in an easy-chair, patted his legs, and
shook his head, and looked at the ladies with an air which seemed almost
to say:

“When you want one like him, apply to me.”

Luckily for him, none of the ladies was tempted to put him to the proof.

About ten o’clock in the evening, just as the doctor was urging Madame
de Grandvilain not to admit any more people to her room, and to try to
sleep, there was a sudden uproar in the courtyard, and a bright light
shone in the windows; then, something as brilliant as lightning shot
through the air.

It was the work of Jasmin, who, to celebrate the baptism of his master’s
son, had conceived the idea of a display of fireworks in the courtyard,
in order to afford the marquis and all his guests a pleasant surprise;
and who had just discharged a mortar and then a rocket, to attract
everybody to the windows.

In fact, the explosion of the mortar had caused a profound sensation in
the house; everyone thought it was the roar of cannon; the mother leaped
up in her bed, the child in its cradle, monsieur le marquis in his
chair, and all the guests, wherever they were. They gazed at each other
with a terrified expression, saying:

“What is it? What a noise! It is cannon! There must be fighting in
Paris!”

“Fighting?”

“Great heaven! can it be that the usurper has come back again?”

Remember that this happened in the year 1819, and that in the mansions
of Faubourg Saint-Germain, Napoléon was ordinarily referred to as the
usurper.

There was a moment of confusion in the salon; some of the men talked of
running to arms, others looked about for their hats, the women ran after
the men, or prepared to faint, and some talked in undertones, in
corners, with young men, whom, up to that time, they had pretended
barely to look at.

There are people who make the most of every opportunity and turn every
circumstance to advantage. Such people are necessarily those who have
the most presence of mind.

Amid the commotion, they heard a shrill voice in the courtyard:

“We are going to discharge a few fireworks in honor of the baptism, and
to celebrate the birth, of the son of our worthy master, Monsieur le
Marquis de Grandvilain and Madame la Marquise de Grandvilain, his
spouse.”

No sooner were these words heard, than a sudden change took place on
every face, except those of the people who were talking in corners. The
men laughed uproariously, the ladies threw aside the shawls and hats
which they had hastily donned, and ran to look at themselves in the
mirrors, for coquetry is the first sentiment that wakes in the ladies
when the others are still benumbed. Then everybody ran to the windows,
saying:

“Fireworks! it is fireworks! Oh! what a delightful surprise!”

“Yes,” said the old Marquis de Grandvilain, who had been more frightened
than all the others together, “yes, it is a pleasant idea of that devil
of a Jasmin. But he ought to have notified me that he intended to
surprise me, for then I should have expected it, and it would have--have
surprised me less.”

The guests were all at the windows, the ladies in front, the men behind
them, so that they were obliged to lean over a little to see; but
everybody seemed well pleased, and nobody would have changed his place
for another.

The marquis sat alone at a window in his wife’s room.

“You will not be able to see the pieces down below, my dear love,” he
said, “but I will explain them to you, and you will be able to see the
rockets and serpents perfectly from your bed.”

“Suppose it frightens Chérubin?” said the marchioness, placing her son’s
cradle at the foot of the bed.

“Don’t be afraid, marchioness; my son will take after me, he will love
the noise and smell of powder.”

Meanwhile, Jasmin, who had followed his master’s orders by levying
freely on the cellar, and had made himself, as well as his comrades,
very nearly tipsy, seemed to have gone back to his twentieth year; he
walked about the courtyard, amid the fireworks, like a general amid his
troops.

In the farthest corner of the courtyard the mortars had been placed;
they were the heavy artillery, and no more were to be fired until the
finale. But as sparks, falling in that direction, might land inside the
mortars and set them off before the time for which they were held in
reserve, the cook, who was a careful man, and who was acting as Jasmin’s
second in command, had brought from his kitchen saucepan covers, a
frying-pan, and a dish-pan, and had placed them over the mortars, which
were made like stove pipes, but of different dimensions, according to
the amount of powder they contained: so that the frying-pan was placed
on the largest one, the dish-pan on a smaller size, and the saucepan
covers on the smallest ones, all to prevent sparks or lighted fragments
of rockets from falling into the mortars.

Jasmin glanced from window to window; he waited till everybody was
placed before beginning.

The cook, who was no less impatient than the old valet, and whose brain
was excited by the marquis’s wine, stood near the fireworks with a
lighted slow-match in one hand, while with the other he pushed his
cotton cap over his left ear.

Meanwhile, stout Turlurette and two other servants were dancing about a
transparency representing a moon, which Jasmin declared to be a portrait
of young Chérubin.

“They are all there! everybody’s at the windows, and we can set them
off,” said Jasmin, after a last glance at the house.

“Yes, yes, begin,” said Turlurette. “Oh! isn’t it going to be fine?”

“No women here!” cried the cook in a determined tone; “you will make us
do some foolish thing; go up to the second floor, young women.”

“Oh! he told me that he would let me fire off one little petard at
least; didn’t you, Monsieur Jasmin?”

“Yes, yes,” cried Jasmin; “everybody must have a good time to-day; it is
for our young master! Turlurette shall fire a little rocket; that is the
least we can do for her; but not now, later.--Ready, cook, let us begin;
to our fireworks!”

The display began with a serpent or two, Bengal fire, and rockets; the
guests looked on, and when any piece seemed to be aimed at a window, the
ladies drew back with little exclamations of alarm, blended with bursts
of laughter; the men encouraged them, taking their hands and pressing
them; I am not sure that they took nothing else; however, the ladies
consented to be reassured, resumed their places, applauded and were
highly pleased; while the old marquis at his window, said to his wife:

“My dear love, it is superb! it is beautiful! it is dazzling! I am sorry
that you are so far away.”

“But, my dear, suppose it should set the house on fire!”

“Don’t be afraid; Jasmin is prudent; he has undoubtedly notified the
firemen at the station close by; besides, the courtyard is very large
and there is no danger.”

The loving Aménaïde was not thoroughly comforted; she would have
preferred that there should be no fireworks to celebrate the baptism;
but everybody seemed pleased, and she dared not deprive the company of
the pleasure which they took in the spectacle.

Soon applause rose on all sides; Jasmin had just lighted the
transparency with the moon, calling out as he did so:

“A portrait of our child, young Chérubin de Grandvilain.”

At that everybody applauded on trust, although they squinted in vain to
discover a face painted in the moon on the transparency; but they
ascribed that to the smoke, and several persons went so far as to cry
out:

“It is very like, on my word! anyone could recognize it! A very pretty
idea! such things as this are not seen anywhere except at the Marquis de
Grandvilain’s.”

While the company was admiring the transparency, Mademoiselle
Turlurette, still intent upon her idea of setting off something, went to
Jasmin and said:

“Give me your slow-match, it’s my turn; what am I going to set off?”

“Here, Mademoiselle Turlurette, set fire to this sun. But aren’t you
afraid?”

“Me, afraid! oh, no! just show me where to light it.”

“See, here is the match.”

Stout Turlurette took the slow-match which Jasmin handed to her, and
held it to the wick which protruded from the sun. Despite all the
courage which she was determined to display, the stout girl was terribly
excited, for she had never set off a piece of fireworks before. After
she had touched the match which she had in her hand to the place pointed
out to her, when she heard the powder hiss and the flame sputter close
beside her, a sudden terror took possession of Turlurette; fancying that
she was being burned by the sparks from the sun, she ran across the
courtyard, holding her dress up with one hand, as if she were trying to
make a belt of it, and with her lighted slow-match still in the other.
The latter she threw down, without looking, in the first convenient
spot.

The sun produced a great effect; it whirled about like a top, and
everybody at the windows applauded. Some said:

“It is as pretty as at Tivoli.”

Another exclaimed:

“It is almost as fine as the fireworks we have at our house, in my park,
on my birthday.”

And the old marquis leaned far out of the window, crying:

“Bravo! I am much pleased, my children! You may regale yourselves again
after the fireworks.”

But Monsieur de Grandvilain had hardly ceased speaking when there was a
terrible report, and the old mansion was shaken to its foundation; it
was caused by all the mortars, large and small, exploding at the same
moment, because stout Turlurette, in her alarm, had thrown her
slow-match into the midst of the heavy pieces which were reserved for
the finale.

If the mortars had simply been discharged, nothing worse would have
happened than the premature occurrence of an explosion held in reserve
for the end of the fête; but unfortunately, when they took fire, they
were still covered by the various kitchen implements which the cook had
placed over them as a precautionary measure; and at the same moment that
the sudden report took everybody by surprise, even those who were
managing the fireworks, the frying-pan, the dish-pan, and the saucepan
covers were hurled through the air with terrific force.

Monsieur de Grandvilain, who had just been thanking his servants, had an
ear carried away by the frying-pan, which entered the bedroom and fell
at the foot of his wife’s bed. Several of the guests were struck by
saucepan covers; a pretty woman had four teeth broken, a young dandy who
was leaning over her had his nose split in the middle, which gave him
later the appearance of a Danish dog; and on all sides there was nothing
but shrieks, lamentations and imprecations. Even those who had sustained
no injury shouted louder than the others:

“This is what comes of allowing servants to discharge fireworks. The
cook put all his cooking utensils in the mortars; it is very lucky that
it didn’t occur to him to blow up his ovens.”

The guests had had quite enough; they all took their leave, some to have
their wounds dressed, others to tell of what had taken place at Monsieur
de Grandvilain’s.

During the disaster, Jasmin had received the dish-pan on his head, after
it had made an excursion through the air; and the faithful valet’s face
was covered with burns and bore a striking resemblance to a skimmer.
That did not prevent him from appearing with a piteous air before his
master, who was looking for his ear.

“Monsieur,” said the valet, “I am in despair; I don’t understand how it
all came about--but it wasn’t finished; there is the bouquet to
come--and if you would like----”

The marquis, in a frenzy of rage, raised his cane upon Jasmin, and would
listen to no more; while Madame de Grandvilain half rose in her bed and
said to the poor valet in an imposing voice:

“In my husband’s name, I forbid you henceforth to fire anything of any
sort in our house.”



IV

A NEW WAY OF BRINGING UP CHILDREN


The display of fireworks for little Chérubin’s baptism put an end to all
the festivities at the hôtel de Grandvilain. The marquis succeeded in
finding his ear, but it was impossible to put it in place again, so that
he was obliged to resign himself to the necessity of closing his career
with a single ear, a most disagreeable thing when one has worn two for
seventy years.

Aménaïde had conceived a horror of fireworks, rockets, in fact, of the
slightest explosion; the most trifling noise made her faint; it went so
far that nobody was allowed to uncork a bottle in her presence.

Jasmin continued to wear the aspect of a skimmer, but he soon consoled
himself therefor; the old valet had long since laid aside all pretension
to please the fair sex; the little holes with which his face was riddled
did not interfere with his drinking, and to him that was the principal
point.

Mademoiselle Turlurette had received no wound, and yet she deserved
better than any of the others to be struck by a saucepan cover at least,
for she was the author of all the disasters that had happened in the
house. But no one suspected how the thing took place, and Turlurette
confined herself to expressing the most profound detestation of
fireworks.

And so tranquillity had returned to the hôtel de Grandvilain, where they
received many fewer guests since the last festivity; for the young women
and the dandies feared to lose their teeth, or to have their noses slit.

The marquis was at liberty to devote all his time to the care of his
son, and little Chérubin demanded much care; for he became weak and
sickly and sallow, and at three months he was vastly smaller than when
he came into the world. Turlurette, who had weighed him at that time,
was certain of the fact, and one day she said to Jasmin in an undertone:

“It’s very funny, but madame’s boy is melting away, so that you can see
it! He weighs five ounces less to-day than he did the day he was born!”

Jasmin gave a leap when he heard that his master’s child was melting
away instead of increasing in size, and he said to Turlurette:

“If this goes on, before long he won’t weigh anything at all. You must
tell madame that the little fellow is falling off.”

“Oh, yes! so that madame may torment herself, and so that she won’t be
able to feed her son at all. No indeed, I will take pains not to tell
her.”

“But, mademoiselle, it’s for the child’s good!”

“But I don’t choose to make madame feel badly.”

Jasmin made up his mind like a devoted servant: he went to his master.
Monsieur de Grandvilain was lying on his couch, enveloped in his
morning gown; his head was covered with a jaunty green velvet cap, which
he was careful to place over the ear which he no longer had. For some
time the old marquis had had the habit of moving his jaws, as one does
when one is sucking or eating something, and that constant movement gave
his face the appearance of a nut-cracker. Those persons who were not
aware of this trick of the marquis, waited, before speaking to him, for
him to finish swallowing what he was chewing; but they waited in vain,
for the jaws continued to make the same movement.

Since the occasion of the fireworks, Monsieur de Grandvilain had treated
his valet with less affability. However, Jasmin’s face bore so many
scars that his master could hardly bear him ill-will for an accident of
which he had been the second victim.

“What do you want of me, Jasmin?” said Monsieur de Grandvilain, when he
saw that his valet stood before him with an embarrassed air.

“Monsieur, I hope that you will excuse me for what I am going to say,
but it is my attachment for you and our young marquis that has decided
me to speak.”

“I am aware of your attachment, Jasmin, although the proofs of it which
you have given me have sometimes had unfortunate results.”

As he spoke, Monsieur de Grandvilain scratched the place where his ear
should have been.

“Well, what have you to tell me?”

Jasmin glanced about him, walked closer to his master, and said in a low
voice and with a mysterious air:

“Let me tell you, monsieur, that your son is melting----”

The old man fell back on his couch and gazed anxiously at his servant,
exclaiming:

“Melting! my son! Great heaven! has he fallen into the stove?”

“When I say melting, my dear master, I mean simply falling away, that he
has lost five ounces, neither more nor less, since the day he was born.”

“The devil take you, Jasmin, you gave me a horrible fright! I wonder if
you will never be any less stupid!”

“It was my attachment for you, monsieur, that made me think that I ought
to tell you. Turlurette has weighed our little Chérubin, and she is sure
of what she says. She doesn’t dare to tell madame, but I thought it was
better to tell you; for if the child goes on like this, in a few months
he won’t weigh anything at all.”

Monsieur de Grandvilain sadly shook his head.

“In truth,” he said, “my son is not making any progress. He is taking on
a yellowish color that surprises me, for both his mother and I are very
white. Ah! my poor Jasmin, I am beginning to think that we should have
children when we are young, because then they inherit our strength.”

“Nonsense, monsieur! You are strong enough! You are a perfect horse when
you choose! Our Chérubin was magnificent when he was born, as you must
remember. If he is doing badly now, it’s only because he doesn’t eat
enough. Madame fondles him and pets him--that’s all very well; but
perhaps the little rascal would prefer some wine and a cutlet.”

“A cutlet! Are you mad, Jasmin? Whoever heard of giving cutlets to
children three months old?”

“Perhaps it would be better for them than milk, no one knows. If I was a
nurse, I’d try the experiment.”

“In truth, Jasmin, you recall to my mind the fact that the grandfather
of our good Henri IV gave his son wine to drink a few moments after he
was born; and it did the child no harm; far from it, for Henri IV was a
regular devil in every way. Judging from that, I believe that my son,
who is past three months, might safely swallow a drop of generous wine.”

“Surely, monsieur, wine can never do any harm, and you have such good
wine! Our little Chérubin, instead of turning yellow, will become a very
devil like the great king; and if with that you would venture to let him
suck a cutlet----”

“The wine will be enough, with a little beef juice perhaps. If only
madame la marquise will consent to let the child change his food!”

“Why, look you, monsieur, the little fellow is our son, after all! If
madame doesn’t give him enough to eat, we have the right to do as we
please. Deuce take it! A man doesn’t have a child every day, and if you
should have to try it over again, I think that----”

“Yes, Jasmin, yes, I will be firm. As my heir’s welfare is at stake, I
will show my strength of character.”

And monsieur le marquis, rising from his couch, betook himself to his
wife’s apartment, leaning on the arm of Jasmin, who repeated constantly
on the way:

“Give him wine to drink, monsieur, give him some good strong soups to
eat, and I will bet that within a month he will have recovered his five
ounces!”

Madame de Grandvilain had not dared to confess to her husband that she
had no milk to give their son; she had bought nursing bottles, and when
the marquis was not there, the child was given the bottle; but as soon
as his father arrived, she played nurse again, and little Chérubin was
given a sterile bosom, which supplied him with no nourishment.

When Monsieur de Grandvilain unexpectedly entered madame’s chamber, as
she was not looking for her husband at that moment, she did not have
time to put the bottle out of the way, and Chérubin was still attached
to it.

“What’s this, my dear love?” said monsieur le marquis, scrutinizing what
his son was sucking.

“My dear,” said madame, sorely confused, “it’s a supplement.”

“A supplement! The deuce, my dear love, you use a supplement, and
without letting me know?”

“My dear, there are times when my milk doesn’t flow freely, and we must
not let this dear little fellow suffer on that account.”

“Certainly not, madame, but if you had only confessed to me sooner that
you use a supplement, I, for my part, should not have hesitated to tell
you that I wished to change our son’s diet. He is not making progress,
marchioness, that is evident. I believe that milk is not what he needs.
I am less surprised since I find that it is not yours. In short, I
propose to try another method; I propose to give my son wine to drink.”

“Wine, my dear! Can you think of such a thing! A child of three months!”

“Who was magnificent when he came into the world, and who is visibly
pining away with your bottle. I will give him claret, that is a mild and
generous wine. If that works well, later we will try burgundy.”

“But, monsieur, on the contrary, the very lightest things, ass’s milk,
is what Chérubin needs!”

“Ass’s milk for my son! Fie, madame! I will not listen to such a thing.
Can it be that you would like to make an ass of him? He shall drink
wine.”

“He shall drink milk.”

For the first time the husband and wife quarrelled, and neither of them
would give way.

Monsieur de Grandvilain took his son in his arms, carried him to his
room, ordered Jasmin to bring a bottle of old claret, and gave some
spoonfuls of it to his heir.

The child swallowed the wine without making too wry a face; in a few
moments his little cheeks flushed, and the old valet, who was assisting
his master to pour wine into little Chérubin, exclaimed:

“Look, monsieur le marquis, look! already our son’s color is coming
back! He is better already, and recovering his strength. Oh! what an
excellent idea it was to give him wine! Let us go on, master. He turns
his eyes toward us; I think that he wants some more.”

Monsieur de Grandvilain thought that it was better to be prudent the
first time and not to make the dose too large; so he returned to his
wife and gave her the child, saying:

“Madame, Chérubin is better already; his color has come back and his
eyes shine like diamonds. I shall continue what I have begun to-day, and
you will see that our heir will be the better for it.”

Madame made no reply, but as soon as her husband had left the room, she
called Turlurette and said to her:

“Dear Turlurette, just see what a state they have put this poor little
fellow in! He smells frightfully of wine, and I believe that he is
tipsy!”

“Why, yes, he really is, madame,” cried the stout girl, after smelling
the child. “That old idiot of a Jasmin is responsible for all this; he’s
a sot himself, and he would like to make everybody drink, even a nursing
child. If you take my advice, madame, you will give the child some syrup
of ipecac. That will make him throw up the wine; it will purge him.”

“No, Turlurette, no! I am afraid of doing my son an injury, and of
angering monsieur le marquis. But I am going to give the dear little
fellow some ass’s milk, and that will correct the ill effects of the
wine.”

The ass’s milk was offered to the child in the bottle. Little Chérubin
drank it without objection, for he had an excellent disposition; he
accepted whatever was offered him, so that the important thing was to
offer him what would be good for him.

This system of nourishment was continued for several days. The marquis
gave his son wine to drink and madame gave him ass’s milk. The child was
very red when he left his father’s hands, but he became very pale again
with his mother. They soon discovered that the dear boy was out of
order, and stout Turlurette added the syringe to all the other remedies;
and Jasmin, determined at all risks to fatten the little Grandvilain,
gave him a piece of pie crust, or a slice of sausage, as soon as he was
left alone with him.

Before little Chérubin had been on this diet of ass’s milk, pie crust
and syringes a month, instead of growing fat, he was in a shocking
condition. The marchioness wept, and Monsieur de Grandvilain decided to
send for a doctor. After examining the child and learning all that they
had been doing to nourish him, the doctor exclaimed in a very severe
tone:

“Allow me to inform you that, if you go on like this, in a week you will
not have any child.”

The marchioness sobbed, the marquis turned green, and they both cried in
one breath:

“What must we do, doctor, to restore our child’s health?”

“What must you do? Why give him a nurse, a good nurse, and send him into
the country with her, and leave him there a long while, a very long
while; that’s what you must do, and at once, this very day; you have no
time to waste if you want to preserve the life of this child.”

The tone in which the doctor spoke admitted no reply; luckily their love
for the child was above all self-esteem, so they were fain to agree that
they had done wrong, and to obey in all haste.

The marquis sent all his people in search of a nurse. The marchioness
herself went about among her acquaintances, asking for information and
advice; but the time passed, and those who were well recommended could
not be obtained at once. As evening approached, they had not succeeded
in finding a nurse; the marchioness and her husband embraced their child
and had no idea what to give him, as they dared not continue to feed him
as they had been doing.

Suddenly Jasmin appeared with a fresh, buxom, red-cheeked peasant woman,
exclaiming:

“I have found what we want, I think; if she doesn’t bring our little one
back to life, faith, I will have nothing more to do with it.”

The nurse whom Jasmin had brought had such an attractive face and seemed
to enjoy such excellent health that they were prepossessed in her favor.
Madame de Grandvilain uttered a joyful cry and handed her child to the
peasant woman, who presented her bosom to him; he took it greedily, like
one who had found what he needed.

The marquis tapped Jasmin on the shoulder, saying:

“You are an invaluable fellow! How did you go to work to discover this
excellent nurse?”

“How did I go to work, monsieur? Why, I just went to the office, on Rue
Sainte-Apolline, and asked for a nurse; I saw nurses of all colors, and
I chose this one. That’s all the difficulty there was about it.”

What Jasmin had done was the simplest thing to do, but ordinarily the
simplest thing is what nobody thinks of doing.

Little Chérubin’s nurse was from Gagny, and as the doctor’s orders were
definite, she returned to her village the next morning, carrying with
her a superb layette, money, gifts, strict orders, and her little
nursling.



V

THE VILLAGE OF GAGNY


Gagny is a pretty village near Villemonble, of which it is a sort of
continuation, and is a little nearer Paris than Montfermeil. When I say
that it is a pretty village, I do not mean by that that the streets are
very straight and well paved, and that all the houses have a uniform,
comfortable, or even elegant aspect; in that case, it would resemble a
small provincial town, and would not be the country with its
picturesqueness and its freedom from constraint.

What I like in a village is the mixture of architectural styles, the
very irregularity of the buildings, which is such a pleasant change from
the monotony of the streets of a capital. What I like to see in a
village is the farmhouse and all its outbuildings, the pond in which
ducks are splashing, the dung-heap with the hens pecking about it; and
then the cottage of the well-to-do peasant, who has had his shutters
painted green, and who allows the vines to climb all about the windows;
the thatched roof of a laborer not far from the fine house of a wealthy
bourgeois; the charming villa of one of our Parisian celebrities; the
humble dwelling of the market gardener; the schoolhouse, the church and
its belfry; and in the midst of all these, tall trees, paths bordered by
hedges of elderberry or wild fruit; hens and roosters strutting
fearlessly before the house; ruddy-cheeked, merry, healthy children
playing in the middle of the streets or squares, with nothing to fear
from carriages and omnibuses; and even the odor of the cow barn, when I
pass by a dairyman’s place; because all these remind you that you are
really in the country; and when you truly love the country, you have a
sense of well-being, a feeling of happiness, the effects of which you at
once realize without any need to try to explain them--effects which you
owe to the pure air which you breathe, to the rustic scenes which rest
your eyes, and to the pleasant freedom which you enjoy!

Gagny offers you all these things. Situated as it is near Raincy, the
forest of Bondy, and the lovely woods of Montfermeil, and only a short
distance from the Marne, whose banks are delightful, especially near
Nogent and Gournay,--in whichever direction you turn your steps when you
leave the village, you find charming walks and beautiful views. The
neighborhood is embellished by some lovely estates: Maison Rouge, Maison
Blanche, and the pretty little château of L’Horloge, flanked by towers
and battlements, which represents in miniature--but in a highly
flattered miniature--the abodes of the ancient feudal lords. Such is the
village of Gagny, which sees every day one more beautiful and
comfortable house built in its neighborhood, where, during the summer,
charming women from Paris, artists, scholars or tradesmen, come to seek
repose from the constant activity of the capital.

I observe that I have been describing Gagny as it is to-day, whereas it
was in the year 1819 that little Chérubin, son of the Marquis de
Grandvilain, was taken there. But after all, the aspect of the village
has not changed, except for some fine houses which did not then exist,
but which are universally admired to-day.

Let us make the acquaintance first of all of the villagers to whose
house our hero was taken.

You know that the nurse who had carried Chérubin away was a buxom
peasant with a fresh round face, and a solid figure, whose corsets
indicated a sufficient supply of food for four marquises and as many
plebeians; but what you do not know is that her name was Nicole
Frimousset, that she was twenty-eight years old, and had three little
boys, and a husband who drove her to despair, although he was a model of
obedience and submission to her will.

Jacquinot Frimousset was of the same age as his wife; he was a stout,
well-built fellow, with broad shoulders and a sturdy, shapely leg; his
round red face, his heavy eyebrows, his bright black eyes, his white,
even teeth would have done credit to a gentleman from the city.
Frimousset was a handsome youth, and seemed to give promise of becoming
a husband capable of fulfilling all the duties which marriage imposes.
Peasant women are not insensible to physical advantages; indeed it is
said that there are ladies--very great ladies--who attach much value to
such bagatelles.

Nicole, who had some property, and a dowry of goodly proportion, could
not lack aspirants; she selected Jacquinot Frimousset, and all the women
in the village exclaimed that Nicole was not squeamish; which meant
doubtless that they too would have been glad to marry Frimousset. But
there is an old proverb which declares that appearances are deceitful.
There are many people who do not choose to believe in proverbs! Those
people make a great mistake. Erasmus said:

“Of all forms of knowledge, there is none older than that of proverbs;
they were like so many symbols which formed the philosophical code of
the early ages; they are the compendium of human verities.”

Aristotle agreed with Erasmus; he thought that proverbs were the remains
of the old philosophy destroyed by the wearing effect of time; and that,
these sentences having been preserved by reason of their conciseness,
far from disdaining them, we should reflect upon them with care, and
search after their meaning.

Chrysippus and Cleanthes wrote at great length in favor of proverbs.
Theophrastus composed a whole volume upon that subject. Among the famous
men who have discussed it are Aristides and Clearchus, disciples of
Aristotle; and Pythagoras wrote symbols which Erasmus ranks with
proverbs; and Plutarch, in his _Apothegms_, collected the wise remarks
of the Greeks.

We might proceed to cite all the authors of modern times who have
written in favor of proverbs, but that would carry us too far, and we
fancy that you will prefer to return to Chérubin’s nurse.

Nicole had never heard of Erasmus, or of Aristotle; we have met people
in the city who have no knowledge concerning those philosophers, and are
none the worse off for that. As a general rule, we should not carry the
study of antiquity too far; what we know about the past often prevents
us from being well informed concerning what is going on to-day.

Nicole soon perceived that when she married Jacquinot she did not
feather her nest very well. The handsome peasant was lazy, careless; in
short, a do-nothing in every sense of the term. Three days after her
marriage, Nicole sighed when she was congratulated upon her choice.

But Frimousset had that rustic cunning which knows how to disguise its
inclinations, its faults, beneath an air of good-humor and frankness
which deceives many people. His wife was lively, active, hard-working;
it required very little time for him to learn her character. Far from
thwarting her in anything, Frimousset seemed to be the most docile, the
most compliant husband in the village; but he carried his servility to a
point which finally irritated Nicole, and that was the very thing he
counted upon.

For instance, in the morning, while his wife was attending to the
housework, Jacquinot, after eating a hearty breakfast, would say to her:

“What do you want me to do now, Nicole?”

And Nicole would reply quickly:

“It seems to me that there’s work enough to do! There’s our field to
plow, and the stones and stumps to be taken out of the piece by the
road, and the garden to be planted. Ain’t that work enough?”

“Yes, yes!” Frimousset would reply, shaking his head; “I know well
enough that it ain’t work that’s lacking; but where shall I begin--in
the field, or the pasture, or the garden? I am waiting for you to tell
me; you know very well that I want to do just what you want me to.”

“My word! what nonsense! Don’t you know enough to know what there’s most
hurry about?”

“Why no! Don’t I tell you that I want you to give me orders as to what I
shall do; I want to do my best to please you, my little wife.”

“Do whatever you want to, and let me alone.”

Frimousset would ask no further questions; when by dint of being
submissive he had irritated his wife, she never failed to say: “Do
whatever you please and let me alone.” Thereupon Nicole’s husband would
go off to the wine-shop and pass the day there. Nicole would look in
vain for him in the pasture and the garden, and at night, when he came
home to supper she would ask:

“Where on earth have you been working? I couldn’t find you anywhere.”

And Jacquinot would reply in a cajoling tone:

“Faith, you wouldn’t tell me what work to begin on, and I was afraid of
doing something wrong; I didn’t want to do anything without your
orders.”

With a man of Frimousset’s stamp, comfort, when it exists, soon gives
place to straitened circumstances, and then to poverty; among the small
as among the great, there is no fortune which is large enough to
withstand disorder. After five years of married life, Nicole was obliged
to sell her field and her pasture, all because Monsieur Jacquinot never
knew where to begin when it was a question of working.

Meanwhile Nicole had seen her family increased by three small boys,
healthy boys with excellent appetites. Three children more and several
pieces of land less could not bring comfort to Frimousset’s home. Then
it was that Nicole conceived the idea of becoming a nurse; and as the
peasant was as active and determined as her husband was lazy and
shiftless, her plan was soon carried out.

And that was why Jasmin, when he went to Rue Sainte-Apolline, to the
Nurses’ Bureau, had found the peasant from Gagny, whom he had selected
because of her pleasant face, and whom he had carried in triumph to his
master, the Marquis de Grandvilain.

Nicole was an excellent woman, and she became sincerely attached to the
child that was placed in her charge; she took him as soon as he cried,
and was never weary of giving him the breast and of dancing him in her
arms; she took care too that he should always be neat and clean. But the
peasant woman was a mother too; she had three _gas_--that is what she
called them,--and despite all her affection for her nursling, it was to
her _gas_ that Nicole gave the sweetmeats, the preserves, the biscuit
and the gingerbread of which Madame la Marquise de Grandvilain had not
failed to give her an abundant supply, urging her not to spare them,
never to deny Chérubin anything, and to send to her for other delicacies
when those should be exhausted.

Luckily for Chérubin, Nicole did not follow to the letter the
instructions that were given her. As one is a mother before being a
nurse, the peasant woman necessarily had more affection for her children
than for her foster-child. She gave milk to the latter, while the others
stuffed themselves with dainties, candy and gingerbread, which soon
upset their health, whereas, on the contrary, little Grandvilain became
fresh and rosy and plump and hearty.

The coming of the nursling placed the Frimousset household upon its feet
once more. Nicole had asked for thirty francs a month, but the marquis
had said to her:

“Just let my son get well, let him recover his health, and I will give
you twice that!”

And Jacquinot, who had more time than ever to idle away and to spend in
the wine-shop, because his wife, being occupied with her nursling, could
not keep an eye upon him, exclaimed every day:

“My eye, Nicole, that was a mighty good idea of yours to be a nurse! If
you only had three or four little brats like this, we should be mighty
well off, I tell you!”

And Chérubin’s little foster-brothers, who did nothing but eat
sweetmeats and gingerbread, were also delighted that their mother had a
nursling who provided them with so many good things, thanks to which
they were constantly ill.

Chérubin had been at his nurse’s house only six weeks, when, on a fine
day in autumn, a fashionable carriage stopped on the public square of
Gagny, which square is not absolutely beautiful, although the guardhouse
has been built there.

A vehicle which does not resemble a cart is always an object of
wonderment in a village. Five or six women, several old men, several
peasants, and a multitude of children assembled about the carriage, and
were gazing at it with curiosity, when a window was lowered and a man’s
head appeared.

Instantly a low murmur and a sneering laugh or two were heard among the
bystanders, together with such remarks as these, not all of which were
uttered in undertones:

“Oh! how ugly he is!”--”Oh! what a face!”--”Is it legal to be as ugly as
that, when you have a carriage?”--”Upon my word! I’d rather go
afoot!”--”That fellow hasn’t been vaccinated!”

There were other reflections of the same sort, which might have reached
the ears of him who suggested them, and which it would have been more
polite to make in a low tone; but politeness is not the favorite virtue
of the peasants of the suburbs of Paris.

Luckily, the man who had put his head out of the window was a little
hard of hearing, and, besides, he was not a man to lose his temper for
such trifles; on the contrary, assuming a smiling expression, he said,
bowing to the assemblage:

“Which of you, my good people, can direct me to Nicole Frimousset’s
house? I know well enough that it’s on a street leading into the square,
but that is all I know.”

“Nicole Frimousset!” said a peasant about half seas over, who had just
come from one wine-shop and was about to enter another; “she’s my wife,
Nicole is; I am Jacquinot Frimousset, her husband; what do you want of
my wife?”

“What do we want of her? Parbleu! we’ve come to see the little one that
we’ve placed in her charge, and to find out how he is, the dear child.”

“The deuce! it’s monsieur le marquis!” cried Jacquinot, removing his hat
and throwing several children to the ground in order to reach the
carriage more quickly. “Excuse me, monsieur le marquis; you see, I
didn’t know you. I’ll show you the way; that’s our street over there;
it’s up hill, but you’ve got good horses.”

And Jacquinot ran ahead of the carriage, shouting at the top of his
lungs, and trying to dance.

“Here’s little Chérubin’s father! Here’s the Marquis de Grandvilain,
coming to our house! Ah! I’m going to drink his health.”

The man who was in the carriage answered:

“No, I am not the marquis, I am Jasmin, his first valet; and
mademoiselle who is with me is not madame la marquise; she is
Turlurette, her maid. But it’s all the same, our masters or us, it’s
absolutely the same thing.”

“What a stupid thing to say, Jasmin,” said Turlurette, nudging her
companion; “the idea! our masters or us being the same thing!”

“I mean so far as the child we have come to see is concerned. They have
sent us to find out about his health; can’t we see that as well as our
masters? And even better, for we have better eyes than they have.”

“You speak of your masters with very little respect, Monsieur Jasmin.”

“Mademoiselle, I respect and venerate them, but that doesn’t prevent me
from saying that they are both of them in a miserable state. What
wretched carcasses! They make me feel very sad!”

“Hush, Monsieur Jasmin, here we are!”

The carriage had stopped in front of Frimousset’s house, and Jacquinot’s
shouts had put the whole household in commotion.

“Those are Chérubin’s parents,” was heard in every direction. The little
boys rushed to meet the carriage; Jacquinot went to draw wine to offer
to his guests; while Nicole, after hastily washing her nursling and
wiping his nose, took him in her arms and presented him to Jasmin and
Turlurette, just as they alighted from the carriage, and called out to
them:

“Here he is, monsieur and madame; take him, and see how well he is! Ah!
I flatter myself that he wasn’t as pretty as that when you gave him to
me!”

“True; he’s superb!” said Jasmin, kissing the child.

“Yes, he is as well as can be!” said Turlurette, turning little Chérubin
over and over in every direction.

But while they admired her nursling, Nicole, who had had time to recover
herself, looked closely at Jasmin and Turlurette, and then exclaimed:

“But I say, it seems to me that monsieur and madame ain’t the child’s
father and mother. Pardi! I recognize monsieur by his red nose and his
peppered face; he’s the one who came to the bureau and picked me out.”

“Yes, nurse, you are not mistaken,” replied Jasmin, “I am not my master;
I mean that I am not the marquis, and that is what I shouted to your
husband, but he didn’t listen. But that doesn’t make any difference; we
were sent here, Turlurette and I, to satisfy ourselves about young
Grandvilain’s health, and to report to monsieur le marquis and his
wife.”

“You will always be welcome,” said Nicole.

“And then you won’t refuse to taste our wine and refresh yourselves,”
cried Jacquinot, bringing a huge jar, full to the brim of a wine
perfectly _nif_, which means new in the language of the country people.

“I never refuse to taste any wine, and I am always glad to refresh
myself, even when I am not warm,” replied Jasmin. “But first of all, I
must fulfil to the letter my dear master’s orders. Nurse, undress the
child, if you please, and let me see him all naked, so that I can judge
if he is in good condition from top to toe--inclusively.”

“Oh, bless my soul! drink and let us alone! That is my business!” said
Mademoiselle Turlurette, still keeping the child in her arms.

“Mademoiselle, I will not prevent you from looking at the child too, but
I know what my master ordered me to do, and I propose to obey him. Give
me Chérubin, and let me make a little Cupid of him.”

“I won’t give him to you.”

“Then I’ll take him!”

“Come and try it!”

Jasmin leaped upon the child, but Turlurette would not let him go, and
each of them pulled him; Chérubin shrieked, and the nurse, to put an end
to this imitation of the judgment of Solomon, adroitly took the child
from both of them. In the twinkling of an eye she undressed him, and,
handing him to the two servants, bade them kiss her nursling’s plump
little posterior.

“There! what do you think of him?” she cried; “ain’t he fine? You’d like
to be as fresh and plump as that, wouldn’t you?--but I wish you may get
it!”

The nurse’s action restored general good-humor and peace between the
servants of the house of Grandvilain. Turlurette did not tire of kissing
her master’s child. As for Jasmin, he took a huge pinch of snuff, then
seated himself at a table, and said:

“Yes, yes, everything is all right; we have a superb scion. And now, let
us taste your wine, foster-father.”

Jacquinot made haste to fill the glasses, drink, and fill again; and
Jasmin was as well pleased with the foster-father as with the nurse.

“But why did not monsieur le marquis and madame come themselves?” asked
Nicole.

“Oh!” Turlurette replied with a sigh, “my poor mistress isn’t very well;
when she tried to nurse the child, she didn’t get along well, and now
that she’s given it up, she’s worse than ever!”

“But I offered to take our Chérubin’s place, in order to relieve my
excellent mistress!” murmured Jasmin, tossing off a great bumper of sour
wine.

“Mon Dieu! Monsieur Jasmin, you’re forever saying stupid things,” said
Turlurette; “the idea of madame feeding you.”

“Why not, when it was the doctor’s orders? I once knew a lady who nursed
several cats and two rabbits, because she had too much milk.”

“Oh! we’ve had enough of your stories!--In short, my mistress is very
weak; she can’t leave her room, or else she’d have come long ago to see
her dear child; she talks about him all the time.”

“As for monsieur le marquis,” said Jasmin, “he has the gout in his
heels, which makes it very hard for him to walk. I suggested a way to do
it, and that was to walk on his toes and not touch his heels to the
ground; he tried it, but after taking a few steps that way, _patatras_!
he fell flat on the floor, and he has never been willing to try again.
But they sent us in their place, and never fear, we will make a good
report of what we have seen. You have restored our son’s life! You are
excellent people! Here’s your health, foster-father; your wine scrapes
the palate, but it isn’t unpleasant, and it has a taste of claret.”

While Jasmin drank and chattered, Turlurette went to the carriage to
fetch what her mistress had sent to the nurse. There were presents of
all sorts: sugar, coffee, clothes, and even toys for Chérubin’s
foster-brothers. The room in which the peasants usually sat would hardly
hold all that came out of the carriage. The little Frimoussets jumped
and shouted for joy, and rolled on the floor, at sight of all those
presents, and Nicole said again and again:

“Madame la marquise is very kind! but she can be sure that her son will
eat all these nice things; my _gas_ won’t touch ‘em! Besides, they
prefer pork.”

Jasmin enjoyed himself exceedingly with Jacquinot, and Turlurette was
finally obliged to remind him that their masters were impatiently
awaiting their return. The domestics bade the villagers farewell. They
kissed little Chérubin again, but on the face this time, and returned to
their master’s carriage, which quickly took them back to Paris.

The marchioness awaited the return of her servants with the anxiety of a
mother who fears for the life of the only child that Heaven has granted
her. And despite his gout, Monsieur de Grandvilain dragged himself to
the window from time to time, to see if he could discover his carriage
in the distance.

Turlurette, who was young and active, ran ahead of Jasmin and entered
the room with a radiant air; her face announced that she brought good
news.

“Magnificent, madame! magnificent health! A superb child! Oh! no one
would ever know him; he was so pale and thin when he went away, and now
he’s as fat and solid as a rock.”

“Really, Turlurette,” cried the marchioness; “you are not deceiving us?”

“Oh! just ask Jasmin, madame; here he comes.”

Jasmin appeared, puffing like an ox, because he had tried to go upstairs
as quickly as Turlurette. He walked forward, bowed gravely to his
masters and said:

“Our young marquis is in a most flourishing condition; I had the honor
to kiss his posterior; I ask your pardon for taking that liberty, but he
is such a lovely child and so well kept! I assure you that the
Frimousset family is worthy of our confidence, and that we have only
praise to give the nurse and her husband.”

These words filled the atmosphere of the hôtel de Grandvilain with joy.
Chérubin’s mamma promised herself that she would go to Gagny to see her
son as soon as her health was restored, and Monsieur le Marquis de
Grandvilain swore that he would do the same as soon as the gout should
be obliging enough to leave his heels.



VI

TIME AND ITS EFFECTS


The old marquis and his wife were very happy when they knew that their
son was in good health; they forgot that their own health was poor, and
they made great plans for the future.

There is an old song that says:

    “To-day belongs to us,
     To-morrow belongs to no one.”

All of which is very true; and it means that we must never rely upon the
morrow; but that does not prevent us from often making plans in which we
stride over a great number of years, which is much more than a morrow!
And most of those same plans are destined never to be executed. We are
wise to make them, however, for in them consists the better part of our
happiness; what we actually have in hand never seems so sweet as what we
expect; it is with that as with those landscapes which seem charming to
us at a distance, but very commonplace when we come close to them.

A month after receiving the assurance that her son was well, and that he
had entirely recovered his health, Aménaïde, feeling somewhat better,
determined to go out and take the air, in order that she might sooner be
in a condition to go to Gagny. But whether it was that she went out too
soon, or that a new disease declared itself, the marchioness was
feeling wretched when she returned; she went back to bed, and a
fortnight later little Chérubin’s mother was laid in her grave. However,
she had not realized that she was dying, and up to the last moment had
retained the hope of going to embrace her son.

The old marquis was in despair at his loss; but at seventy years a man
no longer loves as at thirty; as it grows old, the heart becomes less
loving, and that is the effect of experience no less than of years; men
are so deceived in their affections during the course of their lives,
that they inevitably end by becoming selfish and by concentrating upon
themselves the affection which they once offered to others.

Moreover, the marquis was not left alone on earth; had he not his son to
comfort him? His faithful retainer said to him one day:

“My dear master, think of your little Chérubin; he has no mother now;
you certainly ought to have died before her, for you were much older,
but things don’t always go as one expects! Madame la marquise is dead
and you are alive; to be sure, you have the gout, but there are people
whom it doesn’t carry away at once; you are a proof of it. Be a man,
monsieur le marquis, and remember your son, of whom you will make a
lusty blade, such as you used to be; for you were a famous young rake,
monsieur, although no one would suspect it to look at you now.”

“What do you mean, Jasmin? Am I very much changed? Do I look as if I
were impotent now?”

“I don’t say that, monsieur, but I do think that you would find it
difficult to keep five or six appointments in the same day; and that is
what often happened in the old days! Ah! what a lady-killer you were!
Well, I have an idea that your son will take after you, that he too
will send me with billets-doux. Ha! ha! I will carry them with great
pleasure; I know all about slipping notes into ladies’ hands.”

“In other words, my poor fellow, you were forever making mistakes and
blunders, and it wasn’t your fault that I wasn’t surprised and murdered
a hundred times by jealous husbands or rivals.”

“Do you think so, monsieur? Oh! you are mistaken; it was so long ago
that you have forgotten all about it.”

“After all,” rejoined Monsieur de Grandvilain, after a moment, “even if
I should weep for the poor marchioness all the time, that would not
bring her back to me. I must preserve myself for my son. Ah! only let me
see him when he is twenty years old! That is all I ask.”

“The deuce! I should say so! You are not modest!” said Jasmin; “twenty
added to the seventy you are now, would make you ninety!”

“Well, Jasmin, don’t men ever live to that age?”

“Oh! very seldom; but it may happen.”

“How old are you, you rascal, to venture to make such remarks?”

“Why, monsieur, I am fifty,” replied Jasmin, straightening himself up
and putting out his leg.

“Hum! I believe that you take off something; you look much older than
that. But no matter, I will bury ten like you!”

“Monsieur is at liberty to do so, certainly.”

“And as soon as my gout has left me, I will go and embrace my heir. Of
course I could send for the nurse to come here; but the doctor says that
children mustn’t have change of air; and I would rather deprive myself
of seeing mine than expose him to the danger of being sick again.”

“Besides, monsieur, whenever you want me to go to see our young man, you
know that I am always ready; and there’s no need of sending that fat
Turlurette with me; I know how to tell whether the child is well. I will
go to Gagny every day if you want; it doesn’t tire me a bit.”

Jasmin was very fond of going to see Chérubin; in the first place, the
faithful retainer was already devotedly attached to his master’s son;
and in the second place, he always emptied several jars of wine with the
foster-father, who also had become his friend. The marchioness had been
dead five months, when Monsieur de Grandvilain at last got relief from
his gout and was able to leave his great easy-chair. His first thought
was to order the horses to be harnessed to his carriage; then he climbed
in, Jasmin scrambling up behind, and they started for Gagny.

Little Chérubin continued in excellent health, because it was not he who
had the delicacies that Turlurette continued to send to Nicole. One of
the nurse’s little boys had already died of inflammation of the bowels;
the other two, who were larger and stronger, still held out against the
biscuits and sweetmeats; but their complexions were sallow, while
Chérubin’s glowed with health and freshness.

On the day when the marquis started for Gagny, Jacquinot Frimousset had
begun his visits to the wine-shop in the morning, and he was already
quite drunk when one of his friends informed him that the Marquis de
Grandvilain’s carriage was in front of his door.

“Good!” said Jacquinot, “it’s my friend Monsieur Jasmin come to see us.
He ain’t a bit proud, although he’s a valet de chambre in a noble
family; we’ll empty a few jugs together.”

And the nurse’s husband succeeded, although staggering and stumbling at
every step, in reaching his own house; he entered the room where
Monsieur de Grandvilain was at that moment occupied in dandling his son,
who was then a year old; and who seemed much amused by his dear father’s
chin, which did not remain at rest for an instant.

“Who’s that old codger?” cried Frimousset, trying to open his eyes and
leaning against the wall.

“It’s Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain himself,” cried Nicole, making
signs to her husband to assume a more respectful attitude; but he roared
with laughter, and said:

“That, Chérubin’s father? Nonsense! Impossible! It’s his grandfather,
his great grandfather at least! As if a shrivelled and shrunken old
fellow like that could have such young children!”

Monsieur de Grandvilain turned purple with rage; for a moment he was
tempted to take his son away and never again set foot inside the house
of that vulgar peasant who had said such unpleasant things to him; but
Nicole had already succeeded in pushing her husband out of the room, and
Jasmin, who was engaged in refreshing himself at a little distance, went
to his master and said:

“Don’t pay any attention to him, my dear master, the foster-father has
been drinking; he’s drunk, he can’t see straight; but for that, he would
never have said such things to you; he might have thought them, perhaps,
but he wouldn’t have said them.”

“My husband is a drunken sot and nothing else,” said Nicole. “I ask your
pardon for him, monsieur le marquis; the idea of thinking that you ain’t
your son’s father! Mon Dieu! it’s plain enough that his eyes are blinded
by drink. Why, the dear child is the very image of you! He has your
nose and your mouth and your eyes and everything!”

This language was absurdly exaggerated, and far from flattering to
little Chérubin; but the Marquis de Grandvilain, who did not choose to
grow old, took it all for gospel truth; he looked at his son again and
murmured:

“Yes, he looks like me, he will be a very handsome boy.”

He rose and put a purse in the nurse’s hand, saying to her:

“I am well pleased; my son is well; continue to take good care of him,
for since the air of this neighborhood agrees with him, I think that I
shall do well to leave him with you a long while, a very long while, in
fact. Children always have time enough to study; health before
everything! eh, Jasmin?”

“Oh yes! health indeed, monsieur! You are quite right; for what good
does it do to know a lot when one is dead?”

Monsieur de Grandvilain smiled at his valet’s reflection; then, after
embracing Chérubin, he returned to his carriage. Jacquinot was cowering
in a corner of the yard, and did not dare to stir; he contented himself
with bowing to the marquis, who, as he passed the peasant, drew himself
up and did his utmost to impart to his gait the ease and firmness of
youth.

Several months passed. Monsieur de Grandvilain often said: “I am going
to Gagny.” But he did not go; the dread of meeting the foster-father
again, and of being greeted with fresh compliments after the style of
the former ones, restrained the marquis, and he contented himself with
sending for his son, who had become large enough to take such a short
journey without danger.

At such times Nicole passed several hours at the mansion; but Chérubin
did not enjoy himself there; he always wept and asked to be taken back
to the village. Whereupon the marquis would embrace his son and say to
his nurse:

“Go at once, we must not thwart him; perhaps it would make him ill.”

Two more years passed in this way. Chérubin was in excellent health, but
he was not stout or robust, like the children of most peasants; he was a
merry little fellow, he loved to play and to run about; but as soon as
he was taken to Paris, as soon as he found himself with his father at
the hôtel de Grandvilain, the boy lost all his merriment; to be sure,
the old mansion in Faubourg Saint-Germain was not a cheerful place; and
the old marquis, who was almost always suffering from the gout, was
rather a dismal object himself.

However, they did what they could to make his visits to his father’s
house pleasant to the youngster; they had filled a room with toys, and
they always covered a table with sweetmeats; Chérubin was at liberty to
eat everything, to break all that he saw; he was left free to do
whatever he chose; but after looking at a few of the toys and eating a
cake or two, the child would run to his nurse, take hold of her apron,
gaze at her affectionately and say in an imploring voice:

“Mamma Nicole, ain’t we going home soon?”

One day the marquis assumed a solemn expression, and beckoning his son
to his side, said to him:

“But, Chérubin, you are at home here. When you are at the village, you
are at your nurse’s home; here you are in your father’s house and
consequently at your own home.”

“Oh, no!” he replied, “this ain’t to home.”

“You are an obstinate little fellow, Chérubin; you don’t think that you
are at home here, because you are not used to being here; but if you
should stay here no more than a fortnight, you would forget the village;
for after all it is much finer here than at your nurse’s house; isn’t
it?”

“Oh no! it’s ever so much prettier to our house!”

“To our house! to our house! this is most annoying. However, as it is
so, as you are not happy at your father’s house, you are going to stay
here, Chérubin; you shan’t go back to your nurse’s again; I am going to
keep you with me; you shall not leave me after this; and at all events I
will teach you to speak French, and not to say ‘to our house’ any more!”

The child did not dare to reply; the stern tone which his father assumed
to him for the first time, terrified him so that he was speechless and
dared not move; but in a moment his features contracted, his tears
gushed forth and he began to sob.

Thereupon Jasmin, who, in an adjoining room, had heard all that had been
said, rushed at his master like a madman, crying:

“Well! what does this mean? So you make our child cry now, do you?
That’s very nice of you! do you propose to become a tyrant?”

“Hold your tongue, Jasmin!”

“No, monsieur, I won’t allow you to make our little one unhappy! I
should think not! I say that you shall not! Look, see how he is crying,
the dear boy! For heaven’s sake, what is the matter with you to-day,
monsieur? Has the gout gone to your heart?”

“Jasmin----”

“I don’t care, monsieur; beat me, discharge me, send me to the stable,
make me sleep with the horses; do whatever you choose, but don’t make
this child cry; for if you do, why--I----”

Jasmin paused; he could say no more, because he too was weeping.

Monsieur de Grandvilain, when he saw his faithful servant cover his eyes
with his handkerchief, held out his hand instead of scolding him, and
said:

“Come! come! don’t lose your head. I was wrong, yes, I was wrong, since
I have made this poor child unhappy. After all, my company is not very
lively; the gout often makes me cross. What would he do in this great
house, poor boy? He is too young to be made to study. And then he no
longer has any mother, so we must leave him with his nurse as long as
possible. Besides, the air in Paris is not so good as that which he
breathes in the village. So take back your foster-child, nurse; as he
loves you so dearly, it must be that you make him happy. Come and kiss
me, Chérubin, and don’t cry any more; you are going back to your good
friends; they do not love you any more than we do, but you love them
more. I will try to be patient, and perhaps my turn will come some day.”

“Bravo! bravo!” cried Jasmin, while his master embraced his son. “Ah!
that is what I call talking; I recognize you now, monsieur. Why,
certainly your Chérubin will love you, he will adore you,--but later;
you can’t expect that all at once; let him grow a little, and if he
doesn’t love you then, why I shall have a word to say to him.”

So the nurse took Chérubin back to the village. Nicole was well pleased
to keep a child who was a fortune to her; but she promised the old
marquis to bring his son to him the next week, for the old man seemed
more depressed than usual at parting.

They say that there are presentiments, secret warnings, which enable us
to divine that some disaster threatens us; that our heart beats more
violently when we part from a dear one whom we are destined never to see
again. Why should we not believe in presentiments? The ancients believed
in omens; men of sense are sometimes very superstitious; it is
infinitely better to believe in many things than to believe in nothing;
and strong minds are not always great minds.

Had the Marquis de Grandvilain a presentiment, that he was so loath to
allow his son to go? That is something that we cannot tell; but it is a
fact that he was destined never to see him again. Three days after the
scene which we have described, an attack of gout carried the old
nobleman off in a few hours; he had only time to whisper to Jasmin the
name of his notary, and to breathe that of his son.

The grief of the marquis’s valet was more intense, more touching, more
sincere, than that of a multitude of friends and relations would have
been. When our servants love us, they love us dearly, for they know our
faults as well as our good qualities, and they forgive us the former in
favor of the latter, which our friends and acquaintances never do.

Jasmin was especially distressed because he had reproved his master for
wanting to keep his son with him.

“I am responsible for his not being able to embrace his son again before
he died, my poor master!” he said to himself. “He had a presentiment of
his approaching death when he didn’t want to send the child back to the
country; and I presumed to scold him, villain that I am! and he did not
strike me as I deserved; on the contrary, he gave me his hand! Ah! I
would die of grief if I had not Chérubin to look out for.”

Thereupon Jasmin recalled the fact that his master, before he closed his
eyes, had stammered the name of his notary; and presuming that that
functionary was instructed concerning the wishes of the late marquis, he
made haste to go to him and tell him of his master’s death.

Monsieur de Grandvilain’s notary was a man still young, but of a serious
and even somewhat severe aspect; he had, in fact, the marquis’s will in
his keeping, and was instructed to carry out his last wishes. He lost no
time in opening the document which he had in charge, and read what
follows:

     “I possess thirty thousand francs a year. All my property descends
     to my son, my sole heir. I desire that he be put in possession of
     his property at the age of fifteen. Until then I beg that my notary
     will undertake to manage it. I desire that no change shall be made
     inside my house, and that none of my servants shall be discharged.
     I appoint Jasmin, my faithful valet de chambre, steward of my
     household. Every month my notary shall hand him such sum as he
     shall require for the household expenses and for the education of
     my son.

      “SIGISMOND VENCESLAS, MARQUIS DE GRANDVILAIN.”

The notary could not help smiling after reading this extraordinary
testament, and Jasmin, who had listened with all his ears, gazed at him
with an air of amazement, and faltered:

“In all this, monsieur le notaire, I didn’t understand who is to be the
child’s guardian.”

“There isn’t any, Jasmin, his father hasn’t appointed any; he relied
upon you and me; upon me to administer his fortune, and upon you to
superintend his conduct. It seems that Monsieur de Grandvilain had
great confidence in you; I have no doubt that you deserve it, but I urge
you to redouble your zeal with respect to the young marquis. Remember
that it is your duty now to watch over him. As for his fortune, his
father wished him to be placed in possession of it at the age of
fifteen. That is making him rich at a very early age; but since it is
his father’s will, see to it, Jasmin, that at all events, when fifteen,
the young marquis is already a man in knowledge and strength of
character.”

Jasmin listened to this speech with the greatest attention; he attempted
to reply, but got confused, lost his way in a sentence which he could
not finish, and finally left the notary, after receiving a sum of money
with which to begin to manage his master’s household.

On returning to the house, Jasmin had grown three inches and was puffed
up like a balloon; vanity perches everywhere, among the small as well as
among the great, and it is likely to be even more powerful among the
former who are not accustomed to grandeur.

All the servants gathered about the valet, curious to learn the contents
of the will. Jasmin assumed a peculiarly idiotic expression, and
replied, speaking through his nose:

“Never fear, my friends, there is to be no change here; I keep you all
in my service.”

“You, Monsieur Jasmin! are you our master’s heir?”

“No, no, I am not the heir, but I represent the heir; in fact, I am the
steward of the household. I will keep everybody: cook, coachman,
housekeeper, because Monsieur de Grandvilain wished it; otherwise I
should have discharged you all, for servants without a master are
useless things. But I forget, our master now is the young marquis, and
whenever he chooses to occupy his house, he will find his household all
arranged; that was his late father’s wish, no doubt, and we must conform
to it.”

All the servants bowed before Jasmin, who had become a man of weight,
and he, after receiving the congratulations of those who were now his
inferiors, withdrew to his chamber, and, reflecting upon what the notary
had said, cudgelled his brains to decide what it was his duty to do with
Chérubin, in order properly to carry out his master’s designs.

After passing several hours at this occupation, without result, Jasmin
exclaimed:

“Faith, I believe the best thing to do is to leave little Chérubin out
at nurse.”



VII

LITTLE LOUISE


Chérubin was still at the village, still living with his nurse Nicole
Frimousset, and yet Chérubin was ten years old. Although of small
stature, his health was excellent, and the attentions of a nurse had
long since ceased to be necessary to him. But the marquis’s heir had
retained undiminished his affection for the place where he had passed
his childhood, and he lost his temper when it was suggested that he
should leave it.

Meanwhile Jacquinot, the foster-father, had become more of a sot than
ever; and as she grew older, Nicole, being obliged to scold her husband
incessantly, was rarely in good humor. And then her two boys had left
the village: one was a mason at Orléans, the other was apprenticed to a
carpenter at Livry.

In spite of that, Chérubin still enjoyed life at his nurse’s house,
where he had for his companion a little girl who was only two years
younger than he. It was a few days before the Marquis de Grandvilain’s
death, that one morning, a very young lady from the city, fashionably
dressed, alighted from a cab in front of Nicole’s cottage. This young
lady, who was beautiful and bore a look of distinction, was very pale
and seemed much excited; she had in her arms a little girl of about a
year old, and she said to Jacquinot’s wife, in a voice broken by sobs:

“This is my daughter; she is only a year old, but she has been weaned
for some months; I wish to leave her with some kindhearted people who
will take great care of her and treat her as their own child. Will you
take charge of her, madame? I cannot keep her with me any longer;
indeed, it is possible that I may not be able to take her for a long
while. There are three hundred francs in this roll; that is all that I
can raise at present; but within a year I will send you the same amount,
if I do not come before that to see my child.”

Nicole, who had profited much by bringing up one child, thought that a
second fortune had fallen into her lap, and eagerly accepted the
proposition which was made to her. The young lady handed her the little
girl, the money, and a large bundle containing the child’s clothes;
then, after embracing her daughter once more, she hurriedly entered her
carriage, which instantly drove away.

Not until then did Nicole reflect that she had not asked the young lady
her name, or her child’s name, or her address; but it was too late, for
the cab was already a long way off. Nicole soon consoled herself for
her forgetfulness, thinking:

“After all, she will come again, she certainly can’t mean to abandon her
child. She has given me three hundred francs; that is enough for me to
be patient; and then the child is a sweet little thing, and I believe I
would have kept her for nothing. What shall I call her? _Pardieu!_
Louise; for this is the feast of Saint-Louis. When her mother comes
back, if she don’t like that name, she can tell me the child’s own name.
What a fool I was not to ask her! But she seemed in such a hurry, and so
excited.--Well, Louise,--that is decided; she will be a playmate for my
Chérubin, and in that way the dear child won’t get tired of living with
us. Bless my soul! the longer we keep him, the better off we are.”

And the little girl had, in fact, become Chérubin’s inseparable
companion; she had grown up with him, she shared all his games, all his
pleasures. Chérubin was not happy when Louise was not with him; the
little girl’s activity was a foil to the little marquis’s natural
mildness of character; and when he began to show signs of becoming a
charming young man, Louise gave promise of being a very pretty young
girl. But the young lady who had brought to Nicole that child whose
mother she claimed to be, had not returned to Gagny; once only, a year
after her visit, a messenger from Paris had appeared at Frimousset’s
house and had handed them a paper which contained only one hundred and
fifty francs, saying:

“This is from the mother of the little girl who was brought here a year
ago; she requests you to continue to take care of her child.”

Nicole had questioned the man, had asked him for the name and address of
the lady who sent him; but the messenger had replied that he did not
know, that she had come to his stand in Paris and had given him the
errand to do, paying him in advance, after making sure that he had a
badge.

Nicole had not been able to learn anything more, and since then she had
received neither money nor information. But Louise was so attractive
that the idea of sending her away had not once occurred to her. Besides,
Chérubin was devoted to her, the little girl was a new bond which kept
him in his nurse’s family; and when by chance Jacquinot made any
reflection upon the child whom they were bringing up for nothing, his
wife would reply:

“Hold your tongue, you drunkard; it isn’t any of your business; if the
girl’s mother doesn’t come to see her, it must be because she is dead,
or else because she is a bad mother; if she is dead, then I must take
her place with the child; if she is a bad mother, Louise would be
unhappy with her, and I prefer to keep her with me.”

While Chérubin grew up beside his little friend, Jasmin continued to
govern the Marquis de Grandvilain’s household; he was careful in his
expenditure; the servants were not permitted to indulge in any excesses,
and he himself got tipsy only once a week, which was very modest in one
who had the keys to the cellar. But Jasmin thought constantly of his
young master; he went to see him often, and sometimes passed whole days
at Gagny; and he always asked Chérubin if he wished to go back to Paris
with him, to his own house. The little fellow always refused, and Jasmin
always returned to Paris alone, consoling himself with the thought that
the young marquis was in excellent health, and that that was the main
point.

When Jasmin went to the notary to ask for money, which he never did
without presenting an exact statement of what he had to pay out, the
notary, after praising the faithful valet for the honesty and economy
with which he regulated the household expenditure, never failed to ask
him:

“And our young marquis, how does he come on?”

“He is in superb health,” Jasmin would reply.

“He ought to be a big fellow now, he is nearly eleven years old.”

“He has a very pretty figure and a charming face; he will be a little
jewel, whom all the women will dote on, I am sure, as they doted on his
late father; but I presume that they won’t be the same women.”

“That is all very well; but how is he getting on with his studies; have
you placed the little marquis at a good institution?”

“Excellent, monsieur; oh, yes! he is in a very good house indeed; he
eats as much as he wants.”

“I have no doubt that he is well fed, but that is not enough; at his
age, what he wants above all is food for the mind. Does he give
satisfaction?”

“They are enchanted with him; they would like never to part with him, he
is so attractive.”

“Has he had any prizes?”

“Prizes! he has whatever he wants; he has only to ask, they refuse him
nothing.”

“You don’t understand me; has he obtained any prizes for his work, I
mean; is he strong in Latin, Greek, and history?”

Jasmin was slightly embarrassed by those questions; he coughed, and
faltered a few words which could not be understood. But the notary, who
attributed his embarrassment to other causes, continued:

“I am talking about things you don’t understand, eh, my old Jasmin?
Latin and Greek and such matters are not within your scope. However,
when I have a few moments to myself, I will come to you, and you must
take me to see your young marquis.”

Jasmin went away, muttering:

“The deuce! the deuce! if he goes to see my little Chérubin some day, he
won’t be very well content with his studies; but it isn’t my fault if
monsieur le marquis refuses to leave his nurse. That notary keeps
talking to me about food for the mind; it seems to me that when a child
eats four meals a day with a good appetite, his mind ought not to be any
more hungry than his stomach, unless it doesn’t want to be fed.”

One day, however, after a visit to the notary, when he had again urged
the old valet to commend the young marquis to his teachers, Jasmin
started at once for Gagny, saying to himself on the way:

“I am an old brute! I leave my master’s son in ignorance; for after all,
I know how to read myself, and I believe that Chérubin doesn’t even know
that. Certainly this state of things can’t be allowed to go on. Later,
people will say: ‘Jasmin took no care of the child who was placed in his
charge. Jasmin is unworthy of the late marquis’s confidence.’--I don’t
propose that people shall say that of me. I am sixty years old now, but
that’s no reason for being an idiot. I propose to show my strength of
character.”

When Jasmin arrived at Nicole’s, he found her at work in the house,
while Jacquinot sat half asleep in an old easy-chair.

“My friends,” said Jasmin, entering the room with a very busy air, and
rolling his eyes about, “things can’t remain like this; we must make a
complete change.”

Nicole gazed at the old servant and said:

“You want to change our house over; you think this room is too dark?
Dear me! we’re used to it, you see.”

“Ain’t we going to drink a glass?” said Jacquinot, rising, and rubbing
his eyes.

“In a minute, Jacquinot, in a minute.--My friends, you don’t understand
me. I am talking about your foster-child, my young master, to whom you
only give such food as you yourselves eat; do you not?”

“Ain’t he satisfied, the dear child?” cried Nicole. “Bless my soul! I
will give him whatever he wants; all he has got to do is to speak. I
will make him tarts, cakes----”

“It isn’t that, Nicole, it isn’t that sort of food that I’m talking
about. It’s Chérubin’s mind that needs a lot of things.”

“Mind? Something light, I suppose? I will make him some cream cheese.”

“Once more, Dame Frimousset, allow me to speak. My young master must
become a scholar, or something like it; it isn’t a question of eating,
but of studying. What does he learn here with you? Does he even know how
to read, to write or to figure?”

“Faith, no,” said Nicole; “you never mentioned those things, and we
didn’t think they were necessary, especially as Chérubin is going to be
very rich; we didn’t think there was any need of his learning a trade.”

“It isn’t a question of learning a trade, but of becoming a scholar.”

“Ah yes! I understand, like the schoolmaster, who always stuffs his
conversation full of words that nobody knows what they mean.”

“That’s the very thing. Oh! if Chérubin could say some of those fine
sentences that no one can understand, that would be splendid.--So you
have a learned schoolmaster in this village, have you?”

“To be sure,--Monsieur Gérondif.”

“Gérondif! the name alone indicates a very learned man. Do you think he
would consent to come to your house and give my young master lessons?
For it is impossible for monsieur le marquis to go to school with all
the young brats in the village.”

“Why shouldn’t Monsieur Gérondif come here? He has educated two or three
children for people who come to Gagny to pass the summer. Besides, he
ain’t very well fixed, the dear man, and to earn a little money----”

“There is no difficulty about that; I will pay him whatever he asks. Do
you suppose that I could talk--that I could see this Monsieur Gérondif?”

“That’s easy enough; Jacquinot will go and fetch him. It’s after five
o’clock, so his school is over. Jacquinot, you will find the
schoolmaster at Manon the baker’s, because he goes there every day to
bake potatoes in her oven while it’s still hot.”

“Go, my dear Jacquinot; bring me this scholar, and then we will empty a
few bottles; I will treat Monsieur Gérondif too.”

That promise roused Jacquinot, who went out, promising to make haste,
and Jasmin asked Nicole:

“Where is my young master?”

“My _fieu_?”

“My master, the young Marquis de Grandvilain. He is eleven years old
now, my dear Nicole, and it seems to me that he is rather large for you
to keep on calling him your _fieu_.”

“Oh! bless my soul! habit--what do you expect?--He’s in the garden,
under the plum trees.”

“Alone?”

“Oh no! Louise is with him, always with him. As if he could get along
without her!”

“Ah! is that the little girl who was left here, and whose parents you
don’t know?”

“Mon Dieu! yes.”

“And you are still taking care of her?”

“_Pardi!_ one child more. When there’s enough for three, there’s enough
for four.”

“That is what my father used to say, when he cribbed my share of
breakfast; and in our house, on the contrary, when there was four of us,
there was never enough for two.--Never mind, Dame Frimousset, you are an
excellent woman, and when Chérubin leaves you, we will make you a
handsome present.”

“Oh! don’t speak of that; I should rather not have any present, if my
_fieu_ would never leave me.”

“Oh yes! I can understand that; but still, we can’t leave him out at
nurse until he is thirty; that isn’t the custom. I am going to present
my respects to him, while I am waiting for Monsieur Gérondif; and I will
inform him that he must become a scholar.”

Chérubin was at the farther end of the garden, which ended in an
orchard. There, trees which were never trimmed extended at pleasure
their branches laden with fruit, as if to prove to man that nature does
not need his help to grow and bear.

The Marquis de Grandvilain’s son had attractive, regular features; his
great blue eyes were exceedingly beautiful, and their soft and
languorous expression made them resemble a woman’s eyes rather than a
man’s; long dark lashes shaded those lovely eyes, which, according to
appearances, were destined to realize Jasmin’s prophecy, and to make
many conquests some day. The rest of the face was agreeable, although
not especially remarkable, except his complexion, which was as white as
that of a girl who has a white skin; life in the country had not tanned
the young marquis, because Nicole, who had always taken the greatest
care of her foster-child, never left him exposed to the sun; and because
the little fellow, who was not employed in the arduous labor of the
fields, always had leisure to seek the cool shade.

Little Louise, who was then nine years old, had one of those pretty
faces, gay and sad by turns, which painters delight to copy when they
wish to represent a young maiden of Switzerland or of the neighborhood
of Lake Geneva. It was a lovely face, after the style of Raphael’s
virgins, in which however there was a melancholy and charm distinctly
French. Louise’s eyes and hair were jet black, but very long lashes
tempered their brilliancy, and gave to them a sort of velvety aspect
which had an indescribable charm; a high, proud forehead, a very small
mouth, and white teeth set like pearls, combined with her other features
to make her one of the sweetest little girls whom one could hope to
meet; and when she laughed, two little dimples which appeared in her
cheeks added a new charm to her whole person; and she laughed often, for
she was only nine years old. Nicole treated her as her own child,
Chérubin as his sister, and she had as yet no suspicion that her mother
had abandoned her.

When Jasmin walked toward the orchard, Chérubin and Louise were eating
plums. The little girl was plucking them and throwing them to her
companion, who sat at the foot of a tree so heavily laden that its
branches seemed on the point of breaking beneath their burden.

Jasmin removed his hat, and humbly saluted his young master, uncovering
his head which was almost bald, though the few hairs which still
remained above the ears were brought together and combed with much care
over the forehead, and made the old servant look, at a distance, as if
he had tied a bandage around his head.

“I present my respects to Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain,” said
Jasmin.

At that moment the girl shook a branch which extended over the old
valet’s head, and a shower of plums rained down upon Jasmin’s skull.

Thereupon there was a roar of laughter from behind the tree, and
Chérubin mingled his laughter with it; while the old servant, who would
not have kept his hat on his head in his master’s presence for anything
in the world, received with resignation the rain of plums that fell on
him.

“My young master still seems to be in flourishing health,” continued
Jasmin, after throwing to the ground a few plums which had lodged
between his coat collar and his stock.

“Yes, Jasmin, yes. But just see how handsome they are, and good too; eat
some, Jasmin; you have only to stoop and pick some up.”

“Monsieur is very kind, but plums--sometimes they occasion
inconvenience.--I have come, first of all, to ask if monsieur wishes to
return to Paris with me at last; his house is, as always, ready to
receive him and----”

Jasmin was unable to finish his sentence, because a fresh shower of
plums fell upon his head. This time he glanced angrily about, but the
mischievous girl had hidden behind a tree; meanwhile Chérubin exclaimed:

“No, Jasmin, no, I don’t want to go to Paris, I am so happy here; I have
told you already that I should be bored in Paris, and I have such a
pleasant time at my dear Nicole’s.”

“Very good, monsieur le marquis, I don’t wish to thwart you on that
point; but if you stay here, you must not pass all your time in playing
any longer; you must study, my dear master, you must become a learned
man; it is absolutely necessary and----”

A shower of plums, heavier than the other two, once more cut Jasmin
short; and he, finding that he had two breaches in his band of hair,
turned round and exclaimed angrily:

“Oh! this is too much; do you want to make marmalade of my head?--Ah! it
is that little girl who is playing these tricks on me. It is very
pretty, mademoiselle; I advise you to laugh; there is good reason for
it.”

Louise had run to hide behind Chérubin, laughing heartily; and he,
laughing also at the grimace made by his old servant, said to him:

“It is all your own fault, Jasmin; leave us in peace. Louise and I were
eating plums, and having a good time; why did you come to disturb us, to
tell me a lot of foolish things? that I must study, that I must be a
learned man. I don’t want to study! Go and drink with Jacquinot; go, go!
I don’t need you.”

Jasmin seemed sorely embarrassed; at last he replied:

“I am sorry to annoy monsieur le marquis, but you are too big now not to
know how to read or write; in fact, there are a lot of things which you
ought to know, because you are a marquis and--in short, your venerable
father’s notary says that you ought to have prizes in Latin and Greek,
and it seems that it is customary to study in order to get prizes. I
have just sent after the schoolmaster of this village, Monsieur
Gérondif; he is coming here, and he is to teach you, for Nicole assures
me that he is a good scholar, although he is obliged to have his
potatoes baked in the baker’s oven.”

Chérubin’s brow darkened, and the little fellow replied with a very
pronounced pout:

“I don’t want the schoolmaster to come here; I don’t need to be a
scholar. You tire me, Jasmin, with your Monsieur Gérondif!”

It pained Jasmin greatly to have to vex his young master. He did not
know what to say or to do; he twisted his hat and twirled it in his
hands, for he felt that after all it was necessary to compel the young
marquis not to be a dolt, but he did not know what course to pursue to
that end; and if at that moment he had received another shower of plums
it would not have roused him from his stupor.

But Nicole had followed the old servant at a distance; the nurse
realized that if Chérubin refused to learn anything at her house, they
would be obliged to make him go to Paris to learn. Dreading lest she
might lose a child whom she loved, and who had brought ease to her
household for eleven years, Nicole felt that some way must be found to
induce the boy to consent to take lessons of the schoolmaster.

Women, even those in the country, speedily divine where our vulnerable
point is. Nicole, who had gradually drawn near, and was then standing
behind Jasmin, who had ceased to speak or move, advanced a few steps
nearer the children, and, taking Louise by the hand, said:

“Look you, Monsieur Jasmin, I see the reason plain enough why Chérubin
don’t want to work; it’s because he plays all day with this girl. Well!
as I too want my fieu to be a scholar, I am going to take Louise to one
of our relations two leagues away; she’ll be taken good care of there,
and then she won’t prevent Chérubin from studying.”

Nicole had not finished when the little boy ran to her and taking hold
of her dress, cried in a touching voice, and with tears in his eyes:

“No, no, don’t take Louise away; I will study, I will learn whatever you
want me to with Monsieur Gérondif; but don’t take Louise away, oh!
please don’t take her away!”

Nicole’s ruse had succeeded. She embraced her foster-child, Louise
leaped for joy when she found that she was not to be sent away, and
Jasmin would have done as much if his age had not made it impossible; he
threw his hat in the air, however, exclaiming:

“Long live Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain! ah! I knew perfectly well
that he would consent to become a learned man!”

At that moment Jacquinot appeared at the garden gate and shouted:

“Here’s Monsieur Gérondif; I’ve brought him with me.”



VIII

MONSIEUR GÉRONDIF


The new personage who had arrived at Nicole’s was a man of about forty
years of age, of medium height, rather stout than thin, with an ordinary
face, in which could be detected the desire to give himself an air of
importance, and the habit of bending the knee in servile fashion to all
those who were above him in social rank or in fortune.

Monsieur Gérondif had long, thick, greasy brown hair, which was cut
straight in front, just above the eyebrows, and which hid his coat
collar behind; on the sides it was held in respect by the ears. The
teacher had gray eyes, the size of which it was difficult to discover,
because he kept them lowered all the time, even when speaking to you. He
had a very large mouth, which was abundantly furnished with very fine
teeth, and whether for the purpose of displaying that attractive
feature, or to afford a favorable idea of the affability of his
disposition, he smiled almost continually when he talked, and never
failed to open his mouth so far that one could see his whole supply.

A nose much too large for the rest of the face, and almost always
adorned by a number of small pimples, impaired infinitely the general
aspect of the professor’s countenance; and the habit which he had
adopted of scratching it, and of stuffing it with snuff, gave to that
protuberance a very conspicuous red and black appearance, which would
have been in some degree repellent, if Monsieur Gérondif’s soft and
honeyed voice had not lessened the unfortunate impression produced at
first by his nose.

The schoolmaster’s costume was rather severe, for it was supposed to be
all black; the coat, trousers and waistcoat were in fact originally made
of cloth of that color; but time had wrought such ravages upon them all,
that it had often been necessary to apply patches upon each of those
garments; and whether from carelessness on the part of the person who
had made the repairs, or because black cloth was scarcer than any other
color in the neighborhood, blue, green, gray, and even nut-colored
pieces had been used to patch Monsieur Gérondif’s coat, trousers, and
waistcoat; so that he bore some resemblance to a harlequin; add to all
this, socks and wooden shoes, and a generally dirty aspect, and you will
have an idea of the individual who had been sent for to act as tutor to
the young Marquis de Grandvilain.

As for what he wore on his head, we have not mentioned that, for the
reason that Monsieur Gérondif never wore hat or cap, and that no one
could even remember having seen him with any sort of head covering in
his hand. He had an old umbrella, which boasted of but three ribs,
beneath which our schoolmaster bravely sheltered his head when it
rained, without fear that the old thing would collapse, because it was
divided into several pieces.

The schoolmaster suffered terribly from chilblains and corns on his
feet, so that he had been obliged to lean heavily upon Jacquinot’s arm,
which was doubtless the reason that Nicole’s husband had announced that
he had _brought_ Monsieur Gérondif. When he learned that he had been
sent for on the part of Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain, the
professor had not taken the time to remove his potatoes from the baker’s
oven, nor had he deemed it necessary to wash his hands, a task which he
performed in fact only on Sundays and holidays.

Jasmin pushed his young master in front of him. Chérubin did not release
Louise’s hand, as if he still feared that they proposed to separate him
from his dear companion. The old valet followed him, still holding his
hat in his hand; Nicole walked behind; and they all went to receive the
professor, who had halted on the threshold of the street door, sorely
embarrassed to know whether he should remove or retain his wooden shoes
before presenting himself to the distinguished persons who had sent for
him; at last he decided to appear in socks.

When he perceived the bald head of Jasmin, whose respectable costume had
nothing about it to indicate the servant, Monsieur Gérondif rushed to
meet him, smiling in the fashion best adapted to show his molars and his
incisors, and saluted him with:

“Honor to whom honor is due! _Salutem vos._ Monsieur le marquis, I
consider myself very happy to be before you at this moment.”

While Monsieur Gérondif made his complimentary address, bowing to the
ground, Jasmin, who saw that the professor had made a mistake and had
taken him for the marquis, hastily changed places with his young master;
Chérubin did not release Louise’s hand, so that when he raised his head,
Monsieur Gérondif found himself with the two children in front of him;
he thought that he had made a mistake, and pushed the little boy and his
friend aside with little ceremony, to place himself once more in front
of Jasmin, who was at the other end of the room, saying:

“Pardon the blunder; _errare humanum est._ I place myself at your
commands, monsieur le marquis. I did not even take the time to finish my
slight collation, in order that I might be instantly ready for your
orders.”

While the schoolmaster was speaking, Jasmin once more left his place and
stepped behind his master; Monsieur Gérondif seemed inclined to follow
him into every corner of the room, when Nicole said laughingly:

“But you are making a mistake, Monsieur Gérondif; the marquis is my
_fieu_, my foster-child, this pretty boy here.”

“And I am only his very humble servant, former valet to monsieur le
marquis, his father, who deigned when he died to entrust the care of his
heir to me,” said Jasmin, saluting Chérubin.

Monsieur Gérondif took the thing very well; he smiled anew and hastened
to place himself in front of Chérubin, saying:

“I make my excuses _ut iterum_, and that does not prevent me from saying
once more that I am the very humble servant of monsieur le marquis
_junior_.”

“Not Junior! de Grandvilain,” said Jasmin solemnly.

“One does not prevent the other,” replied Monsieur Gérondif, with a sly
smile, “permit me to inform you, brave Eumæus; for you remind me much of
that virtuous and royal retainer of Ulysses, King of Ithaca. I do not
know whether he was bald too--Homer does not say, but it is very
probable. I am at the orders of Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain, who
can now tell me what he wants of me instantly.”

The schoolmaster’s long sentences, and the quotations with which he
seasoned his discourse, produced the best effect upon Jasmin, who, like
most fools, placed a high estimate on whatever he did not understand; so
he nodded his head to the nurse, muttering:

“He is a learned man! a very learned man, in fact; he will do very well
for us.”

As for Chérubin, who was not of his old servant’s opinion, and who found
Monsieur Gérondif very tiresome, he answered without hesitation:

“I don’t want you at all; it was Jasmin who insisted on sending for you,
to make me study--I don’t know what! I am perfectly willing to learn,
but Louise must stay with me during my lessons.”

Having said this, Chérubin abruptly turned his back on the schoolmaster;
Louise did the same, laughing heartily at Monsieur Gérondif’s nose; and
the two children ran from the room, to return to the garden and eat more
plums.

The others deemed it best to let them go, and Jasmin asked Monsieur
Gérondif, with a respectful air, if he were willing to give lessons to
his young master, who had learned nothing as yet, and to whom it was
high time that some attention should be paid if they wished him to have
any education.

Monsieur Gérondif received the proposal with delight; he shook Jasmin’s
hand warmly and said:

“Trust me, we will make up for lost time. I will make the young marquis
work like a horse.”

“Oh, no!” cried the old servant, “my young master is very delicate; he
isn’t used to studying and you will make him ill; you must go gently
with him.”

“Of course, of course!” replied Gérondif, scratching his nose. “When I
say like a horse, I use a figure of speech--a metaphor, if you prefer;
we will go _piano et sano--ecce rem!_ In addition to writing and
mathematics, I will teach monsieur le marquis his own language, root and
branch, so that he may speak it as I do; that is to say, with elegance;
also Latin, Greek, Italian, philosophy, history, ancient and modern,
mythology, rhetoric, the art of versification, geography, astronomy, a
little physics, and chemistry, and mineralogy, and----”

“Oh! that is enough, monsieur le professeur!” cried Jasmin, bewildered
by all that he heard, and aghast with admiration at Monsieur Gérondif’s
learning. “When my young master knows all those things, he will be quite
learned enough.”

“If you wish for anything more, you have only to speak; I venture to say
that so far as learning is concerned, I am a well, a genuine well. At
the age of five, I took a prize for memory, and at seven I had three
wreaths on my head, wreaths of oak, like the Druids, ancient priests of
Gaul, who worshipped Teutates, or Mercury, and the mistletoe, a parasite
which, according to them, cured all diseases. I don’t agree with them,
for I have corns which pain me terribly; I put mistletoe on them, and
they hurt me worse than ever.”

Jasmin dared not breathe while Monsieur Gérondif was speaking; the nurse
and her husband shared his admiration, and the schoolmaster, well
pleased with the effect that he had produced, was listening to himself
with much complaisance when the old servant interrupted him to say:

“A thousand pardons, monsieur, if I venture to slip in a word, but it
seems to me necessary to agree upon terms; how much will you take a
month to teach my young master all these things, it being understood
that you will come every day except Sunday?”

Monsieur Gérondif reflected a few moments, and replied at last in a
hesitating manner:

“For imparting to Monsieur de Grandvilain as much knowledge as it is
possible for me to impart, it seems to me that if I charge you fifteen
francs a month I----”

“Fifteen francs!” cried Jasmin in a tone of disgust; “fifteen francs for
all that; why, you must be joking, monsieur.”

Monsieur Gérondif ceased to smile; he lowered his eyes and muttered:

“Well, then, if you think that is too much, we will reduce the amount
and----”

“Think that it’s too much!” replied Jasmin; “on the contrary, monsieur,
I think that it isn’t enough! Thank heaven, my young master is rich, he
is able to pay those who give him lessons. What! I, a valet de chambre,
earn six hundred francs a year, with board and lodging, while a man as
learned as you, who is going to teach my master so many fine things,
receives less than that! Oh, no! I offer you a hundred and fifty francs
a month, monsieur, and I consider it none too much for all that you
know.”

“A hundred and fifty francs--a month!” cried Monsieur Gérondif, whose
features expressed indescribable bliss. “A hundred and fifty francs! I
accept, Monsieur Jasmin, I accept with gratitude, and I will prove
myself worthy. I will pass almost the whole day with my pupil--my school
will not prevent, for I have a sub-master, to whom I pay three francs a
month; I will increase his salary if necessary, and at need I will give
up my school entirely, to devote my whole time to the interesting child
whom you entrust to me.”

The schoolmaster seized Jasmin’s hands and shook them effusively; then
he shook hands with Jacquinot, then with Nicole, and finally, finding no
more hands to shake, he began to clap his own, crying:

“Hosanna! Hosanna! _applaudite cives!_”

Jasmin whispered to Jacquinot:

“I think that Monsieur Gérondif said: ‘Apportez du civet.’ Bring some
jugged hare.”

“We haven’t got any jugged hare,” replied Jacquinot, “but we’ve got some
of our wine to drink, and the schoolmaster will drink with us, I know.”

Nicole brought wine and glasses. Monsieur Gérondif gladly accepted the
invitation to drink, but he asked the nurse for a crust of bread,
because, as he had not had time to have his potatoes baked, he was
conscious of a void in his stomach. Nicole fetched what provisions she
had and placed them on the table, whereupon Monsieur Gérondif began by
cutting an enormous slice of bread, then attacked a dish of beef and
beans with a vehemence in which there was something appalling.

But while eating, the schoolmaster found time to talk; he said to
Jasmin:

“We have talked about knowledge, but there is another subject upon which
we have not touched,--I mean morals. In that matter too you may rely
upon me. I am extremely rigid upon that point; for you see, Monsieur
Jasmin, morals are the curb of society. I venture to say that mine are
beyond reproach, and I propose that it shall be the same with my pupil.”

“Oh! as for that,” said the old servant with a smile, “it seems to me
that we have no reason to fear as yet, considering my young master’s
age. Later perhaps! for look you, a young man is not a girl!”

“He’s much worse, Monsieur Jasmin, much more dangerous! Because the
young man, being more free, can do more wrong things. But I will
inculcate in him principles which will keep him in the right path; I
will be the Mentor of this Telemachus!--But I beg pardon, it just occurs
to me that in order to begin monsieur le marquis’s studies, I shall have
to buy some elementary books, grammars and dictionaries; those that I
use in my school are worn out, and I believe that I have not enough
money at this moment to make these purchases. If Monsieur Jasmin could
pay me a month’s salary in advance, why then----”

“With pleasure, Monsieur Gérondif; I always bring money when I come
here, in case my master should ask me for some. See, here are a hundred
and twenty francs in gold, and thirty in five-franc pieces.”

The schoolmaster gazed with a covetous eye at the money which was
counted out to him. He took it, and counted and recounted it several
times; he put it in his pocket, then took it out to count it once more.
He did not tire of handling that gold and silver, for never before had
he been in possession of so large a sum. They spoke to him, he did not
hear, he did not answer, but he jingled his gold pieces and his silver
pieces, and after he had finally placed them in a pocket of his
trousers, he put his hand over them and kept it there all the time.

Meanwhile, as it was late, Jasmin, having taken leave of his master and
received from him renewed promises that he would study, returned to the
carriage which had brought him thither and drove back to Paris,
delighted that he had found a way to make a scholar of Chérubin.

As for Monsieur Gérondif, having saluted his future pupil and informed
him that he would come on the morrow, he left the nurse’s house, and
went home, still keeping his hand in his pocket and jingling the money
which was there.



PART II



IX

A COALITION


We will pass rapidly over the years following that during which Monsieur
Gérondif became the young marquis’s tutor. Chérubin had kept his word;
he had consented to study, but he had insisted on Louise’s presence
during his lessons; at first, Monsieur Gérondif had tried to keep the
little girl from the room, but Chérubin had shrieked and wept and
refused to listen to his tutor; so that it was found necessary to yield
to him. By slow degrees Louise’s presence had evidently come to seem
less inconvenient to Monsieur Gérondif, for if she were not there when
he arrived, he was the first to send for her.

The fact is that Louise had grown too, and that she had improved even
more rapidly. At thirteen, she seemed at least fifteen; she was slender,
well-built, and possessed of many graces; not studied and affected ones
such as so many young ladies in Paris assume, thinking that they will be
deemed natural; but those naïve, simple graces which one recognizes
instantly but vainly tries to imitate.

Monsieur Gérondif was not a genuine scholar, but he might have passed
for such in the eyes of many people. He had tried everything, having in
his youth essayed a number of professions, but having fixed upon none;
after making a pretence of becoming a doctor, a druggist, a chemist, an
astronomer, a geometrician, a tradesman, and even a poet; after
stuffing his head with the first rudiments of many forms of knowledge
and succeeding in none, he had ended by turning schoolmaster. The man
who knows one branch thoroughly has much more merit than he who talks
glibly about all branches, and yet, in the world, the preference is
often given to the latter.

At fifteen, Chérubin knew a little of a great many things; in the eyes
of the village, in the eyes of the Frimoussets, the young man was a
phenomenon who had learned with extraordinary ease. As for Jasmin, he
opened his eyes in amazement when he heard his young master use a Latin
word, or mention some historical or mythological fact, and he bowed
before Monsieur Gérondif, exclaiming:

“He knows as much as you, and that is a great deal to say.”

Monsieur Gérondif puffed himself out, for he had purchased an entirely
new costume; he no longer resembled a harlequin, and he was seen now
with a hat and a real umbrella.

But with well-being ambition had come; that is usually the case. When a
man has nothing, he becomes accustomed to forming no wishes, to not
looking above himself; he remains in his shell and tries to be happy
there forever; he even succeeds sometimes. But when he becomes
well-to-do, then he indulges in a multitude of little luxuries hitherto
unknown; but they are no longer enough; every day he desires others,
forms a thousand new aspirations, becomes ambitious, in short; and it
often happens that he is less contented than when he possessed nothing.

Such was substantially Monsieur Gérondif’s story; when he had nothing to
live upon but the paltry profits of his school, he wore clogs, went
without hat or cap, very often dined upon nothing but potatoes baked in
the oven, and yet seemed perfectly contented with his position.

Since he had become young Grandvilain’s tutor and was earning eighteen
hundred francs a year, a sum which it is rather difficult to spend in
the village of Gagny, the schoolmaster had formed new desires; and first
of all he hoped not to remain forever in a village where he could not
even find means to spend his money, a state of affairs which is very
annoying to one who has not been accustomed to having money to spend.

Monsieur Gérondif had been shrewd enough to obtain his pupil’s
confidence, and even to inspire affection in him; for Chérubin’s heart
was easily won; he flew to meet all those who showed the slightest
attachment to him. While enjoining virtue and good morals upon the young
man every day, Monsieur Gérondif, whose eyesight was very good although
he constantly kept his eyes lowered, had perceived that Louise was
growing, developing, and becoming a charming girl; and more than once,
as he looked at the sweet child, he had thought:

“What lovely eyes! What an exquisite oval face! What a correct chin!”

And then, whether to make sure that Louise’s chin was in fact correct,
or for some other reason, the tutor would pass his hand over the young
girl’s face, and sometimes go so far as gently to pinch her cheek, which
did not amuse Louise at all; whereas Chérubin, on the contrary, was very
glad to hear a complimentary remark addressed to his faithful companion.

“Isn’t Louise lovely, my dear master?” he would say at such times.

And Monsieur Gérondif would hasten to assume a sanctimonious air, and
would reply, lowering his eyes:

“Yes, this girl has the type of Jael in all its beauty; she seems to me
to have the very appearance of a Madonna.”

Thereupon Chérubin would smile again, as he glanced at Louise, and
Monsieur Gérondif, thinking of something very different from madonnas,
would say to himself:

“This girl will be perfectly bewitching! but if my pupil remains much
longer with her--hum! The flesh is weak, the devil is very powerful,
especially when he takes the face of a pretty girl. I am not always
here; Jacquinot is almost always drunk, and Mère Nicole allows these
children to run about together in the fields, looking for flowers among
the grain, playing together in the grass,--all very hazardous
amusements. I absolutely must look to all this. The best way would be to
induce my pupil to return to Paris. I should go with him, there is not
the slightest doubt, for his education is not yet complete enough for
him to do without a tutor. I shall take care that he needs one for a
long time yet, forever, if possible. I shall live in my pupil’s mansion
at Paris. That will be infinitely pleasanter than to live in this
village; and then I can continue to keep an eye on little Louise at a
distance; I will protect her, I will push her on in the world. As for
Chérubin, after a few months in Paris, he will have forgotten his little
friend of the fields.--All this is reasoned out with the wisdom of Cato,
and it only remains to put it into execution.”

And to attain his object, Monsieur Gérondif for some time past had not
failed to talk constantly of Paris while giving Chérubin his lessons; he
drew a fascinating, enchanting picture of that city; he praised its
theatres, its promenades, its monuments, and the innumerable pleasures
which one finds there at every step.

Young Chérubin was beginning to listen to these observations. The idea
of going to Paris terrified him less; and his tutor would say:

“At least, come and spend a little time in the capital, to see your
mansion, the house of your fathers, it is all so close at hand, and we
will come back at once.”

But Louise always wept when she saw that Chérubin was on the point of
consenting to go to Paris; she would take her playmate’s hand and
exclaim:

“If you go to Paris, I am very sure that you won’t come back here again;
you’ll forget Gagny and those who live here.”

Nicole said the same, as she lovingly embraced her foster-child,
whereupon Chérubin would instantly cry out:

“No, no, I won’t go, since it makes you feel sad; I am happy here, and I
shall always stay here.”

At that, Monsieur Gérondif would bite his lips, trying to smile; but in
the depths of his heart, he consigned nurses and childhood friends to
the devil.

As for Jasmin, when the professor reproached him for not seconding him
and urging his young master to go to Paris, he would reply, with that
air of good humor which was natural to him:

“What do you expect me to do about it? My dear monsieur le marquis has
passed his fifteenth birthday; he is his own master; he can do whatever
he chooses; he can even dispose of his whole fortune, thirty thousand
francs a year. But if it’s his choice to remain with his nurse, I have
no right to oppose him.”

“When a man has such a handsome fortune as that, it’s perfectly
ridiculous for him to pass his best years out at nurse!” cried the
tutor; “and then what good does it do my pupil to become learned, to
learn so many useful things, if he continues to live with peasants?
Monsieur Jasmin, history offers no example of remarkable men who have
remained at nurse until they were fifteen. It is all very well to love
the woman who reared us, but _est medius in rebus_.”

“Monsieur le professeur, I am not good at guessing rebuses; but I am my
master’s very humble servant, and I have no right to give him orders.”

At Paris, too, Jasmin had frequent discussions with Mademoiselle
Turlurette on the subject of his young master. The former lady’s maid
had become housekeeper; she had grown so stout, although she was not yet
forty, that it was very difficult for her to walk from one room to
another; that state of corpulence nailed her to her chair, and prevented
her from going to see her young master at Gagny. And Jasmin was not at
all anxious to take her with him, because he always feared that
Mademoiselle Turlurette would usurp a part of his authority, which he
did not propose to stand. The bulky housekeeper asked the old servant
every day why their young master did not leave his nurse; and sometimes
sharp quarrels arose between them on that subject; but Jasmin always put
an end to them by saying in a morose tone:

“Mademoiselle, after all, I am the one that the late Monsieur le Marquis
de Grandvilain intrusted with the care of his son; in fact, I have the
right to turn you out of the house if I choose; so be kind enough to
allow me to guide young Chérubin as I please.”

Thereupon Turlurette held her peace, although she knew perfectly well
that Jasmin was not capable of discharging her.

“A foster-child of sixteen years!” she would mutter between her teeth;
“that’s a funny thing!”

Things were at this point when a servant appeared at the hôtel de
Grandvilain one morning, asked for Jasmin, and told him that the late
monsieur le marquis’s notary desired him to call at his office during
the day, because it was very important that he should speak with him.

The old valet wondered what the notary could have to say to him; then he
remembered that his young master had long since passed his fifteenth
birthday, and that that was the time that his father had desired that he
should be put in possession of his fortune. All this worried Jasmin, who
said to himself:

“Thirty thousand francs a year, to say nothing of the additions due to
the savings that I have made in fourteen years! It is a fact that it
would be a pity to waste that at his foster-father’s. But still, if
Monsieur Chérubin insists on staying with Nicole, I can’t use violence
to compel him to return to Paris, for after all, he is his own master.”

Jasmin decided to comply with the notary’s wish. He put on his best
coat, pulled a bit of his ruff out beneath his waistcoat, donned his
silver buckled shoes, although they had long since ceased to be in
style, and in that garb, worthy of the confidential valet of a great
family, he betook himself to the office of Monsieur d’Hurbain, the
notary.

When Jasmin appeared at the office, the notary was not alone; two
persons were with him.

One of them, by name Edouard de Monfréville, was a man apparently
thirty-six or thirty-seven years of age, who still had the bearing, the
manners and all the dandified aspect of a young man. He was tall,
well-built, as slender as if he were but twenty, and wore with much
grace the costume of a young exquisite. His face was handsome and
attractive at the same time; his features were regular, and his brown
hair of a fineness and gloss which a lady might have envied; but in his
great eyes, which were black and piercing, one could read sometimes a
mocking expression which harmonized perfectly with the faint smile that
played about his mouth; and upon his brow, which like his face bore
signs of weariness, there were lines which indicated that ennui and
grief had passed that way.

The other person was a man of twenty-eight, a faded blond, with a very
fair complexion, light-blue eyes, a nose with dilated nostrils, and a
large mouth with thick lips. That assemblage of features did not make
what could be called a handsome man; but his face exhibited a constant
succession of expressions which enlivened it wonderfully; it was a
combination of gayety, raillery, cunning, libertinage, indifference, and
shrewdness, all accompanied by most distinguished manners; and although
his costume was a long way from the elegance of Monsieur de
Monfréville’s, and although, in fact, certain parts of his dress were
too much neglected, he wore his soiled and shabby coat with so much ease
of manner, he held his head so straight in his faded cravat, that it was
impossible not to recognize in him a man of birth. His name was Comte
Virgile Daréna.

When a clerk entered the private office and announced that old Jasmin
had obeyed the summons that he had received, Daréna burst out laughing.

“Jasmin!” he said; “who in the devil can have such a name as Jasmin? Can
it be, my dear notary, that you have clients named Jasmin? Why, that
name is only fit for a stage servant!”

“No, Monsieur Daréna,” replied the notary, with a smile, “this man is a
servant in a most excellent family; he is one of that race of old
retainers such as we used to see; unfortunately the race is almost
extinct in our day.”

“Ah! he must be an amusing character; an old groom, eh, Monfréville?”

The person to whom this question was addressed barely smiled as he
replied:

“I don’t see what there is so amusing in all this!”

“Oh! nothing amuses you when you are in one of your _days of humor_, as
the English say.--Well, tell me, will you buy my little house in
Faubourg Saint-Antoine? I will sell it to you for thirty thousand
francs.”

“No, I should blush to accept such an offer. Your house is worth nearly
twice that, and I do not care to take advantage of your need of money to
buy it at a low price.”

“Oh! mon Dieu! that isn’t the question at all! If the bargain is
satisfactory to me, why shouldn’t you take advantage of it? I make you
the offer before a notary, and it seems to me that your conscience
should be tranquil. I don’t like the house; it is occupied by water
carriers, Savoyards, the commonest of the common people! What the devil
do you suppose I can do with it? They move without paying, or else they
stay and don’t pay; they insult whoever goes to ask them for money, or
they threaten to beat you! Such tenants are delightful!”

“But you have a principal tenant who looks after all those details.”

“No, no, I tell you that I want to sell, that is the quickest way out of
it; it’s too much of a nuisance to me! And then, there’s another
inconvenience: if I have among my tenants a pretty grisette or two, or a
pretty face, why, you understand--I give them a receipt after
obtaining, not their money, but something else. Upon my honor, I am not
fitted for a landlord, my heart is too susceptible!”

“You are arranging your affairs in such a way that you won’t be a
landlord much longer,” said the notary, shaking his head, “you are not
reasonable, Monsieur Daréna. Only six years ago your father left you a
very pretty fortune!”

“Of which I have nothing left but the little house that I want to sell,”
said Daréna, laughingly. “Well, that is the fate of all fortunes; they
vanish, but one constructs another! I am never disturbed, for my
part!--Well, Monfréville won’t take my house, and so Monsieur d’Hurbain
must sell it for me. But pray admit your old Jasmin! I am curious to see
this fossil!”

“In whose service is this model retainer?” asked Monfréville.

“He was in the service of Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain, who died
ten or eleven years ago.”

“The Marquis de Grandvilain!” cried Daréna, throwing himself into a
chair and laughing until the tears came. “What delicious names they
have!”

“Grandvilain!” muttered Monfréville, “why, I knew the old marquis; my
father was a friend of his. He used often to speak of a party at his
house, of a display of fireworks to celebrate the birth of a son; of a
frying-pan that was thrown into the air, and of saucepan covers that
wounded several people.”

“Nonsense! nonsense! it is impossible! Monfréville is making fun of us!”
said Daréna, stretching himself out in his chair.

“It is all true,” replied the notary; “what Monsieur de Monfréville says
really happened. But the Marquis de Grandvilain is dead, and so is his
wife; nobody is left now of the old family except a son, who is sixteen
years and a half old, and who already has more than thirty thousand
francs a year; I manage his property. But his father, obeying a whim, a
most incredible piece of folly, provided that at fifteen years his son
was to have control of his whole fortune, and he left him no guardian
except old Jasmin, his valet de chambre.”

Daréna straightened up in his chair and assumed a singular expression,
as he exclaimed:

“Thirty thousand francs a year at fifteen! That deserves consideration.”

“Was the poor old marquis mad?” asked Monfréville.

“No, but he was very old when the child was born, and he wished him to
be his own master early in life.”

“Pardi! that doesn’t strike me as so foolish, after all!” said Daréna.
“In fact, why shouldn’t one be reasonable at fifteen, when one is so far
from it at sixty? But how does the heir manage his fortune? He is
consuming it doubtless in cakes and _marrons glacés?_”

“Thank heaven, so far as I know, he has given his time thus far only to
his rhetoric and the humanities. But it was with a view to learning
something about him that I sent for the faithful Jasmin. With your
permission I will have him come in.”

“We beg that you will do so. For my part, I am very curious to know how
this little Grandvilain behaves himself. Oh! what a devil of a name! But
no matter, I would gladly change with him now, if he would throw in his
father’s coin with the name.--What do you say, Monfréville? Oh! you are
a philosopher; and besides, you are rich, which makes philosophy come
very easy.”

Jasmin’s arrival put an end to this conversation. The old servant bowed
low to all the company, then said to the notary:

“Has monsieur any questions to ask me?”

“Yes, my dear Jasmin. I want first of all to hear about our young
marquis.”

“He’s very well, monsieur; he is in excellent health, and he’s a very
fine-looking boy.”

“That is well; and his studies?”

“Well! so far as I can learn, monsieur, he seems to be a great scholar.”

“Do you know, Jasmin, that your young master was sixteen more than six
months ago?”

“Oh yes, monsieur, I know it very well.”

“Does he know the terms of his father’s will?”

“Why, yes, monsieur.”

“I fancy that he is too sensible to think of entering into possession of
his property yet; but for all that, it is my duty to go to him and
render an account of my administration of it, and to ask him if it is
his intention that I should continue to handle it. Moreover, I have long
desired to see the young marquis, and I do not propose to postpone that
pleasure any longer. At what college is he?”

Jasmin opened his eyes in dismay and looked toward the door.

“Don’t you hear me?” continued the notary. “I ask you to what college I
must go to find Monsieur Chérubin de Grandvilain?”

“The model valet seems to me as if he were deaf,” said Daréna, laughing
at Jasmin’s expression; while Monsieur de Monfréville, who had been
scrutinizing the old servant closely, walked toward him and fastening
his eyes upon him, said in a half-serious, half-mocking tone:

“Do you mean that you don’t know what you have done with your young
master?”

“Yes, yes!” replied Jasmin; “monsieur le marquis is at Gagny.”

“At Gagny! Is there a college there?” demanded the notary.

“Gagny, near Villemonble. Oh! I know that place,” said Daréna; “it’s a
small village; there are some fine estates in the neighborhood, but not
a restaurant in the whole region. I went there with two dancers from the
Opéra, and we could not even obtain a rabbit stew, the inevitable dish
in the country. But there never was a college at Gagny; I don’t even
know of a boarding-school there.”

“Tell us, Monsieur Jasmin,” said the notary in a stern tone, “where is
young Grandvilain staying at Gagny?”

The old servant made up his mind and replied with an almost proud air:

“At his nurse’s, monsieur.”

At those words the notary was speechless, Monfréville began to laugh,
and Daréna rolled about in his chair.

“At his nurse’s!” repeated the notary at last. “Is it possible, Jasmin,
that the young marquis is still at his nurse’s, at sixteen years and a
half?”

“Yes, monsieur; but never fear, he is none the less well educated; I
found a teacher for him, the village schoolmaster, Monsieur Gérondif,
who teaches him all that it is possible to teach.”

Daréna roared with laughter anew, when he heard the name of the tutor.

“Educated at his nurse’s!” he cried; “that is delicious; it’s a new
method, and perhaps it will become fashionable. I am tempted to return
to my nurse myself.”

“Monsieur Jasmin,” said the notary, “I cannot understand how you can
have left your master’s son with peasants up to this time. I consider
you very reprehensible; you should at least have consulted me.”

The old servant, who was sorely vexed, began to shout at the top of his
lungs:

“Monsieur, I am my master’s servant! I am not the man to thwart him and
to use force upon him, and it is not my fault if Monsieur Chérubin does
not want to leave Nicole, his nurse, and his little foster-sister.”

“Aha! so there’s a little foster-sister, is there? I begin to understand
the young man’s obstinacy,” said Daréna; “and how old might the
foster-sister be?”

“Two years younger than my young master,--about fourteen and a half.”

“And is she pretty?”

“Why, yes, monsieur, she’s a fine slip of a girl.”

“Monsieur Jasmin,” continued the notary, “things cannot go on like this;
it is my duty to straighten out this affair; my friendship for the late
Monsieur de Grandvilain imposes that duty upon me, and you too must
understand that a child of a good family, the son of your former master,
ought not to pass his best years in a village.”

“I assure you, monsieur le notaire, that I tell my master so very often.
I say to him: ‘You have a house at Paris, a beautiful apartment with
crimson hangings, solid mahogany furniture, a night table with carved
corners, and the inside of gilded porcelain.’ But all that doesn’t tempt
him. He turns his back on me and won’t listen.”

“I should think not!” cried Daréna; “the idea of the old fool expecting
to tempt his master with a night table and all its accessories! If you
wish, Monsieur d’Hurbain, I will undertake to persuade the young marquis
to return to Paris.”

“You, Monsieur Daréna; by what means, pray?”

“That’s my business. Will you trust me?”

“I shall be very much obliged to you if you will assist me, but I
propose to act for myself also. Monsieur de Monfréville, will not you
lend us your assistance too? Won’t you go to Gagny with me, as your
father was a friend of the old marquis?”

“I am very much inclined to join you. Indeed, I am already trying to
think how we can induce the young man to come back with us; for after
all, this is not a case for resorting to violence. The young man is his
own master, by his father’s express desire; and if he should persist in
remaining at his nurse’s, we should be obliged to leave him there.”

“But it is impossible that the marquis should not give way to our
arguments, to our entreaties.”

“Arguments! ah! my dear Monsieur d’Hurbain, I fancy that we shall need
something stronger than arguments to captivate a boy.”

“Messieurs,” cried Daréna, “I suggest a wager. A magnificent dinner at
the Rocher de Cancale, to be given by two of us to the one who triumphs
and who brings young Chérubin to Paris. Is it a bargain?”

“With all our hearts.”

“When do we start for Gagny?”

“I will arrange to leave my office at noon to-morrow, messieurs. Will
you call for me? Shall I expect you?”

“No,” said Monfréville, “let us go each on his own account; we shall be
able to find this nurse’s house.”

“Nicole Frimousset,” said Jasmin; “a narrow street leading into the
square. Anyone will point out her house.”

“Very well,” said Daréna; “Nicole Frimousset; the names are engraved on
my memory. Monfréville is right, it is better for us to go each on his
own hook.”

“But take care, messieurs,” said the notary; “if you delay, you may make
the journey for nothing, and I shall already have started for Paris with
Chérubin.”

“Oh! I don’t think so,” said Monfréville.

“As for me, messieurs, I am a bold player,” said Daréna, “and I will
give you the start. I will not leave Paris until a full hour after you,
and even so I am sure that I shall arrive in time.”

Jasmin, who was bewildered and somewhat alarmed by all that he heard,
exclaimed with an air of dismay:

“I say, messieurs, I hope that you won’t do my young master any injury
in all this; I mean, I hope that you won’t make him unhappy?”

“Ha! ha! ha! this old fellow is enchanting with his innocence!” said
Daréna.--”Never fear, venerable retainer! We shall employ only pleasant
methods! As for you, all there is for you to do is to find a way to get
Monsieur Chérubin’s little foster-sister out of the way to-morrow
morning. That is indispensable for the success of our excursion.”

“You hear, Jasmin?” said the notary. “Remember that the happiness, the
future of your young master is at stake, and that you will be very
blameworthy if you do not try to help us.”

The old servant bowed and went out, saying that he would obey.

Monfréville and Daréna also left the notary’s, saying to each other:

“Until to-morrow, at Gagny.”



X

THE ARMS OF ACHILLES


Jasmin returned to the house utterly upset; the old servant did not know
whether he ought to rejoice or to grieve; he would be very glad to see
his master at Paris, so that he might be always with him, and serve him
as he had served the old marquis; but he was afraid that that would
grieve the youth whom he called his dear child; and he was also afraid
that life in Paris would not be so good for Chérubin’s health as life in
the village.

While making these reflections, he summoned all the servants in the
house. It will be remembered that Jasmin had kept all those who had been
in the employ of his former master, and that is why Chérubin’s household
consisted entirely of mature persons. The cook had passed his sixtieth
year; the coachman was approaching his sixty-fifth; there was a little
jockey of fifty; and Mademoiselle Turlurette, who was a child compared
with all the rest, was in her thirty-seventh year, none the less.

“My children,” said Jasmin to the servants, “I think it my duty to
inform you that our young master will come among us to-morrow.”

“To-morrow!” cried Turlurette, with a joyful exclamation; “is that
certain?”

“It is very certain--perhaps. However, arrange everything so that
Monsieur Chérubin will be pleased; see that everything is rubbed and
polished with more care than ever. Cook, prepare a dainty dinner.
Coachman, let the carriage and horses be ready, in case he should want
to use them. Have flowers placed in the hall, as on the days when my
late master gave a ball.”

“Are we going to have a display of fireworks?” asked Turlurette in a
quizzical tone.

“No, mademoiselle, no, I have had enough of fireworks!” replied Jasmin,
passing his hand over his face; “and unless Monsieur Chérubin orders,
not even a rocket will ever be fired in this courtyard again. But still,
we must see that it is very lively here. By the way, we will have some
music--three organ grinders, and as many violin players, who will be
stationed in the courtyard; they must play their best pieces when our
young master enters the house; that cannot fail to be agreeable to him.”

“Do you want singers too?” asked the old jockey.

“Well! if you can find any singers, men or women, it seems to me that
they will not do any harm. You understand, all this for the afternoon.”

The next morning, Jasmin started early for Gagny, where he arrived about
ten o’clock. First of all, he asked for Chérubin, and Nicole informed
him that he had gone to walk with Louise toward Maison Rouge. The old
servant was about to go in search of the young people when he met
Monsieur Gérondif in the square, and hastened to inform him as to what
was to happen during the day.

The professor clapped his hands, tossed his new hat in the air, and
seemed inclined to cut a caper.

_“Tandem! Denique! Ultima cumæi venit jam carminis ætas! Jam nova
progenies cœlo demittitur alto!_”

“Why no, that isn’t it,” replied Jasmin; “I tell you that the notary and
two of his friends are coming.”

“Very good! perfect! more than perfect! We must now find my pupil at
once.”

“I was going to look for him; he is walking with little Louise in the
direction of Maison Rouge.”

“With little Louise, who is already large. How imprudent it is! It is
high time to separate the man from the serpent!”

“Did you see a serpent?”

“The serpent, my dear Jasmin, is woman, the apple, sin! You don’t seem
to understand; I will explain it to you some other day, but now we must
find the child at once.”

“Especially as those gentlemen requested me to send the little girl away
this morning, while they were talking to my master.”

“You see, those gentlemen think as I do; they understand that this
little girl is now a dangerous companion, most certainly. We will get
her out of the way, virtuous Jasmin, we will find a pretext, a
subterfuge. Come, take my arm and let us run.”

“Run! the devil! that’s very easy to say! However, I’ll try.”

“Men run at all ages, worthy Jasmin, and you were built for a runner.”

As he spoke, the professor took the old servant’s arm and hurried him
away in the direction where they hoped to find Chérubin. As they walked
rapidly along, Jasmin asked Monsieur Gérondif:

“Have you thought of any excuse for sending the girl away?”

“No; have you?”

“No, I have not.”

“Let us go on, that will come in due time.”

That rapid march lasted for three-quarters of an hour. Jasmin could hold
out no longer, he was entirely out of breath. But the professor still
pulled him along, saying:

“_Macte puer! macte animo!_ Our dear Chérubin’s happiness is at stake.
Look out, excellent Jasmin, you are stumbling; you are putting your feet
in the ruts, in pools of water!”

The excellent Jasmin’s breath was exhausted, and he decided to fall in
the middle of the road.

“I can’t go any farther,” he stammered; “I must get my breath.”

But at that moment Monsieur Gérondif glanced at a clump of trees a short
distance from the road and exclaimed:

“There they are! the little girl is eating apricots; she offers one to
my pupil, who stands lost in admiration before his apricot! It is time
that we arrived.”

Chérubin had gone out early with Louise that morning; they had taken a
basket containing bread and fruit, and looked forward to eating their
luncheon in the woods; that frugal collation seemed most delicious to
them. And, in sooth, what more could they desire? they were together,
and they loved each other; that is the most enjoyable repast to which
one brings a contented heart.

The relations between Louise and Chérubin at this time were so pleasant,
so pure, that they were happy to be together and aspired to no other
happiness. It may be, however, that young Louise’s affection was more
eager, more expansive, because there was already a tinge of sadness in
it. She was afraid that Chérubin would decide to go to Paris; she was
afraid that she was going to lose her friend; and that fear made her
love him even more, for our affections are strengthened by the sorrows
that they cause us.

The two young people were greatly surprised when the professor and
Jasmin suddenly appeared in the midst of their open-air repast.

“We were looking for you, attractive youths,” said Monsieur Gérondif;
“we were perturbed in spirit. The adventure of Pyramus and Thisbe has
been running in my head; I have mistaken every dog I met for a lioness.
I am well aware that my pupil has no inclination to fly, like the young
Assyrian, with any Thisbe; but anyone may make a false step.”

“Tell me, why did you come to look for us?” said Chérubin; “I have time
enough to study, I should think. I know enough already. Is anyone sick?
Has anything happened, that Jasmin comes with you?”

Monsieur Gérondif seemed struck by a sudden thought; he glanced at
Jasmin and said:

“In truth, my noble pupil, there has been an accident--not at all
serious, I trust. Your nurse’s oldest son has hurt himself; he is at
Montfermeil--he has written; and Nicole would like to have Louise go to
him at once; she will come too very soon.”

“We’ll go with Louise,” said Chérubin.

“No, we had better go back to poor Nicole, who is in grief--she doesn’t
know where to go for a doctor. Louise can go to Montfermeil alone; you
can see the first houses from here.”

“Oh, yes! yes! I will be there in a few minutes,” said Louise; “but
where is dear mother Nicole’s son?”

“At Madame Patineau’s, on the main street. Here, here is her address,
and a line for her.”

Monsieur Gérondif scrawled a few words in pencil, wherein he requested
the lady to whom he was sending the girl to keep her at her house, and
not to let her go until she was sent for. The girl took the note, bade
Chérubin adieu and ran off toward Montfermeil. The professor rubbed his
hands and glanced at Jasmin, who said to himself:

“I should never have thought of that.”

They returned to Gagny; as they approached the square, they saw a
carriage stop and a gentleman alight: it was Monsieur d’Hurbain, the
notary.

“Here’s a visitor for you,” said Jasmin to his master. “This gentleman
is your notary, in whose care your venerable father placed his
testament.”

“And it was to prevent your attention being distracted so that you might
receive some gentlemen who are coming from Paris to see you, that we
sent little Louise to Montfermeil,” said Gérondif with a smile.

“What? the accident to Nicole’s son----”

“Was all a joke.”

Before Chérubin had time to reply, Monsieur d’Hurbain came up and bowed
low to him. The notary’s solemn manner made an impression on the young
man, who faltered a few words in reply to the flattering remarks that
were addressed to him. They walked toward the nurse’s house, and for the
first time Chérubin had a feeling of something like shame when the
notary said:

“What, monsieur le marquis, is this where you are studying? You are
sixteen and a half years old, you belong to a noble family, you have a
handsome fortune, and you pass your life beneath the roof of these
village folk! I honor the laboring man, I esteem all honest persons, but
everyone should keep to his own rank, monsieur le marquis, otherwise
society would fall into confusion and anarchy; and there would no longer
be that desire to rise, to succeed, which, by implanting in men’s hearts
a praiseworthy ambition, makes them capable of noble efforts to attain
the end at which they are eager to arrive.”

“Bravo! _recte dicis!_” cried Monsieur Gérondif, smiling at the notary;
“monsieur talks now as I used to talk.”

Chérubin blushed and did not know what to reply. Monsieur d’Hurbain
continued his efforts to make the young man listen to reason, displaying
the utmost amiability and suavity in his arguments. He was careful,
however, to dwell on the marquis’s rank and wealth, and he always ended
with these words:

“You agree with me now, do you not, and you are coming back to Paris
with me?”

But Chérubin, although he seemed to listen with great deference to the
notary’s speeches, replied in a very mild tone:

“No, monsieur, I prefer to stay here.”

“It certainly isn’t my fault!” cried Monsieur Gérondif, raising his eyes
heavenward. “Every day I say to my pupil the same things that you have
said, monsieur; but I reinforce them by example from history, ancient
and modern; it’s as if I were teaching a blind man to draw!”

Monsieur d’Hurbain was beginning to doubt the success of his visit, when
they heard a horse’s footsteps. They ran to the door to see what it was,
and discovered a very stylishly dressed gentleman in a dainty tilbury,
accompanied by his groom only.

It was Edouard de Monfréville, who was driving himself. He stopped,
jumped lightly to the ground and approached the party, bowing
courteously to Chérubin, to whom the notary said:

“Allow me to introduce the son of one of your father’s old friends,
Monsieur de Monfréville, who has come to add his entreaties to mine, to
induce you to go to Paris.”

Monfréville took Chérubin’s hand and pressed it; and after scrutinizing
the young man for some time, he said:

“When, in addition to a name and a fortune, a man also possesses such a
charming face, it is really inexcusable for him to hide in a village.”

“Most assuredly!” murmured Gérondif, smiling at Monfréville; “if Helen
had hidden, we should not have had the siege of Troy; if Dunois had
remained with his nurse, he probably would not have been called ‘le beau
Dunois.’”

Monfréville bestowed an ironical glance on the professor, and continued
to address Chérubin:

“My dear monsieur, my father was a friend of yours, and that made me
desire your acquaintance; it rests entirely with you whether we shall be
friends as our fathers were. Oh! I realize that the difference between
my age and yours may make my suggestion seem absurd to you, but when you
know the world, you will find that such differences vanish before
congenial tastes and temperaments; I am certain even now that we shall
get on very well together. But deuce take it! what sort of costume is
this? A good-looking young fellow, with a fine figure, rigged out in
such style! It is pitiful!”

“My young master employs his late father’s tailor,” murmured Jasmin; “I
thought that I ought not to take him anywhere else.”

“You were wrong, my faithful servant; a tailor is not a relic to be
preserved with respect; evidently this particular one is out of touch
with the styles of the day.--Franck! bring what I told you to put under
the seat of the tilbury.”

Monfréville’s servant soon appeared laden with clothes; he laid out on a
table a beautiful coat made in the latest style, a waistcoat of
bewitching material, black satin stocks, dainty cravats, and a little
blue velvet cap, with gold lace and tassel.

Chérubin could not restrain a cry of admiration at sight of all those
things. Without asking his permission, Monfréville removed his jacket
and waistcoat and made him put on what he had brought; then he put a
richly embroidered cravat about his neck and tied it rakishly; and
lastly he placed the charming little velvet cap on his head and arranged
the curls which it did not hide. Then he led the young man in front of a
mirror and said:

“Look at yourself! Aren’t you a hundred times better-looking?”

Chérubin blushed with pleasure when he saw how comely he was; and in
truth his new costume did impart a wholly different expression to his
pretty face. He was so handsome that Nicole, although distressed to find
that her _fieu_ was to be taken away from her, could not help crying
out:

“Jarni! how fine he is! Why, he’s superb in that rig! He’s a hundred
times better-looking than he was!”

“He doesn’t look at all like his late father,” murmured Jasmin.

“He resembles the son of Jupiter and Latona, Diana’s brother, otherwise
called Apollo,--Phœbus, if you prefer,” cried Monsieur Gérondif,
still smiling.

Monsieur d’Hurbain glanced at Monfréville with an air of satisfaction,
as if to congratulate him on having discovered the means of seducing
Chérubin, who, in truth, seemed delighted with his costume. He
constantly gazed at and admired himself; and Monsieur de Monfréville, to
encourage his favorable disposition, made haste to say to him:

“I was told that you lived in a village, but I was loath to believe it!
The son of the Marquis de Grandvilain, who ought to be noted for his
style, his dress, his manners, who, in short, was made to be a shining
light in Parisian society, cannot remain buried in a peasant’s house! It
is an anomaly--a crime! These trifling specimens of clothes will give
you an idea of what you would have in Paris. I have come in my tilbury
to fetch you, and I propose that within a week you shall be the best
dressed, the most stylish young man in the capital. You will set the
fashion; you are rich enough and handsome enough for that.”

Chérubin seemed to be captivated by Monfréville’s words, and the latter,
assured of his triumph, said in a moment:

“Let us start, my young friend, let us not delay any longer. The tilbury
is waiting for us, and Paris is beckoning to you.”

But at that Chérubin’s face became clouded, and instead of following
Monsieur de Monfréville and the notary, who had risen, he resumed his
seat, saying:

“No, I don’t want to go away, for I want Louise to see me in these
clothes.”

The two gentlemen from the city were in despair; they believed that they
had fully persuaded the young marquis to accompany them, and again he
refused.

The notary argued, Monfréville put forth all his eloquence and drew
fascinating pictures of the pleasures of Paris, but Chérubin refused to
go with them.

Monsieur Gérondif was in dismay, Nicole was triumphant, and Jasmin
muttered under his breath:

“I had an idea that these men wouldn’t be any smarter than me.”

No one spoke, for no one knew what course to adopt. Suddenly they heard
another carriage approaching. Thereupon a gleam of hope shone in
Monfréville’s eyes, and Monsieur d’Hurbain exclaimed:

“Faith! it’s high time that Monsieur Daréna arrived, but I doubt very
much his having any better success than we have had.”

“Perhaps he will,” murmured Monfréville; “Daréna is one of those people
who dare to do anything.”

The carriage stopped in front of the nurse’s house, and Nicole’s guests
ran to the door to see who alighted.

The cab, for it was a vulgar cab that had arrived, seemed to contain a
number of people, to judge by the noise inside. Several voices could be
heard speaking at once, and continual bursts of laughter. At last the
door opened. Monsieur Daréna alighted first, dressed even more shabbily
than on the previous day; which fact did not deter him from exhibiting
the most distinguished manners, as he assisted his companions to alight.

First came a young woman dressed as a Spaniard, then one dressed as an
Odalisk, a third in a Swiss costume, and a fourth in the piquant garb of
a Neapolitan. And they were all young, pretty, graceful and shapely;
their eyes were bright, mischievous, and most alluring; and there was in
their manner of jumping from the carriage, a surprising lightness and
grace, and in their general bearing an uncommon absence of restraint.

The villagers gazed at them in wide-eyed amazement. Monsieur Gérondif
affected to lower his eyes, but he hazarded a glance nearly every
minute. The notary glanced at Monfréville with an air of surprise,
muttering:

“What does all this mean?”

Monfréville laughed heartily, as he replied:

“Faith! I believe that he is cleverer than we are.”

Meanwhile, Daréna took two of the ladies by the hand.

“Come, Rosina and Malvina; follow us, Cœlina and Fœdora. We have
come to pay our respects to the young Marquis de Grandvilain. Where is
he? Ah, yes, I see him; this charming young man with the melting eyes
is he. _Peste!_ be on your guard, mesdames; those eyes will make
terrible havoc in your ranks.”

As he spoke, Daréna entered the house with his companions. After
ushering in his four ladies, who seemed not in the least embarrassed,
and who scrutinized laughingly the interior of the rustic dwelling,
Daréna saluted Chérubin as if he were an old acquaintance, and said:

“My dear marquis, your notary, Monsieur d’Hurbain, is mine as well; your
friend Monsieur de Monfréville is also a very intimate friend of mine;
so you see that I too should be your friend--that is a title which I
should deem myself fortunate to deserve. Shake hands, marquis--men like
us understand each other instantly. You are young, but we will form
you.”

Chérubin was bewildered by all that he saw and heard; moreover, the
Spaniard and the Neapolitan were already flashing glances at him of a
sort to which he was not accustomed; while the Odalisk smiled at him in
a most enticing fashion, and the Swiss constantly passed the tip of her
tongue over her lips and winked at him. All this caused him a
perturbation which he could not define.

“Marquis Chérubin,” continued Daréna, “I have ventured to bring with me
four fascinating ladies; they are artists, dancers of the greatest
talent, connected with the Grand Opéra in Paris; they had a most eager
desire to see you and to drink milk in the country.--Is it possible to
obtain milk here, virtuous villager?”

While Daréna put this question to Nicole, who ran off at once to the
dairy, the little woman dressed as a Swiss jumped up and down on her
chair, crying:

“Yes! milk’s splendid! I’m going to drink it hard.”

Daréna walked to where she sat and nudged her with his elbow, saying in
her ear:

“Be kind enough to keep quiet, Malvina, for you can’t say anything but
nonsense.”

And Monfréville, biting his lips to avoid laughing, whispered to Daréna:

“You have the face to say that these women are from the Opéra!”

“Three of them are, my dear fellow; I swear that those three are
_figurantes_. The Swiss is at one of the boulevard theatres, it is true,
but she has a bewitching leg.--I have brought these ladies in their
stage costumes,” Daréna continued, addressing Chérubin, “because they
promised to give you a slight specimen of their talent. Come, my
goddesses, give us a pretty _pas de quatre_ for the young marquis, who
has no idea of what is to be seen at the Opéra. I realize that this
isn’t as convenient a place for dancing as the stage; the floor isn’t
parqueted; but you will have all the more credit.”

“It isn’t even tiled!” cried the Swiss, looking at her feet; “how do you
expect us to slide on such a floor? No, thanks! it’s too much work! We
shall come down on our backsides!”

“Ha! ha! very pretty! very pretty!” cried Daréna, affecting to laugh
heartily in order to lessen the effect produced by the Swiss girl’s
expression; “you must excuse madame; she isn’t a Parisian and she
doesn’t know our language very well; she doesn’t understand the
comparative value of words.”

“Tibullus, Petronius and Ovid sometimes employed the equivalent,” said
Monsieur Gérondif, perpetrating an immense smile, so that the four
dancers might see all his teeth.

“I ain’t a Parisian!” cried Mademoiselle Malvina; “well, upon my word! I
was born on Rue Mouffetard--just where my mother sells Brie cheese.”

Daréna trod on her foot and whispered to her:

“If you don’t hold your tongue, Malvina, I’ll put you in the cab, you
shan’t have any milk, and you shan’t come to the dinner.”

The Swiss held her tongue, and the count, taking a kit from his pocket,
prepared to play.

“I’ll be the orchestra,” he said; “I have thought of everything, you
see. Come, mesdames, ready.”

Meanwhile, Monsieur d’Hurbain went to Monfréville and said to him in an
undertone:

“Really, Monsieur le Comte de Daréna has employed an expedient which--I
don’t know whether I ought to assent to this. His scheme seems to me
rather shady.”

“Why so?” rejoined Monfréville. “Daréna is cleverer than we are. I think
that his method of seduction is all right. After all, the young fellow
would go to the Opéra, if he went to Paris; so what is the harm of
letting him see here what he would see on the stage? In fact, it seems
to me that the illusion is much less.”

“Very well,” said the notary, resuming his seat; “after all, the end
justifies the means.”

The four dancers were on the point of beginning their performance, when
Nicole appeared with milk and cups. They pounced upon the latter and
declared that they proposed to have something to drink first.

While they were drinking, Chérubin kept his eyes constantly on those
four women, who were so utterly unlike all the women he had ever before
seen. Monsieur Gérondif poured the milk for the dancers with his own
hands.

“Assuredly I bear a resemblance to Ganymede at this moment,” he said to
them. “He served Jupiter, I serve Terpsichore and her sisters.”

“I say,” said Malvina, snatching the pail from the professor’s hand,
“you make us sick, pouring it out so, drop by drop! I’d rather drink as
much as I like--it’s a quicker way.”

“It’s amazing how thirsty they are, for fashionable ladies,” said old
Jasmin, rolling his eyes in wonderment.

When the milk was exhausted, the four dancers took their places. The
others were seated, Daréna with his kit. He played the air of the _Jota
Arragonaise_, and the ladies began to dance with much grace and
lightness of foot.

The peasants were lost in admiration. Jasmin applauded; Monsieur
Gérondif no longer lowered his eyes, and his whole face was as red and
inflamed as his nose.

Monfréville and the notary watched Chérubin; he seemed fascinated,
enchanted by the novel spectacle presented to him, and his eyes did not
grow weary of gazing at those young and pretty women, whose steps, whose
attitudes, whose slightest movements were instinct with pleasure and
licentiousness. Daréna, observing the effect produced by the dance,
played a livelier air, then another in even quicker time. The dancers
followed the change of tempo, and their dance became more rapid, more
seductive. They seemed to vie with one another in grace and litheness;
their eyes, enlivened by the violent exercise, shone brighter and with
more fire. Jasmin applauded wildly, Monsieur Gérondif scratched his nose
as if he would demolish it, and Chérubin became much moved. At that
moment, excited by the zest with which she danced, Mademoiselle Malvina
began to hurl her legs into space with such vigor that it was impossible
for the spectators to avoid seeing that she wore no drawers.

“They are bayadères!” cried Monsieur Gérondif, whose eyes were almost
out of his head; “it’s the Mozambique dance! it’s very interesting!”

Monsieur d’Hurbain, considering that the Mozambique dance went
altogether too far, rose and said:

“Very good, mesdames, but that will do; you must be tired.”

“Bah!” cried Mademoiselle Malvina, “I’d like to dance the cancan myself!
I’m rather good at the cancan.”

Daréna, who was desirous that the effect produced by the dance should
not be wasted, ran to Chérubin and took his arm, saying:

“Now we are going back to Paris; we are to dine at the Rocher de Cancale
with these ladies, and they hope that you will join us, for the party
would not be complete without you.”

Chérubin was excited, and he hesitated. Daréna made a sign to the
dancers, who at once surrounded the youth, saying:

“Oh, yes, monsieur, come to Paris with us!”

“You must go to the Opéra to-night; you will see us dance there, and it
will be rather different from what it was in this room.”

“It would be very mean of you to refuse us.”

“And then,” cried Malvina, “at the Rocher de Cancale! That’s the place
to get a good dinner! I’m going to stuff myself, I am!”

“Come, come, you must be one of us!” exclaimed Daréna.

The Spaniard and the Neapolitan each seized one of Chérubin’s arms; he
let them drag him away and they carried him, almost dancing, to the cab,
which he entered with Daréna and the four dancers.

“But I have a carriage,” cried the notary; “you will be too crowded with
six in there! Let some of the ladies come in my carriage.”

“No, no!” said Daréna; “we’ll sit in one another’s laps--it’s all the
more fun!--Off you go, driver; founder your nags--we’ll pay you for
them. To the Rocher de Cancale!”

The cab drove away with Chérubin, who had not even had time to bid his
nurse good-bye.

“Daréna has succeeded!” said Monfréville; “the bird has left his nest.”

“Yes,” replied Monsieur d’Hurbain, “but this sort of thing must not go
too far. And this dinner--with those women; really, I can’t be there. I,
a notary, dine with ballet dancers!”

“Oh! bless my soul! just once; you can go _incog_. Besides, it’s for a
good motive, and your presence will prevent the dinner from being too
indecent. Let us take my tilbury, we can follow them better.”

Monsieur d’Hurbain entered the tilbury with Monfréville, and Monsieur
Gérondif and Jasmin jumped into the carriage.

“They are taking my young master to the Rocher de Cancale,” said the old
servant, “and I have ordered a sumptuous banquet at the house, and a
reception, with music and flowers and----”

“Never mind, worthy Jasmin,” rejoined the tutor, “all those things will
serve as well later; my pupil will have to go home eventually. As for
myself, I am Mentor, and I must not abandon Telemachus, even when he
goes to dinner at the Rocher de Cancale.”



XI

MONFRÉVILLE.--DARÉNA.--POTERNE


A handsome salon had been engaged and a sumptuous banquet ordered at the
Rocher de Cancale, by Comte Daréna, who had said to himself before he
started for Gagny:

“Whatever happens, we shall surely come back to dinner; to be sure, if I
happen to be one of those who are to pay, it will be rather hard for me
just at this time; but that doesn’t worry me much; I’ll order the dinner
none the less.”

To give no thought to anything but pleasure, to pay no heed to the
future, to be, in truth, often indifferent concerning affairs of the
present, such was Daréna’s nature. Born of a noble family, he had
received an excellent education and had studied diligently. His father,
a man of a proud and stern character, having observed in his son early
in life a decided taste for independence and dissipation, had thought
that he could correct him by depriving him of those amusements and that
liberty which are the ordinary means of relaxation after toil and study.
Thus, when Daréna was nineteen years of age, he had never had a franc
that he could call his own, or a half hour of freedom. At that time his
father died; his mother had died long before, and he suddenly found
himself his own master and possessed of a very pretty little fortune. He
plunged recklessly into pleasure and dissipation, trying to make up all
the time that his father’s severity had caused him to lose, and bade
adieu forever to study and to serious things.

Cards, women, horses, the table, became his idols. At first he
frequented the best society, to which his name and his wealth gave him
access; from the very beginning he had a multitude of love intrigues;
but Daréna was not sentimental, he looked for nothing but pleasure in
such affairs, and broke them off as soon as he foreshadowed the
slightest exaction or annoyance.

As ladies in good society are not always disposed to form a liaison of a
few days only, and as Comte Daréna’s behavior was no secret, since he
plumed himself on not becoming attached to any woman, his amatory
triumphs gradually became less numerous in the fashionable world, and he
was compelled to pay his addresses to _petites bourgeoises_, then to
ladies of the theatre, then to grisettes, then to courtesans; and
finally he had grown to be so unexacting on that point that he had been
known to take his mistresses from the most humble ranks of society.

Daréna’s fortune, like his love-affairs, had sunk constantly lower and
lower. At last, at the age of twenty-eight, the count had squandered his
whole patrimony and had nothing left save the house in Faubourg
Saint-Antoine, which he desired to sell, and upon which he had already
borrowed more than it was worth.

But, far from worrying concerning his present plight and his future, so
long as he was able to dine well, to drink champagne with a ballet
dancer, a figurante, a lace-maker, or even a lady’s maid, Daréna snapped
his fingers at all the rest. To obtain those enjoyments, he was often
obliged to resort to doubtful expedients; but the man who is not
particular in choosing his acquaintances is not always particular as to
his means of existence.

A person named Poterne had seconded Daréna’s dissipation and ruin to the
utmost of his power. This Poterne was a man whose age it was impossible
to guess, he was so ugly and unshapely. A gaunt, bony, angular body,
supported by thin, knock-kneed legs, was surmounted by an oblong head of
excessive length, a nose broken in the centre and hooked at the end, a
mouth without lips, a protruding chin, and small eyes of a dull green
hue, shaded by bushy eyebrows, and turning incessantly in every
direction. Add to these an enormous quantity of thick, dirty brown hair,
always cut like the quills of a hedgehog, and you have a faithful image
of Monsieur Poterne.

This man had become attached to Comte Daréna when he was still wealthy;
he had offered his services in any capacity; he knew all the places in
Paris where a young man of family can ruin himself with the least
difficulty. If Daréna spied, at the play or on the street, a woman who
attracted him, Poterne undertook to follow her, and to hand her a letter
containing information concerning him. Later, Poterne made it his
business to find usurers, money-lenders, accommodating tradesmen; so
that he had become indispensable to the count, who treated him sometimes
as his friend, sometimes as his servant, cajoled him occasionally,
despised him always, and could never do without him.

The reader will assume perhaps that it had been this gentleman’s aim to
enrich himself at the expense of the person whom he was assisting to
ruin himself. That was Poterne’s idea at first; but his own vices
prevented him from taking advantage of another’s failings. As inveterate
a gambler and libertine as Daréna, while the latter was losing
thousand-franc notes in a fashionable salon, Poterne was gambling away,
in some wine-shop or low resort, the money he had extracted from his
intimate friend. While Daréna entertained some charmer at Véfour’s or
Véry’s, Poterne betook himself to a gin-shop to squander what money he
had with a street peddler, and he was too ugly not to be compelled to be
open-handed. And when Daréna was without a sou he sometimes abused his
friend, and accused him of being the author of his ruin. At such times
he unceremoniously appropriated all that Poterne possessed; and that
worthy, who was also a coward, allowed himself to be despoiled without a
murmur, promising himself that he would have his revenge ere long.

It may seem strange that the refined Monfréville should be on intimate
terms with a man whose tastes, whose conduct, whose very dress, proved
his disorderly mode of life. But there are people who, after knowing a
person when he was rich and fortunate, dare not turn their backs on him
when they meet him with a soiled coat and dingy hat. Moreover, Daréna
still had intervals of prosperity; when the cards had been favorable to
him, or when his friend Poterne had discovered some new resource, he
instantly reappeared, elegantly and stylishly dressed; he frequented the
theatres, the ballrooms and the best restaurants in Paris; and a few
days later, a perceptible falling off in his toilet, a certain lack of
neatness in some part of his costume, indicated that the situation had
changed. But even with a wretched hat and dirty linen, Daréna succeeded
so well in retaining the manners of good society, that it was hard to
believe that he consorted with the very lowest.

Indeed, does anyone know aught of the private life of the great majority
of the persons with whom he has only a passing connection? Meeting
Daréna arrayed as in the days of his prosperity, seeing him squander
money madly in some pleasure resort, no one asked him by what blessed
change of luck he had become rich; and for the same reason, when he was
seen, in shabby garments, slinking into a wretched twenty-two sou
restaurant, no one took pains to inquire what hard luck he had had. In
Paris, people do not try to worm themselves into other people’s secrets;
and in this respect, discretion very often resembles indifference.

Monfréville, who had known Daréna when he was rich, was well aware that
he had squandered his fortune, but he did not believe him to be entirely
without resources, having no idea that he would resort to indelicate
methods of obtaining money. The count had frequently borrowed a
thousand-franc note of him, however, none of which had he ever returned;
but Edouard de Monfréville was wealthy and attached little importance to
those trifling services. And then, too, Daréna’s society amused him; his
sallies, his indifference, sometimes carried to the point of cynicism,
made him laugh and banished the melancholy humor which now and then took
possession of his mind.

Sometimes people wondered what could be the cause of that pensive air,
of that smile, rather bitter than mocking, which often played about
Monfréville’s mouth. He was rich, he had everything calculated to
attract. In society he was sought after, women schemed to gain his
notice; he had been known to have a great number of love-affairs, and he
was still at an age to have more. But his merriment rarely seemed
genuine, and in his conversation he avoided speaking of a sex of which
he could hardly have had reason to complain. Some thought that
Monfréville had reached the point of being surfeited with all sorts of
pleasure, and attributed to that fact the clouds that sometimes darkened
his brow; others, when they heard him sneer at those of his friends who
believed in the constancy of their mistresses, concluded that the
handsome and fascinating Monfréville had had some unfortunate passion,
had been the victim of some treachery. Finally, when he was seen to pass
his thirtieth year, and even to approach his fortieth, without
apparently thinking of marriage, all sorts of conjectures were indulged
in.

“He must have a very low opinion of women,” people said, “as he doesn’t
choose to do like other men, and settle down, under the yoke of hymen.”

But Edouard de Monfréville paid no heed to what people might think or
say of him; he continued to live according to his taste, to do exactly
as he chose; sometimes after passing a month in a succession of
uproarious debauches, surrounded by a jovial, dissipated crowd, all
whose follies he shared, he would hold himself aloof from society for
weeks at a time, finding pleasure only in solitude. His friends had
finally become accustomed to the eccentricities of his humor, because in
society a rich man is always entitled to be original; only the poor
devils are denied that privilege.

Now that we are better acquainted with the people whom we are to join,
let us enter the Rocher de Cancale, where Chérubin had just arrived with
the priestesses of Terpsichore.



XII

A DINNER AT THE ROCHER DE CANCALE


Chérubin found himself in Paris, and at the Rocher de Cancale, before he
had had time to collect his thoughts. All the way to town the ladies had
talked so much nonsense, their conversation was so lively, their remarks
so amusing, that the boy had not ears enough to hear, and he glanced
constantly from one to another of the dancers, to make sure that he was
not dreaming.

When they entered the cab, the ladies enveloped themselves in ample
cloaks, which concealed their costumes, and pulled hoods over their
heads, so that their headdresses could not be seen.

“Why do these ladies all disguise themselves in hoods?” Chérubin asked
Daréna in an undertone.

“My dear marquis,” the latter replied aloud, “they do it so that their
stage costumes may not be seen when they go into the restaurant, for the
Carnival hasn’t come yet.--A modest dress is the correct thing in
Paris.”

“Bah! I don’t care a fig for your correct thing!” said Mademoiselle
Malvina; “for my part I’d just as lief walk about Paris in a Swiss
costume. I say, why mightn’t I be a real Swiss?”

“If you wore an oyster woman’s costume, my dear girl, it’s much more
probable that no one would think that you were disguised.”

“Well! well! that’s a joke, I suppose! how ugly you are! When you’re
out-at-elbows the way you sometimes are, you don’t look any too much
like a count yourself!”

Daréna laughed heartily and tapped Malvina on the cheek, saying:

“Come, come, hold your tongue, and above all things behave decently,
mesdames; in the country a mild sort of freedom is permissible, but at
the Rocher de Cancale, and in the honorable company with which you are
to dine, remember, my little shepherdesses, that if you are not discreet
I shall be obliged to turn you out of the room.”

“Bless my soul! we know how to behave, monsieur! Do you think we never
go into swell society?”

“Why, I often dine with my friend and his brother, who’s one of the
biggest butchers in Paris!”

“And I sometimes keep my cousin’s desk; she’s a baker and sells pastry,
and only gentlemen with canary-colored gloves come to her little place
to eat.”

“Very good, mesdames, very good; we are certain now that you are worthy
to go into good society, and that you know how to behave decorously. Oh!
if Monsieur d’Hurbain had not come to dine with us! But he has come, for
I see him and Monfréville getting out of the tilbury. We have arrived;
come, my young marquis, hand out the ladies.”

The carriage stopped and the door was opened; a porcupine’s head
appeared, surmounting a body clad in an old nut-colored box-coat, the
collar of which was marred by some very extensive spots of grease. It
was Monsieur Poterne, who had stepped forward to assist the ladies to
alight.

Malvina drew back, crying:

“Great God! what sort of thing is that? An owl, a hedgehog?”

“It is my--my business agent,” replied Daréna; “he has looked to it that
everything is properly prepared, and now he has come to assist you to
alight; he is an extremely obliging man.”

“He may possibly be obliging, but he is very ugly; isn’t he, Rosina?”

“Yes. Oh! how stupid it is to be ugly like that!”

“And when you look from him to our charming little Monsieur Chérubin!”

“Gad! there’s as much difference as there is between the sun and a
flea!”

“Come, mesdames, get out of the carriage; you can talk upstairs.”

The company soon assembled in the salon where the table was laid.
Messieurs d’Hurbain and Monfréville had arrived at the same time with
the cab containing Chérubin and the dancers. The notary went to Daréna
and said in his ear:

“I trust, my dear count, that your dancers will behave properly here. I
agree that by their graceful dancing and their bright eyes they have
fascinated this young man; but he is still a mere child, who ought not
to consort with ballet dancers----”

“Mon Dieu! don’t be alarmed! You surprise me! It is due to me that this
baby of sixteen years and a half consented to leave his nurse, and,
instead of thanking me, you preach at me. Be of service to people--exert
your imagination--so that they may lecture you afterwards!”

“I say, Daréna,” said Monfréville, scrutinizing Monsieur Poterne, who
was sidling by the ladies, casting furtive glances at them, to which
they replied by wry faces, “is that horribly dirty person a friend of
yours? Do you expect us to dine with him? I must confess that I am not
charmed by the prospect of his company. Who is the fellow? He looks very
like a hawk.”

“He is my steward.”

“Ah! so you still have a steward? I thought that you had ceased to keep
up an establishment.”

“I have kept nobody else. This man looks after my affairs--he’s an
invaluable fellow for expedients.”

“In that case, he would do well to devise an expedient for obtaining
another coat.”

“Well! aren’t we ever going to dine?” asked Malvina, trying a _pas de
seul_ in a corner of the salon.

“Yes, indeed, madame. Come, Monsieur Chérubin, be kind enough to take
your seat.”

Monsieur d’Hurbain was about to sit beside Chérubin, but Monfréville
stopped him, saying in an undertone:

“Let these girls sit by our pupil, or else we may lose all the fruit of
our trouble. I have been watching Chérubin among all these people; he
sighs sometimes, and if he should have an attack of homesickness, he
might absolutely insist on returning to his nurse, and we should have
much difficulty in keeping him in Paris.”

Monsieur d’Hurbain submitted; he allowed Mesdemoiselles Rosina and
Cœlina to seat themselves on each side of Chérubin; Malvina, who was
too late to obtain a seat next the young man, attempted to force Rosina
to give up her chair to her and threatened to strike her; but a stern
glance from Daréna put an end to the dispute, and Mademoiselle Malvina
seated herself at the other end of the table, humming:

“You shall not take him away, Nicolas! ‘Tis I whom he will love,
tradera!”

There was one vacant place, for Monsieur Poterne had ordered the table
laid for nine, and, despite Daréna’s signs, the gentleman in the
box-coat seemed to be on the point of taking the vacant chair, when the
door opened and Monsieur Gérondif appeared, accompanied by Jasmin.

The professor bowed to the company, saying:

“I humbly salute the gentlemen, and I lay my homage at the feet of the
ladies simultaneously.”

“What is the man doing to our feet?” Malvina asked Daréna, who was
seated beside her, and whose only reply was a violent blow with his
knee.

But Chérubin’s face lighted up when he saw the new arrivals, and he
cried:

“Ah! here you are, my dear tutor! How glad I am that you came to Paris
too! What a pity that--that you----”

Chérubin did not finish the sentence; he was thinking of Louise, and
something which he could not define told him that his innocent playmate
would not be in her proper place in the company of those young ladies
who danced so prettily. Monsieur d’Hurbain, who was greatly pleased by
the tutor’s arrival, because he saw therein an additional safeguard for
Chérubin, saluted Monsieur Gérondif with a gracious smile, and said:

“You did well to follow your pupil, monsieur, and we relied upon your
doing so. Pray take a seat at the table--there is a place awaiting you.”

“Yes, yes, sit there, Monsieur Gérondif,” cried Chérubin, pointing to
the vacant seat. “And you, my good Jasmin, stand by me.”

“I know my duty, monsieur le marquis, and I will take my proper
station.”

As he spoke, the old retainer put a napkin over his arm and planted
himself behind Chérubin’s chair. As for Monsieur Gérondif, he did not
wait for the invitation to be repeated; he pushed Monsieur Poterne
aside, took his seat at the table and swallowed the soup that was
placed before him, crying:

“This is the banquet of Belshazzar! It is the feast of Eleusis! the
wedding festival of Gamache! Never assuredly was there a more sumptuous
repast!”

“I say! that gentleman is talking in poetry,” said Malvina to her
neighbor.

“Yes,” replied Daréna, “I believe that it was monsieur who wrote the
tragedy called the _Earthquake of Lisbon_.”

Monsieur Gérondif smiled graciously at the count, murmuring with an air
of modesty:

“I write verse rather easily, but I never wrote a tragedy, that is sure,
certainly.”

“I beg pardon, monsieur, I took you for Master André; you have much
affinity with him.--But let us drink to monsieur le marquis’s health,
and to the pleasure of having him in Paris at last.”

Daréna’s proposition was eagerly welcomed; the glasses were filled with
madeira, and emptied in Chérubin’s honor; the four dancers drank without
heel-taps, and poured down madeira in a way to arouse an Englishman’s
envy.

Meanwhile Monsieur Poterne, having been cheated out of the seat to which
he aspired, had decided to remain on his feet and to assist Jasmin, in
preference to retiring. So he took his stand behind Daréna; but while
making a pretence of passing him a plate now and then, he asked him in
undertones for whatever he saw on the table. Daréna passed him well
filled dishes, and Poterne, instead of serving them to the guests,
turned his back and rapidly made away with the contents.

The beginning of the repast was lively, but free from anything offensive
to the proprieties; the young women, upon whom Daréna had enjoined the
most rigidly correct behavior, gave their whole attention to doing
justice to the dinner, and maintained an irreproachable demeanor,
although they bestowed an amiable smile on Chérubin from time to time.
Malvina alone let slip an occasional remark or jest of a somewhat
obscene flavor; but Daréna always made haste to cover it by beginning to
talk. His conversation, which was always piquant or rambling,
Monfréville’s, who was in an unusually cheerful mood, and the quotations
of Monsieur Gérondif, who, while eating for four, found time to display
all that he knew, did not leave Chérubin a moment for reflection.
Surprised to find himself the hero of that impromptu fête, he was
dazzled, fascinated, taken captive; the glances that were darted at him,
the witty remarks that he heard on all sides, the flattering things that
were said to him, and the delicious, dainty, toothsome dinner, which
gratified his sense of smell and of taste alike, prevented him from
giving a thought to the village; for when his face became grave and
indicated the arrival of a memory, his companions redoubled their
attentions, their gayety and their pranks, to banish the cloud that had
dimmed his eyes.

“I say,” suddenly exclaimed Malvina, who, as she turned her head,
happened to see Monsieur Poterne taking away a plate that Daréna passed
him, “so your man of business waits on you at table, does he? Is he your
servant too?”

“He serves me in every capacity,” said Daréna; “I tell you he is an
invaluable man; I make whatever I choose of him!”

“Then you’d better make a good-looking man of him!”

“Socrates, Horace, Cicero and Pelisson were hideously ugly,” said
Gérondif, filling the little Swiss maiden’s glass; “a man may be very
plain and still have a brilliant intellect.”

“Ah! you fox, you have your reasons for saying so,” retorted Malvina,
tossing off her champagne.

The tutor, who did not expect that reply, scratched his nose and called
for truffles.

The crash of a breaking plate interrupted the conversation; Jasmin,
while trying to remove his young master’s plate, had dropped it on the
floor; it was the fourth which had met that fate at his hands, together
with two bottles and a carafe.

“I say, is that old fellow Jocrisse?” cried Malvina, with a roar of
laughter.

“Such a valet de chambre must be very expensive!” said Monfréville, with
a smile.

“Excuse me, my dear master,” said Jasmin, who turned scarlet at each new
mishap caused by his awkwardness. “You see, it is a long while since I
have waited at table; but I shall soon get used to it--it is simply a
matter of renewing an old habit.”

“The devil!” said Daréna, “if he means to go on until he gets used to
it, it will be very fine!”

“But why do you stand behind me, my good Jasmin? It is altogether too
fatiguing for a man of your years. Sit in the corner yonder; I will call
you if I should need you!”

“The idea of it!” said Jasmin, trying to stand erect. “Does monsieur
think that I do not know my duty? I will not quit my post, monsieur; I
will die first!”

“In other words, all the landlord’s crockery will die!” said Daréna,
laughingly.--”Honor to unlucky pluck!” he added aloud, raising his
glass.

“This old servant’s attachment is greatly to his credit and to his
master’s,” said Monfréville, “I propose a toast to fidelity; it is so
rare that we cannot do it too much honor, in whatever guise it appears.”

The toast was drunk with enthusiasm by the company. Monsieur d’Hurbain
proposed a toast to the late Monsieur de Grandvilain, and Daréna to the
ballet dancers at the Opéra. Monsieur Gérondif rose and exclaimed with
great earnestness:

“To the progress of the culinary art in France! The old Romans may have
had more dishes than we on their tables, but probably they were less
satisfying.”

Mademoiselle Malvina, determined to propose a toast of her own, raised
her glass and cried:

“I _toast_ for very long ballets and very short skirts, in the interest
of the dancers and of everybody who likes a high kick.”

None of the ladies chose to lag behind; Cœlina drank to her
squirrel’s health, Rosina to her cat’s, and Fœdora to her cousin’s,
who was in the Chasseurs d’Afrique. Monsieur Poterne drank to nobody’s
health, but he kept his back turned to the table, and swallowed an
appalling quantity of champagne. A terrible crash interrupted the
toasts: Jasmin had dropped a pile of plates that time, and the floor was
strewn with débris of crockery.

“This will be rather an expensive dinner,” said Daréna; “one must needs
be very rich to indulge in such servants as this old Jasmin.”

Meanwhile the frequent toasts had excited the guests to some extent.
Malvina, who could not keep still, began to dance a very pronounced
cancan; Cœlina and Rosina attempted the Cracovienne; Fœdora
waltzed with Daréna, and Monsieur Gérondif, finding that everything
about him was in a whirl, although he did not leave his chair, called
loudly upon Malvina for a second performance of the Mozambique dance,
with all its accessories.

Monsieur d’Hurbain, who had retained his presence of mind, thought that
it was time to take Chérubin away; he took the young marquis’s arm,
motioned to Monfréville, and to the tutor, who left the table with
regret, and, picking out a path through the broken crockery, they left
the restaurant and entered a carriage which took them to the hôtel de
Grandvilain, not observing that Jasmin, who had followed them, had
succeeded in climbing up behind, with the assistance of a messenger.

“Aren’t we going back to Gagny?” inquired Chérubin, when he found
himself in the carriage.

“It is impossible to-night, my dear friend, it is much too late,” said
Monsieur d’Hurbain. “To-morrow, or a few days hence, you will think
about it. Since you are in Paris, you should at least get acquainted
with the city.”

“Yes,” mumbled Monsieur Gérondif, whose tongue was very thick, “_Cras_,
to-morrow; _cras mane_, to-morrow morning; _perendinus dies_, day after
to-morrow--no matter when!”

“And with your permission,” said Monfréville, “I will undertake to be
your guide, and to show you all that a young man of your rank should
know.”

Chérubin made no reply; he would have liked to return to Gagny; but the
delicious repast of which he had just partaken had aroused a new train
of ideas in his mind, and he had heard so much of the pleasures that
awaited him in Paris, of which he had already had such a pleasant
specimen, that he finally said to himself:

“After all, as long as I am in the city, I may as well see at once all
the wonderful things I have heard so much about; and when I go back to
Louise I shall have lots of things to tell her, at all events.”

The cab arrived at the mansion in Faubourg Saint-Germain; the porte
cochère was thrown open. The equipage had no sooner entered the
courtyard than the ears of the young marquis and his companions were
assailed by some most extraordinary music. They heard the strains of
several barrel-organs, several violins and two or three clarinets,
playing at the same time, but playing different tunes. Male and female
voices too, shrill and false, roared ancient airs, laments, or
vaudeville choruses. The general result was a horrible medley of sounds.

The occupants of the carriage were asking one another what it could
mean, when they heard a dull thud on the pavement, as if caused by the
fall of a heavy body. They recognized Jasmin, who, when he attempted to
climb down from behind the cab, had fallen in the middle of the
courtyard. But the dauntless retainer was already on his feet, crying:

“It’s nothing; I just slipped.--Monsieur le marquis, I ordered this
concert--musicians and singers--in honor of your return to your paternal
mansion. Long life to the new Marquis de Grandvilain!”

Chérubin thanked Jasmin for his kind intentions, but begged him
instantly to dismiss those people, who were making such a horrible din.
Monsieur d’Hurbain and Monfréville bade the young man good-night,
commending him in whispers to the care of his tutor, who was not in a
condition to understand what they said; then they left him to enjoy the
repose which he was likely to need.

When the strangers had gone, Jasmin asked Chérubin if he wished to pass
his servants in review; and Mademoiselle Turlurette, who was overjoyed
to see her young master, proposed that he inspect the linen closets and
the servants’ quarters, so that he might become acquainted with his
establishment and see how things had been managed since his father’s
death. But Chérubin had no desire to take all that trouble; pleasure is
fatiguing when one is not accustomed to it, and the young marquis wanted
nothing except to go to bed.

When he saw the immense room which was to be his bedroom, where there
was an old-fashioned bed, reached by a set of steps, and surrounded by
enormous curtains of crimson velvet, Chérubin made a wry face and
exclaimed:

“Oh! how ugly it is here! I liked my little room at my nurse’s much
better; it was more cheerful! I am going back there to-morrow, for it
seems to me that I can’t sleep well here.”

But at sixteen years and a half, after a tiresome day, one sleeps well
anywhere; and that is what happened to Chérubin.

As for Monsieur Gérondif, after bestowing an affable smile on
Mademoiselle Turlurette, whom he called “mesdames,” because, his
eyesight being a little blurred, he took her for two persons, he was
escorted to his apartment, and was radiant with delight when he saw the
fine room that had been prepared for him. He stretched himself out
luxuriously in a soft bed, and gently laid his head on a pile of
pillows, saying:

“I never slept in such a bed as this! I sink in, I drown! It is
enchanting! I would like to pass my life in bed, and dream of the
Mozambique dance!”



XIII

TO-MORROW


Chérubin woke late; he gazed about him in amazement and tried to collect
his thoughts. He asked himself why he had left Gagny, his dear Nicole,
and Louise, whom he loved so dearly. Then he thought of the magnificent
dinner of the day before and of those four young women, who were so
pretty and gay and amusing, and who danced so gracefully, casting soft
glances at him the while. It was all well calculated to engross so
inexperienced a head and heart.

Suddenly the crash of breaking furniture made Chérubin start; he turned
his head and saw Jasmin standing in dismay beside a washstand that he
had overturned.

“What is all this?” cried the young man, who could not help laughing at
the grimace made by his old valet.

“It’s I, monsieur--it was because I didn’t want to make a noise and wake
you.”

“So you call that not making a noise?”

“I was walking so carefully that I ran into that little piece of
furniture, and it fell. But no matter; you can find those things at all
furniture shops.”

“Oh! I am not at all alarmed, Jasmin. I am going to dress and go back to
Gagny.”

“What! already, my dear master? Have you examined your cash-box?”

“No; why should I?”

“That is all full of gold, monsieur,” said Jasmin, pointing to the cash
drawer in the secretary; “and it’s all yours. And when it’s all gone,
there is plenty more; you have only to apply to your banker. And one can
enjoy so much in Paris with money.”

“Jasmin, you know that I don’t like to be thwarted. Where are my clothes
and my shoes?”

“I threw them all out of the window, monsieur, except what Monsieur de
Monfréville brought you yesterday.”

“What does that mean? Do you mean that I haven’t any trousers to put on?
Are you mad, Jasmin?”

“It was Monsieur de Monfréville who advised me to throw away all
monsieur’s old things. But there’s a tailor waiting outside, and a
boot-maker and a shirt-maker and a hatter, who have brought some things
that are more in style. It was Monsieur de Monfréville again who sent
them all here; they’ve been waiting an hour for you to wake.”

“Let them come in then.”

The tradesmen were admitted. Each of them was attended by a boy laden
with merchandise. While Chérubin selected those things which pleased him
and which he was told were the most fashionable, Comte Daréna was
announced.

Daréna wore his old ragged coat, his shapeless hat, and his rumpled
cravat of the night before; but he appeared with his usual charming and
playful manner, and shook the young man’s hand with great heartiness,
crying:

“Here I am, my dear fellow; I intended to be here to salute you when you
woke. I have come to breakfast with you.--Ah! you are making purchases?
You should have left that to me; I would have sent my tradesmen to you.
You left very suddenly last night, did you not? The ladies were all
terribly surprised when they found that you were no longer there.”

“Monsieur d’Hurbain told me it was time to go--that we ought not to stay
any longer at a restaurant,” replied Chérubin artlessly.

“Ah! charming! delicious!--In Paris you stay at a restaurant as late as
you choose--you even pass the night there when the fancy strikes you.
Your Monsieur d’Hurbain is a most estimable man, but he is not of our
time, nor on the level of the age we live in. Luckily he won’t always be
with you, for he would be a terrible bore.--Aren’t you going to take
this blue coat?”

“I have already selected two sack coats and two frock coats.”

“Then I’ll take it; I can see at a glance that it will look well on me.
I am also attracted by this little polonaise--it’s a whim. Parbleu! I
like the color of these trousers; I’ll take them and these two
waistcoats. When I am once started, there is no good reason why I should
stop. Here are some shirts which should fit me perfectly. They make
shirts now that fit as tight as a coat; I will take this dozen. These
boots look as if they were well made.--You have a very pretty foot,
Chérubin, of the same type as mine. I will take this pair of boots. Are
they the same size as the ones selected by monsieur le marquis?”

“Yes, monsieur,” the boot-maker replied, with a bow.

“Then I will keep them.--I am curious to see if my head is the same size
as yours, also. Let me see the hat you have chosen.”

Doing his utmost to squeeze his head into a hat which the hatter handed
him, and which was much too small for him, Daréna cried:

“It will fit me--oh! it will end by fitting me. Have you another one
like it there, hatter--but a little larger?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Let me see--that is just right; I will take it.”

The tradesmen glanced at one another with some uneasiness; one could see
in their eyes that they were wondering whether they ought to trust this
gentleman, who selected so many things without even asking the price,
and whose costume did not inspire unbounded confidence. Daréna put an
end to their uncertainty by adding:

“By the way, here I am buying and buying, and I have no money with me!
Parbleu! my friend the young Marquis Chérubin will pay for my purchases
with his own; it is useless to make two bills. Then I will settle with
him.--Will that inconvenience you, my young friend?”

“No, monsieur, it will give me great pleasure,” replied Chérubin, as he
proceeded to dress; “I am delighted to accommodate you!”

And Jasmin whispered to his young master, as he assisted him to put on
his waistcoat:

“It’s very good form, too, very noble, to lend to your friends; the late
Monsieur de Grandvilain, your father, did it all the time! I will settle
with monsieur’s tradesmen.”

Jasmin paid the various accounts.

Daréna gave the dealers his address, so that they might send him what he
had selected, and they took their leave, greatly pleased.

While the old servant went out to give orders for breakfast, Daréna said
to Chérubin:

“Now you are dressed in perfect taste--that is very good so far; but it
isn’t enough; I propose that my young friend shall have all the little
trifles, all the jewelry that is absolutely essential for a Parisian
lion.”

“What do you say? a lion?”

“That is the name given to-day to a young man of fashion. Have you a
watch?”

“Yes, this one; it belonged to my father.”

As he spoke, Chérubin showed Daréna a gold watch as thick as it was
broad. The count roared with laughter as he glanced at it.

“Why, my dear fellow, if you should be seen carrying such an onion,
people would laugh in your face.”

“What’s that? Why, it’s gold!”

“I don’t doubt it; and I may add that it is a most respectable watch, as
it came from your father; but such watches are not worn now. Put it away
carefully in your desk and have a stylish one, as thin as a sheet of
paper. I have instructed my steward to find one for you, and to bring
you this morning all the jewelry that you ought to have. Stay, I hear
him asking for you now in your reception room.--This way, Poterne, this
way; monsieur le marquis is visible.”

Poterne’s villainous face appeared at the bedroom door, and Chérubin
invited him to come in. As he passed Daréna, he said to him rapidly and
in an undertone:

“The dealer wouldn’t trust me with anything; he’s waiting at the door.”

“All right, you will be able to pay him. They’re not false, of course?”

“No, they’re genuine stones.”

“How much does he want for them?”

“Eight hundred francs.”

“Call it two thousand.”

Monsieur Poterne took a pasteboard box from his pocket, containing a
very pretty, flat watch, a gold chain, which looked very light but was
of beautiful workmanship, and a diamond pin. Chérubin uttered a cry of
admiration when he saw the baubles.

“These, monsieur le marquis, are the finest and most stylish things to
be had,” said Poterne, passing the chain about the young man’s neck, and
doing his utmost to assume an honest expression.

“Yes, they’re in the latest style,” said Daréna. “My dear Chérubin, you
must have these things; a well-dressed man cannot do without them. I
have several chains myself; they are all broken just now, but I am
having them mended.”

“Oh! I will buy all these jewels,” cried Chérubin. “Who would believe
that there was a watch inside of this? What a pretty pin!--How much for
them all, monsieur?”

Observing the young man’s enthusiasm over the jewels, Poterne thought
that he might add a little more to the price.

“Twenty-five hundred francs in all,” he said.

Daréna turned his face away and bit his lips, while Chérubin ran to his
cash drawer.

At sight of that drawer filled with gold pieces, Monsieur Poterne turned
blue, his brow became wrinkled, his eyes increased in size and his nose
shrunk. Daréna, observing his excitement, took advantage of the fact
that Chérubin’s back was turned to administer a kick to his friend,
muttering:

“I trust, you villain, that you have no detestable intentions; if I
thought that you had, I would break every bone in your body.”

Poterne had no time to reply; he rubbed that portion of his anatomy
which had been attacked, received the amount which Chérubin counted out
to him in gold, and hastily took his leave. But he had hardly passed
through the bedroom door when Daréna ran after him, saying:

“Excuse me, my young friend, I will return in a moment; I forgot to give
my steward an important order.”

Hurrying after Poterne, who seemed anxious to avoid being overtaken,
Daréna caught him on the stairs and seized him by his coat collar.

“Don’t go so fast,” he said; “you’re in a great hurry, you old
scoundrel. Come, give me two thousand francs, in a hurry.”

“Two thousand francs!” muttered Poterne; “why, I’ve got to give eight
hundred to the jeweler, who is waiting downstairs.”

“You can give him five hundred; he will be satisfied to wait for the
rest.”

“But I----”

“I’ll break you into six pieces, if you argue. Come, Poterne, be decent!
You know that when I am in funds, you never lack anything.”

Monsieur Poterne complied, looking as if he were about to weep. Daréna
pocketed the gold and returned to Chérubin, who was admiring himself in
the mirror. Jasmin came to say that breakfast was served, and the
gentlemen took their seats at the table. They were hardly seated when
Monsieur de Monfréville was announced.

When he saw Daréna at table with their young friend of the preceding
day, Monfréville moved his head imperceptibly and said to the count:

“Here already? The deuce! you must have come quite early.”

“When I am fond of my friends, I am always in haste to see them,”
replied Daréna.--”What wine is this, faithful Jasmin?”

“Beaune, monsieur,” replied the old servant, bowing.

“It is very good; but I like sauterne and chambertin at breakfast. You
must have a fine cellar here?”

“Oh, yes, monsieur; and all old wines.”

“I imagine so, if they were laid in by our young friend’s father.--Come,
O model of old retainers, go and bring us several more bottles. When a
cellar has been left in peace for a generation, it seems to me that it
is high time to empty it.”

Jasmin hastened to do as he was requested, and Monfréville said to
Daréna:

“But you give orders without even consulting the master of the house!”

“My friend has given me carte blanche, and I am making the most of it.”

“Yes, monsieur,” said Chérubin; “pray do whatever you choose in my
house.”

Daréna leaned toward Monfréville and said in his ear:

“He was already talking of going back to Gagny this morning; if we don’t
make the young fellow giddy, he is capable of returning to his nurse,
and that would be downright murder!”

“Aren’t you going to breakfast with us, monsieur?” Chérubin asked
Monfréville.

“Thanks, my young friend, but I have breakfasted. Were you satisfied
with the tradespeople whom I sent to you this morning?”

“Oh, yes, monsieur; everything was beautiful. I bought a lot of things,
and so did monsieur le comte.”

Monfréville glanced at Daréna, who pretended not to hear and seemed
busily occupied helping himself to partridge pie.

“And look at my watch and my gold chain, and this pin. Monsieur Daréna
sent them all to me by his steward. How pretty they are, aren’t they?”

“Did you pay much for them?” Monfréville inquired.

“Why, no, only two thousand five hundred francs; I don’t call that
dear!”

Monfréville looked again at Daréna, who continued to stuff himself with
partridges.

“Why, yes, it was quite enough,” he said; “in fact, it was very dear. In
the future, with your permission, I will advise you in your purchases; I
fancy that I know at least as much about such matters as monsieur’s
steward.”

Jasmin returned with a number of bottles; he broke one when he attempted
to put it on the table, and dropped a cream cheese on Daréna’s head.
Chérubin was terribly distressed by his servant’s awkwardness; and the
old fellow, overwhelmed with confusion by what he had done, slunk out of
sight behind a screen. Daréna was the first to laugh at the accident.

“It’s of no consequence,” he said; “I am not dressed yet.--For all that,
my dear marquis, if I may venture to give you a piece of advice, I
advise you to relieve your old Jasmin from the duty of waiting at table.
His services will be ruinous to you and fatal to your friends. The
excellent fellow has abundantly earned retirement and you must give it
to him. I will go home to dress, and come back for you; for we will pass
the day together, eh, Monfréville?”

“That is my wish, if it will not annoy our young friend.”

Chérubin hesitated a moment, then said falteringly:

“But I intended to--to go to Gagny--to see my--my nurse.”

“Oh! to-morrow! to-morrow!” cried Daréna; “we have too many things to do
to-day; I will hurry home to dress and return at once.”

Daréna took his leave. Monfréville would have liked to hint to his young
friend that he would do well not to place too much confidence in the
count’s manifestations of friendship for him; but if he attempted so
soon to destroy the young man’s illusions, if he told him to be on his
guard against false friends, selfish affections, the wiles of
shopkeepers, and all the perils of Paris, would he not run the risk of
disgusting him with that city, which he had consented to visit only with
regret?

“After all,” said Monfréville to himself, “Daréna is jovial and bright;
he has the art of inventing some new pleasure every day, and even if his
friendship should cost Chérubin a few thousand-franc notes, the
youngster is rich, and one must needs pay for one’s apprenticeship in
everything. Besides, I will keep an eye on our pupil, and I will try to
see to it that his inexperience is not over-abused.--By the way, my
young friend,” he said aloud, “what have you done with your tutor? He is
to remain with you, is he not? Is he not well?”

“Dear me! you are right!” cried Chérubin. “I had entirely forgotten
Monsieur Gérondif!--Jasmin, go and inquire what my tutor is doing; ask
him why he doesn’t come to breakfast.”

Jasmin went to Monsieur Gérondifs room. The ex-schoolmaster was buried
in his bed, sound asleep, and entirely hidden by the bedclothes and the
pillows, which had fallen over his head. There was nothing save his
snoring to indicate that the bed was occupied.

The old servant put out his hand toward the pillow; it came in contact
with Monsieur Gérondifs prominent nose, which he laid hold of and pulled
violently, crying out:

“Come, monsieur le savant, wake up; my master is asking for you.”

Monsieur Gérondif opened his eyes and rescued his nose from the fingers
that had grasped it.

“What’s the matter?” he muttered; “what’s the meaning of this violence,
and why wake me by the nose? That’s a new way, surely; rosy-fingered
Aurora doesn’t treat the fair-haired Phœbus so.”

But, on learning that his pupil had breakfasted, Monsieur Gérondif
decided to rise; he made a hasty toilet and went down to pay his
respects to the marquis.

“The delights of Capua enervated Hannibal’s soldiers,” he said, eying
the remains of the breakfast, which were very appetizing. “My dear
pupil, I became even as a woman on my downy couch. Accept my apologies;
hereafter I will certainly rise with the chanticleer.”

And Monsieur Gérondif seated himself at the table to make up for lost
time, while Chérubin, to content Mademoiselle Turlurette, went to cast a
glance at the different parts of the establishment. Monfréville, who had
declined to accompany him, went to the tutor and said:

“Monsieur, you have a most important duty to perform; I doubt not that
you will do your utmost to succeed.”

Monsieur Gérondif looked up at Monfréville, opened his enormous mouth,
apparently annoyed at having to reply instead of eat, and said at last:

“In truth, monsieur, I have a very hearty appetite at this moment; but I
hope to succeed in satisfying it with what is on the table.”

“That is not what I referred to, monsieur, but to your pupil, to this
young man who should be the object of your utmost care here in Paris,
because, although it was absolutely necessary that he should come here,
we must see to it that he is not made the dupe of his innocence and his
amiable disposition.”

After taking time to swallow a chicken wing, the tutor replied in a
magisterial tone:

“In that respect, young Chérubin could not be in better hands! Never
fear, monsieur, I will draw for my pupil a most appalling picture of the
seductions in which people may seek to ensnare him. Morals before
everything! That is my motto. St. Paul said: _Oportet sapere ad
sobrietatem!_ But I say that, at the marquis’s age, one must be virtuous
first of all.”

“No, no, monsieur, that isn’t what I mean,” rejoined Monfréville, with a
shrug; “it isn’t a question of terrifying the young man and trying to
make a Cato of him. Let him enjoy such of the pleasures suited to his
years as his means will allow; but prevent his abusing them, and see to
it that he is not made the dupe of the schemers and swindlers with whom
Paris is overflowing.”

“That is just what I say, monsieur; I will be constantly on the lookout;
I will keep my eyes and ears open and my nose in the air, and it will
not be my fault if the child succumbs to temptation. Moreover, I have an
entirely novel system of education--always in the interest of good
morals.--Pardon me if I continue my breakfast.”

“Clearly the man is either a fool or a hypocrite,” thought Monfréville,
as he turned on his heel. “I trust that he is not both!”

Chérubin concluded his inspection of his family mansion, which seemed to
him old, dark and dismal. Monfréville advised him to have it painted,
furnished and decorated according to modern ideas.

Daréna returned, arrayed in the latest fashion; he had donned a part of
the purchases he had made that morning without untying his purse
strings, and with the money received from Poterne he had bought what he
still lacked. So that his costume was beyond reproach, and he wore it
with as much ease and unconstraint as he displayed in his old coat.

Chérubin admired Daréna’s elegant appearance and the grace with which he
wore his clothes. Monfréville made similar reflections, regretting that
a man possessed of so many advantages sometimes descended so low and
frequented such wretched company.

“Here I am, at your service,” said Daréna. “We must take Marquis
Chérubin somewhere. I can’t make up my mind to say ‘Grandvilain’;
indeed, the name doesn’t fit our young friend at all, and if he takes my
advice, he will be content with Chérubin alone, which is a most gallant
name.”

“What!” murmured Jasmin, “is monsieur going to drop his father’s name? I
tell you, I object!”

Nobody paid any heed to the old servant, and Daréna continued:

“First of all, our friend must see everything in Paris that deserves to
be seen. That will take time; for a shrewd observer there is a great
deal to see.”

“And then,” said Monfréville, “Chérubin will do well to give a few hours
every day to the masters who are quite indispensable; for his education
is far too incomplete for him to go into society.”

Monsieur Gérondif’s fork stopped in the act of conveying food to his
mouth, and he cried:

“Who says that my pupil’s education is incomplete? He will surely know
as much as I do very soon.”

“Come, come, learned Master André, don’t get excited,” said Daréna, with
a laugh; “I have no doubt that you are very strong in the dead
languages,--and in the art of carving a chicken; yes, you’re very good
at that. But can you teach our friend music, dancing, riding, fencing,
boxing?”

“Boxing?” muttered Jasmin, with an air of stupefaction.

“Yes, boxing, and all the fashionable sciences which a young man of rank
and fortune must know, unless he wishes to be laughed at.”

“Trust me,” said Monfréville, taking Chérubin’s arm; “my father was a
friend of yours, and even without that, your youth and innocence would
be sufficient to awaken my interest and to arouse in me a wish to make
an accomplished gentleman of you.”

“And to begin with,” said Daréna, “a short ride in the saddle; there is
nothing pleasanter in the morning. Do you know anything about riding?”

“Oh! I can ride very well, and I’m not afraid,” Chérubin replied; “at
the village I used to ride all our neighbors’ horses.”

“Good! there’s a livery stable close by where there are some very good
horses; let us go there and hire, pending the time when you have horses
in your stable--another indispensable thing.”

Chérubin went out with his two friends; he was beside himself with
delight at the thought of a riding party. Being still a novice in all
sorts of pleasure, Nicole’s foster-child had never before ridden
anything but plough horses.

They went to the stable-keeper, who ordered his three best horses
saddled. Just as the gentlemen were mounting, they heard a voice
calling:

“Well! isn’t there a horse for me too?”

Thereupon they discovered Jasmin, who had followed his master, after
tightening the waistband of his breeches as much as possible, covering
his head with a long-vizored cap, which entirely concealed his eyes and
nose, and arming himself with a hunting crop.

Chérubin and his friends could not help laughing at the aspect of Jasmin
in the garb of a groom, and Monfréville exclaimed:

“This old servant’s devotion is becoming very painful.”

“But I don’t need you, Jasmin,” said Chérubin; “go back to the house;
you can’t come with me, it would tire you too much.”

“I know my duty, monsieur,” replied Jasmin; “my place is always in your
rear.”

“Yes, yes, he is right,” said Daréna; “and as he insists on coming with
us, why, let him come.--A horse for this faithful retainer--a good
little trotting horse. Jasmin has the look of an excellent rider.”

“He will certainly be thrown,” said Chérubin, in an undertone.

“That is what I expect too; but it will do him good. This fellow needs a
lesson; he is extremely pig-headed; he insists on breaking your dishes,
capping your friends with cheese, climbing up behind carriages, and
riding horseback; we must try to cure him of this exuberant zeal.”

A horse was saddled for Jasmin, and, with the aid of two hostlers, he
succeeded in climbing to its back. The cavalcade started; in the streets
of Paris they went slowly and the old servant was able to follow his
master, which he did with much pride, sitting erect in his saddle and
bearing heavily on his stirrups; but when they reached the
Champs-Elysées, Chérubin and his two companions started off at a gallop.
Jasmin, seeing his young master disappear in a cloud of dust, was
determined to follow him, and began to strike his steed with his crop.
The beast, desiring nothing more than to join his stable companions,
sprang forward and darted in pursuit.

But his old rider had presumed too much on his strength; in a few
seconds the horse was galloping alone and Jasmin was rolling in the
dust.

When they reached the Bois de Boulogne, Chérubin turned and said:

“Well! where on earth is Jasmin?”

“I was certain that he couldn’t keep up with us,” said Daréna.

“If only he has not fallen and hurt himself!”

“Don’t be alarmed; at his age one falls gently. Somebody must have
picked him up, and we must hope that this lesson will correct the old
fellow a little, for his attachment needs to be toned down.”

They rode on, the two gentlemen admiring the confidence of their young
companion, who needed only a few lessons in grace and style to become an
excellent horseman.

After their ride they returned to Paris, sauntered along the boulevards,
visited several cafés, then went to one of the best restaurants in the
Palais-Royal, and after dinner to the play. About midnight Chérubin
returned home, not having had a single moment during the day to think of
the village.

He found that Jasmin was not hurt by his fall, but he admitted to his
young master that he should not try again to attend him to the Bois de
Boulogne.

The following days were no less thoroughly occupied; Monfréville and
Daréna were almost constantly with Chérubin; the former sent him
teachers in all the social accomplishments; the second talked to him
incessantly of the lovely little dancers with whom they had dined.

“Which of the four do you prefer?” he would ask.

And Chérubin would reply, lowering his eyes:

“They are very pretty, all four.”

“I understand, you liked them all. That can be arranged, and I will take
you to see them whenever you choose; you will be received with open
arms.”

At that suggestion Chérubin would turn as red as a cherry and stammer:

“Oh, yes! in a few days.”

And while his pupil was being taken about and entertained and dazzled,
Monsieur Gérondif lay idly in his bed, sat for hours at a time at the
table, showed his teeth to Mademoiselle Turlurette, and said to Jasmin
every day:

“Above all, worthy Eumæus, do not forget the orders to the concierge: if
anybody from Gagny, even Madame Frimousset, should call and ask to see
monsieur le marquis, she must be told that Monsieur Chérubin de
Grandvilain is absent, that he is travelling; for if my pupil should see
her again, above all if he should see little Louise, although he is
beginning to like the city, he might allow himself to be lured away
again, and all the fruit of our efforts would be lost! And that would be
the greater pity, because, thanks to the advice of his two friends and
the lessons I give him, he must necessarily become ere long a most
preponderating cavalier.”

Jasmin, who always humbled himself before the tutor’s learning, did not
fail to do exactly what he recommended, saying to himself that it could
not be wrong to send the nurse away without allowing her to speak with
his master, because a man who educates children must be perfectly
familiar with the rules of courtesy.

And the days and weeks and months passed in that life of enjoyment, of
constant occupation, and of dissipation, which Chérubin led at Paris.
Whenever he spoke of going to the village, his new friends said:

“Yes, to-morrow; you haven’t time to-day.”

But when Daréna proposed to Chérubin to take him to see one of the
little ballet dancers whom he thought so attractive, the marquis
replied, blushing to his eyes:

“Yes, to-morrow, to-morrow!”



XIV

A CHILD’S LOVE


While Chérubin was enjoying himself in Paris, making merry and thinking
of nothing but pleasure, at Gagny his friends were dismal and bored, and
shed frequent tears. It is often so in life: the happiness of one is
acquired only at the expense of others’ misery. Is it not too high a
price to pay? If we always reflected upon causes and effects, we should
sometimes regret being happy.

On returning from Montfermeil, where, it will be remembered, she was
sent by Monsieur Gérondif, Louise, who had discovered that he had had no
other object than to get her out of the way, asked anxiously where
Chérubin was; and Nicole, weeping bitterly, told her that the youth whom
she still delighted to call her fieu had gone to Paris with several
gentlemen, and some charming ladies, evidently foreigners, judging from
their costumes, who had danced in her house in a style utterly unlike
any village dance.

Louise wept a long while; her heart was torn. There was one pang more
cruel than all the rest in her suffering; at fourteen and a half a girl
may well know what it is to love; and with love jealousy had made its
appearance.

“You let him go!” said Louise, sobbing; “but he promised never to leave
me; those people must have taken him by force.”

“No, my child, Chérubin went away of his own free will, in high spirits,
in fact, and almost dancing with those little hussies, who twirled round
and round longer than the tops my boys used to spin when they were
little.”

Louise wept more bitterly still.

“Why did you let those horrid women come into your house?” she cried.
“Oh! I detest them!”

“Bless my soul, child, it was one of the gentlemen who brought ‘em; they
drank milk just like cats; and then they danced like kids.”

“And Chérubin went away with them!--But he’ll come back to-morrow, won’t
he, mother dear?”

“Let us hope so, my child.”

But the morrow and several more days passed without bringing Chérubin
back to the village. Louise was so depressed that Nicole forgot her own
grief to comfort her.

“But something must have happened to him!” the girl constantly
exclaimed. “Probably they are keeping him in Paris against his will;
for, if not, he would have come back. Let’s go after him, mother, let’s
go after him.”

Nicole tried to make Louise listen to reason.

“Listen, my dear,” she would say, “it’s a long, long while since
Monsieur Jasmin began to tell me: ‘My young master will have to go to
Paris some time; he can’t pass his whole life out at nurse! If it was
known that he’s still with you, I should be scolded.’ And a lot of
things like that. The fact is, my child, that they usually take children
away from a wet-nurse when they begin to talk, unless--unless----”

And the good woman stopped, for she was on the point of saying:

“Unless they do like your mother, and don’t take ‘em away at all.”

Louise had that instinct of the heart which enables its possessor to
read one’s inmost thoughts; she divined the words that died on Nicole’s
lips, and she said, sobbing and pressing her hand convulsively:

“Nobody came for me, I know that. My mother didn’t want me, and yet I
couldn’t have been naughty then--I was too young. And if it hadn’t been
for you, for your kindness, what would have become of me? Oh! dear
Nicole, how can a mother ever abandon her child? I would have loved my
mother so dearly, and she didn’t want to take me back, or even to kiss
me! Oh! she must have died, I am sure, or else she’d have come after me,
or at least have come to see me sometimes.”

“Yes,” said Nicole, kissing Louise, “you are right, my child, your
mother must have died and not had time to send for you; perhaps she
wasn’t able to tell where her child was. Bless my soul! people die so
sudden sometimes! That’s the way it must have been. But let’s not say
any more about it; you know, I don’t like to get into that subject, for
it always makes you sad.”

“That is why I so seldom mention it, my dear Nicole, although I think
about it almost all the time; but when Chérubin was with me, I used to
forget sometimes that I don’t know who my parents are. He told me that
he would always love me--and now he has abandoned me too.”

After this conversation Louise went to the end of the garden, where she
could weep at her ease. In vain did Nicole say to her:

“He’ll come back, my child, he’ll come back!”

Time passed and they saw nothing of Chérubin.

At last, yielding to the girl’s entreaties, Nicole started with her for
Paris one morning; and all the way Louise kept saying:

“We are going to see him. I’ll tell him how sad I am when I am away from
him; I’ll tell him that I cry almost all the time, that there’s nothing
to amuse me in the village, and he’ll come back with us, mother; oh! I
am sure that he’ll come back with us.”

Nicole shook her head with a doubtful expression, and murmured:

“At any rate, we shall find out whether he’s happy and well; that’s the
main thing.”

In due time they reached the old mansion in Faubourg Saint-Germain.

“This is his house,” said Nicole; “I recognize it all right! This is the
very house where I came to get him when he was a spindling little thing,
as thin as a rail. I made a fine boy of him, thank God! And then I came
here two or three times to bring him to his father, when the old
gentleman was alive.”

Louise gazed wonderingly at the old structure, whose severe aspect and
time-blackened walls almost frightened her. Meanwhile, they had entered
the courtyard, and Nicole said to the concierge:

“Monsieur, I’ve come to see my _fieu_--my nursling, young Chérubin, your
master. He left us to come here, but we don’t like not having a chance
to kiss him for so long; we couldn’t stand it any longer, so here we
are.”

The concierge, who had his orders, replied:

“You can’t see monsieur le marquis, my master, for he isn’t in the
house.”

“Gone out, has he? Oh well! he’ll come back! We’ll wait, won’t we,
Louise?”

“Oh, yes, mother, we will wait; for we must see him when we came to
Paris on purpose.”

The concierge rejoined with exasperating indifference:

“It won’t do you any good to wait; Monsieur de Grandvilain is travelling
and he may not come home for ten days or a fortnight.”

“Travelling!” cried Louise; “oh dear! it’s very annoying! Where is he
travelling, monsieur? in which direction? Has he gone far?”

“My master didn’t tell me.”

“But tell us at least whether he’s well?” said Nicole; “is he happy? is
he enjoying himself in Paris?”

“Monsieur le marquis is in perfect health.”

“Thank God! But why does he go travelling without coming to see
us?--Monsieur, are those young foreign ladies who dance so well
travelling with--with Monsieur Chérubin?”

“I couldn’t tell you.”

Nicole and the young girl returned to Gagny, sadly disappointed that
they had not been able to embrace Chérubin; but the nurse said to
Louise:

“Never mind, we know he’s well, and that’s a great deal.”

“Yes, dear mother, and no doubt he’ll come to see us when he returns
from this journey; if he doesn’t, we’ll go to Paris again, for he won’t
always be away.”

But once more the days and weeks passed without a word or a sign from
the youth whom they loved so dearly and whom they were always expecting.
Conquered by Louise’s tears and entreaties, Nicole consented to go to
Paris again, but the second trip was no more fortunate than the first.
That time, however, the concierge said that monsieur le marquis had gone
to pass some time at the château of one of his friends.

The two women returned to Gagny more depressed than ever.

“My dear child,” said Nicole, weeping with her, “I believe that the
little fellow I nursed doesn’t mean to see me again. You see that he’s
forgotten us, for he doesn’t come to the village or send us any word.
And when folks in Paris don’t want to see anyone, why they just say that
they’re out.”

“O mother! do you really think that Chérubin doesn’t want to see us,
that he would be ashamed of us?”

“I don’t say that, my child; but this much is certain: that I won’t go
to his house in Paris again; for they must have told him that we came,
and if he still cared anything about us, it seems to me that he wouldn’t
have lost any time before coming to see us.”

Louise could think of nothing to reply; she longed to defend Chérubin in
Nicole’s mind, when in the depths of her own heart she retained only a
glimmer of hope. After the second trip to Paris, the girl’s depression
became more and more marked; in the presence of her foster-mother she
tried to conceal her distress, her sorrow, but when she was alone she
gave way to them with a sort of enjoyment; for, in extreme unhappiness,
it is almost a consolation not to be disturbed in one’s musings, one’s
regrets, one’s memories.

Louise did like all those who have lost a beloved object--she haunted
all the spots which she had often visited and admired with him. When we
revisit the places where we have been happy, it seems that we must be
happy again; our memory recalls all the circumstances of our previous
visits, and the most trivial and futile things become of inestimable
value when they have some connection with the one we love. By dint of
identifying ourselves with our memories, we fancy that we are still
living in that bitterly-regretted past--our heart dilates with a thrill
of joy. But alas! how brief its duration! The present returns with its
overwhelming truth; we look about--we are alone, all alone--we find in
the depths of our hearts naught save a ghastly void, and no unalloyed
joy in the days to come.

One morning Nicole was working, Jacquinot sleeping, and Louise in the
garden, where she was thinking of Chérubin as usual, when a gentleman
entered the rustic dwelling.

“O _agrestis_ and _rusticus_ abode!” he cried; “I salute thee, but I do
not regret thee. My tastes do not agree with Virgil’s, I prefer the city
to the country.”

Nicole uttered a joyful exclamation at sight of Monsieur Gérondif, and
she made haste to call Louise, saying:

“Come quick, my child, here’s the schoolmaster come back; no doubt
Chérubin will soon be here too.”

It was in fact the tutor, who wore a hat so shiny that it looked as if
it were varnished, with his hair carefully oiled beneath it; his gloves
were glazed and his handkerchief drenched with Portugal water, but his
nose was redder than ever.

Louise rushed into the house. Never had Monsieur Gérondif’s presence
caused her such pleasure; she longed, yet feared to speak to him, but at
last she gave him her hand and said in a hesitating tone:

“Ah! what happiness, monsieur! You are going to tell us about _him_.”

Monsieur Gérondif, for his part, was speechless with admiration at sight
of the girl, for it was eight months since he had left Gagny, and in
that period a tremendous change had taken place in Louise, altogether to
her advantage. She was no longer a child, a little maid; she was a tall,
well-built, charming girl, who had every qualification to attract, and
to whom anybody would have given credit for seventeen years and a swarm
of suitors.

“It is most extraordinary!” cried the tutor; “it is sorcery surely! What
a gratifying change!”

“You find Louise grown, don’t you, monsieur?”

“Grown at least twelve centimetres, and her figure much more solid, more
palpable!”

“But Chérubin, monsieur, tell us about Chérubin! Never mind me. Is he
coming, monsieur? Shall we see him soon? Does he think about us? Does he
speak of us sometimes?”

“Is he very fat and healthy, and happy, the dear _fieu_? And when shall
we have a chance to embrace him? Why don’t he come to Gagny?”

“Monsieur le marquis is very well indeed,” replied Gérondif, still
ogling Louise. “You ask why he doesn’t come to see you? Why, my dear
Madame Frimousset, it’s plain that you know nothing of life in Paris,
and especially the life led by a young man in fashionable society! My
pupil hasn’t a moment to himself: in the morning he fences, rides
horseback, dances, sings and boxes; why, he hardly has time for his
meals. Then he has to go into society--theatres, concerts, balls! How in
the devil do you expect him to find a moment to come to this village?
It’s impossible! Even I had infinite difficulty in making the trip
to-day; I was obliged to hurry my breakfast, and I don’t like to eat
fast.”

“So we shan’t see him any more?” murmured Louise, whose heart had grown
heavy again, and whose eyes were filled with tears.

“I do not say that, adorable lass! but I say that you must be sensible
and not expect monsieur le marquis to interrupt his important
occupations for you.”

“Oh! I don’t expect anything! We’d have gone to Paris again to see him,
but they always tell us he’s away.”

“Don’t come to Paris, you will simply waste your time; how do you expect
to catch a young man on the wing who has five hundred things to do in
the day?”

“Five hundred things! Bless my soul! but the poor boy must get all tired
out!”

“As if he went on foot! He’s always in a carriage or on horseback; and
he rides at full speed.”

“And he can’t come as far as this!” said Louise, with a profound sigh.
“And those lovely ladies who dance so well--he goes to see them, of
course?”

“The ballet dancers! fie, fie! What about morals! We used those
mountebanks just as we use the magnet to attract a lot of things; but
afterward--_retro, Satanas_!”

“But I hope he still thinks of us!” said Nicole.

“The proof that he thinks of you, Dame Nicole, is that he has instructed
me to hand you this; for he wants you to be happy and to have everything
you need. And he’s very generous, is my pupil. Here, take it; there’s a
thousand francs in it. That’s a very pretty sum.”

As he spoke, Monsieur Gérondif handed Nicole a bag of money. She took
it, exclaiming:

“A thousand francs! Oh! that’s too much, a thousand francs. It’s a
handsome present, but if I could have given him a kiss at the same time,
I’d have enjoyed it much better.”

Jacquinot, who had just waked up, looked at the bag of money and
muttered sleepily:

“A thousand francs! How many casks does that make at six sous the
litre?”

“And didn’t he give you anything for me, monsieur?” inquired Louise. But
in a moment she added hastily: “Oh! it’s not a present, it’s not money
that I mean; but a kind word, a remembrance, a word to show me that he
hasn’t forgotten me. Pray try to remember, monsieur.”

Monsieur Gérondif scratched his nose and replied:

“No, my sweet girl, the marquis gave me no message for you in
particular, but he told me to wish you all the best of health.”

Louise turned pale and averted her eyes. Whereupon the tutor went to her
side and said in an undertone:

“Pray do not grieve, _mia cara bella_. Although the marquis forgets you,
there is one who will never forget you, who will watch over your future,
and will not allow you to vegetate in obscurity in this village.
Patience; you are still very young, although perfectly developed
already. Let us wait a bit; Penelope waited a long while for the return
of Ulysses, but he came at last and killed all her suitors. That man
shot perfectly with the bow!”

Louise gazed at Monsieur Gérondif in surprise, as if to ask him what he
meant; but he had turned to Nicole.

“Now, I must bid you adieu,” he said.

“What, already, Monsieur Gérondif, without eating a mouthful, and
without taking a drop to drink?”

“Have a glass of wine,” said Jacquinot; “nobody ever refuses that.”

“Pardon me, my dear Frimousset, but it’s very easy to refuse it, when
you are in the habit, as I am, of drinking fine wines; your _sour_ stuff
would make me sick now.”

“But why are you in such a hurry to go?”

“Excellent Nicole, I know that there are potted quail for dinner
to-day,--Mademoiselle Turlurette told me so,--and it would be uncivil to
myself not to take my share of them. Au revoir, virtuous country folk;
Nicole, watch over this little pearl--_margarita_; I commend her to
your care. And you, sweet Louise, do not give way to sorrow; you have a
grand future before you assuredly! _This oracle is more reliable than
the oracle of Calchas._ I wish you all the best of health, and I fly to
Villemonble to take the diligence.”

As he spoke, Monsieur Gérondif bestowed an expansive smile upon each in
turn; he added to the young girl’s smile an exceedingly ardent glance,
and took his leave, resuming his shiny hat and his glazed gloves.

“He tells me not to give way to sorrow,” thought Louise, when he had
gone; “and Chérubin gave him no message for me!”



XV

MONSIEUR POTERNE’S TRADE


Chérubin must inevitably appear ungrateful and fickle in his affection,
for he seems to have forgotten very quickly good Nicole, who had reared
him, and little Louise, his playmate, whom he said that he loved so
dearly. But such ingratitude and inconstancy are too natural in man for
us to be surprised at finding them in a mere boy. Chérubin had just
entered his eighteenth year; he was surrounded by people whose only aim
was to make life in Paris attractive to him, who were constantly
occupied in affording him new pleasures, and who did not fail to make
sport of him and rally him on account of the time he had passed at his
nurse’s. Ridicule is a very potent weapon among the French; grown men
fear and do everything to avoid it; could a child of seventeen be
expected to set it at naught?

However, Chérubin was not so forgetful as one might suppose. He had
often longed to go to see Nicole and Louise; but, in order to divert him
from that design, they had, in the first place, carefully concealed from
him the nurse’s two visits to the house; then they had told him that
Madame Frimousset had sent Louise away to a kinswoman in Bretagne, in
order to help her to forget the grief caused by her young friend’s
departure.

The prospect of not finding Louise at Gagny had considerably cooled the
young man’s longing to revisit the village. But, as he was still
desirous that his nurse should be happy, he had, as we have seen,
despatched Monsieur Gérondif to her with money, begging him also to
inquire about Louise, to ascertain whether she was likely to return to
Gagny soon--in short, to satisfy himself concerning her future.

On returning from his visit to Nicole, Monsieur Gérondif did not fail to
inform his young master that Louise was still in Bretagne, in the family
of a respectable, well-to-do farmer, who treated her like his own
daughter; and that she was very happy there.

Chérubin smiled faintly at the thought that his former playmate had
entirely forgotten him so soon; he felt a pang of sadness and regret,
and for a moment he thought of going to Bretagne, to reproach Louise for
changing so and for ceasing to love him.

For we are like that at every age: we are quite ready to forget other
people, but we are not willing that they should forget us; we are
inconstant and unfaithful, but we hope that others will be constant and
faithful to us; in short, we have no hesitation in deceiving, but we do
not wish to be deceived.

Daréna’s arrival always brought animation to the hôtel de Grandvilain;
and, while seeking to divert Chérubin, he availed himself of the
acquaintance to turn Monsieur Poterne’s talents to account.

For instance, the ugly hanger-on brought the young marquis two saddle
horses one morning, and, assuring him that it was a magnificent
opportunity, which he must not let slip, induced him to pay three
thousand francs for a pair of nags that were worth five hundred at the
very most.

At another time, it was a tilbury which Poterne had bought from a
Russian prince; at another, some fine hunting dogs of a very rare breed;
in short, Monsieur Poterne had reached the point where he dealt in
everything; he never appeared at the house without offering Chérubin
something at a bargain; he even brought canes, silk handkerchiefs,
parrots and cats. The young man bought everything, and paid with the
most absolute confidence. But Jasmin, who was beginning to consider that
Monsieur Poterne’s bargains were terribly extravagant, was in very ill
humor whenever he saw him enter the house; and he tried to devise some
means by which he could rid his master of his visits. Unfortunately the
old servant had never had a brilliant imagination, and as he grew old
that faculty had become more confined instead of developing.

Monfréville might have thwarted Daréna’s schemes and Poterne’s little
commercial ventures; but he had been obliged to go for some time to an
estate that he owned in the neighborhood of Fontainebleau, where
considerable repairs were necessary. When he left Paris, however, he
urged his young friend to distrust Monsieur Poterne’s services and
obliging disposition; but Chérubin was too young not to be trustful; and
moreover, Daréna always seemed amazed at the good bargains which his
steward found for the young marquis.

While Monfréville was absent, the mansion became crowded with horses,
hunting-dogs, birds of all varieties, gothic vases, and objects said to
be rare or curious, which Monsieur Poterne brought thither every day.

At last, Jasmin said to his young master, one morning:

“If this goes on, monsieur, your house will look like a bric-à-brac
shop! You can’t turn around here! This Monsieur Poterne induces you to
buy too many things; these antique, rare vases look very ugly to me; the
hunting dogs make a frightful noise, and when they are let go, they bite
everybody’s legs. And then the parrots shriek so, and you have five of
them! That so-called Spanish cat he sold you has changed color, and is
nothing but a common white cat now. And you have nineteen canes, my dear
master; I have counted them. What do you mean to do with nineteen canes?
Monsieur le marquis, your father, had only one, and he never carried
more at one time.”

“Hush, Jasmin,” Chérubin replied, laughing at his old servant’s
distress; “am I not rich? haven’t I the means to gratify my whims?”

“Excuse me, my dear master, but you buy all these things because
Monsieur Poterne tells you they’re magnificent, great bargains, and a
thousand other things to tempt you; why, you would never have taken it
into your head to have ten dogs, nineteen canes, five parrots and a
turtle, and to fill this house with old vases and strange looking jugs,
which I call hideous, as I do the turtle, which frightens me.”

“Because you don’t know about such things. Monsieur Daréna always
congratulates me on my purchases; he thinks everything is very fine and
not dear.”

“Oh! as to Monsieur Daréna,” said Jasmin, shaking his head, “I don’t
call him economical! By the way, my dear master, has he ever repaid the
money that you paid the tailor, the shirt-maker and the boot-maker for
him?”

“No; but that isn’t very important. He has probably forgotten it.
Besides, Jasmin, you told me then that it was very good form to lend
money to one’s friends, and that my father often did it.”

“That is true, monsieur, but all the difference is that your father’s
friends paid back what they borrowed.”

This conversation was interrupted by Poterne’s arrival; he still wore
his shabby box-coat, beneath which he carried something of considerable
size, which he kept carefully out of sight. Jasmin made a very
significant grimace at the appearance of the very person of whom he had
been speaking. But Monsieur Poterne came forward with a most humble air,
bowing to the ground, and trying to assume a pleasant expression.

“Ah! it’s Monsieur Poterne!” said Chérubin, laughing at his old
servant’s pantomime. “I was just talking about you with Jasmin, who
declares that my Spanish cat is turning white.”

Monsieur Poterne replied, with a sneering laugh that sounded like the
rattling of copper sous in a saucepan:

“Monsieur Jasmin is joking! The cat that I had the honor to sell you is
very valuable; he used to belong to a Spanish grandee. It is possible
that he may turn white temporarily; he may not be well; but the color
will all come back if you take good care of him.”

“Do you mean that you think that animals aren’t well fed in our house?”
demanded Jasmin haughtily.

“I didn’t mean that, my dear monsieur; but Spanish cats are very
delicate, and----”

“All right,” said Chérubin, “we have talked enough about a cat.
Doubtless you have come to offer me something new, Monsieur Poterne?
for you are an invaluable man! With you one has no time to form a wish.”

“Monsieur le marquis is too kind; as it happens, I have something.”

As he spoke, Monsieur Poterne bestowed a savage glance on the old valet,
whose presence embarrassed him; but Jasmin did not budge, and as his
master did not tell him to go, Monsieur Poterne was fain to make up his
mind to exhibit before him what he had under his coat.

“Well, what have you brought me to-day?” asked Chérubin.

“What I have brought you, monsieur le marquis,--is a bargain.”

“Always bargains,” muttered Jasmin; “we know all about that.”

“I have just come from the sale at an ex-minister’s house; he was a
great epicure. At your age, monsieur le marquis, young people like
sweetmeats--good things--especially those that are hard to get. Faith,
when this was put up for sale, I thought that you might like it.”

As he spoke, Monsieur Poterne produced from beneath his coat a huge jar
of blue china, carefully sealed with parchment.

“What is there in that, Monsieur Poterne?”

“Indian preserve, monsieur le marquis; it’s a very popular sweetmeat in
hot countries, and very rare in France, on account of the difficulty of
bringing it here; this is made of pineapples.”

“The deuce!” muttered Jasmin; “he’s taken to bringing us eatables now!
This is the finishing touch!”

“A jar of this size is ordinarily worth a hundred francs at Chevet’s,
when he has any. I got this for fifty, and I bought it with the
intention of offering it to you.”

“Thanks, Monsieur Poterne; pineapple preserve should be delicious, in
very truth.--Jasmin, give Monsieur Poterne fifty francs, then take this
preserve to the pantry.”

Jasmin took the jar which the ugly knave handed him.

“We don’t need preserves,” he muttered. “Mademoiselle Turlurette makes
very good ones, and it wasn’t worth while----”

A glance from Chérubin imposed silence on the old retainer, who walked,
still grumbling, to the secretary and took out the money, while Poterne
said to the young man:

“I shall soon have something very interesting to offer to monsieur le
marquis. It’s a monkey of the large species, extremely bright and
intelligent, whose owner would not dispose of him except that he has
failed in business. I mean to seize the opportunity, and you will have a
monkey worthy of a king.”

“A monkey!” cried Jasmin; “that would be the bouquet! Our house would be
a complete menagerie then!”

“Hush, Jasmin,” said Chérubin; “and do you, Monsieur Poterne, bring me
the monkey as soon as you obtain it. I am very anxious to own it.”

Monsieur Poterne bowed, took the fifty francs which the old servant,
with a horrible grimace, counted out to him, and left the room,
repeating that he would try to get the monkey at a reasonable figure.

Chérubin, who had an appointment with Daréna and several other young men
to breakfast at the Café de Paris, hastily completed his toilet and
dismissed his old servant, who was in despair at the idea of having a
monkey. He left the room, after casting an angry glance at the jar for
which his master had just paid fifty francs.

A few minutes later, Chérubin, attended by a genuine groom, entered his
tilbury and drove away, paying no heed to Jasmin, who shouted to him
from a window in the pantry:

“He’s taken us in, monsieur! It’s grape jelly and nothing else!”



XVI

MONSIEUR POTERNE CONTINUES HIS LITTLE TRICKS


At the Café de Paris, Chérubin found Daréna and two young dandies whose
acquaintance he had made in the foyer of the Opéra. Intimacies are
quickly formed at eighteen years; we proffer and give our friendship as
if it were the most commonplace thing in the world. As we grow older, we
often discover that we gave nothing and received nothing.

Chérubin’s two new friends were only a few years older than he. One of
them, whose name was Benoît Mousseraud, called himself _de_ Mousseraud,
and never mentioned his Christian name, which he considered vulgar. The
other, on the contrary, whose name was Oscar Chiponard, used his
Christian name only, and never mentioned his family name.

The former was a tall, slender young man of twenty-two, not ill-looking,
although his eyes lacked expression and his hair, which he declared to
be blond, bordered closely on the red; he was a brainless chatterbox,
who boasted of making a conquest of every woman he saw, and of being the
best dressed man in Paris.

The other was twenty-four years of age; he was small, dark,
yellow-skinned, and would have been decidedly ugly, except that his
black eyes were so full of fire and animation that they imparted much
expression to his countenance. He might have passed for a clever fellow,
if he had not had the folly to blush for his family and to lose his
temper whenever anyone mentioned the name of his father.

Both these gentlemen belonged to wealthy families. Mousseraud was the
son of a provincial notary and proposed to purchase a brokerage business
in Paris; Chiponard, whose father was a retired watchmaker, proposed to
do nothing at all.

They both displayed great friendliness to Daréna because he was of noble
birth, and he reciprocated because they were rich. In society there is
an almost constant interchange of these selfish sentiments.

“Come, come, Marquis Chérubin,” said Daréna, “we are waiting for you;
the breakfast is all ordered, and it will be rather fine; I understand
such matters.”

“You’re a little late,” said Oscar.

“He has probably been to bid one of his mistresses good-morning,” added
the tall Mousseraud, stroking his chin.

“My mistresses!” repeated Chérubin artlessly; “oh! I haven’t any.”

“Hasn’t any, indeed!” cried Daréna, nudging him; “I trust that you don’t
believe that! The fact is that he has them in all quarters; he is a
downright villain with the women already.--Don’t say that you have no
mistresses,” he added in Chérubin’s ear; “people will laugh at you and
point their fingers at you as a curiosity. And it’s a fact, my dear
fellow, that for a young man of eighteen, you are very backward.”

Chérubin blushed and hastily took his seat at the table. During the
breakfast Mousseraud talked incessantly of his _bonnes fortunes_, while
Oscar from time to time made malicious comments upon what his friend
said. Daréna ate, drank, and laughed at their speeches. Chérubin
listened to everything with the utmost good faith, simply uttering
exclamations of wonder when their adventures seemed to him
extraordinary.

“Yes, messieurs,” said the tall red-blond, “at this moment I have five
mistresses, without counting two others who are on the waiting list.”

“Waiting for what?” sneered Oscar.

“Parbleu! that is plain enough: waiting for the intrigue to be
consummated; it will be arranged this week, or next at the latest.”

“Then you will have seven mistresses, just like a rooster!”

“Oh! you may pretend to joke, Oscar, but it’s the truth. Indeed, I
sometimes have more.”

“You are getting to be a terrible fellow, Monsieur de Mousseraud!” said
Daréna; “however, if your conquests are pretty, accept my
congratulations.”

“Four of them are enchanting, two very nice, and one passable. But I
shall let the last three go; I intend to keep only the first quality.”

“What’s that! can you let a mistress go?” inquired Chérubin with a
surprised expression.

“I say, marquis, where have you come from? One would think, to hear you,
that you are a novice in love; whereas monsieur le comte assures us that
you are his pupil. That would not do him credit.”

Daréna emptied his glass and cried:

“Do you mean to say that you believe our young Adonis? Don’t you see
that he’s making sport of you--a man who keeps a damsel three days at
most? He takes us all in with his little innocent expression! And if he
deceives us men, tell me whether the women are not likely to fall into
his toils?”

“Monsieur Chérubin is favored in every respect,” said Oscar.

“Monsieur is not the only one!” rejoined tall Mousseraud, with a
conceited air; “I only say this, because it’s a fact, but, on my word of
honor, I have never met a woman who could resist me.”

“Oh! that’s not surprising with you!” retorted Oscar, in a mocking tone;
“you have such an ardent nature--anyone can see that from the color of
your hair.”

“What do you mean by that?” demanded the tall young man, while his
cheeks became as red as his locks. “Do you dare to say that I have red
hair?”

“It seems to me that there is no need for me to say so.”

“Come, come, messieurs; are we going to quarrel?” said Daréna. “We met
here to breakfast, to laugh and talk nonsense; and we lose our temper,
and sulk! That is most execrable form--and all about a matter of hair!
Mon Dieu! I wish that mine were red; I should be delighted! It is much
less common in France than dark or fair hair. And it proves too that the
hair is not dyed.--Fill my glass, Oscar, and you, de Mousseraud, serve
what is on that dish.”

“Yes, yes!” cried Chérubin; “instead of losing your temper, tell me what
you do with your seven mistresses?”

“Parbleu! what you do with yours, I presume.”

“I? Why, I haven’t----” A glance from Daréna checked Chérubin, and he
continued: “I don’t do anything at all with mine.”

“In that case they must play some amusing tricks on you.”

“I,” said Oscar, “have a fascinating little grisette just now; I give
her a cap every week and a dress every month, and she is perfectly
satisfied.”

“Among my seven mistresses,” said Mousseraud, “there is an Englishwoman
who costs me a lot of money; but she is an admirable creature!”

“What a braggart he is with his seven mistresses! He reminds me of Blue
Beard. Take them all out walking some day--you’ll look like a
boarding-school master.”

“I give women nothing but my heart now,” said Daréna; “and they are much
more fond of me since I put them on that diet.”

“And you, Chérubin, do you squander money on your charmers?”

“I--I don’t know--that depends,” stammered Chérubin, playing with his
knife.

“Really, you are too close-mouthed,” said Mousseraud; “one can get
nothing out of you.”

Chérubin, who was much embarrassed by the turn that the conversation had
taken, drew his watch, pretending that he had an appointment.

While he was looking at the time, Oscar Chopinard, who was beside him,
examined his watch.

“It’s very pretty, very thin, isn’t it?” asked Chérubin, holding the
watch for his neighbor to see.

That gentleman took it, scrutinized it again very closely, and
exclaimed:

“This is very strange! Is it a wager? Let me see the chain. Parbleu! the
chain too. It would be curious if the pin--Allow me, my dear Chérubin.”

And Monsieur Oscar, who, after examining Chérubin’s watch, had
scrutinized and weighed in his hand the chain that he wore about his
neck, turned his attention to his diamond pin.

“What makes you stare at me like this?” queried Chérubin; “what is there
about me that is so extraordinary?”

“You have upon you objects that I am much surprised to see you wear,”
replied Oscar; “a young man as rich as you are. You certainly didn’t pay
much for your watch and chain and pin?”

“Why, no, not too much--twenty-five hundred francs in all. To be sure, I
got them at a bargain.”

“Twenty-five hundred francs!” cried Oscar, bringing his hands together
violently; “well, my dear fellow, in that case, you have been robbed!
yes, absolutely robbed! The three articles are worth about sixty francs;
the stones are imitation, and the watch and chain are gilded copper.”

“Copper!” cried Chérubin; while Daréna muttered between his teeth:

“Ah! the villain! I almost suspected as much!”

“Why, it’s impossible! Monsieur Daréna’s man of business sold me all
these things.”

“I promise you that I am sure of what I say.”

“Parbleu!” cried tall Mousseraud, in a sneering tone, “Oscar ought to
know: his father was a watchmaker, and he was brought up in the shop.”

“How can this be?” said Chérubin, addressing Daréna. “You are well aware
that it was Poterne who brought me all these things.”

Daréna broke a plate with his glass, crying:

“If it is true, Poterne is a miserable villain who has deceived me
outrageously; but I will shatter him like this plate.”

Chérubin could not believe that they had told him the truth. They left
the restaurant and entered the first jeweler’s shop they saw. The
jeweler had no sooner examined the objects produced by the young man
than he said in a most courteous, but slightly sarcastic tone:

“Oh! how can you wear such trash, monsieur? I would not give fifteen
francs for the whole lot.”

Chérubin took off his chain, his pin and his watch, and dashed them all
on the floor, in a passion which was due, not to the loss of his money,
but to his vexation at being deceived. Then he gave the jeweler his
address.

“Please bring me to-morrow,” he said, “all that I believed that I really
owned--the handsomest things that you have; you will see, monsieur, that
I have the means to pay for genuine jewels.”

The jeweler bowed, assuring him that he should be obeyed; and they left
the shop.

“As for your Monsieur Poterne,” cried Chérubin to Daréna, “I advise him
not to show his face at my house again.”

Daréna, making a show of being furious, seized Chérubin’s hand and shook
it violently.

“My friend,” he said, “I am the involuntary cause of all this; that
rascally Poterne deceived me as he did you. I am sure that he is robbing
me shamefully too. But it is for me to punish him; I am going to find
him now and give him a thrashing.”

With that, he hastily took his leave of the three young men and went
home.

Daréna at this time occupied a small, but attractive apartment on Rue
Neuve-Bréda. Thanks to Poterne’s transactions with the young marquis, of
which Daréna received a share of the profits, he had been in funds for
some time. His man of business occupied a small room above his
apartment.

“Is Poterne in my rooms?” asked Daréna, as he passed the concierge.

“In yours or else in his, monsieur,” was the reply; “he’s upstairs. I
just saw him go in with the little boy who’s been coming to see him
every day for a fortnight.”

“Aha! so a little boy comes to see him every morning? About how old a
boy?”

“Oh! perhaps ten or twelve years old; but he’s got a very sharp face. He
ain’t handsome, but in spite of that, he’s got such a sly expression
that you’d almost call him good-looking.”

“What in the deuce can Poterne be doing with this boy?” said Daréna to
himself as he went upstairs. “Can it be his son? Oh, no! a man like him
never acknowledges a child; he would have to take care of him. It’s
probably some urchin whom he has hired to do his errands and polish his
boots; but I supposed that he did all that himself.”

Daréna entered his room, and, not finding Poterne there, went up another
flight and knocked at the door of his agent’s chamber.

Instantly there was a great commotion inside; it was as if chairs were
being upset, and closet doors opened and shut. At last Monsieur
Poterne’s shrill, unmusical voice inquired:

“Who’s there?”

“Parbleu! it’s I. Let me in, you old scoundrel.”

“Why don’t you let me know who it is at once?” asked Poterne, as he
opened the door. “I was very busy--your knock disturbed me--as I didn’t
know who it was.”

Daréna glanced about the room, which was in great disorder; then,
fastening his eyes on Poterne, who seemed to be anxious to set things to
rights, he said:

“You weren’t alone here, you had a small boy with you. What devilish
mystery are you brewing now, with this child? Come, answer quickly; I
am in no joking mood, I promise you!”

Monsieur Poterne’s only reply was to call out:

“Come, Bruno, come; you can show yourself; it was my intimate friend,
there’s no danger!”

Instantly a closet opened and a small boy of twelve years or more
emerged and rolled across the floor, uttering a shrill noise not unlike
the cry of a savage. The singularity of his behavior was intensified by
the fact that he was clad from head to foot in a sort of greenish skin,
hairy in spots; that that skin, which covered his hands and feet as
well, ended at those extremities in something like claws; and that a
very slender and exceedingly long tail depended from his posterior. His
face alone was uncovered.

“What in the devil is this?” asked Daréna, examining the boy, who went
through a multitude of leaps and capers on the floor, and seemed
perfectly accustomed to walking on his hands.

Monsieur Poterne emitted a hollow rumble, as if he were laughing
internally, and replied:

“This is a monkey I am training.”

“A monkey! For whom, pray?”

“For our young marquis. I wanted to sell him a large and handsome
monkey, but I had no desire to put out the money for one. I had noticed
this little bootblack at the corner; the rascal always did what errands
I gave him, to my entire satisfaction; I saw that he was a bright little
devil, so I proposed to him to play the monkey, for a handsome
remuneration. I bought this orang-outang’s costume, which is very
lifelike; Bruno comes here every morning and puts it on; then he
practises jumping and capering. He is doing very well, and he’s more
amusing than a real monkey. I have a mask, but I haven’t made up my
mind whether to have him wear one. As he is horribly ugly, I think that,
by staining his face and gluing hair on his eyebrows and chin, I could
make a fine monkey of him! Ha! ha!”

Daréna threw himself into a chair; he could not help laughing with his
agent, as he rejoined:

“This is shocking! it is horrible! and yet I cannot help laughing!
Really, this idea of manufacturing a monkey--Poterne, it’s a pity that
you are such a vile knave, for you have much imagination. But let us
suppose that Chérubin has bought this counterfeit monkey--is Monsieur
Bruno inclined to remain an animal all his life?”

“Why, no,” replied Poterne; “once in the house, he will cleverly choose
the moment to take flight; he will escape in one way or another--by the
chimney, if need be; for he has been a sweep, and he is perfectly at
home climbing chimneys. That part of it doesn’t concern me, you see; I
sell a monkey and get my money; it isn’t my fault if you let him escape.
Ha! ha!”

The boy, hearing Poterne laugh, followed his example, imitating anew the
monkey’s wild chatter, and leaping over all the furniture in the room in
order to develop his talent.

“Well,” said Daréna, after a moment, “you will lose the expense of
educating him, Poterne; this little scamp may play the monkey on the
boulevards, but he won’t do it in our young pupil’s house!”

“Why not, pray?”

“Why not? Because you are a villain, a swindler, a thief!”

Monsieur Poterne looked at the count with an expression which said
plainly enough: “You’ve known that a long while; why pretend to be so
surprised?”

“I have no objection to your selling things at rather a high figure to
my young friend, because tradesmen always get as much as they can. That
is business and nothing else. But I do not propose that you shall abuse
Chérubin’s confidence to the point of cheating him outrageously; and
that is just what you have done, master thief!”

Poterne rolled his eyes in amazement, muttering:

“I don’t see where the great harm comes in! I told him they were
preserved pineapples, and they’re turnips; but they can’t hurt him; on
the contrary, they’re less heating.”

“I am not talking about turnips--I don’t know about that episode, you
must tell me about it!--I am talking about the watch and chain and pin;
they are all sham, horribly sham; and you had the face to tell me that
they were worth eight hundred francs! You robbed me too, you villain!”

“It’s very lucky that they weren’t worth as much as that!” replied
Poterne coolly; “for, out of the twenty-five hundred francs I got for
them, you left me only five hundred to pay the dealer on account, and
you’ve never given me the rest since.”

“Because I had a sort of presentiment of your knavery! The idea of
selling trash, gilded copper, to my young friend! it is infamous!”

“Bah! look you, it seems to me that you’ve been living comfortably at
your young friend’s expense for eighteen months past.”

“Hold your tongue, Poterne, hold your tongue. I am tempted to break
every bone in your body, and you deserve it. See what a fine thing you
have done in not being content with the honest profits you might have
made on such things as you sold Chérubin; now you can never go to his
house again. I had thrown open an excellent house to you, and you have
closed it by your thirst for gold--and as a result you have injured me
considerably. I have derived some profit from your little
transactions--and that was no more than fair; as it was I who made you
acquainted with this rich youngster.”

“Some profit! In other words, you took the whole!” muttered Poterne,
with a horrible grimace.

“Once more, hold your tongue, or I cannot restrain myself!--Now, how
shall I maintain my position, my life of luxury? I can borrow of
Chérubin occasionally, to be sure, but that resource will soon fail me:
the most obliging people get tired of lending, especially when they are
never paid. I have tried to instil into my young friend a taste for
cards, telling him that it was the passion of fashionable people; but I
could not do it, cards are a bore to him; and then that devil of a
Monfréville has strongly advised him not to touch them. So that there is
but one way left for me to feather my own nest by making myself useful
to Chérubin, and that is--love. When a wealthy young man is in love, he
usually does all sorts of foolish things for the woman he loves. If
there are obstacles, he spends money lavishly to overcome them,--and we
should have had no difficulty in placing obstacles in his path whenever
we chose. Well! by some fatality which I cannot understand, Chérubin,
who exclaims in admiration at sight of a pretty face, who seemed to be
dead in love with my four little ballet dancers, who cannot look at a
grisette without a thrill, who, in short, acts as if he were
tremendously in love with all women, hasn’t yet engaged in any intrigue
or taken a mistress. I have proposed twenty times to take him to
Malvina, or Rosina, or Fœdora; he will agree at first, then refuse,
saying: ‘Later; we’ll see about it; I don’t dare!’ And my sarcasms, my
jests, fail to overcome his timidity.--That is where I stand now,
monsieur; I was justified, you see, in saying that your knavery has
placed me in an unpleasant position.”

Poterne, who had listened very attentively to Daréna, reflected for some
moments on what he had heard, and replied at last:

“If the young man has no love-affairs on hand, it is probably because he
has not yet met a woman who has really attracted him. Those dancers of
yours who seemed to be throwing themselves at his head--that’s not the
way to captivate a wholly inexperienced heart, which wants illusions,
ardent passion. Never fear, I’ll find what he needs, and before long I
will involve him in a most romantic and complicated intrigue.”

“Remember that you cannot show your face before Chérubin, who is quite
capable of kicking you downstairs. He is in a terrible rage with you, I
warn you.”

“Oh! don’t be alarmed; if I appear before him, I will take good care
that he doesn’t recognize me.”

“Poterne, if you succeed in arousing a passionate love in our young
man’s heart, I will give you back my esteem.”

“Oh, yes! I shall succeed! But first, you must give me time to find a
pretty girl, and then to learn whether--I say, Bruno! Bruno! where are
you going, you little rascal?”

During the foregoing conversation between Daréna and Poterne, the small
boy, who had understood that he was not to play the part of a monkey, as
he had been led to expect, had resumed his ordinary garb; but, when he
had finished his toilet, Monsieur Bruno, presuming that no one was
paying any heed to him, rolled the monkey’s skin around the mask, put
it under his arm, and left the room.

“My skin! my monkey’s skin, Bruno!” cried Monsieur Poterne, running out
to the landing. “Ah! you little vagabond! don’t you mean to give it back
to me?”

But Monsieur Bruno, who had become very skilful in gymnastic exercises,
thanks to the lessons he had taken in playing the monkey, ran down the
stairs so rapidly that he was at the foot before Poterne had covered
three stairs. The latter ran after the little thief none the less; and
while Daréna returned to his room, laughing at the episode, Monsieur
Poterne ran through the street after the bootblack, crying:

“My skin! my skin! stop that little scamp--he’s stolen my skin!”



XVII

ADVICE OF A FRIEND


On returning home, Chérubin sent for Jasmin and said to him:

“If Monsieur Poterne should ever dare to appear here again, I order you
to have him thrown out of doors; you may even go so far as to order the
concierge to thrash him; but you must not undertake it yourself, for you
are too old and he would return the compliment.”

Jasmin uttered a joyful exclamation, and said:

“What! really, monsieur? And without taking the monkey?”

“Oh! I forbid you above all things to take anything whatever from him.”

And Chérubin told his old servant what had happened.

“You see, monsieur,” said Jasmin, “that Poterne is an outrageous
swindler--I was sure of it. His so-called Indian preserves--I gave ‘em
to Mademoiselle Turlurette to taste; they gave her a very bad stomach
ache, and she’s been out of order ever since. I’m very much afraid,
monsieur, that everything you have bought of that Poterne is like your
watch!--And this Monsieur Daréna whose man of business he is--hum!”

“Daréna was even more furious than I with that man; he swore that he’d
thrash him. He was deceived too; it isn’t his fault.”

“All the same, my dear master, I very much prefer your other friend,
Monsieur de Monfréville. Ah! such a difference! he doesn’t borrow your
tailor; he doesn’t induce you to buy things; he doesn’t let his steward
loose on you.”

Chérubin smiled at Jasmin’s reflections, but it did not enter his mind
that Daréna could be a confederate in his agent’s wrongdoing. His heart
was too frank, too trustful, to suspect cunning and perfidy, and he
would have been unable to believe in Monsieur Poterne’s shameless
rascality had it been less abundantly demonstrated to him.

As for Monsieur Gérondif, who passed a large part of his time in sleep,
and another large part at the table, and who had adopted the habit of
reading Voltaire or Racine to Mademoiselle Turlurette of an evening,
telling her that he had composed the lines that morning, when he learned
what Monsieur Poterne had done, he exclaimed:

“That man never read _Deuteronomy_, where it says: _Non furtum facies_;
or else he mistranslated it.”

A few days after this adventure, Monfréville, returning from the
country, came at once to see Chérubin. When he spied the pack of
hounds, the parrots, the turtle, the canes, the gothic vases, and all
the alleged rare objects with which his young friend’s house was filled
to overflowing, he uttered an exclamation which was not of delight, and
said to Chérubin:

“Mon Dieu! what on earth induced you to buy all this stuff?”

“They are all bargains. I was told that they were very fine.”

“Fine! Why, they are all horrible, in wretched taste, and of no value
whatever. Your parrots are wretched cockatoos, your dogs are miserable
curs that I would not have to guard chickens! Even your canes are common
sticks of wood; this rattan is an imitation, it was never what it
pretends to be.”

“What did I say?” cried Jasmin; “that Poterne is an infernal pickpocket;
he has taken us in with everything, just as he did with the
jewels.--Tell monsieur the story of our watch, my dear master.”

Chérubin told Monfréville what had happened to him.

“If it was Monsieur Poterne who sold you all this,” said Monfréville, “I
am surprised no longer! But Daréna--do you still see him?”

“Yes,” replied Chérubin; “he was indignant at his agent’s conduct, and
he has told me since that he had beaten him and dismissed him from his
service.”

Monfréville smiled faintly; then he took Chérubin’s hand and said:

“My friend, you are still very young, and you cannot be expected to
understand men; the knowledge of the world which one acquires only by
experience and familiarity, unless one is blessed in youth with a most
observant mind, that knowledge is rather melancholy than agreeable! For
men are rarely what they choose to appear; frankness is not esteemed as
a virtue in society; on the contrary, the man would be considered a fool
or a boor who should say frankly what he thought, at the risk of
wounding the self-esteem of this one or the susceptibility of that one.
We consider those people delightful who never have any but agreeable and
flattering words in their mouths, and we do not worry as to whether they
mean what they say. In the world, every man acts as his interest or his
passions impel him, and they who make the most parade of their virtues,
their honor, their good faith, are the ones whom we should trust least;
for people who are really virtuous and upright deem it perfectly natural
to be so, and quite unnecessary to proclaim it. I have not said all this
to you earlier, for I regret to deprive you of the illusions which make
a large part of the charm of youth, and with which we begin life; but I
take too deep an interest in you not to try to put you on your guard
against the snares which may be laid for you.”

“What, my dear Monfréville,” said Chérubin sadly, “can’t we trust
anybody in the world?”

“I don’t mean to go so far as that. I do not want to make a misanthrope
of you--God forbid! But I warn you that you must be particular in the
choice of your friends.”

“Monsieur Gérondif has often told me that when a man became learned he
became a man to be feared, because a learned man can never be cheated by
anybody, as he knows more than other men.”

“I don’t know whether your tutor is very strong on his authors, but he
is rather weak in knowledge of the human heart. In the first place, a
person may be very learned without a spark of wit--we have proofs of
that every day; and in the second place, those who have the most wit
are almost always the ones who are most easily cheated; doubtless
Providence so ordained as a recompense to fools.”

“So you feel sure that people will try to cheat me?”

“You are young and rich, and you have had very little experience. There
are numbers of people who would like to take advantage of that
combination. All this that I am saying is very sad--but you will realize
later that I am right.”

“Have you been caught often, Monsieur de Monfréville?”

This artless question brought a smile to the lips of him to whom it was
addressed; he heaved a sigh, however, as he replied:

“Like other men, my friend. Take my advice and do not form an intimacy
with Daréna. I dislike to speak harshly of anyone; but the more I
observe the count, the more strongly I feel that his acquaintance is not
at all suitable for you.”

“But he is very amusing, very agreeable, very clever.”

“I know it, and that makes him all the more dangerous. He has already
borrowed money from you, has he not?”

“Why, yes--sometimes.”

“He will never pay you.”

“Do you think not?”

“I am sure of it. He will urge you to play.”

“Yes, he has often proposed it.”

“It is the most fatal of passions. He is a gambler and he has ruined
himself. When a man has reached that point, he tries too often to ruin
others; for an unlucky gambler is sometimes far from delicate in the
methods to which he resorts to obtain money, in order to gratify his
passion. Daréna has reached that point.”

“As you have so bad an opinion of Daréna, how does it happen that he is
a friend of yours? Why did he come to Gagny with you?”

“Your question is perfectly just; but in society one accepts a man’s
good qualities and does not concern oneself enough about his bad ones.
Daréna bears an honorable name; he is able to behave most becomingly
when he chooses; in fact, he has most agreeable and fascinating manners;
and nobody asks for anything more in society. But, I tell you again, one
should look for something more in a friend.”

“And the women, my dear Monfréville, the women--must I distrust them
too? Ah! that would be a great pity, women are so pretty!”

“It’s different with women! As a general rule, men are too fickle to be
exacting in the choice of their mistresses, and for that reason such
liaisons are not at all dangerous. What does it matter that you are in
love with a coquette, with a woman whose reputation is more than shady,
with an actress who will make a fool of you? That love will soon be
replaced by another, which, in its turn, will be as quickly forgotten! A
man’s reputation has nothing to fear from all that; on the contrary, the
more love-affairs you have, the more flattered the ladies will be to win
your love; that fact says more for their self-esteem than for their
hearts.”

“What do you say? to attract the women, one must deceive them?” cried
Chérubin, gazing at Monfréville with an incredulous expression. “Do you
mean that it is all the same to them whether we forget them and abandon
them?”

Monfréville turned pale, his brow darkened, and he kept his eyes on the
floor for a long while; not for some moments did he reply:

“There are women who never forgive inconstancy, but they are not
ordinarily the ones who love you the best; for true love makes one
indulgent. It forgives, provided that you return in all sincerity. I
tell you, Chérubin, that the shrewdest man knows nothing about a woman’s
heart. There has been much discussion of the subject, and no two persons
ever agreed. Tertullian declares that the devil is not so spiteful as
woman, and Confucius says that a woman’s soul is the masterwork of
creation. Cato maintains that wisdom and virtue are incompatible with
the female mind, and Tibullus that woman’s love brings us back to
virtue. How are we to form an opinion about it?--But I believe that at
this moment I am too much like your tutor, who overwhelms you with his
learning. I conclude, my young friend, by informing you that the best
way to be happy is to form no attachment. Love all women! Your life will
glide along amid pleasures and folly. But if you love only one, you must
expect much sorrow in exchange for a little happiness.”

“Love all women, you say! I ask nothing better! I fall in love with all
I see--when they are pretty.”

“But I believe that you have not yet formed any liaison? I have not
heard that you have any mistress!”

“No--you see--it seems to me that I shall never dare to tell a woman
that I love her. A man must be very bold to say that, do you know?”

“Ha! ha! this is the result of a sojourn of sixteen years with your
nurse. But you must cast off this timidity, which will be much more
injurious than advantageous to you, especially with the fair sex. You
are more than eighteen years old--you must make a start, show yourself
in society. You must not serve your apprenticeship in love with
grisettes or supernumeraries from the theatre. You will find something
better than that. In the fashionable society to which I propose to
introduce you, a thousand women will contend for your favor, and they
will do you credit, at all events. Moreover, it is high time that you
should know something besides the theatres, cafés and restaurants of
Paris; the salons are where a man gets his training, and I will take you
to those where refined manners are the rule. With your name you will be
welcomed everywhere. This is the season for receptions; Madame Célival
has resumed her assemblies, which are very brilliant affairs; the best
people in Paris go there. I will introduce you to her house.”

Chérubin trembled at the idea of going into society; he was afraid of
being awkward and clumsy, and of being unable to talk. But Monfréville
encouraged him, promised to be his guide and to stay with him, and the
young man consented to allow himself to be taken to Madame Célival’s
reception.

The day arrived too quickly for Chérubin, who, having never attended any
such function, was greatly excited at the mere thought of finding
himself in the midst of a large company, exposed to everybody’s glances
and remarks.

“What shall I say?”--That was always the result of Chérubin’s
reflections; and, pending Monfréville’s arrival, he went to Monsieur
Gérondif, to consult him as to what a young man may find to say when he
makes his first appearance in society.

Monsieur Gérondif was learning some of La Fontaine’s poetry by heart,
intending to recite it to Mademoiselle Turlurette as his own. The tutor
was not enamored of the housekeeper; he considered her over-developed
for him, and he had views elsewhere; but Mademoiselle Turlurette’s
functions included the department of preserves, sweetmeats and liqueurs,
and Monsieur Gérondif was very fond of all such dainties.

When he saw his pupil enter his room, the tutor was thunderstruck; it
was the first time that Chérubin had paid him a visit since they had
been in Paris. He imagined that he wished to resume his studies, and he
said:

“Everything is ready, my noble pupil. I am always expecting you. I have
prepared abstracts of history, mythology and geology for you. I am
always at work in your service. At this moment, as you are taking
lessons in _savate_, I am trying to find the origin of that form of
exercise in Plutarch’s lives of illustrious men. I find the _cestus_,
boxing and wrestling, but I haven’t yet found _savate_.”

“I thank you, Monsieur Gérondif,” replied Chérubin, “but that is not
what I have come about. This evening Monsieur de Monfréville is to take
me into society; he declares that it is necessary for me to go there,
that I shall acquire refined manners there; he is probably right, and I
have promised to let him take me. But what do people say at a
fashionable reception? How should one behave? Do you talk with people
whom you don’t know?--I thought that you could tell me that, you know so
many things; for as yet I haven’t been anywhere except to the theatre
and concerts, and to cafés; and I must confess that I am terribly afraid
of cutting a foolish figure in company.”

“Foolish!” cried Gérondif; “that is impossible! You forget that you are
my pupil; you are not equal to me in Horace and Virgil, but you know
some passages--you must repeat them when you are talking with men. With
the ladies, it is different; employ those figures of speech, those
metaphors, which embellish discourse; compare them to Venus, Diana,
Juno, Hebe, and you will certainly win a surprising triumph. But, if you
wish me to go with you, I will stand behind you and prompt you.”

Chérubin did not consider it necessary to be attended in company by his
tutor; he believed that Monfréville would keep his promise and would not
leave him.

Monfréville called for his young friend at the hour appointed. He was
dressed in the most perfect taste; his slender and shapely figure was
encased in an exquisitely fitting coat, which he wore with much grace.
His youthful bearing, his beautiful dark hair and his still charming
face made him seem barely thirty years old, although he was near forty.

Chérubin, who was dressed in the latest style, still retained a trace of
the awkwardness characteristic of village youths; but as he was
well-built and had a most attractive face, the awkwardness of his
carriage sometimes resembled the innocent coquetry of a schoolboy.

They entered the carriage, and Monfréville said:

“I am taking you into fashionable society, but, in order to dispel any
feeling of shyness, that may injure your prospects, say to yourself
first of all that you are of as good family as any of the people you
will see there; say to yourself in the second place, that, thanks to
your fortune and your rank, you need no support. When a person can say
that to himself, my dear Chérubin, he should be perfectly self-possessed
in society; indeed, some people are too much so. In default of the
advantages which you have, and which everybody cannot have, a
philosopher would say: ‘Why should I allow myself to be awed by this
man’s title, or by that man’s fortune? Are they not men like myself,
after all? Imagine all these vain, proud people in the costume of our
first parents in the Garden of Eden; strip them of these decorations,
these jewels, these costly clothes, in which their whole merit often
consists,--will they be so imposing to me then? No, indeed; it is
probable that they will make me laugh, and that is all.’--My dear
fellow, a few such reflections are enough to put one entirely at his
ease in the most exalted company.”

“You encourage me,” said Chérubin; “I shall talk Latin with the men, and
with the ladies I shall talk about Venus, Diana and Phœbe. Monsieur
Gérondif advised that.”

“If you want to make people laugh at you, that would be the best of all
ways. I suspected that your tutor was a fool, now I am sure of it.”

“Mon Dieu! what shall I say then, if anyone speaks to me?”

“Reply to what they say.”

“But suppose I don’t know what to reply--suppose I can’t think of
anything to say?”

“Keep silent then. A person is never stupid in society when he knows how
to keep silent; indeed there are people who owe their reputation for wit
to their silence.”

“But suppose I see any lovely women, who take my fancy?”

“Tell them so with your eyes; they will understand you perfectly.”

“But if I want to make their acquaintance, to pay court to them?”

“Say whatever comes into your head; but above all things don’t try to be
bright, for you would make yourself a terrible bore.”

“But suppose nothing comes into my head?”

“You still have the resource of silence and eloquent glances; there are
many people who stop there.”

“But this lady to whose house you are taking me?”

“True, I must tell you something about her. Madame Célival must be about
thirty-six, but she is very good-looking; she is an alluring brunette;
her eyes are most expressive, she has a lovely figure and graceful
outlines; there is something fascinating, something voluptuous in her
whole aspect, which seduces all the men. Madame Célival is a coquette,
too, and is not supposed to be too cruel to those who sigh for her; but
that is whispered only. She is her own mistress, however; she is the
widow of a general, yes, a real general, who actually lived and left her
a handsome fortune and no children. You may judge that the lovely widow
does not lack adorers.--But, attention; here we are.”



PART III



XVIII

FIRST APPEARANCE IN SOCIETY


In an elegant, brilliantly-lighted apartment on Rue Saint-Lazare, a
fashionable company, already quite numerous, was engaged in conversation
that was rarely of a private nature, but often piquant and satirical. At
intervals, some witty person interjected a word or two, while the
undaunted chatterers, who never had anything clever to say, persisted in
holding the floor.

Madame Célival was just as Monfréville had described her: lovely,
amiable, coquettish, glancing at a mirror from time to time, to be sure
of the effect of her gown; paying due attention to all her guests, with
the talent of a woman accustomed to society, but reserving softer and
tenderer smiles for the men who were paying court to her.

Near the couch on which the mistress of the house had just taken her
seat sat a young and pretty blonde, dressed in muslin and crêpe, and
entangled in veils and scarfs that almost concealed her charming
features; it was all pink and white and formed so becoming a frame for
this lady that at a distance she resembled one of those engravings of a
woman’s face surrounded by clouds.

Madame Célival thanked the pretty blonde for consenting to come to her
reception, despite the torture caused by her nerves. A few steps away
was a tall gentleman wearing a decoration; he was very thin and very
ugly; his chin was surrounded by a sparse necklace of jet-black beard;
moustaches no less glossy, and carefully waxed and twisted at the ends,
made his face resemble a cat’s in some measure. He was addressed as
colonel.

A young man whose hair was parted and curled with as much care as a
woman could possibly take, and whose regular, but somewhat harsh
features recalled the faces which our historical painters love to give
to the heroes of ancient Rome, was standing by the fireplace; he rarely
removed his eyes from the ladies who were talking on the divan, but he
seemed not to be observing either of them more particularly than the
other.

Near the piano, for there was necessarily a piano in the salon, several
young persons were assembled, turning over the leaves of albums, or
looking at the music; they were not all good-looking, but they were all
dressed with so much taste, there was so much reserved grace in their
manners, that even those who were not pretty were not without charm.

In another part of the room the mammas were chatting together; some were
dressed with a coquetry which seemed to indicate a purpose to outshine
their daughters; others displayed a simple but tasteful elegance, suited
to their age, which made them the more attractive when they were still
young enough to attract.

Some young men were fluttering about the younger ladies, while others
contented themselves with standing very straight and stiff in order to
call attention to the finished elegance of their clothes and the good
taste with which their hair was arranged. Some had assumed a smile which
remained as if stereotyped on their faces throughout the evening. Then
there were men of uncertain age standing and talking in the middle of
the room; among them a gentleman, whose gray hair, very scanty over his
forehead, curled luxuriantly about his temples. He possessed a
distinguished and intellectual face, but there was an over-curious,
over-inquisitive expression in his little eyes, which gleamed with the
vivacity of youth, although his face indicated that he was in the
neighborhood of sixty. This gentleman talked incessantly, with much
energy, and while carrying on a conversation in one part of the salon,
managed to hear what was said elsewhere, and thus took part in most of
the other conversations, sustaining his share of the discussion on
several different subjects at the same time, with the same facility with
which Caesar dictated several letters at once in different languages.

Another salon, smaller than that where the ladies were sitting, and
reached by passing through a lovely little room furnished with the most
delicious luxury, was set aside for those of the guests who wished to
play cards. Whist and bouillotte tables were prepared, but there were as
yet no players.

Monsieur de Monfréville and the Marquis Chérubin de Grandvilain were
announced. All eyes were turned toward the door. The names Chérubin and
Grandvilain formed such a strange contrast that everybody was curious to
see the person who bore them.

“Monsieur de Grandvilain!” said one; “Gad! how ugly he must be! He must
be an elderly man.”

“But the footman said Chérubin too; that’s a very pretty name.”

“They can’t belong to the same man.”

“Probably there’s a father and a son.”

While the guests indulged in these reflections, Madame Célival said to
those who were nearest her, but speaking loud enough to be overheard by
everybody:

“Monsieur de Monfréville did ask my permission to introduce a young man
who has never been out at all; and I granted it the more willingly
because this young man, who is the last of a noble family, deserves, so
it is said, all the interest that Monsieur de Monfréville takes in him.”

“Ah! very well done!” murmured the gray-haired gentleman; “a little
announcement preceding the introduction.”

At that moment Chérubin entered the salon with Monfréville. Despite all
that his mentor had said to him, he was far from self-possessed, and the
deep flush that covered his cheeks sufficiently betrayed his
embarrassment. But his eyes were so lovely and soft, his features so
refined, his face so interesting, that a flattering murmur greeted his
entrance into the salon, and everyone felt prepossessed in his favor at
once. The young men who were standing stiffly erect to display their
fine points were the only ones who did not seem to share the general
feeling.

“He has a very awkward manner,” said one.

“He carries himself badly,” said another.

“He looks like a woman in man’s clothes,” murmured a young dandy,
bristling with beard, moustache and side-whiskers.

And Monsieur Trichet, the gray-haired gentleman, smiled maliciously and
said:

“Chérubin! a most appropriate name. He is Comte Almaviva’s little page
to the life! He still lacks the gallantry and self-assurance of his
namesake; but those will soon come. The ladies will ask nothing better
than to train him.”

Madame Célival greeted the young man with a charming smile when
Monfréville presented him. She made several of those complimentary
remarks which captivate instantly the person to whom they are addressed.
Chérubin tried to reply to her compliments, but he went astray and
tangled himself up in a sentence which he was unable to finish. Luckily
Monfréville was at hand and interposed to relieve his embarrassment, and
Madame Célival was too well-bred not to do her best to put him at his
ease. So that, after a few moments, Chérubin began to venture to look
about him.

“What a lot of pretty women there are here!” he whispered to his
sponsor. “I say, my friend, do you mean to say that one can love them
all?”

“You are perfectly at liberty to love them all, but I cannot promise
that they will all love you.”

“The mistress of the house is very beautiful; she has eyes that--I don’t
dare to say it.”

“Say on.”

“That dazzle one, intoxicate one--excuse me, but I can’t think of the
right word.”

“Intoxicate isn’t at all bad; in fact, you have unwittingly hit upon the
most apt expression; for if wine deprives us of our reason, a pretty
woman’s eyes produce precisely the same effect. I am tempted to tell
Madame Célival what you just said about her eyes; she will be flattered
by it, I’ll wager.”

“Oh! my dear fellow, don’t do that--I shouldn’t dare to look at her
again. But the lady opposite is very pretty too! That blonde almost
hidden by pink and white muslin.”

“That is Madame la Comtesse Emma de Valdieri; she is a fascinating
creature, in very truth; she has something of the sylph about her,
something of a daughter of the air. She is perfectly proportioned: small
feet, small hands, small mouth, small ears; only her eyes are large.
She is the perfect type of tiny women. But she is exceedingly nervous
and flighty, and, above all, capricious; to-day she will greet you with
a tender glance, to-morrow she will act as if she did not know you;
adulation has spoiled her. Comtesse Emma is French, but her husband is a
Corsican. He is that stout gentleman with whiskers, who is singing at
the piano. He has a superb bass voice, so that he is always anxious to
sing; and, although he’s a Corsican, he seems to be very little
disturbed by the homage paid to his wife.”

Monsieur Trichet, who was at some distance from Monfréville, succeeded
none the less in overhearing what he said to Chérubin; and he approached
the two friends, saying in a sarcastic tone:

“True, true. Valdieri, the handsome singer, is not at all jealous; but
it isn’t safe to trust him! With these Corsicans, there is always the
vendetta to guard against. Is your health good, Monsieur de
Monfréville?”

“Very good, monsieur, I thank you.”

“It is some time since you have shown yourself in society.”

“I have been obliged to pay a long visit to my estate near
Fontainebleau.”

“Oh, yes!--So you are introducing monsieur in society? He could not find
a better guide.”

Chérubin bowed and attempted to say a few words in reply; but after a
vain effort, he deemed it more prudent to hold his peace. Monsieur
Trichet was about to continue the conversation, when he saw, at the
other end of the room, three gentlemen talking with great earnestness;
he instantly ran toward them, crying:

“That isn’t so--you’re wrong! I know the story better than you do, and
I’ll tell it to you.”

Monfréville smiled at Chérubin and said:

“I need not tell you that that gentleman, whose name is Trichet, is the
most inquisitive and loquacious mortal whom it is possible to meet. He
can’t see two people talking together without joining their
conversation, which is not always agreeable. However, as Monsieur
Trichet is a very wealthy old bachelor, who gives very handsome fêtes,
and as, aside from his curiosity, he doesn’t lack wit and tells a good
story, he is made welcome everywhere, in salons and at the theatres.”

Chérubin was still engaged in looking about at the assembled company,
when the door opened and the footman announced:

“Monsieur, Madame and Mademoiselle de Noirmont.”

A lady above middle height, but of dignified and refined bearing,
entered first, with a girl of some fourteen or fifteen years. The lady,
whose dress, although rich, was almost severe in its simplicity, seemed
to be rather more than thirty years of age; her features were beautiful,
but grave; her large dark eyes, surmounted by heavy eyebrows, wore a
vague and thoughtful expression which might lead one to think that her
thoughts were often busy with something different from what she was
saying; her lips, somewhat too tightly closed, hardly ever parted in a
smile. That cold and haughty face was framed by beautiful tresses of
black hair, which fell very low.

The young lady had the winning charm of her age; although she was not
very pretty, her features attracted one by their fascinating expression
of playfulness and mischief, which was often moderated by her mother’s
stern glances.

Monsieur de Noirmont, who came after them, was a man of fifty; he was
very tall and stooped a little; his temples were shadowed by a few dark
hairs, but the top of his head was entirely bald. His appearance was
stern, supercilious and far from attractive; his regular features had
probably been handsome, but his steely glance, his sharp voice and his
shortness of speech inspired neither affection nor confidence.

The arrival of these three persons seemed to cause Monfréville profound
emotion; his brow became wrinkled, his eyebrows drew together, and a
veil of melancholy covered his eyes. But in a moment, surmounting his
sensations, he succeeded in resuming the amiable and unruffled air which
he wore on his arrival; indeed one would have said that he made it a
point to seem more cheerful than before.

Monsieur Trichet, who had returned to Chérubin’s side, did not fail to
comment on the new arrivals:

“That’s the Noirmont family; they have left their estate in Normandie,
and they live in Paris now. They must have found it very dull in the
country. They are not a very hilarious family. That De Noirmont is stiff
and sour and overbearing! Just because he was once in the magistracy,
you would think that he was always sitting in judgment on you. However,
he’s a man of the strictest probity; he deserves his reputation, but
he’s not an agreeable companion. As for his wife, she is a worthy mate
to her husband--she talks very little and never smiles. I don’t know
whether she has any wit, but at all events she never compromises it. As
for her virtue--oh! that is intact, as far beyond reproach as her
husband’s probity. And yet Madame de Noirmont, who is very handsome
still, although she may be thirty-three or thirty-four years old--yes,
she must be quite that--must have been an enchanting creature at
eighteen, assuming that she deigned to smile occasionally then. Their
daughter, young Ernestine, is a mere child still. She is a nice little
thing, merry and playful--which proves that she takes after neither
father nor mother. But that is often seen.--Stay, colonel, I knew the
person you are talking about, and I will explain the matter under
discussion.”

At that, Monsieur Trichet joined the tall gentleman with the waxed
moustache, who was talking with two ladies; and Chérubin, turning his
head, saw that Monfréville was no longer by his side.

Finding himself alone, in the midst of that numerous assemblage, the
young man felt sorely perturbed and lost the assurance which he derived
from his friend’s neighborhood. As he preferred not to stand there,
awkward and embarrassed, by the fireplace, where he was exposed to every
eye, he succeeded in extricating himself from the circle by slipping
behind an easy-chair, and thence made his way to a window recess, where
he was prevented from going farther by several persons who were seated
there. He tried to retrace his steps, but Madame de Noirmont and her
daughter had seated themselves in front of him and closed the way by
which he had come; so that he was blockaded in a very confined space,
which he could not leave except by compelling the ladies in front of him
to rise. As he was incapable of such an audacious act, he decided to
remain in the corner where he was, until it should please chance, or
Monfréville, to release him from his prison.

The ladies who were seated in front of the recess in which Chérubin
stood had no suspicion that there was anybody behind them. The
conversation continued in the salon; the guests walked hither and
thither, laughing and chatting. Chérubin alone could not stir, and he
was at a loss what to do in his little corner. Several times Madame
Célival passed the people who were blockading him, but she did not see
him. He congratulated himself that she did not, for he would not have
known what reply to make, if she had asked him what he was doing there.
Monfréville too had reappeared in the salon, but he did not see the
suppliant glances which his young friend cast at him, and, instead of
approaching him, he seemed to avoid that part of the room in which
Madame de Noirmont had seated herself.

Nearly an hour passed thus. Poor Chérubin was terribly fatigued by
standing so long, and terribly bored in his little nook. He could hear
what Madame de Noirmont said to her daughter; but that lady did not
enter into any sustained conversation; she simply replied in few words
to Ernestine’s questions.

“Mamma,” said the latter, after a young lady had sung a ballad, “don’t
you want me to sing?”

“No, my child, you are too young to put yourself forward; besides,
unless your father insists upon it, you will never sing in company.”

“Why not, mamma?”

“Because I prefer in a young lady the modesty which keeps itself
concealed, to the vanity which makes itself conspicuous.”

“But in that case, mamma, why did you give me a music teacher?”

“Such accomplishments are more useful in solitude than in society.”

“Oh!--But, mamma----”

“That is enough, my child.”

A glance from Madame de Noirmont imposed silence on the girl; but, after
a few moments, she returned to the charge.

“Don’t they dance here, mamma?”

“Of course not. Did I tell you that we were going to a ball?”

“Oh, no! but sometimes they dance at receptions; it’s much better fun
then.”

“You think of nothing but pleasure and dancing!”

“Oh! I am so fond of it! Father told me that he would give a great ball
next winter.”

“A great ball! Oh! I hope that he will change his mind.”

“Why don’t you want to give one, mamma?”

“No matter; hush!”

The girl held her peace, but indulged in a pretty little pout; whereupon
her mother seized her hand and pressed it, and said in a gentler tone
and with an expression of the deepest melancholy:

“I distress you, Ernestine; you don’t love your mother.”

The girl replied by putting her mother’s hand to her lips and murmuring:

“Oh! you know that I do!”

Suddenly, happening to turn her head, Mademoiselle de Noirmont caught
sight of Chérubin, who did not know which leg to stand on. When she saw
that young man standing behind her and cutting such an amusing figure,
young Ernestine only half restrained her longing to laugh.

“What is the matter?” her mother asked her; “what has happened to you?
You should not laugh so in company--it is not proper.”

The girl replied by nudging her mother gently and whispering:

“Look--behind us--there’s a young gentleman.”

Madame de Noirmont turned and saw Chérubin, who, having no idea which
way to turn, bowed low to her. Amazed to see the young man in hiding in
a window recess, Madame de Noirmont was about to move so that he might
pass; but at that moment, Monfréville, having just discovered his young
friend, for whom he had been searching the salons in vain, drew near to
assist him in escaping from his prison.

When she saw Monfréville coming straight toward her, Madame de Noirmont
seemed to experience a nervous convulsion; but her face changed very
slightly.

“Pardon me, madame,” said Monfréville, “and permit me to release a young
man who, I am sure, has stood here a long while, afraid to stir because
he was unwilling to disturb you.”

Madame de Noirmont’s only reply was to motion to her daughter to rise,
which she instantly did. Chérubin thereupon took advantage of the path
thus opened, apologizing profusely to young Ernestine; then he walked
quickly away with Monfréville, not remarking the extreme pallor that
covered Madame de Noirmont’s face, and his friend’s forced gayety.

“I have been there for more than an hour,” whispered Chérubin to his
mentor. “Oh! I was awfully uncomfortable! such torture!”

“Well, my dear fellow, why do you creep into little nooks like that?
Did--did Madame de Noirmont speak to you?”

“That lady in front of me, who looked so stern? No, indeed; she had only
just discovered me. Oh! I should never fall in love with her, although
she is very handsome! I don’t think she looks at all agreeable. How
different from Comtesse Valdieri, and Madame Célival, and that one, and
that one.”

While Chérubin turned his amorous glances upon those ladies who
attracted him, Monsieur de Noirmont, who was talking with Monsieur
Trichet, left that gentleman and walked to meet the young marquis, to
whom he made a solemn and ceremonious bow, saying:

“I have just been told that the son of the late Monsieur le Marquis de
Grandvilain is here, and I wish to say to him that I am delighted to
meet the son of a person whom I esteemed and honored in every respect.
Yes, monsieur, I was well acquainted with monsieur your father; he was a
most excellent man; I have no doubt that his son resembles him, and I
trust that he will do me the honor to call at my house. Here is my card,
monsieur; I look forward to the pleasure of a visit from you.”

Chérubin, bewildered by this unexpected invitation, bowed and muttered a
few commonplace words; but Monsieur de Noirmont took his hand and led
him away, saying:

“Allow me to present you to Madame de Noirmont.”

Chérubin made no resistance; he allowed himself to be led back,
shuddering, to the little recess where he had stood so long; but that
time he was not compelled to enter it. Monsieur de Noirmont introduced
him to his wife, saying:

“Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain, son of a man who honored me by
calling me his friend.”

Madame de Noirmont, recognizing the young man who had been her prisoner,
repressed a gesture of surprise, bowed coldly to Chérubin, and seemed to
hesitate to look at him, as if she dreaded to see Monfréville with him
again.

Little Ernestine bit her lips to keep from laughing, when she heard her
father give the name of Grandvilain to the young man whom he presented.

At last Chérubin found himself at liberty once more, and returned to
Monfréville, who said to him:

“You have been introduced to Madame de Noirmont?”

“Yes, my friend.”

“What did she say to you?”

“Nothing; indeed her greeting was decidedly cold.”

“Shall you go to her house?”

“Faith, I have no inclination to do so; it seems to me that it must be a
horribly dull place. That Monsieur de Noirmont has a stiff sort of
courtesy that turns one cold. After all, I am not obliged to visit all
my father’s friends; they are hardly of my age.”

“You must leave your card at his door, that will be enough; I think with
you that it will be as well for you not to go to that house. But Madame
Célival is looking for you, she was asking just now what had become of
you; I think that you have made a conquest of her.”

“Really! Oh! if that were true!”

“Look, there she is yonder. Go and say something to her.”

“What shall I say?”

“Whatever you choose; she will help you to keep up the conversation.
Don’t be bashful, my dear fellow; that isn’t the way to get ahead in the
world.”

Chérubin made an effort to overcome his diffidence, and resolved to join
Madame Célival; she, when she saw him coming toward her, bestowed a
charming smile on him and at once motioned him to a seat by her side.
Encouraged by this greeting, Chérubin took his place beside the lovely
brunette, faltering some words which it was impossible to hear, but to
which Madame Célival replied as if she had heard them. A clever woman
always finds a way, when she chooses, to impart assurance to the most
bashful man, by taking upon herself substantially the whole burden of
the conversation. Chérubin gradually felt bolder, better pleased with
himself; he had almost reached the point of being entirely at ease with
his companion, when the inevitable Trichet planted himself in front of
them and exclaimed:

“I don’t know what you are talking about, and yet, I’ll wager that I can
guess.”

Madame Célival, who appeared to be not at all pleased that Monsieur
Trichet had interposed in her conversation with Chérubin, answered the
old bachelor:

“You always try to guess what people are saying, but in this case you
are quite likely to be mistaken. Tell me, what was monsieur saying to
me?”

“That you are bewitching, adorable; for no man can say anything else to
you.”

Madame Célival smiled, with a less irritated air, while Chérubin,
blushing to the whites of his eyes, exclaimed:

“Why no, I didn’t tell madame that!”

“At all events, you thought it,” rejoined Monsieur Trichet, “and that
amounts to the same thing.”

Chérubin did not know what to say; he lowered his eyes and made such a
comical face that Madame Célival, taking pity on his embarrassment, rose
and said:

“Nonsense, my dear Trichet; you are an old idiot! That is why we all
have to forgive you.”

The old bachelor did not hear these last words; he had run off to join a
gentleman who was declaiming at the other end of the salon, and whom it
gave him great pleasure to interrupt. Madame Célival left Chérubin,
saying, with a glance at once amiable and affectionate:

“I trust, monsieur, that you find my house agreeable; you will prove
that you do if you come to see me often.”

“Well,” said Monfréville, as he joined Chérubin once more, “your
business seems to be progressing.”

“Ah! my dear fellow, that woman is delightful! In her company, it seemed
to me that I actually had some wit. I have never been so well pleased
with myself.”

“It is always so!

“‘A great man’s friendship is a boon of the gods;’ but an agreeable
woman’s love is the greatest blessing on earth! Come; you don’t play,
nor I; it is time to go.”

They left the salon, which the Noirmont family had quitted just before.



XIX

THE COMTESSE DE GLOBESKA


It was nine o’clock at night, and two men, who seemed to be waiting and
watching for somebody, were walking back and forth on Rue Grenétat. One
of them, whose beat was from the centre of the street almost to the
fountain at the corner of Rue Saint-Denis, wore a long frockcoat which
fitted his figure perfectly and was buttoned to the chin, together with
straw-colored gloves and the general outfit of a dandy; but when he
passed a lighted shop, one could see that his coat was worn and spotted
in many places, and that his gloves were no longer perfectly fresh. This
gentleman was smoking a cigar with all the grace of a regular customer
at Tortoni’s.

The second individual, who was enveloped in an old nut-colored box-coat,
with which we are already familiar, wore a round hat, with so broad a
brim and so low a crown, that at a short distance he seemed to be
arrayed in the headgear of a coal man. He walked only a few steps from a
house with a dark passageway, the gate of which was open, to the second
or third house on each side of it; but his eyes never lost sight of the
passage.

In these two individuals the reader will already have recognized Daréna
and his worthy friend Monsieur Poterne.

Since his agent had been unable to do business with the young Marquis de
Grandvilain, Daréna had fallen off lamentably from his former
magnificence; as his profits had been squandered in a very short time,
he had fallen back into what is called _noble indigence_; “completely
cleaned out,” was Monsieur Poterne’s way of stating it.

Daréna still had recourse to his young friend’s purse from time to time;
but he was afraid of ruining himself entirely in Chérubin’s estimation,
if he abused that method; for, despite his ingenuous candor, the young
man was possessed of some natural common sense which enabled him to
divine what was not in accordance with propriety; and Daréna did not
wish the doors of the hôtel de Grandvilain to be closed to him.

“By God! is that beast of a Poterne making a fool of me?” said Daréna,
stopping at the street corner to shake the ashes off his cigar. “The
idea of doing sentry-go on Rue Grenétat, where it’s always muddy! It’s
like the country! I ought to be in the foyer of the Opéra now! But I
forget that my costume is a little seedy! What a beastly cigar! Pah!
there’s nothing decent in this region!”

Daréna threw away the end of his cigar, retraced his steps, and, halting
beside Poterne, who was leaning against a post, with his eyes fixed on
the dark passageway facing him, nudged him with his elbow and said:

“Are we going to say here long, old tom-cat? Do you know that I am
beginning to be deucedly bored?”

“When you want to carry an undertaking through to a good end, you must
be patient,” rejoined Poterne, without turning his head.

“To a good end! I fancy that your end won’t be very good, you old
rascal. But why does the damsel keep us waiting? Doesn’t she know that
you are here? Come, Poterne, answer your friend.”

Poterne turned quickly and said in an undertone:

“Don’t call me by name, I beg you; there’s no need of the girl’s knowing
my real name; she might repeat it by accident, or from stupidity, and my
whole plan would be overboard.”

“You ought to be overboard yourself! But come, tell me what scheme you
have thought up, and let me see if it has any sense; for I didn’t listen
to you very carefully this morning.”

“It is very simple; we propose to try to make young Chérubin fall in
love, in order to entangle him in an intrigue which may prove lucrative
for us.”

“Alas, yes! for although ‘gold may be a mere chimera,’ all these
rascally tailors refuse to make coats for me without some of that same
chimera!”

“To make sure that our Adonis becomes deeply enamored, we must first of
all find a pretty girl.”

“That is true; it’s the same way with jugged hare--first catch your
hare.”

“Well, I have discovered what we need; here, in this house, on the third
floor back, there is a rose, a genuine rose!”

“A rose in this vile hovel--and on the back! I am terribly afraid that
your rose is only a hip!”

“You will be able to judge for yourself directly. This is the time when
the work-girls leave their work; indeed, I am surprised that they
haven’t come out yet.”

“And what does this blush rose do?”

“She makes Italian straw hats.”

“Very good; and she is virtuous?”

“Oh! I don’t hold her out as a prize-winner; but she makes a very modest
appearance; she is very fond of a little _pays_[A] of hers, who was
obliged to go into the army as a simple _tourlourou_,[B] and it would
make her perfectly happy to be able to save up enough money to marry her
little pays when he comes home. So she won’t listen to any of the young
men who run after her every night, because she knows that they’re
ne’er-do-wells, who won’t help her to set up housekeeping with her
little pays.”

[A] A native of the same province.

[B] Infantryman.

“Bravo! the young woman has excellent principles. How did you make her
acquaintance? by treating her to chestnuts?”

“By defending her against a young wig-maker’s apprentice, who, when he
pretended to take her arm, always took hold of something else.”

“Those wig-makers are sad villains. This is what the habit of making
curls leads to!--What proposition have you made to this rose-bud?”

“In the first place, I represented myself as a Polish noble, the Comte
de Globeski.”

“You sinner! to presume to take the title of count!--What next?”

“I told the girl that, if she chose, I would put her in the way of
making a very neat little sum. As she thought at first that I was in
love with her, she answered that I was too ugly.”

“That’s good, I like that outspokenness.”

“I reassured her by telling her that I wasn’t talking about myself, but
about a very comely young man, whom, for family reasons, we desired to
become amorous of her.”

“I adore family reasons! Go on.”

“My pretty working-girl did not seem to have a very alert imagination;
however, she almost understood. She’s an Alsatian, and her name is
Chichette Chichemann. She has a slight accent, but it is not at all
disagreeable and will pass for a Polish accent, especially as Polish is
very like German. I have an appointment with her for this evening; we
will take her to a café, and there we will agree on our movements; you
will see that she is extremely pretty, and that she has a little
virginlike way about her that is most deceptive. When she is dressed as
a Polish countess, the young marquis must inevitably fall madly in love
with her.”

“We will hope so, and then we must act in all haste, for Monfréville is
taking Chérubin into society now. Our real marchionesses and countesses
will find the youngster very attractive; and he, in his turn, will fall
in love with one of them; and if his heart is once fairly caught----”

“We should be our expenses out of pocket!”

“Bah! that won’t make any difference, if your damsel is really pretty;
there’s always room for a new love in the human heart. At eighteen years
and a half, I could have loved all four quarters of the
globe.--Attention! I think the flock is coming out.”

As he spoke, several young women in little caps and modest aprons came
from the dark passage; some of them were soon joined by young men who
were waiting for them; others walked away alone. Daréna and Poterne,
stationed on the other side of the street, let them all pass. The last
of all leaped the gutter with agility and walked up to Poterne, who
tried to impart an amiable tone to his voice as he said:

“Did you recognize me, Mademoiselle Chichette?”

“I should say so; you look like a coal man with your big hat.”

Daréna laughed aloud, and the girl stepped back, saying:

“Ah! there’s someone with you, Messié Globeski?”

“Yes, an intimate friend of mine, who is employed to manage the affair I
spoke to you about. We will go somewhere and talk it over.”

“Yes, my dear child,” said Daréna, taking the girl’s arm and passing it
through his, “we will go and have a chat and a glass of punch. Do you
like punch?”

“Oh, yes! ever so much!” the Alsatian replied, looking at Daréna.

“Very good; I see that we shall be able to come to an understanding! I
am not quite so ugly as monsieur; take my arm, I shall frighten you less
than he will. Is there a decent café hereabout? Let us go to Rue
Saint-Denis. I haven’t looked at you yet, but I am told that you are
enchanting; however, I must satisfy myself. Here’s a drug store.”

Daréna led the little hat-maker in front of the drug store, and, placing
her under one of those blue globes which cast a sickly light into the
street, he scrutinized her, then exclaimed:

“Excellent! Very pretty, on my word! And if we are like this, seen
through a colored bottle, what shall we be in a moment? Here’s a café,
let’s go in.”

The gentlemen entered the café with Mademoiselle Chichette; they chose a
table in the corner, so that they might talk with less constraint, and
Daréna said to the waiter:

“A bowl of rum punch--the very best that can be made.”

Poterne made a wry face and whispered to Daréna:

“The little one would be perfectly satisfied with beer; it isn’t worth
while to----”

“What’s that? We are growing stingy, are we? Poterne, my friend, you
know that I don’t like that sort of thing.”

“Don’t call me Poterne, I tell you.”

“Then be quiet, and don’t annoy me with your foolish reflections.”

Mademoiselle Chichette had taken her place at the table, where she
seemed to pay no heed at all to anything that was said by the gentlemen
who were with her. The Alsatian seemed about twenty years of age; she
was very small, but she had a very becoming measure of _embonpoint_; her
face was round, with dark eyes, not very large, but well-shaped and
surmounted by gracefully arched light eyebrows; a tiny mouth, pretty
teeth, a plump little chin adorned by a faint dimple, chubby cheeks, and
an extremely fresh complexion combined to form a charming village girl’s
face; but there was no character to it, no expression in her eyes;
always the same placidity and the same smile.

Daréna scrutinized the Alsatian anew, then said to Poterne under his
breath:

“She’s very pretty, and as fresh as a rose. She looks respectable; in
fact, she has rather a stupid air; but that will pass for innocence. Do
you know, you have made a genuine find; when she is handsomely dressed,
Chérubin cannot possibly help falling in love with her.--Ah! here’s the
punch--let’s have a drink! Drink, young Chichette. Alsatians generally
have a well-developed gullet.”

Mademoiselle Chichette smiled and took a glass, saying:

“Oh, yes! I don’t object.”

“The accent is a little pronounced,” muttered Daréna. “However, it
doesn’t matter, it’s Polish--that’s understood.--Some macaroons, waiter!
What! you see that we have a lady with us, and you forget the macaroons!
Haven’t you any? If not, you should make some.”

“I have sent for some, monsieur.”

“That’s lucky for you. Meanwhile, give us some cakes, or
gingersnaps--whatever you have.”

During this dialogue Poterne heaved a succession of stifled sighs. At
last a dish was brought and placed by Daréna in front of the young
work-girl, and he himself stuffed himself with cakes as if he had not
dined. Whereupon Monsieur Poterne also decided to attack the plate, and
to devour all the gingersnaps.

“You see, Comte de Globeski,” said Daréna, in a serio-comic tone, “that
I did well to order these trifles. But now let us talk business, and
come to the point.--Mademoiselle Chichette, you have one of the
prettiest faces to be met with in Paris or the suburbs. We desire a
young man to fall violently in love with you. That will be easy to bring
about; but we wish his passion to encounter obstacles. Why? That does
not concern you; the essential thing is that you should do exactly what
you are told to do. In the first place, you are Monsieur le Comte de
Globeski’s wife--consequently you are the Comtesse de Globeska. That is
the usual custom in Poland: the man’s name ends in _i_ and his wife’s in
_a_.”

“Oh, no! I want to be my little pays’s wife! I’ve promised him.”

“Sacrebleu! this is only a joke; it’s part of the comedy we want you to
play.”

“Oh, yes, yes! a joke! I’ll do it.”

“You are the Comtesse de Globeska, then, a Polish refugee; and your
friend here--this gentleman who is so ugly--is horribly jealous; stuff
all that in your head. We will give you a pretty costume; that can’t
offend you; and you will live with monsieur for a few days, except at
night; but with honorable intentions!”

“Oh, yes, yes!”

“And when the young man is dead in love, you may love him too, if you
please; in fact, he is well worth the trouble--he’s a charming fellow.
You don’t dislike charming fellows, do you?”

“Oh, yes, yes!”

“And for all this you shall have twenty-five napoleons; in other words,
five hundred francs.”

“That’s too much! it’s too much!” whispered Poterne, nudging Daréna,
“she would have helped us for two or three louis.”

“Yes, you shall have five hundred francs,” continued Daréna, “six
hundred, in fact, if the affair goes off well. I will guarantee you that
amount, and monsieur here will pay it.--Isn’t that rather pleasant, eh?”

“Oh, yes, yes!”

“Sapristi!” said Daréna, turning to his companion, “she strikes me as
being stupider than a flock of geese! However, it makes no difference;
Love is blind, and he is entitled to be deaf too.--Let’s have a drink!
Another bowl, waiter.”

“But--but----”

“Be quiet, Comte de Globeski! you are at liberty not to drink any more,
but you will still have the privilege of paying.”

The second bowl was brought; the young Alsatian’s color became more
brilliant than ever; even her eyes began to show some life and Daréna
exclaimed:

“_Fichtre!_ if only Chérubin could see her now! What a conflagration she
would kindle! Comte de Globeski, see to it that Chichette has such eyes
to-morrow evening; make her a little tipsy.”

“Yes, with brandy!” muttered Poterne, blowing his nose.

“Attention! as it is easier to become acquainted at the theatre than
anywhere else, the Comte de Globeski will take his wife to the theatre
to-morrow evening--to the Cirque; that is the favorite theatre of
foreigners.”

“Very good,” said Poterne, “we will go to the Cirque; we will sit in the
second amphitheatre.”

“And why not in paradise, at once? Hum! you make me blush for you,
Globeski! You will take seats in the first balcony--in a box.”

“But----”

“No buts!--Madame must be dressed in perfect taste.”

“I will do my best.”

“And you, count, will look to it that you bear no resemblance to a
certain hound named Poterne.”

“There’s no danger.”

“We will sit in your box, behind you; the Comtesse de Globeska will
assassinate my young friend with her glances.--Do you understand, my
girl?”

“Oh, yes, yes!”

“And above all things she must not seem to know me.”

“Yes, yes!”

“Comte de Globeski will go out during the entr’acte without his wife,
who will answer the sweet speeches my young friend will make to her. She
will not talk much, for fear of making a slip, but she will be loving
and passionate.”

“Oh, yes, yes!”

“After the play the count will take his wife away, and we will follow
them. He will take a cab, we will do the like. The rest will go of
itself. It’s all agreed and understood. There’s no more punch; pay the
bill, count, and let’s be off.”

Poterne paid with a groan; Daréna even compelled him to give the waiter
six sous; then they left the café. Mademoiselle Chichette lived on Rue
Saint-Denis; they escorted her home and she promised not to go out on
the following day, but to await Monsieur de Globeski’s coming. Then
Daréna went to stroll in the Palais-Royal, and Poterne went home to bed.

Daréna had taken his measures in advance; he knew that Monfréville was
to attend a large dinner on the following day, so that Chérubin would be
free. He had seen him in the morning and had said to him:

“I want to pass the evening with you to-morrow; surely you will
sacrifice your great ladies to me for one evening! You are always in the
fashionable salons now--they monopolize you. Monfréville is never away
from you; but my friendship demands its turn, and as I do not go into
society--for the moment! I have such seasons--why, we will go to the
theatre.”

Chérubin had agreed. But he was beginning to enjoy large parties; the
pleasant welcome that he received everywhere gradually dispelled his
shyness. Madame Célival was more amiable with him than with any other
man; which fact seemed to annoy several gentlemen, among others, the
colonel who resembled a cat, and the young dandy who had the look of a
Roman.

Nor was this all: the fascinating Comtesse Valdieri, that fanciful,
nervous, ethereal creature, who often received as if by special favor
the homage that was addressed to her, had supposed at first that Marquis
Chérubin would speedily help to swell the crowd of her adorers; but the
young man had contented himself with admiring her at a distance, and in
this case his shyness had served him well. The little countess was
deeply offended by behavior which she attributed to indifference; for in
these days it is not to be presumed that young men are bashful, and
Madame Valdieri, seeing that Chérubin talked a great deal with Madame
Célival, did her utmost to steal that new conquest from her. With women
anger sometimes leads to love, and any other than Chérubin would already
have taken advantage of the rivalry he had caused.

The pretty countess had invited the young marquis to come to her
receptions. Monsieur Valdieri, like a complacent husband, had seconded
his wife’s invitation; and Chérubin waited upon the flighty Emma, who
was most affable to him and seemed to forget her nerves.

And then, in a street near the hôtel de Grandvilain, there was a rather
pretentious linen-draper’s shop, and in that shop, among a number of
young women who were always at work at the counter, there was one
fair-haired damsel, somewhat red about the eyes, with a little turned-up
nose _à la Roxelane_, and an extremely wide-awake air. When Chérubin
passed, she always found a way to be at the door and smile at him; or to
go out into the street for a moment on the most trivial pretext; and
several times, as she passed the young man, she had said:

“I come out at nine o’clock every night; if you would like to speak with
me, wait at the end of the street; my name is Célanire.”

And lastly Chérubin had met Mademoiselle Malvina several times, no
longer dressed as a Swiss, but very alluring with her little pink
tucker, her short skirt, and the black silk scarf, which was wound so
lightly about her waist that it caused her hips to stand out in a very
pronounced fashion. And Malvina had halted in front of the young man,
shot a burning glance at him, and said:

“So you don’t mean to come to see me, Monsieur Chérubin? Do you know
that that is very bad of you, and that you are an ungrateful wretch not
to cultivate my acquaintance? You know my address--come and breakfast
with me. I get up late, but I give you leave to come very early.”

Thus Chérubin was exposed to a rattling fire from a number of fair ones,
when Daréna, who had found a way to freshen up his costume, called for
him and took him to the Cirque, on Boulevard du Temple.

On the road the young man did not fail to tell Daréna all that had
happened to him; and he, having listened attentively, said:

“It seems to me, my dear fellow, that you are a regular Faublas--all
women adore you! And how is it with yourself?”

“Oh! I adore them too!”

“So you love Madame Célival, eh?”

“Why, yes, I think so; I find her very fascinating.”

“And the languishing Comtesse Valdieri?”

“Oh! I like her very much too.”

“And the grisette--otherwise called the linen-draper’s apprentice?”

“I think that she’s very nice.”

“And Malvina, who dances so well?”

“She is very much to my taste.”

“Well! if that is so, how do you stand with all these women? Men don’t
make any secret of such things among themselves, parbleu!”

“How do I stand? Why, no farther ahead than I was.”

Daréna roared with laughter, to the great annoyance of Chérubin, and
rejoined at last:

“Then, my dear fellow, it’s because the will was lacking! and, according
to that, I am bound to think that all these ladies have made very
little impression on your heart. However, I understand that: salon
conquests--grisettes--lorettes--there’s nothing interesting in any of
them! Sometimes chance brings us into contact with something better. But
here we are at the Cirque.”

Chérubin purchased the tickets--Daréna always left that duty to him--and
they entered the theatre.

“This is a very good place,” said Chérubin, stopping at the entrance to
the balcony.

But Daréna, who had caught sight of the persons he was looking for in a
box, answered:

“We shall be more comfortable in a box; besides, it’s better form.
Come--let us go in here, for instance.”

And Daréna bade the box-opener admit them to the box in which he had
recognized Poterne and Mademoiselle Chichette Chichemann.

One must have had Daréna’s keen sight to recognize those two
individuals, and must have been certain that they were there, for they
were perfectly disguised, especially Poterne, who was absolutely
unrecognizable.

Daréna’s intimate friend had sacrificed the bristly hair that covered
his head; he had been shaved, and so closely that he resembled a poodle
returning from Pont Neuf. He wore on his nose green goggles, the sides
of which were screened by silk of the same color; and he had stuffed
something in his mouth, which transformed his hollow cheeks into chubby
ones. The change was complete. The false Comte de Globeski was suitably
attired in a blue frockcoat with frogs, buttoned to the chin, so that it
almost made a cravat unnecessary.

Mademoiselle Chichette wore a silk dress of faded pink, a long cloak
trimmed with fur, and a sort of little toque of green velvet, with silk
tassels and bows of the same color, which fell over her left ear. Her
costume was not new, but her plump face was prettier than ever under
the velvet toque, and her astonishment at finding herself in such fine
array gave an almost piquant expression to her eyes.

Daréna grasped all this at a glance.

“That miserable Poterne bought everything at the Temple!” he muttered.
“However, the little one is very pretty, luckily, and if my young Cupid
doesn’t take fire, I shall begin to believe that there’s something wrong
in his make-up.”

Poterne nudged Mademoiselle Chichette with his knee, calling her
attention with his eyes to the young man who had seated himself behind
her. The supposititious Pole turned, and after eying Chérubin, she
murmured:

“He’s very pretty--almost as pretty as my little pays!”

Chérubin, on his side, glanced at the lady in front of him, and
whispered to Daréna:

“Pray look at that pretty creature, my dear fellow!”

Daréna put his head forward, pretended to be moved to admiration, and
replied:

“Upon my word, I never saw anything so perfect! The freshness of the
rose and the splendor of the lily! She’s a pearl! At your age I would
have stormed the moon to possess that woman.”

Chérubin made no reply, but he paid much more attention to the young
lady in the green cap than to the play that was being performed. For her
part, Mademoiselle Chichette, faithful to her instructions, turned
constantly to look at Chérubin. Her glances lasted so long sometimes
that Poterne was compelled to pull her dress, and whisper:

“That’s enough, you’re going too far! Anyone would think that you did
nothing else on the boulevards.”

After some time Daréna said to his young friend:

“It seems to me that you are making progress, and that your business
with this rose-bud is in a fair way to end in a bargain.”

“Why, it is true, she does look at me rather often. I don’t know whether
I ought to hope.”

“You don’t know! What in the devil more do you expect a woman to do at
first sight than to return your glances--yes, and with big interest! You
have made a conquest of her, that is evident.--Gad! what a lucky fellow
you are! I have an idea that she’s a foreigner; that man isn’t a
Frenchman; he must be her husband.”

“Do you think so?”

“However, he has a very respectable look.”

“Do you think so?”

“It seems to me that nobody can help seeing it.”

During the entr’acte Monsieur Poterne did not fail to leave the box,
alone; Daréna followed him at once, saying to Chérubin:

“Here’s an excellent opportunity to start a conversation. Go at it
boldly.”

“Do you think that I might?”

“I promise you that the lady wishes it too. You see it is hard to be
more hideous than that man who was with her, and she would not be his
wife if she did not deceive him.”

Chérubin, when he was left alone with the charming person with whom he
felt that he was very much in love, wondered how he should begin the
conversation. Meanwhile she was making eyes at him in a fashion which
invited him to speak, with an accompaniment of the most melting smiles.
The young man ventured at last.

“Is madame fond of the theatre?”

“Yes, _messié_.”

“Does madame come often?”

“No, _messié_. But I used to go ever so much with my cuisine.”[C]

[C] _Cuisine_ means ‘kitchen’ or ‘cooking’. She intended to say
_cousine_.

Chérubin opened his ears, trying to understand.

“My _cuisine_ liked the theatre ever so much.”

“Ah! you are speaking of a _cousine_, no doubt?”

“Yes, yes, my _cuisine_.”

“And this gentleman with you--is he your husband?”

“Yes; Comte Glo--Globe--Oh dear! I have forgot his name! I am stupid!”

“You are not French, madame?”

“Oh, no! I am from Alsa--No, no, I’m from some other place! I have
forgot again; I am awful stupid!”

Mademoiselle Chichette said all this so comically, and rested her eyes
on Chérubin so often, that the young man paid no heed to the incoherency
of her speech, but became more and more enamored of the lovely stranger.

“Do you enjoy Paris, madame?”

“Oh yes! I enjoy it; but I am always thinking of my little pays!”

“Ah! you regret it?”

“Yes! I would like to see my little pays again!”

“You love your country--pays--that is perfectly natural.”

“Ah, yes! he’s a _tourlourou_ now.”

Here Chérubin again failed to understand, but Poterne returned, luckily
for Mademoiselle Chichette, who was beginning to forget her part and to
talk at random.

Daréna soon returned also; he asked Chérubin whether he had carried
forward his affair with his pretty neighbor.

“Yes, we talked; she seemed to ask nothing better. You were not
mistaken; the gentleman is her husband; she’s a foreigner, she has a
very strong accent.”

“They’re Poles; I found that out in the foyer.”

“She seems to be very much attached to her country--pays,--for she sighs
for it and talks about it all the time!”

“Her country! oh, yes! Poland.--Did you make an appointment with her?”

“An appointment? Oh! we didn’t get so far as that!”

“How did you amuse yourselves then? A woman who is mad over you, who
fairly eats you with her eyes!”

“Do you think so? What good fortune! She is so pretty, and her accent is
so fascinating!”

“Yes, the Polish accent has much charm.”

“I am quite mad over her, my dear fellow.”

“And you are right. It would be downright murder not to carry that
rose-bud away from that old caterpillar!”

“Carry her away! What! do you think that it will be necessary----”

“Hush! let me act; I will arrange the whole business.”

The play came to an end. Monsieur Poterne donned his umbrella-like hat,
and gave the fair Chichette his arm. She, although sorely embarrassed in
her costume, succeeded in holding her hand out straight behind her.

Daréna and his companion walked on the heels of the Poles, who took care
not to turn around. Daréna almost compelled Chérubin to seize the hand
which the lady obligingly held behind her back, and the young man turned
crimson as he whispered in his friend’s ear:

“Ah! she squeezed my hand! she is squeezing it again! she keeps
squeezing it!”

“Parbleu! what did I tell you?” rejoined Daréna. “Sympathy--I believe
that you were made for each other.”

As he spoke, Daréna kicked Poterne’s legs viciously, to make him walk
faster and force Mademoiselle Chichette to drop Chérubin’s hand, which
she seemed to have resolved never to release.

The so-called foreigners entered a cab. Chérubin and Daréna took another
and told the driver to follow the first, which stopped in front of a
modest, furnished lodging house on Rue Vieille-du-Temple.

“Good,” said Daréna; “we know where they live, and that is enough for
to-night. To-morrow you must write an impassioned letter to that Pole; I
will undertake to see that she gets it without the knowledge of her
husband, and I promise you that she will reply to it.”

Everything being agreed between them, Chérubin went home, where Daréna
left him, congratulating himself on the success of his stratagem.



XX

LOUISE IN PARIS


Although fairly launched in fashionable society, although he had become
the object of the allurements of several women whose conquest was
desired of all; despite the ogling of grisettes and the assignation
proffered him by lorettes, Chérubin had not wholly forgotten the village
of Gagny, and little Louise, with whom he had passed his earliest years.

He often spoke of going to Gagny to see and embrace his dear Nicole; he
had several times despatched Monsieur Gérondif to bring him news of her,
accompanying the commission with little gifts for the people of the
village, and bidding him inquire concerning Louise’s position and
prospects. The tutor always half performed his errand: he went to Gagny,
delivered the presents, devoured with his eyes young Louise, who
improved every day, then returned and told his pupil that his former
playmate was still in Bretagne, where she was so happy that she did not
intend ever to return to Nicole.

But on the day preceding his visit to the Cirque with Daréna, Chérubin
had once more spoken about going to Gagny, and he had stated positively,
in Monsieur Gérondif’s presence, that he should not allow the week to
pass without going to see and embrace his old nurse.

At that the tutor was greatly disturbed.

“If monsieur le marquis goes to Gagny,” he said to himself, “he will
find young Louise there, and consequently he will see that I have lied
to him. He is quite capable of discharging me; for, notwithstanding his
usual mildness of manner, there are times when he is extremely quick to
take fire. I am not at all anxious to lose a place worth fifteen hundred
francs, in a fine house where I am boarded, lodged and coddled; where my
duties are confined to sleeping, eating and reciting poetry to the
mammoth Turlurette. Moreover, if my pupil sees young Louise again, it is
probable that his love for her will revive; and that would interfere
with my plans, for that girl has kindled a conflagration in my insides.
My designs are honorable, I propose to make her my wife, to raise her to
the honor of my name. But, in order to marry, I must obtain some advance
in my pay. If I stay with the marquis two years longer, I can save
money, for I can put aside almost all that I earn; the only thing is to
put little Louise in a safe place, so that she can’t be whisked away
from me.”

Monsieur Gérondif mused upon this subject all day, and in the evening he
went to pursue his meditations in the company of the kindhearted
Turlurette, who fed him on brandied fruits which she prepared to
perfection; and while the professor was smacking his lips over his third
plum, old Jasmin, who became less active every day, but was sorely
aggrieved because his master had hired a young groom, entered the
housekeeper’s room and said to her:

“Do you happen to know a lady’s maid who is out of a place?”

“Why do you ask, Monsieur Jasmin?” queried Mademoiselle Turlurette.

“Because not long ago I was waiting for my master at some reception.--He
always forbids me to do it, but that day his little groom was sick, and
I seized the opportunity to drive his cabriolet in the evening. In fact,
I ran into two booths; some people won’t get out of the way.”

“Well, Monsieur Jasmin?”

“Well, I was talking in the antechamber with the servants who happened
to be there--and we had time enough to talk; people stay so late at
these parties nowadays! To cut it short, one of them says to me: ‘We’re
looking for a lady’s maid for mademoiselle. Her mother’s gone to the
country for a while; monsieur insisted on keeping his daughter at home
with him; and just at that moment they had to dismiss the lady’s maid,
because she talked too much with a floor-washer. As monsieur is very
strict, it didn’t take long; but we are looking for another maid.’--At
that I proposed a person I know, who’s as intelligent as can be; but
when I told them that she was sixty years old, they informed me that it
wasn’t worth while to send her. It’s surprising the way people act
nowadays; they want children to wait on them.”

“I don’t know anybody who wants a place,” Mademoiselle Turlurette
replied.

Monsieur Gérondif, who had not lost a word of what Jasmin said,
interposed at this point, with an affectation of indifference.

“Who were the people who wanted a lady’s maid? I might be able to oblige
some acquaintance of mine in Paris by offering her the place; but before
I do anything about it, you will understand that I want to be sure that
it’s with respectable people.”

“Oh! as to that, you needn’t be at all afraid, Monsieur Gérondif,”
replied Jasmin. “It’s in the most honorable family you can imagine.
Monsieur de Noirmont, an ex-magistrate, a man who never laughs, and who
wouldn’t wrong a bird. He was a friend of the late Monsieur de
Grandvilain, our marquis’s father.”

“What does the family consist of?”

“Monsieur de Noirmont, his wife, their daughter, who is fifteen years
old, a cook, monsieur’s servant, and the maid they are looking for.”

“Is the man-servant young?”

“Yes, he’s the one I talked with. He’s only fifty-six, but he seems to
be a very sensible fellow.”

Monsieur Gérondif smiled as he inquired:

“Do they receive much company, give balls? Are they the sort of people
who pass their life in _varietate voluptas_?”

“Never a ball, and no _volupétas_, as you call them. The lady doesn’t
care for society, and Monsieur de Noirmont passes his life in his
library. So our young marquis doesn’t care to go to the house, although
he has been invited.”

“Ah! he has been invited there, has he?”

“Yes; but I’ve often heard him say when he’s dressing in the morning:
‘I’ve no desire to go to that house; it must be horribly dull there.’”

“Are you sure that Monsieur Chérubin said that?”

“Yes; and I’ve heard Monsieur de Monfréville answer: ‘You are very wise;
it’s a house which has little to offer that is attractive to a man of
your age.’”

Monsieur Gérondif rubbed his hands and asked no more questions. The next
day, after procuring Monsieur de Noirmont’s address, he went to his
house, asked to speak to his servant, introduced himself as coming from
old Jasmin and as having to suggest a lady’s maid for Mademoiselle de
Noirmont.

Jasmin was the Nestor of servants; his recommendation was most
influential, and that of so serious-minded a man as Monsieur Gérondif
seemed to be could only confirm the favorable opinion which was sure to
be entertained of Jasmin’s protégée.

The young servant of fifty-six informed the tutor that madame was
absent, and that, as monsieur never interfered in any domestic details,
the choice of another lady’s maid was left to him; that he was perfectly
content to accept the one whom the venerable Monsieur Jasmin was kind
enough to send, and that his only wish was that she should arrive as
soon as possible.

Sure of success in that direction, Monsieur Gérondif thanked the
servant, promised to bring the girl soon, and set out at once for Gagny
and Nicole’s house.

The tutor’s presence always brought joy to the humble abode of the
villagers; for he brought news of Paris, and with him they talked
constantly of Chérubin.

After answering the questions of Nicole and Louise, who inquired first
of all for the health of the object of their affections, Monsieur
Gérondif turned to the girl and said:

“My child, it is principally on your account that I have come to Gagny,
for I am thinking about your future, your lot in life. You are seventeen
years of age, you are tall, and well-developed physically as well as
mentally; I mean by that that you have intelligence beyond your years;
and you have profited by being present at the lessons which I gave to my
pupil; you read and write very fairly and speak quite correctly.
Moreover, you handle the needle with facility, and you seem to be apt at
all the tasks suited to your sex; isn’t that so, Mère Nicole?”

“Why, yes, it’s all true,” replied the good woman, staring at the
visitor. “What scheme have you got in your head for our Louise; do you
mean to make a duchess of her too?”

“No, not exactly; but I tell you again, I mean to assure her future.
What would it be if she remained in this village? She has no relations,
no fortune; so she must think herself very lucky if some uneducated
country clown should want to marry her.”

“Oh! never! never!” cried Louise; “I won’t marry!”

“Bless my soul, my dear child,” said Nicole, “you know very well that
nobody’ll force you to, and that I’ll never turn you out of our house.”

“That is all very well,” rejoined Gérondif. “But if Louise should find a
good place in Paris, in a respectable family, where she could lay by a
little money, and then find a good match, it seems to me that that would
be worth thinking about.”

“In Paris!” cried Louise, with a joyful exclamation; “go to Paris! Oh!
what bliss! how glad I should be! Oh! yes, yes! you’ll let me go, won’t
you, mother?”

“What, my child, do you want to leave me too?” said Nicole sadly.

But Louise kissed her again and again, crying:

“Why, just think that _he_ is in Paris! If I live in the same city with
him, it seems to me that I may see him, meet him sometimes; and that
thought is the only thing that makes me want to go to Paris. Isn’t it
true, Monsieur Gérondif, that people are sure to meet when they live in
the same place, and that I should see him sometimes if I was in Paris?”

“See him? whom?”

“Why Chérubin--monsieur le marquis. Whom do you suppose I am talking
about, if not him?”

The tutor realized that the hope of seeing Chérubin was the sole reason
that led the girl to welcome his suggestion so joyously, and he was
careful not to undeceive her.

“Certainly,” he replied, “when two people live in the same place, there
is much more probability of their meeting than when one is at the north
and the other at the south--or, if you prefer, when one is _per fas_ and
the other _nefas_.--Well, my interesting young friend Louise, I have
found what I wanted to find for you; the place of lady’s maid is offered
you in a first-rate family; and when I say ‘lady’s maid,’ it’s as if I
said ‘companion;’ and when I say ‘companion,’ it’s as if I said
‘friend,’ to a young lady of fifteen who is said to be as amiable as she
is kindhearted. You will assist her to dress, and she will not assist
you; but we see that every day between friends: there’s one who does
everything, while the other one strolls about. Lastly, you will be well
dressed; the friend who strolls generally gives the gowns and fichus
that she doesn’t want to the friend who dresses her. And then you will
earn money, which is never a bad thing to have; for with
money--silver--you get gold, which is the purest of metals, when
there’s no alloy in it.--Well! what do you think of my proposition? tell
me.”

“Oh! I ask nothing better--if my adopted mother consents!”

“Dear me! my child,” said Nicole, “if it will make you so happy to go to
Paris, I won’t stand in your way; besides, I don’t think that Monsieur
Gérondif, who’s been the village schoolmaster, could propose anything
that wasn’t for your good.”

“You are as wise as Æsop, Dame Nicole, although you are not hunchbacked!
My only desire is to assure a happy lot for this _puella formosa_,--and
the future will prove it.”

“And--Monsieur Chérubin?” ventured Louise, who no longer dared to say
“Chérubin” simply, when she spoke of the young man she loved; “does he
know of this plan that you propose to me? does he want me to go to
Paris?”

Monsieur Gérondif scratched his nose a moment, then replied with
assurance:

“Does he know it? why, of course he does; and he is very anxious that my
offer should please you.”

“Oh! in that case, there must be no hesitation; must there, dear
mother?--I accept, monsieur; I will start whenever you choose; I am
ready.”

“Then we will start at once.”

“What!” cried Nicole, “do you mean to say you’re going to take the dear
child right away like this?”

“I must, Dame Frimousset; the place I have secured for her is wanted by
a great many people; if we delay, it may be given to somebody else. We
are not flooded with good places in Paris, so that I must introduce her
and have her engaged to-day.”

“Oh, yes! let me go, mother! I know that it will make you unhappy not to
have me with you, and it makes me unhappy too to leave you. But, on the
other hand, I am so glad to be near--Monsieur Chérubin. Besides, he
wants me to come to Paris, and we mustn’t vex him. But I will come to
see you; oh! I won’t do as he did, I shall never forget the village and
those who have taken the place of my parents.”

Nicole embraced the girl lovingly, and said at last:

“Go, my child; I am not your mother; I haven’t any rights over you, and
even if I had, I wouldn’t stand in the way of your future good. But do
at least come to see me sometimes. She’ll be allowed to, won’t she,
Monsieur Gérondif?”

“Oh! certainly. She will enjoy a reasonable liberty, on condition that
she doesn’t abuse it.--Come, sweet Louise, make a bundle of your
belongings--only those that are most necessary. You needn’t carry your
wooden shoes--you won’t wear that kind where you are going. Make haste;
I will wait for you.”

Louise hastily made a bundle of her clothes; she was so surprised, so
bewildered by what had happened to her, that it seemed to her that it
must be a dream. Her heart leaped for joy at the thought of going to
Paris. But the pleasures of the great city were not what she was
thinking about, nor beautiful dresses, nor a less laborious life than
she had led; in that journey she saw but one thing--that she was going
to live in the same city with Chérubin.

While Louise was making her preparations for departure, Monsieur
Gérondif took the nurse aside and said to her in a grave and imposing
tone:

“Now, virtuous Nicole, I must disclose a secret to you. My main purpose
in taking Louise to Paris is to remove her from the seductions which it
is proposed to employ in order to triumph over her virtue and pluck the
flower of her innocence. In two words, here are the facts: your
foster-child Chérubin has become a great libertine in Paris; he will not
endure resistance. Not long ago he remembered Louise, the playmate of
his boyhood, and he exclaimed: ‘She must be a charming girl by now! I am
going to make her my mistress.’”

“Great God! is it possible?” cried Nicole, opening her eyes to their
fullest extent. “My little Chérubin has got to be such a rake as that?”

“It’s as I have the honor to tell you. In Paris, with lots of money, a
man soon learns to be what they call a _lion_, and lion means seducer.”

“Chérubin, a lion! And he used to be a perfect lamb!”

“I tell you there are no lambs in Paris now. To make a long story short,
I thought that you wouldn’t lend a hand to the ruin of your adopted
daughter, and that you would approve my putting the child beyond the
reach of any attempt at seduction.”

“Oh! you did just right, monsieur le professor, and I approve of it.”

“Now, when Chérubin comes to see Louise, you must tell him that she’s
been in Bretagne a long while, with a relation of yours, and that she’s
very happy there.”

“All right, I’ll tell him that! Great God! Chérubin a rake! so that’s
why he’s forgotten the village altogether!”

Louise soon had her parcel ready. She put on the little hat of coarse
straw, which she sometimes wore to walk about the neighborhood, and
beneath which, although it was not of fashionable shape, her face was as
lovely as possible.

She threw herself into Nicole’s arms and whispered in her ear:

“When I see him, I’ll tell him that it’s very wicked of him not to come
to see you!”

Nicole covered Louise with kisses.

“If by any chance you should get sick of it, my child,” she said, “if
you ain’t happy there, you know that there’s always a place for you
here, and that we’ll be very happy if you conclude to come back.”

Monsieur Gérondif speedily put an end to these farewells by taking the
girl’s arm. Jacquinot was at the wine-shop as usual. Louise cast a last
glance at her adopted mother and went away with Monsieur Gérondif, who
had incurred the expense of a cab by the hour, in order to take the girl
to Paris more quickly.

On the way he said to her:

“I must give you some preliminary instructions, my lovely child, as to
your behavior in the place you are to fill. In the first place, if they
ask you what you know how to do, answer boldly: ‘everything!’”

“Everything! But that would not be true, monsieur, for I know how to do
very few things.”

“You can learn the others; you are saturated with intelligence,
therefore you will learn very rapidly; so that it’s the same as if you
already knew. Do what I tell you--it is essential, to inspire
confidence; in the world you must never act as if you were uncertain of
yourself. Secondly, you must understand that you must not speak of the
young Marquis Chérubin and say that you were brought up with him. The
world is very unkind! people might think things; and you mustn’t trifle
with your reputation.”

“What, monsieur? What could people think, pray? Is it wrong to love
one’s foster-brother, then?”

“Foster-brother! foster-brother! as much as you please! I must make you
understand me better: my noble pupil does not want it to be known now
that he remained out at nurse until he was sixteen; that annoys him
terribly. And then you must see that a marquis can’t be the friend of
a--a--a lady’s maid; if you should talk about him, it might make him
blush.”

“Blush!” cried Louise, putting her handkerchief to her eyes. “What!
monsieur le--Chérubin blush because of my friendship, my acquaintance?
Oh! never fear, monsieur; I shall never speak of him, I shall never
mention his name.”

“That is very well, _O flavia_!--No, you are not a blonde.--Come, come!
don’t weep any more about that; what I say doesn’t prevent the marquis
from still being interested in you, and myself as well. I will say no
more now, young Louise, but be virtuous and prudent; do not joke with
the young men; if anyone should presume to take any equivocal liberty
with you, scratch the insolent knave’s face; for you must keep yourself
free from stain, like the Paschal Lamb, until--But, mum’s the word! I
will go no farther now.”

Louise had ceased to listen; she was thinking of Chérubin, who was
ashamed of knowing her; and that idea destroyed all the pleasure she had
enjoyed in the fact of going to Paris.

Meanwhile, the cab had entered the city; Monsieur Gérondif told the
driver to take them to Faubourg Saint-Honoré, whereupon Louise
exclaimed:

“Is it near Monsieur Chérubin’s house?”

“Not very far, my child; in fact there are no distances in Paris now;
the six-sou carriages take you to all quarters of the city, and you
don’t even need to know the way, which is very convenient for
strangers.”

The carriage stopped in front of a handsome house which Monsieur
Gérondif pointed out to the driver, very near Rue de la Concorde. The
tutor helped Louise to alight and carried his gallantry so far as to
offer to carry her bundle.

“Follow me,” he said; “it’s in this house, on the second floor; a
magnificent apartment; they’re very swell people. See how this staircase
is polished! It doesn’t look much like our village hovels, which are
floored with mud.”

As he spoke, the professor slipped down two stairs and nearly broke his
neck on the waxed staircase; perhaps it was a punishment from on high
for his ingratitude to the village. But he clung to the rail, muttering:
“_Ne quid nimis!_ They put on too much wax.”

Louise followed Monsieur Gérondif; she was slightly tremulous and
covered with confusion at the thought that she was about to appear
before people whom she did not know, and that she must remain alone amid
those surroundings which were so strange to her. She heaved a profound
sigh and invoked the memory of Chérubin to sustain her courage.

It was Comtois--that was the name of Monsieur de Noirmont’s servant--who
received Monsieur Gérondif when he introduced his protégée. Louise’s
aspect could not fail to prepossess everybody in her favor, and the
valet smiled with satisfaction as he said:

“Ah! mademoiselle seems to have every quality likely to give pleasure
here: a gentle, unaffected manner. I am sure that she will please our
young Mademoiselle Ernestine, who has said to me several times: ‘Above
all things, Comtois, I want a young lady’s maid, because if I have an
old one, I shall not dare to give her any orders, or to laugh in her
presence!’--Mademoiselle is a very merry young person; a little
quick-tempered, a little whimsical; but that is perfectly natural at her
age, and she isn’t the least bit unkind with it all. When she loses her
temper, she asks our pardon; that isn’t common with masters, I tell
you!”

“This servant is very talkative!” thought Monsieur Gérondif, as he blew
his nose.

Comtois, after looking at Louise again with a satisfied air, continued:

“I will present mademoiselle at once.--By the way, what is your name?”

“Louise, monsieur,” replied the girl timidly.

“Louise--very good; that is your Christian name. And your family name?
sometimes one is very glad to know that.”

The girl blushed and lowered her eyes, without replying; but Monsieur
Gérondif made haste to say:

“Louise Frimousset; Frimousset is the name of this young woman’s
parents.”

Louise glanced at the tutor; but he had assumed a solemn air, which
seemed to indicate that it would not be proper to contradict him, and
that it was only after mature reflection that he had replied; so the
girl said nothing.

“Frimou--Frimousse--Friquet,” said Comtois. “That’s a queer name;
however, I only asked so that I might know it; for you understand of
course that mademoiselle will always be called by her baptismal name
here. As I was saying, I am going to present you now. If madame was
here, I should naturally take you to her first; but madame has been
absent a fortnight; she has gone to see an aunt of hers, who’s sick. She
wanted to take her daughter, but monsieur insisted on keeping
Mademoiselle Ernestine with him; for, although he looks very stern,
monsieur is very fond of her--he never refuses her anything; and
sometimes I’ve even known him to be angry with madame, because he
claimed that she spoke to mademoiselle too sharply, and that she didn’t
love her. But, to be just, I must say that monsieur is mistaken; I am
sure that madame’s very fond of her daughter. However, it’s true that
sometimes she hardly speaks to her, she responds coldly to her caresses;
but we all have days when we’re in ill humor, more or less.”

Monsieur Gérondif blew his nose at great length, saying to himself:

“Is this never going to finish?--My worthy man,” he said to Comtois,
“excuse me if I interrupt you; but it seems to me that it is not
necessary for me to be present at the introduction of our young Louise,
as you tell me that the business is settled. So I will take my leave,
urging you to watch over this child, as if she were your niece.”

“Never fear, monsieur; mademoiselle is in a good family; I am quite sure
that she won’t be unhappy here.”

“Adieu then, Louise, adieu! I shall come to inquire for you, to learn
how you are getting on; in short, I shan’t lose sight of you; you will
always be my guiding star, my object, my--my polygon!”

The girl offered her hand to Monsieur Gérondif, who seemed inclined to
kiss her, and said in an undertone:

“You will tell him that I am in Paris; won’t you, monsieur? that I
didn’t hesitate to come, as he wished it, but that it makes me very
depressed not to see him, and that my only desire----”

“I shall say all that it is my duty to say,” replied the tutor, showing
his teeth, although he had no desire to smile. Then, turning quickly on
his heel, he saluted Comtois and went out.

The valet escorted him to the door, and Monsieur Gérondif said in his
ear:

“This girl is very pretty, and the men in Paris are terribly licentious.
I need not urge you to watch over her innocence and not allow her to
converse with floor-washers.”

“Monsieur,” Comtois replied rather stiffly, “none but respectable people
are received in this house, and no young girl will ever be ruined here.
If the last lady’s maid was a giddy creature, it wasn’t our fault; and
at all events she was discharged at once, as well as the floor-washer.”

“Your reply scatters all the clouds which might have obscured my
firmament. Adieu, excellent Comtois, I repeat my assurances of esteem.”

Monsieur Gérondif took his leave, and Comtois returned to Louise, who
was standing, lost in thought, in the hall; he motioned to her to follow
him, led her through a salon, then opened the door of another room, and
said, standing in the doorway:

“Mademoiselle, this is the lady’s maid I was expecting; she has just
arrived.”

A voice replied at once from within the room:

“Oh! let her come in, show her in at once! I am waiting so impatiently
for her!”

Comtois let Louise pass him; she stepped forward, trembling and afraid
to raise her eyes; but she soon felt reassured when young Ernestine
exclaimed:

“Oh! how pretty she is! I like her very much!--Come, mademoiselle; don’t
be afraid of me; I am not a bit terrible, am I, Comtois? I am not stern,
like mamma! But, for all that, mamma’s very kind, and papa too.--What is
your name?”

“Louise, mademoiselle.”

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen, mademoiselle.”

“Seventeen! Why, how tall you are! and so strong! I am fifteen--I am
rather small for fifteen, am I not?”

Louise could not help smiling; and as she looked at her who was to be
her mistress, she felt a thrill of joy at the aspect of that dainty
creature, so like a child, whose sparkling blue eyes were fixed on hers
with a kindly expression that instantly dissipated the terror that she
had felt on entering.

“Am I not very small for fifteen?” repeated Ernestine, after Louise had
looked at her.

“You still have plenty of time to grow, mademoiselle.”

“Oh, yes! that is my only consolation. Have you been in service in Paris
before?”

“No, mademoiselle, I am just from my village; I have never been in
service anywhere, and I have no doubt that I shall be very awkward at
first; but I promise to pay close attention to whatever you tell me, so
that I may learn quickly and be able to satisfy you sooner.”

Young Ernestine began to leap and dance about the room; she seized
Louise’s hand and pressed it, crying:

“Oh! I like to hear you talk like that! I feel that I shall love you
dearly; indeed I love you already. I either like a person instantly, or
never! You will like me too, won’t you?”

“That cannot be very difficult, mademoiselle, you seem so kind and
sweet!”

“Ah! I am very happy, Comtois. But has Louise brought her bundle, all
her clothes? Can she stay here now?”

“Yes, mademoiselle,” said Louise, “I have brought all my clothes and I
can stay with you now, if you care to keep me.”

“Certainly; I don’t mean to let you go.--Comtois, see that her chamber
is prepared--the little one behind mine, you know. Be sure that she has
everything that she wants or needs.”

“Never fear, mademoiselle.”

“At all events, I will go myself to see if everything is all right.--You
see,” continued Ernestine with comical gravity, “during mamma’s absence
I have to look out for everything and take her place here.--Go, Comtois,
and take Louise’s things to her room; meanwhile I will take her to my
father. Is he in his study?”

“Yes, mademoiselle.”

“Come, Louise, don’t be afraid; he has rather a stern manner, but he
isn’t unkind.”

“Suppose that monsieur your father should not like me?” murmured Louise
timidly; “suppose he should think me too young to be in your service,
mademoiselle?”

“Oh! don’t worry about that; as soon as I tell him that you suit me,
father won’t think of sending you away.”

Ernestine led the way through her mother’s bedroom, then through another
smaller room, and knocked at a door, saying:

“It’s I, papa.”

And Monsieur de Noirmont’s sharp voice replied:

“Well! what is it now?”

The pretty minx opened the door of her father’s study, passed her head
only through the opening, and said:

“Are you busy? I have come to introduce someone.”

“Who is it?”

“A new lady’s maid who has been engaged for me, and who has just
arrived.”

“The idea of disturbing me for a lady’s maid! What have I to do with
such matters? Really, Ernestine, you wear out my patience.”

“Oh! don’t be cross with me, papa! But as mamma is away, you must see my
new maid; I can’t manage the house all alone!”

“Well! bring her in,” rejoined Monsieur de Noirmont in a gentler tone;
“where is she? let us have it over.”

Ernestine led Louise into the room; the girl cast down her eyes, and
felt that she was trembling, for Monsieur de Noirmont’s voice was far
from being as sweet as his daughter’s.

After scrutinizing for some time the village maid who stood before him,
Monsieur de Noirmont asked her:

“How old are you?”

Before Louise could reply, little Ernestine exclaimed:

“She is seventeen; isn’t she very tall for her age, papa? and isn’t she
lovely? I like her so much! Her name is Louise; she has never been in
service, but I am glad of that, because I can train her according to my
ideas.”

Monsieur de Noirmont with difficulty restrained a smile, provoked by his
daughter’s speech.

“It seems to me,” he said, “that this girl is too much of a child to be
in your service.”

“Why so, papa? On the contrary, see how sensible she is! Besides, I tell
you that I will train her, and Comtois has had only the best reports of
her.”

“All right, if she suits you.--What part of the country do you come
from?”

“From Gagny, monsieur,” replied Louise tremulously.

“Gagny? Why, that is very near Paris. Your parents are laboring people,
no doubt?”

“Yes--yes, monsieur,” faltered Louise, in an almost unintelligible
voice.

“And instead of keeping their daughter at home, they send her out to
service in Paris!--However, it seems to be the custom in the country!
and still people extol the morals of the rural districts! But you seem
modest and respectable, my girl, and I am glad to believe that your
conduct will not belie the promise of your face. Besides, I know
Comtois, and I rely upon his prudence. Go, go!”

Monsieur de Noirmont motioned to them to leave him; but his daughter ran
to him and kissed him; then she hastened from the room with Louise, and
closed the door, saying:

“That’s over; I was sure that it would come out all right.”

Young Ernestine next took Louise to a pretty little room which was to be
her own. The sweet child made sure that her new maid was provided with
everything that she needed, and displayed so much interest in her that
Louise, who was deeply touched, thanked heaven for bringing her to that
house.

The first day was employed by Ernestine in giving instructions to
Louise, and she, not knowing how to lie, frankly confessed to her young
mistress that she was entirely ignorant of the duties of her position,
and that she must beg her to be as indulgent as possible. Ernestine
repeated emphatically that she would have no difficulty in training her
and that she need not worry.

In Monsieur de Noirmont’s family, the valet ordinarily waited at table,
unless there were many guests at dinner; so that the duties of the
lady’s maid were limited to waiting on the two ladies, assisting them to
dress, and working almost all the time for them, or at some household
work.

Louise could sew very well; she was active and clever, and she very soon
learned what was expected of her; moreover, Ernestine taught her to
embroider, to make tapestry, and to do innumerable little things that
women do; things which are unknown in villages, but which it is
essential to know in Paris.

Louise made rapid progress, and Ernestine said to her father:

“Oh! if you knew how much I like my maid!”

“Is she so very clever?” inquired Monsieur de Noirmont.

“Clever--yes; but she knew nothing at all; I have shown her everything.”

“What do you say? that girl knew nothing?”

“What difference does it make? When I show her anything, in two days she
does it better than I do. Oh! I am sure that mamma will congratulate me
for engaging her.”

Louise’s modest and serious manner eventually won Monsieur de Noirmont’s
good-will as well as his daughter’s, and he spoke to her less coldly.
Comtois was delighted with his new fellow-servant, and the cook was
never tired of extolling her extreme sweetness of temper. As for
Ernestine, although she sometimes lost her patience and cried out, when
her maid was awkward about dressing her, the next moment she would run
to her and kiss her, and beg her not to be offended by her quick temper.
In fact, each day that passed increased her affection for Louise, and
the latter would have been happy in her new position, had not the
thought of Chérubin constantly filled her mind. But she was beginning to
lose all hope of seeing him in Paris, for she very rarely left the
house, and only to do errands for her young mistress in the shops
nearby.

Louise had been in Ernestine’s service three weeks, when her mistress
said to her one morning:

“Mamma is coming home at last! Papa has just told me that she will be
here in three days. I am awfully glad, for she has been away nearly six
weeks, and I long to see her. Oh! what joy! Then I shall have everything
I want. And mamma will like you too; I am sure that she will be as
pleased with you as I am.”

Louise made no reply, but she felt deeply moved; she could not
understand her own perturbation when she learned that she was to see
Madame de Noirmont.



XXI

THE FIRST RENDEZVOUS.--THE PERFUMERY


Chérubin followed Daréna’s advice; he wrote a very amorous, but very
timid, note for the young woman he had seen at the play. On the
following day Daréna called upon his friend in good season and found him
finishing his lovelorn espistle.

“Are you writing to the lovely foreigner?” asked Daréna, dropping into
an easy-chair.

“Yes, my dear fellow, I have just finished my letter, which you have
promised to forward to its destination.”

“Parbleu! cannot one do anything with money? Do not all obstacles vanish
before it? Valets, maid-servants can be bribed, duennas and concierges
corrupted. I will spend money in profusion.”

As he spoke, the count slapped his pockets, then exclaimed:

“But in order to spend it, I must have it, and I find that my pockets
are empty.”

Chérubin went to his desk and took out several rouleaux of gold pieces,
which he handed to Daréna, saying:

“Take this, my dear fellow, take this; don’t spare it. Reward generously
all who help to forward my love.”

“You do not need to give me that injunction; I will play the
magnificent, the Buckingham! After all, you are rich, and if you did not
use your fortune to gratify your wishes, really it wouldn’t be worth
while to have it. Is your note very ardent?”

“Why, I think that it is very honorable----”

“Honorable! that’s not what we want, my dear friend.--Come, read me what
you have written, and let me see if it’s all right.”

Chérubin took up the letter and read:

     “‘I ask your pardon, madame, for the liberty that I take in writing
     you, but----’”

Daréna’s roar of laughter interrupted Chérubin, who inquired:

“What are you laughing at? Isn’t it all right?”

“Ha! ha! ha! Your innocence is enchanting; one would think that it was a
letter from a boy to his aunt on her birthday. Let’s hear the rest.”

Chérubin continued:

     “‘But I should deem myself most fortunate if I might have the
     pleasure of making your acquaintance. My family is well known, I am
     received in the best society, and----’”

“Enough! enough!” cried Daréna, rising. “That won’t do, my dear fellow;
you are on the wrong track!”

“Do you think that my letter is too bold?”

“On the contrary, it isn’t bold enough! She would laugh at you when she
read it.”

“Remember that this is the first time I ever wrote a billet-doux, and I
don’t know how they are usually expressed.”

“Take your pen again and write what I dictate.”

“All right, I prefer that.”

Chérubin seated himself at his desk again and Daréna dictated:

     “O woman more than adored! I burn, I wither, I languish! Your eyes
     are the flame, your smile the brazier, my heart the conflagration!
     You have set fire to my whole being. A word of love, of hope, or I
     will not answer for the consequences--I will kill myself at your
     feet, before your eyes, in your arms! Derision! damnation! if you
     do not answer!”

Chérubin ceased to write.

“Great heaven, my dear count!” he exclaimed; “why, that is horrible!”

“It is what you need.”

“And then, I must admit that I don’t clearly understand the letter.”

“If you understood it, the charm would be destroyed.”

“Why not write simply, as one speaks?”

“Because three-fourths of the women, who are impervious to seduction by
what is simple and natural, are delighted when a man seems to have lost
his head for love of them. Trust me; this note will deliver the heart of
the lovely Pole into your keeping. Sign that and give it to me.”

Chérubin did as he was told.

“By the way,” said Daréna, as he took the letter, “don’t mention this
intrigue to your Monsieur de Monfréville.”

“Why not?”

“In the first place, because an intrigue with such distinguished persons
as these Poles requires to be conducted with the utmost secrecy.
Monfréville is very inquisitive and very talkative; he would want to see
the lovely foreigner and that would spoil everything.”

“But you are very much mistaken; Monsieur de Monfréville is neither
inquisitive nor talkative; on the contrary, he is a most sensible man,
and he gives me excellent advice.”

Daréna bit his lips, seeing that it was useless for him to try to
destroy Chérubin’s good opinion of Monfréville.

“Monfréville, sensible, virtuous!” he retorted in a sarcastic tone. “At
all events, he hasn’t always been; I remember a time when he was the
greatest ne’er-do-well; nothing was talked about but his conquests. To
be sure, it was fifteen or eighteen years ago. When the devil grows old,
he turns hermit. For my part, I am not changed, at all events; as I
always have been, so I propose to remain; I prefer that. However, my
dear fellow, I tell you again that, if I consent to act for you in your
love-affair with the young Pole, I do it solely on account of my
friendship for you; but you understand that the slightest indiscretion
would compromise me. I demand secrecy, or I will have nothing to do with
it.”

Chérubin swore that he would not mention his new conquest to a soul, and
Daréna left him, promising to return as soon as he should have anything
to tell him.

Daréna had hardly left his young friend, when Jasmin entered his
master’s presence. The old servant’s manner was important and
mysterious, and at the same time showed much satisfaction with the
errand he had to perform. He tried to walk on tiptoe, as if he was
afraid of being overheard; he went close to his master, nearly falling
upon him because he lost his balance trying to lean over him, and said,
with an expression at once serious and comical:

“There’s a woman here, monsieur, who wishes to speak to us--that is to
say, to you--if you are alone.”

Chérubin could not help laughing at his old servant’s expression and at
the malicious meaning which he tried to impart to his message.

“Who is the woman, Jasmin? Do you know her?”

“Yes, monsieur, I recognized her from having seen her in her mistress’s
antechamber; you go to the house sometimes.”

“What do you say?”

“Why, yes, she’s a lady’s maid. Oh! she doesn’t come on her own account,
it’s her mistress who sends her--I know all about it. Many of them used
to come to see monsieur le marquis, your father, before he was married.
There was sometimes a line waiting in our little salon. Ha! ha! I used
to toy with all the maids.”

“Well, from whom does this one come?”

“Didn’t I tell monsieur? From Madame de Valdieri.”

“The pretty countess! Show her in at once, Jasmin.”

Chérubin was very curious to know what Madame de Valdieri could possibly
want of him. Jasmin went to call the maid, a tall, stoutly-built girl of
some twenty years, with red cheeks and rather an attractive face, who
seemed not at all abashed at calling at a gentleman’s apartments. After
ushering her into his master’s room, the old servant, imagining
doubtless that he had gone back to the time when they used to stand in
line at Chérubin’s father’s door, essayed, as he left the room, to put
his arms about the waist of the pretty lady’s maid; but his foot
slipped, and, to avoid falling, he was obliged to cling tightly to her,
whom he had intended simply to caress; luckily the girl was firm on her
legs, and able to sustain the weight of the old fellow, and she merely
laughed in his face as he slunk from the room in dire confusion.

As soon as Jasmin had gone, the maid took from the pocket of her apron a
tiny scented note, which she handed to the young marquis, saying:

“Madame told me to hand this to monsieur, and to request an immediate
answer.”

Chérubin quivered with pleasure as he took the note, and while the maid
discreetly stepped back, he eagerly read the pretty countess’s missive,
which contained these words:

     “You are not agreeable; I have not seen you for several days. To
     make your peace with me, will you give me a moment this morning,
     and tell me your opinion of some verses which have been sent to me?
     I shall expect you at one o’clock.”

Chérubin was beside himself with joy; he read that pleasant epistle once
more, then said to the maid:

“I accept your mistress’s invitation with great pleasure, mademoiselle;
I will be with her at one o’clock; I shall not fail.”

“Then monsieur will not write his answer?” asked the maid.

Chérubin hesitated; he walked toward his desk, realizing that it would
be better policy perhaps to seize the opportunity to write something
agreeable to his charming friend; but he remembered that Daréna had just
told him that he did not know how to write a love letter. Fearing that
he might make some blunder, he tossed his pen aside, crying:

“No, I think not; I haven’t time to write. Besides, I have too many
things to say to your mistress; I should not know where to begin; simply
assure her that I will not keep her waiting.”

The maid smiled, made a pretty little curtsy, and seemed to be waiting
for the young man to slip something into her pocket and take on her
cheek an earnest of what he was to take from her mistress. But, finding
that he did nothing of the sort, she shrugged her shoulders
imperceptibly and left the room, taking pains, as she passed through the
reception room, not to approach the old servant, who seemed inclined to
try again to pull her over.

“The servant is terribly old,” she said to herself, “but the master is
very young!”

Chérubin was in an ecstasy of delight. Madame de Valdieri’s note had
caused him to forget the Polish lady altogether. At nineteen years it is
common enough to think of present happiness only; the new love expels
the old; it is not always necessary to be nineteen years old in order to
experience that phenomenon; but can all these sentiments which are
constantly replacing one another properly be called love?

Chérubin glanced at his clock; it was half after eleven; he was not to
be at Madame de Valdieri’s until one, but he proposed to make an
extremely careful toilet. He rang for Jasmin, he rang for his other
servant, he ordered several suits to be brought, and could not determine
which one to wear. He had his hair dressed, crimped and curled, rising
constantly to look in a mirror. He told his old servant to perfume his
handkerchief, upon which Jasmin emptied several phials, smiling
cunningly, and murmuring: “What did I say? Our _bonnes fortunes_ are
about to begin. We are going to have some sport now! We are quite
good-looking enough for that.”

As he dressed, Chérubin thought of the pretty woman with whom he was
soon to be alone for the first time; he was not very composed in mind,
for he was wondering what he should say to her. He was well pleased to
have the assignation, but he regretted that Monfréville was not there to
tell him how one should behave with a lady of the most fashionable set,
who invites one to read poetry to her.

It was too late for him to consult Monfréville; the appointed hour was
drawing nigh. Chérubin completed his toilet, but did not notice that
Jasmin had saturated him with perfumery: his coat was scented with
essence of rose, his waistcoat with patchouli, his handkerchief with
Portugal water; and, in addition, all his other garments smelt of musk.
He looked himself over, concluded that he was becomingly arrayed,
stepped into his tilbury, and soon reached the countess’s abode.

He was admitted by the same maid, and instead of taking him to the
salon, she led him through several secret passages to a delicious
boudoir, where the light was so soft and mysterious that one could
scarcely see. However, after a few seconds, Chérubin’s eyes became
accustomed to that doubtful light, and he spied the pretty countess
half-reclining on a couch at the back of a little curtained recess,
which seemed intended to perform the functions of an alcove.

Chérubin made a low bow and said:

“I beg pardon, madame, but I did not see you at first, it is so dark
here.”

“Do you think so?” rejoined the fair Emma affectedly. “I don’t like
broad daylight, it tires my eyes.--It is very kind of you, Monsieur
Chérubin, to consent to sacrifice a few moments to me--you are in such
great demand everywhere!”

“It is a great pleasure to me, madame, and I--I--really I cannot promise
to read poetry very well. I am not much used to it.”

The countess smiled and motioned him to a seat beside her. Chérubin was
exceedingly perturbed in spirit as he entered the delicious little
recess and seated himself on the couch, which was not very broad, so
that he was necessarily very close to the other person upon it.

There was a moment’s silence. Emma, flattered by Chérubin’s evident
emotion and embarrassment in her presence, decided to begin the
conversation, which she was not accustomed to do.

“How do you like my boudoir?”

“Exceedingly pretty, madame; but it seems to me to be a little dark for
reading poetry.”

The little lady arched her eyebrows slightly and rejoined:

“Do you like Madame Célival’s boudoir better?”

“Madame Célival’s boudoir? Why, I have never been in it, madame; I don’t
know what it is like.”

“Oh! what a fib!”

“I assure you, madame----”

“You are lying!--However, I cannot blame you; discretion is the first
condition one should exact in love.”

“Discretion----”

“Oh! you play the innocent to perfection; but I am not taken in by that
ingenuous air. Mon Dieu! there is such a strong smell of perfumery
here--a mixture of scents. Have you essence of rose about you?”

“Rose? I don’t know; it is possible. Does it affect you unpleasantly?”

“My nerves are so sensitive! but it will pass away.”

The pretty countess lay back a moment, put her handkerchief to her face,
and drew a long breath.

Chérubin looked at her, and dared not stir. There was another long
pause; the young man would have liked to say a multitude of things, but,
as he did not know how to express himself, he inquired at last:

“Is your husband well, madame?”

The pretty creature burst into laughter which seemed a little forced,
and replied:

“Yes, monsieur, my husband is singing! So long as he is making music,
that is all that he wants.--Mon Dieu! there’s a smell of patchouli here,
too, and musk. Ah! it gives me a sort of vertigo!”

And whether as a result of the vertigo, or for some other reason, the
young woman half-reclined against Chérubin, so that her face almost
touched his, and he would have had to move very little nearer to kiss
her; but, deeply moved to find that lovely mouth so near to him that he
could almost feel her breath, he dared not move a muscle, and finally he
faltered:

“Madame, I believe that I was to read poetry to you.”

The little countess abruptly raised her head and rested it on the back
of the couch, as she replied with a touch of spite in her voice:

“Mon Dieu! what a memory you have, monsieur!--Well, take that album in
front of you and read.”

Chérubin took up an album that lay on a chair, opened it and saw a
medley of drawings, poems, portraits--everything, in short, that one
finds in a woman’s album; and, after turning the leaves a moment, he
glanced at the countess and asked timidly:

“What do you want me to read to you, madame?”

“Mon Dieu! whatever you choose, it makes no difference to me!”

Chérubin opened the album again, at random, and read:

    “Fair countess, on this page,
     You bid me pen some verse:
     Quick your commands engage;
     For you the universe
     Would rhyme.--But clear to see
     My lines good sense ignore.
     How could it other be?
     You’ve reft me of its store.”

“Oh! that is that absurd Monsieur Dalbonne!” murmured Madame de
Valdieri, twisting about impatiently on the couch. “He is forever
writing such nonsense; he adores all women.--Are you like that, Monsieur
Chérubin?”

“I, madame!” Chérubin replied in confusion; “oh, no! I--I--But I
continue:

      “‘STORY OF A MOUSE.’”

“Ah! this is much longer.”

The fair Emma, who evidently did not care to hear the story of a mouse
read at length, and who thought that Chérubin was making sport of her,
determined to resort to violent measures; she fell back on the couch,
murmuring:

“Oh! I can’t stand it any longer! these different scents set my nerves
on edge; I am fainting!”

Chérubin uttered a cry of alarm, dropped the album, and gazed at the
lovely blonde, who had chosen the most bewitching attitude that a
coquette could devise in which to faint, and whose half-closed eyes wore
an expression which did not indicate any very serious danger. But
instead of admiring it all, Chérubin rose and ran about the room,
looking for smelling-bottles and crying:

“Great God! you are losing consciousness, and I am the cause of it! I am
so distressed. I will call for help.”

“No, no, monsieur, just unlace me!” murmured the countess, with a sigh.

“Unlace you! Why, I don’t know how; still, if you think----”

And Chérubin returned to the pretty creature, to do what she suggested;
and she, seeing him lean over her, closed her eyes altogether, presuming
that that would give him more courage and that he would succeed at last
in behaving himself more becomingly; but, when he saw that the countess
had closed her eyes entirely, Chérubin jumped back, ran to a bell cord
and jerked it violently, and cried:

“She has fainted completely! what a bungler I am! As it’s this perfumery
that I have about me that has caused Madame de Valdieri’s illness, of
course she won’t recover consciousness so long as I am here.”

The maid appeared, vastly surprised to be summoned so suddenly. Chérubin
pointed to her mistress stretched out on the couch, and said:

“Come quickly and attend to madame la comtesse. I am going away; the
perfumery I have about me is what made her feel faint, so of course I
must not stay with her. Pray tell her that I am terribly distressed at
what has happened.”

And Chérubin took his hat and hastened from the boudoir, leaving the
lady’s maid in utter amazement and the pretty little countess with her
eyes wide open.

Chérubin returned home, cursing Jasmin for turning him into a perfumery
booth. He found Monfréville waiting for him, and told him what had
happened.

When the young marquis had concluded, Monfréville looked at him with a
curious expression, and said:

“My dear fellow, I have always been perfectly frank with you, and I must
tell you therefore that in this whole business you acted like an idiot.”

“An idiot!” cried Chérubin.

“Yes, like the most idiotic of idiots! When a young and pretty woman
deigns to receive you alone in her boudoir, it is with the purpose of
having you make love to her, not to read. The poetry was only a
pretext.”

“Do you think so? Mon Dieu! I had that idea, too, but I dared not
venture to think--But if she had not fainted----”

“Why, that was the time above all others when victory was in your grasp.
What! a lovely woman tells you to unlace her, and you ring for her maid!
Ah! my poor Chérubin, if this adventure becomes known, it will do you a
deal of harm in society.”

“Great heaven! you distress me! But I didn’t know--However, I will
repair my blunder; in the first place, the next time that I go to see
the lovely Emma in her boudoir, I will have no perfumery at all; and
then--oh! I will be very enterprising.”

“I trust that you may be able to set yourself right with the countess,
but I doubt it.”

“Why so?”

“Because with women, especially coquettes, a lost opportunity never
recurs. So I will bet that Madame de Valdieri won’t speak to you again
and won’t make any more appointments with you.”

“Do you think so? But what if I ask her for one?”

“She will refuse it.”

“Oh! I can’t believe that! What! just because I was afraid of making her
ill by staying with her?”

“Poor Chérubin! what a child you are still!--But I’ll tell you--let us
go to Madame Célival’s to-night; the little countess is usually there,
and if she is, you will find out at once whether I am right.”

Chérubin accepted this suggestion; he waited impatiently for the
evening, for he was burning to see Madame de Valdieri again. He was
convinced that Monfréville was mistaken, and he could not believe that
he would be ill received because he had hurriedly left her when he
discovered that perfumery was unpleasant to her.

The hour to go to the reception arrived. Monfréville called for his
young friend, and they went together to Madame Célival’s. The salons
were already filled with people, but the young countess was not there,
and Chérubin, who was on the watch for her and hoped to see her whenever
the door of the salon opened, was restless and preoccupied to a degree
that did not escape Madame Célival. The sprightly widow declared war on
him and tried to keep him by her side; but at last Madame de Valdieri
appeared with her husband.

Never had the little countess been dressed with better taste, with more
grace and coquetry; never had she worn a costume which set off her
charms to greater advantage; one would have said that the fascinating
Emma had sworn to make more conquests than ever that evening, in order
to be revenged for her discomfiture during the day.

All the men vied with one another in extolling the charms of the new
arrival. Chérubin did not say a word; but he could not tire of gazing at
Emma, and he said to himself:

“And I was sitting beside her this morning--and we were alone in her
boudoir--and her head was almost on my shoulder--and--Gad! I believe
that Monfréville is right; I was a great fool.”

Chérubin waited until the countess had received the homage which men
hasten to lay at a pretty woman’s feet. When Madame de Valdieri was no
longer surrounded, he seized an opportunity to go to her, and said in an
almost familiar tone:

“Well, madame, are you better this evening? Your indisposition had no
serious results?”

The little countess bestowed a contemptuous glance on Chérubin, and
answered in an ironical tone:

“I don’t know what you mean, monsieur!”

“You don’t know what I mean? Why, this morning----”

The countess rose, as if she did not choose to listen to Chérubin, and
seated herself beside a lady with whom she speedily began a very lively
conversation, judging from the frequent bursts of laughter with which it
was interspersed.

The young man was speechless with amazement.

“What a tone! what an expression!” he said to himself as he took a seat
in a corner. “One would think that she did not know me.”

Monfréville, who had taken his place at a card table, was not at hand to
console his friend, and Chérubin had been sitting by himself for quite a
long time, when a hand was laid gently on his shoulder, and a
penetrating voice said, almost in his ear:

“What are you doing here? sulking? Madame de Valdieri doesn’t seem to
treat you very well this evening.”

“Ah! is it you, madame?”

“Haven’t I guessed right, that you are at odds with the countess?”

“Oh! I assure you that you are mistaken; I am not sufficiently intimate
with that lady to----”

“You are discreet--that is right, and it will be a recommendation with
the ladies.”

“Well, well!” thought Chérubin, “they all seem to be agreed on that
point; Madame Célival says almost the same thing that the countess
said.”

The lovely widow seated herself for a moment by Chérubin’s side, and
said in a very low tone:

“You must have done something very bad, to be treated so--to be looked
at like that?”

“I, madame? Why, I give you my word that I have done nothing at all.”

“Bless me! how innocently he answers! One would take him for a little
saint.”

“Well, she asked me if your boudoir was prettier than--than hers. I told
her that I knew nothing about it, and she told me that I lied; but you
know that I told the truth.”

“Ah! so she asked you if my boudoir was prettier, did she?” said Madame
Célival in an irritated tone. “You admit then that you go to her
boudoir? Ah! that little countess! But, on my word, I consider it very
inquisitive of her to ask you if you had seen mine!--And you said no?”

“Why, I don’t see how I could have said yes, madame; that would have
been a lie.”

“Great heaven! what an astonishing creature you are with your scruples!
As if people never lied in society! Why, you must know that one is
driven to it sometimes, that it is absolutely necessary. However, I
propose that you shall make the acquaintance of my boudoir, so that you
can answer that lady when she questions you again.--Come to breakfast
with me to-morrow.”

“Oh! how kind you are, madame!”

“Will you come? will you be allowed?”

“Will I be allowed! Am I not my own master, pray?”

“Perhaps.--I shall expect you then to-morrow, at twelve o’clock; and we
will breakfast in my boudoir; so that you may have plenty of time to
make its acquaintance, and to tell madame la comtesse what you think of
it.”

“Oh! I am willing to bet in advance that it is prettier than hers, and
not so dark.”

Madame Célival smiled, placed her hand softly in Chérubin’s, and walked
away, murmuring almost inaudibly:

“Until to-morrow!”

Chérubin, enchanted with his new assignation, incontinently forgot
Madame de Valdieri’s disdain; he recovered his spirits and his
assurance, sought out Monfréville, who was at the card-table, and
whispered:

“I have another, my friend.”

“Another what?”

“Why, another appointment, in a boudoir, for to-morrow.”

“With the same person?”

“No, with Madame Célival.”

“You are a lucky dog! Pray try to carry it off better than before.”

“Oh! make your mind easy! I shan’t put on any perfumery at all this
time.--Are you going to play much longer?”

“Yes, we are just beginning a game of whist; I shall play two rubbers at
least.”

“I will leave you then; I am going home to bed.”

“I don’t see why you should be tired.”

“Madame de Valdieri keeps looking at me with that contemptuous
expression; I prefer to go.”

So Chérubin disappeared from the salons and went home, thinking
exclusively of Madame Célival, and engrossed by the appointment she had
made with him for the next day.



XXII

THE PLUMS


One wakes early when one is in love and has an assignation with the
object of one’s love. It is not absolutely certain that Chérubin loved
Madame Célival; indeed, it is probable that he felt for all his
conquests only those fleeting desires which all young men feel in the
presence of a pretty woman; a form of disease with which we often
continue to be afflicted when we have attained the age of maturity, and
of which it is very pleasant to be unable to cure oneself as one grows
old. But Chérubin was still too inexperienced to be able to draw
distinctions in his sensations; he believed himself to be passionately
in love with Madame Célival.

He was no sooner awake than he rang. Jasmin, despite his years, was
always one of the first to answer his master’s bell; but Chérubin did
not desire his services again to assist him to dress.

“You made a fine mess of it yesterday, Jasmin,” he said.

“What did I do, monsieur?” asked the old servant, dismayed by Chérubin’s
irritated manner.

“Why, you drenched me with perfumery, Jasmin; you put it on all my
clothes; I was a regular walking scent-bag.”

“Did not monsieur smell good?”

“Why, yes! I smelt too good--that is to say, too strong! In fact, I went
to people’s heads. Nervous ladies can’t endure that sort of thing, and
you are responsible for a lady’s fainting away. It was exceedingly
unpleasant.”

Jasmin was in despair. To repair his blunder of the previous day, he
suggested putting camphor in all his master’s pockets, because he had
been told that that was very good for the nerves, and he supposed that
it would cure the illnesses caused by perfumery. But Chérubin would not
have it; he expressly forbade Jasmin to perfume him in any way, and he
was obliged to lose his temper in order to deter his old servant from
slipping lumps of camphor into his pockets.

When his toilet was completed, Chérubin assured himself that he did not
smell of anything at all; and, while waiting for the hour at which he
was to go to Madame Célival’s, he thought about the lovely widow and
went over in his mind what he could say to her. The thing that worried
him most was the breakfasting with her.

“When you breakfast with a lady you’re in love with,” he said to
himself, “I wonder if you should eat, if you should satisfy your
appetite? Mon Dieu! I forgot to ask Monfréville for instructions on that
point. I’m afraid I shall make more stupid blunders.--But after all,
what is it that I am always blamed for? For being too timid. If I don’t
eat, I shall look like a fool; on the other hand, if I eat and drink
freely, it will give me assurance and presumption. Yes, I certainly must
eat.”

The breakfast hour arrived at last. Chérubin betook himself to Madame
Célival’s; his heart throbbed violently as he followed the maid to the
boudoir, but he said to himself:

“Well, I won’t be timid to-day, at all events, and I’ll eat a lot.”

The fair widow’s boudoir was a charming retreat, hung on all sides with
violet velvet. A soft, thick carpet covered the floor, and the threefold
curtains allowed very little light to enter.

“Evidently these ladies are very fond of the darkness,” thought
Chérubin, as he entered the room; “but I am not to read poetry to-day,
and I can see well enough to eat breakfast. And then, I understand--the
darkness should make one bolder--that is the reason, no doubt, why these
ladies expel the daylight from their rooms.”

Madame Célival was awaiting Chérubin; her dress was simple, but well
adapted to display her good points to advantage: her lovely black hair
fell in long curls on each side of her face, and the amaranthine bows
that adorned the dainty little cap she wore gave even more animation to
her eyes, which were full of fire.

The fascinating widow gave Chérubin such a pleasant welcome that any
other than he would at once have felt at his ease. He did what he could
to overcome his embarrassment, and the most judicious thing that he did
was to stand in rapt contemplation of the charms of his hostess.

“Well, Monsieur Chérubin,” said Madame Célival, after a moment, “what do
you think of my boudoir? not so pretty as the countess’s, I suppose?”

“Why, yes, madame, yes, I assure you, I like yours quite as well--in
fact, I think it even prettier.”

“Oh! you say that to flatter me!”

“But they are equally dark.”

“A bright light makes my eyes ache; I detest it.”

“But, madame, you should not dread being seen; when one is so
lovely----”

Chérubin dared not go on; he was tremendously surprised that he had said
so much; but Madame Célival, to whom the compliment seemed quite
natural, replied with a smile:

“Really! do you think me lovely? Oh! but it costs you men so little to
say things that you don’t mean!”

And, as she spoke, Madame Célival leaned carelessly on the cushion of
the violet velvet couch on which she was half-reclining, and her bosom
rose and fell rapidly as she gazed at Chérubin, who was sitting on a
chair by her side; he lowered his eyes, dared not look at her, and held
his peace.

After a long pause, Madame Célival, finding that Chérubin did not speak,
exclaimed:

“But I am forgetting our breakfast! Perhaps you are hungry?”

“Why yes, madame, I am very hungry,” Chérubin at once replied.

“And it seems that your appetite deprives you of the power of speech,”
said Madame Célival with a smile. “Mon Dieu! why didn’t you remind me? I
don’t want to see you fall dead from starvation. Please ring that bell.”

Chérubin pulled a cord and a maid appeared.

“Serve breakfast,” said Madame Célival.--”We will breakfast here,” she
added, turning to Chérubin, “because then we shall not be disturbed by
anybody; if any unwelcome visitor calls, they will say that I’m not at
home. Do you think that I have done well?”

“Oh, yes, madame, it will be much pleasanter!”

Madame Célival smiled again; perhaps she thought that their tête-à-tête
would become pleasanter; but this is mere conjecture.

The maid quickly laid the table with two covers. Chérubin noticed that
she placed the dessert on a small table beside the large one, which was
covered with dishes.

Then Madame Célival dismissed her, saying:

“If I want you, I will ring.--And now,” said the fascinating brunette,
offering her hand to the young man, who continued to gaze at her
admiringly, “take your seat, monsieur le marquis, and excuse me for
treating you so unceremoniously; but this is not a formal breakfast.”

Madame Célival’s informal breakfast consisted of a _terrine de Nérac_, a
stuffed partridge, small birds _aux pistaches_, and a superb dish of
crabs; and on the small table were pastry, preserves, and a compote of
plums, for dessert; lastly, several decanters of choice wines indicated
that the hostess did not propose that her young guest should retain his
self-possession unimpaired.

Chérubin was seated beside Madame Célival, who helped him to everything,
but ate very little; by way of compensation, the young man ate for two.
After he was at the table, he felt much less embarrassed, more inclined
to talk; he concluded that he had guessed aright, and that to eat and
drink freely would give him assurance; so he did honor to everything
that was set before him and drank whatever was poured into his glass.

Madame Célival was very lively; she knew the art of keeping the
conversation from flagging; and she seemed delighted by the way in which
her companion did honor to the breakfast.

“Really,” she said laughingly, “I am not surprised that you didn’t say
anything just now, that you seemed so taciturn! It was because you were
dying of hunger.”

“It is true, madame, that I have an excellent appetite; and then, with
you, it seems to me that one must needs always be hungry.”

“Oh! I don’t feel sure whether I ought to take that for a compliment or
not! There is a proverb which would rather work against me.”

“What is the proverb, madame?”

“As you don’t know it, I won’t tell you.--Now, we will proceed to the
dessert; I had it put within our reach, so that we need not ring; all we
have to do is to change tables. Don’t you think that that is
pleasanter?”

These last words were accompanied with such a tender glance that
Chérubin was greatly confused; to recover his self-possession, he
hastily pushed away the table on which they had breakfasted and replaced
it by the smaller one on which the dessert was all set out.

Madame Célival, who was desirous that the breakfast should come to an
end, made haste to serve her guest, and offered him everything. Chérubin
scrutinized the compote of plums and asked:

“What is that?”

“Plums. Do you mean to say that you don’t know this dish?”

“Mon Dieu! no, I never saw it before. At my nurse’s we never ate it.”

Madame Célival laughed heartily.

“At your nurse’s!” she repeated; “that is lovely! an excellent joke! One
would think, to hear you, that you had remained out at nurse to this
day.”

Chérubin bit his lips; he thought that he had made a foolish speech, and
was overjoyed to find that she took it for a good joke. He accepted the
plums which Madame Célival offered him.

“Well!” said the lovely widow, after a moment, “how do you like what you
never had at your nurse’s?”

“Very well! delicious!”

“Will you have some more?”

“With pleasure.”

Madame Célival served him again to plums, and he said, as he ate them:

“But you are eating nothing, madame.”

“Oh! I am not hungry.”

“Why not?”

“Why not! what a strange question! Because women aren’t like men, and
when they have anything on their mind, they live on their thoughts and
their feelings, and those are all they need.”

These last words were uttered in a tone of annoyance, for Madame Célival
was beginning to think that Chérubin passed an unduly long time at the
table; however, she continued to offer him the different dishes, like a
woman of breeding, who knows how to do the honors of her house.

“Thanks,” said Chérubin, “but I like the plums better than anything.”

“Very well, take some more.”

“Really--if I dared----”

“You are not going to stand on ceremony, are you? I shall be offended.”

Chérubin remembered that he must not be timid, that it was that which
had been so harmful to him. So he helped himself to plums; in a moment
he took some more; and as Madame Célival laughed heartily over his
passion for plums, and he was delighted to entertain her, he did not
stop until the dish contained no more.

The lovely widow seemed very well pleased when the plums were exhausted,
and the words: “That is very lucky!” escaped from her lips; but they
were almost inaudible, and Chérubin did not hear them.

Meanwhile the pretty hostess had softly moved her chair away from the
table; she drank a few spoonfuls of coffee, placed her cup on the
mantel, then resumed her seat on her couch, saying to the young man, in
a voice that went to his heart:

“Well! aren’t you coming to sit by me?”

Chérubin began to understand that the time had come when he must turn
his attention to something besides plums; he left the table and walked
about the salon, admiring divers lovely engravings, the subjects of
which, while not too free, were well adapted to appeal to the passions.
He went into ecstasies before Cupid and Psyche, the river Scamander, and
an Odalisk lying on her couch; and finally he seated himself beside
Madame Célival, who said to him:

“Do you like my engravings?”

“Yes, all those women are so lovely--especially the Odalisk!”

“The painter has hardly clothed her; but to enable us to admire her
beauty, it was necessary to show her to us unclothed. That is allowed in
painting; artists have privileges; we pardon everything in talent--or in
love.”

These last words were accompanied by a sigh. Chérubin looked at the
lovely widow, and she had never seemed to him more alluring; for her
eyes shone with a fire that was at once intense and soft, and her
half-closed lips seemed inclined to reply to many questions. The young
man ventured to take a hand which was relinquished to him without
reserve; he gazed fondly at that soft, plump, white hand, with its
tapering fingers; he dared not put it to his lips as yet, but he pressed
it tenderly, and not only was it not withdrawn, but a very warm pressure
responded to his. Encouraged by that symptom, Chérubin was about to
cover that hand with kisses, when he suddenly felt a sharp pain in the
intestinal region.

Chérubin was thunderstruck.

“What’s the matter?” queried Madame Célival, amazed to find him holding
her hand in the air, without kissing it.

“Nothing, oh! nothing, madame!”

And the young man tried to dissemble a wry face caused by a second pang,
less sharp, it is true, but followed by internal rumblings which
portended a violent tempest.

Meanwhile, being completely engrossed by his sensations, and disturbed
by the thought of the possible sequel, Chérubin ceased to take any part
in the conversation and dropped Madame Célival’s hand on the couch.

“In heaven’s name, what is the matter, monsieur?” murmured the pretty
widow, in a half-reproachful, half-melting tone. “You seem distraught,
absent-minded; you say nothing to me. Do you know that that is not
agreeable on your part?”

“Mon Dieu, madame, I assure you that nothing is the matter; you are
mistaken.”

And Chérubin did what he could to mask another contortion; he was
attacked by gripes which fairly tortured him; he realized that he had
the colic, and not for anything on earth would he have had Madame
Célival guess what had happened to him.

However, it is not a crime to feel indisposed! But we weak mortals, who
seek sometimes to exalt ourselves to the rank of gods, we blush because
we are subject to all the infirmities of the simplest of God’s
creatures; there are times when we are sorely embarrassed to be at once
the man of the world and the natural man. Poor Chérubin found himself in
that predicament; the plums were playing him a very treacherous trick.

Madame Célival could not misunderstand the young marquis’s tone. Piqued,
too, because she could no longer read in his eyes either affection or
desire, she exclaimed after a moment:

“Evidently, monsieur, you find it dull with me.”

“Why, madame, I swear to you that that is not true--far from it;
but----”

“But you would prefer to be with Madame de Valdieri, wouldn’t you?”

“Oh, no! that is not where I would like to be at this moment!”

“Indeed! where would you like to be at this moment, monsieur?”

Chérubin did not know what to reply; he endured with difficulty another
sharp pain, and felt the cold perspiration standing on his forehead. He
cut a very sad figure at that moment, and did not in the least resemble
a lover.

Madame Célival looked at him; she compressed her lips angrily, and
cried:

“Oh! what an extraordinary face you are making! Such a thing was never
seen before--by me, at all events. Come, monsieur, speak, explain
yourself; something is the matter, certainly.”

And the fair widow, still impelled by the tender sentiment which spoke
in Chérubin’s favor, walked toward him and would have taken his hand;
but he hastily drew back, faltering in a stifled voice:

“Oh! don’t touch me, madame, I implore you!”

“What does that mean, monsieur? I beg you to believe that I have not the
slightest desire to touch you,” retorted Madame Célival, offended by the
alarm depicted on the young man’s face. “But, monsieur, I am justified
in being surprised by the ill humor that has suddenly taken possession
of you; I did not expect that I should--er--frighten you by showing you
what pleasure it gave me to entertain you.--Ha! ha! it is most amusing,
on my word!”

Instead of replying to what she said, Chérubin abruptly sprang to his
feet, muttering:

“Excuse me, madame, excuse me--but an appointment I had forgotten--I
absolutely must go.”

“What, monsieur! you made an appointment when you knew that you were to
breakfast with me! That is extremely courteous of you! You cannot make
me believe that it is so urgent that you must go at once.”

“Oh! yes, madame, yes! it is horribly urgent; I cannot postpone it any
longer. Adieu, madame, adieu!”

And Chérubin, after running madly about the boudoir three times, in
search of his hat, spied it at last, seized it, rushed at the door,
threw it open with such force that he nearly broke it, and fled through
all the rooms of the suite, as if he were afraid of being pursued,
leaving Madame Célival aghast at his manner of taking leave of her.

Chérubin reached home at last cursing the plums and the ill-fortune
which seemed to pursue him in his love-affairs.

Toward evening Monfréville called upon his friend; he was curious to
know if he acquitted himself more creditably at his last assignation
than at the first. When he saw the young marquis, still pale and
exhausted, he smiled and said:

“I see that your good fortune was complete this time, and that you won a
grand victory.”

Chérubin looked at his friend with such a piteous expression that he did
not know what to think. After carefully closing the door of his
apartment, Chérubin told Monfréville what had happened in his second
amorous tête-à-tête. Monfréville could not keep a sober face as he
listened to the story; and although Chérubin did not share his
merriment, it was a long time before he could restrain it.

“So you consider it very amusing, do you?” said Chérubin, with a sigh.

“Faith, my dear fellow, it is very hard not to laugh at the plight in
which you found yourself.”

“Agree that I am very unlucky.”

“It is your own fault. When you breakfast tête-à-tête with a lady, you
should not stuff yourself with plums, especially after you have already
eaten heartily, as you seem to have done.”

“I did it to give myself courage, nerve!”

“What you did give yourself was very agreeable.”

“Well, no such accident will happen in my next tête-à-tête with Madame
Célival; I shall have better luck next time.”

“Oh! don’t flatter yourself that you will obtain a second assignation
from the fair widow. You are ruined in her esteem, as well as in the
little countess’s. That makes another conquest that you must abandon.”

“Do you think so? How unfair! Does a woman cease to love us because we
are suddenly taken ill?”

“Not for that reason, but because you behaved so clumsily.”

“What would you have done in my place?”

“I would have said frankly that my breakfast was disturbing me, that I
was feeling very sick; then she would have understood and excused my
departure.”

“Oh! I would have died of shame rather than say that!”

“That is very poor reasoning, my dear fellow; remember that a woman will
forgive everything except contempt or indifference to her charms.”

Chérubin was very much cast down during the rest of the day; it seemed
to him that there was a sort of fatality about his love-affairs, and he
was afraid that it would continue to pursue him. But that same evening
Daréna came to his house, to apprise him of the results of his
negotiations with the charming woman he had seen at the Cirque.

“Victory!” cried Daréna, bringing his hand down on the young marquis’s
shoulder; “it’s going on finely, my friend; your business is in good
shape.”

“Well, have you obtained an appointment for me?” inquired Chérubin, with
an almost frightened expression.

“Deuce take it! not yet; such things don’t go so fast as you think; the
young Polish countess is closely watched, surrounded by duennas and
Cerberuses.”

“Is she a Polish countess?”

“Yes, the Comtesse de Globeska, wife of the Comte de Globeski, a man of
high social position who had to flee from his country because he was
accused of high treason. He’s as jealous as a tiger! he’s the kind of
fellow that talks of nothing but stabbing his wife if she should give so
much as one hair to a man!”

“This is terrible!”

“It’s of no consequence at all! Women haven’t the slightest fear of
daggers; on the contrary, they love to defy danger. I succeeded in
getting your letter to the fair Globeska. It was a hard task; I had to
scatter gold lavishly, and I did so; in fact, I borrowed some, as I had
not enough. I know that you will make it up to me, and I thought that
you would not blame me for being zealous in the service of your love.”

“Oh! far from it, my dear Daréna; I thank you. But did the pretty Pole
write me a word in reply?”

“No, she didn’t write you; perhaps she doesn’t write French very
well--that is excusable in a foreigner; but women abound in self-esteem;
they are afraid of being laughed at if they make a mistake in grammar;
in fact, the enchanting Globeska replied by word of mouth, and what she
said is worth all the billets-doux that ever were written.”

“What did she say?”

“She said to her maid, whom I had seduced--I mean that I bribed her with
money: ‘Say to this young Frenchman who has written me, that I share his
passion. Since I saw him, I dream of him all the time, even when I am
not asleep.’”

“Did she say that? Oh! what joy!”

“Let us finish: ‘I am bound to a tyrant whom I detest. Let this
Frenchman devise some way to carry me off, and I am ready to go with
him--I will throw myself into his arms.’--Well, what do you say to that,
my lucky Lovelace? I should say that you had turned her head!”

“Yes, my friend, I am very glad; for I feel that I like that young woman
better than all the rest. With her it seems to me that I shall be more
at my ease than with the women in fashionable society, who always
intimidate me.”

“You will be very much at your ease, I promise you; the Poles are very
unceremonious.”

“But she talks about my carrying her off. Can that be done? Is it
allowable to carry off a man’s wife?”

“Oh! what a child! In the first place, you don’t ask leave; and
secondly, you see that she herself wants it done. Never fear, I will
look after the abduction; I make that my business.”

“My dear Daréna, how much I am indebted to you!”

“But the main point is to know where I shall take your charmer. You will
understand that it would be neither proper nor prudent to bring her to
this house, where your servants will see her, and----”

“Oh! certainly not. But where can we take her then?”

“Nothing can be simpler. All that we have to do is to hire a little
house near Paris, in the suburbs, in some lonely and quiet spot. Do you
wish me to attend to that too?”

“Oh, yes! I beg that you will.”

“Very good, I will hire a house. If it isn’t furnished, I will send some
furniture. Give me some money; I shall want quite a great deal.”

Chérubin ran to his desk, took out some bank-notes, and handed them to
Daréna, saying:

“Here, here are two thousand, three thousand francs--is that enough?”

“Yes; but you may as well give me four thousand at once; I must not fall
short. Now, let me manage the affair. I will make sure of a house, first
of all, and have it arranged to receive your inamorata; then I will
watch for a favorable opportunity; as soon as it comes, I will abduct
the lady, then I will come here and tell you. All that you will have to
do will be to pluck the fruit of the victory, and that will not be an
unpleasant task.”

“It is delightful!”

“But, above all, not a word of this to Monfréville, or I will have
nothing more to do with it.”

“Never fear, that is understood.”

“When your charmer has escaped from her tyrant’s hands, I will take care
to order a dainty repast sent to your little retreat. It is always
essential that a lady should find something to eat when she arrives.”

“Yes, my friend, order a supper. But no plums, I beg! No plums! I have a
horror of them!”

Daréna stared at Chérubin in amazement as he replied:

“Never fear. I was not aware of your aversion for plums; they are said
to be very healthful.”

“If I see any on the table, I shall run off at once.”

“All right--don’t get excited. I will see that none are served.”

And the count left his young friend, after pocketing the bank-notes.

“Well,” said Chérubin, “this conquest shall not escape me, and it will
make up to me for all that I have lost.”



XXIII

A FAMILY INTERIOR


As Ernestine had announced to Louise, Madame de Noirmont returned home
on the day that she was expected. Her arrival was a festal occasion for
Ernestine, who flew to meet her mother the instant that she caught sight
of her, and threw herself into her arms. Madame de Noirmont responded
lovingly to her daughter’s caresses; it was easy to see that she was
touched by them, and that she was genuinely happy to be at home once
more.

Monsieur de Noirmont did not rush to meet his wife; such tokens of
affection were not in accordance with his nature; he feared that, by
indulging in them, he should compromise his dignity. However, when he
learned that she had returned, he went to her room and greeted her
pleasantly, but did not kiss her.

“Did you have a pleasant journey, madame?”

“Yes, thanks, monsieur.”

“And how is your aunt, Madame Dufrénil?”

“She is much better, monsieur; her health is entirely restored. But it
was time for me to return, or I should have been really ill with ennui,
from being away from my daughter so long. I was very sorry that you did
not allow me to take her with me, monsieur.”

“The result of that, madame, is that you have the greater pleasure in
seeing her again, and I trust that it will make you love her dearly.”

With that, Monsieur de Noirmont saluted his wife and returned to his
study.

When her husband had gone, Madame de Noirmont drew her daughter to her
and pressed her to her heart again and again:

“Your father thinks that I do not love you,” she murmured. “Do you think
so too, my love?”

“Oh, no! indeed I don’t, mamma,” cried Ernestine. “But papa doesn’t
think so, either; I am sure of it. I know that you love me; and why
shouldn’t you? am I not your daughter?”

Madame de Noirmont’s features contracted nervously; her brow darkened,
and she hastily extricated herself from Ernestine’s arms. But the cloud
soon vanished and she drew the girl to her again, saying in a melancholy
tone:

“Oh, yes, yes! I love you dearly!”

“I have never doubted it, mamma, and if you have sometimes--as you had
just now, for instance--moments when my caresses seem tiresome to you, I
am sure that it’s just because you have a headache, or because you’re
thinking about something else; but you don’t love me any less, do you?”

“No, of course I never love you any less. Did the time seem long to you
while I was away?”

“Oh! yes, mamma! But luckily I have had a new maid for three weeks.
Father must have written you that he discharged the other one, didn’t
he?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Oh! I like the new one ever so much better! If you knew how nice she
is! and not a bit stupid, nor vulgar! She speaks very correctly, and yet
she came right from her village; she has never lived out, but she
learned her duties instantly.”

“Who brought her here?”

“Comtois. He had excellent recommendations.”

Madame de Noirmont smiled at the serious tone in which her daughter
spoke.

“My dear girl,” she replied, “I know that we may rely on Comtois.--What
is your new maid’s name?”

“Louise--Louise Fré--Frénet--I never can remember her other name. But no
matter, she’s a very nice girl, I tell you, mamma; I am sure that you
will like her too. I am going to call her, to show her to you. She’s
very shy, that is why she hasn’t come to pay her respects to you.”

“Mon Dieu! my dear love, I have plenty of time to see your maid; there
is no hurry about it.”

“Oh, yes! I want you to see her right away, mamma.”

Ernestine rang a bell; in a moment the door opened and Louise appeared
in the doorway, timid and with downcast eyes.

“Did madame ring for me?” she murmured.

Madame de Noirmont scrutinized the girl, whom she then saw for the first
time; she was struck by her beauty, by the dignified expression of her
features, by her modest and reserved demeanor, by her whole aspect,
which was not what one ordinarily sees in a lady’s maid. She could not
tire of looking at her.

Ernestine leaned toward her mother and whispered:

“Well! what do you think of her?”

“Lovely, my child, lovely; she has an air of distinction too; no one
would think that she was a servant.”

“I didn’t flatter her, did I?--Mamma thinks that you are lovely,
Louise,” continued the girl; “she likes you too. I told you that she
would like you.”

Louise made a curtsy and murmured:

“Madame is very kind; I will do my best to satisfy her, and mademoiselle
too.”

“I don’t doubt it, my child,” replied Madame de Noirmont; “everything
prepossesses me in your favor, and I am convinced that my daughter is
not mistaken in all the good that she has told me of you.”

While Ernestine’s mother was speaking, Louise raised her eyes and looked
at her. At sight of that beautiful, noble and stern face, of that pale
and haughty brow, of those great black eyes wherein one could always
detect a melancholy expression, the girl felt deeply moved and
impressed; her heart beat violently, whether with pleasure or fear she
did not know; she could not define her feelings, but she did not speak
or move. For some moments after Madame de Noirmont ceased speaking, she
continued to listen; they motioned to her that she might retire, and she
remained. At last Ernestine had to touch her arm and say: “You may leave
us, Louise,” before she came to herself and left the room, casting a
last furtive glance at Madame de Noirmont.

After a few more words concerning the new lady’s maid, Madame de
Noirmont turned all her attention to taking up the threads of her usual
domestic occupations, and to superintending her daughter’s education and
her studies with the different teachers who came to the house to give
her lessons.

Madame de Noirmont’s life was very regular; she rarely went out and
received few visits; she devoted herself to her daughter, overlooked her
studies and read a great deal: that was her greatest pleasure, her most
agreeable means of distraction.

Monsieur de Noirmont passed the whole day in his study; his wife and
daughter saw little of him before dinner. At that repast they met, and
not infrequently some old friend of Monsieur de Noirmont dined with
them, but they very rarely had more than one guest. During dinner Madame
de Noirmont talked very little, while her husband discussed politics or
economic matters with his guest. Ernestine alone did anything to enliven
the party. She succeeded very well; her childish sallies and
observations often made her mother smile; and even Monsieur de Noirmont,
despite his gravity, could not always keep a sober face. In the evening,
the ladies worked, made tapestry, or sang, and the men played chess or
backgammon. When there were no guests at dinner, Monsieur de Noirmont
often went out in the evening to some party or reception; sometimes his
wife and daughter accompanied him, but rarely. Madame de Noirmont
preferred to remain at home with Ernestine; and when her husband was not
there, she seemed less serious, less pensive, and she manifested her
affection for Ernestine more freely.

Louise’s duties were very pleasant in that family, where the ladies did
not go to balls and received very little company. Comtois alone waited
at table. The young lady’s maid assisted the ladies to dress; then,
during almost all the remainder of the day, she worked in her room,
making dresses for mademoiselle or keeping the linen of the household
in order. In the evening, she served at tea, then looked to it that her
mistresses had everything in their room that they required. This was not
very wearisome, and Louise sometimes told Ernestine that they did not
give her enough work to do; but the girl would reply, with a smile:

“What makes you work so fast? We no sooner give you a piece of sewing to
do than it is done. Mamma says that your activity and skill are most
unusual. Other lady’s maids don’t work so fast, I promise you!”

Louise felt a thrill of pleasure whenever she was told that Madame de
Noirmont was pleased with her. And although that lady always preserved a
grave and serious manner with her servants, which made the slightest
approach to familiarity impossible, she felt drawn to love her, and it
seemed to her that it would be a source of deep grief to her if she
should now be compelled to leave her.

Meanwhile three months had passed since she came to Paris, and she had
not once seen Chérubin. But since Madame de Noirmont’s return, Louise,
engrossed by the desire to please her, had felt her love-pangs less
sharply; although she still loved her old playmate as dearly as ever,
another sentiment had glided into her heart, to distract her thoughts
from her troubles.

Monsieur Gérondif had called several times to inquire of Comtois what
Louise’s employers thought of her, and each time the old servant put
forth all his eloquence in praise of the young lady’s maid and begged
the professor to thank old Jasmin for the present he had sent them.
Monsieur Gérondif went away overjoyed that he had brought Louise to
Paris, although Chérubin, entirely absorbed by his _bonnes fortunes_,
had forgotten about going to see Nicole.

One morning, when Monsieur Gérondif called at Monsieur de Noirmont’s to
ask Comtois if they were still content with Louise, the valet replied:

“Yes, indeed; Mademoiselle Louise is a model of virtue and industry. If
you would like to see her, monsieur, she is alone at this moment; the
ladies have gone out to do some shopping. She is working in her room,
and there is no reason why you should not go up and bid her
good-morning.”

Monsieur Gérondif joyfully accepted the proposition; he followed
Comtois, who led him to Louise’s chamber and left him with her.

Louise manifested the keenest delight at sight of the tutor, for she
would have an opportunity to talk with him about all those who were dear
to her. Monsieur Gérondif, who was, like most pedants, a conceited fool,
took to himself a pleasure of which he was the pretext simply; he
believed that he had kindled a tender sentiment in the breast of the
pretty lady’s maid, and he smiled as if he would dislocate his jaw as he
took his seat beside her.

Louise began by inquiring for her adopted mother.

“She is perfectly well, and she is overjoyed that you are in such a fine
position in Paris,” replied the tutor, lying with imperturbable
coolness; for he had not been to the village since Louise left it.

“And Monsieur Chérubin?” continued Louise, “is he pleased to know that I
am in Paris as he wished? Hasn’t he any desire to see me? Doesn’t he
ever speak to you about me? Did he send you here to-day?”

The tutor scratched his nose, coughed, spat, wiped his forehead, all of
which operations required much time with him, during which he considered
what he should say. Having made up his mind at last, he said to Louise:

“My dear child, it rarely happens that childish loves come to a good
end. I might cite Paul and Virginie and a thousand other examples _ad
hoc_; I prefer to tell you _ex abrupto_--which means, without
preamble--that you are making a mistake to give any further thought to
Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain, because that young man never gives a
thought to you. In the first place, when you came to see him at his
house--when you came to Paris with Nicole----”

“Well, monsieur?”

“Well, the young marquis was at home; but as he didn’t want to see you,
he gave his concierge orders to tell you that he was away.”

“O mon Dieu! is it possible?”

“Amid the debauchery in which he is plunged, how do you expect him to
remember a young country girl with whom he used to play
puss-in-the-corner, and other more or less innocent games? He has become
a great rake, has my pupil; he has a lot of mistresses. It isn’t my
fault. He receives so many billets-doux that it’s perfectly scandalous,
and I should have left his house before this if my financial interests
did not oblige me to close my eyes,--which however, does not prevent my
seeing whatever happens.”

Louise put her handkerchief to her eyes and faltered:

“So it’s all over--he doesn’t love me at all! Who would have believed it
of Chérubin?”

“One must believe everything, expect everything from a beardless youth,”
replied the tutor.

Then, drawing his chair close to the girl’s, and laying his hand on her
knee, Monsieur Gérondif tried to assume a mellifluous voice and began,
weighing his words:

“I have made the wound, and it is for me to apply the balsam, otherwise
called the remedy.--Lovely Louise, although young Chérubin has not been
true to your charms, there are others who will be too happy to offer
incense to them, to cultivate them. I go straight to the point: I love
you, divine maiden! and I am not fickle, because, thank heaven, I am a
grown man. I have not come to make any base propositions to you--_retro,
Satanas_! which means: I have only honorable views. I offer you my hand,
my heart, my name, my rank and my title; but we will wait two years
before we marry. I will try to restrain my passions for that length of
time, which I require in order to amass a tidy sum of money. You will
contribute your wages, your savings; they are much pleased with you
here, and it is probable that you will receive a handsome present at New
Year’s. We will put it all together and buy a little house in the
outskirts of Paris; I will take a few pupils to keep my hand in; we will
have a dog, a cat, chickens, all the pleasant things of life, and our
days will be blended of honey and hippocras.”

During this harangue, Louise had pushed away the hand that Monsieur
Gérondif had laid on her knee, and had moved her chair away; and as soon
as he had finished speaking, she rose and said to him in a courteous but
determined tone:

“I thank you, monsieur, for condescending to offer me, a poor village
girl, without name or family, the title of your wife; but I cannot
accept it. Monsieur Chérubin no longer loves me; I can understand that,
monsieur, and indeed I was mad to imagine that, in Paris, in the midst
of pleasures, living in the whirl of society, he would remember me. But
it is altogether different with me! I have not become a great lady, and
the image of the man I love can never be effaced from my heart. I love
Chérubin; I feel that I shall never love anybody else! So, monsieur, it
would be very wicked of me to marry another man, as I could not give
that other my love.”

Monsieur Gérondif was greatly surprised by this speech; he recovered
himself, however, and replied:

“My sweet Louise, _varium et mutabile semper femina_; or, if you prefer:
'_souvent femme varie, bien fol est qui s’y fie_.’--Woman changes ever;
he is a great fool who trusts her.--The latter lines are by François I;
I prefer Beranger’s.--Tiresias declares that men have only three ounces
of love, while women have nine, which enables them to change oftener
than we do; and yet, with only three ounces, we do pretty well.”

“What does all this mean, monsieur?”

“It means, my dear love, that you will do like the others: you will
change; your love will pass away.”

“Never, monsieur.”

“Never is a word that means nothing at all in love. However, you will
have plenty of time to think about it, as I give you two years for
reflection. Until then, allow me to hope.”

“Oh! it is useless, monsieur.”

“I beg pardon; by hoping one lives content, and I cling to my hope.
Adieu, fair Louise; continue to behave becomingly; your remuneration
will be increased doubtless, and I shall continue to put mine aside;
and, as a very trivial but very shrewd popular proverb says: ‘Let’s let
the mutton boil!’--I lay my homage at your feet.”

Monsieur Gérondif took his leave, and Louise was at liberty to weep
without restraint. She did not bestow a thought on the tutor’s offers,
she thought only of Chérubin, who no longer loved her, who had ceased to
think of her, and who had mistresses. She had been afraid for a long
time that he had forgotten her; but now she was certain of it, and it
is a far cry from fear to certainty, in love.

The return of Madame de Noirmont and her daughter forced Louise to
conceal her tears. She hastily wiped her eyes and tried to dissemble her
depression, for she felt that she must not betray the secret of her
heart.

On that day Monsieur de Noirmont went out after dinner. Ernestine
remained with her mother, to whom, as they worked, she said whatever
came into her head, especially as she saw that it was one of her moments
of good humor. When Madame de Noirmont smiled at her daughter’s
speeches, the latter was so delighted that she often laid her work aside
to throw her arms about her mother’s neck, who sometimes held her
lovingly to her heart for some moments.

Louise, for whom they rang to order tea, entered the salon at one of the
times when Madame de Noirmont’s arms were about her daughter; and the
sweet child, in her joy at being so fondled, cried out:

“See how happy I am, Louise! see what a dear, good mother I have!”

Louise stood still in the middle of the salon; she was glad for
Ernestine’s happiness, and yet, in the touching picture before her eyes,
there was something that hurt her, she did not understand why. Two great
tears escaped from her eyes; but she turned quickly, so that they might
not see her weeping.

Meanwhile Madame de Noirmont had resumed her grave demeanor, and
Ernestine had had to return to her seat. Louise served the tea as
quickly as possible, then left the room, fearing that her sadness would
be noticed.

Despite all her efforts to be calm, Louise was still crying when
Ernestine entered her room to ask her some question, before going to
bed. Seeing that Louise’s face was wet with tears, her young mistress
ran to her, and said with the most touching interest:

“Mon Dieu! crying, Louise! What’s the matter?”

“Oh! excuse me, mademoiselle. I know that I should not weep here, where
everyone is so kind to me; but I could not help it!”

“Have you some reason for being unhappy? You would not cry like this for
nothing. Louise, I insist on knowing why you were crying.”

“Well, mademoiselle, it is because, when I saw you in your mother’s arms
to-night, the picture of the happiness you enjoy made me feel more
keenly than ever the misery of my position. Oh! mademoiselle, it isn’t
envy that makes me say it! I bless Heaven for making you so happy; but I
could not help crying when I remembered that my mother never kissed me,
that I shall never be able to throw my arms about her!”

“What’s that you say, my poor Louise? Doesn’t your mother love you?”

“It isn’t that, mademoiselle. But listen, I am going to tell you the
truth, for I don’t know how to lie. And then, I don’t understand why I
should make a mystery of it; you won’t be any less kind to me when you
know that I am a poor girl, abandoned by her parents.”

“Is it possible? you haven’t any parents?”

“At all events, mademoiselle, I don’t know them.”

Thereupon Louise proceeded to tell Ernestine the story of how Nicole had
been employed to take care of her, and of the kindness of the village
people, who had kept her and treated her like their daughter, when they
found that she was abandoned by her mother.

Ernestine listened to the story with the deepest interest. When Louise
had ceased to speak, she kissed her affectionately, saying:

“Poor Louise! Oh! how glad I am you have told me that! It seems to me
that I love you even more since I know that your parents have abandoned
you. And that dear, good Nicole! those kind peasants! Ah! what splendid
people they are! I will tell mamma all about it to-morrow! I am sure
that it will interest her too.”

“Oh! that isn’t worth while, mademoiselle; Madame de Noirmont may not
like it because I have told you about my troubles.”

“I assure you, on the contrary, that, for all her serious manner, mamma
is kind and good; and, besides, she likes you very much. She has said to
me several times that your manners were just what they should be, and
that is great praise from her, I tell you!--Well, good-night, Louise,
sleep soundly, and don’t cry any more. If you haven’t any parents, you
have some people here who love you dearly and who will take good care of
you.”

Ernestine left Louise, to go to bed, and the latter felt less unhappy
when she saw her young mistress’s affection for her--an affection which
she shared with all the sincerity of her soul.

The next morning the Noirmont family met at the breakfast table.
Ernestine had not seen her mother since the preceding night, because a
headache had kept Madame de Noirmont in bed later than usual; but her
father, who rarely appeared at breakfast, had just taken his seat, when
Ernestine, after kissing her mother, said in a mysterious tone:

“I have something very interesting to tell you this morning, and I am
glad papa came to breakfast, to hear what I am going to say.”

“Really?” said Monsieur de Noirmont, smiling, and in a tone of mild
raillery. “From the way in which you say that, I imagine that it must
really be something most serious.”

“Why, yes, papa, it’s very serious! Oh! you look as if you were laughing
at me, but when you know what it is, I’ll bet that you will be as
touched as I was last night when I found poor Louise crying!”

“What! is it something about Louise?” asked Madame de Noirmont, with an
air of deep interest; “can it be that anything has gone wrong with her?
I should be extremely sorry, for the girl is a very good girl indeed,
and seems to deserve our kindness.”

“This is what it is; listen. Louise didn’t want me to tell you; but I am
very sure that you won’t blame her for it; it isn’t her fault.”

Monsieur de Noirmont, whose interest was aroused by this exordium, said
impatiently:

“Come, my child, go on, explain yourself.”

“Well, papa, last evening, when Louise came to the salon to serve the
tea, she found me in mamma’s arms, and we were kissing each other.”

“That is well, my daughter; what next?”

“At night, when I went up to bed, as I couldn’t find a fichu that I
wanted, I went to Louise’s room to ask her where she had put it. I found
her crying hard, and I asked her why she was crying. She replied,
sobbing: ‘Oh! mademoiselle, because, when I saw you in your mother’s
arms to-night, I felt more keenly than ever my misfortune in never
having been kissed by my mother, and in being only an abandoned child.’”

“An abandoned child!” murmured Madame de Noirmont, whose face instantly
became deathly pale.

“But,” said Monsieur de Noirmont, “if I am not mistaken, Comtois told us
that the girl’s parents lived in the outskirts of Paris--I don’t
remember in what village.”

“Yes, papa, that is what Comtois was told when Louise was brought here;
but that was a lie that her friends thought they ought to tell. Louise
thought it was better to tell the truth.”

“She is right. But call your maid, Ernestine; I want to hear the whole
story from her own lips. It has roused my curiosity. And you,
madame--are not you curious to hear this girl’s story?”

Madame de Noirmont replied with a few almost unintelligible words; it
was as if she were oppressed by some secret suffering, which she was
doing her utmost to conceal.

Meanwhile, Ernestine had not waited for her father to repeat his
request; she had run off to call Louise, who soon appeared before the
assembled family.

Monsieur de Noirmont looked at her with more interest than he had
previously displayed; Ernestine smiled at her affectionately; Madame de
Noirmont lowered her eyes and became paler than ever. From the
disquietude that had taken possession of her, from the anxiety that
could be read upon her features, one would have taken her for a criminal
awaiting judgment.

“Come, Louise, come nearer,” said Monsieur de Noirmont, motioning to
her; “my daughter has told us of what you told her last evening. Do not
tremble, my child; we shall not reproach you for telling us what was not
true when you entered our service.”

“Oh! it was not I, monsieur!” murmured Louise.

“I know it, it was the person who obtained the situation for you, who
thought it his duty to tell that falsehood.--So you do not know your
parents, my poor girl?”

“No, monsieur.”

“Where were you brought up?”

“At Gagny, monsieur.”

“At Gagny. Ah! that’s it; I had forgotten the name of the village that
you told me when you came here.--And the people who brought you up?”

“A kindhearted peasant woman, Nicole Frimousset. She was nursing
Monsieur Chérubin de Grandvilain at the time.”

“Indeed! so this woman was the young Marquis de Grandvilain’s nurse?”

“Yes, monsieur, he is my foster-brother, and in my childhood we played
together all the time.”

“Very good! But that doesn’t tell us how you went to Gagny.”

“Mon Dieu! monsieur, it was a lady--my mother, I suppose--who carried me
to dear Nicole’s, and begged her to take me to nurse. I was then a year
old; she left some money with Nicole and went away, saying that she
would come again. The next year she sent a little more money by a
messenger from Paris; but she didn’t come to see me, and no one ever
after came to inquire for me.”

“But what was the lady’s name; where did she live?”

“Nicole didn’t think to ask her any of those questions; for she could
not dream that she would abandon me, that she would never come again.
The messenger from Paris did not know who the lady was who hired him on
the street, he could not tell my good nurse anything.”

“But was no paper, no mark found on you or on your clothing?”

“Nothing, monsieur, absolutely nothing.”

“That is very strange.--Don’t you agree with me, madame?”

As he asked this question Monsieur de Noirmont turned to his wife, whom
he had not looked at while questioning Louise; Ernestine, whose eyes
followed her father’s, uttered a piercing shriek.

“Oh dear!” she cried, “mamma has fainted!”

Madame de Noirmont’s head had fallen against the back of her chair; she
had in fact lost consciousness, and the livid pallor of her face made
her condition seem most alarming.

They hastened to her assistance; Ernestine wept and lamented as she
kissed her mother again and again. Louise shared her distress; she lost
her head, did not know what to do, and did not hear what was said to
her. But Monsieur de Noirmont, who retained all his presence of mind,
called Comtois, and, with his assistance, carried his wife to her room
and laid her on her bed.

After some time, Madame de Noirmont came to herself; but there was a
look of gloom and anxiety in her eyes, which indicated that the cause of
her trouble still existed. She turned her eyes slowly on her husband and
her daughter; then, as she caught sight of Louise, who was a little
farther away and who seemed to share the general anxiety, she closed her
eyes and let her head fall back on the pillow.

“Mamma, dear mamma, how do you feel now?” cried Ernestine, squeezing her
mother’s hand.

“Better, my dear, I feel better.”

“What was the cause of your sudden illness, madame?” asked Monsieur de
Noirmont with interest. “You gave us a terrible fright.”

“Why, I have no idea, monsieur. I had a sudden feeling of suffocation;
then a cold perspiration broke out all over me, and I lost the use of my
senses.”

“You didn’t feel well this morning, you had a headache,” said Ernestine.

“Yes, that is true,” replied Madame de Noirmont hastily. “I felt poorly
this morning, and that is the cause, no doubt----”

“And then Louise’s story must have grieved you, made your heart ache.
That probably made you worse.”

“Do you wish me to send for the doctor, madame?”

“No, monsieur, it is not necessary; I need nothing but rest and
quiet--and a little sleep, perhaps.”

“We will leave you, then.”

“But I shall be close by,” said Ernestine, “and I will come at the
slightest sound.”

Madame de Noirmont seemed most desirous to be left alone. All the others
went away, Ernestine still deeply moved because she had seen her mother
in a swoon, and Louise very much cast down because she feared that the
story of her misfortunes had touched her mistress too deeply.

Madame de Noirmont passed the rest of the day in her room; she kept her
bed and expressed a wish to be alone. The next day passed in the same
way; and for several days she did not leave her bed.

She refused to see a doctor, however, and declared that her trouble
required no other remedy than rest.

But from the first moment of her illness, it was evident that Madame de
Noirmont’s humor had changed: she hardly spoke; sometimes her daughter’s
presence seemed irksome to her; she answered her curtly and received her
caresses without warmth. As for Louise, while her mistress kept her
room, she persistently declined her services on the pretext that she did
not require them.

Poor Louise was greatly distressed.

“Madame your mother,” she said to Ernestine, “will not let me wait on
her, or even go into her room. I am afraid that I have displeased her,
mademoiselle; perhaps she does not like to have in her house a girl
whose parents are not known.”

Ernestine tried to comfort her, saying:

“You are wrong. Why should you think that mamma has anything against
you? No, it is this trouble of hers, it’s her nerves that make her
depressed and irritable. Why, she even pushes me away now when I kiss
her, and she doesn’t kiss me; that makes me unhappy too, but I am sure
that mamma still loves me.”

As she spoke, the sweet child shed tears, and Louise mingled hers with
them, for she could think of no other consolation to give her.

Madame de Noirmont made up her mind at last to leave her room, and she
went down to the salon. The first time that Louise saw her, she longed
to ask about her health, but she dared not; her mistress’s eyes seemed
to avoid hers, and she did not display her former kindliness to her. For
the merest trifle, Madame de Noirmont lost patience, scolded and became
angry; sometimes she gave Louise ten contradictory orders in the same
minute. The poor girl lost her head, was bewildered, did not know what
to do, while Ernestine gazed at her mother with a surprised and grieved
expression, when she saw her treat her protégée so harshly.

Sometimes, however, a violent change seemed to take place in that
strange creature; after speaking sharply and severely to Louise, Madame
de Noirmont, remarking the poor girl’s heartbroken expression, would
suddenly change her tone; her eyes would fill with tears and follow
Louise’s every movement; then she would call her in a gentle,
affectionate, even tender voice, and the girl would return instantly,
joyous and eager; but her mistress’s face would already have resumed its
stern expression, and she would motion her away, muttering curtly:

“What do you want? I didn’t call you.”

Several weeks passed in this way. One morning, Madame de Noirmont, who
seemed even more thoughtful than usual, said to her daughter when she
came to kiss her:

“Really, I don’t propose to keep your maid; the girl is good for
nothing; we must dismiss her. We will pay her two or three months’ wages
more than is due her. Tell her, and advise her to return to her village;
I think that she made a great mistake in coming to Paris to seek
employment. Do not try to change my decision, it would do no good.”

Ernestine was in despair; she was very fond of Louise, and it would be a
real sorrow to her to part with her; but her mother had spoken in such a
stern and decided tone that the poor child dared not reply. She said
nothing, but lowered her eyes with a sigh, and left the room to perform
the distressing duty with which her mother had entrusted her. As she
left her mother’s apartment, Ernestine met Monsieur de Noirmont, who
came up to her and kissed her, and said, observing her sorrowful air:

“What is it, my child? You look as if you had been crying!”

“It’s nothing, papa.”

“You know, Ernestine, that I do not like evasions or mysteries; I insist
upon knowing at once what makes you unhappy this morning.”

“Well, papa, it’s because mamma is going to send Louise away, poor
Louise, our maid, who is so sweet, and whom I love so dearly. But mamma
doesn’t like her any more; she says that Louise isn’t good for anything;
but Louise works just as much as she ever did, and she sews like an
angel. But as mamma insists, I am going to tell Louise, so that
she----”

“Don’t go to her, my child, it is not necessary; Louise will stay in
this house.”

“But, papa, when mamma told me----”

“I tell you the opposite, my child, and I am the only master here.”

Ernestine said no more, for her father had assumed a severe expression
which in him denoted that he had formed a resolution which no one could
change. Monsieur de Noirmont then went to his wife and said to her in a
cold and impressive tone:

“Your humor is very capricious, madame, as anyone may see by the way in
which you treat your daughter sometimes; but you extend it to
defenceless servants also, and that is what I cannot endure. This young
Louise, who came here to wait upon Ernestine, is honest and virtuous;
her appearance is as becoming as her manners; I think that it would be
difficult to find another so satisfactory; and yet you propose to
dismiss her, madame--you expect me to turn a good girl out of my house,
because, for some unknown reason, she has ceased to please you; because
your fanciful humor makes you more difficult than ever to serve!--No,
madame, that shall not be; I propose to be just before everything, and
this girl shall remain in my house, because it would be unjust to send
her away.”

Madame de Noirmont had not a word to say in reply; she hung her head and
seemed completely crushed.



PART IV



XXIV

THE POLISH INTRIGUE


Chérubin did not see Daréna for a week; he fretted and fumed with
impatience, fearing that his intrigue with the pretty Pole had fallen
through altogether; and, as is always the case, he became immeasurably
more enamored of the object of his passion as his fear of not possessing
her increased. It was for the purpose of giving him time to reach that
climax of passion, that Daréna, who was thoroughly acquainted with the
human heart, had allowed several days to elapse without going to see
him.

At last Daréna appeared at the hôtel de Grandvilain one morning, hurried
and breathless, like a man who had galloped twelve leagues without a
halt. He pushed old Jasmin aside and almost knocked him down, when that
worthy retainer attempted to tell him that he did not know whether he
could see his master, who had not yet risen.

“I don’t care whether he’s up or in bed, he is always visible to me,”
replied Daréna imperiously. “Learn, you old donkey of a valet, to know
the persons whom your master is always delighted to receive.”

As he spoke, Daréna rushed into the young marquis’s bedroom, leaving
Jasmin propped against the wall, muttering in a voice that trembled with
wrath:

“Old donkey! he called me an old donkey! He’s an impertinent knave. The
Grandvilains, father or son, never called me that. He’s not a donkey,
but I have an idea that he’s a much more dangerous animal!”

Daréna reached Chérubin’s bedside and pulled the curtains aside, crying:

“Up, Joconde! up, Lovelace, Richelieu, Rochester! The moment of triumph
has arrived at last!--Sapristi! I can fairly say, my dear fellow, that I
have made myself ill for you! Ouf! I can do no more!”

And Daréna threw himself on a couch, and mopped his face with his
handkerchief.

“But what has become of you during these eight long days that I have not
once seen you, and have not known what to think of your silence?” asked
Chérubin, looking closely at his friend. “I thought that you had
forgotten me.”

“Ah! that is just like a man--a young man! Because things are not done
on the instant, you think that you are forgotten. Do I ever forget my
friends? Am I not absolutely devoted to you? If you have not heard from
me for a week, it is because I had nothing to tell you; but I have been
on the lookout, watching and waiting for the moment to act. It has come
at last; I have acted, and the fair Globeska is in our power.”

“Is it possible? Oh! do tell me how you did it, my dear Daréna?”

“Parbleu! by my ordinary method: I scattered money about. I know no
other way, especially as it always succeeds. Dress, and meanwhile I will
tell you how it all came about; but don’t call your valet; you will
understand that I can’t talk about it before a witness. I have already
compromised myself enough--but damn the odds!”

Chérubin rose and began to dress, saying:

“Go on, I am listening; I shall not lose a word.”

“You know that the pretty Pole lived with her husband in furnished
lodgings in the Marais; I succeeded in effecting the delivery of your
billet-doux by bribing a lady’s maid and two concierges. The Comtesse de
Globeska replied that she was mad over you and asked nothing better than
to leave her tyrant. That was all very well, but how were we to abduct
the young woman from a man who left her no more than her shadow? It was
very difficult. Seven days passed thus; Monsieur de Globeski did not
leave his wife for an instant. At last, yesterday, I learned from a
concierge, by a further use of money, that the Polish count had decided
to leave Paris, and that he was going to take his wife to Norway; of
course, if we had had to pursue our conquest to Norway, it would have
taken us too far. I instantly formed my resolution, saying to myself:
‘He shall not take her!’

“I learned--still by the lavish use of money--that the post-chaise was
to call for our Poles at eight in the evening. I arrived just before the
hour; the carriage came and stopped in front of the house, and I went
boldly up to the postilion and led him aside.

“‘I adore the woman who is going with you,’ I said. ‘I am going to
follow with two friends to a lonely place on the road, one or two
leagues from Paris; we shall pretend to attack you, and fire a few shots
with pistols loaded with powder only. You will stop; we will open the
carriage door and seize the young woman; then you will start off at full
speed with the old gentleman, and if he shouts to you to stop, you will
pay no attention until you have galloped at least two solid hours.’

“You will understand, my dear Chérubin, that I should not dare to make
such a proposition as that to a postilion, without supporting it by
convincing arguments. I handed him a thousand-franc note, and he turned
his back, saying:

“‘What do you take me for?’

“I added five hundred francs. He remarked that it was a very ticklish
business! I added another five hundred. He agreed to everything. That’s
the way things are done in Paris. I went off to choose two rascals on
whom I could rely, in consideration of five hundred francs, which I gave
to each. I also hired a post-chaise. When the Comte de Globeski started
off with his wife, we followed; and, about two leagues from here,
between Sèvres and Chaville, in a place where nothing grows but melons,
we discharged our pistols. The bribed postilion stopped. It was dark,
and everything went off as I had arranged. We kidnapped the young woman.
The old Pole defended her like a genuine demon; indeed, he inflicted a
slight dagger wound on one of our men in the scuffle, which forced me to
disburse three hundred francs more. However, we captured the divine
Globeska, and I took her to the house I have hired, where she passed the
night and is now awaiting you.”

“Oh! what a series of events, my dear Daréna! But great heaven! this
stealing a woman from her husband, and by force! Suppose it should be
known? Isn’t it a crime?”

“Bah! are you going to have scruples now?--At all events, there was no
other way, and then, if worse comes to worst, I am the only one
compromised; but my friendship is of the sort that defies danger.”

“And the pretty Pole--where have you taken her?”

“To a little house that stands all by itself near Barrière de la
Chopinette; I could find nothing better. And then I considered that to
go into the country, at a distance from Paris, would incommode you too
much. The house I have hired is in a spot where very few people pass;
the outlook is not very cheerful, but what do you care for that? You
aren’t going to shut yourself up with a woman, to look out of the
windows at people passing, are you? Isn’t one always happy when with the
person one loves?”

“Oh, yes! of course; but in what quarter is this Barrière de la
Chopinette?”

“In the quarter of La Poudrette, and of lonely promenades, in the
direction of Ménilmontant. However, we can go there in a cab. Remember,
my dear fellow, that your charmer is waiting for you; I told the
concierge of the house to order as toothsome a breakfast as he can
procure in that quarter, and some superfine wines. Make haste and finish
dressing--put on your best clothes, perfume yourself----”

“Perfume myself? Indeed, I shall not; perfumery makes me sick.”

“As you please, but put on your armor. Lucky Chérubin! you are about to
possess one of the loveliest women I have ever seen; and her Polish
accent, too, is most fascinating.”

“And she loves me, you say? she has admitted it?”

“Parbleu! how many times must I tell you? In fact, I should say that her
conduct was quite sufficient proof of it.”

“She didn’t weep when she was kidnapped?”

“Weep! She danced--she adores dancing, it seems. By the way, I need not
tell you that I have nothing left of the funds you advanced me. The
postilion and my men to pay--the hire of the post-chaise and the
house--and all the people I bribed. In fact, you owe me fifteen hundred
francs.”

“Fifteen hundred francs!” exclaimed Chérubin, as he walked to his desk;
“it costs a lot to abduct a woman!”

“To whom are you telling that? to me, who have abducted a hundred
perhaps, in the course of my life? Indeed it was in that way that I
spent a large part of my fortune; but it is a princely pleasure all the
same, in which everybody cannot indulge.”

Chérubin handed Daréna the sum that he required, and said:

“I am ready.”

“Very good; send out for a cab; you will understand that we can’t go to
your _petite maison_ with your tilbury and your groom. You should never
take your servants into the secret of a mysterious intrigue like this;
such people are too fond of talking.”

“You are right.--Holà! Jasmin!”

The old servant appeared, still with a long face, and cast an angry
glance at Daréna. Chérubin ordered him to send for a cab.

“Will not monsieur take his cabriolet?” queried Jasmin, with an
expression of surprise.

“Evidently not!” cried Daréna, laughing at Jasmin’s face; “as your
master orders a cab, he doesn’t propose to take his cabriolet. Off with
you, old ruin, and make haste, if you possibly can.”

“Old ruin!” muttered Jasmin, as he left the room. “Still another
insult--and I must swallow it all! I am very much afraid that this
ne’er-do-well will ruin my young master. I should like to know why he
makes him take a cab, when he has his own tilbury and cabriolet.”

However, Jasmin did his errand; the cab was summoned. Chérubin went
downstairs with Daréna, and they both entered the vehicle, which Jasmin
looked after, with a far from pleased expression, as it drove away.

Daréna told the driver where to take them. After quite a long drive they
stopped in front of a shabby house outside Barrière de la Chopinette, on
the outer boulevards.

“Here we are!” said Daréna, jumping out of the cab.

Chérubin looked at the house, which had but one floor above the ground
floor, with two windows on the front.

“This isn’t a very handsome house!” he exclaimed.

“It is very fine inside,” replied Daréna. “The principal thing is that
it’s isolated; the devil himself would be in it if the husband should
unearth you here! My dear fellow, when you run off with a woman, you
must take the greatest precautions. And after all, what do you care
about the house? It’s the woman that you come here to see. For my part,
I should have been perfectly happy in a shepherd’s hut, with the object
of my love.--Send the cab away; I am going to ring.”

Chérubin made haste to pay the cab-driver, who returned to his box and
drove away.

Daréna pulled a wire beside the low door that gave admission to the
house. A little fellow of some thirteen years, with an impudent
expression, whose knavish and insolent bearing harmonized well with a
very dirty costume, answered the bell, his cap over his ear, his blouse
flapping in the wind, and his hands black with dirt. He bestowed a
glance of intelligence on Daréna, who recognized little Bruno, the same
urchin of whom Poterne had tried to make a monkey, and who, on his side,
had conceived the idea of appropriating the skin which he had used in
studying his character. Later Poterne had found Bruno, who had
squandered his disguise; the business agent took the liberty of
thrashing the boy, then forgave him, and charmed by the happy talents
which young Bruno manifested, determined to employ him again when the
opportunity should present itself. In the scheme which had been devised
to dupe Chérubin, it was necessary to station some intelligent person,
who could be trusted, in the house which had been hired. Poterne
instantly thought of the urchin, to whom he did not pay much, and who
had all the qualities essential to forward their designs.

“Ah! this is the concierge’s son,” said Daréna, glancing at Bruno as
they entered the house, and leading Chérubin through a sort of
vestibule, toward the staircase. “Where’s your father, my boy? is he
away?”

“Yes, monsieur, he had to go to a place ten leagues from here, to see my
aunt, who is very sick.”

“And you are keeping the house?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Has the lady who slept here had everything that she wanted?”

“Oh, yes! monsieur; don’t you be afraid; that lady hasn’t wanted for
anything. She’s upstairs. By the way, she says that she’s beginning to
get tired of being all alone.”

“Patience! monsieur here has come to keep her company.--How about the
breakfast; is it ordered?”

“Yes, monsieur; and it will be fine, I tell you. I was the one that went
to the restaurant----”

“This little rascal is overflowing with intelligence,” said Daréna,
turning to Chérubin, “and I recommend him to you in case you need
anything.--Well, my dear friend, here you are with your charmer now, and
I will leave you.”

“What! you are going to leave me?” cried Chérubin, almost in an offended
tone.

“Why, I don’t see that there is anything more for me to do here; the
rest is your business. You are going to breakfast tête-à-tête with a
little foreigner, who is mad over you. Would not a third person be in
the way?”

“Oh, yes! of course. Well, then, au revoir.”

“Au revoir, my dear marquis, and may love crown you with its sweetest
favors!”

Daréna smiled, almost ironically, as he shook hands with Chérubin; then
he flashed a glance at Bruno and left the house, closing the door behind
him.

Chérubin felt intensely excited when he found himself in that strange
house, in a quarter which was entirely unfamiliar to him, with no other
company than a boy who stared at him with a sly expression, as he
cracked nut after nut which he took from under his blouse.

The vestibule had two doors, both of which were open, disclosing the
interior of two rooms, in one of which the only furniture was several
rickety tables, and in the other, one table and a wretched cot bed; the
windows on the boulevard were supplied with iron bars, but entirely
unprovided with curtains.

Chérubin, who had seen this at a glance, reflected that Daréna had not
spent much money in furnishing the house. Then he turned to Bruno, who
was still breaking nuts, sometimes with his teeth and sometimes with his
feet, and humming at intervals a tune of which nothing could be heard
save: _tu tu tu tu tu tu r’lu tu_.

“Where is madame la comtesse’s apartment?”

“Whose?” queried the ex-bootblack, looking up with an insolent
expression.

“I ask you where the young lady is, who has been in this house since
last night?”

The boy thrust his tongue into his cheek,--a street Arab’s trick when he
proposes to lie--and answered:

“Oh, yes; the young foreign lady, who was kidnapped, and who slept
here--_tu tu tu r’lu tu_--she’s upstairs, on the first floor, in the
finest apartment in the house, where she’s sighing and having a stupid
time--_tu tu tu r’lu tu!_”

Chérubin asked no further questions; he went upstairs--there was but one
flight--and stopped at a door, the key of which was on the outside. His
heart beat very fast at the thought that he was about to stand in the
presence of the young Pole who had consented so readily to leave her
husband and go with him; but he remembered how pretty she was, and he
decided to knock.

“Come in,” cried a voice, “the key’s in the door.”

Chérubin recognized Madame de Globeska’s accent; he opened the door and
found himself face to face with the young woman.

Chichette Chichemann wore a very simple costume, into which a few odds
and ends of lace, flowers and fur had been introduced, in an attempt to
set it off; but they produced the contrary effect in the eyes of a good
judge. But Chérubin was not as yet an expert in such matters; moreover,
a man in love pays no heed to such details. What impressed him at once
was Chichette’s pretty face, over which was perched the same velvet
toque that she wore at the Cirque; and as he entered the room she
greeted him with a pleasant smile, crying:

“Ah! here you are; that’s very lucky! for I was beginning to be awfully
bored, all alone here!”

Encouraged by this greeting, Chérubin seated himself beside the young
woman, and said to her in a very tender tone:

“Ah! madame, then you will pardon what my excessive love has led me to
undertake? You have consented to trust my honor, to fly from him
who--from him who--that is, from that gentleman who looked so ugly and
who assuredly is not worthy to--to----”

Chérubin had never said so much at one time; he stopped, for he did not
know how to finish his sentence. But Chichette gave him no time; she
instantly replied:

“Yes, yes! I’ve fled from my tyrant. But let’s talk about something
else.”

“She doesn’t want me to talk about her husband!” said Chérubin to
himself; “she wants me to talk about something else--my love, no doubt.
She is charming.--And so,” he continued aloud, “you do not regret having
entrusted to me the care of your happiness, and being here at this
moment, far from your native country [_pays_]?”

“My pays? oh, yes, I always regret my little pays! but I hope to see him
again some day. Let’s talk about something else.”

“Ah! how kind you are, madame! how lovely you are! If you knew
how--I--I--I love you!”

It required a great effort on Chérubin’s part to say that, and he dared
not look at the young woman, fearing that she would consider his
declaration rather abrupt. But Mademoiselle Chichette, far from seeming
offended, began to laugh idiotically, and replied:

“Yes, yes! I know. Ha! ha! It’s nice to love, and you have very fine
eyes. Ha! ha! I’d like right well to laugh with you.”

And the so-called Polish countess, who seemed, in truth, much inclined
to laugh, and who showed some very pretty teeth, looked at the young man
in a meaning fashion, and did not tell him to talk about something else.
For a moment Chérubin was tempted to kiss his enslaver, who almost
offered him her fresh, pink cheeks; he confined himself to taking a
hand, which he laid upon his heart and pressed it hard.

Chichette, tired perhaps of having her hand pressed to Chérubin’s heart,
said to him, still laughing:

“How your thingumbob goes tick-tack! It’s like a big clock.”

“Oh! it is emotion, madame; it is pleasure; it is----”

“Aren’t we going to breakfast?” cried Chichette suddenly; “I’m hungry, I
can hear my belly crying; it goes _flouc-flouc_!”

These words brought Chérubin back to less romantic thoughts; he ran to
the door, opened it, and shouted:

“I say, young one--what about that breakfast?”

“Here it is, monsieur, here it is! Right away, smoking hot!” replied
Bruno; “the restaurant man’s just this minute come.”

And a moment later a wine-shop waiter came up the stairs with the young
concierge. They laid a table with two covers; they produced a basket
filled with bottles, with seals of all colors; they covered the table
with freshly opened oysters, and placed several covered dishes on
another table. At sight of the oysters the so-called Pole indulged in
the most plebeian demonstrations of delight, and began to dance about
the room, crying:

“Ah! oysters! I like oysters so much! I’d let myself be hamstrung for
some oysters.”

Chérubin was amazed to hear Madame de Globeska express herself in such
terms, but he attributed it to her ignorance of the language.

The waiter was too much accustomed to such expressions to be surprised.
As for young Bruno, he contented himself with thrusting his tongue into
his cheek again and muttering:

“Thanks! that’s a fine sort of talk! This game will get spoiled!”

The breakfast was served. The waiter left the room with the urchin, and
they took care to close the door behind them. Mademoiselle Chichette did
not wait for Chérubin to escort her to the table; forgetting all the
lessons she had had in behaving like a comme il faut person, she ran and
took her seat in front of one of the covers, crying:

“Let’s eat! let’s eat! Oysters! ah! that’s good!”

“She seems to be very hungry!” thought Chérubin, as he took his seat at
the table. And he made haste to supply the young woman with oysters; but
she did not wait for him to select them for her; she put them out of
sight with wonderful rapidity, then held out her glass, saying:

“White wine, please; I’m very fond of white wine too.”

Chérubin filled her glass with a white wine from a bottle which had been
supplied with a long cork, to give it the appearance of sauterne; but it
looked as if it were not drinkable with anything but oysters.

The young man considered that they were very badly served, generally
speaking: the plates were the commonest china, the covers had not the
ring of silverware, and the linen was very far from being fine. The
wine, too, despite its yellow seal, seemed to him decidedly poor; but
his conquest thought it delicious; she swallowed oysters, emptied her
glass, called for more oysters and held out her glass to be filled,
without any perceptible interval. Chérubin could not keep up with her;
not until there were no more oysters on the table did Mademoiselle
Chichette conclude to make a little pause.

“I will call the little concierge and tell him to take these things
away,” said Chérubin.

“No, no, I’ll take ‘em away myself!” replied Chichette; she rose, and
with a turn of the hand cleared the table of plates and shells, and
brought two of the covered dishes. The young man tried in vain to
prevent the lady from performing that task; she would not listen to
him, and did not resume her seat until it was all done.

“Mon Dieu! how it distresses me to see you take all this trouble, madame
la comtesse!” said Chérubin; “but you seem to have been brought up to
household duties. In Poland, young ladies receive a less frivolous
education, I see, than in France; and your noble parents did not disdain
to teach you these little domestic details. They are dead,
doubtless--your noble parents?”

“Yes, yes! Let’s talk about something else! Let’s see what’s in this
dish. Ah! how good it smells! It’s rabbit! Oh! I’m so fond of rabbit!”

Chérubin did not fully agree with his inamorata; he did not like rabbit
himself, and he found that the breakfast which had been ordered for him
did not at all resemble what he ordinarily ate at restaurants in Paris.
But his companion was much less particular than he; she helped herself
to the rabbit and seemed to enjoy it hugely; she even exclaimed from
time to time:

“It’s mighty well fricasseed!”

Chérubin offered her some wine with a different seal. Chichette drank
red as well as white, then uncovered another dish, and shouted, leaping
up and down in her chair:

“Ah! chowder! Oh! I’m glad of that! I’m so fond of chowder!”

“It seems to me that she’s fond of everything!” thought Chérubin; “she
certainly has been very well brought up; she doesn’t play the prude!”

Chichette voted the chowder delicious; she helped herself several times
without waiting for Chérubin to offer it; she was particularly
enthusiastic over the sauce; finally she began to lick her plate,
unwilling apparently to leave the least particle of the sauce which she
liked so much.

The young man was thunderstruck when he saw the Comtesse de Globeska put
her plate to her mouth and run her tongue over it; but he concluded that
custom in Poland permitted such behavior. When Chichette noticed that
her companion was watching her, she realized that she had made a
blunder, and instantly replaced her plate on the table, saying:

“Oh! that was just a joke! I won’t ever do it again! But let’s see
what’s under that other cover.”

Chichette uncovered the last dish, which contained fried fish. She
uttered a joyful exclamation:

“Ah! gudgeons! fried gudgeons! Oh! I’m so fond of fried fish!”

“I am delighted, madame, that you find all these things to your taste,”
said Chérubin, serving his charmer to gudgeons; “but really you are not
hard to suit; to me it seems that our breakfast is not worthy of you.
Evidently there are no good restaurants in this quarter.”

“Oh, yes, yes! at La Courtille.”

“At La Courtille! I don’t know that place; did your husband take you
there to dinner sometimes?”

“My husband! Oh! let’s talk about something else. I’d like something to
drink; gudgeons make you thirsty in a minute.”

Chérubin hastened to supply his guest with a wine decorated with a
different seal, which she drank and declared excellent. The young man
would have liked to lead the conversation back to his love, but his
conquest was so busily engaged in eating and drinking that he dared not
divert her from an occupation in which she seemed to take so much
pleasure; and then he recalled his breakfast with Madame Célival and
said to himself:

“I ate heartily to drive away my bashfulness. Perhaps this pretty Pole
is doing the same; but God grant that she doesn’t end as I did!”

When there was no more fish, they passed to the dessert, which was very
modest, consisting only of biscuit, cheese and dried fruit. Again
Chérubin anathematized the restaurant keeper; but Chichette continued to
declare everything excellent; she stuffed herself with figs, raisins,
and biscuit; she drank several glasses in succession to wash it all
down; and at last she stopped eating and leaned against the back of her
chair.

“It’s strange,” she said, “but I’m not a bit hungry now.”

“It would be much stranger if she were!” thought the young man, as he
moved away from the table in order to approach his companion.

Having placed his chair close beside Chichette’s, he ventured to take
her hand.

“How fortunate I am,” he said in a hesitating tone, “to be--to be with
you! What a lucky chance it was that led me to the theatre where you
were; for, but for that, I should never have met you; and yet, my
friend, the gentleman who was with me that evening says that we were
born for each other.--Do you think that, madame?”

Chichette rose hurriedly, saying:

“I am rather full; it’s funny, for I didn’t eat very much.”

She walked several times around the room. Chérubin went to her and said:

“Do you feel ill?”

“Oh, no! it will pass off.”

Chichette sat down again, not on her chair, but on an old couch, covered
with spots, the cushions of which looked as if they were stuffed with
chips. The girl stretched herself out on it, however.

“I say, this is mighty comfortable,” she said.

Chérubin gazed amorously at her and cried:

“Oh, yes! there certainly was sympathetic attraction in our meeting. My
tutor, Monsieur Gérondif, explained it to me once. He took a little
piece of agate, rubbed it hard on his coat sleeve, then held it toward a
straw, and the straw instantly jumped at the stone and clung to
it.--‘Thus the magnet attracts iron,’ said my tutor; ‘thus sympathy
draws together two hearts that were made to love and understand each
other.’--Ah! madame, I am not a Pole, but I love you as dearly--more
dearly, perhaps; for my inexperienced heart feels a craving for love,
and if--and if----”

Chérubin paused, because it seemed to him that his words were
accompanied by a dull, rumbling sound. That sound came from the couch.
He had noticed that his pretty companion closed her eyes while he was
speaking, but he supposed that it was from modesty. However, desirous to
learn the cause of the noise he heard, he approached the young woman and
saw with surprise that she was not only asleep, but was snoring heavily.

The unfortunate lover gazed for some time at his sleeping enslaver; but
the snoring became louder with every instant; ere long it was like the
breath of a forge bellows, and Chérubin gradually drew away; he felt
that his amorous desires were vanishing; for a woman who is snoring like
a Swiss inspires infinitely less passion than one whose breathing is
soft and light.

Chérubin seated himself on a chair.

“She is asleep,” he said to himself; “she is even snoring. Evidently my
remarks did not interest her much, as she went right off to sleep while
she was listening to me! It’s very strange! This young woman has such
manners and uses such language--If Daréna hadn’t assured me that she was
a Polish countess, I should have thought her something very different.
The idea of going to sleep while I was talking to her about my love! If
that’s the way she is mad over me!--Great heaven! what snoring!
Jacquinot used to snore, but not so loud as that. Perhaps I ought to
wake her--and kiss her; but she is sleeping so soundly, it would be too
bad. And then, I believe that listening to that monotonous noise is
putting me to sleep too.”

Chérubin dropped his head on the back of his chair; he closed his eyes,
and in a moment, he was in the same condition as Mademoiselle Chichette,
except that he did not snore.

Let us leave the young couple asleep, and see what the engineers of this
whole intrigue were doing.

On leaving Chérubin, Daréna had gone in search of his friend Poterne,
who, still dressed as a Polish count, was waiting for him at a
restaurant in Ménilmontant. The two gentlemen sat down to breakfast and
discussed their plot.

“It goes as if it were on wheels,” said Daréna. “Chérubin is now with
the girl, whom he thinks that I kidnapped for him! I trust that
Chichette won’t make any slips of the tongue. But no matter! with that
accent of hers, anything will go; and besides, a lover never pays any
attention to idioms!”

“Was my little Bruno at his post?”

“Yes; he is supposed to be the concierge’s son. That boy has the look of
a famous scamp.”

“He has a lot of intelligence; he’ll go a long way!”

“So I believe.”

“Besides, for the last act of our comedy, it will be better to have
nobody there but a boy, who won’t interfere with us at all. And then,
too, it will be much more probable that I was able to force my way into
the house, if there’s nobody but a boy to guard it; for we must strike
the great blow now. A few thousand-franc notes, by the way, are all
right; but they’re gone too soon. We have an opportunity to obtain a
good round sum and we mustn’t let it slip; it won’t come again.”

“You are perfectly right, Poterne. What we are going to do to-day is not
strictly honorable; but, after all, the little fellow is rich; sixty
thousand francs won’t ruin him.”

“You don’t want me to ask for more?”

“Oh, no! we mustn’t flay him. It’s understood then--in two hours you
will go to the house.”

“Why not earlier?”

“My dear Poterne, how impatient you are! we must give the lovers time to
breakfast and to abandon themselves to the joys of love. Deuce take it!
everybody must amuse himself, after all; and consider, Poterne, that by
leaving them together longer, you will inevitably take them _in
flagrante delicto!_ That is much the shrewder way. You are supposed to
be the husband; your wife has been spirited away, and you find her in
her ravisher’s arms; you bellow and roar and swear that you will kill
them both--your wife especially! Chérubin pleads for mercy for her, and
you refuse to accord it unless he signs notes of hand for sixty thousand
francs.--You have some stamped paper, haven’t you?”

“Oh! I have all that I need. But suppose the young marquis defends
himself, suppose he refuses to sign?”

“Nonsense! a mere boy! You must threaten him with prosecution for
abducting your wife; you will have your dagger, and you can still
insist on killing her; Chérubin is too generous not to try to save her.”

“I agree with you there.”

“In all this, Monsieur Poterne, take good care not to hurt anybody! Your
dagger isn’t sharp, I trust?”

“Oh, no! there’s no danger.”

“And when you speak, assume some kind of an accent, so that he won’t
recognize you.”

“I will be careful, and I will do a great deal in pantomime.”

Everything being arranged, the gentlemen breakfasted and conversed at
great length; ordered a pipe and cigars, and smoked to pass the time
away.

More than two hours passed. Poterne replaced his green spectacles on his
nose, saying:

“Now I can go and finish up our business.”

He rose; Daréna did the same.

“Yes, it is time; let us go.”

“But I don’t need you,” said Poterne; “besides, you mustn’t go into the
house with me, it would be imprudent. If Chérubin should see you, he
would call on you to help him.”

“I know all that, you old sharper; but you don’t imagine, I presume,
that I am going to let you go off all alone with notes for sixty
thousand francs in your pocket? No, my dear fellow, I love you too
dearly to lose sight of you. I propose to watch you into the house; I
know that it has but one door; I shall keep my eye on that door, and if
it should occur to you to run away too fast, I promise you that you will
soon be overtaken.”

“Oh! monsieur le comte! you have suspicions that hurt me terribly!”

“Why, no, it’s simply _savoir-vivre_, it’s the way of the world, that’s
all! Off we go.”

The two worthies passed the city wall to the outer boulevards, and
walked toward Barrière de la Chopinette. When they were within three
hundred feet of the house where he had left Chérubin, Daréna stopped and
said to his companion:

“Now, go on alone, illustrious Poterne, and manage the business
gracefully; remember that the whole thing must be carried through with
the courtesy and formality which betray men of breeding.”

Poterne went on to the house and knocked softly at the door, which Bruno
opened.

“Are they upstairs?” queried Poterne in a low voice.

“Yes.”

“Have they had their breakfast?”

“It went up more’n two hours ago.”

“And they haven’t called since?”

“Not a call; and they don’t even make any noise--you can’t hear ‘em
move.”

“All right.”

Poterne pulled his enormous hat over his eyes, made sure that his
spectacles were secure, stuffed bunches of flax into his mouth to fill
out his cheeks, and walked toward the stairs. He stole cautiously up,
reached the door, saw the key outside, and said to himself:

“How imprudent lovers are! what a childish trick!”

He turned the knob softly, then rushed into the room, shouting:

“Ah! traitor! guilty wife! I have caught you! You must die!”

Poterne expected shrieks of despair, as he had arranged with Chichette;
but, hearing nothing at all, he walked farther into the room and was
thunderstruck to see the lovers sound asleep at an extremely respectful
distance from each other.

“Sapristi!” said Poterne to himself; “and I hoped to catch ‘em in
flagrante--as monsieur le comte said. They are amusing themselves by
sleeping! If that’s the way the young man makes love! Chichette must
have made some stupid blunder. But no matter! I must act; besides, I
surprise them together, that’s the main thing; and if they’re asleep,
it’s because it suits them to sleep.”

Thereupon Poterne began to rush about the room with shrieks and
imprecations. He pulled Chichette’s ear and she awoke; he pinched her
arm and she shrieked with him. Chérubin opened his eyes and saw that
man, whom he recognized as the Comte de Globeski, storming and
blaspheming and drawing from his breast a sort of dagger with which he
threatened the young woman. Chérubin realized at once that his charmer’s
husband had run them to earth. He trembled and turned pale, and
faltered:

“O mon Dieu! we are lost!--Don’t kill her, monsieur, I entreat you! Kill
me rather--although I have respected your wife’s honor.”

“Yes, yes, I will have my revenge, _per Diou!_ Bigre! Ah! you think,
villain, to steal my wife from me!” screamed Poterne, stamping on the
floor. “_Tarteiff sacre mein Herr!_ On the high road--stop my cab--no,
my carriage.--Ah! madame, you shall die by my hand--on the honor of a
Polish count!”

Chichette did not seem greatly alarmed; she continued to yawn and rub
her eyes; Poterne passed her and pinched her with more force; whereupon
she gave a loud yell and exclaimed:

“Oh! how stupid that is! I don’t want you to do such things to me!”

Poterne began to roar so that Chérubin might not hear what Chichette
said. He brandished his dagger with one hand, while with the other he
stuffed the flax back into his mouth, whence it had almost escaped. But
Chérubin had lost his head; the presence of that man, whose wife he
believed that he had abducted, his outcries, his oaths, and the dagger
he was brandishing, terrified the young man beyond words. Poterne,
seeing that he was in a condition to submit to whatever terms he might
impose, took the notes from his pocket, placed them on the table, found
a pen and inkstand and presented them to Chérubin.

“If you wish to save this guilty woman, god dem!” he said, “there is
only one way to appease my wrath.”

“Oh! speak, monsieur, command--All you choose.”

“Fill out these notes of hand--here are four of them--make them
twenty-five thousand francs each. _Per Diou!_ that is too _poco!_”

“Notes of hand--for a hundred thousand francs?”

“Yes, signor.”

“Oh! you want me to----”

“If you hesitate, sapermann! I will kill this guilty wife of mine, I
will kill you, I will kill everyone in the house--fichtre!--and then
myself.”

“Oh! no, no, I do not hesitate, monsieur. I will make them for whatever
sums you say.”

“Good! then you will make them for thirty thousand francs each.--Come!
write and sign--_per Dio!_”

Chérubin seated himself at the table; he took the pen in his trembling
hand and cast a sorrowful glance at his conquest, who had thrown herself
on the couch, where he believed that she had swooned, whereas she was
simply trying to go to sleep again. But Poterne returned to his side,
ground his teeth and swore blood-curdling oaths. The young lover at once
began to write; he had already filled out the body of one note, and was
about to sign it, when they heard a loud noise below; then steps
rapidly ascended the stairs, the door was thrown open, and Monfréville
appeared, followed by old Jasmin, who uttered a cry of joy at sight of
his master.

“Ah! here he is!” he cried; “God be praised! they have not destroyed
him!”

Chérubin felt as if he were born again when he saw his friend; he threw
himself into his arms, while Monfréville, observing his confusion and
bewilderment and pallor, asked him:

“Great God! my dear fellow, what are you doing here, in this house--this
den of thieves, to which a little rascal refused to admit me?”

“Ah! my friend, the fact is that--that I have been very guilty!”
Chérubin replied in a voice broken by sobs. “I abducted madame--this
gentleman’s wife; that is to say, it wasn’t I who did it--Daréna
abducted her for me. Monsieur is a Polish count, and he insisted that I
should give him my notes for a hundred and twenty thousand francs, or
else he would kill his wife! Ah! how glad I am to see you!”

While Chérubin was speaking, Poterne, who was very ill at ease, tried to
sidle toward the door; but Jasmin had stationed himself in front of it,
after taking pains to lock it.

As he listened to his young friend, Monfréville looked about the room in
keen scrutiny. He examined Mademoiselle Chichette and the supposititious
outraged husband, who acted as if he wished to crawl under the table.
Chérubin had no sooner finished speaking than Monfréville ran up to
Poterne, snatched off his hat and spectacles, and raised his cane
threateningly.

“This creature a Polish count!” he exclaimed; “why, it’s that vile
Poterne, the agent of that contemptible knave Daréna! They plotted
together this infamous scheme to extort money from you!--Ah! I am
strongly tempted to break my cane over this cur’s shoulders!”

“Poterne!” cried Chérubin; “is it possible? Poterne!”

“Why, yes,” said Jasmin, “it’s the dealer in preserves and dogs and
turtles. Ah! my dear master, I suspected that they meant to take you in
again; and that that man who called me an old donkey was fixing up some
treacherous scheme to catch you.”

When he saw Monfréville’s cane in the air, Poterne fell on his knees.

“Mercy, monsieur,” he faltered, “all this was only a joke--nothing else;
it was a comedy!”

“A jest, you villain! But your notes of hand were properly stamped! Oh!
we know now what you are capable of, you and your worthy friend, Comte
Daréna, who has fallen low enough now to blush at nothing, and in whose
eyes all methods of procuring money are all right. We agree not to treat
you as you deserve. Go and join your confederate, and tell him that this
young man is able now to judge him as he is, and that if he should ever
presume to show his face at the hôtel de Grandvilain, the servants will
be instructed to turn him out.”

“Yes, indeed, I will undertake to do it!” said Jasmin. “He called me an
old ruin too! but an honest ruin is worth more than a sharper in perfect
repair.”

Monsieur Poterne did not wait to hear any more; he picked up his hat and
spectacles, hastily opened the door, and fled; but he was not so quick
that he did not receive the toe of Jasmin’s boot in his posterior; and
the old servant said to him at the same time: “There, you thief; take
that for your preserves!”

Monfréville walked toward Chichette, who had remained on the couch,
without speaking or moving; he could not help smiling at her expression.

“And you, madame la comtesse,” he said, “in what shop do you usually
work?”

“I make Italian straw hats on Rue de Grenétat. It wasn’t my fault; they
promised me a lot of money if I’d make believe I was monsieur’s wife;
and I consented so I could put it by and marry my little pays.”

Mademoiselle Chichette drew her handkerchief and looked as if she were
going to weep; but Monfréville reassured her by saying:

“I have nothing against you, my girl; don’t cry, and go back to your
Italian straw hats. But believe me, it is much better for one in your
trade to dance the cancan than to play the great lady.”

Mademoiselle Chichette blew her nose, made several curtsies, then left
the room with a shamefaced air, not venturing to glance at Chérubin.

“And now, my friend,” said Monfréville to the young marquis, “I think
that we too may quit this wretched barrack. I believe that there is
nothing to detain us here longer.”

“Oh, no! and I am so happy, my dear Monfréville, after having such a
terrible fright! I will tell you the whole story; but first tell me how
you succeeded in learning that I was here, and how you happened to
arrive so opportunely.”

“That’s easily done; do you see that cab at the door?”

“Yes.”

“It’s the same one that brought you here. I called at your house after
you left; I found Jasmin very uneasy; he told me that you had gone away
in a cab with Daréna, whose frequent visits of late, together with his
air of mystery, had aroused my suspicions! I asked Jasmin if he had
called the carriage himself, and when he said yes, I asked him to take
me to the cabstand. There we waited more than two hours for your cab to
return. It appeared at last. I gave the driver twenty francs and told
him to take us to the place to which he had taken you; he asked nothing
better, and he brought us to this house. Knaves are very shrewd, my dear
boy, but luckily there is a concealed power shrewder than they, who
defeats the most cunningly devised schemes at the moment when their
authors deem themselves most certain of impunity. Some call that power
Providence, others chance, fatality, destiny, luck. I don’t know what
name to give it, but I bow before it and am only too glad to believe
that, if there are people here on earth inclined to do evil, there is a
power on high, ever on the watch to prevent or repair it.”

Chérubin pressed Monfréville’s hand affectionately; then they left the
house on the outer boulevard, which even little Bruno had abandoned, for
they saw no sign of anybody. They entered the cab with Jasmin, upon whom
they were almost obliged to use force, because the old fellow insisted
on riding behind.

When they reached home, Chérubin told Monfréville how Daréna had managed
the affair, and how he had urged him above all things to preserve the
most absolute secrecy about it.

“I am not surprised,” said Monfréville, “that he urged you not to
mention it to me; he knew that I would not be taken in by the story of a
Polish countess who was anxious to be abducted by a young man whom she
had seen just once, at the theatre.”

“He said that you set yourself up now as a man of strict virtue, to make
people forget your former conduct; he declared that you used to be
famous for your love-affairs, your conquests, and that your principles
then were much less severe than they are to-day.--Forgive me--I am only
repeating what he said.”

Monfréville’s brow had grown dark; his face wore an expression of deep
sorrow, and he was silent for some time. At last, fixing his eyes upon
Chérubin’s, he said in a melancholy tone:

“It is true, my friend, that in my youth I did many foolish things, and
I have some serious faults with which to reproach myself. But I was so
cruelly punished that I was cured in good season. That does not prevent
me from being indulgent to others, because I am well aware that it is a
part of our nature to be subject to passions and weakness, and to be led
astray by them sometimes. Some day, Chérubin, I will tell you a story of
my young days, which has had an influence on my whole life. You will see
that these love-affairs, which we treat so cavalierly at twenty,
sometimes have very bitter results.”

“Thus far,” said Chérubin, with a sigh, “I haven’t been lucky in my
love-affairs, and my amorous adventures have not afforded me much
enjoyment!”



XXV

A GRAND DINNER


After Monsieur de Noirmont expressed in such decided terms his
resolution with respect to Louise, Ernestine’s mother said not a word to
indicate that she still thought of dismissing the young woman; on the
contrary it seemed that, having made up her mind to submit to her
husband’s desire, Madame de Noirmont had recovered from her apparent
prejudice against Louise. She still treated her with a coldness which
sometimes approached severity; but the tone of her voice, sharp and curt
at first, often softened so far as to seem almost affectionate. One
would have said that she was vanquished by the charm with which the
girl’s whole personality was instinct, by her timid obedience, by the
eagerness with which she waited on her mistress, so that the latter was
sometimes, in spite of herself, drawn on to love her.

Louise did not know that Madame de Noirmont had thought of sending her
away. Ernestine and her father alone were aware of the circumstance, and
the former, when she learned that her mother’s determination would not
be carried out, had concluded that it would be useless to mention it to
Louise, that it would grieve her to learn that she was so far from
having succeeded in winning her mistress’s favor by her zeal, that that
mistress had intended to dismiss her. As for Monsieur de Noirmont, after
making his wishes known, he was not the man to mention such domestic
matters to anybody on earth.

But a thing that was easily noticed, and that Louise saw, together with
all the rest of the household, was that Madame de Noirmont became more
depressed and gloomy every day. A smile never appeared on her lips; she
avoided society; visits annoyed her and were a burden to her; spending
almost all the time in her apartment, she ordered the servants to say
that she was out, or not feeling well, so that she might not be
disturbed in her solitude; even her daughter’s presence seemed sometimes
to oppress and irritate her. The sweet-tempered Ernestine, who had done
nothing to forfeit her mother’s affection, was sometimes very much
distressed at being treated so coldly by her; when she went to Madame de
Noirmont, to kiss her, she would push her away impatiently, or receive
with listless indifference the marks of her affection; thereupon the
girl would turn away, forcing back the tears which rose to her eyes, but
which she would not allow to appear, for fear of angering her mother.

Louise, seeing her young mistress furtively wipe her eyes, would say to
her:

“You are unhappy, mademoiselle, and I am very sure that it’s because
your mamma hasn’t kissed you for some time past.”

Whereupon Ernestine would reply, with a deep sigh:

“That is true; I don’t know what mamma can have against me; it’s of no
use for me to try to think what I can have done to displease her; I
can’t remember anything. But for some time she hasn’t called me her dear
child or taken me in her arms. It isn’t possible, though, that she
doesn’t love me, is it, Louise? It’s her health that makes her like
this; her nerves are out of order; she doesn’t complain, but I am
perfectly sure that she is sick; besides, anyone can see that she has
changed a great deal lately.”

“That is true, mademoiselle, I have noticed it too. Yes, you are right,
it’s because madame isn’t well that she is more melancholy and doesn’t
caress you so much. But why don’t you send for the doctor?”

“Several times I have said to mamma: ‘You are pale, you must be
suffering; you ought to send for Monsieur Derbaut, our doctor;’ but
mamma always answers in a provoked tone: ‘Nothing’s the matter with me;
it’s useless to have the doctor, I don’t need him.’”

The two girls exchanged their ideas thus, seeking a way to make
themselves useful, one to her mother, the other to her mistress; for
they both loved Madame de Noirmont, despite the harshness and
capriciousness of her temper, which so often made her unjust; Ernestine
loved her with all the clinging affection of a child who refuses to see
her mother’s faults; Louise with a respectful devotion which would have
led her joyfully to undertake the most painful task, if it would have
earned her a smile from her mistress.

But Madame de Noirmont seemed carefully to avoid giving Louise any
opportunity to wait upon her; only in her husband’s presence, and when
it was impossible for her to do otherwise, would she give her an order
or two, or take something from her hand. The young lady’s maid, who
would gladly have anticipated her mistress’s slightest wish, sometimes
followed her with her eyes, in the hope of making herself useful to her;
but if Madame de Noirmont caught Louise’s glance fastened upon her, her
own expression would become sterner, and she would instantly motion to
her to leave the room.

One day, madame was in her room, as usual, holding a book of which she
read very little, because her thoughts absorbed her so completely that
she could give no attention to anything else. Ernestine was seated at a
little distance, embroidering, and from time to time glancing furtively
at her mother, in the hope of meeting her eyes and of obtaining from her
a smile, which had become a very infrequent favor. Madame de Noirmont
turned to her and said, holding out the book:

“Ernestine, bring me the second volume of this; you will find it in the
library, on the second shelf at the left.”

The girl rose quickly, took the book and left the room, eager to obey
her mother. Having found the volume for which Madame de Noirmont had
asked her, she was about to take it to her, when she found her
drawing-master, who had just arrived, waiting for her in the salon.
Ernestine gave Louise the book and told her to take it to her mother;
then she sat down by her teacher to take her lesson.

Louise took the book and went to her mistress’s room. When she was about
to turn the knob, she felt that she was trembling; she was so afraid of
offending Madame de Noirmont, who had not sent her on that errand.
However, she went in.

Madame de Noirmont was seated, her head fallen forward on her breast.
She did not raise her eyes when she heard the door open, for she had no
doubt that it was Ernestine; and Louise reached her side and handed her
the book without daring to utter a word.

But at that moment, impelled by an outburst of maternal affection, she
took the hand that offered the book and squeezed it in her own,
murmuring:

“My poor love, you must have thought me most unjust to you of late, and
you think perhaps that I no longer love you! Do not think that, my
child; I still love you as dearly as I ever did; but you cannot
understand what is taking place in my heart, and what I suffer. No, you
will never know----”

At that moment she raised her head and drew the girl toward her, meaning
to kiss her. Not until then did she recognize Louise. She was speechless
and motionless with surprise; a terrified expression appeared on her
face, from which all the blood receded, and she raised her eyes to
heaven, faltering:

“O mon Dieu! and I called her my child!”

“Forgive me, madame, forgive me,” murmured Louise, terribly alarmed at
her mistress’s condition. “It was not my fault, it was mademoiselle who
sent----”

Madame de Noirmont struggled to master her emotion, and rejoined in a
sharp, stern tone:

“Why did you come into my room? Did I call you? Why are you here? To try
to surprise my thoughts, my secrets?”

“O madame--mon Dieu! can you believe it?”

“Have I not constantly found your eyes fastened on me of late,
mademoiselle--following, watching my slightest movements? What makes you
act so? Have you some hidden motive? Come, speak, mademoiselle.”

“If I have offended you, madame, it was entirely without intention; if
my eyes have sometimes rested on you, it is because I would have been
happy to anticipate some wish of yours, to do something that would
please you, to earn a word or a kind look from you; that was my motive,
when I ventured to look at you. And then too it was a joy to me, madame;
but I will do without it, since you forbid it.”

Louise bent her head before her mistress; she was almost on her knees,
and her voice trembled so that she could hardly finish what she was
saying.

Madame de Noirmont seemed deeply moved; one would have said that a
conflict was raging in the depths of her heart; she rose, paced the
floor, walked away from Louise, then toward her. She gazed at her for a
long, very long time, but not with a stern expression; her eyes were
filled with tears. Suddenly she ran to the girl, who had remained on the
same spot, with downcast eyes and afraid to take a step; she took her
hand and drew her toward her--but almost instantly pushed her away
again, saying sharply:

“Go, mademoiselle, go; I have no further need of you.”

Louise obeyed. She left the room, saying to herself:

“Mon Dieu! what is the matter with her, and what have I done to her?”

A week after this incident, Monsieur de Noirmont informed his wife that
he proposed to give a great dinner. He named the persons whom he had
invited, fifteen in number, and added:

“I had an idea of inviting young Marquis Chérubin de Grandvilain too;
but I asked him to come to see me, and he has never come; and so, as he
has not shown the slightest desire to associate with an old friend of
his father, we will not have him.”

Madame de Noirmont could not conceal the annoyance which the
announcement of that function caused her. But Monsieur de Noirmont
continued in a very curt tone:

“Really, madame, if I should leave you to follow your own desires, we
should have no company, we should live like owls. I am not a fool--a
devotee of pleasure; but still, I don’t propose to live like a hermit.
Besides, madame, we have a daughter, and it is our duty to think about
her welfare; before long it will be time to think of marrying her, of
finding a suitable match for her; meanwhile we must not keep her
sequestered from society, of which she is destined to be an ornament
some day. Poor Ernestine! you refuse every opportunity that offers to
take her to balls or receptions or concerts. You are ill, you say. I
cannot compel you to go out, madame; but, as your health confines you
constantly to the house, we will entertain; such is my present
determination, madame.”

Madame de Noirmont made no observation, for she was well aware that as
soon as her husband had made up his mind to do a thing, nothing could
divert him from his resolution; and Monsieur de Noirmont left her,
having requested her to give the necessary orders so that everything
might be ready for the dinner, which was appointed for the Thursday
following.

Madame de Noirmont resigned herself to the inevitable; when the day drew
near, she gave her orders and superintended the preparations for the
banquet. Ernestine, when she learned that they were to entertain many
guests and give a grand dinner, rejoiced greatly and looked forward to
it with the keenest pleasure. Pleasures and amusements had become so
rare in her life, that every departure from the customary monotony
seemed a blessing. Louise hoped that the dinner would afford her an
opportunity to make herself useful, to display her zeal, and she shared
her young mistress’s childlike joy.

At last the day came when the interior of that house, ordinarily so
placid, was to echo with the voices of a numerous company. From early
morning there was a great commotion in the Noirmont mansion; the master
of the house alone spent the day as usual, working tranquilly in his
study, awaiting the hour when the guests were to arrive; but Madame de
Noirmont issued orders, overlooked the preparations, made sure that
everything that she had ordered was at hand. Ernestine followed her
mother about, dancing and laughing, anticipating great pleasure for that
day.

“You must make yourself very lovely for the dinner,” she said to Louise,
“because you are to wait at table with Comtois; that is the custom when
we have company.”

“Never fear, mademoiselle,” replied Louise; “I don’t know whether I
shall be lovely, but I promise to do my best to wait at table well, so
that madame your mother will be content with me.”

But, a few moments before it was time for the guests to arrive, Madame
de Noirmont said to her daughter:

“Ernestine, I don’t want your maid to wait at table; tell her that she
may remain in her room; we shall not need her.”

Ernestine could not understand her mother’s whim; she looked up at her
and said hesitatingly:

“But, mamma, usually, when we have company--you know----”

“I do not ask for your comments, my child; do what I tell you.”

Ernestine obeyed her mother; she went sadly to Louise’s room, where she
found her finishing her toilet.

“Do you like me in this dress, mademoiselle?” inquired Louise; “is it
suited to my position?”

“Oh! yes, yes, my poor Louise, you look very pretty!” replied Ernestine,
heaving a deep sigh; “but it was not worth while to take so much pains
with your toilet, for mamma doesn’t want you to wait at table; she says
that you can stay in your room.”

Louise’s face expressed the disappointment caused by that command;
however, she did not indulge in a single murmur.

“I will obey, mademoiselle,” she replied; “doubtless madame your mother
has good reasons for wishing me not to do it. Ala! I am afraid that I
can guess them: she doesn’t like to see me; my presence annoys her; I
will obey, she shall not see me.”

Ernestine did not feel equal to contradicting her; for, knowing that her
mother had once intended to dismiss Louise, she believed that the girl
had guessed aright. She simply pressed her hand, then left her, because
the time had come when the guests would probably begin to arrive.

Monsieur de Noirmont had invited more men than ladies; however, the wife
of a certain advocate arrived with her husband; she was a tall, large
woman, of much pretension, very fond of listening to herself talk, but,
to balance matters, little inclined to listen to others.

Another lady, young and rosy and affable, formed a striking contrast to
the first; she was the wife of a solicitor, who had just married in
order to pay for his office. The advocate had married the tall lady so
that he could afford to wait for clients. In society nowadays a marriage
is a matter of business, seldom of sympathetic sentiments.

A few serious men, two young exquisites, and Monsieur Trichet, whom we
have met before at Madame Célival’s, completed the party. Monsieur de
Noirmont received his guests with his customary phlegmatic manner.
Madame de Noirmont, who had made the best of it and had resigned herself
to receive all that company, tried not to allow her ennui to appear; she
did the honors of her salon with much grace; she forced herself to
smile; she was able, when she chose, to address a pleasant word to each
guest; and they were all the more pleased because they were not used to
it.

Ernestine recovered her spirits when she saw that her mother seemed to
have recovered hers; at her age small vexations are soon forgotten; she
loved company, and of late she had had so few opportunities to enjoy
herself, that she joyfully seized every one that presented itself. As
the young lady of the house, she listened to those complimentary remarks
which it is not safe to believe, but which are always pleasant to the
ear. They said that she had grown and improved; they did not say it to
her, but they said it to her parents loud enough for her to hear. Madame
de Noirmont listened indifferently to the compliments paid to her
daughter, but Monsieur de Noirmont was enchanted by them.

Monsieur Trichet was the same as always: talking all the time,
determined to know everything, taking part in every conversation, and
with his ear always on the alert to hear what was being said in all the
corners of the salon; that man was kept very busy in company.

Comtois announced that dinner was served, and the whole company
adjourned to the dining-room. They took their seats and began to eat,
with the silence of good breeding, which is sometimes maintained until
the dessert.

The first course was still in progress when Monsieur de Noirmont, not
being served quickly enough, looked about the room and said to Comtois:

“Where is the maid? why is she not assisting you? I am not surprised
that the service is so slow! What is she doing, pray? Didn’t you tell
her that she was to wait at table?”

Comtois was sadly embarrassed; when he called Louise, she told him what
orders she had received from her mistress. He twisted his tongue about,
and answered half audibly:

“Monsieur--I--madame said that--that it was unnecessary for----”

Monsieur de Noirmont did not allow Comtois to finish his sentence; he
rejoined shortly:

“Tell Louise to come at once; she must help you serve.”

Comtois did not wait for the order to be repeated, especially as he was
very glad, in the bottom of his heart, to have the girl assist him.

Madame de Noirmont looked at her plate and turned ghastly pale;
Ernestine gazed anxiously from her father to her mother; and Monsieur
Trichet, who had comments to make on everything, exclaimed:

“Ah! so you have a lady’s maid who doesn’t want to serve at table? You
are perfectly right to compel her to do it. Servants are amazing
nowadays! If we listened to them they would do nothing at all, and we
should pay them high wages! I am curious to see your lady’s maid.”

Louise’s arrival put an end to these remarks. The girl was much
embarrassed when she received the order sent through Comtois; she
hesitated to follow him at first, but Comtois said:

“You must come, mademoiselle; monsieur says so, and when he gives an
order, you must obey.”

So Louise decided to go with the valet. The thought that she was going
to vex her mistress by obeying her master’s commands caused her very
great distress; so that she entered the room with downcast eyes and with
her cheeks flushing hotly. But she was all the prettier so, and most of
the guests seemed impressed by her beauty.

“Upon my word,” said Monsieur Trichet, “this girl would have done very
wrong not to show herself! I have seen few servants so pretty.--What is
that you are saying, Monsieur Dernange? Oh! I hear you: you said: ‘A
Greek profile.’--True, very like it. But Greek or not, it is very
distinguished for the profile of a lady’s maid.”

The two young men did not make their reflections aloud, like Monsieur
Trichet, but they seemed not to weary of gazing at Louise, and they were
delighted to have their plates changed by her.

The tall, pretentious lady cast a disdainful glance at Louise and
muttered:

“I cannot understand how anyone can call a servant pretty!”

“That girl is fascinating!” cried the other lady; “and she has such a
modest air! Everything about her speaks in her favor.”

“Oho!” said Monsieur Trichet, “it isn’t safe to trust to such airs;
they’re often very deceptive. I know what I am talking about; I have had
two hundred maids, and they have all stolen from me.”

Madame de Noirmont made no reply to all these reflections inspired by
the sight of her pretty lady’s maid. But it was plain that she was
suffering, that she was holding herself back, that she was doing her
utmost to appear calm and amiable as before.

Ernestine was no longer in a merry mood, for she saw that something was
wrong with her mother.

As for Monsieur de Noirmont, content to be obeyed, he turned his
attention to his guests and did not observe his wife’s pallor.

The subject of conversation soon changed however, and Madame de Noirmont
was able to breathe a little more freely.

Louise performed her duty as well as she could, lowering her eyes when
she passed her mistress, not daring to look at her, and taking care
never to stand opposite her.

But suddenly Chérubin’s name fell on the girl’s ear. Monsieur Trichet,
speaking of a reception at the Comtesse de Valdieri’s, observed:

“The young Marquis de Grandvilain was not there. I have noticed too that
he doesn’t go to Madame Célival’s any more. That seems strange to me,
for everybody knows that the little marquis was making love to those
ladies; he is still too new at the game to conceal his feelings; he used
to stare at them too much--it was absurd.”

At that moment Louise had in her hands a plate of chicken with olives,
which she had been told to carry to the advocate’s tall wife. But when
she heard Chérubin’s name, Louise forgot what she was doing; she dropped
the plate on the pretentious lady’s shoulder, and a large portion of
chicken with olives fell on that lady’s dress.

“What a stupid idiot you are!” cried the tall lady, with a savage glance
at Louise. “If you don’t know how to pass a plate, you should stay in
your kitchen.”

Louise stood like a statue, confused and distressed. The men, thinking
her prettier than ever, tried to excuse her; Ernestine rose hastily and
wiped the lady’s dress, which it did not even occur to Louise to do. As
for Madame de Noirmont, when she heard Louise called stupid and an
idiot, her eyebrows contracted and her eyes shot fire for an instant;
she half rose, then fell back in her chair, as if she were dead.
Monsieur Trichet, who was beside her, exclaimed:

“Madame de Noirmont is certainly ill.--Do you feel ill, madame?”

“It is nothing, I hope,” said Madame de Noirmont, rising; “just an ill
turn; I will go and take a breath of air.”

Ernestine was already beside her mother; she supported her, gave her her
arm, and they left the dining-room together.

This episode caused Louise’s awkwardness to be forgotten, although the
tall lady continued to grumble about her dress; but nobody seemed to
listen to her. After ten minutes Madame de Noirmont returned to the
table. She was still very pale, but she insisted that she no longer
suffered. The dinner came to an end dismally enough; the accident that
had happened to the mistress of the house had dispelled all merriment.

They returned to the salon. The men conversed among themselves, and the
tall lady thought of nothing but her damaged gown. Madame de Noirmont
forced herself to smile as she listened to Monsieur Trichet; Ernestine
kept her eyes on her mother, and the young men looked frequently toward
the door, disappointed that the pretty lady’s maid did not appear again.
A game of whist was organized, but it was not kept up very long, and the
guests took their leave well before midnight, because Madame de Noirmont
was ill and must need rest.

It was two hours after midnight. All the members of Monsieur de
Noirmont’s household had long since withdrawn to their apartments, and
should have been buried in slumber. Louise, still excited by the
emotions of the day, had just closed her eyes, thinking of Chérubin, who
was said to have been in love with two women.

Suddenly someone opened the door of her room, and entered cautiously,
holding a light. Louise opened her eyes and recognized Madame de
Noirmont, in her night dress, as pale as she had been at dinner; she
walked to the bed after pausing to listen and make sure that no one was
following her.

“Mon Dieu! is it you, madame?” cried Louise; “can it be that you are
ill? that you need my services?--I will get up at once.”

“Stay where you are, and listen to me.”

As she spoke, Madame de Noirmont went to the door and closed it, then
returned to the bed, sat down beside it, took Louise’s hand and pressed
it in both of hers, saying in a broken voice:

“Louise, you must leave this house, unless you want me to die--to die of
grief. Oh! my suffering has been horrible! and I feel that I shall not
have the strength to endure it any longer.”

“What! can it be that I am the cause of your suffering, madame? Indeed I
will go; yes, be sure of it. Mon Dieu! if I had known it sooner, I would
have gone long ago and spared you much annoyance. Forgive me; for, far
from seeking to make you unhappy, I would give my life to prove my
zealous attachment to you. But no matter--I will go.”

“Poor Louise! then you do not hate me--me who have treated you so
harshly, who have never said a kind or gentle word to you?”

“Hate you, madame? Oh! that doesn’t seem possible to me; it seems to me
that it is my duty to love you.--Oh! pardon--I forget that I am only a
poor servant.”

“A servant--you! Ah! that is what is killing me, that is what I cannot
endure! You, a servant in my house! O my God! I was very guilty, I know,
since Thou hast inflicted this punishment on me; but to-day it was too
heavy.--Great heaven! what am I saying? I am losing my wits.--Louise, my
poor child, you have believed that I detested you, that that was the
reason why I was constantly trying to keep you away from me, have you
not?--Ah! if you could have read in the depths of my heart!”

“Is it possible, madame, that you do not dislike me? Oh! I am so glad!”

“Listen to me, Louise. You ought not to be a servant; you ought to be
rich and happy, poor girl! You have suffered enough for faults committed
by others; your lot will soon be changed. Here, take this letter which I
have just written, and hand it to the person whose name is on the
envelope, to whom you will go at once on leaving here. I do not know
where the--the person to whom I am sending you lives now, but you can
learn by going to Monsieur Chérubin de Grandvilain’s house; he is his
friend, and he will tell you at once where he lives. You know Monsieur
Chérubin’s house, do you not?”

“Oh, yes! I have been there twice, madame.--And the person to whom I am
to give this letter?”

“That person will--at least, I think so--restore you to your father.”

“To my father! O my God! What, madame! I shall find my parents? Do you
know them, madame?”

“Ask me nothing more, Louise; what I am doing now is a great deal. I
swore that I would never write to this person; but since I have seen
you, I have felt that it was wicked, very wicked, to deprive you of your
father’s caresses; for he will be happy to recover you! Oh, yes! I am
sure that he will surround you with love and care.”

“And my mother, madame--you say nothing of her? Shall I not see her too?
Oh! it would be so sweet to me to hold her in my arms!”

“Your mother? Oh, no! that is impossible; your father will conceal her
name from you--he must. If, however, he should disclose it, remember
that a heedless word would kill her!--But I have said enough. To-morrow,
at daybreak, before anyone in the house is up, you will go away; you
promise me that, Louise?”

“Yes, madame, I promise.”

“That is well; and now, kiss me.”

“May I?”

Madame de Noirmont’s only reply was to put her arms about Louise’s
waist, strain her to her heart, and hold her so a long time, covering
her with kisses. The poor girl was so happy that she thought that she
was dreaming, and she prayed heaven not to wake her.

But Madame de Noirmont, whose eyes were filled with tears, made a
superhuman effort, and extricating herself from the arms that enlaced
her, deposited one more kiss on the girl’s forehead and hurriedly left
the room, saying in a voice overflowing with affection:

“Do not forget anything of all that I have said to you!”

Louise lay in a sort of trance; the kisses she had received had made her
know such unalloyed happiness that she tried to prolong it; she dared
not reflect, or seek to solve the mystery of Madame de Noirmont’s
conduct; but she repeated again and again:

“She loves me! oh, yes! she loves me, for she held me to her heart a
long while, and she said: ‘Don’t forget anything that I said to
you!’--Ah! I shall never forget those words; I shall remember them all
my life.”

Louise did not close her eyes during the rest of the night. As soon as
the day began to break, she rose, dressed hastily, made a bundle of her
clothes, placed in her bosom the letter that Madame de Noirmont had
given her, and, softly opening the door, left her room, stole
noiselessly through several rooms to the staircase, and so down to the
courtyard; she knocked on the concierge’s window, he opened the gate,
and at daybreak she stood in the street.



XXVI

FEAR


Since his adventure with Chichette Chichemann, Chérubin had been less
quick to take fire; or, rather, he had begun to understand that what he
had taken for love was simply those desires which the sight of a pretty
woman arouses in a man’s heart; desires which are certain to be renewed
often in a wholly inexperienced heart, whose sensations have the charm
of novelty.

But the checks he had met with in his amorous essays had made Chérubin
even more shy and timid; instead of taking advantage of the lessons that
he had received to bear himself more gallantly in a tête-à-tête, poor
Chérubin was so afraid of being unfortunate or awkward again, that the
bare idea of an assignation almost made him tremble. On the other hand,
as love, at his age, is the first joy of life, the young marquis, not
knowing how he could procure that joy, became sad and melancholy. At
twenty years of age, with a noble name, a handsome fortune, with good
looks and a fine figure; in a word, possessed of everything that is
supposed to make a man happy, Chérubin was not happy; he lost his good
spirits and even his fresh coloring. He no longer had that bright, ruddy
complexion which people used to admire in him; for it is useless to try
to conceal the fact that, while excessive dissipation sometimes destroys
the health, excessive virtue may produce the same result; excess in
anything is to be deplored.

The young marquis no longer visited the Comtesse de Valdieri, or Madame
Célival, because the frigid greeting he received from those ladies was
equivalent to a dismissal; but he sometimes met them in society. When he
did, it seemed to him that all the ladies looked at him in a strange
fashion, that they whispered together and even went so far as to laugh
when he appeared. All this tormented and disturbed him; he told his
troubles to his friend Monfréville.

“Do you suppose that that little countess and Madame Célival have been
saying unkind things about me?” he said. “I don’t know what I have done
to them.”

“That is just the reason!” replied Monfréville, with a smile. “I beg
you, my young friend, do not persist in this apathy, which is ill-suited
to your years. You have everything that a man needs, to be agreeable to
the ladies; form other connections. Have three or four mistresses at
once, deceive them all openly, and your reputation will soon be
reëstablished.”

“That is very easy for you to say, my dear Monfréville, but, since my
misadventures, I am so afraid of being--er--awkward again with a woman,
that it makes me shudder beforehand. It is enough to kill one with shame
and despair! I prefer not to take the risk. And yet I feel that I am
terribly bored.”

“I can well believe it--to live without love, at your age! when one has
not even the memory of his follies! that is perfectly absurd. But if you
are afraid that you are not yet sufficiently enterprising with a great
lady, why, my friend, make a beginning with grisettes and actresses. I
assure you they will train you quite as well.”

“Yes, I thought of that at first; and last week, happening to meet
Malvina--you know, that lively little ballet girl?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I spoke to her. At first she called me Monsieur Jack Frost; but
when I told her that I wasn’t as cold as she thought, she said: ‘To make
me believe that, you must prove it.’ And she invited me again to
breakfast with her--at six o’clock in the morning--and we appointed a
day.”

“Good! that is excellent!”

“Oh, yes! but the day came long ago, and I didn’t go.”

“Why not?”

“Because I reflected that I had no more love for Malvina than for the
others, and that I should no doubt make as big a fool of myself with her
as I had done at my previous tête-à-têtes.”

“You were altogether wrong! your reasoning is ridiculous! The idea of
reflecting about an amourette, a passing fancy! But stay--didn’t you
tell me once of a grisette, a girl who worked in a linen-draper’s shop
near by, and who used to ogle you? she even told you her name, I
believe.”

“Yes, my friend, that was little Célanire, with the fair hair and the
nose _à la Roxelane_.”

“Well, there’s your chance; ask Mademoiselle Célanire for a rendezvous.
Judging from what you have told me, she won’t refuse you.”

“That is what I did, my friend. The day before yesterday I saw the young
grisette in the street; when she found that I was walking behind her,
she pretended to make a misstep; then she stopped and clung to me to
keep from falling.”

“That was very clever.”

“So I thought; after that, we talked, and finally she agreed to meet me
that evening on Boulevard du Château d’Eau, a long way from her quarter,
for the express purpose of not meeting people who might recognize her.”

“That was very prudent; grisettes think of everything. Well, how did
matters go at that meeting?”

“Mon Dieu! my friend, I didn’t go there either. As I was about to start,
I made the same reflections that I had made concerning the little
dancer. Then I was afraid and I stayed at home.”

“Oh! this is too much, my poor Chérubin! If you give way to such
terrors, there is no reason why you should not be bewildered by them all
your life! In old times, the old women would have said that someone had
cast a spell on you, and they would have sent you to see some famous
exorcist. For, in the good old days, spells were cast and destroyed
frequently; indeed, it was not uncommon to see prosecutions based upon
such affairs, and to see the judges order an inspection, in order to
make the man prove his innocence, who attempted to make so many honest
people forfeit theirs. But those barbarous days have passed--for they
really deserve to be so called. Now, we know no better sorcerer than a
pretty woman to discover whether a man is in love or not. So that I
persist in referring you to such a one.”

Monfréville’s words did not console Chérubin in the least; he continued
in his state of depression and self torment; but one morning there came
to his mind a thought that roused and revivified him: he thought of
Gagny, of young Louise, of his kindhearted nurse, who loved him so
dearly; it occurred to him to revisit his childhood home. In his
melancholy and his ennui he remembered those who loved him; in the whirl
of dissipation he had forgotten them! Such cases are too common; they do
not speak well for our hearts, but why did Nature make us like that?

Chérubin said nothing to any of his household; he took neither Jasmin
nor Gérondif, but ordered his cabriolet, bade his little groom climb up
behind, and started, after obtaining minute directions as to the
shortest way to Gagny.

With a good horse it is not a long drive. Chérubin arrived at
Villemonble in a short time. His heart beat fast as he drove through the
village, for he recognized the country where his childhood had been
passed, and a large part of his adolescence. His heart was very full
when he spied the first houses of Gagny; he felt such a thrill of
pleasure, of happiness, as he had not known since he went to Paris, and
he was amazed that he could have allowed so long a time to elapse
without returning to the village.

He recognized the square, the guard house, and the steep street leading
to his nurse’s house; he urged his horse and drew rein at last in front
of Nicole’s door. It was only three years since he had left it, but it
seemed to him a century, and he scrutinized everything about him to see
if anything had changed.

He alighted from his carriage, crossed the yard where he had played so
often, and hastily entered the room on the ground floor, where the
family usually sat. Nicole was there, working, and Jacquinot asleep in a
chair; nothing was changed; one person only was missing.

Nicole raised her eyes, then gave a shout. She gazed earnestly at the
fashionably dressed young man who had entered the room; she was afraid
that she was mistaken, she dared not believe that it was Chérubin. But
he did not leave her long in uncertainty; he flew into her arms, crying:

“My nurse! my dear Nicole! Ah! how glad I am to see you again!”

“It’s him! it’s really him!” cried the peasant woman, who could hardly
speak, she was so overcome by joy. “He has come to see us, so he still
loves me, the dear boy! Forgive me for calling you that, monsieur le
marquis, but habit is stronger than I am.”

“Call me what you used to call me, dear Nicole. Do you suppose that that
offends me? On the contrary, I insist upon it, I demand it.”

“Oh! what joy!--Wake up, Jacquinot, my man, here’s our _fieu_ Chérubin
come back, and in our house again.”

Jacquinot rubbed his eyes and recognized the young marquis, but dared
not offer him his hand. But Chérubin warmly grasped the peasant’s rough
and calloused hand. He, in his delight, ran off, as his custom was, to
bring wine and glasses.

Chérubin seated himself beside Nicole; he kissed her again and again,
then glanced about the room and said:

“What a pity that someone is missing! If Louise were here, my happiness
would be complete. Is she still in Bretagne--a long way off? Doesn’t she
mean to return?”

“Oh, yes, my boy,” murmured the peasant woman with evident
embarrassment. “But you do still care for us a little bit, my dear
child, although you have got used to finer folks than we are?”

“Do I care for you! Indeed I do! I understand why you ask me that, dear
Nicole; I have been an ungrateful wretch, I have acted very badly. To
think of not coming once to embrace you in three years! Oh! that was
very wicked of me. I planned to do it very often, but one has so many
things to do in Paris! Society, and all the amusements that were so new
to me--it all bewildered me. You must try to forgive me.”

“Forgive him! How handsome he is! how handsome he is!”

“And then, it seems to me that if you had wanted to see me, there was
nothing to prevent your coming to Paris, to my house.--You know well
enough where it is.”

“Why, we did go there, my dear child, we went there twice, Louise and I.
We asked to see you, and the first time they told us that you were
travelling; the second, that you were at some château and would be away
a long while.”

“That is very strange! In the first place, it isn’t true; I have not
left Paris since I first went there, I have not travelled at all; and
then, I was never told that you came.”

“The idea! I told the concierge to tell you.”

“Ah! I will look into this, and I will find out why they presumed to
conceal your visits from me.”

“Bless me! that made Louise and me feel very bad, and we said: ‘As long
as he knows we’ve been to see him but couldn’t find him, and he don’t
come to see us, why, we mustn’t go again, because perhaps he don’t like
to have us come to his house in Paris.’”

“Not like it, my dear Nicole! The idea of thinking that of me! And poor
Louise too! But why did you send her to Bretagne, instead of keeping her
with you?”

“Louise in Bretagne!” exclaimed Jacquinot, who returned to the room just
then with a jug of wine and glasses. “What’s the sense of making up
stories like that to deceive my friend monsieur le marquis?”

“What! Louise is not in Bretagne!” cried Chérubin. “Why, Monsieur
Gérondif has been telling me that for two years. What is the meaning of
that lie?”

“Oh! dear me, my boy!” said Nicole, “I’ll tell you the whole story, for
I don’t like to lie! And then, the more I look at you, you look so good
and gentle, I can’t believe that you’ve got to be a rake, a seducer, as
Monsieur Gérondif told us!”

“I, a rake, a seducer! Why, that is not true, nurse, it is horribly
false! On the contrary, people laugh at me in Paris because they say I
am too bashful with the ladies. And to say that I am a rake! That is
abominable! And my tutor dared to say such things?”

“My dear child, I am going to tell you the whole truth. Monsieur
Gérondif, who came to see us often and seemed to admire Louise’s beauty,
came one day about nine or ten months ago, and offered the child a fine
place in Paris, which he said that you wanted her to take.”

“Ah! the liar!”

“Louise liked the idea of going to Paris, because she said that that
would bring her nearer to you, and she hoped to see you once in a
while.”

“Dear Louise!”

“So she accepted; but while she was packing her clothes, monsieur le
professeur whispered to me: ‘I am taking Louise away to remove her from
the designs of my pupil, who means to make her his mistress.’”

“What an outrage!”

“‘And if he comes here, make him believe that she’s been with a relation
of yours in Bretagne a long time.’”

Chérubin rose and paced the floor; he was so suffocated by wrath that he
could hardly speak.

“What a shameful thing! to say that of me! to invent such lies! But what
could his object have been? Do you know where he took Louise?”

“Oh! to some very fine folks, so he told us.”

“But who are they?”

“Bless me! I didn’t ask that, my dear child, because I had so much
confidence in the schoolmaster.”

“So you don’t know where Louise is? Oh! I will find out! I will make him
tell me!--I am dying with impatience; I wish I were in Paris
now.--Adieu! my dear Nicole! adieu, Jacquinot!”

“What, going already, my _fieu_? You have hardly got here!”

“And he hasn’t drunk a single glass!”

“I will come again, my friends, I will come again--but with Louise, whom
I am wild to find!--Ah! Monsieur Gérondif! you say that I am a rake! We
will see! They have all looked upon me as a child hitherto, but I’ll
show them that I am their master!”

Chérubin embraced Nicole, shook hands with Jacquinot, and, turning a
deaf ear to all that those good people said to pacify him, he returned
to his cabriolet, lashed his horse and drove rapidly back to Paris.

On reaching home, he at once summoned Monsieur Gérondif, Jasmin and the
concierge. From the tone in which he issued the order, and from the
expression of his face, the servants did not recognize their master,
ordinarily so mild and gentle. The groom went to call the tutor, who had
just finished dressing, although it was midday. He went down to his
pupil, thinking:

“Monsieur le marquis undoubtedly wishes me to teach him something.
Perhaps he wants to learn to write poetry. Mademoiselle Turlurette tells
everybody in the house that my verses are so fine! I will have him begin
with free verses; they are certainly easier to write, most assuredly.”

But on entering the apartment of the young marquis, whom he found pacing
the floor with an impatient and angry expression, the tutor became
anxious, and began to think that he had not been summoned to give
lessons in poetry. Jasmin, who did not know where he was, his master
was scowling so at him, stood motionless in a corner, whence he dared
not stir, and the concierge, who was fully as terrified as the others,
remained in the doorway, afraid to go in.

Chérubin addressed the latter first; he bade him come nearer, and said
to him:

“A short time after I first came to this house, a worthy countrywoman,
my nurse, came to see me, with a young girl. They came twice; they were
most anxious to see me; and you told them, the first time, that I was
travelling, and the second time, that I was at the château of one of my
friends. Why did you tell that falsehood? Who gave you leave to turn
away people who are dear to me and whom I should have been glad to see?
Answer me.”

The concierge hung his head and answered:

“Faith, monsieur, all I did was to follow the instructions Monsieur
Jasmin gave me; and I thought he was only carrying out monsieur’s
orders.”

“Ah! it was Jasmin who told you to say that, was it? Very well; you may
go; but henceforth take your orders from me alone.”

The concierge bowed and left the room, delighted that he had come off so
cheap.

Old Jasmin turned purple; he twisted his mouth, like a child about to
cry. Chérubin walked up to him and said in a tone in which there was
more reproach than anger:

“And so, Jasmin, it was you who ordered my dear Nicole and Louise to be
turned away? It was you who arranged matters so that the people who
brought me up must inevitably think me proud and unfeeling and
ungrateful!--Ah! that was very ill done of you--and I don’t recognize
your kind heart in that business.”

Jasmin drew his handkerchief and wept.

“You are right, monsieur!” he cried; “it was a shame, it was downright
folly, but it wasn’t my idea; I should never have thought of it. It was
your tutor who told me that we must prevent your seeing Nicole and
little Louise, because it would be very dangerous for you. As Monsieur
Gérondif is a scholar, I thought that he must be right, and I did what
he told me.”

While the old valet was speaking, Monsieur Gérondif scratched his nose
with all his might, as if to prepare for the attack that he was about to
undergo; and in fact it was to him that Chérubin turned after listening
to Jasmin, and there was the ring of righteous anger in his voice as he
cried:

“So all this comes from you, monsieur? I should have suspected as
much.--So it was dangerous for me to see the people from the village,
who love me like their own child!”

Monsieur Gérondif threw one of his legs back, puffed out his chest,
raised his head, and began with abundant assurance:

“Well, yes, my illustrious pupil! and I consider that I was right. _Non
est discipulus super magistrum._--Listen to my reasons: You left the
village and the fields with great regret; you might have been tempted to
return thither, and it was necessary to remove that temptation--always
in your interest. The _Sadder_, abridged from the _Zend_, which contains
all the tenets of the religion founded by Zoroaster, ordains that every
man must make a strict examination of his conscience at the end of each
day; and mine----”

“Oh! I am not talking about Zoroaster, monsieur! Was it in my interest
too, that, at the time of your last visit to the village, you told
Nicole that I had become a rake and a seducer in Paris; that I intended
to make Louise my mistress; and that it was absolutely necessary to find
a place for her in Paris, and to make me believe that she was in
Bretagne?”

Monsieur Gérondif was petrified; he could think of no quotations to
make; he hung his head and did not know which leg to stand on; while
Jasmin, when he heard what the tutor had said of his young master, ran
to the fireplace, seized the tongs, and prepared to strike Monsieur
Gérondif:

“You dare to tell such infamous lies about my master!” he exclaimed; “to
slander him like that! Let me thrash him, monsieur! I believe that I can
do that with as much force as I had at twenty years.”

But Chérubin stopped Jasmin, and said to the tutor:

“What were your reasons for lying so, monsieur?”

“To tell the truth, my noble pupil, I do not know;--a temporary
aberration, a----”

“Well, I shall find out later. But, first of all, where is Louise?”

“The young and interesting foundling?”

“Come, come, monsieur, answer me, and no more lies; where is Louise?”

“In an honorable family, I venture to flatter myself; I obtained her a
situation as lady’s maid with Madame de Noirmont.”

“A lady’s maid! my foster-sister! You have made my old playmate a lady’s
maid!--Ah! that’s an outrage!”

“The wages are good, and I thought that, as she has no fortune----”

“Hold your peace! Poor Louise! so this is the reward of your sworn
attachment to me!--But she shall not remain another day in that
position. Jasmin, call a cab at once, and you, monsieur, come with me.”

Monsieur Gérondif did not wait for the order to be repeated; he followed
Chérubin, who took his hat and hastened downstairs. Jasmin called a cab,
the young marquis stepped in, ordered Monsieur Gérondif to take his
place beside him and to give the driver Madame de Noirmont’s address.
The tutor obeyed and they drove away.

Chérubin did not open his mouth during the drive, and Gérondif did not
dare even to blow his nose. When the cab stopped in front of the
Noirmont mansion, Chérubin said to his tutor:

“It was you who brought Louise to this house; go now and find her. Say
to the persons in whose service she is that she is not to work any more,
that she has found a friend and protector; say whatever you choose, but
remember that you must bring me my friend and sister. As for her, simply
say to her that I am here, waiting for her, and I am perfectly sure that
she will instantly make her preparations to come to me. Go, monsieur; I
will stay here and wait.”

Monsieur Gérondif jumped out of the cab, blew his nose when he was on
the sidewalk, and entered the house at last, saying to himself:

“Let us do it, as there is no way to avoid it! The little one will not
be mine--unless, perhaps, later--no one knows. Perhaps he will endow
her, and I will imagine that she’s a widow.”

Chérubin counted the minutes after the tutor entered the house; he
leaned out of the cab door and did not take his eyes from the porte
cochère; for he momentarily expected Louise to appear, and that hope was
constantly disappointed. At last two persons left the house and came
toward him; they were Monsieur Gérondif and Comtois. The professor’s
face wore a most woebegone expression; he rolled his eyes wildly about
as he approached Chérubin: but the latter did not wait for him to speak.

“Louise!” he cried, “Louise! why hasn’t she come with you? Didn’t you
tell her that I was here?”

“No, my noble pupil,” replied Gérondif, with an air of desperation, “I
did not tell her, for I could not. If you knew!”

“I don’t want to know; I want Louise--I came here to get her. Why
doesn’t she come down? Do they refuse to let her go? In that case I will
go up myself----”

“Oh, no! nobody refuses anything; but she has gone already, and that is
why she doesn’t come down with us.”

“What do you say? Louise----”

“Has not been at Monsieur de Noirmont’s for four days; she went off one
morning, very early, before anyone in the house was up.”

“Ah! you are deceiving me!”

“No, my noble pupil; but as I thought that perhaps you would not believe
me, I requested Comtois, Monsieur de Noirmont’s confidential valet, to
come with me and confirm my story.--Speak, incorruptible Comtois; tell
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Comtois stepped toward Chérubin, and said, saluting him respectfully:

“Since Mademoiselle Louise has been in our family, we had never had
anything but praise for her behavior. Her modest manner, her sweetness
of disposition, won all our hearts. Mademoiselle Ernestine de Noirmont
treated her more as her friend than as her maid; madame was the only one
who, for some unknown reason, was a trifle harsh with Mademoiselle
Louise.--Well, last Friday, the day after a large dinner-party that we
gave here, the girl went away. She took nothing with her but a little
bundle containing her clothes--not another thing. Mademoiselle Ernestine
was terribly unhappy over her going; but we supposed that Louise had
decided to return to her province because she was disappointed that she
had not been able to win madame’s favor. That is the exact truth,
monsieur. However, if you will take the trouble to go upstairs, you can
see Mademoiselle Ernestine, or my master and mistress, who will tell you
just what I have told you.”

Chérubin did not deem it necessary to question Monsieur or Madame de
Noirmont; Comtois had no motive for lying to him, and in his eyes could
be read his personal regret for Louise’s departure.

“She must have returned to Gagny, beyond any question,” cried Gérondif,
scratching his nose.

“To Gagny!” exclaimed Chérubin, in despair; “why, I have just come from
there! You forget that I have been there this morning, that I am just
from Nicole’s house, and that Louise has not been seen there.”

“Perhaps you may have passed each other on the road.”

“Why, he says that it was four days ago that she left the house!--four
days, do you understand? What has become of her during all that time?
Does it take four days to travel four leagues?”

“Not usually--but, if she stopped often on the way.”

“Ah! it was you who induced Louise to leave the village, where she was
safe from all harm. It was you, monsieur, who brought her to Paris. But
remember that you must find Louise, that I must know where she is, what
has happened to her in the four days since she left this house; and if
she has met with any misfortune--then all my wrath will fall on you!”

Chérubin leaped into the cab, gave the driver Monfréville’s address, and
hastened to his friend. He longed to confide his troubles to him, for he
knew that his friendship would not fail him when he went to him to claim
his aid and support.

Monfréville was at home; when his young friend appeared, deeply moved
and intensely excited, he instantly questioned him concerning the cause
of his agitation. Chérubin told him all that he had done since morning:
his visit to the village, his conversation with Nicole and her
disclosures of Monsieur Gérondif’s conduct regarding Louise, and finally
the girl’s disappearance from the house in which she had taken service.
When he had finished his narrative, he cried:

“I must find Louise, my friend, I must find her, for I know now how
dearly I love her. Poor Louise, it was to be near me, it was in the hope
of seeing me, that she accepted that place in Paris. Nicole told me all,
for Louise still thought of me, she never let a day pass without
speaking of me, and I, like an ingrate, let three years pass without a
sign that I remembered her!”

“That is true,” said Monfréville, “and to-day you are in the depths of
despair because you don’t know what has become of her! But from all that
you tell me, it seems to me that this girl is worthy of your love, and
that it would be a great pity that she should fall into some trap, that
she should be victimized by some miserable villain. Is she pretty, did
you say?”

“She was lovely at fifteen, and Nicole told me that she had improved
every day.”

“The deuce! poor child! If she is very pretty and has lost her way in
Paris, it’s very dangerous. As for your tutor, there is a very natural
explanation of his conduct: he was in love with Louise, no doubt, and
deemed it prudent to keep you from seeing her, which was sure to happen
sooner or later. For a pedagogue, that was rather clever.”

“In love with Louise! the insolent old idiot!--But where shall I look
for poor Louise--where can I hope to find her now?”

“That will be rather difficult, perhaps; but rely upon me to help you,
to guide you in your search. You must set your servants at work; we will
not spare money, and that is a powerful auxiliary in all the emergencies
of life.”

Chérubin thanked his friend warmly for lending him his assistance, and
they began their search the same day.

While these things were taking place at Monfréville’s apartment,
Monsieur Gérondif stood in the street, as if turned to stone by his
pupil’s anger and threats. Comtois had long since returned to his duties
and the tutor was still in front of the porte cochère. He decided at
last to go his way, saying to himself:

“The Scripture says: ‘Seek and ye shall find.’ I am going to seek you,
Louise, but I probably shall not find you.”



XXVII

THE LITTLE DOG FANCIER


We left Louise at the moment when, in compliance with Madame de
Noirmont’s wishes, she left the house before anybody had risen.

Thus Louise found herself in the street at a very early hour. She had
her bundle of clothes under her arm, and in her breast that letter, of
such inestimable value, which would perhaps enable her to find her
father.

When she was at a sufficient distance from the house that she had left,
her first thought was to learn the name of the person to whom Madame de
Noirmont had sent her. She took out the letter and read this address:

“For Monsieur Edouard de Monfréville. To be delivered to him in person.”

“Monsieur de Monfréville,” said Louise; “I have never heard of that
gentleman. But Madame de Noirmont said that he was a great friend of
Chérubin, and that they would give me his address at Chérubin’s house.
So I will go there. Oh! I shall not ask to see him! I know that he no
longer cares for me, that he doesn’t choose to know me any more; and
besides, as he has three or four mistresses at once, why, I haven’t any
desire to see him either.”

The girl heaved a sigh as she spoke, for her heart was by no means in
accord with her words; but she started toward Faubourg Saint-Germain,
saying to herself:

“I must not think any more about my old playfellow; I will think only of
what Madame de Noirmont said to me last night.”

Louise at last reached the street on which the hôtel de Grandvilain
stood. When she realized that she was so near Chérubin’s abode, she
stopped and began to tremble:

“As Chérubin wouldn’t admit us,” she thought, “when I came with his dear
old nurse, perhaps they’ll shut the door in my face. They will think
that it is he whom I wish to see, and that will make him even more angry
with me. Oh dear! what am I to do?”

And instead of going toward the house, Louise retraced her steps,
walking very slowly. But in a moment she stopped again and said to
herself:

“But I must ascertain this Monsieur de Monfréville’s address! Suppose I
should wait until someone comes out of the house? Yes, I think that that
will be the better way. I shall not be so afraid to speak to someone in
the street. But it is still very early; people don’t get up at this time
in these fine houses. I will walk back and forth, and wait; there’s no
law against that, and, besides, not many people are passing yet. If I
should see him come out, I would hide so that he might not see me. But I
could look at him, at all events--and it is so long since I saw him!”

Louise had been walking the street for some time, looking in vain for
somebody to leave the house, when two persons came toward her from a
street near by. They were not arm in arm; indeed, one of them allowed
his companion to keep always a few steps in advance, as if a certain
residuum of respect kept him from putting himself on a level with the
other. The first wore a long coat lined with fur, very stylish and sadly
soiled, and a hat which was almost new, but which seemed to have
received a number of blows; he had a cigar in his mouth; the second wore
his huge umbrella hat and nut-colored box-coat, a pair of shockingly
dirty trousers, and boots which were not made for him and in which his
feet and legs seemed fairly to dance. In addition, he had a black eye
and a bruised nose.

Daréna and Poterne had passed the night at a party where they had played
cards until daylight, and had indulged in a fight before separating.
Daréna had chosen to pass through Chérubin’s street on his way home; he
always took that road by preference, a fancy which did not please
Poterne, who muttered as he followed him:

“If your former friend the young marquis should meet us, he might pay me
a few more compliments behind, and I can do without them.”

“Bah!” retorted Daréna, “you always look at the dark side. For my part,
I would like to meet Chérubin. I would go up to him with a laugh, and I
would say: ‘Who ever heard of friends falling out for a jest? I obtained
your introduction to a charming girl; instead of being a Pole, she was
an Alsatian, but what’s the difference? And, faith, it isn’t my fault
that you went to sleep in her company!’--I’ll bet that he would shake
hands with me, and all would be forgotten.”

“Hum! I don’t think it! If you knew how his friend Monfréville gave it
to you!”

“Ta! ta! mere empty words! nonsense! I am above all that!”

The two worthies were walking on when Poterne, spying Louise standing a
few steps from the hôtel de Grandvilain, upon which her eyes seemed to
be fixed, put his hand on Daréna’s arm, saying:

“Look--yonder, at the right.”

“Bigre! what a pretty girl! What in the devil is she doing there, in
rapt contemplation, before the door of Chérubin’s house? Do you know,
Poterne, that girl is perfectly bewitching! The more one looks at her,
the more charms one discovers.”

“Yes, and it’s not Parisian style; however, she’s something more than a
peasant. She has a bundle under her arm--do you suppose she has just
arrived from the provinces?”

“She is still staring at the house. I certainly must find out what she
is doing here.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know yet, but I am a Frenchman, and a lady’s man before
everything; and I am bound to aid and protect the fair sex. Forward, and
you will see. Walk beside me, idiot!”

Daréna and Poterne crossed the street and walked toward Louise; when
they were near her, Daréna stopped and said in a loud tone:

“Monsieur Poterne, as we are passing through this street, suppose we
stop and bid our good friend, Marquis Chérubin de Grandvilain
good-morning? this is his house. You know that he is constantly asking
us to breakfast with him.”

Poterne enveloped himself closely in his box-coat and replied:

“It’s too early as yet; no one is up in the marquis’s house.”

These words were not lost on Louise, who started at the name of
Chérubin. She approached Daréna and said to him timidly:

“Excuse me, monsieur, but as you are a friend of Monsieur de
Grandvilain, who lives in this house, perhaps you know Monsieur de
Monfréville also?”

At that name Poterne made a wry face; but Daréna replied as amiably as
possible:

“Yes, my lovely maiden, I know Monfréville; indeed, I am intimately
acquainted with him. Have you business with him?”

“I have a letter for him, but I do not know his address, and I was told
that I could learn it at Monsieur Chérubin’s; but, although I know
Monsieur Chérubin, I dared not go into his house.”

“Ah! so you know my friend Chérubin, mademoiselle? In that case he must
have spoken to me about you, for I was his most intimate confidant.”

“Oh, no, monsieur!” replied Louise sadly, “he would never have spoken to
you about me, for he has forgotten me; he doesn’t want to see us again.
I am Louise, Monsieur Chérubin’s friend in childhood.”

“Young Louise!” cried Daréna; “who was with Chérubin, at his nurse
Nicole’s, at Gagny?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“You see that I am well informed, mademoiselle, that I did not deceive
you when I said that I was the marquis’s friend.”

“Oh, yes! I see that, monsieur.”

During this dialogue, Poterne sauntered up to Daréna and whispered:

“There’s a chance to make a turn here.”

Daréna retorted with a blow of his elbow in the ribs, muttering:

“So I see, you fool!”

Then, turning to Louise, he continued:

“Mademoiselle, if you do not wish to call at my friend Chérubin’s, it
does not seem to me fitting that you should remain in the street. In
Paris, you see, there are certain proprieties that one must always
observe. Young and pretty as you are, you must not expose yourself to
the risk of being insulted by some scoundrel. Take my arm; you are my
friend’s foster-sister, his playmate, and I naturally declare myself
your protector. Pray take my arm.”

“Oh! how kind you are, monsieur!” replied Louise, timidly putting her
arm through Daréna’s. “Are you really going to take the trouble to take
me to Monsieur de Monfréville’s?”

“I will take you wherever you choose--to the king if you have anything
to say to him.--Poterne, why don’t you take mademoiselle’s bundle?”

“You are too kind, monsieur, but it does not trouble me.”

“No matter; I will not allow my friend Chérubin’s foster-sister to carry
a bundle when she has my arm.”

Poterne had already taken the bundle from Louise’s hands; and she,
confused by so much courtesy, walked on with her arm through Daréna’s,
while Poterne followed, feeling the bundle to find out what there was in
it.

As they walked along, the girl told Daréna how she had left Gagny to
enter Madame de Noirmont’s service, and her grief because Chérubin had
forgotten her; in fact, she omitted nothing save the visit Madame de
Noirmont had paid to her during the night.

“And what do you propose to do at Monfréville’s?” asked Daréna, fixing
his eyes on Louise’s lovely ones.

“I am going to give him a letter which was given to me for him.”

“To induce him to reconcile you and your dear friend Chérubin, no
doubt?”

“Oh! no, monsieur! it’s about something that he alone knows about.”

Louise said no more, deeming it improper to admit a third person to the
secret of what Madame de Noirmont had said to her. Daréna paid little
heed to that matter; he was thinking what he should do with Louise.
Suddenly he remembered the little house on the outer boulevard, which he
had hired for the Polish intrigue, and which was still in his
possession, as he had been obliged to take it for six months. Turning to
Poterne, he said with a wink:

“Monsieur de Poterne, my friend Monfréville is still living in his
_petite maison_ on the boulevards, outside the wall, is he not?”

“He is, monsieur le comte,” replied Poterne innocently. “But Monsieur de
Monfréville often goes away on short journeys about the neighborhood; I
can’t vouch for it that he is at home now.”

“At all events, we will take mademoiselle there. If he is absent, we
will consider what Mademoiselle Louise, my friend Chérubin’s
foster-sister, can do until his return. Ah! there’s a cab; let us take
it, for it’s a long way from here to Monfréville’s.”

Poterne summoned a cab, and Louise entered it with her two chance
acquaintances; the girl was entirely unsuspicious; she was convinced
that the gentleman who had offered her his arm was a friend of Chérubin,
and in her eyes that title was enough to banish suspicion.

The cab stopped in front of the house near Barrière de la Chopinette,
which had been occupied since the abortive Chichemann affair by little
Bruno alone, whom they left in charge. Daréna whispered a word in
Poterne’s ear, and that gentleman took pains to enter first. Louise
remained with Daréna, who wasted a long time paying the cab-driver. At
last he ushered the girl into the house, the boy having received his
instructions.

“We wish to speak with Monsieur de Monfréville,” Daréna said to Bruno.
“Here is a young lady, my intimate friend Marquis Chérubin’s
foster-sister, who is most anxious to see him.”

Bruno eyed Louise impertinently as he replied:

“Monsieur de Monfréville’s away; he’ll probably come back to-morrow or
next day; if anybody wants to wait for him, he told me to offer his room
to any of his friends who might come to see him.”

Louise was in despair; she looked at Daréna and murmured:

“The gentleman is away; what shall I do?”

“In the first place, my child, you must go upstairs and rest,” said
Daréna; “then we will see, we will consider. Come, follow me without
fear; in Monfréville’s house, I act as if I were at home.”

Louise went upstairs with Daréna, who, to dispel every shadow of fear
from her mind, made a show of treating her with the greatest respect,
and kept always at a considerable distance from her. She was rather
surprised that the person to whom Madame de Noirmont had sent her should
occupy a house of such humble appearance, and so modestly furnished; but
she had not told her that he was rich, she had simply said that he could
tell her who her father was, and that was why she was so eager to see
him.

“My lovely maid,” said Daréna, after a moment, “you know no one in
Paris--except Chérubin; and you do not wish to go to him to ask for
shelter, I presume?”

“Oh! no, monsieur!”

“To return to Gagny and then come here again would be a waste of time;
besides, if you travel alone, you expose yourself to a thousand
encounters that are most annoying to a young lady. It seems to me,
therefore, that the best thing for you to do, in view of your position,
is to wait here until Monfréville returns.”

“Here, monsieur! alone in this house, with nobody but the little boy I
saw downstairs,” replied Louise, with a shudder of dismay; “oh! I should
not dare.”

“Alone, my child? no, indeed. If that were the case I would not make the
suggestion; but there is a concierge here, Monfréville’s confidential
servant, a most respectable person. That little fellow is her nephew;
she probably is not far away, and he is watching the house during her
absence.”

“Oh! that is a very different matter! If there is a respectable woman
here, and she is willing to look after me until Monsieur de Monfréville
returns----”

“Wait; I will go down and see what has become of her.”

Daréna hurried downstairs and said to Poterne:

“You will send this little rascal away instantly and find a woman
between forty and sixty years of age, who has a face that is somewhere
near respectable; that will give the girl confidence, and she will stay
here. I am not sorry to get rid of Monsieur Bruno anyway, after he
admitted so readily those people who ruined our last affair.”

“A respectable woman,” said Poterne--”I don’t know any such. How in the
devil do you expect me to find anything of the kind at La Courtille?”

“Where you choose--nonsense--a dealer in old clothes--a
fortune-teller--a charwoman--and teach her her lesson.”

Daréna returned to keep Louise company and told her that the concierge
had gone to the central market, because there was no market in that
quarter, but that she would soon return.

Meanwhile Poterne began by discharging Monsieur Bruno, who was much
displeased to be turned out-of-doors, and who ventured to indulge in
some far from respectful gestures as he withdrew. But Poterne did not
amuse himself watching Bruno’s antics; he went about to the neighboring
wine-shops, and from house to house, inquiring for what he wanted. At
last, after two hours search, he found it. He returned to the house with
a woman of about fifty years, tall as a grenadier, with a cap on her
head which certainly had not been washed for a year, and a dress the
color of which was no longer distinguishable; a pimply face, blear-eyes
and a nose smeared with snuff completed her portrait.

“This is Madame Ratouille, Monsieur de Monfréville’s confidential
servant,” said Poterne, presenting his companion.

Madame Ratouille, to whom Poterne had given careful instructions,
curtsied very low to Daréna and greeted Louise most affably, assuring
her that the house was at her disposal, and that her master, Monsieur de
Monfréville, would approve of her having urged the young lady to wait
for him. Madame Ratouille, being extremely loquacious and anxious to
play her part well, because she had been promised six francs a day and
all that she wanted to eat, lost herself in a sea of words intended to
prove to Louise that she would be out of reach of insult in that house.
The girl, feeling certain that Madame de Noirmont could not have sent
her to any but respectable persons, thanked Madame Ratouille warmly, and
consented to await Monsieur de Monfréville’s return under her care.

Daréna passed some time with Louise; Poterne seized the opportunity to
show the new concierge over the house, where she was supposed to have
lived for a long while. He urged her not to talk too much, for fear of
making some slip, and above all things not to allow anyone to have
access to the girl who was placed in her charge; then he went away with
Daréna, who bade Louise adieu, informing her that he would come the next
day to find out whether his friend Monfréville had returned, and whether
she had everything that she needed.

When they had left the house, Poterne said:

“This girl has fallen into our hands to make up to us for the Polish
intrigue. She is a fascinating creature! It is impossible that young
Chérubin should not adore her; indeed, you have often told me how much
he used to talk about his little playmate--a proof that he hasn’t
forgotten her, as she thinks; but we mustn’t let him have her except for
her weight in gold.”

Daréna made no reply; he seemed to be thinking deeply, and Poterne did
not dare to disturb him; he proposed to have the management of the
affair in his own hand.

The next day Daréna made a careful toilet and went with Poterne to the
little house. While he talked with Louise, Poterne remained below,
talking with Madame Ratouille, who assured him that the girl had not had
a moment of ennui as she had played cards with her all day.

Daréna remained with Louise until nightfall; when he went away with
Poterne, he was as silent as on the day before.

The following day passed in the same way; but Poterne observed that his
dear friend was becoming more and more coquettish in his attire. Madame
Ratouille continued to play cards with Louise, who thought that Monsieur
de Monfréville was very slow about returning. But Daréna said to her
every day:

“Be patient; he must return at last, and as you have waited for him so
long, it would be absurd to go away just at the moment of his return.”

But Louise was beginning to be disturbed; it seemed to her that the
gentleman who came every day to keep her company, no longer addressed
her with the same respect or kept so far away from her; she considered
that he gazed at her too often and too long; and she had observed some
things in Madame Ratouille’s manners and speech which materially
diminished her confidence in that woman.

On the sixth day, when they left the house, where they had remained
later than usual, Poterne, surprised to find that affairs were still at
the same point, said to his companion:

“I say! what’s your plan? When shall you see the young marquis? What
fairy tale do you propose to tell him on the subject of the girl?”

Daréna puffed himself up and replied in a fatuous tone:

“I have changed my mind! This girl is decidedly too pretty to turn over
to another man; she pleases me. I had forgotten what love was, and she
has revived that sentiment in my dilapidated heart! Louise shall be my
mistress; and then, later, when I am tired of her, we will see.”

“That’s a fine idea!” cried Poterne. “Is that the way you hope to earn
money? Fall in love--you! why it’s pitiful! just because you have a few
gold pieces in hand, and because you have been lucky at play these last
few days. But it will soon be spent; and if you miss this
opportunity----”

“Poterne, if you don’t stop annoying me, I’ll break this stick over your
back! I mean to possess that child; perhaps it is only a whim, but it
suits me to gratify it. She’s a little jewel, is this Louise, not a
false one, like the one you sold to Chérubin. To-morrow, you will order
a delectable repast, with wines which you will be kind enough not to
purchase at La Courtille; you will order it sent to my villa near
Barrière de la Chopinette; I will dine with Louise, and I will sleep
there. As to you, if Madame Ratouille tempts you, I turn her over to
you.”

“Sapristi! I should prefer five years at Toulon!”

“You heard me, Poterne: a dainty feast at the little house to-morrow.”

“And you think that this young Louise will consent to----”

“Why not, when I have induced her to drink a few glasses of champagne?
And if she doesn’t consent, why, I will do without her permission. For
six days now I have been darting burning glances at her, and if she
hasn’t understood them, so much the worse for her! it isn’t my fault,
and I have no desire to take it out in sighs.”

“Well,” thought Poterne, as he followed Daréna, “he has taken it into
his head, and anything that I could say would do no good.”

While all this was taking place, Chérubin and Monfréville were searching
Paris, making inquiries, asking in all directions if anything had been
seen of a young woman, of whom they gave an exact description. All of
Chérubin’s servants too had taken the field; Monsieur Gérondif started
out as soon as he had breakfasted and did not return until dinner-time,
swearing that he had travelled twelve leagues during the day in search
of Louise. Jasmin had gone to Gagny to inquire whether by any chance
Louise had returned there; but the girl had not been seen, and Nicole,
when she learned that the whereabouts of her adopted child were
unknown, shed tears, cursed the tutor, who was responsible for Louise’s
going to Paris, and swore that she would find him and beat him if her
child was not found.

Two days passed and no trace of her had been discovered; toward the end
of the third day, Chérubin had just left Monfréville, to return home, in
despair over the non-success of his search, when, as he crossed the Pont
Neuf, his eyes happened to fall on a small boy, leading an ugly dog,
which he offered for sale to the passers-by.

The young dog fancier’s face bore altogether too noticeable an
expression of craft and mischief not to attract the attention of a
person who had seen it before. Chérubin instantly recognized the little
scamp who was watching the house to which Daréna had taken the so-called
Comtesse de Globeska; and, without any very clear idea in what way that
encounter might be of service to him, he walked toward Monsieur Bruno,
who recognized him and seemed delighted to see him.

“Ah! it’s you, is it, monsieur? I recognize you!” said Bruno, staring
impudently at the young man; “you’re the man they tried to gull with a
German woman who made believe she was a Pole! Don’t you want to buy my
dog? It’s a terrier; he’ll bring things back better’n I do, for I never
bring anything back at all. Six francs! that’s not a high price. I found
him yesterday and I’m selling him to-day; we’re both hungry, and that’s
why I’ll let you have him so cheap.”

“Ah! so you sell dogs now, eh?” said Chérubin.

“Well! I’ve got to do something, as those fellows turned me
out-of-doors. You know who I mean--your friend that’s such a bully, and
that old thief of a Poterne. You see they’ve taken another girl to the
little house yonder, but she’s a very different kind from the Alsatian;
she’s a mighty sight prettier.”

A sudden thought flashed through Chérubin’s mind; he led Bruno aside,
put twenty francs in his hand, and said to him:

“Here, that’s for you; and ten times as much more if you will help me to
find the woman I am looking for.”

“Twenty francs! My eyes! what luck! I never had so much money at once.
The dog’s yours.”

“Now answer my questions. Daréna and Poterne, you say, have taken a
young girl to the house outside the barrier?”

“Yes, in a carriage, an old cab.”

“How long since? do you know?”

“_Pardi_, yes! I was there when they brought her. It was--let me see--a
week ago to-day.”

“A week--and we have been looking for her three days; oh! it must be
she! Is this young lady pretty?”

“Lovely, and she don’t look like a country wench like the other. They
made her believe that she was at a Monsieur de Monfréville’s house; then
that old vagabond of a Poterne went off and found, I don’t know where,
an old woman to play concierge; and they kicked me out.”

“Did they call her by name before you?”

“Wait a minute--I remember now that, when they arrived, Monsieur Daréna
said, as he brought the girl into the house:

“‘This is my friend Marquis Chérubin’s foster-sister.’”

“It is she! Ah! the villains! I’ll make them give her back to me! Poor
Louise! in that infamous Daréna’s hands for a week! God grant that I may
arrive in time!”

“Take me with you. If you appear at the door, they won’t let you in.”

“I’ll break the door down.”

“Oh! it’s too strong; but I promise you that I’ll find a way to make
them open it.”

“Come, then, come; I will double the reward I promised you, if Louise is
under my protection soon.”

“Ah! a fine trick! They’ll kick me out, will they? Thanks! I guess I’ll
have a little revenge.--Go on, Boudin, I give you your liberty--go find
a dinner.”

Bruno released his dog. Chérubin hesitated a moment, uncertain whether
he should inform Monfréville of his discovery; but every instant’s delay
made him more and more fearful that Louise would fall a victim to some
plot, and he felt that he had sufficient resolution and courage to
rescue her, single-handed, from the dangers that threatened her. He took
a cab with Bruno, and was driven first to his house, which was not far
away; he took a pair of pistols, determined to make use of them, if
necessary to rescue Louise; then, without a word to any of his people,
he returned to the cab, which conveyed him and Bruno to Barrière de la
Chopinette.

It was dark when they reached the outer boulevard. Chérubin quivered
with impatience, rage, and fear of not finding Louise. Little Bruno, who
thought of everything, said to him:

“Have the cab stop before we’re very near the house. If they should hear
it, it would put them on their guard.”

Chérubin realized the wisdom of that advice; he alighted with Bruno,
ordered the driver to wait for him, and walked toward the house with his
little companion. The shutters were closed on the ground floor and first
floor; but through the poorly joined boards it was easy to see that
there were lights on both floors.

“There’s somebody there!” said Chérubin, his heart beating violently.

“Yes. Now is when we need to be cunning, in order to get in. Wait, and
don’t breathe. Have your pistols all ready to frighten them when the
door is open. You’ll see how I pull the wool over their eyes.”

And Bruno knocked on the door, beginning at the same time to whistle and
hum his favorite tune: _Tu tu tu tu r’lu tu tu tu_.

Poterne was at table with Madame Ratouille, on the ground floor; Daréna
had gone upstairs, where he had ordered Louise’s dinner to be served,
announcing his purpose to dine with her. He had just declared his love
to Louise, who, terrified and trembling, began to understand that she
had fallen into a trap, and implored heaven to come to her aid.

On the ground floor, where there was no talk of love, they ate much and
drank even more. Madame Ratouille’s eyes had grown so small that they
were invisible, and Monsieur Poterne’s tongue was beginning to thicken,
when Bruno knocked on the door.

For some time no one answered; at last Poterne’s voice inquired:

“Who’s there?”

“It’s me, Père Poterne; it’s your little monkey, Bruno; please let me
in.”

“What do you want, you scalawag? what have you come here for? We are not
in need of you. Away you go!”

“I came to get a Greek cap that I forgot to take; I’m sure I can find
it, for I know just where I put it. Let me get my cap and I’ll go right
away.”

“You annoy us. Go somewhere else and get a cap. Leave us in peace.”

“If you don’t let me get my cap, which is in your house, I’ll knock on
the door all night, and I’ll make row enough to bring the watch here.”

That threat convinced Poterne; he opened the door, grumbling:

“Well, come in and find your Greek cap; and make haste to clear out.”

But instead of the small boy whom he expected to see, Chérubin darted
into the house, with a pistol in his hand, the barrel of which he held
against Poterne’s chest, saying in a low voice, but with fire flashing
from his eyes:

“If you make a sound, I’ll kill you!--Where is Louise?”

Poterne was so frightened that he could barely murmur:

“Upstairs--with Daréna.”

Chérubin asked no more questions; he darted forward, rushed upstairs,
and with a kick forced the door of the apartment on the first floor. He
was no longer the weak, timid young man, who could neither speak nor
act, but a Hercules whom nothing could withstand. As he entered the room
he saw Louise struggling and doing her utmost to repel Daréna, who was
trying to take her in his arms. Chérubin rushed upon the man who sought
to outrage Louise, and seizing him about the middle of the body, lifted
him up and threw him violently across the room, against the table on
which the dinner was served.

Daréna had no time to grasp what had happened, or to defend himself; his
head struck the corner of the table, his chin broke a plate which cut
his face, and he fell, murmuring Chérubin’s name.

“Chérubin!” cried Louise, staring at her rescuer, afraid to believe her
eyes, but shedding tears of joy. “Is it possible? It is he! it is you!”

“Yes, Louise, it is I, Chérubin, your friend, your brother--so overjoyed
to find you! But come, come! Do not stay any longer in this infamous
house! As for you, villain, if there is any heart left in your body, and
if you wish to have the honor of dying by my hand, come to my house, and
you will find that the young man whom you believed to be so shy and
timid, knows how to use a sword and a pistol.”

Daréna could not reply, for he was unconscious.

Chérubin took Louise’s hand and led her away; on the lower floor they
found Madame Ratouille still at table, while Poterne was trying to hide
in a butter firkin, and Bruno stood guard at the door. Chérubin did not
stay an instant with Daréna’s confederate; he led Louise from the house,
and told Bruno to call the cab to the door; he did so, and they entered.
But, before they drove away, Chérubin took a handful of gold pieces from
his pocket and gave them to Bruno, saying:

“Take this; you have earned it by doing a good deed; I hope that it will
bring you luck, and that you will try to become an honest man.”

The cab drove off. Chérubin held both of Louise’s hands in his; and for
some time those two, who had not met for three years, were so pleased
and happy to be together again, their hearts were so full, their emotion
so intense, that they could exchange only incoherent words and broken
sentences.

“It is really you, Chérubin, who saved me,” said Louise. “So you did
still think of me?”

“Why, Louise, I have been searching Paris for three days, looking
everywhere for you, ever since I learned that you had disappeared from
Madame de Noirmont’s. I have not lived, I have not had a moment’s peace
of mind!”

“Can it be true? Then you still love me, Chérubin?”

“Love you, my Louise! Ah! more than I ever did--I realize it now! I let
a long while go by without going to see you, it is true; you must have
thought me indifferent or ungrateful; but I always intended to go to see
you, if Monsieur Gérondif had not told me that you were in Bretagne,
where you were so happy that you did not mean to return to Gagny.”

“Oh! the liar! And it was he who drove me to despair by telling me that
you never gave a thought to your old playmate, that you had no desire to
see her again.”

“The miserable villain! why, that was perfectly horrible!”

“And it was not true, and you do still love your poor Louise? Oh! how
happy I am!”

This time the drive from the barrier to his house seemed very short to
Chérubin. He alighted, led Louise into the house, and took her up to his
own apartment. She followed him trustfully; she was with the man she
loved--that was the only thought in her mind.

Jasmin, who had come up to his master’s apartment with a light, uttered
a cry of joy when he saw the girl, and Chérubin briefly explained to him
how he had found her.

“So it was that blackguard Poterne again--the preserved turnips fellow!”
cried Jasmin; “and his master--another rascal! Do you know, monsieur, it
has occurred to me several times that they were mixed up in this.”

“Louise will remain here. I do not propose that she shall leave me,”
said Chérubin; “I am too much afraid of losing her again. She will have
apartments in this house; but meanwhile she will occupy mine to-night.
Jasmin, you will have a room prepared for me upstairs.”

“Yes, my dear master.”

Louise tried to object to that arrangement; she disliked to disturb
Chérubin and said that the smallest room in the house would suffice for
her; but Chérubin paid no heed to her, and Jasmin went to carry out his
orders.

The young people were left alone. It seemed that Chérubin would never
tire of gazing in admiration at Louise. She was so lovely, so charming,
so fascinating, in his eyes, that he cried:

“And I forgot you for all those creatures that I thought that I loved.
Ah! Louise, there is not a single one of them who can be compared with
you!”

The girl told her friend all that she had done since she left the
village; she concealed from him none of her thoughts; she had no secrets
from him. When she reached the time of her entering Madame de Noirmont’s
service, she told him of all the incidents that had marked her life
there; then, suddenly putting her hand to her breast, she made sure that
she still had the letter which she was to deliver to Monsieur de
Monfréville, and which Daréna was trying to make her give up to him when
Chérubin arrived so opportunely to rescue her.

“I will take you to Monfréville to-morrow,” said Chérubin, “for it is
too late to-night to send for him to come here. Madame de Noirmont told
you that he would tell you who your father is; but, my dear Louise, let
us swear that, whatever happens, we will never part again. If you have
no parents, I will take the place of them both; I will be your
protector, your friend, your----”

Chérubin did not know how to finish, but he took Louise’s hand and
covered it with kisses. The girl was so happy to find that her old
playmate still loved her, that she gladly took the oath that he
requested. They did not weary of telling each other of their love, and
of swearing that they would love each other always. Then they recalled
their childish delights, their first games, the happy moments that they
had passed together, those days, so brief and so blissful, which they
might perhaps know again.

To two people who love each other sincerely and who have not seen each
other for a long time, the hours pass rapidly and unnoticed. Jasmin had
long since come to inform his master that a room had been prepared on
the upper floor, and Chérubin had dismissed him, making ready at the
same time to follow him. But he resumed his conversation with Louise, he
let his eyes rest in unalloyed delight upon hers, which were filled with
emotion and love. They exchanged more oaths of never-ending love and
thought no more about parting.

Suddenly a neighboring clock struck two.

“Mon Dieu! it is very late!” said Louise; “two o’clock! I would not have
believed it! My dear, I am keeping you from sleeping; we must say
good-night, but only till to-morrow.”

“Very well,” said Chérubin, “I will leave you to sleep, Louise.
Good-night--since it must be.”

And the young man gazed lovingly at the girl--and did not go away. At
last he added with some embarrassment:

“Louise, before we part, won’t you let me kiss you? I have not dared to
do it since I found you; and yet, in the village, we used to kiss very
often.”

The girl saw no reason why she should deny the friend of her childhood
the sweet privilege which she used to accord him, and her only reply was
to walk toward him. Chérubin threw his arms about her and pressed her to
his heart; but his kiss was no longer the kiss of a child. Louise
realized her imprudence too late; how can one shun a danger which one
does not anticipate? And then there are sins which it is so pleasant to
commit, and Chérubin swore so earnestly that he would always love
her!--He had ceased to be bashful!



XXVIII

MONFRÉVILLE’S LOVE-AFFAIRS


Daybreak found Chérubin still in Louise’s arms; the apartment made ready
on the floor above had not been required. But when morning came, the
young man crept softly upstairs, so that his servants might think that
he had passed the night there. About nine o’clock he rang for Jasmin and
bade him go down and see if Mademoiselle Louise had risen and could
receive him.

The old servant eagerly performed his errand and returned with a radiant
face to inform his young master that his dear friend had risen, that she
was as lovely and fresh as a rose, and that anyone could see that she
had slept soundly all night.

Chérubin smiled at Jasmin’s perspicacity, and went down at once to
Louise.

The girl wept and hid her face on her lover’s breast; but Chérubin said
to her in the tone which speaks true love and which reaches a woman’s
heart so quickly:

“Why should you regret having made me happy, when I propose to employ my
whole life hereafter to make you happy? We will never part, you will be
my faithful companion, my beloved wife.”

“No,” replied Louise, weeping, “you are rich and of noble birth, and you
cannot marry a poor girl without father or mother. I shall love you as
long as I live, but I cannot be your wife; for perhaps a day would come
when you would be sorry that you had given me that title, and then I
should be too wretched.”

“Never! and it is very wicked of you to have any such idea!--But there’s
the letter that you are to deliver to Monfréville--that should inform
you who your parents are. I will throw myself at their feet, and they
will have to consent to my becoming your husband.”

Louise sighed and hung her head.

“But am I worthy _now_ to find my parents?” she replied. “It seems to me
that I no longer dare to deliver the letter to that gentleman; perhaps I
should do better to destroy it.”

Chérubin succeeded in allaying her fears; he decided to write to his
friend and to send him the letter that the young woman dared not carry
to him. So he at once wrote Monfréville the following letter:

     “My dear friend:

     “I have found my Louise; she is an angel who will embellish my
     life. She cannot be another’s now, for she is mine. O my dear
     Monfréville, I am the happiest of men, and I was not frightened
     this time. But then, I have never loved other women, and I adore
     this one.

     “Madame de Noirmont gave my Louise a letter for you, and told her
     that you could tell her who her father was; and it was while she
     was looking for your house that she fell in with that villainous
     Daréna, who took her to his _petite maison_, making her think that
     she was in your house. Luckily, I arrived in time! I send you this
     letter, my friend; come to us quickly, and tell us what you know.
     But if Louise’s parents would try to part us, do not make them
     known to her; for henceforth we cannot exist without each other.”

Chérubin signed this letter, enclosed with it the one that was given to
Louise, and sent them both to his friend early in the morning.

Monfréville was alone when Chérubin’s letter was brought to him, and he
lost no time in reading it. When he saw Madame de Noirmont’s name and
learned what she had said to Louise, he trembled and turned pale, and
his eyes instantly rested on the enclosure; he glanced at the
superscription and exclaimed:

“Yes, she has written to me; I recognize that writing, although it is a
long while since my eyes last rested on it. Great God! what can have
induced her to write to me, after swearing that she would never look
upon me except as a stranger, that she would wipe the whole past from
her memory? And this girl that she sent to me--Ah! if I dared to hope!”

Monfréville broke the seal of Madame de Noirmont’s letter. Before
reading it, he was obliged to pause again, for he was so excited that
his eyes had difficulty in distinguishing the letters. At last he made
an effort to recover himself, and read:

     “Monsieur:

     “When, disregarding your oaths, you left me to lament by my child’s
     cradle a fault which you made no motion to repair, I swore that you
     should never know that child. And more than that, I confess that I
     included her in the hatred which filled my heart thenceforth for my
     seducer; I abandoned my child to the village people in whose care I
     had placed her, and I determined never to see her again. Later, my
     position made it my duty to keep that oath. My father, who, thank
     heaven, never knew of his daughter’s wrongdoing, disposed of my
     hand; married, a mother, and the wife of a man no less severe on
     the question of honor than jealous of his reputation, I should have
     wrecked my daughter’s happiness, Monsieur de Noirmont’s, and my
     own, if, by a single imprudent step, I had exposed myself to the
     suspicion of a youthful indiscretion. To tell you that I was happy
     would be to deceive you; can a mother be happy, when she has
     spurned one of her children from her arms? I often blamed myself
     for the caresses that I gave my daughter; for I said to myself, in
     the depths of my heart, that I had another daughter who had an
     equal claim to my affection, and that I had cast her out!--My
     remorse was not sufficient, evidently, and Heaven had a more
     terrible punishment in store for me! A few months ago, while I was
     out of town, a young woman was taken into my household as lady’s
     maid. Her sweet disposition, the charm that emanated from her whole
     person, soon won all hearts. I myself felt drawn toward her. But
     conceive my situation when I discovered that that girl, brought up
     in the village of Gagny, by the good-nature of a peasant-woman
     named Nicole, was the same child whom I had abandoned to that
     woman’s tender mercies years ago! My daughter under my roof in a
     servile capacity! a servant in her mother’s house! Ah! monsieur,
     could I endure that ghastly position of affairs? Constantly tempted
     to throw myself into Louise’s arms, to strain her to my heart;
     then, remembering my husband, my other daughter, the honor of a
     whole family--I felt that I must find a way out of that situation
     or die. At last I went to Louise; I could not force myself to
     confess that I was her mother, but I implored her to leave the
     house, and the poor child yielded to my entreaties. But, deeply
     touched by the attachment to me which she has manifested, I have
     determined to give her a father. That child, whom, on your return
     to France, you vainly implored me to make known to you, is Louise,
     the lovely and virtuous maid who will hand you this letter. Give
     her a father, monsieur; as for her mother, you must not mention her
     name to her, but her heart will doubtless lead her to divine who
     she is.

      “AMELIE DE NOIRMONT.”

When he had finished reading this letter, Monfréville abandoned himself
to the wildest delight; he ran his eyes over Madame de Noirmont’s
missive again, for he feared that he was the plaything of a delusion; he
was too happy to think that Louise, whose beauty and virtue and sweet
temper everyone joined in extolling, was the daughter whom he was
ardently desirous to find. But soon he recalled something that moderated
the exuberance of his joy; he remembered Chérubin’s letter, took it up
and read it again, and a melancholy expression stole over his face.

“Heaven did not choose that my happiness should be without alloy,” he
murmured, with a sigh; “doubtless it is to make me expiate my sin; but
after being so guilty myself, there is nothing left for me to do but to
forgive.”

Louise and Chérubin were still together; they were impatiently awaiting
Monfréville’s arrival, and their impatience was blended with a secret
fear which they could not clearly define.

At last, Jasmin announced: “Monsieur de Monfréville.”

Louise, deeply agitated, lowered her eyes; Chérubin ran to meet his
friend, but stopped short when he saw his serious, even stern,
expression, and faltered, offering him his hand:

“Haven’t you received my letter, my friend?”

Monfréville did not touch the hand that Chérubin offered him; he turned
his eyes on the girl who stood, trembling, at the farther end of the
room; and, as he gazed at her, he felt that his eyes filled with tears.
But, struggling to conceal the emotion that he felt, he seated himself a
few steps from Louise, who still kept her eyes on the floor, and
motioned Chérubin to sit, saying:

“Yes, I have received your letter; and I have read the one from Madame
de Noirmont, who tells me that mademoiselle was adopted by the same good
woman who nursed you.”

“Well, my friend, is it true that you know Louise’s father, that you can
help her to find him? But do you think he will make her happy, that he
will not put any obstacles in the way of our love?”

Monfréville glanced at the girl again and said in a faltering voice:

“Yes, I know mademoiselle’s father.”

Louise raised her eyes at that, and looked at Monfréville with a thrill
of hope and of filial affection, crying:

“You know my father? Oh! if it should be true, monsieur, that he would
deign to love me--to----”

She could not finish the sentence; her voice trembled and the words died
on her lips.

“Before answering your questions,” Monfréville continued, after a
moment, “it is necessary that I should tell you an anecdote of my youth.
Please give me your attention.--I was just twenty-two years old; I was
independently rich, absolutely master of my actions and with very little
control over my passions. I loved a young lady belonging to an honorable
family. She had no mother to watch over her, and during her father’s
absence, my love succeeded in triumphing over her virtue. Believe me, it
is very wrong to abuse a sentiment you have aroused, in order to induce
the person you love to forget her duties; and it rarely happens that one
is not punished for it!”

Here Chérubin lost countenance and dared not look at Monfréville, while
Louise, pale and trembling, felt the tears falling from her eyes.

“Soon after,” continued Monfréville, “being obliged to visit England on
business, I went away, promising the victim of my seduction that I would
soon return to ask her father for her hand. But when I was away from
her, inconstancy, too natural in a young man, led me to forget my
promise. But I received a letter in which she told me that she was about
to become a mother, and that I must hasten back to her, if I wished to
save her honor and repair the wrong I had done. Well! I left that letter
unanswered; I had another intrigue on hand! Two years passed. I returned
to France, and, remembering the woman whom I had abandoned in such
dastardly fashion, and the child who did not know its father, I resolved
to offer my name and my hand to her to whom my conduct had been so
blameworthy. But it was too late--she was married! As she was married to
a man of honorable position, I felt sure that she had succeeded in
concealing her weakness from all eyes; but I was wild to know what had
become of my child. After many fruitless attempts, I succeeded at last
in obtaining a secret interview with the woman who had loved me so well;
but I found only an embittered, implacable woman, who, to all my
entreaties, made no other answer than this: ‘You abandoned me when I
implored you to come home and make me your wife and give your child a
father. I no longer know you! I desire to forget a sin for which I
blush; and, as for your daughter, all your prayers will be wasted, you
shall never know what has become of her.’ This decree, pronounced by an
outraged woman, was only too strictly executed. Sixteen years passed. I
renewed my prayers at intervals, but in vain: they were left unanswered.
And now, Chérubin, you know the cause of the fits of melancholy which
sometimes assailed me in the gayest circles; of that instability of
temper for which I am noted; sometimes, amid the noisy amusements of
society, the thought of my child would come to my mind, and the wealth
that people envied, the good-fortune that I seemed to enjoy--ah! I would
willingly have sacrificed them to hold my daughter in my arms just once!
But to-day my desires are granted; to-day, a friend of her whom I once
loved so dearly, has deigned to restore my child to me at last! But O my
God! when I should be so happy to recover her, must I needs learn at the
same time that she is guilty? that seduction, which wrecked her mother’s
happiness, is the lot of my child also?”

Monfréville had not finished when Louise and Chérubin threw themselves
at his feet. With their faces bathed in tears, they kissed his knees,
and Louise held out her arms, murmuring tremulously:

“Forgive me, father--forgive us! Alas! I did not know my parents, and
Chérubin was everything to me!”

Monfréville opened his arms and the lovers threw themselves upon his
heart.

“Yes,” he said, as he embraced them, “yes, I must forgive you, for
henceforth I shall have two children instead of one.”



XXIX

CONCLUSION


Some time after that day which restored a father to Louise, Monsieur de
Monfréville, who had publicly acknowledged her as his daughter, bestowed
her hand on Marquis Chérubin de Grandvilain.

And on the wedding-day, Nicole came to Paris, doubly happy to be present
at the ceremony which sealed the happiness of him whom she still called
her _fieu_, and of the child to whom she had, for a long time, been a
mother.

And Jasmin, who seemed to have recovered all his youthful vigor,
absolutely insisted upon discharging fireworks in the courtyard for his
master’s nuptials; but stout Turlurette opposed it, recalling the
accidents that had happened at the time of Chérubin’s birth. So that
Jasmin confined himself to firing a few rockets, with which he burned
off what little hair he had left.

As for Monsieur Gérondif, Chérubin, after bestowing a tidy little sum
upon him, requested him to seek other pupils. The tutor, finding himself
possessed of a round sum, determined to make a name for himself in
Paris; he founded a Latin journal, wrote a tragedy, gave a course of
lectures on universal knowledge, and tried to compel ladies to dress
without corsets. After some time, having succeeded only in squandering
his capital, he was very glad to return to Gagny and resume his post as
schoolmaster.

As the result of his fall among plates and glasses, Daréna was
permanently disfigured, so that he dared not show himself in respectable
society; he abandoned himself more freely than ever to his taste for
debauchery, and after a wild orgy and a night passed at play with some
low wretches, whose money he had won, he was found in the street, dead
and stripped clean.

Thus ended a man born in good society, brought up in opulence, and well
educated, but reduced to the lowest social level by his vices.

After losing his intimate friend, Monsieur Poterne became a dealer in
return checks at the doors of theatres, and in that occupation he
received several beatings because one could never get into the theatre
with the checks that he sold.

Little Bruno took advantage of the advice and the money that Chérubin
gave him; abandoning the practice of stealing dogs to sell, he set up a
little shop, did a good business and became an honest man; he often said
that it was easier than to be a knave.

Louise was a happy wife and a happy daughter. Monfréville never told her
her mother’s name; but when she went into society, where she was warmly
greeted as young Marquis Chérubin’s wife, she sometimes met the Noirmont
family. It was with the keenest pleasure that she embraced Ernestine,
who always manifested a warm affection for her. Then her eyes would seek
Madame de Noirmont’s, who, on her side, was always on the watch; and
when, concealed behind the throng, their eyes met, their glances were
eloquent with all the love that a mother’s and a daughter’s hearts can
contain.

As for Chérubin, he became a model husband; it is even said that he was
faithful to his wife; that young man was always different from other
people.





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