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Title: The Lesser Bourgeoisie
Author: Balzac, Honoré de
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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THE LESSER BOURGEOISIE (The Middle Classes)


By Honore De Balzac


Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley



                             DEDICATION

                         To Constance-Victoire.

  Here, madame, is one of those books which come into the mind,
  whence no one knows, giving pleasure to the author before he can
  foresee what reception the public, our great present judge, will
  accord to it. Feeling almost certain of your sympathy in my
  pleasure, I dedicate the book to you. Ought it not to belong to
  you as the tithe formerly belonged to the Church in memory of God,
  who makes all things bud and fruit in the fields and in the
  intellect?

  A few lumps of clay, left by Moliere at the feet of his colossal
  statue of Tartuffe, have here been kneaded by a hand more daring
  than able; but, at whatever distance I may be from the greatest of
  comic writers, I shall still be glad to have used these crumbs in
  showing the modern Hypocrite in action. The chief encouragement
  that I have had in this difficult undertaking was in finding it
  apart from all religious questions,--questions which ought to be
  kept out of it for the sake of one so pious as yourself; and also
  because of what a great writer has lately called our present
  “indifference in matters of religion.”

  May the double signification of your names be for my book a
  prophecy! Deign to find here the respectful gratitude of him who
  ventures to call himself the most devoted of your servants.


                                                 De Balzac.



THE LESSER BOURGEOISIE

(The Middle Classes)



PART I. THE LESSER BOURGEOIS OF PARIS



CHAPTER I. DEPARTING PARIS

The tourniquet Saint-Jean, the narrow passage entered through a
turnstile, a description of which was said to be so wearisome in the
study entitled “A Double Life” (Scenes from Private Life), that naive
relic of old Paris, has at the present moment no existence except in our
said typography. The building of the Hotel-de-Ville, such as we now see
it, swept away a whole section of the city.

In 1830, passers along the street could still see the turnstile painted
on the sign of a wine-merchant, but even that house, its last asylum,
has been demolished. Alas! old Paris is disappearing with frightful
rapidity. Here and there, in the course of this history of Parisian
life, will be found preserved, sometimes the type of the dwellings of
the middle ages, like that described in “Fame and Sorrow” (Scenes from
Private Life), one or two specimens of which exist to the present day;
sometimes a house like that of Judge Popinot, rue du Fouarre, a specimen
of the former bourgeoisie; here, the remains of Fulbert’s house; there,
the old dock of the Seine as it was under Charles IX. Why should not the
historian of French society, a new Old Mortality, endeavor to save these
curious expressions of the past, as Walter Scott’s old man rubbed up the
tombstones? Certainly, for the last ten years the outcries of literature
in this direction have not been superfluous; art is beginning to
disguise beneath its floriated ornaments those ignoble facades of what
are called in Paris “houses of product,” which one of our poets has
jocosely compared to chests of drawers.

Let us remark here, that the creation of the municipal commission
“del ornamento” which superintends at Milan the architecture of street
facades, and to which every house owner is compelled to subject his
plan, dates from the seventeenth century. Consequently, we see in that
charming capital the effects of this public spirit on the part of nobles
and burghers, while we admire their buildings so full of character and
originality. Hideous, unrestrained speculation which, year after year,
changes the uniform level of storeys, compresses a whole apartment into
the space of what used to be a salon, and wages war upon gardens, will
infallibly react on Parisian manners and morals. We shall soon be forced
to live more without than within. Our sacred private life, the freedom
and liberty of home, where will they be?--reserved for those who can
muster fifty thousand francs a year! In fact, few millionaires now allow
themselves the luxury of a house to themselves, guarded by a courtyard
on a street and protected from public curiosity by a shady garden at the
back.

By levelling fortunes, that section of the Code which regulates
testamentary bequests, has produced these huge stone phalansteries, in
which thirty families are often lodged, returning a rental of a hundred
thousand francs a year. Fifty years hence we shall be able to count on
our fingers the few remaining houses which resemble that occupied, at
the moment our narrative begins, by the Thuillier family,--a really
curious house which deserves the honor of an exact description, if only
to compare the life of the bourgeoisie of former times with that of
to-day.

The situation and the aspect of this house, the frame of our present
Scene of manners and morals, has, moreover, a flavor, a perfume of the
lesser bourgeoisie, which may attract or repel attention according to
the taste of each reader.

In the first place, the Thuillier house did not belong to either
Monsieur or Madame Thuillier, but to Mademoiselle Thuillier, the sister
of Monsieur Thuillier.

This house, bought during the first six months which followed the
revolution of July by Mademoiselle Marie-Jeanne-Brigitte Thuillier, a
spinster of full age, stands about the middle of the rue Saint-Dominique
d’Enfer, to the right as you enter by the rue d’Enfer, so that the main
building occupied by Monsieur Thuillier faces south.

The progressive movement which is carrying the Parisian population to
the heights along the right bank of the Seine had long injured the sale
of property in what is called the “Latin quarter,” when reasons, which
will be given when we come to treat of the character and habits of
Monsieur Thuillier, determined his sister to the purchase of real
estate. She obtained this property for the small sum of forty-six
thousand francs; certain extras amounted to six thousand more; in all,
the price paid was fifty-two thousand francs. A description of the
property given in the style of an advertisement, and the results
obtained by Monsieur Thuillier’s exertions, will explain by what means
so many fortunes increased enormously after July, 1830, while so many
others sank.

Toward the street the house presents a facade of rough stone covered
with plaster, cracked by weather and lined by the mason’s instrument
into a semblance of blocks of cut stone. This frontage is so common in
Paris and so ugly that the city ought to offer premiums to house-owners
who would build their facades of cut-stone blocks. Seven windows lighted
the gray front of this house which was raised three storeys, ending in
a mansard roof covered with slate. The porte-cochere, heavy and solid,
showed by its workmanship and style that the front building on the
street had been erected in the days of the Empire, to utilize a part
of the courtyard of the vast old mansion, built at an epoch when the
quarter d’Enfer enjoyed a certain vogue.

On one side was the porter’s lodge; on the other the staircase of the
front building. Two wings, built against the adjoining houses, had
formerly served as stables, coach-house, kitchen and offices to the rear
dwelling; but since 1830, they had been converted into warerooms. The
one on the right was let to a certain M. Metivier, jr., wholesale dealer
in paper; that on the left to a bookseller named Barbet. The offices
of each were above the warerooms; the bookseller occupying the first
storey, and the paper-dealer the second storey of the house on the
street. Metivier, jr., who was more of a commission merchant in paper
than a regular dealer, and Barbet, much more of a money lender and
discounter than a bookseller, kept these vast warerooms for the purpose
of storing,--one, his stacks of paper, bought of needy manufacturers,
the other, editions of books given as security for loans.

The shark of bookselling and the pike of paper-dealing lived on the best
of terms, and their mutual operations, exempt from the turmoil of retail
business, brought so few carriages into that tranquil courtyard that the
concierge was obliged to pull up the grass between the paving stones.
Messrs. Barbet and Metivier paid a few rare visits to their landlords,
and the punctuality with which they paid their rent classed them as
good tenants; in fact, they were looked upon as very honest men by the
Thuillier circle.

As for the third floor on the street, it was made into two apartments;
one of which was occupied by M. Dutocq, clerk of the justice of peace,
a retired government employee, and a frequenter of the Thuillier
salon; the other by the hero of this Scene, about whom we must
content ourselves at the present moment by fixing the amount of his
rent,--namely, seven hundred francs a year,--and the location he had
chosen in the heart of this well-filled building, exactly three years
before the curtain rises on the present domestic drama.

The clerk, a bachelor of fifty, occupied the larger of the two
apartments on the third floor. He kept a cook, and the rent of the
rooms was a thousand francs a year. Within two years of the time of
her purchase, Mademoiselle Thuillier was receiving seven thousand two
hundred francs in rentals, for a house which the late proprietor
had supplied with outside blinds, renovated within, and adorned with
mirrors, without being able to sell or let it. Moreover, the Thuilliers
themselves, nobly lodged, as we shall see, enjoyed also a fine
garden,--one of the finest in that quarter,--the trees of which shaded
the lonely little street named the rue Neuve-Saint-Catherine.

Standing between the courtyard and the garden, the main building,
which they inhabited, seems to have been the caprice of some enriched
bourgeois in the reign of Louis XIV.; the dwelling, perhaps, of a
president of the parliament, or that of a tranquil savant. Its
noble free-stone blocks, damaged by time, have a certain air of
Louis-the-Fourteenth grandeur; the courses of the facade define the
storeys; panels of red brick recall the appearance of the stables at
Versailles; the windows have masks carved as ornaments in the centre
of their arches and below their sills. The door, of small panels in the
upper half and plain below, through which, when open, the garden can be
seen, is of that honest, unassuming style which was often employed in
former days for the porter’s lodges of the royal chateaux.

This building, with five windows to each course, rises two storeys above
the ground-floor, and is particularly noticeable for a roof of four
sides ending in a weather-vane, and broken here and there by tall,
handsome chimneys, and oval windows. Perhaps this structure is the
remains of some great mansion; but after examining all the existing
old maps of Paris, we find nothing which bears out this conjecture.
Moreover, the title-deeds of property under Louis XIV. was Petitot,
the celebrated painter in miniature, who obtained it originally from
President Lecamus. We may therefore believe that Lecamus lived in this
building while he was erecting his more famous mansion in the rue de
Thorigny.

So Art and the legal robe have passed this way in turn. How many
instigations of needs and pleasures have led to the interior arrangement
of the dwelling! To right, as we enter a square hall forming a closed
vestibule, rises a stone staircase with two windows looking on the
garden. Beneath the staircase opens a door to the cellar. From this
vestibule we enter the dining-room, lighted from the courtyard, and the
dining-room communicates at its side with the kitchen, which forms a
continuation of the wing in which are the warerooms of Metivier and
Barbet. Behind the staircase extends, on the garden side, a fine study
or office with two large windows. The first and second floor form two
complete apartments, and the servants’ quarters are shown by the oval
windows in the four-sided roof.

A large porcelain stove heats the square vestibule, the two glass doors
of which, placed opposite to each other, light it. This room, paved in
black and white marble, is especially noticeable for a ceiling of beams
formerly painted and gilt, but which had since received, probably under
the Empire, a coat of plain white paint. The three doors of the study,
salon and dining-room, surmounted by oval panels, are awaiting a
restoration that is more than needed. The wood-work is heavy, but the
ornamentation is not without merit. The salon, panelled throughout,
recalls the great century by its tall mantelpiece of Languedoc marble,
its ceiling decorated at the corners, and by the style of its windows,
which still retain their little panes. The dining-room, communicating
with the salon by a double door, is floored with stone; the wood-work is
oak, unpainted, and an atrocious modern wall-paper has been substituted
for the tapestries of the olden time. The ceiling is of chestnut;
and the study, modernized by Thuillier, adds its quota to these
discordances.

The white and gold mouldings of the salon are so effaced that nothing
remains of the gilding but reddish lines, while the white enamelling is
yellow, cracked, and peeling off. Never did the Latin saying “Otium cum
dignitate” have a greater commentary to the mind of a poet than in this
noble building. The iron-work of the staircase baluster is worthy of
the artist and the magistrate; but to find other traces of their taste
to-day in this majestic relic, the eyes of an artistic observer are
needed.

The Thuilliers and their predecessors have frequently degraded this
jewel of the upper bourgeoisie by the habits and inventions of the
lesser bourgeoisie. Look at those walnut chairs covered with horse-hair,
that mahogany table with its oilcloth cover, that sideboard, also of
mahogany, that carpet, bought at a bargain, beneath the table, those
metal lamps, that wretched paper with its red border, those execrable
engravings, and the calico curtains with red fringes, in a dining-room,
where the friends of Petitot once feasted! Do you notice the effect
produced in the salon by those portraits of Monsieur and Madame and
Mademoiselle Thuillier by Pierre Grassou, the artist par excellence
of the modern bourgeoisie. Have you remarked the card-tables and the
consoles of the Empire, the tea-table supported by a lyre, and that
species of sofa, of gnarled mahogany, covered in painted velvet of a
chocolate tone? On the chimney-piece, with the clock (representing the
Bellona of the Empire), are candelabra with fluted columns. Curtains of
woollen damask, with under-curtains of embroidered muslin held back by
stamped brass holders, drape the windows. On the floor a cheap carpet.
The handsome vestibule has wooden benches, covered with velvet, and the
panelled walls with their fine carvings are mostly hidden by wardrobes,
brought there from time to time from the bedrooms occupied by the
Thuilliers. Fear, that hideous divinity, has caused the family to add
sheet-iron doors on the garden side and on the courtyard side, which are
folded back against the walls in the daytime, and are closed at night.

It is easy to explain the deplorable profanation practised on this
monument of the private life of the bourgeoisie of the seventeenth
century, by the private life of the bourgeoisie of the nineteenth. At
the beginning of the Consulate, let us say, some master-mason having
bought the ancient building, took the idea of turning to account the
ground which lay between it and the street. He probably pulled down
the fine porte-cochere or entrance gate, flanked by little lodges which
guarded the charming “sejour” (to use a word of the olden time), and
proceeded, with the industry of a Parisian proprietor, to impress his
withering mark on the elegance of the old building. What a curious study
might be made of the successive title-deeds of property in Paris! A
private lunatic asylum performs its functions in the rue des Batailles
in the former dwelling of the Chevalier Pierre Bayard du Terrail, once
without fear and without reproach; a street has now been built by the
present bourgeois administration through the site of the hotel Necker.
Old Paris is departing, following its kings who abandoned it. For one
masterpiece of architecture saved from destruction by a Polish princess
(the hotel Lambert, Ile Saint-Louis, bought and occupied by the Princess
Czartoriska) how many little palaces have fallen, like this dwelling of
Petitot, into the hands of such as Thuillier.

Here follows the causes which made Mademoiselle Thuillier the owner of
the house.



CHAPTER II. THE HISTORY OF A TYRANNY

At the fall of the Villele ministry, Monsieur Louis-Jerome Thuillier,
who had then seen twenty-six years’ service as a clerk in the ministry
of finance, became sub-director of a department thereof; but scarcely
had he enjoyed the subaltern authority of a position formerly his
lowest hope, when the events of July, 1830, forced him to resign it.
He calculated, shrewdly enough, that his pension would be honorably and
readily given by the new-comers, glad to have another office at their
disposal. He was right; for a pension of seventeen hundred francs was
paid to him immediately.

When the prudent sub-director first talked of resigning, his sister, who
was far more the companion of his life than his wife, trembled for his
future.

“What will become of Thuillier?” was a question which Madame and
Mademoiselle Thuillier put to each other with mutual terror in their
little lodging on a third floor of the rue d’Argenteuil.

“Securing his pension will occupy him for a time,” Mademoiselle
Thuillier said one day; “but I am thinking of investing my savings in
a way that will cut out work for him. Yes; it will be something like
administrating the finances to manage a piece of property.”

“Oh, sister! you will save his life,” cried Madame Thuillier.

“I have always looked for a crisis of this kind in Jerome’s life,”
 replied the old maid, with a protecting air.

Mademoiselle Thuillier had too often heard her brother remark: “Such
a one is dead; he only survived his retirement two years”; she had too
often heard Colleville, her brother’s intimate friend, a government
employee like himself, say, jesting on this climacteric of bureaucrats,
“We shall all come to it, ourselves,” not to appreciate the danger her
brother was running. The change from activity to leisure is, in truth,
the critical period for government employees of all kinds.

Those of them who know not how to substitute, or perhaps cannot
substitute other occupations for the work to which they have been
accustomed, change in a singular manner; some die outright; others take
to fishing, the vacancy of that amusement resembling that of their late
employment under government; others, who are smarter men, dabble in
stocks, lose their savings, and are thankful to obtain a place in
some enterprise that is likely to succeed, after a first disaster and
liquidation, in the hands of an abler management. The late clerk then
rubs his hands, now empty, and says to himself, “I always did foresee
the success of the business.” But nearly all these retired bureaucrats
have to fight against their former habits.

“Some,” Colleville used to say, “are victims to a sort of ‘spleen’
peculiar to the government clerk; they die of a checked circulation;
a red-tapeworm is in their vitals. That little Poiret couldn’t see the
well-known white carton without changing color at the beloved sight; he
used to turn from green to yellow.”

Mademoiselle Thuillier was considered the moving spirit of her brother’s
household; she was not without decision and force of character, as the
following history will show. This superiority over those who immediately
surrounded her enabled her to judge her brother, although she adored
him. After witnessing the failure of the hopes she had set upon her
idol, she had too much real maternity in her feeling for him to let
herself be mistaken as to his social value.

Thuillier and his sister were children of the head porter at the
ministry of finance. Jerome had escaped, thanks to his near-sightedness,
all drafts and conscriptions. The father’s ambition was to make his son
a government clerk. At the beginning of this century the army presented
too many posts not to leave various vacancies in the government offices.
A deficiency of minor officials enabled old Pere Thuillier to hoist his
son upon the lowest step of the bureaucratic hierarchy. The old man died
in 1814, leaving Jerome on the point of becoming sub-director, but with
no other fortune than that prospect. The worthy Thuillier and his wife
(who died in 1810) had retired from active service in 1806, with a
pension as their only means of support; having spent what property
they had in giving Jerome the education required in these days, and in
supporting both him and his sister.

The influence of the Restoration on the bureaucracy is well known. From
the forty and one suppressed departments a crowd of honorable employees
returned to Paris with nothing to do, and clamorous for places inferior
to those they had lately occupied. To these acquired rights were added
those of exiled families ruined by the Revolution. Pressed between the
two floods, Jerome thought himself lucky not to have been dismissed
under some frivolous pretext. He trembled until the day when, becoming
by mere chance sub-director, he saw himself secure of a retiring
pension. This cursory view of matters will serve to explain Monsieur
Thuillier’s very limited scope and knowledge. He had learned the Latin,
mathematics, history, and geography that are taught in schools, but
he never got beyond what is called the second class; his father having
preferred to take advantage of a sudden opportunity to place him at the
ministry. So, while the young Thuillier was making his first records
on the Grand-Livre, he ought to have been studying his rhetoric and
philosophy.

While grinding the ministerial machine, he had no leisure to cultivate
letters, still less the arts; but he acquired a routine knowledge of his
business, and when he had an opportunity to rise, under the Empire,
to the sphere of superior employees, he assumed a superficial air of
competence which concealed the son of a porter, though none of it rubbed
into his mind. His ignorance, however, taught him to keep silence, and
silence served him well. He accustomed himself to practise, under the
imperial regime, a passive obedience which pleased his superiors; and it
was to this quality that he owed at a later period his promotion to the
rank of sub-director. His routine habits then became great experience;
his manners and his silence concealed his lack of education, and his
absolute nullity was a recommendation, for a cipher was needed. The
government was afraid of displeasing both parties in the Chamber by
selecting a man from either side; it therefore got out of the difficulty
by resorting to the rule of seniority. That is how Thuillier became
sub-director. Mademoiselle Thuillier, knowing that her brother abhorred
reading, and could substitute no business for the bustle of a public
office, had wisely resolved to plunge him into the cares of property,
into the culture of a garden, in short, into all the infinitely petty
concerns and neighborhood intrigues which make up the life of the
bourgeoisie.

The transplanting of the Thuillier household from the rue d’Argenteuil
to the rue Saint-Dominique d’Enfer, the business of making the purchase,
of finding a suitable porter, and then of obtaining tenants occupied
Thuillier from 1831 to 1832. When the phenomenon of the change was
accomplished, and the sister saw that Jerome had borne it fairly well,
she found him other cares and occupations (about which we shall hear
later), all based upon the character of the man himself, as to which it
will now be useful to give information.

Though the son of a ministerial porter, Thuillier was what is called a
fine man, slender in figure, above middle height, and possessing a
face that was rather agreeable if wearing his spectacles, but frightful
without them; which is frequently the case with near-sighted persons;
for the habit of looking through glasses has covered the pupils of his
eyes with a sort of film.

Between the ages of eighteen and thirty, young Thuillier had much
success among women, in a sphere which began with the lesser bourgeois
and ended in that of the heads of departments. Under the Empire, war
left Parisian society rather denuded of men of energy, who were mostly
on the battlefield; and perhaps, as a great physician has suggested,
this may account for the flabbiness of the generation which occupies the
middle of the nineteenth century.

Thuillier, forced to make himself noticeable by other charms than those
of mind, learned to dance and to waltz in a way to be cited; he was
called “that handsome Thuillier”; he played billiards to perfection; he
knew how to cut out likenesses in black paper, and his friend Colleville
coached him so well that he was able to sing all the ballads of the
day. These various small accomplishments resulted in that appearance
of success which deceives youth and befogs it about the future.
Mademoiselle Thuillier, from 1806 to 1814, believed in her brother as
Mademoiselle d’Orleans believed in Louis-Philippe. She was proud of
Jerome; she expected to see him the director-general of his department
of the ministry, thanks to his successes in certain salons, where,
undoubtedly, he would never have been admitted but for the circumstances
which made society under the Empire a medley.

But the successes of “that handsome Thuillier” were usually of short
duration; women did not care to keep his devotion any more than he
desired to make his devotion eternal. He was really an unwilling Don
Juan; the career of a “beau” wearied him to the point of aging him; his
face, covered with lines like that of an old coquette, looked a dozen
years older than the registers made him. There remained to him of all
his successes in gallantry, a habit of looking at himself in mirrors, of
buttoning his coat to define his waist, and of posing in various dancing
attitudes; all of which prolonged, beyond the period of enjoying his
advantages, the sort of lease that he held on his cognomen, “that
handsome Thuillier.”

The truth of 1806 has, however, become a fable, in 1826. He retains a
few vestiges of the former costume of the beaux of the Empire, which are
not unbecoming to the dignity of a former sub-director. He still wears
the white cravat with innumerable folds, wherein his chin is buried, and
the coquettish bow, formerly tied by the hands of beauty, the two ends
of which threaten danger to the passers to right and left. He follows
the fashions of former days, adapting them to his present needs; he tips
his hat on the back of his head, and wears shoes and thread stockings in
summer; his long-tailed coats remind one of the well-known “surtouts”
 of the Empire; he has not yet abandoned his frilled shirts and his white
waistcoats; he still plays with his Empire switch, and holds himself so
erect that his back bends in. No one, seeing Thuillier promenading
on the boulevards, would take him for the son of a man who cooked the
breakfasts of the clerks at a ministry and wore the livery of Louis
XVI.; he resembles an imperial diplomatist or a sub-prefect. Now, not
only did Mademoiselle Thuillier very innocently work upon her brother’s
weak spot by encouraging in him an excessive care of his person, which,
in her, was simply a continuation of her worship, but she also provided
him with family joys, by transplanting to their midst a household which
had hitherto been quasi-collateral to them.

It was that of Monsieur Colleville, an intimate friend of Thuillier. But
before we proceed to describe Pylades let us finish with Orestes, and
explain why Thuillier--that handsome Thuillier--was left without a
family of his own--for the family, be it said, is non-existent without
children. Herein appears one of those deep mysteries which lie buried in
the arena of private life, a few shreds of which rise to the surface
at moments when the pain of a concealed situation grows poignant. This
concerns the life of Madame and Mademoiselle Thuillier; so far, we
have seen only the life (and we may call it the public life) of Jerome
Thuillier.

Marie-Jeanne-Brigitte Thuillier, four years older than her brother, had
been utterly sacrificed to him; it was easier to give a career to one
than a “dot” to the other. Misfortune to some natures is a pharos,
which illumines to their eyes the dark low corners of social existence.
Superior to her brother both in mind and energy, Brigitte had one of
those natures which, under the hammer of persecution, gather themselves
together, become compact and powerfully resistant, not to say
inflexible. Jealous of her independence, she kept aloof from the life
of the household; choosing to make herself the sole arbiter of her own
fate. At fourteen years of age, she went to live alone in a garret, not
far from the ministry of finance, which was then in the rue Vivienne,
and also not far from the Bank of France, then, and now, in the rue de
la Vrilliere. There she bravely gave herself up to a form of industry
little known and the perquisite of a few persons, which she obtained,
thanks to the patrons of her father. It consisted in making bags to hold
coin for the Bank, the Treasury, and the great financial houses. At the
end of three years she employed two workwomen. By investing her savings
on the Grand-Livre, she found herself, in 1814, the mistress of three
thousand six hundred francs a year, earned in fifteen years. As she
spent little, and dined with her father as long as he lived, and, as
government securities were very low during the last convulsions of the
Empire, this result, which seems at first sight exaggerated, explains
itself.

On the death of their father, Brigitte and Jerome, the former being
twenty-seven, the latter twenty-three, united their existence. Brother
and sister were bound together by an extreme affection. If Jerome, then
at the height of his success, was pinched for money, his sister, clothed
in serge, and her fingers roughened by the coarse thread with which she
sewed her bags, would give him a few louis. In Brigitte’s eyes Jerome
was the handsomest and most charming man in the whole French Empire. To
keep house for this cherished brother, to be initiated into the
secrets of Lindor and Don Juan, to be his handmaiden, his spaniel,
was Brigitte’s dream. She immolated herself lovingly to an idol
whose selfishness, always great, was enormously increased by her
self-sacrifice. She sold her business to her fore-woman for fifteen
thousand francs and came to live with Thuillier in the rue d’Argenteuil,
where she made herself the mother, protectress, and servant of this
spoiled child of women. Brigitte, with the natural caution of a girl who
owed everything to her own discretion and her own labor, concealed the
amount of her savings from Jerome,--fearing, no doubt, the extravagance
of a man of gallantry. She merely paid a quota of six hundred francs
a year to the expenses of the household, and this, with her brother’s
eighteen hundred, enabled her to make both ends meet at the end of the
year.

From the first days of their coming together, Thuillier listened to his
sister as to an oracle; he consulted her in his trifling affairs, kept
none of his secrets from her, and thus made her taste the fruit of
despotism which was, in truth, the one little sin of her nature. But the
sister had sacrificed everything to the brother; she had staked her all
upon his heart; she lived by him only. Brigitte’s ascendancy over Jerome
was singularly proved by the marriage which she procured for him about
the year 1814.

Seeing the tendency to enforced reduction which the new-comers to power
under the Restoration were beginning to bring about in the government
offices, and particularly since the return of the old society which
sought to ride over the bourgeoisie, Brigitte understood, far better
than her brother could explain it to her, the social crisis which
presently extinguished their common hopes. No more successes for that
handsome Thuillier in the salons of the nobles who now succeeded the
plebeians of the Empire!

Thuillier was not enough of a person to take up a politic opinion and
choose a party; he felt, as his sister did for him, the necessity of
profiting by the remains of his youth to make a settlement. In such a
situation, a sister as jealous of her power as Brigitte naturally would,
and ought, to marry her brother, to suit herself as well as to suit him;
for she alone could make him really happy, Madame Thuillier being only
an indispensable accessory to the obtaining of two or three children. If
Brigitte did not have an intellect quite the equal of her will, at least
she had the instinct of her despotism; without, it is true, education,
she marched straight before her, with the headstrong determination of
a nature accustomed to succeed. She had the genius of housekeeping, a
faculty for economy, a thorough understanding of how to live, and a
love for work. She saw plainly that she could never succeed in marrying
Jerome into a sphere above their own, where parents might inquire
into their domestic life and feel uneasy at finding a mistress already
reigning in the home. She therefore sought in a lower grade for persons
to dazzle, and found, almost beside her, a suitable match.

The oldest usher at the Bank, a man named Lemprun, had an only daughter,
called Celeste. Mademoiselle Celeste Lemprun would inherit the fortune
of her mother, the only daughter of a rich farmer. This fortune
consisted of some acres of land in the environs of Paris, which the
old father still worked; besides this, she would have the property of
Lemprun himself, a man who had left the firms of Thelusson and of Keller
to enter the service of the Bank of France. Lemprun, now the head of
that service, enjoyed the respect and consideration of the governors and
auditors.

The Bank council, on hearing of the probable marriage of Celeste to
an honorable employee at the ministry of finance, promised a wedding
present of six thousand francs. This gift, added to twelve thousand
given by Pere Lemprun, and twelve thousand more from the maternal
grandfather, Sieur Galard, market-gardener at Auteuil, brought up the
dowry to thirty thousand francs. Old Galard and Monsieur and Madame
Lemprun were delighted with the marriage. Lemprun himself knew
Mademoiselle Thuillier, and considered her one of the worthiest and most
conscientious women in Paris. Brigitte then, for the first time, allowed
her investments on the Grand-Livre to shine forth, assuring Lemprun that
she should never marry; consequently, neither he nor his wife, persons
devoted to the main chance, would ever allow themselves to find fault
with Brigitte. Above all, they were greatly struck by the splendid
prospects of the handsome Thuillier, and the marriage took place, as the
conventional saying is, to the general satisfaction.

The governor of the Bank and the secretary were the bride’s witnesses;
Monsieur de la Billardiere, director of Thuillier’s department, and
Monsieur Rabourdin, head of the office, being those of the groom. Six
days after the marriage old Lemprun was the victim of a daring robbery
which made a great noise in the newspapers of the day, though it was
quickly forgotten during the events of 1815. The guilty parties having
escaped detection, Lemprun wished to make up the loss; but the
Bank agreed to carry the deficit to its profit and loss account;
nevertheless, the poor old man actually died of the grief this affair
had caused him. He regarded it as an attack upon his aged honor.

Madame Lemprun then resigned all her property to her daughter, Madame
Thuillier, and went to live with her father at Auteuil until he died
from an accident in 1817. Alarmed at the prospect of having to manage
or lease the market-garden and the farm of her father, Madame Lemprun
entreated Brigitte, whose honesty and capacity astonished her, to wind
up old Galard’s affairs, and to settle the property in such a way that
her daughter should take possession of everything, securing to her
mother fifteen hundred francs a year and the house at Auteuil. The
landed property of the old farmer was sold in lots, and brought in
thirty thousand francs. Lemprun’s estate had given as much more, so that
Madame Thuillier’s fortune, including her “dot,” amounted in 1818 to
ninety thousand francs. Joining the revenue of this property to that of
the brother and sister, the Thuillier household had an income, in 1818,
amounting to eleven thousand francs, managed by Brigitte alone on her
sole responsibility. It is necessary to begin by stating this financial
position, not only to prevent objections but to rid the drama of
difficulties.

Brigitte began, from the first, by allowing her brother five hundred
francs a month, and by sailing the household boat at the rate of five
thousand francs a year. She granted to her sister-in-law fifty francs a
month, explaining to her carefully that she herself was satisfied with
forty. To strengthen her despotism by the power of money, Brigitte laid
by the surplus of her own funds. She made, so it was said in business
offices, usurious loans by means of her brother, who appeared as
a money-lender. If, between the years 1813 and 1830, Brigitte had
capitalized sixty thousand francs, that sum can be explained by the rise
in the Funds, and there is no need to have recourse to accusations more
or less well founded, which have nothing to do with our present history.

From the first days of the marriage, Brigitte subdued the unfortunate
Madame Thuillier with a touch of the spur and a jerk of the bit, both
of which she made her feel severely. A further display of tyranny
was useless; the victim resigned herself at once. Celeste, thoroughly
understood by Brigitte, a girl without mind or education, accustomed
to a sedentary life and a tranquil atmosphere, was extremely gentle by
nature; she was pious in the fullest acceptation of the word; she would
willingly have expiated by the hardest punishments the involuntary
wrong of giving pain to her neighbor. She was utterly ignorant of life;
accustomed to be waited on by her mother, who did the whole service
of the house, for Celeste was unable to make much exertion, owing to
a lymphatic constitution which the least toil wearied. She was truly a
daughter of the people of Paris, where children, seldom handsome, and of
no vigor, the product of poverty and toil, of homes without fresh air,
without freedom of action, without any of the conveniences of life, meet
us at every turn.

At the time of the marriage, Celeste was seen to be a little woman, fair
and faded almost to sickliness, fat, slow, and silly in the countenance.
Her forehead, much too large and too prominent, suggested water on the
brain, and beneath that waxen cupola her face, noticeably too small and
ending in a point like the nose of a mouse, made some people fear she
would become, sooner or later, imbecile. Her eyes, which were light
blue, and her lips, always fixed in a smile, did not contradict that
idea. On the solemn occasion of her marriage she had the manner, air,
and attitude of a person condemned to death, whose only desire is that
it might all be over speedily.

“She is rather round,” said Colleville to Thuillier.

Brigitte was just the knife to cut into such a nature, to which her own
formed the strongest contrast. Mademoiselle Thuillier was remarkable for
her regular and correct beauty, but a beauty injured by toil which, from
her very childhood, had bent her down to painful, thankless tasks, and
by the secret privations she imposed upon herself in order to amass her
little property. Her complexion, early discolored, had something the
tint of steel. Her brown eyes were framed in brown; on the upper lip
was a brown floss like a sort of smoke. Her lips were thin, and her
imperious forehead was surmounted by hair once black, now turning to
chinchilla. She held herself as straight as the fairest beauty; but all
things else about her showed the hardiness of her life, the deadening of
her natural fire, the cost of what she was!

To Brigitte, Celeste was simply a fortune to lay hold of, a future
mother to rule, one more subject in her empire. She soon reproached her
for being _weak_, a constant word in her vocabulary, and the jealous
old maid, who would strongly have resented any signs of activity in
her sister-in-law, now took a savage pleasure in prodding the
languid inertness of the feeble creature. Celeste, ashamed to see her
sister-in-law displaying such energy in household work, endeavored to
help her, and fell ill in consequence. Instantly, Brigitte was devoted
to her, nursed her like a beloved sister, and would say, in presence
of Thuillier: “You haven’t any strength, my child; you must never do
anything again.” She showed up Celeste’s incapacity by that display of
sympathy with which strength, seeming to pity weakness, finds means to
boast of its own powers.

But, as all despotic natures liking to exercise their strength are full
of tenderness for physical sufferings, Brigitte took such real care of
her sister-in-law as to satisfy Celeste’s mother when she came to see
her daughter. After Madame Thuillier recovered, however, she called her,
in Celeste’s hearing, “a helpless creature, good for nothing!” which
sent the poor thing crying to her room. When Thuillier found her there,
drying her eyes, he excused her sister, saying:--

“She is an excellent woman, but rather hasty; she loves you in her own
way; she behaves just so with me.”

Celeste, remembering the maternal care of her sister-in-law during her
illness, forgave the wound. Brigitte always treated her brother as the
king of the family; she exalted him to Celeste, and made him out an
autocrat, a Ladislas, an infallible pope. Madame Thuillier having lost
her father and grandfather, and being well-nigh deserted by her mother,
who came to see her on Thursdays only (she herself spending Sundays at
Auteuil in summer), had no one left to love except her husband, and
she did love him,--in the first place, because he was her husband, and
secondly, because he still remained to her “that handsome Thuillier.”
 Besides, he sometimes treated her like a wife, and all these reasons
together made her adore him. He seemed to her all the more perfect
because he often took up her defence and scolded his sister, not from
any real interest in his wife, but for pure selfishness, and in order to
have peace in the household during the very few moments that he stayed
there.

In fact, that handsome Thuillier was never at home except at dinner,
after which meal he went out, returning very late at night. He went to
balls and other social festivities by himself, precisely as if he were
still a bachelor. Thus the two women were always alone together. Celeste
insensibly fell into a passive attitude, and became what Brigitte wanted
her,--a helot. The Queen Elizabeth of the household then passed
from despotism to a sort of pity for the poor victim who was always
sacrificed. She ended by softening her haughty ways, her cutting
speech, her contemptuous tones, as soon as she was certain that her
sister-in-law was completely under the yoke. When she saw the wounds it
made on the neck of her victim, she took care of her as a thing of her
own, and Celeste entered upon happier days. Comparing the end with the
beginning, she even felt a sort of love for her torturer. To gain
some power of self-defence, to become something less a cipher in the
household, supported, unknown to herself, by her own means, the poor
helot had but a single chance, and that chance never came to her.

Celeste had no child. This barrenness, which, from month to month,
brought floods of tears from her eyes, was long the cause of Brigitte’s
scorn; she reproached the poor woman bitterly for being fit for nothing,
not even to bear children. The old maid, who had longed to love her
brother’s child as if it were her own, was unable, for years, to
reconcile herself to this irremediable sterility.

At the time when our history begins, namely, in 1840, Celeste, then
forty-six years old, had ceased to weep; she now had the certainty of
never being a mother. And here is a strange thing. After twenty-five
years of this life, in which victory had ended by first dulling and then
breaking its own knife, Brigitte loved Celeste as much as Celeste loved
Brigitte. Time, ease, and the perpetual rubbing of domestic life, had
worn off the angles and smoothed the asperities; Celeste’s resignation
and lamb-like gentleness had brought, at last, a serene and peaceful
autumn. The two women were still further united by the one sentiment
that lay within them, namely, their adoration for the lucky and selfish
Thuillier.

Moreover, these two women, both childless, had each, like all women
who have vainly desired children, fallen in love with a child. This
fictitious motherhood, equal in strength to a real motherhood, needs an
explanation which will carry us to the very heart of our drama, and
will show the reason of the new occupation which Mademoiselle Thuillier
provided for her brother.



CHAPTER III. COLLEVILLE

Thuillier had entered the ministry of finance as supernumerary at the
same time as Colleville, who has been mentioned already as his intimate
friend. In opposition to the well-regulated, gloomy household of
Thuillier, social nature had provided that of Colleville; and if it
is impossible not to remark that this fortuitous contrast was scarcely
moral, we must add that, before deciding that point, it would be well
to wait for the end of this drama, unfortunately too true, for which the
present historian is not responsible.

Colleville was the only son of a talented musician, formerly first
violin at the Opera under Francoeur and Rebel, who related, at least
six times a month during his lifetime, anecdotes concerning the
representations of the “Village Seer”; and mimicked Jean-Jacques
Rousseau, taking him off to perfection. Colleville and Thuillier were
inseparable friends; they had no secrets from each other, and their
friendship, begun at fifteen years of age, had never known a cloud up to
the year 1839. The former was one of those employees who are called,
in the government offices, pluralists. These clerks are remarkable
for their industry. Colleville, a good musician, owed to the name
and influence of his father a situation as first clarionet at the
Opera-Comique, and so long as he was a bachelor, Colleville, who was
rather richer than Thuillier, shared his means with his friend. But,
unlike Thuillier, Colleville married for love a Mademoiselle Flavie,
the natural daughter of a celebrated danseuse at the Opera; her reputed
father being a certain du Bourguier, one of the richest contractors
of the day. In style and origin, Flavie was apparently destined for
a melancholy career, when Colleville, often sent to her mother’s
apartments, fell in love with her and married her. Prince Galathionne,
who at that time was “protecting” the danseuse, then approaching the end
of her brilliant career, gave Flavie a “dot” of twenty thousand francs,
to which her mother added a magnificent trousseau. Other friends and
opera-comrades sent jewels and silver-ware, so that the Colleville
household was far richer in superfluities than in capital. Flavie,
brought up in opulence, began her married life in a charming apartment,
furnished by her mother’s upholsterer, where the young wife, who was
full of taste for art and for artists, and possessed a certain elegance,
ruled, a queen.

Madame Colleville was pretty and piquant, clever, gay, and graceful;
to express her in one sentence,--a charming creature. Her mother, the
danseuse, now forty-three years old, retired from the stage and went
to live in the country,--thus depriving her daughter of the resources
derived from her wasteful extravagance. Madame Colleville kept a very
agreeable but extremely free and easy household. From 1816 to 1826 she
had five children. Colleville, a musician in the evening, kept the books
of a merchant from seven to nine in the morning, and by ten o’clock he
was at his ministry. Thus, by blowing into a bit of wood by night, and
writing double-entry accounts in the early morning, he managed to eke
out his earnings to seven or eight thousand francs a year.

Madame Colleville played the part of a “comme il faut” woman; she
received on Wednesdays, gave a concert once a month and a dinner every
fortnight. She never saw Colleville except at dinner and at night, when
he returned about twelve o’clock, at which hour she was frequently not
at home herself. She went to the theatres, where boxes were sometimes
given to her; and she would send word to Colleville to come and fetch
her from such or such a house, where she was supping and dancing. At her
own house, guests found excellent cheer, and her society, though rather
mixed, was very amusing; she received and welcomed actresses, artists,
men of letters, and a few rich men. Madame Colleville’s elegance was on
a par with that of Tullia, the leading prima-donna, with whom she was
intimate; but though the Collevilles encroached on their capital and
were often in difficulty by the end of the month, Flavie was never in
debt.

Colleville was very happy; he still loved his wife, and he made himself
her best friend. Always received by her with affectionate smiles and
sympathetic pleasure, he yielded readily to the irresistible grace
of her manners. The vehement activity with which he pursued his three
avocations was a part of his natural character and temperament. He was
a fine stout man, ruddy, jovial, extravagant, and full of ideas. In ten
years there was never a quarrel in his household. Among business men
he was looked upon, in common with all artists, as a scatter-brained
fellow; and superficial persons thought that the constant hurry of this
hard worker was only the restless coming and going of a busybody.

Colleville had the sense to seem stupid; he boasted of his family
happiness, and gave himself unheard-of trouble in making anagrams, in
order at times to seem absorbed in that passion. The government clerks
of his division at the ministry, the office directors, and even the
heads of divisions came to his concerts; now and then he quietly
bestowed upon them opera tickets, when he needed some extra indulgence
on account of his frequent absence. Rehearsals took half the time that
he ought to have been at his desk; but the musical knowledge his father
had bequeathed to him was sufficiently genuine and well-grounded to
excuse him from all but final rehearsals. Thanks to Madame Colleville’s
intimacies, both the theatre and the ministry lent themselves kindly to
the needs of this industrious pluralist, who, moreover, was bringing
up, with great care, a youth, warmly recommended to him by his wife,
a future great musician, who sometimes took his place in the orchestra
with a promise of eventually succeeding him. In fact, about the year
1827 this young man became the first clarionet when Colleville resigned
his position.

The usual comment on Flavie was, “That little slip of a coquette, Madame
Colleville.” The eldest of the Colleville children, born in 1816, was
the living image of Colleville himself. In 1818, Madame Colleville held
the cavalry in high estimation, above even art; and she distinguished
more particularly a sub-lieutenant in the dragoons of Saint-Chamans,
the young and rich Charles de Gondreville, who afterwards died in the
Spanish campaign. By that time Flavie had had a second son, whom she
henceforth dedicated to a military career. In 1820 she considered
banking the nursing mother of trade, the supporter of Nations, and she
made the great Keller, that famous banker and orator, her idol. She
then had another son, whom she named Francois, resolving to make him a
merchant,--feeling sure that Keller’s influence would never fail him.
About the close of the year 1820, Thuillier, the intimate friend of
Monsieur and Madame Colleville, felt the need of pouring his sorrows
into the bosom of this excellent woman, and to her he related his
conjugal miseries. For six years he had longed to have children, but God
did not bless him; although that poor Madame Thuillier had made novenas,
and had even gone, uselessly, to Notra-Dame de Liesse! He depicted
Celeste in various lights, which brought the words “Poor Thuillier!”
 from Flavie’s lips. She herself was rather sad, having at the moment no
dominant opinion. She poured her own griefs into Thuillier’s bosom. The
great Keller, that hero of the Left, was, in reality, extremely petty;
she had learned to know the other side of public fame, the follies of
banking, the emptiness of eloquence! The orator only spoke for show;
to her he had behaved extremely ill. Thuillier was indignant. “None
but stupid fellows know how to love,” he said; “take me!” That
handsome Thuillier was henceforth supposed to be paying court to Madame
Colleville, and was rated as one of her “attentives,”--a word in vogue
during the Empire.

“Ha! you are after my wife,” said Colleville, laughing. “Take care;
she’ll leave you in the lurch, like all the rest.”

A rather clever speech, by which Colleville saved his marital dignity.
From 1820 to 1821, Thuillier, in virtue of his title as friend of the
family, helped Colleville, who had formerly helped him; so much so,
that in eighteen months he had lent nearly ten thousand francs to the
Colleville establishment, with no intention of ever claiming them. In
the spring of 1821, Madame Colleville gave birth to a charming
little girl, to whom Monsieur and Madame Thuillier were godfather and
godmother. The child was baptized Celeste-Louise-Caroline-Brigitte;
Mademoiselle Thuillier wishing that her name should be given among
others to the little angel. The name of Caroline was a graceful
attention paid to Colleville. Old mother Lemprun assumed the care of
putting the baby to nurse under her own eyes at Auteuil, where Celeste
and her sister-in-law Brigitte, paid it regularly a semi-weekly visit.

As soon as Madame Colleville recovered she said to Thuillier, frankly,
in a very serious tone:--

“My dear friend, if we are all to remain good friends, you must be our
friend only. Colleville is attached to you; well, that’s enough for you
in this household.”

“Explain to me,” said the handsome Thuillier to Tullia after this
remark, “why women are never attached to me. I am not the Apollo
Belvidere, but for all that I’m not a Vulcan; I am passably
good-looking, I have sense, I am faithful--”

“Do you want me to tell you the truth?” replied Tullia.

“Yes,” said Thuillier.

“Well, though we can, sometimes, love a stupid fellow, we never love a
silly one.”

Those words killed Thuillier; he never got over them; henceforth he was
a prey to melancholy and accused all women of caprice.

The secretary-general of the ministry, des Lupeaulx, whose influence
Madame Colleville thought greater than it was, and of whom she said,
later, “That was one of my mistakes,” became for a time the great man
of the Colleville salon; but as Flavie found he had no power to promote
Colleville into the upper division, she had the good sense to resent des
Lupeaulx’s attentions to Madame Rabourdin (whom she called a minx),
to whose house she had never been invited, and who had twice had the
impertinence not to come to the Colleville concerts.

Madame Colleville was deeply affected by the death of young Gondreville;
she felt, she said, the finger of God. In 1824 she turned over a new
leaf, talked of economy, stopped her receptions, busied herself with her
children, determined to become a good mother of a family; no favorite
friend was seen at her house. She went to church, reformed her dress,
wore gray, and talked Catholicism, mysticism, and so forth. All this
produced, in 1825, another little son, whom she named Theodore. Soon
after, in 1826, Colleville was appointed sub-director of the
Clergeot division, and later, in 1828, collector of taxes in a Paris
arrondissement. He also received the cross of the Legion of honor, to
enable him to put his daughter at the royal school of Saint-Denis. The
half-scholarship obtained by Keller for the eldest boy, Charles, was
transferred to the second in 1830, when Charles entered the school
of Saint-Louis on a full scholarship. The third son, taken under the
protection of Madame la Dauphine, was provided with a three-quarter
scholarship in the Henri IV. school.

In 1830 Colleville, who had the good fortune not to lose a child, was
obliged, owing to his well-known attachment to the fallen royal family,
to send in his resignation; but he was clever enough to make a bargain
for it,--obtaining in exchange a pension of two thousand four hundred
francs, based on his period of service, and ten thousand francs
indemnity paid by his successor; he also received the rank of officer of
the Legion of honor. Nevertheless, he found himself in rather a cramped
condition when Mademoiselle Thuillier, in 1832, advised him to come and
live near them; pointing out to him the possibility of obtaining some
position in the mayor’s office, which, in fact, he did obtain a few
weeks later, at a salary of three thousand francs. Thus Thuillier and
Colleville were destined to end their days together. In 1833 Madame
Colleville, then thirty-five years old, settled herself in the rue
d’Enfer, at the corner of the rue des Deux-Eglises with Celeste
and little Theodore, the other boys being at their several schools.
Colleville was equidistant between the mayor’s office and the rue
Saint-Dominique d’Enfer. Thus the household, after a brilliant,
gay, headlong, reformed, and calmed existence, subsided finally into
bourgeois obscurity with five thousand four hundred francs a year for
its sole dependence.

Celeste was by this time twelve years of age, and she promised to be
pretty. She needed masters, and her education ought to cost not less
than two thousand francs a year. The mother felt the necessity of
keeping her under the eye of her godfather and godmother. She therefore
very willingly adopted the proposal of Mademoiselle Thuillier, who,
without committing herself to any engagement, allowed Madame Colleville
to understand that the fortunes of her brother, his wife, and herself
would go, ultimately, to the little Celeste. The child had been left at
Auteuil until she was seven years of age, adored by the good old Madame
Lemprun, who died in 1829, leaving twenty thousand francs, and a house
which was sold for the enormous sum of twenty-eight thousand. The
lively little girl had seen very little of her mother, but very much
of Mademoiselle and Madame Thuillier when she first returned to the
paternal mansion in 1829; but in 1833 she fell under the dominion of
Flavie, who was then, as we have said, endeavoring to do her duty,
which, like other women instigated by remorse, she exaggerated. Without
being an unkind mother, Flavie was very stern with her daughter. She
remembered her own bringing-up, and swore within herself to make Celeste
a virtuous woman. She took her to mass, and had her prepared for her
first communion by a rector who has since become a bishop. Celeste was
all the more readily pious, because her godmother, Madame Thuillier,
was a saint, and the child adored her; she felt that the poor neglected
woman loved her better than her own mother.

From 1833 to 1840 she received a brilliant education according to
the ideas of the bourgeoisie. The best music-masters made her a fair
musician; she could paint a water-color properly; she danced extremely
well; and she had studied the French language, history, geography,
English, Italian,--in short, all that constitutes the education of
a well-brought-up young lady. Of medium height, rather plump,
unfortunately near-sighted, she was neither plain nor pretty; not
without delicacy or even brilliancy of complexion, it is true, but
totally devoid of all distinction of manner. She had a great fund of
reserved sensibility, and her godfather and godmother, Mademoiselle
Thuillier and Colleville, were unanimous on one point,--the great
resource of mothers--namely, that Celeste was capable of attachment. One
of her beauties was a magnificent head of very fine blond hair; but her
hands and feet showed her bourgeois origin.

Celeste endeared herself by precious qualities; she was kind, simple,
without gall of any kind; she loved her father and mother, and would
willingly sacrifice herself for their sake. Brought up to the deepest
admiration for her godfather by Brigitte (who taught her to say “Aunt
Brigitte”), and by Madame Thuillier and her own mother, Celeste imbibed
the highest idea of the ex-beau of the Empire. The house in the rue
Saint-Dominique d’Enfer produced upon her very much the effect of the
Chateau des Tuileries on a courtier of the new dynasty.

Thuillier had not escaped the action of the administrative rolling-pin
which thins the mind as it spreads it out. Exhausted by irksome toil, as
much as by his life of gallantry, the ex-sub-director had well-nigh
lost all his faculties by the time he came to live in the rue
Saint-Dominique. But his weary face, on which there still reigned an air
of imperial haughtiness, mingled with a certain contentment, the conceit
of an upper official, made a deep impression upon Celeste. She alone
adored that haggard face. The girl, moreover, felt herself to be the
happiness of the Thuillier household.



CHAPTER IV. THE CIRCLE OF MONSIEUR AND MADAME THUILLIER

The Collevilles and their children became, naturally, the nucleus of the
circle which Mademoiselle Thuillier had the ambition to group around
her brother. A former clerk in the Billardiere division of the ministry,
named Phellion, had lived for the last thirty years in their present
quarter. He was promptly greeted by Colleville and Thuillier at the
first review. Phellion proved to be one of the most respected men in the
arrondissement. He had one daughter, now married to a school-teacher in
the rue Saint-Hyacinthe, a Monsieur Barniol. Phellion’s eldest son was
a professor of mathematics in a royal college; he gave lectures and
private lessons, being devoted, so his father was wont to say, to pure
mathematics. A second son was in the government School of Engineering.
Phellion had a pension of nine hundred francs, and he possessed a little
property of nine thousand and a few odd hundred francs; the fruit of his
economy and that of his wife during thirty years of toil and privation.
He was, moreover, the owner of a little house and garden where he lived
in the “impasse” des Feuillantines,--in thirty years he had never used
the old-fashioned word “cul-de-sac”!

Dutocq, the clerk of the justice of peace, was also a former employee
at the ministry of finance. Sacrificed, in former days, to one of those
necessities which are always met with in representative government, he
had accepted the position of scapegoat, receiving, privately, a round
sum of money and the opportunity to buy his present post of clerk in the
arrondissement. This man, not very honorable, and known to be a spy in
the government offices, was never welcomed as he thought he ought to be
by the Thuilliers; but the coldness of his landlords only made him the
more persistent in going to see them. He was a bachelor and had various
vices; he therefore concealed his life carefully, knowing well how to
maintain his position by flattering his superiors. The justice of peace
was much attached to Dutocq. This man, base as he was, managed, in the
end, to make himself tolerated by the Thuilliers, chiefly by coarse and
cringing adulation. He knew the facts of Thuillier’s whole life, his
relations with Colleville, and, above all, with Madame Colleville. One
and all they feared his tongue, and the Thuilliers, without admitting
him to any intimacy, endured his visits.

The family which became the flower of the Thuillier salon was that of
a former ministerial clerk, once an object of pity in the government
offices, who, driven by poverty, left the public service, in 1827, to
fling himself into a business enterprise, having, as he thought, an
idea. Minard (that was his name) foresaw a fortune in one of those
wicked conceptions which reflect such discredit on French commerce,
but which, in the year 1827, had not yet been exposed and blasted by
publicity. Minard bought tea and mixed it with tea-leaves already used;
also he adulterated the elements of chocolate in a manner which enabled
him to sell the chocolate itself very cheaply. This trade in colonial
products, begun in the quartier Saint-Marcel, made a merchant of Minard.
He started a factory, and through these early connections he was able to
reach the sources of raw material. He then did honorably, and on a large
scale, a business begun in the first instance dishonorably. He became a
distiller, worked upon untold quantities of products, and, by the year
1835, was considered the richest merchant in the region of the Place
Maubert. By that time he had bought a handsome house in the rue des
Macons-Sorbonne; he had been assistant mayor, and in 1839 became mayor
of his arrondissement and judge in the Court of Commerce. He kept a
carriage, had a country-place near Lagny; his wife wore diamonds at the
court balls, and he prided himself on the rosette of an officer of the
Legion of honor in his buttonhole.

Minard and his wife were exceedingly benevolent. Perhaps he wished to
return in retail to the poor the sums he had mulcted from the public
by the wholesale. Phellion, Colleville, and Thuillier met their old
comrade, Minard, at election, and an intimacy followed; all the closer
with the Thuilliers and Collevilles because Madame Minard seemed
enchanted to make an acquaintance for her daughter in Celeste
Colleville. It was at a grand ball given by the Minards that Celeste
made her first appearance in society (being at that time sixteen and a
half years old), dressed as her Christian named demanded, which seemed
to be prophetic of her coming life. Delighted to be friendly with
Mademoiselle Minard, her elder by four years, she persuaded her father
and godfather to cultivate the Minard establishment, with its gilded
salons and great opulence, where many political celebrities of the
“juste milieu” were wont to congregate, such as Monsieur Popinot, who
became, after a time, minister of commerce; Cochin, since made Baron
Cochin, a former employee at the ministry of finance, who, having a
large interest in the drug business, was now the oracle of the Lombard
and Bourdonnais quarters, conjointly with Monsieur Anselme Popinot.
Minard’s eldest son, a lawyer, aiming to succeed those barristers who
were turned down from the Palais for political reasons in 1830, was
the genius of the household, and his mother, even more than his father,
aspired to marry him well. Zelie Minard, formerly a flower-maker, felt
an ardent passion for the upper social spheres, and desired to enter
them through the marriages of her son and daughter; whereas Minard,
wiser than she, and imbued with the vigor of the middle classes, which
the revolution of July had infiltrated into the fibres of government,
thought only of wealth and fortune.

He frequented the Thuillier salon to gain information as to Celeste’s
probable inheritance. He knew, like Dutocq and Phellion, the reports
occasioned by Thuillier’s former intimacy with Flavie, and he saw at
a glance the idolatry of the Thuilliers for their godchild. Dutocq, to
gain admittance to Minard’s house, fawned upon him grossly. When Minard,
the Rothschild of the arrondissement, appeared at the Thuilliers’, he
compared him cleverly to Napoleon, finding him stout, fat, and blooming,
having left him at the ministry thin, pale, and puny.

“You looked, in the division Billardiere,” he said, “like Napoleon
before the 18th Brumaire, and I behold you now the Napoleon of the
Empire.”

Notwithstanding which flattery, Minard received Dutocq very coldly and
did not invite him to his house; consequently, he made a mortal enemy of
the former clerk.

Monsieur and Madame Phellion, worthy as they were, could not keep
themselves from making calculations and cherishing hopes; they thought
that Celeste would be the very wife for their son the professor;
therefore, to have, as it were, a watcher in the Thuillier salon, they
introduced their son-in-law, Monsieur Barniol, a man much respected
in the faubourg Saint-Jacques, and also an old employee at the mayor’s
office, an intimate friend of theirs, named Laudigeois. Thus the
Phellions formed a phalanx of seven persons; the Collevilles were not
less numerous; so that on Sundays it often appeared that thirty persons
were assembled in the Thuillier salon. Thuillier renewed acquaintance
with the Saillards, Baudoyers, and Falleixs,--all persons of
respectability in the quarter of the Palais-Royal, whom they often
invited to dinner.

Madame Colleville was, as a woman, the most distinguished member of
this society, just as Minard junior and Professor Phellion were superior
among the men. All the others, without ideas or education, and issuing
from the lower ranks, presented the types and the absurdities of the
lesser bourgeoisie. Though all success, especially if won from distant
sources, seems to presuppose some genuine merit, Minard was really
an inflated balloon. Expressing himself in empty phrases, mistaking
sycophancy for politeness, and wordiness for wit, he uttered his
commonplaces with a brisk assurance that passed for eloquence. Certain
words which said nothing but answered all things,--progress, steam,
bitumen, National guard, order, democratic element, spirit of
association, legality, movement, resistance,--seemed, as each political
phase developed, to have been actually made for Minard, whose talk was
a paraphrase on the ideas of his newspaper. Julien Minard, the young
lawyer, suffered from his father as much as his father suffered from
his wife. Zelie had grown pretentious with wealth, without, at the same
time, learning to speak French. She was now very fat, and gave the idea,
in her rich surroundings, of a cook married to her master.

Phellion, that type and model of the petty bourgeois, exhibited as many
virtues as he did absurdities. Accustomed to subordination during his
bureaucratic life, he respected all social superiority. He was therefore
silent before Minard. During the critical period of retirement from
office, he had held his own admirably, for the following reason. Never
until now had that worthy and excellent man been able to indulge his
own tastes. He loved the city of Paris; he was interested in its
embellishment, in the laying out of its streets; he was capable of
standing for hours to watch the demolition of houses. He might now
have been observed, stolidly planted on his legs, his nose in the air,
watching for the fall of a stone which some mason was loosening at the
top of a wall, and never moving till the stone fell; when it had fallen
he went away as happy as an academician at the fall of a romantic drama.
Veritable supernumeraries of the social comedy, Phellion, Laudigeois,
and their kind, fulfilled the functions of the antique chorus. They wept
when weeping was in order, laughed when they should laugh, and sang in
parts the public joys and sorrows; they triumphed in their corner with
the triumphs of Algiers, of Constantine, of Lisbon, of Sainte-Jean
d’Ulloa; they deplored the death of Napoleon and the fatal catastrophes
of the Saint-Merri and the rue Transnonnain, grieving over celebrated
men who were utterly unknown to them. Phellion alone presents a double
side: he divides himself conscientiously between the reasons of the
opposition and those of the government. When fighting went on in
the streets, Phellion had the courage to declare himself before his
neighbors; he went to the Place Saint-Michel, the place where his
battalion assembled; he felt for the government and did his duty. Before
and during the riot, he supported the dynasty, the product of July; but,
as soon as the political trials began, he stood by the accused. This
innocent “weather-cockism” prevails in his political opinions; he
produces, in reply to all arguments, the “colossus of the North.”
 England is, to his thinking, as to that of the old “Constitutionnel,”
 a crone with two faces,--Machiavellian Albion, and the model nation:
Machiavellian, when the interests of France and of Napoleon are
concerned; the model nation when the faults of the government are in
question. He admits, with his chosen paper, the democratic element,
but refuses in conversation all compact with the republican spirit. The
republican spirit to him means 1793, rioting, the Terror, and
agrarian law. The democratic element is the development of the lesser
bourgeoisie, the reign of Phellions.

The worthy old man is always dignified; dignity serves to explain his
life. He has brought up his children with dignity; he has kept himself
a father in their eyes; he insists on being honored in his home, just as
he himself honors power and his superiors. He has never made debts. As
a juryman his conscience obliges him to sweat blood and water in the
effort to follow the debates of a trial; he never laughs, not even if
the judge, and audience, and all the officials laugh. Eminently useful,
he gives his services, his time, everything--except his money. Felix
Phellion, his son, the professor, is his idol; he thinks him capable of
attaining to the Academy of Sciences. Thuillier, between the audacious
nullity of Minard, and the solid silliness of Phellion, was a neutral
substance, but connected with both through his dismal experience. He
managed to conceal the emptiness of his brain by commonplace talk, just
as he covered the yellow skin of his bald pate with thready locks of his
gray hair, brought from the back of his head with infinite art by the
comb of his hairdresser.

“In any other career,” he was wont to say, speaking of the government
employ, “I should have made a very different fortune.”

He had seen the _right_, which is possible in theory and impossible in
practice,--results proving contrary to premises,--and he related the
intrigues and the injustices of the Rabourdin affair.

“After that, one can believe all, and believe nothing,” he would say.
“Ah! it is a queer thing, government! I’m very glad not to have a son,
and never to see him in the career of a place-hunter.”

Colleville, ever gay, rotund, and good-humored, a sayer of “quodlibets,”
 a maker of anagrams, always busy, represented the capable and bantering
bourgeois, with faculty without success, obstinate toil without result;
he was also the embodiment of jovial resignation, mind without object,
art with usefulness, for, excellent musician that he was, he never
played now except for his daughter.

The Thuillier salon was in some sort a provincial salon, lighted,
however, by continual flashes from the Parisian conflagration; its
mediocrity and its platitudes followed the current of the times. The
popular saying and thing (for in Paris the thing and its saying are
like the horse and its rider) ricochetted, so to speak, to this company.
Monsieur Minard was always impatiently expected, for he was certain to
know the truth of important circumstances. The women of the Thuillier
salon held by the Jesuits; the men defended the University; and, as a
general thing, the women listened. A man of intelligence (could he have
borne the dulness of these evenings) would have laughed, as he would at
a comedy of Moliere, on hearing, amid endless discussion, such remarks
as the following:--

“How could the Revolution of 1789 have been avoided? The loans of Louis
XIV. prepared the way for it. Louis XV., an egotist, a man of narrow
mind (didn’t he say, ‘If I were lieutenant of police I would suppress
cabriolets’?), that dissolute king--you remember his Parc aux
Cerfs?--did much to open the abyss of revolution. Monsieur de Necker,
an evil-minded Genovese, set the thing a-going. Foreigners have always
tried to injure France. The maximum did great harm to the Revolution.
Legally Louis XVI. should never have been condemned; a jury would have
acquitted him. Why did Charles X. fall? Napoleon was a great man, and
the facts that prove his genius are anecdotal: he took five pinches of
snuff a minute out of a pocket lined with leather made in his waistcoat.
He looked into all his tradesmen’s accounts; he went to Saint-Denis
to judge for himself the prices of things. Talma was his friend; Talma
taught him his gestures; nevertheless, he always refused to give Talma
the Legion of honor! The emperor mounted guard for a sentinel who went
to sleep, to save him from being shot. Those were the things that made
his soldiers adore him. Louis XVIII., who certainly had some sense, was
very unjust in calling him Monsieur de Buonaparte. The defect of the
present government is in letting itself be led instead of leading. It
holds itself too low. It is afraid of men of energy. It ought to have
torn up all the treaties of 1815 and demanded the Rhine. They keep the
same men too long in the ministry”; etc., etc.

“Come, you’ve exerted your minds long enough,” said Mademoiselle
Thuillier, interrupting one of these luminous talks; “the altar is
dressed; begin your little game.”

If these anterior facts and all these generalities were not placed here
as the frame of the present Scene, to give an idea of the spirit of
this society, the following drama would certainly have suffered greatly.
Moreover, this sketch is historically faithful; it shows a social
stratum of importance in any portrayal of manners and morals, especially
when we reflect that the political system of the Younger branch rests
almost wholly upon it.

The winter of the year 1839 was, it may be said, the period when the
Thuillier salon was in its greatest glory. The Minards came nearly every
Sunday, and began their evening by spending an hour there, if they had
other engagements elsewhere. Often Minard would leave his wife at the
Thuilliers and take his son and daughter to other houses. This assiduity
on the part of the Minards was brought about by a somewhat tardy meeting
between Messieurs Metivier, Barbet, and Minard on an evening when the
two former, being tenants of Mademoiselle Thuillier, remained rather
longer than usual in discussing business with her. From Barbet, Minard
learned that the old maid had money transactions with himself and
Metivier to the amount of sixty thousand francs, besides having a large
deposit in the Bank.

“Has she an account at the Bank?” asked Minard.

“I believe so,” replied Barbet. “I give her at least eighty thousand
francs there.”

Being on intimate terms with a governor of the Bank, Minard ascertained
that Mademoiselle Thuillier had, in point of fact, an account of over
two hundred thousand francs, the result of her quarterly deposits for
many years. Besides this, she owned the house they lived in, which was
not mortgaged, and was worth at least one hundred thousand francs, if
not more.

“Why should Mademoiselle Thuillier work in this way?” said Minard to
Metivier. “She’d be a good match for you,” he added.

“I? oh, no,” replied Metivier. “I shall do better by marrying a cousin;
my uncle Metivier has given me the succession to his business; he has a
hundred thousand francs a year and only two daughters.”

However secretive Mademoiselle Thuillier might be,--and she said nothing
of her investments to any one, not even to her brother, although a large
amount of Madame Thuillier’s fortune went to swell the amount of her
own savings,--it was difficult to prevent some ray of light from gliding
under the bushel which covered her treasure.

Dutocq, who frequented Barbet, with whom he had some resemblance in
character and countenance, had appraised, even more correctly than
Minard, the Thuillier finances. He knew that their savings amounted, in
1838, to one hundred and fifty thousand francs, and he followed their
progress secretly, calculating profits by the help of that all-wise
money-lender, Barbet.

“Celeste will have from my brother and myself two hundred thousand
francs in ready money,” the old maid had said to Barbet in confidence,
“and Madame Thuillier wishes to secure to her by the marriage contract
the ultimate possession of her own fortune. As for me, my will is made.
My brother will have everything during his lifetime, and Celeste will
be my heiress with that reservation. Monsieur Cardot, the notary, is my
executor.”

Mademoiselle Thuillier now instigated her brother to renew his former
relations with the Saillards, Baudoyers, and others, who held a position
similar to that of the Thuilliers in the quartier Saint-Antoine, of
which Monsieur Saillard was mayor. Cardot, the notary, had produced
his aspirant for Celeste’s hand in the person of Monsieur Godeschal,
attorney and successor to Derville; an able man, thirty-six years of
age, who had paid one hundred thousand francs for his practice, which
the two hundred thousand of the “dot” would doubly clear off. Minard,
however, got rid of Godeschal by informing Mademoiselle Thuillier that
Celeste’s sister-in-law would be the famous Mariette of the Opera.

“She came from the stage,” said Colleville, alluding to his wife, “and
there’s no need she should return to it.”

“Besides, Monsieur Godeschal is too old for Celeste,” remarked Brigitte.

“And ought we not,” added Madame Thuillier, timidly, “to let her marry
according to her own taste, so as to be happy?”

The poor woman had detected in Felix Phellion a true love for Celeste;
the love that a woman crushed by Brigitte and wounded by her husband’s
indifference (for Thuillier cared less for his wife than he did for
a servant) had dreamed that love might be,--bold in heart, timid
externally, sure of itself, reserved, hidden from others, but expanding
toward heaven. At twenty-three years of age, Felix Phellion was a
gentle, pure-minded young man, like all true scholars who cultivate
knowledge for knowledge’s sake. He had been sacredly brought up by his
father, who, viewing all things seriously, had given him none but good
examples accompanied by trivial maxims. He was a young man of medium
height, with light chestnut hair, gray eyes, and a skin full of
freckles; gifted with a charming voice, a tranquil manner; making
few gestures; thoughtful, saying little, and that little sensible;
contradicting no one, and quite incapable of a sordid thought or a
selfish calculation.

“That,” thought Madame Thuillier, “is what I should have liked my
husband to be.”

One evening, in the month of February, 1840, the Thuillier salon
contained the various personages whose silhouettes we have just traced
out, together with some others. It was nearly the end of the month.
Barbet and Metivier having business with mademoiselle Brigitte, were
playing whist with Minard and Phellion. At another table were Julien
the advocate (a nickname given by Colleville to young Minard), Madame
Colleville, Monsieur Barniol, and Madame Phellion. “Bouillotte,” at
five sous a stake, occupied Madame Minard, who knew no other game,
Colleville, old Monsieur Saillard, and Bandoze, his son-in-law. The
substitutes were Laudigeois and Dutocq. Mesdames Falleix, Baudoyer,
Barniol, and Mademoiselle Minard were playing boston, and Celeste was
sitting beside Prudence Minard. Young Phellion was listening to Madame
Thuillier and looking at Celeste.

At a corner of the fireplace sat enthroned on a sofa the Queen Elizabeth
of the family, as simply dressed as she had been for the last thirty
years; for no prosperity could have made her change her habits. She
wore on her chinchilla hair a black gauze cap, adorned with the geranium
called Charles X.; her gown, of plum-colored stuff, made with a yoke,
cost fifteen francs, her embroidered collarette was worth six, and
it ill disguised the deep wrinkle produced by the two muscles which
fastened the head to the vertebral column. The actor, Monvel, playing
Augustus Caesar in his old age, did not present a harder and sterner
profile than that of this female autocrat, knitting socks for her
brother. Before the fireplace stood Thuillier in an attitude, ready to
go forward and meet the arriving guests; near him was a young man whose
entrance had produced a great effect, when the porter (who on Sundays
wore his best clothes and waited on the company) announced Monsieur
Olivier Vinet.

A private communication made by Cardot to the celebrated
“procureur-general,” father of this young man, was the cause of
his visit. Olivier Vinet had just been promoted from the court of
Arcis-sur-Aube to that of the Seine, where he now held the post of
substitute “procureur-de-roi.” Cardot had already invited Thuillier and
the elder Vinet, who was likely to become minister of justice, with his
son, to dine with him. The notary estimated the fortunes which would
eventually fall to Celeste at seven hundred thousand francs. Vinet
junior appeared charmed to obtain the right to visit the Thuilliers
on Sundays. Great dowries make men commit great and unbecoming follies
without reserve or decency in these days.

Ten minutes later another young man, who had been talking with Thuillier
before the arrival of Olivier Vinet, raised his voice eagerly, in a
political discussion, and forced the young magistrate to follow his
example in the vivacious argument which now ensued. The matter related
to the vote by which the Chamber of Deputies had just overthrown the
ministry of the 12th of May, refusing the allowance demanded for the Duc
de Nemours.

“Assuredly,” said the young man, “I am far from belonging to the
dynastic party; I am very far from approving of the rise of the
bourgeoisie to power. The bourgeoisie ought not, any more than the
aristocracy of other days, to assume to be the whole nation. But the
French bourgeoisie has now taken upon itself to create a new dynasty, a
royalty of its own, and behold how it treats it! When the people allowed
Napoleon to rise to power, it created with him a splendid and monumental
state of things; it was proud of his grandeur; and it nobly gave its
blood and sweat in building up the edifice of the Empire. Between
the magnificence of the aristocratic throne and those of the imperial
purple, between the great of the earth and the People, the bourgeoisie
is proving itself petty; it degrades power to its own level instead
of rising up to it. The saving of candle-ends it has so long practised
behind its counters, it now seeks to impose on its princes. What may
perhaps have been virtue in its shops is a blunder and a crime higher
up. I myself have wanted many things for the people, but I never should
have begun by lopping off ten millions of francs from the new civil
list. In becoming, as it were, nearly the whole of France, the
bourgeoisie owed to us the prosperity of the people, splendor without
ostentation, grandeur without privilege.”

The father of Olivier Vinet was just now sulking with the government.
The robe of Keeper of the Seals, which had been his dream, was slow in
coming to him. The young substitute did not, therefore, know exactly how
to answer this speech; he thought it wise to enlarge on one of its side
issues.

“You are right, monsieur,” said Olivier Vinet. “But, before manifesting
itself magnificently, the bourgeoisie has other duties to fulfil towards
France. The luxury you speak of should come after duty. That which seems
to you so blameable is the necessity of the moment. The Chamber is far
from having its full share in public affairs; the ministers are less for
France than they are for the crown, and parliament has determined that
the administration shall have, as in England, a strength and power
of its own, and not a mere borrowed power. The day on which the
administration can act for itself, and represent the Chamber as the
Chamber represents the country, parliament will be found very liberal
toward the crown. The whole question is there. I state it without
expressing my own opinion, for the duties of my post demand, in
politics, a certain fealty to the crown.”

“Setting aside the political question,” replied the young man, whose
voice and accent were those of a native of Provence, “it is certainly
true that the bourgeoisie has ill understood its mission. We can see,
any day, the great law officers, attorney-generals, peers of France in
omnibuses, judges who live on their salaries, prefects without fortunes,
ministers in debt! Whereas the bourgeoisie, who have seized upon those
offices, ought to dignify them, as in the olden time when aristocracy
dignified them, and not occupy such posts solely for the purpose of
making their fortune, as scandalous disclosures have proved.”

“Who is this young man?” thought Olivier Vinet. “Is he a relative?
Cardot ought to have come with me on this first visit.”

“Who is that little monsieur?” asked Minard of Barbet. “I have seen him
here several times.”

“He is a tenant,” replied Metivier, shuffling the cards.

“A lawyer,” added Barbet, in a low voice, “who occupies a small
apartment on the third floor front. Oh! _He_ doesn’t amount to much; he
has nothing.”

“What is the name of that young man?” said Olivier Vinet to Thuillier.

“Theodose de la Peyrade; he is a barrister,” replied Thuillier, in a
whisper.

At that moment the women present, as well as the men, looked at the two
young fellows, and Madame Minard remarked to Colleville:--

“He is rather good-looking, that stranger.”

“I have made his anagram,” replied Colleville, “and his name,
Charles-Marie-Theodose de la Peyrade, prophecies: ‘Eh! monsieur payera,
de la dot, des oies et le char.’ Therefore, my dear Mamma Minard, be
sure you don’t give him your daughter.”

“They say that young man is better-looking than my son,” said Madame
Phellion to Madame Colleville. “What do you think about it?”

“Oh! in the matter of physical beauty a woman might hesitate before
choosing,” replied Madame Colleville.

At that moment it occurred to young Vinet as he looked round the salon,
so full of the lesser bourgeoisie, that it might be a shrewd thing
to magnify that particular class; and he thereupon enlarged upon the
meaning of the young Provencal barrister, declaring that men so honored
by the confidence of the government should imitate royalty and encourage
a magnificence surpassing that of the former court. It was folly, he
said, to lay by the emoluments of an office. Besides, could it be done,
in Paris especially, where costs of living had trebled,--the apartment
of a magistrate, for instance, costing three thousand francs a year?

“My father,” he said in conclusion, “allows me three thousand francs a
year, and that, with my salary, barely allows me to maintain my rank.”

When the young substitute rode boldly into this bog-hole, the Provencal,
who had slyly enticed him there, exchanged, without being observed, a
wink with Dutocq, who was just then waiting for the place of a player at
bouillotte.

“There is such a demand for offices,” remarked the latter, “that they
talk of creating two justices of the peace to each arrondissement in
order to make a dozen new clerkships. As if they could interfere with
our rights and our salaries, which already require an exhorbitant tax!”

“I have not yet had the pleasure of hearing you at the Palais,” said
Vinet to Monsieur de la Peyrade.

“I am advocate for the poor, and I plead only before the justice of
peace,” replied la Peyrade.

Mademoiselle Thuillier, as she listened to young Vinet’s theory of the
necessity of spending an income, assumed a distant air and manner,
the significance of which was well understood by Dutocq and the young
Provencal. Vinet left the house in company with Minard and Julien the
advocate, so that the battle-field before the fire-place was abandoned
to la Peyrade and Dutocq.

“The upper bourgeoisie,” said Dutocq to Thuillier, “will behave, in
future, exactly like the old aristocracy. The nobility wanted girls with
money to manure their lands, and the parvenus of to-day want the same to
feather their nests.”

“That’s exactly what Monsieur Thuillier was saying to me this morning,”
 remarked la Peyrade, boldly.

“Vinet’s father,” said Dutocq, “married a Demoiselle de Chargeboeuf
and has caught the opinions of the nobility; he wants a fortune at any
price; his wife spends money regally.”

“Oh!” said Thuillier, in whom the jealousy between the two classes of
the bourgeoisie was fully roused, “take offices away from those fellows
and they’d fall back where they came.”

Mademoiselle was knitting with such precipitous haste that she seemed to
be propelled by a steam-engine.

“Take my place, Monsieur Dutocq,” said Madame Minard, rising. “My feet
are cold,” she added, going to the fire, where the golden ornaments of
her turban made fireworks in the light of the Saint-Aurora wax-candles
that were struggling vainly to light the vast salon.

“He is very small fry, that young substitute,” said Madame Minard,
glancing at Mademoiselle Thuillier.

“Small fry!” cried la Peyrade. “Ah, madame! how witty!”

“But madame has so long accustomed us to that sort of thing,” said the
handsome Thuillier.

Madame Colleville was examining la Peyrade and comparing him with young
Phellion, who was just then talking to Celeste, neither of them paying
any heed to what was going on around them. This is, certainly, the
right moment to depict the singular personage who was destined to play
a signal part in the Thuillier household, and who fully deserves the
appellation of a great artist.



CHAPTER V. A PRINCIPAL PERSONAGE

There exists in Provence, especially about Avignon, a race of men with
blond or chestnut hair, fair skin, and eyes that are almost tender,
their pupils calm, feeble, or languishing, rather than keen, ardent, or
profound, as they usually are in the eyes of Southerners. Let us remark,
in passing, that among Corsicans, a race subject to fits of anger and
dangerous irascibility, we often meet with fair skins and physical
natures of the same apparent tranquillity. These pale men, rather stout,
with somewhat dim and hazy eyes either green or blue, are the worst
species of humanity in Provence; and Charles-Marie-Theodose de la
Peyrade presents a fine type of that race, the constitution of which
deserves careful examination on the part of medical science and
philosophical physiology. There rises, at times, within such men, a
species of bile,--a bitter gall, which flies to their head and makes
them capable of ferocious actions, done, apparently, in cold blood.
Being the result of an inward intoxication, this sort of dumb violence
seems to be irreconcilable with their quasi-lymphatic outward man, and
the tranquillity of their benignant glance.

Born in the neighborhood of Avignon, the young Provencal whose name we
have just mentioned was of middle height, well-proportioned, and rather
stout; the tone of his skin had no brilliancy; it was neither livid nor
dead-white, nor colored, but gelatinous,--that word can alone give a
true idea of the flabby, hueless envelope, beneath which were concealed
nerves that were less vigorous than capable of enormous resistance at
certain given moments. His eyes, of a pale cold blue, expressed in their
ordinary condition a species of deceptive sadness, which must have
had great charms for women. The forehead, finely cut, was not without
dignity, and it harmonized well with the soft, light chestnut hair
curling naturally, but slightly, at its tips. The nose, precisely
like that of a hunting dog, flat and furrowed at the tip, inquisitive,
intelligent, searching, always on the scent, instead of expressing
good-humor, was ironical and mocking; but this particular aspect of his
nature never showed itself openly; the young man must have ceased to
watch himself, he must have flown into fury before the power came to
him to flash out the sarcasm and the wit which embittered, tenfold, his
infernal humor. The mouth, the curving lines and pomegranate-colored
lips of which were very pleasing, seemed the admirable instrument of an
organ that was almost sweet in its middle tones, where its owner usually
kept it, but which, in its higher key, vibrated on the ear like the
sound of a gong. This falsetto was the voice of his nerves and his
anger. His face, kept expressionless by an inward command, was oval in
form. His manners, in harmony with the sacerdotal calmness of the face,
were reserved and conventional; but he had supple, pliant ways which,
though they never descended to wheedling, were not lacking in seduction;
although as soon as his back was turned their charm seemed inexplicable.
Charm, when it takes its rise in the heart, leaves deep and lasting
traces; that which is merely a product of art, or of eloquence, has only
a passing power; it produces its immediate effect, and that is all. But
how many philosophers are there in life who are able to distinguish
the difference? Almost always the trick is played (to use a popular
expression) before the ordinary run of men have perceived its methods.

Everything about this young man of twenty-seven was in harmony with his
character; he obeyed his vocation by cultivating philanthropy,--the only
expression which explains the philanthropist. Theodose loved the People,
for he limited his love for humanity. Like the horticulturist who
devotes himself to roses, or dahlias, or heart’s-ease, or geraniums,
and pays no attention to the plants his fancy has not selected, so this
young La Rochefoucault-Liancourt gave himself to the workingmen,
the proletariat and the paupers of the faubourgs Saint-Jacques and
Saint-Marceau. The strong man, the man of genius at bay, the worthy poor
of the bourgeois class, he cut them off from the bosom of his charity.
The heart of all persons with a mania is like those boxes with
compartments, in which sugarplums are kept in sorts: “suum cuique
tribuere” is their motto; they measure to each duty its dose. There are
some philanthropists who pity nothing but the man condemned to death.
Vanity is certainly the basis of philanthropy; but in the case of this
Provencal it was calculation, a predetermined course, a “liberal” and
democratic hypocrisy, played with a perfection that no other actor will
ever attain.

Theodose did not attack the rich; he contented himself with not
understanding them; he endured them; every one, in his opinion, ought to
enjoy the fruits of his labor. He had been, he said, a fervent disciple
of Saint-Simon, but that mistake must be attributed to his youth: modern
society could have no other basis than heredity. An ardent Catholic,
like all men from the Comtat, he went to the earliest morning masses,
and thus concealed his piety. Like other philanthropists, he practised
a sordid economy, and gave to the poor his time, his legal advice, his
eloquence, and such money as he extracted for them from the rich. His
clothes, always of black cloth, were worn until the seams became white.
Nature had done a great deal for Theodose in not giving him that fine
manly Southern beauty which creates in others an imaginary expectation,
to which it is more than difficult for a man to respond. As it was,
he could be what suited him at the moment,--an agreeable man or a very
ordinary one. Never, since his admission to the Thuilliers’, had
he ventured, till this evening, to raise his voice and speak as
dogmatically as he had risked doing to Olivier Vinet; but perhaps
Theodose de la Peyrade was not sorry to seize the opportunity to come
out from the shade in which he had hitherto kept himself. Besides, it
was necessary to get rid of the young substitute, just as the Minards
had previously ruined the hopes of Monsieur Godeschal. Like all superior
men (for he certainly had some superiority), Vinet had never lowered
himself to the point where the threads of these bourgeois spider-webs
became visible to him, and he had therefore plunged, like a fly,
headforemost, into the almost invisible trap to which Theodose inveigled
him.

To complete this portrait of the poor man’s lawyer we must here relate
the circumstances of his first arrival at the Thuilliers’.

Theodose came to lodge in Mademoiselle Thuillier’s house toward the
close of the year 1837. He had taken his degree about five years
earlier, and had kept the proper number of terms to become a barrister.
Circumstances, however, about which he said nothing, had interfered
to prevent his being called to the bar; he was, therefore, still a
licentiate. But soon after he was installed in the little apartment on
the third floor, with the furniture rigorously required by all members
of his noble profession,--for the guild of barristers admits no brother
unless he has a suitable study, a legal library, and can thus, as it
were, verify his claims,--Theodose de la Peyrade began to practise as a
barrister before the Royal Court of Paris.

The whole of the year 1838 was employed in making this change in his
condition, and he led a most regular life. He studied at home in the
mornings till dinner-time, going sometimes to the Palais for important
cases. Having become very intimate with Dutocq (so Dutocq said), he
did certain services to the poor of the faubourg Saint-Jacques who were
brought to his notice by that official. He pleaded their cases before
the court, after bringing them to the notice of the attorneys, who,
according to the statutes of their order, are obliged to take turns in
doing business for the poor. As Theodose was careful to plead only safe
cases, he won them all. Those persons whom he thus obliged expressed
their gratitude and their admiration, in spite of the young lawyer’s
admonitions, among their own class, and to the porters of private
houses, through whom many anecdotes rose to the ears of the proprietors.
Delighted to have in their house a tenant so worthy and so charitable,
the Thuilliers wished to attract him to their salon, and they questioned
Dutocq about him. The mayor’s clerk replied as the envious reply; while
doing justice to the young man he dwelt on his remarkable avarice, which
might, however, be the effect of poverty.

“I have had other information about him. He belongs to the Peyrades, an
old family of the ‘comtat’ of Avignon; he came here toward the end
of 1829, to inquire about an uncle whose fortune was said to be
considerable; he discovered the address of the old man only three days
before his death; and the furniture of the deceased merely sufficed to
bury him and pay his debts. A friend of this useless uncle gave a couple
of hundred louis to the poor fortune-hunter, advising him to finish his
legal studies and enter the judiciary career. Those two hundred
louis supported him for three years in Paris, where he lived like
an anchorite. But being unable to discover his unknown friend and
benefactor, the poor student was in abject distress in 1833. He worked
then, like so many other licentiates, in politics and literature, by
which he kept himself for a time above want--for he had nothing to
expect from his family. His father, the youngest brother of the dead
uncle, has eleven other children, who live on a small estate called Les
Canquoelles. He finally obtained a place on a ministerial newspaper,
the manager of which was the famous Cerizet, so celebrated for the
persecutions he met with, under the Restoration, on account of his
attachment to the liberals,--a man whom the new Left will never forgive
for having made his paper ministerial. As the government of these days
does very little to protect even its most devoted servants (witness the
Gisquet affair), the republicans have ended by ruining Cerizet. I tell
you this to explain how it is that Cerizet is now a copying clerk in
my office. Well, in the days when he flourished as managing editor of a
paper directed by the Perier ministry against the incendiary journals,
the ‘Tribune’ and others, Cerizet, who is a worthy fellow after all,
though he is too fond of women, pleasure, and good living, was very
useful to Theodose, who edited the political department of the paper;
and if it hadn’t been for the death of Casimir Perier that young man
would certainly have received an appointment as substitute judge in
Paris. As it was, he dropped back in 1834-35, in spite of his talent;
for his connection with a ministerial journal of course did him harm.
‘If it had not been for my religious principles,’ he said to me, ‘I
should have thrown myself into the Seine.’ However, it seems that the
friend of his uncle must have heard of his distress, for again he sent
him a sum of money; enough to complete his terms for the bar; but,
strange to say, he has never known the name or the address of this
mysterious benefactor. After all, perhaps, under such circumstances, his
economy is excusable, and he must have great strength of mind to refuse
what the poor devils whose cases he wins by his devotion offer him. He
is indignant at the way other lawyers speculate on the possibility or
impossibility of poor creatures, unjustly sued, paying for the costs of
their defence. Oh! he’ll succeed in the end. I shouldn’t be surprised
to see that fellow in some very brilliant position; he has tenacity,
honesty, and courage. He studies, he delves.”

Notwithstanding the favor with which he was greeted, la Peyrade went
discreetly to the Thuilliers’. When reproached for this reserve he went
oftener, and ended by appearing every Sunday; he was invited to all
dinner-parties, and became at last so familiar in the house that
whenever he came to see Thuillier about four o’clock he was always
requested to take “pot-luck” without ceremony. Mademoiselle Thuillier
used to say:--

“Then we know that he will get a good dinner, poor fellow!”

A social phenomenon which has certainly been observed, but never, as
yet, formulated, or, if you like it better, published, though it fully
deserves to be recorded, is the return of habits, mind, and manners to
primitive conditions in certain persons who, between youth and old age,
have raised themselves above their first estate. Thus Thuillier had
become, once more, morally speaking, the son of a concierge. He now made
use of many of his father’s jokes, and a little of the slime of early
days was beginning to appear on the surface of his declining life. About
five or six times a month, when the soup was rich and good he would
deposit his spoon in his empty plate and say, as if the proposition were
entirely novel:--

“That’s better than a kick on the shin-bone!”

On hearing that witticism for the first time Theodose, to whom it was
really new, laughed so heartily that the handsome Thuillier was tickled
in his vanity as he had never been before. After that, Theodose greeted
the same speech with a knowing little smile. This slight detail will
explain how it was that on the morning of the day when Theodose had
his passage at arms with Vinet he had said to Thuillier, as they were
walking in the garden to see the effect of a frost:--

“You have much more wit than you give yourself credit for.”

To which he received this answer:--

“In any other career, my dear Theodose, I should have made my way nobly;
but the fall of the Emperor broke my neck.”

“There is still time,” said the young lawyer. “In the first place, what
did that mountebank, Colleville, ever do to get the cross?”

There la Peyrade laid his finger on a sore wound which Thuillier hid
from every eye so carefully that even his sister did not know of it; but
the young man, interested in studying these bourgeois, had divined the
secret envy that gnawed at the heart of the ex-official.

“If you, experienced as you are, will do the honor to follow my advice,”
 added the philanthropist, “and, above all, not mention our compact
to any one, I will undertake to have you decorated with the Legion of
honor, to the applause of the whole quarter.”

“Oh! if we succeed in that,” cried Thuillier, “you don’t know what I
would do for you.”

This explains why Thuillier carried his head high when Theodose had the
audacity that evening to put opinions into his mouth.

In art--and perhaps Moliere had placed hypocrisy in the rank of art
by classing Tartuffe forever among comedians--there exists a point of
perfection to which genius alone attains; mere talent falls below it.
There is so little difference between a work of genius and a work
of talent, that only men of genius can appreciate the distance that
separates Raffaelle from Correggio, Titian from Rubens. More than that;
common minds are easily deceived on this point. The sign of genius is a
certain appearance of facility. In fact, its work must appear, at first
sight, ordinary, so natural is it, even on the highest subjects. Many
peasant-women hold their children as the famous Madonna in the Dresden
gallery holds hers. Well, the height of art in a man of la Peyrade’s
force was to oblige others to say of him later: “Everybody would have
been taken in by him.”

Now, in the salon Thuillier, he noted a dawning opposition; he perceived
in Colleville the somewhat clear-sighted and criticising nature of
an artist who has missed his vocation. The barrister felt himself
displeasing to Colleville, who (as the result of circumstances not
necessary to here report) considered himself justified in believing
in the science of anagrams. None of this anagrams had ever failed. The
clerks in the government office had laughed at him when, demanding an
anagram on the name of the poor helpless Auguste-Jean-Francois Minard,
he had produced, “J’amassai une si grande fortune”; and the event
had justified him after the lapse of ten years! Theodose, on several
occasions, had made advances to the jovial secretary of the mayor’s
office, and had felt himself rebuffed by a coldness which was not
natural in so sociable a man. When the game of bouillotte came to an
end, Colleville seized the moment to draw Thuillier into the recess of a
window and say to him:--

“You are letting that lawyer get too much foothold in your house; he
kept the ball in his own hands all the evening.”

“Thank you, my friend; forewarned is forearmed,” replied Thuillier,
inwardly scoffing at Colleville.

Theodose, who was talking at the moment to Madame Colleville, had his
eye on the two men, and, with the same prescience by which women know
when and how they are spoken of, he perceived that Colleville was trying
to injure him in the mind of the weak and silly Thuillier. “Madame,” he
said in Flavie’s ear, “if any one here is capable of appreciating you
it is certainly I. You seem to me a pearl dropped into the mire. You
say you are forty-two, but a woman is no older than she looks, and many
women of thirty would be thankful to have your figure and that noble
countenance, where love has passed without ever filling the void in
your heart. You have given yourself to God, I know, and I have too much
religion myself to regret it, but I also know that you have done so
because no human being has proved worthy of you. You have been loved,
but you have never been adored--I have divined that. There is your
husband, who has not known how to please you in a position in keeping
with your deserts. He dislikes me, as if he thought I loved you; and he
prevents me from telling you of a way that I think I have found to
place you in the sphere for which you were destined. No, madame,” he
continued, rising, “the Abbe Gondrin will not preach this year through
Lent at our humble Saint-Jacques du Haut-Pas; the preacher will be
Monsieur d’Estival, a compatriot of mine, and you will hear in him one
of the most impressive speakers that I have ever known,--a priest whose
outward appearance is not agreeable, but, oh! what a soul!”

“Then my desire will be gratified,” said poor Madame Thuillier. “I have
never yet been able to understand a famous preacher.”

A smile flickered on the lips of Mademoiselle Thuillier and several
others who heard the remark.

“They devote themselves too much to theological demonstration,” said
Theodose. “I have long thought so myself--but I never talk religion; if
it had not been for Madame _de_ Colleville, I--”

“Are there demonstrations in theology?” asked the professor of
mathematics, naively, plunging headlong into the conversation.

“I think, monsieur,” replied Theodose, looking straight at Felix
Phellion, “that you cannot be serious in asking me such a question.”

“Felix,” said old Phellion, coming heavily to the rescue of his son, and
catching a distressed look on the pale face of Madame Thuillier,--“Felix
separates religion into two categories; he considers it from the human
point of view and the divine point of view,--tradition and reason.”

“That is heresy, monsieur,” replied Theodose. “Religion is one; it
requires, above all things, faith.”

Old Phellion, nonplussed by that remark, nodded to his wife:--

“It is getting late, my dear,” and he pointed to the clock.

“Oh, Monsieur Felix,” said Celeste in a whisper to the candid
mathematician, “Couldn’t you be, like Pascal and Bossuet, learned and
pious both?”

The Phellions, on departing, carried the Collevilles with them. Soon no
one remained in the salon but Dutocq, Theodose, and the Thuilliers.

The flattery administered by Theodose to Flavie seems at the first sight
coarsely commonplace, but we must here remark, in the interests of this
history, that the barrister was keeping himself as close as possible
to these vulgar minds; he was navigating their waters; he spoke their
language. His painter was Pierre Grassou, and not Joseph Bridau; his
book was “Paul and Virginia.” The greatest living poet for him was
Casimire de la Vigne; to his eyes the mission of art was, above all
things, utility. Parmentier, the discoverer of the potato, was greater
to him that thirty Raffaelles; the man in the blue cloak seemed to him
a sister of charity. These were Thuillier’s expressions, and Theodose
remembered them all--on occasion.

“That young Felix Phellion,” he now remarked, “is precisely the
academical man of our day; the product of knowledge which sends God
to the rear. Heavens, what are we coming to? Religion alone can save
France; nothing but the fear of hell will preserve us from domestic
robbery, which is going on at all hours in the bosom of families, and
eating into the surest fortunes. All of you have a secret warfare in
your homes.”

After this shrewd tirade, which made a great impression upon Brigitte,
he retired, followed by Dutocq, after wishing good evening to the three
Thuilliers.

“That young man has great capacity,” said Thuillier, sententiously.

“Yes, that he has,” replied Brigitte, extinguishing the lamps.

“He has religion,” said Madame Thuillier, as she left the room.

“Monsieur,” Phellion was saying to Colleville as they came abreast of
the Ecole de Mines, looking about him to see that no one was near, “it
is usually my custom to submit my insight to that of others, but it is
impossible for me not to think that that young lawyer plays the master
at our friend Thuillier’s.”

“My own opinion,” said Colleville, who was walking with Phellion behind
his wife, Madame Phellion, and Celeste, “is that he’s a Jesuit; and I
don’t like Jesuits; the best of them are no good. To my mind a Jesuit
means knavery, and knavery for knavery’s sake; they deceive for the
pleasure of deceiving, and, as the saying is, to keep their hand in.
That’s my opinion, and I don’t mince it.”

“I understand you, monsieur,” said Phellion, who was arm-in-arm with
Colleville.

“No, Monsieur Phellion,” remarked Flavie in a shrill voice, “you don’t
understand Colleville; but I know what he means, and I think he had
better stop saying it. Such subjects are not to be talked of in the
street, at eleven o’clock at night, and before a young lady.”

“You are right, wife,” said Colleville.

When they reached the rue des Deux-Eglises, which Phellion was to take,
they all stopped to say good-night, and Felix Phellion, who was bring up
the rear, said to Colleville:--

“Monsieur, your son Francois could enter the Ecole Polytechnique if he
were well-coached; I propose to you to fit him to pass the examinations
this year.”

“That’s an offer not to be refused! Thank you, my friend,” said
Colleville. “We’ll see about it.”

“Good!” said Phellion to his son, as they walked on.

“Not a bad stroke!” said the mother.

“What do you mean by that?” asked Felix.

“You are very cleverly paying court to Celeste’s parents.”

“May I never find the solution of my problem if I even thought of it!”
 cried the young professor. “I discovered, when talking with the little
Collevilles, that Francois has a strong turn for mathematics, and I
thought I ought to enlighten his father.”

“Good, my son!” repeated Phellion. “I wouldn’t have you otherwise. My
prayers are granted! I have a son whose honor, probity, and private and
civic virtues are all that I could wish.”

Madame Colleville, as soon as Celeste had gone to bed, said to her
husband:--

“Colleville, don’t utter those blunt opinions about people without
knowing something about them. When you talk of Jesuits I know you mean
priests; and I wish you would do me the kindness to keep your opinions
on religion to yourself when you are in company with your daughter.
We may sacrifice our own souls, but not the souls of our children. You
don’t want Celeste to be a creature without religion? And remember,
my dear, that we are at the mercy of others; we have four children to
provide for; and how do you know that, some day or other, you may not
need the services of this one or that one? Therefore don’t make enemies.
You haven’t any now, for you are a good-natured fellow; and, thanks to
that quality, which amounts in you to a charm, we have got along pretty
well in life, so far.”

“That’s enough!” said Colleville, flinging his coat on a chair and
pulling off his cravat. “I’m wrong, and you are right, my beautiful
Flavie.”

“And on the next occasion, my dear old sheep,” said the sly creature,
tapping her husband’s cheek, “you must try to be polite to that young
lawyer; he is a schemer and we had better have him on our side. He is
playing comedy--well! play comedy with him; be his dupe apparently; if
he proves to have talent, if he has a future before him, make a friend
of him. Do you think I want to see you forever in the mayor’s office?”

“Come, wife Colleville,” said the former clarionet, tapping his knee to
indicate the place he wished his wife to take. “Let us warm our toes and
talk.--When I look at you I am more than ever convinced that the youth
of women is in their figure.”

“And in their heart.”

“Well, both,” assented Colleville; “waist slender, heart solid--”

“No, you old stupid, deep.”

“What is good about you is that you have kept your fairness without
growing fat. But the fact is, you have such tiny bones. Flavie, it is
a fact that if I had life to live over again I shouldn’t wish for any
other wife than you.”

“You know very well I have always preferred you to _others_. How unlucky
that monseigneur is dead! Do you know what I covet for you?”

“No; what?”

“Some office at the Hotel de Ville,--an office worth twelve thousand
francs a year; cashier, or something of that kind; either there, or at
Poissy, in the municipal department; or else as manufacturer of musical
instruments--”

“Any one of them would suit me.”

“Well, then! if that queer barrister has power, and he certainly has
plenty of intrigue, let us manage him. I’ll sound him; leave me to do
the thing--and, above all, don’t thwart his game at the Thuilliers’.”

Theodose had laid a finger on a sore sport in Flavie Colleville’s heart;
and this requires an explanation, which may, perhaps, have the value of
a synthetic glance at women’s life.

At forty years of age a woman, above all, if she has tasted the poisoned
apple of passion, undergoes a solemn shock; she sees two deaths before
her: that of the body and that of the heart. Dividing women into two
great categories which respond to the common ideas, and calling them
either virtuous or guilty, it is allowable to say that after that fatal
period they both suffer pangs of terrible intensity. If virtuous, and
disappointed in the deepest hopes of their nature--whether they have had
the courage to submit, whether they have buried their revolt in their
hearts or at the foot of the altar--they never admit to themselves that
all is over for them without horror. That thought has such strange and
diabolical depths that in it lies the reason of some of those apostasies
which have, at times, amazed the world and horrified it. If guilty,
women of that age fall into one of several delirious conditions which
often turn, alas! to madness, or end in suicide, or terminate in some
with passion greater than the situation itself.

The following is the “dilemmatic” meaning of this crisis. Either they
have known happiness, known it in a virtuous life, and are unable to
breathe in any air but that surcharged with incense, or act in any but a
balmy atmosphere of flattery and worship,--if so, how is it possible
to renounce it?--or, by a phenomenon less rare than singular, they
have found only wearying pleasures while seeking for the happiness
that escaped them--sustained in that eager chase by the irritating
satisfactions of vanity, clinging to the game like a gambler to his
double or quits; for to them these last days of beauty are their last
stake against despair.

“You have been loved, but never adored.”

That speech of Theodose, accompanied by a look which read, not into her
heart, but into her life, was the key-note to her enigma, and Flavie
felt herself divined.

The lawyer had merely repeated ideas which literature has rendered
trivial; but what matter where the whip comes from, or how it is made,
if it touches the sensitive spot of a horse’s hide? The emotion was in
Flavie, not in the speech, just as the noise is not in the avalanche,
though it produces it.

A young officer, two fops, a banker, a clumsy youth, and Colleville,
were poor attempts at happiness. Once in her life Madame Colleville had
dreamed of it, but never attained it. Death had hastened to put an end
to the only passion in which she had found a charm. For the last two
years she had listened to the voice of religion, which told her that
neither the Church, nor its votaries, should talk of love or happiness,
but of duty and resignation; that the only happiness lay in the
satisfaction of fulfilling painful and costly duties, the rewards for
which were not in this world. All the same, however, she was conscious
of another clamoring voice; but, inasmuch as her religion was only a
mask which it suited her to wear, and not a conversion, she did not lay
it aside, thinking it a resource. Believing also that piety, false or
true, was a becoming manner in which to meet her future, she continued
in the Church, as though it were the cross-roads of a forest, where,
seated on a bench, she read the sign-posts, and waited for some lucky
chance; feeling all the while that night was coming on.

Thus it happened that her interest was keenly excited when Theodose
put her secret condition of mind into words, seeming to promise her the
realization of her castle in the air, already built and overthrown some
six or eight times.

From the beginning of the winter she had noticed that Theodose was
examining and studying her, though cautiously and secretly. More than
once, she had put on her gray moire silk with its black lace, and her
headdress of Mechlin with a few flowers, in order to appear to her best
advantage; and men know very well when a toilet has been made to please
them. The old beau of the Empire, that handsome Thuillier, overwhelmed
her with compliments, assuring her she was queen of the salon, but la
Peyrade said infinitely more to the purpose by a look.

Flavie had expected, Sunday after Sunday, a declaration, saying to
herself at times:--

“He knows I am ruined and haven’t a sou. Perhaps he is really pious.”

Theodose did nothing rashly; like a wise musician, he had marked the
place in his symphony where he intended to tap his drum. When he saw
Colleville attempting to warn Thuillier against him, he fired his
broadside, cleverly prepared during the three or four months in which he
had been studying Flavie; he now succeeded with her as he had, earlier
in the day, succeeded with Thuillier.

While getting into bed, Theodose said to himself:--

“The wife is on my side; the husband can’t endure me; they are now
quarrelling; and I shall get the better of it, for she does what she
likes with that man.”

The lawyer was mistaken in one thing: there was no dispute whatever, and
Colleville was sleeping peacefully beside his dear little Flavie, while
she was saying to herself:--

“Certainly Theodose must be a superior man.”

Many men, like la Peyrade, derive their superiority from the audacity,
or the difficulty, of an enterprise; the strength they display increases
their muscular power, and they spend it freely. Then when success is
won, or defeat is met, the public is astonished to find how small,
exhausted, and puny those men really are. After casting into the minds
of the two persons on whom Celeste’s fate chiefly depended, an interest
and curiosity that were almost feverish, Theodose pretended to be a very
busy man; for five or six days he was out of the house from morning
till night, in order not to meet Flavie until the time when her interest
should increase to the point of overstepping conventionality, and also
in order to force the handsome Thuillier to come and fetch him.

The following Sunday he felt certain he should find Madame Colleville
at church; he was not mistaken, for they came out, each of them, at the
same moment, and met at the corner of the rue des Deux-Eglises. Theodose
offered his arm, which Flavie accepted, leaving her daughter to walk in
front with her brother Anatole. This youngest child, then about twelve
years old, being destined for the seminary, was now at the Barniol
institute, where he obtained an elementary education; Barniol, the
son-in-law of the Phellions, was naturally making the tuition fees
light, with a view to the hoped-for alliance between Felix and Celeste.

“Have you done me the honor and favor of thinking over what I said to
you so badly the other day?” asked the lawyer, in a caressing tone,
pressing the lady’s arm to his heart with a movement both soft and
strong; for he seemed to wish to restrain himself and appear respectful,
in spite of his evident eagerness. “Do not misunderstand my intentions,”
 he continued, after receiving from Madame Colleville one of those looks
which women trained to the management of passion know how to give,--a
look that, by mere expression, can convey both severe rebuke and secret
community of sentiment. “I love you as we love a noble nature struggling
against misfortune; Christian charity enfolds both the strong and the
weak; its treasure belongs to both. Refined, graceful, elegant as you
are, made to be an ornament of the highest society, what man could see
you without feeling an immense compassion in his heart--buried here
among these odious bourgeois, who know nothing of you, not even
the aristocratic value of a single one of your attitudes, or those
enchanting inflections of your voice! Ah! if I were only rich! if I
had power! your husband, who is certainly a good fellow, should be made
receiver-general, and you yourself could get him elected deputy. But,
alas! poor ambitious man, my first duty is to silence my ambition.
Knowing myself at the bottom of the bag like the last number in a family
lottery, I can only offer you my arm and not my heart. I hope all from a
good marriage, and, believe me, I shall make my wife not only happy, but
I shall make her one of the first in the land, receiving from her the
means of success. It is so fine a day, will you not take a turn in the
Luxembourg?” he added, as they reached the rue d’Enfer at the corner
of Colleville’s house, opposite to which was a passage leading to the
gardens by the stairway of a little building, the last remains of the
famous convent of the Chartreux.

The soft yielding of the arm within his own, indicated a tacit consent
to this proposal, and as Flavie deserved the honor of a sort of
enthusiasm, he drew her vehemently along, exclaiming:--

“Come! we may never have so good a moment--But see!” he added, “there is
your husband at the window looking at us; let us walk slowly.”

“You have nothing to fear from Monsieur Colleville,” said Flavie,
smiling; “he leaves me mistress of my own actions.”

“Ah! here, indeed, is the woman I have dreamed of,” cried the Provencal,
with that ecstasy that inflames the soul only, and in tones that issue
only from Southern lips. “Pardon me, madame,” he said, recovering
himself, and returning from an upper sphere to the exiled angel whom he
looked at piously,--“pardon me, I abandon what I was saying; but how
can a man help feeling for the sorrows he has known himself when he
sees them the lot of a being to whom life should bring only joy and
happiness? Your sufferings are mine; I am no more in my right place than
you are in yours; the same misfortune has made us brother and sister.
Ah! dear Flavie, the first day it was granted to me to see you--the last
Sunday in September, 1838--you were very beautiful; I shall often recall
you to memory in that pretty little gown of mousseline-de-laine of the
color of some Scottish tartan! That day I said to myself: ‘Why is that
woman so often at the Thuilliers’; above all, why did she ever have
intimate relations with Thuillier himself?--’”

“Monsieur!” said Flavie, alarmed at the singular course la Peyrade was
giving to the conversation.

“Eh! I know all,” he cried, accompanying the words with a shrug of his
shoulders. “I explain it all to my own mind, and I do not respect you
less. You now have to gather the fruits of your sin, and I will help
you. Celeste will be very rich, and in that lies your own future. You
can have only one son-in-law; chose him wisely. An ambitious man might
become a minister, but you would humble your daughter and make her
miserable; and if such a man lost his place and fortune he could
never recover it. Yes, I love you,” he continued. “I love you with an
unlimited affection; you are far above the mass of petty considerations
in which silly women entangle themselves. Let us understand each other.”

Flavie was bewildered; she was, however, awake to the extreme frankness
of such language, and she said to herself, “He is not a secret
manoeuvrer, certainly.” Moreover, she admitted to her own mind that no
one had ever so deeply stirred and excited her as this young man.

“Monsieur,” she said, “I do not know who could have put into your mind
so great an error as to my life, nor by what right you--”

“Ah! pardon me, madame,” interrupted the Provencal with a coolness that
smacked of contempt. “I must have dreamed it. I said to myself, ‘She is
all that!’ But I see I was judging from the outside. I know now why you
are living and will always live on a fourth floor in the rue d’Enfer.”

And he pointed his speech with an energetic gesture toward the
Colleville windows, which could be seen through the passage from the
alley of the Luxembourg, where they were walking alone, in that immense
tract trodden by so many and various young ambitions.

“I have been frank, and I expected reciprocity,” resumed Theodose.
“I myself have had days without food, madame; I have managed to live,
pursue my studies, obtain my degree, with two thousand francs for my
sole dependence; and I entered Paris through the Barriere d’Italie,
with five hundred francs in my pocket, firmly resolved, like one of
my compatriots, to become, some day, one of the foremost men of our
country. The man who has often picked his food from baskets of scraps
where the restaurateurs put their refuse, which are emptied at six
o’clock every morning--that man is not likely to recoil before any
means,--avowable, of course. Well, do you think me the friend of the
people?” he said, smiling. “One has to have a speaking-trumpet to reach
the ear of Fame; she doesn’t listen if you speak with your lips; and
without fame of what use is talent? The poor man’s advocate means to be
some day the advocate of the rich. Is that plain speaking? Don’t I open
my inmost being to you? Then open your heart to me. Say to me, ‘Let us
be friends,’ and the day will come when we shall both be happy.”

“Good heavens! why did I ever come here? Why did I ever take your arm?”
 cried Flavie.

“Because it is in your destiny,” he replied. “Ah! my dear, beloved
Flavie,” he added, again pressing her arm upon his heart, “did you
expect to hear the vulgarities of love from me? We are brother and
sister; that is all.”

And he led her towards the passage to return to the rue d’Enfer.

Flavie felt a sort of terror in the depths of the contentment which all
women find in violent emotions; and she took that terror for the sort of
fear which a new passion always excites; but for all that, she felt she
was fascinated, and she walked along in absolute silence.

“What are you thinking of?” asked Theodose, when they reached the middle
of the passage.

“Of what you have just said to me,” she answered.

“At our age,” he said, “it is best to suppress preliminaries; we are not
children; we both belong to a sphere in which we should understand each
other. Remember this,” he added, as they reached the rue d’Enfer.--“I am
wholly yours.”

So saying, he bowed low to her.

“The iron’s in the fire now!” he thought to himself as he watched his
giddy prey on her way home.



CHAPTER VI. A KEYNOTE

When Theodose reached home he found, waiting for him on the landing, a
personage who is, as it were, the submarine current of this history; he
will be found within it like some buried church on which has risen the
facade of a palace. The sight of this man, who, after vainly ringing
at la Peyrade’s door, was now trying that of Dutocq, made the Provencal
barrister tremble--but secretly, within himself, not betraying
externally his inward emotion. This man was Cerizet, whom Dutocq had
mentioned to Thuillier as his copying-clerk.

Cerizet was only thirty-eight years old, but he looked a man of fifty,
so aged had he become from causes which age all men. His hairless head
had a yellow skull, ill-covered by a rusty, discolored wig; the mask of
his face, pale, flabby, and unnaturally rough, seemed the more horrible
because the nose was eaten away, though not sufficiently to admit of
its being replaced by a false one. From the spring of this nose at the
forehead, down to the nostrils, it remained as nature had made it; but
disease, after gnawing away the sides near the extremities, had left
two holes of fantastic shape, which vitiated pronunciation and hampered
speech. The eyes, originally handsome, but weakened by misery of all
kinds and by sleepless nights, were red around the edges, and deeply
sunken; the glance of those eyes, when the soul sent into them an
expression of malignancy, would have frightened both judges and
criminals, or any others whom nothing usually affrights.

The mouth, toothless except for a few black fangs, was threatening; the
saliva made a foam within it, which did not, however, pass the pale
thin lips. Cerizet, a short man, less spare than shrunken, endeavored
to remedy the defects of his person by his clothes, and although his
garments were not those of opulence, he kept them in a condition
of neatness which may even have increased his forlorn appearance.
Everything about him seemed dubious; his age, his nose, his glance
inspired doubt. It was impossible to know if he were thirty-eight or
sixty; if his faded blue trousers, which fitted him well, were of a
coming or a past fashion. His boots, worn at the heels, but scrupulously
blacked, resoled for the third time, and very choice, originally, may
have trodden in their day a ministerial carpet. The frock coat, soaked
by many a down-pour, with its brandebourgs, the frogs of which were
indiscreet enough to show their skeletons, testified by its cut to
departed elegance. The satin stock-cravat fortunately concealed the
shirt, but the tongue of the buckle behind the neck had frayed the
satin, which was re-satined, that is, re-polished, by a species of oil
distilled from the wig. In the days of its youth the waistcoat was not,
of course, without freshness, but it was one of those waistcoats, bought
for four francs, which come from the hooks of the ready-made clothing
dealer. All these things were carefully brushed, and so was the shiny
and misshapen hat. They harmonized with each other, even to the black
gloves which covered the hands of this subaltern Mephistopheles, whose
whole anterior life may be summed up in a single phrase:--

He was an artist in evil, with whom, from the first, evil had succeeded;
a man misled by these early successes to continue the plotting of
infamous deeds within the lines of strict legality. Becoming the head of
a printing-office by betraying his master [see “Lost Illusions”], he
had afterwards been condemned to imprisonment as editor of a liberal
newspaper. In the provinces, under the Restoration, he became the bete
noire of the government, and was called “that unfortunate Cerizet”
 by some, as people spoke of “the unfortunate Chauvet” and “the heroic
Mercier.” He owed to this reputation of persecuted patriotism a place as
sub-prefect in 1830. Six months later he was dismissed; but he insisted
that he was judged without being heard; and he made so much talk about
it that, under the ministry of Casimir Perier, he became the editor of
an anti-republican newspaper in the pay of the government. He left that
position to go into business, one phase of which was the most nefarious
stock-company that ever fell into the hands of the correctional police.
Cerizet proudly accepted the severe sentence he received; declaring it
to be a revengeful plot on the part of the republicans, who, he said,
would never forgive him for the hard blows he had dealt them in his
journal. He spent the time of his imprisonment in a hospital. The
government by this time were ashamed of a man whose almost infamous
habits and shameful business transactions, carried on in company with a
former banker, named Claparon, led him at last into well-deserved public
contempt.

Cerizet, thus fallen, step by step, to the lowest rung of the social
ladder, had recourse to pity in order to obtain the place of copying
clerk in Dutocq’s office. In the depths of his wretchedness the man
still dreamed of revenge, and, as he had nothing to lose, he employed
all means to that end. Dutocq and himself were bound together in
depravity. Cerizet was to Dutocq what the hound is the huntsman. Knowing
himself the necessities of poverty and wretchedness, he set up that
business of gutter usury called, in popular parlance, “the loan by the
little week.” He began this at first by help of Dutocq, who shared the
profits; but, at the present moment this man of many legal crimes, now
the banker of fishwives, the money-lender of costermongers, was the
gnawing rodent of the whole faubourg.

“Well,” said Cerizet as Dutocq opened his door, “Theodose has just come
in; let us go to his room.”

The advocate of the poor was fain to allow the two men to pass before
him.

All three crossed a little room, the tiled floor of which, covered with
a coating of red encaustic, shone in the light; thence into a little
salon with crimson curtains and mahogany furniture, covered with
red Utrecht velvet; the wall opposite the window being occupied by
book-shelves containing a legal library. The chimney-piece was covered
with vulgar ornaments, a clock with four columns in mahogany, and
candelabra under glass shades. The study, where the three men seated
themselves before a soft-coal fire, was the study of a lawyer just
beginning to practise. The furniture consisted of a desk, an armchair,
little curtains of green silk at the windows, a green carpet, shelves
for lawyer’s boxes, and a couch, above which hung an ivory Christ on
a velvet background. The bedroom, kitchen, and rest of the apartment
looked out upon the courtyard.

“Well,” said Cerizet, “how are things going? Are we getting on?”

“Yes,” replied Theodose.

“You must admit,” cried Dutocq, “that my idea was a famous one, in
laying hold of that imbecile of a Thuillier?”

“Yes, but I’m not behindhand either,” exclaimed Cerizet. “I have come
now to show you a way to put the thumbscrews on the old maid and make
her spin like a teetotum. We mustn’t deceive ourselves; Mademoiselle
Thuillier is the head and front of everything in this affair; if we get
her on our side the town is won. Let us say little, but that little to
the point, as becomes strong men with each other. Claparon, you know, is
a fool; he’ll be all his life what he always was,--a cat’s-paw. Just now
he is lending his name to a notary in Paris, who is concerned with a
lot of contractors, and they are all--notary and masons--on the point of
ruin. Claparon is going headlong into it. He never yet was bankrupt; but
there’s a first time for everything. He is hidden now in my hovel in the
rue des Poules, where no one will ever find him. He is desperate, and
he hasn’t a penny. Now, among the five or six houses built by these
contractors, which have to be sold, there’s a jewel of a house, built of
freestone, in the neighborhood of the Madeleine,--a frontage laced like
a melon, with beautiful carvings,--but not being finished, it will have
to be sold for what it will bring; certainly not more than a hundred
thousand francs. By spending twenty-five thousand francs upon it it
could be let, undoubtedly, for ten thousand. Make Mademoiselle Thuillier
the proprietor of that house and you’ll win her love; she’ll believe
that you can put such chances in her way every year. There are two ways
of getting hold of vain people: flatter their vanity, _or_ threaten
them; and there are also two ways of managing misers: fill their purse,
or else attack it. Now, this stroke of business, while it does good to
Mademoiselle Thuillier, does good to us as well, and it would be a pity
not to profit by the chance.”

“But why does the notary let it slip through his fingers?” asked Dutocq.

“The notary, my dear fellow! Why, he’s the very one who saves us.
Forced to sell his practice, and utterly ruined besides, he reserved for
himself this crumb of the cake. Believing in the honesty of that idiot
Claparon, he has asked him to find a dummy purchaser. We’ll let him
suppose that Mademoiselle Thuillier is a worthy soul who allows Claparon
to use her name; they’ll both be fooled, Claparon and the notary too.
I owe this little trick to my friend Claparon, who left me to bear the
whole weight of the trouble about his stock-company, in which we were
tricked by Conture, and I hope you may never be in that man’s skin!” he
added, infernal hatred flashing from his worn and withered eyes. “Now,
I’ve said my say, gentlemen,” he continued, sending out his voice
through his nasal holes, and taking a dramatic attitude; for once, at a
moment of extreme penury, he had gone upon the stage.

As he finished making his proposition some one rang at the outer door,
and la Peyrade rose to go and open it. As soon as his back was turned,
Cerizet said, hastily, to Dutocq:--

“Are you sure of him? I see a sort of air about him--And I’m a good
judge of treachery.”

“He is so completely in our power,” said Dutocq, “that I don’t trouble
myself to watch; but, between ourselves, I didn’t think him as strong as
he proves to be. The fact is, we thought we were putting a barb between
the legs of a man who didn’t know how to ride, and the rogue is an old
jockey!”

“Let him take care,” growled Cerizet. “I can blow him down like a house
of cards any day. As for you, papa Dutocq, you are able to see him at
work all the time; watch him carefully. Besides, I’ll feel his pulse by
getting Claparon to propose to him to get rid of us; that will help us
to judge him.”

“Pretty good, that!” said Dutocq. “You are daring, anyhow.”

“I’ve got my hand in, that’s all,” replied Cerizet.

These words were exchanged in a low voice during the time that it took
Theodose to go to the outer door and return. Cerizet was looking at the
books when the lawyer re-entered the room.

“It is Thuillier,” said Theodose. “I thought he’d come; he is in the
salon. He mustn’t see Cerizet’s frock-coat; those frogs would frighten
him.”

“Pooh! you receive the poor in your office, don’t you? That’s in your
role. Do you want any money?” added Cerizet, pulling a hundred francs
out of his trousers’ pocket. “There it is; it won’t look amiss.”

And he laid the pile on the chimney-piece.

“And now,” said Dutocq, “we had better get out through the bedroom.”

“Well, good-bye,” said Theodose, opening a hidden door which
communicated from the study to the bedroom. “Come in, Monsieur
Thuillier,” he called out to the beau of the Empire.

When he saw him safely in the study he went to let out his two
associates through the bedroom and kitchen into the courtyard.

“In six months,” said Cerizet, “you’ll have married Celeste and got your
foot into the stirrup. You are lucky, you are, not to have sat, like
me, in the prisoners’ dock. I’ve been there twice: once in 1825, for
‘subversive articles’ which I never wrote, and the second time for
receiving the profits of a joint-stock company which had slipped through
my fingers! Come, let’s warm this thing up! Sac-a-papier! Dutocq and I
are sorely in need of that twenty-five thousand francs. Good courage,
old fellow!” he added, holding out his hand to Theodose, and making the
grasp a test of faithfulness.

The Provencal gave Cerizet his right hand, pressing the other’s hand
warmly:--

“My good fellow,” he said, “be very sure that in whatever position I may
find myself I shall never forget that from which you have drawn me by
putting me in the saddle here. I’m simply your bait; but you are giving
me the best part of the catch, and I should be more infamous than a
galley-slave who turns policeman if I didn’t play fair.”

As soon as the door was closed, Cerizet peeped through the key-hole,
trying to catch sight of la Peyrade’s face. But the Provencal had turned
back to meet Thuillier, and his distrustful associate could not detect
the expression of his countenance.

That expression was neither disgust nor annoyance, it was simply joy,
appearing on a face that now seemed freed. Theodose saw the means of
success approaching him, and he flattered himself that the day would
come when he might get rid of his ignoble associates, to whom he owed
everything. Poverty has unfathomable depths, especially in Paris, slimy
bottoms, from which, when a drowned man rises to the surface of the
water, he brings with him filth and impurity clinging to his clothes,
or to his person. Cerizet, the once opulent friend and protector of
Theodose, was the muddy mire still clinging to the Provencal, and the
former manager of the joint-stock company saw very plainly that his tool
wanted to brush himself on entering a sphere where decent clothing was a
necessity.

“Well, my dear Theodose,” began Thuillier, “we have hoped to see you
every day this week, and every evening we find our hopes deceived. As
this is our Sunday for a dinner, my sister and my wife have sent me here
to beg you to come to us.”

“I have been so busy,” said Theodose, “that I have not had two minutes
to give to any one, not even to you, whom I count among my friends, and
with whom I have wished to talk about--”

“What? have you really been thinking seriously over what you said to
me?” cried Thuillier, interrupting him.

“If you had not come here now for a full understanding, I shouldn’t
respect you as I do,” replied la Peyrade, smiling. “You have been a
sub-director, and therefore you must have the remains of ambition--which
is deucedly legitimate in your case! Come, now, between ourselves, when
one sees a Minard, that gilded pot, displaying himself at the Tuileries,
and complimenting the king, and a Popinot about to become a minister of
State, and then look at you! a man trained to administrative work, a
man with thirty years’ experience, who has seen six governments, left
to plant balsams in a little garden! Heavens and earth!--I am frank,
my dear Thuillier, and I’ll say, honestly, that I want to advance you,
because you’ll draw me after you. Well, here’s my plan. We are soon to
elect a member of the council-general from this arrondissement; and that
member must be you. And,” he added, dwelling on the word, “it _will_ be
you! After that, you will certainly be deputy from the arrondissement
when the Chamber is re-elected, which must surely be before long. The
votes that elect you to the municipal council will stand by you in the
election for deputy, trust me for that.”

“But how will you manage all this?” cried Thuillier, fascinated.

“You shall know in good time; but you must let me conduct this long and
difficult affair; if you commit the slightest indiscretion as to what is
said, or planned, or agreed between us, I shall have to drop the whole
matter, and good-bye to you!”

“Oh! you can rely on the absolute dumbness of a former sub-director;
I’ve had secrets to keep.”

“That’s all very well; but these are secrets to keep from your wife and
sister, and from Monsieur and Madame Colleville.”

“Not a muscle of my face shall reveal them,” said Thuillier, assuming a
stolid air.

“Very good,” continued Theodose. “I shall test you. In order to make
yourself eligible, you must pay taxes on a certain amount of property,
and you are not paying them.”

“I beg your pardon; I’m all right for the municipal council at any rate;
I pay two francs ninety-six centimes.”

“Yes, but the tax on property necessary for election to the chamber
is five hundred francs, and there is no time to lose in acquiring that
property, because you must prove possession for one year.”

“The devil!” cried Thuillier; “between now and a year hence to be taxed
five hundred francs on property which--”

“Between now and the end of July, at the latest, you must pay that tax.
Well, I feel enough interest in you to tell you the secret of an affair
by which you might make from thirty to forty thousand francs a year, by
employing a capital of one hundred and fifty thousand at most. I know
that in your family it is your sister who does your business; I am far
from thinking that a mistake; she has, they tell me, excellent judgment;
and you must let me begin by obtaining her good-will and friendship,
and proposing this investment to her. And this is why: If Mademoiselle
Thuillier is not induced to put faith in my plan, we shall certainly
have difficulty with her. Besides, it won’t do for YOU to propose to her
that she should put the investment of her money in your name. The idea
had better come from me. As to my means of getting you elected to the
municipal council, they are these: Phellion controls one quarter of the
arrondissement; he and Laudigeois have lived in it these thirty years,
and they are listened to like oracles. I have a friend who controls
another quarter; and the rector of Saint-Jacques, who is not without
influence, thanks to his virtues, disposes of certain votes. Dutocq, in
his close relation to the people, and also the justice of peace, will
help me, above all, as I’m not acting for myself; and Colleville, as
secretary of the mayor’s office, can certainly manage to obtain another
fourth of the votes.”

“You are right!” cried Thuillier. “I’m elected!”

“Do you think so?” said la Peyrade, in a voice of the deepest sarcasm.
“Very good! then go and ask your friend Colleville to help you, and see
what he’ll say. No triumph in election cases is ever brought about by
the candidate himself, but by his friends. He should never ask anything
himself for himself; he must be invited to accept, and appear to be
without ambition.”

“La Peyrade!” cried Thuillier, rising, and taking the hand of the young
lawyer, “you are a very capable man.”

“Not as capable as you, but I have my merits,” said the Provencal,
smiling.

“If we succeed how shall I ever repay you?” asked Thuillier, naively.

“Ah! that, indeed! I am afraid you will think me impertinent, but
remember, there is a true feeling in my heart which offers some excuse
for me; in fact, it has given me the spirit to undertake this affair. I
love--and I take you for my confidant.”

“But who is it?” said Thuillier.

“Your dear little Celeste,” replied la Peyrade. “My love for her will
be a pledge to you of my devotion. What would I not do for a
_father-in-law_! This is pure selfishness; I shall be working for
myself.”

“Hush!” cried Thuillier.

“Eh, my friend!” said la Peyrade, catching Thuillier round the body; “if
I hadn’t Flavie on my side, and if I didn’t know _all_ should I venture
to be talking to you thus? But please say nothing to Flavie about this;
wait till she speaks to you. Listen to me; I’m of the metal that makes
ministers; I do not seek to obtain Celeste until I deserve her. You
shall not be asked to give her to me until the day when your election
as a deputy of Paris is assured. In order to be deputy of Paris, we must
get the better of Minard; and in order to crush Minard you must keep in
your own hands all your means of influence; for that reason use Celeste
as a hope; we’ll play them off, these people, against each other and
fool them all--Madame Colleville and you and I will be persons of
importance one of these days. Don’t think me mercenary. I want Celeste
without a ‘dot,’ with nothing more than her future expectations. To
live in your family with you, to keep my wife in your midst, that is my
desire. You see now that I have no hidden thoughts. As for you, my dear
friend, six months after your election to the municipal council, you
will have the cross of the Legion of honor, and when you are deputy
you will be made an officer of it. As for your speeches in the
Chamber--well! we’ll write them together. Perhaps it would be desirable
for you to write a book,--a serious book on matters half moral and
philanthropic, half political; such, for instance, as charitable
institutions considered from the highest stand-point; or reforms in the
pawning system, the abuses of which are really frightful. Let us fasten
some slight distinction to your name; it will help you,--especially in
the arrondissement. Now, I say again, trust me, believe in me; do not
think of taking me into your family until you have the ribbon in your
buttonhole on the morrow of the day when you take your seat in the
Chamber. I’ll do more than that, however; I’ll put you in the way of
making forty thousand francs a year.”

“For any one of those three things you shall have our Celeste,” said
Thuillier.

“Ah! what a pearl she is!” exclaimed la Peyrade, raising his eyes to
heaven. “I have the weakness to pray to God for her every day. She is
charming; she is exactly like you--oh! nonsense; surely you needn’t
caution me! Dutocq told me all. Well, I’ll be with you to-night. I must
go to the Phellions’ now, and begin to work our plan. You don’t need me
to caution you not to let it be known that you are thinking of me for
Celeste; if you do, you’ll cut off my arms and legs. Therefore, silence!
even to Flavie. Wait till she speaks to you herself. Phellion shall
to-night broach the matter of proposing you as candidate for the
council.”

“To-night?” said Thuillier.

“Yes, to-night,” replied la Peyrade, “unless I don’t find him at home
now.”

Thuillier departed, saying to himself:--

“That’s a very superior man; we shall always understand each other.
Faith! it might be hard to do better for Celeste. They will live with
us, as in our own family, and that’s a good deal! Yes, he’s a fine
fellow, a sound man.”

To minds of Thuillier’s calibre, a secondary consideration often assumes
the importance of a principal reason. Theodose had behaved to him with
charming bonhomie.



CHAPTER VII. THE WORTHY PHELLIONS

The house to which Theodose de la Peyrade now bent his steps had been
the “hoc erat in votis” of Monsieur Phellion for twenty years; it was
the house of the Phellions, just as much as Cerizet’s frogged coat was
the necessary complement of his personality.

This dwelling was stuck against the side of a large house, but only to
the depth of one room (about twenty feet or so), and terminated at each
end in a sort of pavilion with one window. Its chief charm was a garden,
one hundred and eighty feet square, longer than the facade of the house
by the width of a courtyard which opened on the street, and a little
clump of lindens. Beyond the second pavilion, the courtyard had, between
itself and the street, an iron railing, in the centre of which was a
little gate opening in the middle.

This building, of rouge stone covered with stucco, and two storeys in
height, had received a coat of yellow-wash; the blinds were painted
green, and so were the shutters on the lower storey. The kitchen
occupied the ground-floor of the pavilion on the courtyard, and the
cook, a stout, strong girl, protected by two enormous dogs, performed
the functions of portress. The facade, composed of five windows, and the
two pavilions, which projected nine feet, were in the style Phellion.
Above the door the master of the house had inserted a tablet of white
marble, on which, in letters of gold, were read the words, “Aurea
mediocritas.” Above the sun-dial, affixed to one panel of the facade,
he had also caused to be inscribed this sapient maxim: “Umbra mea vita,
sic!”

The former window-sills had recently been superceded by sills of red
Languedoc marble, found in a marble shop. At the bottom of the garden
could be seen a colored statue, intended to lead casual observers to
imagine that a nurse was carrying a child. The ground-floor of the house
contained only the salon and the dining-room, separated from each other
by the well of the staircase and the landing, which formed a sort of
antechamber. At the end of the salon, in the other pavilion, was a
little study occupied by Phellion.

On the first upper floor were the rooms of the father and mother and
that of the young professor. Above were the chambers of the children and
the servants; for Phellion, on consideration of his own age and that of
his wife, had set up a male domestic, aged fifteen, his son having by
that time entered upon his duties of tuition. To right, on entering
the courtyard, were little offices where wood was stored, and where
the former proprietor had lodged a porter. The Phellions were no doubt
awaiting the marriage of their son to allow themselves that additional
luxury.

This property, on which the Phellions had long had their eye, cost
them eighteen thousand francs in 1831. The house was separated from
the courtyard by a balustrade with a base of freestone and a coping of
tiles; this little wall, which was breast-high, was lined with a hedge
of Bengal roses, in the middle of which opened a wooden gate opposite
and leading to the large gates on the street. Those who know the
cul-de-sac of the Feuillantines, will understand that the Phellion
house, standing at right angles to the street, had a southern exposure,
and was protected on the north by the immense wall of the adjoining
house, against which the smaller structure was built. The cupola of the
Pantheon and that of the Val-de-Grace looked from there like two giants,
and so diminished the sky space that, walking in the garden, one felt
cramped and oppressed. No place could be more silent than this blind
street.

Such was the retreat of the great unknown citizen who was now tasting
the sweets of repose, after discharging his duty to the nation in the
ministry of finance, from which he had retired as registration clerk
after a service of thirty-six years. In 1832 he had led his battalion of
the National Guard to the attack on Saint-Merri, but his neighbors had
previously seen tears in his eyes at the thought of being obliged to
fire on misguided Frenchmen. The affair was already decided by the time
his legion crossed the pont Notre-Dame at a quick step, after debouching
by the flower-market. This noble hesitation won him the respect of his
whole quarter, but he lost the decoration of the Legion of honor; his
colonel told him in a loud voice that, under arms, there was no such
thing as deliberation,--a saying of Louis-Philippe to the National Guard
of Metz. Nevertheless, the bourgeois virtues of Phellion, and the great
respect in which he was held in his own quarter had kept him major of
the battalion for eight years. He was now nearly sixty, and seeing the
moment coming when he must lay off the sword and stock, he hoped that
the king would deign to reward his services by granting him at last the
Legion of honor.

Truth compels us to say, in spite of the stain this pettiness will put
upon so fine a character, that Commander Phellion rose upon the tips of
his toes at the receptions in the Tuileries, and did all that he could
to put himself forward, even eyeing the citizen-king perpetually when
he dined at his table. In short, he intrigued in a dumb sort of way; but
had never yet obtained a look in return from the king of his choice. The
worthy man had more than once thought, but was not yet decided, to beg
Monsieur Minard to assist him in obtaining his secret desire.

Phellion, a man of passive obedience, was stoical in the matter of duty,
and iron in all that touched his conscience. To complete this picture
by a sketch of his person, we must add that at fifty-nine years of age
Phellion had “thickened,” to use a term of the bourgeois vocabulary. His
face, of one monotonous tone and pitted with the small-pox, had grown
to resemble a full moon; so that his lips, formerly large, now seemed
of ordinary size. His eyes, much weakened, and protected by glasses, no
longer showed the innocence of their light-blue orbs, which in former
days had often excited a smile; his white hair now gave gravity to much
that twelve years earlier had looked like silliness, and lent itself
to ridicule. Time, which does such damage to faces with refined and
delicate features, only improves those which, in their youth, have been
course and massive. This was the case with Phellion. He occupied the
leisure of his old age in making an abridgment of the History of France;
for Phellion was the author of several works adopted by the University.

When la Peyrade presented himself, the family were all together. Madame
Barniol was just telling her mother about one of her babies, which was
slightly indisposed. They were dressed in their Sunday clothes, and were
sitting before the fireplace of the wainscoted salon on chairs bought
at a bargain; and they all felt an emotion when Genevieve, the cook and
portress, announced the personage of whom they were just then speaking
in connection with Celeste, whom, we must here state, Felix Phellion
loved, to the extent of going to mass to behold her. The learned
mathematician had made that effort in the morning, and the family were
joking him about it in a pleasant way, hoping in their hearts that
Celeste and her parents might understand the treasure that was thus
offered to them.

“Alas! the Thuilliers seem to me infatuated with a very dangerous man,”
 said Madame Phellion. “He took Madame Colleville by the arm this morning
after church, and they went together to the Luxembourg.”

“There is something about that lawyer,” remarked Felix Phellion, “that
strikes me as sinister. He might be found to have committed some crime
and I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“That’s going too far,” said old Phellion. “He is cousin-germain to
Tartuffe, that immortal figure cast in bronze by our honest Moliere; for
Moliere, my children, had honesty and patriotism for the basis of his
genius.”

It was at that instant that Genevieve came in to say, “There’s a
Monsieur de la Peyrade out there, who wants to see monsieur.”

“To see me!” exclaimed Phellion. “Ask him to come in,” he added, with
that solemnity in little things which gave him even now a touch of
absurdity, though it always impressed his family, which accepted him as
king.

Phellion, his two sons, and his wife and daughter, rose and received the
circular bow made by the lawyer.

“To what do we owe the honor of your visit, monsieur?” asked Phellion,
stiffly.

“To your importance in this arrondissement, my dear Monsieur Phellion,
and to public interests,” replied Theodose.

“Then let us go into my study,” said Phellion.

“No, no, my friend,” said the rigid Madame Phellion, a small woman, flat
as a flounder, who retained upon her features the grim severity with
which she taught music in boarding-schools for young ladies; “we will
leave you.”

An upright Erard piano, placed between the two windows and opposite to
the fireplace, showed the constant occupation of a proficient.

“Am I so unfortunate as to put you to flight?” said Theodose, smiling in
a kindly way at the mother and daughter. “You have a delightful retreat
here,” he continued. “You only lack a pretty daughter-in-law to pass
the rest of your days in this ‘aurea mediocritas,’ the wish of the Latin
poet, surrounded by family joys. Your antecedents, my dear Monsieur
Phellion, ought surely to win you such rewards, for I am told that you
are not only a patriot but a good citizen.”

“Monsieur,” said Phellion, embarrassed, “monsieur, I have only done
my duty.” At the word “daughter-in-law,” uttered by Theodose, Madame
Barniol, who resembled her mother as much as one drop of water is like
another, looked at Madame Phellion and at Felix as if she would say,
“Were we mistaken?”

The desire to talk this incident over carried all four personages into
the garden, for, in March, 1840, the weather was spring-like, at least
in Paris.

“Commander,” said Theodose, as soon as he was alone with Phellion, who
was always flattered by that title, “I have come to speak to you about
the election--”

“Yes, true; we are about to nominate a municipal councillor,” said
Phellion, interrupting him.

“And it is apropos of that candidacy that I have come to disturb your
Sunday joys; but perhaps in so doing we shall not go beyond the limits
of the family circle.”

It would be impossible for Phellion to be more Phellion than Theodose
was Phellion at that moment.

“I shall not let you say another word,” replied the commander, profiting
by the pause made by Theodose, who watched for the effect of his speech.
“My choice is made.”

“We have had the same idea!” exclaimed Theodose; “men of the same
character agree as well as men of the same mind.”

“In this case I do not believe in that phenomenon,” replied Phellion.
“This arrondissement had for its representative in the municipal council
the most virtuous of men, as he was the noblest of magistrates. I allude
to the late Monsieur Popinot, the deceased judge of the Royal courts.
When the question of replacing him came up, his nephew, the heir to
his benevolence, did not reside in this quarter. He has since, however,
purchased, and now occupies, the house where his uncle lived in the
rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Genevieve; he is the physician of the Ecole
Polytechnique and that of our hospitals; he does honor to this quarter;
for these reasons, and to pay homage in the person of the nephew to the
memory of the uncle, we have decided to nominate Doctor Horace Bianchon,
member of the Academy of Sciences, as you are aware, and one of the most
distinguished young men in the illustrious faculty of Paris. A man is
not great in our eyes solely because he is celebrated; to my mind the
late Councillor Popinot was almost another Saint Vincent de Paul.”

“But a doctor is not an administrator,” replied Theodose; “and, besides,
I have come to ask your vote for a man to whom your dearest interests
require that you should sacrifice a predilection, which, after all, is
quite unimportant to the public welfare.”

“Monsieur!” cried Phellion, rising and striking an attitude like that of
Lafon in “Le Glorieux,” “Do you despise me sufficiently to suppose that
my personal interests could ever influence my political conscience? When
a matter concerns the public welfare, I am a citizen--nothing more, and
nothing less.”

Theodose smiled to himself at the thought of the battle which was now to
take place between the father and the citizen.

“Do not bind yourself to your present ideas, I entreat you,” he said,
“for this matter concerns the happiness of your dear Felix.”

“What do you mean by those words?” asked Phellion, stopping short in the
middle of the salon and posing, with his hand thrust through the bosom
of his waistcoat from right to left, in the well-known attitude of
Odilon Barrot.

“I have come in behalf of our mutual friend, the worthy and excellent
Monsieur Thuillier, whose influence on the destiny of that beautiful
Celeste Colleville must be well known to you. If, as I think, your son,
whose merits are incontestable, and of whom both families may well be
proud, if, I say, he is courting Celeste with a view to a marriage in
which all expediencies may be combined, you cannot do more to promote
that end than to obtain Thuillier’s eternal gratitude by proposing
your worthy friend to the suffrages of your fellow-citizens. As for
me, though I have lately come into the quarter, I can, thanks to the
influence I enjoy through certain legal benefits done to the poor,
materially advance his interests. I might, perhaps, have put myself
forward for this position; but serving the poor brings in but little
money; and, besides, the modesty of my life is out of keeping with such
distinctions. I have devoted myself, monsieur, to the service of the
weak, like the late Councillor Popinot,--a sublime man, as you justly
remarked. If I had not already chosen a career which is in some sort
monastic, and precludes all idea of marriage and public office, my
taste, my second vocation, would lead me to the service of God, to the
Church. I do not trumpet what I do, like the philanthropists; I do not
write about it; I simply act; I am pledged to Christian charity. The
ambition of our friend Thuillier becoming known to me, I have wished to
contribute to the happiness of two young people who seem to me made for
each other, by suggesting to you the means of winning the rather cold
heart of Monsieur Thuillier.”

Phellion was bewildered by this tirade, admirably delivered; he was
dazzled, attracted; but he remained Phellion; he walked up to the lawyer
and held out his hand, which la Peyrade took.

“Monsieur,” said the commander, with emotion, “I have misjudged you.
What you have done me the honor to confide to me will die _there_,”
 laying his hand on his heart. “You are one of the men of whom we have
too few,--men who console us for many evils inherent in our social
state. Righteousness is seen so seldom that our too feeble natures
distrust appearances. You have in me a friend, if you will allow me the
honor of assuming that title. But you must learn to know me, monsieur.
I should lose my own esteem if I nominated Thuillier. No, my son shall
never own his happiness to an evil action on his father’s part. I shall
not change my candidate because my son’s interests demand it. That is
civic virtue, monsieur.”

La Peyrade pulled out his handkerchief and rubbed it in his eye so
that it drew a tear, as he said, holding out his hand to Phellion, and
turning aside his head:--

“Ah! monsieur, how sublime a struggle between public and private duty!
Had I come here only to see this sight, my visit would not have been
wasted. You cannot do otherwise! In your place, I should do the same.
You are that noblest thing that God has made--a righteous man! a
citizen of the Jean-Jacques type! With many such citizens, oh France!
my country! what mightest thou become! It is I, monsieur, who solicit,
humbly, the honor to be your friend.”

“What can be happening?” said Madame Phellion, watching the scene
through the window. “Do see your father and that horrid man embracing
each other.”

Phellion and la Peyrade now came out and joined the family in the
garden.

“My dear Felix,” said the old man, pointing to la Peyrade, who was
bowing to Madame Phellion, “be very grateful to that admirable young
man; he will prove most useful to you.”

The lawyer walked for about five minutes with Madame Barniol and Madame
Phellion beneath the leafless lindens, and gave them (in consequence
of the embarrassing circumstances created by Phellion’s political
obstinacy) a piece of advice, the effects of which were to bear fruit
that evening, while its first result was to make both ladies admire his
talents, his frankness, and his inappreciable good qualities. When the
lawyer departed the whole family conducted him to the street gate,
and all eyes followed him until he had turned the corner of the rue du
Faubourg-Saint-Jacques. Madame Phellion then took the arm of her husband
to return to the salon, saying:--

“Hey! my friend! what does this mean? You, such a good father, how can
you, from excessive delicacy, stand in the way of such a fine marriage
for our Felix?”

“My dear,” replied Phellion, “the great men of antiquity, Brutus
and others, were never fathers when called upon to be citizens. The
bourgeoisie has, even more than the aristocracy whose place it has been
called upon to take, the obligations of the highest virtues. Monsieur
de Saint-Hilaire did not think of his lost arm in presence of the dead
Turenne. We must give proof of our worthiness; let us give it at every
state of the social hierarchy. Shall I instruct my family in the highest
civic principles only to ignore them myself at the moment for applying
them? No, my dear; weep, if you must, to-day, but to-morrow you will
respect me,” he added, seeing tears in the eyes of his starched better
half.

These noble words were said on the sill of the door, above which was
written, “Aurea mediocritas.”

“I ought to have put, ‘et digna,’” added Phellion, pointing to the
tablet, “but those two words would imply self-praise.”

“Father,” said Marie-Theodore Phellion, the future engineer of “ponts
et chaussees,” when the family were once more seated in the salon,
“it seems to me that there is nothing dishonorable in changing one’s
determination about a choice which is of no real consequence to public
welfare.”

“No consequence, my son!” cried Phellion. “Between ourselves I will say,
and Felix shares my opinion, Monsieur Thuillier is absolutely without
capacity; he knows nothing. Monsieur Horace Bianchon is an able man; he
will obtain a thousand things for our arrondissement, and Thuillier will
obtain none! Remember this, my son; to change a good determination for
a bad one from motives of self-interest is one of those infamous actions
which escape the control of men but are punished by God. I am, or I
think I am, void of all blame before my conscience, and I owe it to you,
my children, to leave my memory unstained among you. Nothing, therefore,
can make me change my determination.”

“Oh, my good father!” cried the little Barniol woman, flinging herself
on a cushion at Phellion’s knees, “don’t ride your high horse! There are
many fools and idiots in the municipal council, and France gets along
all the same. That old Thuillier will adopt the opinions of those about
him. Do reflect that Celeste will probably have five hundred thousand
francs.”

“She might have millions,” said Phellion, “and I might see them there
at my feet before I would propose Thuillier, when I owe to the memory of
the best of men to nominate, if possible, Horace Bianchon, his nephew.
From the heaven above us Popinot is contemplating and applauding me!”
 cried Phellion, with exaltation. “It is by such considerations as you
suggest that France is being lowered, and the bourgeoisie are bringing
themselves into contempt.”

“My father is right,” said Felix, coming out of a deep reverie. “He
deserves our respect and love; as he has throughout the whole course
of his modest and honored life. I would not owe my happiness either to
remorse in his noble soul, or to a low political bargain. I love Celeste
as I love my own family; but, above all that, I place my father’s honor,
and since this question is a matter of conscience with him it must not
be spoken of again.”

Phellion, with his eyes full of tears, went up to his eldest son and
took him in his arms, saying, “My son! my son!” in a choking voice.

“All that is nonsense,” whispered Madame Phellion in Madame Barniol’s
ear. “Come and dress me; I shall make an end of this; I know your
father; he has put his foot down now. To carry out the plan that pious
young man, Theodose, suggested, I want your help; hold yourself ready to
give it, my daughter.”

At this moment, Genevieve came in and gave a letter to Monsieur
Phellion.

“An invitation for dinner to-day, for Madame Phellion and Felix and
myself, at the Thuilliers’,” he said.

The magnificent and surprising idea of Thuillier’s municipal
advancement, put forth by the “advocate of the poor” was not less
upsetting in the Thuillier household than it was in the Phellion salon.
Jerome Thuillier, without actually confiding anything to his sister, for
he made it a point of honor to obey his Mephistopheles, had rushed to
her in great excitement to say:--

“My dearest girl” (he always touched her heart with those caressing
words), “we shall have some big-wigs at dinner to-day. I’m going to ask
the Minards; therefore take pains about your dinner. I have written to
Monsieur and Madame Phellion; it is rather late; but there’s no need of
ceremony with them. As for the Minards, I must throw a little dust in
their eyes; I have a particular need of them.”

“Four Minards, three Phellions, four Collevilles, and ourselves; that
makes thirteen--”

“La Peyrade, fourteen; and it is worth while to invite Dutocq; he may be
useful to us. I’ll go up and see him.”

“What are you scheming?” cried his sister. “Fifteen to dinner! There’s
forty francs, at the very least, waltzing off.”

“You won’t regret them, my dearest. I want you to be particularly
agreeable to our young friend, la Peyrade. There’s a friend, indeed!
you’ll soon have proofs of that! If you love me, cosset him well.”

So saying, he departed, leaving Brigitte bewildered.

“Proofs, indeed! yes, I’ll look out for proofs,” she said. “I’m not to
be caught with fine words, not I! He is an amiable fellow; but before I
take him into my heart I shall study him a little closer.”

After inviting Dutocq, Thuillier, having bedizened himself, went to the
hotel Minard, rue des Macons-Sorbonne, to capture the stout Zelie, and
gloss over the shortness of the invitation.

Minard had purchased one of those large and sumptuous habitations which
the old religious orders built about the Sorbonne, and as Thuillier
mounted the broad stone steps with an iron balustrade, that proved how
arts of the second class flourished under Louis XIII., he envied both
the mansion and its occupant,--the mayor.

This vast building, standing between a courtyard and garden, is
noticeable as a specimen of the style, both noble and elegant, of the
reign of Louis XIII., coming singularly, as it did, between the bad
taste of the expiring renaissance and the heavy grandeur of Louis XIV.,
at its dawn. This transition period is shown in many public buildings.
The massive scroll-work of several facades--that of the Sorbonne, for
instance,--and columns rectified according to the rules of Grecian art,
were beginning to appear in this architecture.

A grocer, a lucky adulterator, now took the place of the former
ecclesiastical governor of an institution called in former times
L’Economat; an establishment connected with the general agency of the
old French clergy, and founded by the long-sighted genius of Richelieu.
Thuillier’s name opened for him the doors of the salon, where sat
enthroned in velvet and gold, amid the most magnificent “Chineseries,”
 the poor woman who weighed with all her avoirdupois on the hearts and
minds of princes and princesses at the “popular balls” of the palace.

“Isn’t she a good subject for ‘La Caricature’?” said a so-called lady
of the bedchamber to a duchess, who could hardly help laughing at the
aspect of Zelie, glittering with diamonds, red as a poppy, squeezed into
a gold brocade, and rolling along like the casts of her former shop.

“Will you pardon me, fair lady,” began Thuillier, twisting his body,
and pausing in pose number two of his imperial repertory, “for having
allowed this invitation to remain in my desk, thinking, all the while,
that it was sent? It is for to-day, but perhaps I am too late?”

Zelie examined her husband’s face as he approached them to receive
Thuillier; then she said:--

“We intended to drive into the country and dine at some chance
restaurant; but we’ll give up that idea and all the more readily
because, in my opinion, it is getting devilishly vulgar to drive out of
Paris on Sundays.”

“We will have a little dance to the piano for the young people, if
enough come, as I hope they will. I have sent a line to Phellion, whose
wife is intimate with Madame Pron, the successor--”

“Successor_ess_,” interrupted Madame Minard.

“No,” said Thuillier, “it ought to be success’ress; just as we say
may’ress, dropping the O, you know.”

“Is it full dress?” asked Madame Minard.

“Heavens! no,” replied Thuillier; “you would get me finely scolded by my
sister. No, it is only a family party. Under the Empire, madame, we all
devoted ourselves to dancing. At that great epoch of our national life
they thought as much of a fine dancer as they did of a good soldier.
Nowadays the country is so matter-of-fact.”

“Well, we won’t talk politics,” said the mayor, smiling. “The King is
grand; he is very able. I have a deep admiration for my own time, and
for the institutions which we have given to ourselves. The King, you
may be sure, knows very well what he is doing by the development of
industries. He is struggling hand to hand against England; and we are
doing him more harm during this fruitful peace than all the wars of the
Empire would have done.”

“What a deputy Minard would make!” cried Zelie, naively. “He practises
speechifying at home. You’ll help us to get him elected, won’t you,
Thuillier?”

“We won’t talk politics now,” replied Thuillier. “Come at five.”

“Will that little Vinet be there?” asked Minard; “he comes, no doubt,
for Celeste.”

“Then he may go into mourning,” replied Thuillier. “Brigitte won’t hear
of him.”

Zelie and Minard exchanged a smile of satisfaction.

“To think that we must hob-nob with such common people, all for the sake
of our son!” cried Zelie, when Thuillier was safely down the staircase,
to which the mayor had accompanied him.

“Ha! he thinks to be deputy!” thought Thuillier, as he walked away.
“These grocers! nothing satisfies them. Heavens! what would Napoleon
say if he could see the government in the hands of such people! I’m a
trained administrator, at any rate. What a competitor, to be sure! I
wonder what la Peyrade will say?”

The ambitious ex-beau now went to invite the whole Laudigeois family for
the evening, after which he went to the Collevilles’, to make sure that
Celeste should wear a becoming gown. He found Flavie rather pensive. She
hesitated about coming, but Thuillier overcame her indecision.

“My old and ever young friend,” he said, taking her round the waist, for
she was alone in her little salon, “I won’t have any secret from you. A
great affair is in the wind for me. I can’t tell you more than that, but
I can ask you to be particularly charming to a certain young man--”

“Who is it?”

“La Peyrade.”

“Why, Charles?”

“He holds my future in his hands. Besides, he’s a man of genius. I know
what that is. He’s got this sort of thing,”--and Thuillier made the
gesture of a dentist pulling out a back tooth. “We must bind him to us,
Flavie. But, above all, don’t let him see his power. As for me, I shall
just give and take with him.”

“Do you want me to be coquettish?”

“Not too much so, my angel,” replied Thuillier, with a foppish air.

And he departed, not observing the stupor which overcame Flavie.

“That young man is a power,” she said to herself. “Well, we shall see!”

For these reasons she dressed her hair with marabouts, put on her
prettiest gown of gray and pink, which allowed her fine shoulders to be
seen beneath a pelerine of black lace, and took care to keep Celeste
in a little silk frock made with a yoke and a large plaited collarette,
telling her to dress her hair plainly, a la Berthe.



CHAPTER VIII. AD MAJOREM THEODOSIS GLORIAM

At half-past four o’clock Theodose was at his post. He had put on his
vacant, half-servile manner and soft voice, and he drew Thuillier at
once into the garden.

“My friend,” he said, “I don’t doubt your triumph, but I feel the
necessity of again warning you to be absolutely silent. If you are
questioned about anything, especially about Celeste, make evasive
answers which will keep your questioners in suspense. You must have
learned how to do that in a government office.”

“I understand!” said Thuillier. “But what certainty have you?”

“You’ll see what a fine dessert I have prepared for you. But please
be modest. There come the Minards; let me pipe to them. Bring them out
here, and then disappear yourself.”

After the first salutations, la Peyrade was careful to keep close to the
mayor, and presently at an opportune moment he drew him aside to say:--

“Monsieur le maire, a man of your political importance doesn’t come to
bore himself in a house of this kind without an object. I don’t want to
fathom your motives--which, indeed, I have no right to do--and my part
in this world is certainly not to mingle with earthly powers; but please
pardon my apparent presumption, and deign to listen to a piece of advice
which I shall venture to give you. If I do you a service to-day you are
in a position to return it to me to-morrow; therefore, in case I should
be so fortunate as to do you a good turn, I am really only obeying the
law of self-interest. Our friend Thuillier is in despair at being
a nobody; he has taken it into his head that he wants to become a
personage in this arrondissement--”

“Ah! ah!” exclaimed Minard.

“Oh! nothing very exalted; he wants to be elected to the municipal
council. Now, I know that Phellion, seeing the influence such a service
would have on his family interests, intends to propose your poor
friend as candidate. Well, perhaps you might think it wise, in your own
interests, to be beforehand with him. Thuillier’s nomination could only
be favorable for you--I mean agreeable; and he’ll fill his place in the
council very well; there are some there who are not as strong as he.
Besides, owing to his place to your support, he will see with your eyes;
he already looks to you as one of the lights of the town.”

“My dear fellow, I thank you very much,” replied Minard. “You are doing
me a service I cannot sufficiently acknowledge, and which proves to
me--”

“That I don’t like those Phellions,” said la Peyrade, taking advantage
of a slight hesitation on the part of the mayor, who feared to express
an idea in which the lawyer might see contempt. “I hate people who make
capital out of their honesty and coin money from fine sentiments.”

“You know them well,” said Minard; “they are sycophants. That man’s
whole life for the last ten years is explained by this bit of red
ribbon,” added the mayor, pointing to his own buttonhole.

“Take care!” said the lawyer, “his son is in love with Celeste, and he’s
fairly in the heart of the family.”

“Yes, but my son has twelve thousand a year in his own right.”

“Oh!” said Theodose, with a start, “Mademoiselle Brigitte was saying the
other day that she wanted at least as much as that in Celeste’s suitor.
Moreover, six months hence you’ll probably hear that Thuillier has a
property worth forty thousand francs a year.”

“The devil! well, I thought as much. Yes, certainly, he shall be made a
member of the municipal council.”

“In any case, don’t say anything about me to him,” said the advocate of
the poor, who now hastened away to speak to Madame Phellion. “Well, my
fair lady,” he said, when he reached her, “have you succeeded?”

“I waited till four o’clock, and then that worthy and excellent man
would not let me finish what I had to say. He is much to busy to accept
such an office, and he sent a letter which Monsieur Phellion has read,
saying that he, Doctor Bianchon, thanked him for his good intentions,
and assured him that his own candidate was Monsieur Thuillier. He said
that he should use all his influence in his favor, and begged my husband
to do the same.”

“And what did your excellent husband say?”

“‘I have done my duty,’ he said. ‘I have not been false to my
conscience, and now I am all for Thuillier.’”

“Well, then, the thing is settled,” said la Peyrade. “Ignore my visit,
and take all the credit of the idea to yourselves.”

Then he went to Madame Colleville, composing himself in the attitude and
manner of the deepest respect.

“Madame,” he said, “have the goodness to send out to me here that kindly
papa Colleville. A surprise is to be given to Monsieur Thuillier, and I
want Monsieur Colleville to be in the secret.”

While la Peyrade played the part of man of the world with Colleville,
and allowed himself various witty sarcasms when explaining to him
Thuillier’s candidacy, telling him he ought to support it, if only
to exhibit his incapacity, Flavie was listening in the salon to the
following conversation, which bewildered her for the moment and made her
ears ring.

“I should like to know what Monsieur Colleville and Monsieur de la
Peyrade can be saying to each other to make them laugh like that,” said
Madame Thuillier, foolishly, looking out of the window.

“A lot of improper things, as men always do when they talk together,”
 replied Mademoiselle Thuillier, who often attacked men with the sort of
instinct natural to old maids.

“No, they are incapable of that,” said Phellion, gravely. “Monsieur de
la Peyrade is one of the most virtuous young men I have ever met.
People know what I think of Felix; well, I put the two on the same line;
indeed, I wish my son had a little more of Monsieur de la Peyrade’s
beautiful piety.”

“You are right; he is a man of great merit, who is sure to succeed,”
 said Minard. “As for me, my suffrages--for I really ought not to say
protection--are his.”

“He pays more for oil than for bread,” said Dutocq. “I know that.”

“His mother, if he has the happiness to still possess her, must be proud
of him,” remarked Madame Thuillier, sententiously.

“He is a real treasure for us,” said Thuillier. “If you only knew how
modest he is! He doesn’t do himself justice.”

“I can answer for one thing,” added Dutocq; “no young man ever
maintained a nobler attitude in poverty; he triumphed over it; but he
suffered--it is easy to see that.”

“Poor young man!” cried Zelie. “Such things make my heart ache!”

“Any one could safely trust both secrets and fortune to him,” said
Thuillier; “and in these days that is the finest thing that can be said
of a man.”

“It is Colleville who is making him laugh,” cried Dutocq.

Just then Colleville and la Peyrade returned from the garden the very
best friends in the world.

“Messieurs,” said Brigitte, “the soup and the King must never be kept
waiting; give your hand to the ladies.”

Five minutes after this little pleasantry (issuing from the lodge of
her father the porter) Brigitte had the satisfaction of seeing her table
surrounded by the principal personages of this drama; the rest, with the
one exception of the odious Cerizet, arrived later.

The portrait of the former maker of canvas money-bags would be
incomplete if we omitted to give a description of one of her best
dinners. The physiognomy of the bourgeois cook of 1840 is, moreover,
one of those details essentially necessary to a history of manners and
customs, and clever housewives may find some lessons in it. A woman
doesn’t make empty bags for twenty years without looking out for
the means to fill a few of them. Now Brigitte had one peculiar
characteristic. She united the economy to which she owed her fortune
with a full understanding of necessary expenses. Her relative
prodigality, when it concerned her brother or Celeste, was the antipodes
of avarice. In fact, she often bemoaned herself that she couldn’t be
miserly. At her last dinner she had related how, after struggling ten
minute and enduring martyrdom, she had ended by giving ten francs to a
poor workwoman whom she knew, positively, had been without food for two
days.

“Nature,” she said naively, “is stronger than reason.”

The soup was a rather pale bouillon; for, even on an occasion like this,
the cook had been enjoined to make a great deal of bouillon out of the
beef supplied. Then, as the said beef was to feed the family on the next
day and the day after that, the less juice it expended in the bouillon,
the more substantial were the subsequent dinners. The beef, little
cooked, was always taken away at the following speech from Brigitte,
uttered as soon as Thuillier put his knife into it:--

“I think it is rather tough; send it away, Thuillier, nobody will eat
it; we have other things.”

The soup was, in fact, flanked by four viands mounted on old hot-water
chafing-dishes, with the plating worn off. At this particular dinner
(afterwards called that of the candidacy) the first course consisted
of a pair of ducks with olives, opposite to which was a large pie with
forcemeat balls, while a dish of eels “a la tartare” corresponded in
like manner with a fricandeau on chicory. The second course had for its
central dish a most dignified goose stuffed with chestnuts, a salad of
vegetables garnished with rounds of beetroot opposite to custards in
cups, while lower down a dish of turnips “au sucre” faced a timbale of
macaroni. This gala dinner of the concierge type cost, at the utmost,
twenty francs, and the remains of the feast provided the household for a
couple of days; nevertheless, Brigitte would say:--

“Pest! when one has to have company how the money goes! It is fearful!”

The table was lighted by two hideous candlesticks of plated silver with
four branches each, in which shone eight of those thrifty wax-candles
that go by the name of Aurora. The linen was dazzling in whiteness,
and the silver, with beaded edges, was the fruit, evidently, of some
purchase made during the Revolution by Thuillier’s father. Thus the fare
and the service were in keeping with the house, the dining-room, and
the Thuilliers themselves, who could never, under any circumstances, get
themselves above this style of living. The Minards, Collevilles, and
la Peyrade exchanged now and then a smile which betrayed their mutually
satirical but repressed thoughts. La Peyrade, seated beside Flavie,
whispered in her ear:--

“You must admit that they ought to be taught how to live. But those
Minards are no better in their way. What cupidity! they’ve come here
solely after Celeste. Your daughter will be lost to you if you let them
have her. These parvenus have all the vices of the great lords of other
days without their elegance. Minard’s son, who has twelve thousand
francs a year of his own, could very well find a wife elsewhere, instead
of pushing his speculating rake in here. What fun it would be to play
upon those people as one would on a bass-viol or a clarionet!”

While the dishes of the second course were being removed, Minard, afraid
that Phellion would precede him, said to Thuillier with a grave air:--

“My dear Thuillier, in accepting your dinner, I did so for the purpose
of making an important communication, which does you so much honor that
all here present ought to be made participants in it.”

Thuillier turned pale.

“Have you obtained the cross for me?” he cried, on receiving a glance
from Theodose, and wishing to prove that he was not without craft.

“You will doubtless receive it ere long,” replied the mayor. “But the
matter now relates to something better than that. The cross is a favor
due to the good opinion of a minister, whereas the present question
concerns an election due to the consent of your fellow citizens. In a
word, a sufficiently large number of electors in your arrondissement
have cast their eyes upon you, and wish to honor you with their
confidence by making you the representative of this arrondissement
in the municipal council of Paris; which, as everybody knows, is the
Council-general of the Seine.”

“Bravo!” cried Dutocq.

Phellion rose.

“Monsieur le maire has forestalled me,” he said in an agitated voice,
“but it is so flattering for our friend to be the object of eagerness on
the part of all good citizens, and to obtain the public vote of high
and low, that I cannot complain of being obliged to come second only;
therefore, all honor to the initiatory authority!” (Here he bowed
respectfully to Minard.) “Yes, Monsieur Thuillier, many electors think
of giving you their votes in that portion of the arrondissement where
I keep my humble penates; and you have the special advantage of being
suggested to their minds by a distinguished man.” (Sensation.) “By a man
in whose person we desired to honor one of the most virtuous inhabitants
of the arrondissement, who for twenty years, I may say, was the father
of it. I allude to the late Monsieur Popinot, counsellor, during his
lifetime, to the Royal court, and our delegate in the municipal council
of Paris. But his nephew, of whom I speak, Doctor Bianchon, one of
our glories, has, in view of his absorbing duties, declined the
responsibility with which we sought to invest him. While thanking us for
our compliment he has--take note of this--indicated for our suffrages
the candidate of Monsieur le maire as being, in his opinion, capable,
owing to the position he formerly occupied, of exercising the
magisterial functions of the aedileship.”

And Phellion sat down amid approving murmurs.

“Thuillier, you can count on me, your old friend,” said Colleville.

At this moment the guests were sincerely touched by the sight presented
of old Mademoiselle Brigitte and Madame Thuillier. Brigitte, pale as
though she were fainting, was letting the slow tears run, unheeded,
down her cheeks, tears of deepest joy; while Madame Thuillier sat, as if
struck by lightning, with her eyes fixed. Suddenly the old maid darted
into the kitchen, crying out to Josephine the cook:--

“Come into the cellar my girl, we must get out the wine behind the
wood!”

“My friends,” said Thuillier, in a shaking voice, “this is the finest
moment of my life, finer than even the day of my election, should
I consent to allow myself to be presented to the suffrages of my
fellow-citizens” (“You must! you must!”); “for I feel myself much worn
down by thirty years of public service, and, as you may well believe, a
man of honor has need to consult his strength and his capacities before
he takes upon himself the functions of the aedileship.”

“I expected nothing less of you, Monsieur Thuillier,” cried Phellion.
“Pardon me; this is the first time in my life that I have ever
interrupted a superior; but there are circumstances--”

“Accept! accept!” cried Zelie. “Bless my soul! what we want are men like
you to govern us.”

“Resign yourself, my chief!” cried Dutocq, and, “Long live the future
municipal councillor! but we haven’t anything to drink--”

“Well, the thing is settled,” said Minard; “you are to be our
candidate.”

“You think too much of me,” replied Thuillier.

“Come, come!” cried Colleville. “A man who has done thirty years in the
galleys of the ministry of finance is a treasure to the town.”

“You are much too modest,” said the younger Minard; “your capacity is
well known to us; it remains a tradition at the ministry of finance.”

“As you all insist--” began Thuillier.

“The King will be pleased with our choice; I can assure you of that,”
 said Minard, pompously.

“Gentlemen,” said la Peyrade, “will you permit a recent dweller in the
faubourg Saint-Jacques to make one little remark, which is not without
importance?”

The consciousness that everybody had of the sterling merits of the
advocate of the poor produced the deepest silence.

“The influence of Monsieur le maire of an adjoining arrondissement,
which is immense in ours where he has left such excellent memories;
that of Monsieur Phellion, the oracle--yes, let the truth be spoken,”
 he exclaimed, noticing a gesture made by Phellion--“the _oracle_ of his
battalion; the influence, no less powerful, which Monsieur Colleville
owes to the frank heartiness of his manner, and to his urbanity; that of
Monsieur Dutocq, the clerk of the justice court, which will not be less
efficacious, I am sure; and the poor efforts which I can offer in my
humble sphere of activity,--are pledges of success, but they are not
success itself. To obtain a rapid triumph we should pledge ourselves,
now and here, to keep the deepest secrecy on the manifestation of
sentiments which has just taken place. Otherwise, we should excite,
without knowing or willing it, envy and all the other secondary
passions, which would create for us later various obstacles to overcome.
The political meaning of the new social organization, its very basis,
its token, and the guarantee for its continuance, are in a certain
sharing of the governing power with the middle classes, classes who are
the true strength of modern societies, the centre of morality, of
all good sentiments and intelligent work. But we cannot conceal from
ourselves that the principle of election, extended now to almost every
function, has brought the interests of ambition, and the passion for
being _something_, excuse the word, into social depths where they ought
never to have penetrated. Some see good in this; others see evil; it
is not my place to judge between them in presence of minds before whose
eminence I bow. I content myself by simply suggesting this question in
order to show the dangers which the banner of our friend must meet. See
for yourselves! the decease of our late honorable representative in
the municipal council dates back scarcely one week, and already the
arrondissement is being canvassed by inferior ambitions. Such men put
themselves forward to be seen at any price. The writ of convocation
will, probably, not take effect for a month to come. Between now and
then, imagine the intrigues! I entreat you not to expose our friend
Thuillier to the blows of his competitors; let us not deliver him over
to public discussion, that modern harpy which is but the trumpet of envy
and calumny, the pretext seized by malevolence to belittle all that is
great, soil all that is immaculate and dishonor whatever is sacred. Let
us, rather, do as the Third Party is now doing in the Chamber,--keep
silence and vote!”

“He speaks well,” said Phellion to his neighbor Dutocq.

“And how strong the statement is!”

Envy had turned Minard and his son green and yellow.

“That is well said and very true,” remarked Minard.

“Unanimously adopted!” cried Colleville. “Messieurs, we are men of
honor; it suffices to understand each other on this point.”

“Whoso desires the end accepts the means,” said Phellion, emphatically.

At this moment, Mademoiselle Thuillier reappeared, followed by her two
servants; the key of the cellar was hanging from her belt, and three
bottles of champagne, three of hermitage, and one bottle of malaga were
placed upon the table. She herself was carrying, with almost respectful
care, a smaller bottle, like a fairy Carabosse, which she placed before
her. In the midst of the hilarity caused by this abundance of excellent
things--a fruit of gratitude, which the poor spinster in the delirium
of her joy poured out with a profusion which put to shame the sparing
hospitality of her usual fortnightly dinners--numerous dessert dishes
made their appearance: mounds of almonds, raisins, figs, and nuts
(popularly known as the “four beggars”), pyramids of oranges,
confections, crystallized fruits, brought from the hidden depths of her
cupboards, which would never have figured on the table-cloth had it not
been for the “candidacy.”

“Celeste, they will bring you a bottle of brandy which my father
obtained in 1802; make an orange-salad!” cried Brigitte to her
sister-in-law. “Monsieur Phellion, open the champagne; that bottle is
for you three. Monsieur Dutocq, take this one. Monsieur Colleville, you
know how to pop corks!”

The two maids distributed champagne glasses, also claret glasses, and
wine glasses. Josephine also brought three more bottles of Bordeaux.

“The year of the comet!” cried Thuillier, laughing, “Messieurs, you have
turned my sister’s head.”

“And this evening you shall have punch and cakes,” she said. “I have
sent to the chemists for some tea. Heavens! if I had only known the
affair concerned an election,” she cried, looking at her sister-in-law,
“I’d have served the turkey.”

A general laugh welcomed this speech.

“We have a goose!” said Minard junior.

“The carts are unloading!” cried Madame Thuillier, as “marrons glaces”
 and “meringues” were placed upon the table.

Mademoiselle Thuillier’s face was blazing. She was really superb to
behold. Never did sisterly love assume such a frenzied expression.

“To those who know her, it is really touching,” remarked Madame
Colleville.

The glasses were filled. The guests all looked at one another, evidently
expecting a toast, whereupon la Peyrade said:--

“Messieurs, let us drink to something sublime.”

Everybody looked curious.

“To Mademoiselle Brigitte!”

They all rose, clinked glasses, and cried with one voice, “Mademoiselle
Brigitte!” so much enthusiasm did the exhibition of a true feeling
excite.

“Messieurs,” said Phellion, reading from a paper written in pencil, “To
work and its splendors, in the person of our former comrade, now become
one of the mayors of Paris,--to Monsieur Minard and his wife!”

After five minutes’ general conversation Thuillier rose and said:--

“Messieurs, To the King and the royal family! I add nothing; the toast
says all.”

“To the election of my brother!” said Mademoiselle Thuillier a moment
later.

“Now I’ll make you laugh,” whispered la Peyrade in Flavie’s ear.

And he rose.

“To Woman!” he said; “that enchanting sex to whom we owe our
happiness,--not to speak of our mothers, our sisters, and our wives!”

This toast excited general hilarity, and Colleville, already somewhat
gay, exclaimed:--

“Rascal! you have stolen my speech!”

The mayor then rose; profound silence reigned.

“Messieurs, our institutions! from which come the strength and grandeur
of dynastic France!”

The bottles disappeared amid a chorus of admiration as to the marvellous
goodness and delicacy of their contents.

Celeste Colleville here said timidly:--

“Mamma, will you permit me to give a toast?”

The good girl had noticed the dull, bewildered look of her godmother,
neglected and forgotten,--she, the mistress of that house, wearing
almost the expression of a dog that is doubtful which master to
obey, looking from the face of her terrible sister-in-law to that of
Thuillier, consulting each countenance, and oblivious of herself; but
joy on the face of that poor helot, accustomed to be nothing, to repress
her ideas, her feelings, had the effect of a pale wintry sun behind a
mist; it barely lighted her faded, flabby flesh. The gauze cap trimmed
with dingy flowers, the hair ill-dressed, the gloomy brown gown, with
no ornament but a thick gold chain--all, combined with the expression
of her countenance, stimulated the affection of the young Celeste,
who--alone in the world--knew the value of that woman condemned to
silence but aware of all about her, suffering from all yet consoling
herself in God and in the girl who now was watching her.

“Yes, let the dear child give us her little toast,” said la Peyrade to
Madame Colleville.

“Go on, my daughter,” cried Colleville; “here’s the hermitage still to
be drunk--and it’s hoary with age,” he added.

“To my kind godmother!” said the girl, lowering her glass respectfully
before Madame Thuillier, and holding it towards her.

The poor woman, startled, looked through a veil of tears first at her
husband, and then at Brigitte; but her position in the family was so
well known, and the homage paid by innocence to weakness had something
so beautiful about it, that the emotion was general; the men all rose
and bowed to Madame Thuillier.

“Ah! Celeste, I would I had a kingdom to lay at your feet,” murmured
Felix Phellion.

The worthy Phellion wiped away a tear. Dutocq himself was moved.

“Oh! the charming child!” cried Mademoiselle Thuillier, rising, and
going round to kiss her sister-in-law.

“My turn now!” said Colleville, posing like an athlete. “Now listen: To
friendship! Empty your glasses; refill your glasses. Good! To the
fine arts,--the flower of social life! Empty your glasses; refill your
glasses. To another such festival on the day after election!”

“What is that little bottle you have there?” said Dutocq to Mademoiselle
Thuillier.

“That,” she said, “is one of my three bottles of Madame Amphoux’
liqueur; the second is for the day of Celeste’s marriage; the third for
the day on which her first child is baptized.”

“My sister is losing her head,” remarked Thuillier to Colleville.

The dinner ended with a toast, offered by Thuillier, but suggested to
him by Theodose at the moment when the malaga sparkled in the little
glasses like so many rubies.

“Colleville, messieurs, has drunk to _friendship_. I now drink, in this
most generous wine, To my friends!”

An hurrah, full of heartiness, greeted that fine sentiment, but Dutocq
remarked aside to Theodose:--

“It is a shame to pour such wine down the throats of such people.”

“Ah! if we could only make such wine as that!” cried Zelie, making her
glass ring by the way in which she sucked down the Spanish liquid. “What
fortunes we could get!”

Zelie had now reached her highest point of incandescence, and was really
alarming.

“Yes,” replied Minard, “but ours is made.”

“Don’t you think, sister,” said Brigitte to Madame Thuillier, “that we
had better take coffee in the salon?”

Madame Thuillier obediently assumed the air of mistress of the house,
and rose.

“Ah! you are a great wizard,” said Flavie Colleville, accepting la
Peyrade’s arm to return to the salon.

“And yet I care only to bewitch you,” he answered. “I think you more
enchanting than ever this evening.”

“Thuillier,” she said, to evade the subject, “Thuillier made to think
himself a political character! oh! oh!”

“But, my dear Flavie, half the absurdities of life are the result of
such conspiracies; and men are not alone in these deceptions. In how
many families one sees the husband, children, and friends persuading a
silly mother that she is a woman of sense, or an old woman of fifty that
she is young and beautiful. Hence, inconceivable contrarieties for
those who go about the world with their eyes shut. One man owes his
ill-savored conceit to the flattery of a mistress; another owes his
versifying vanity to those who are paid to call him a great poet.
Every family has its great man; and the result is, as we see it in the
Chamber, general obscurity of the lights of France. Well, men of real
mind are laughing to themselves about it, that’s all. You are the mind
and the beauty of this little circle of the petty bourgeoisie; it is
this superiority which led me in the first instance to worship you. I
have since longed to drag you out of it; for I love you sincerely--more
in friendship than in love; though a great deal of love is gliding into
it,” he added, pressing her to his heart under cover of the recess of a
window to which he had taken her.

“Madame Phellion will play the piano,” cried Colleville. “We must all
dance to-night--bottles and Brigitte’s francs and all the little girls!
I’ll go and fetch my clarionet.”

He gave his empty coffee-cup to his wife, smiling to see her so friendly
with la Peyrade.

“What have you said and done to my husband?” asked Flavie, when
Colleville had left them.

“Must I tell you all our secrets?”

“Ah! you don’t love me,” she replied, looking at him with the coquettish
slyness of a woman who is not quite decided in her mind.

“Well, since you tell me yours,” he said, letting himself go to the
lively impulse of Provencal gaiety, always so charming and apparently so
natural, “I will not conceal from you an anxiety in my heart.”

He took her back to the same window and said, smiling:--

“Colleville, poor man, has seen in me the artist repressed by all these
bourgeois; silent before them because I feel misjudged, misunderstood,
and repelled by them. He has felt the heat of the sacred fire that
consumes me. Yes I am,” he continued, in a tone of conviction, “an
artist in words after the manner of Berryer; I could make juries weep,
by weeping myself, for I’m as nervous as a woman. Your husband, who
detests the bourgeoisie, began to tease me about them. At first we
laughed; then, in becoming serious, he found out that I was as strong as
he. I told him of the plan concocted to make _something_ of Thuillier,
and I showed him all the good he could get himself out of a political
puppet. ‘If it were only,’ I said to him, ‘to make yourself Monsieur
_de_ Colleville, and to put your charming wife where I should like to
see her, as the wife of a receiver-general, or deputy. To make yourself
all that you and she ought to be, you have only to go and live a few
years in the Upper or Lower Alps, in some hole of a town where everybody
will like you, and your wife will seduce everybody; and this,’ I added,
‘you cannot fail to obtain, especially if you give your dear Celeste to
some man who can influence the Chamber.’ Good reasons, stated in jest,
have the merit of penetrating deeper into some minds than if they were
given soberly. So Colleville and I became the best friends in the world.
Didn’t you hear him say to me at table, ‘Rascal! you have stolen my
speech’? To-night we shall be theeing and thouing each other. I intend
to have a choice little supper-party soon, where artists, tied to the
proprieties at home, always compromise themselves. I’ll invite him,
and that will make us as solidly good friends as he is with Thuillier.
There, my dear adorned one, is what a profound sentiment gives a man the
courage to produce. Colleville must adopt me; so that I may visit your
house by his invitation. But what couldn’t you make me do? lick lepers,
swallow live toads, seduce Brigitte--yes, if you say so, I’ll impale my
own heart on that great picket-rail to please you.”

“You frightened me this morning,” she said.

“But this evening you are reassured. Yes,” he added, “no harm will ever
happen to you through me.”

“You are, I must acknowledge, a most extraordinary man.”

“Why, no! the smallest as well as the greatest of my efforts are merely
the reflections of the flame which you have kindled. I intend to be your
son-in-law that we may never part. My wife, heavens! what could she be
to me but a machine for child-bearing? whereas the divinity, the sublime
being will be--you,” he whispered in her ear.

“You are Satan!” she said, in a sort of terror.

“No, I am something of a poet, like all the men of my region. Come,
be my Josephine! I’ll go and see you to-morrow. I have the most ardent
desire to see where you live and how you live, the furniture you use,
the color of your stuffs, the arrangement of all things about you. I
long to see the pearl in its shell.”

He slipped away cleverly after these words, without waiting for an
answer.

Flavie, to whom in all her life love had never taken the language of
romance, sat still, but happy, her heart palpitating, and saying to
herself that it was very difficult to escape such influence. For the
first time Theodose had appeared in a pair of new trousers, with gray
silk stockings and pumps, a waistcoat of black silk, and a cravat of
black satin on the knot of which shone a plain gold pin selected with
taste. He wore also a new coat in the last fashion, and yellow gloves,
relieved by white shirt-cuffs; he was the only man who had manners, or
deportment in that salon, which was now filling up for the evening.

Madame Pron, nee Barniol, arrived with two school-girls, aged seventeen,
confided to her maternal care by families residing in Martinique.
Monsieur Pron, professor of rhetoric in a college presided over by
priests, belonged to the Phellion class; but, instead of expanding on
the surface in phrases and demonstrations, and posing as an example, he
was dry and sententious. Monsieur and Madame Pron, the flowers of the
Phellion salon, received every Monday. Though a professor, the little
man danced. He enjoyed great influence in the quarter enclosed by the
boulevard du Mont-Parnasse, the Luxembourg, and the rue de Sevres.
Therefore, as soon as Phellion saw his friend, he took him by the
arm into a corner to inform him of the Thuillier candidacy. After ten
minutes’ consultation they both went to find Thuillier, and the recess
of a window, opposite to that where Flavie still sat absorbed in her
reflections, no doubt, heard a “trio” worthy, in its way, of that of the
Swiss in “Guillaume Tell.”

“Do you see,” said Theodose, returning to Flavie, “the pure and honest
Phellion intriguing over there? Give a personal reason to a virtuous man
and he’ll paddle in the slimiest puddle; he is hooking that little Pron,
and Pron is taking it all in, solely to get your little Celeste for
Felix Phellion. Separate them, and in ten minutes they’ll get together
again, and that young Minard will be growling round them like an angry
bulldog.”

Felix, still under the strong emotion imparted to him by Celeste’s
generous action and the cry that came from the girl’s heart, though no
one but Madame Thuillier still thought of it, became inspired by one of
those ingenuous artfulnesses which are the honest charlatanism of
true love; but he was not to the manner born of it, and mathematics,
moreover, made him somewhat absent-minded. He stationed himself near
Madame Thuillier, imagining that Madame Thuillier would attract Celeste
to her side. This astute calculation succeeded all the better because
young Minard, who saw in Celeste nothing more than a “dot,” had no such
sudden inspiration, and was drinking his coffee and talking politics
with Laudigeois, Monsieur Barniol, and Dutocq by order of his
father, who was thinking and planning for the general election of the
legislature in 1842.

“Who wouldn’t love Celeste?” said Felix to Madame Thuillier.

“Little darling, no one in the world loves me as she does,” replied the
poor slave, with difficulty restraining her tears.

“Ah! madame, we both love you,” said the candid professor, sincerely.

“What are you saying to each other?” asked Celeste, coming up.

“My child,” said the pious woman, drawing her god-daughter down to her
and kissing her on the forehead. “He said that you both loved me.”

“Do not be angry with my presumption, mademoiselle. Let me do all I can
to prove it,” murmured Felix. “Ah! I cannot help it, I was made this
way; injustice revolts me to the soul! Yes, the Saviour of men was right
to promise the future to the meek heart, to the slain lamb! A man who
did not love you, Celeste, must have adored you after that sublime
impulse of yours at table. Ah, yes! innocence alone can console the
martyr. You are a kind young girl; you will be one of those wives who
make the glory and the happiness of a family. Happy be he whom you will
choose!”

“Godmamma, with what eyes do you think Monsieur Felix sees me?”

“He appreciates you, my little angel; I shall pray to God for both of
you.”

“If you knew how happy I am that my father can do a service to Monsieur
Thuillier, and how I wish I could be useful to your brother--”

“In short,” said Celeste, laughing, “you love us all.”

“Well, yes,” replied Felix.

True love wraps itself in the mysteries of reserve, even in its
expression; it proves itself by itself; it does not feel the necessity,
as a false love does, of lighting a conflagration. By an observer (if
such a being could have glided into the Thuillier salon) a book might
have been made in comparing the two scenes of love-making, and in
watching the enormous preparations of Theodose and the simplicity of
Felix: one was nature, the other was society,--the true and the false
embodied. Noticing her daughter glowing with happiness, exhaling her
soul through the pores of her face, and beautiful with the beauty of a
young girl gathering the first roses of an indirect declaration, Flavie
had an impulse of jealousy in her heart. She came across to Celeste and
said in her ear:--

“You are not behaving well, my daughter; everybody is observing you; you
are compromising yourself by talking so long to Monsieur Felix without
knowing whether we approve of it.”

“But, mamma, my godmother is here.”

“Ah! pardon me, dear friend,” said Madame Colleville; “I did not notice
you.”

“You do as others do,” said the poor nonentity.

That reply stung Madame Colleville, who regarded it as a barbed arrow.
She cast a haughty glance at Felix and said to Celeste, “Sit there, my
daughter,” seating herself at the same time beside Madame Thuillier and
pointing to a chair on the other side of her.

“I will work myself to death,” said Felix to Madame Thuillier. “I’ll be
a member of the Academy of Sciences; I’ll make some great discovery, and
win her hand by force of fame.”

“Ah!” thought the poor woman to herself, “I ought to have had a gentle,
peaceful, learned man like that. I might have slowly developed in a life
of quietness. It was not thy will, O God! but, I pray thee, unite and
bless these children; they are made for one another.”

And she sat there, pensive, listening to the racket made by her
sister-in-law--a ten-horse power at work--who now, lending a hand to
her two servants, cleared the table, taking everything out of the
dining-room to accommodate the dancers, vociferating, like the captain
of a frigate on his quarter-deck when taking his ship into action: “Have
you plenty of raspberry syrup?” “Run out and buy some more orgeat!”
 “There’s not enough glasses. Where’s the ‘eau rougie’? Take those
six bottles of ‘vin ordinaire’ and make more. Mind that Coffinet, the
porter, doesn’t get any.” “Caroline, my girl, you are to wait at the
sideboard; you’ll have tongue and ham to slice in case they dance till
morning. But mind, no waste! Keep an eye on everything. Pass me the
broom; put more oil in those lamps; don’t make blunders. Arrange the
remains of the dessert so as to make a show on the sideboard; ask my
sister to come and help us. I’m sure I don’t know what she’s thinking
about, that dawdle! Heavens, how slow she is! Here, take away these
chairs, they’ll want all the room they can get.”

The salon was full of Barniols, Collevilles, Phellions, Laudigeois, and
many others whom the announcement of a dance at the Thuilliers’, spread
about in the Luxembourg between two and four in the afternoon, the hour
at which the bourgeoisie takes its walk, had drawn thither.

“Are you ready, Brigitte?” said Colleville, bolting into the
dining-room; “it is nine o’clock, and they are packed as close as
herrings in the salon. Cardot, his wife and son and daughter and future
son-in-law have just come, accompanied by that young Vinet; the whole
faubourg Saint Antoine is debouching. Can’t we move the piano in here?”

Then he gave the signal, by tuning his clarionet, the joyous sounds of
which were greeted with huzzas from the salon.

It is useless to describe a ball of this kind. The toilets, faces,
and conversations were all in keeping with one fact which will surely
suffice even the dullest imagination; they passed round, on tarnished
and discolored trays, common tumblers filled with wine, “eau rougie,”
 and “eau sucree.” The trays on which were glasses of orgeat and glasses
of syrup and water appeared only at long intervals. There were five
card-tables and twenty-five players, and eighteen dancers of both
sexes. At one o’clock in the morning, all present--Madame Thuillier,
Mademoiselle Brigitte, Madame Phellion, even Phellion himself--were
dragged into the vivacities of a country-dance, vulgarly called “La
Boulangere,” in which Dutocq figured with a veil over his head, after
the manner of the Kabyl. The servants who were waiting to escort
their masters home, and those of the household, were audience to this
performance; and after the interminable dance had lasted one whole
hour it was proposed to carry Brigitte in triumph when she gave the
announcement that supper was served. This circumstance made her see
the necessity of hiding a dozen bottles of old burgundy. In short, the
company had amused themselves so well, the matrons as well as the young
girls, that Thuillier found occasion to say:--

“Well, well, this morning we little thought we should have such a fete
to-night.”

“There’s never more pleasure,” said the notary Cardot, “than in just
such improvised balls. Don’t talk to me of parties where everybody
stands on ceremony.”

This opinion, we may remark, is a standing axiom among the bourgeoisie.

“Well, for my part,” said Madame Minard, “I prefer the dignified old
ways.”

“We didn’t mean that for you, madame; your salon is the chosen haunt of
pleasure,” said Dutocq.

When “La Boulangere” came to an end, Theodose pulled Dutocq from the
sideboard where he was preparing to eat a slice of tongue, and said to
him:--

“Let us go; we must be at Cerizet’s very early in the morning; we ought
both of us to think over that affair; it is not so easy to manage as
Cerizet seems to imagine.”

“Why not?” asked Dutocq, bringing his slice of tongue to eat in the
salon.

“Don’t you know the law?”

“I know enough of it to be aware of the dangers of the affair. If that
notary wants the house and we filch it from him, there are means
by which he can recover it; he can put himself into the skin of a
registered creditor. By the present legal system relating to mortgages,
when a house is sold at the request of creditors, if the price obtained
for it at auction is not enough to pay all debts, the owners have the
right to bid it in and hold it for a higher sum; now the notary, seeing
himself caught, may back out of the sale in that way.”

“Well,” said la Peyrade, “it needs attention.”

“Very good,” replied Dutocq, “we’ll go and see Cerizet.”

These words, “go and see Cerizet,” were overheard by Minard, who was
following the two associates; but they offered no meaning to his mind.
The two men were so outside of his own course and projects that he heard
them without listening to them.

“This has been one of the finest days in our lives,” said Brigitte
to her brother, when she found herself alone with him in the deserted
salon, at half-past two in the morning. “What a distinction! to be thus
selected by your fellow-citizens!”

“Don’t be mistaken about it, Brigitte; we owe it all, my child, to one
man.”

“What man?”

“To our friend, la Peyrade.”



CHAPTER IX. THE BANKER OF THE POOR

It was not on the next day, Monday, but on the following day, Tuesday,
that Dutocq and Theodose went to see Cerizet, the former having called
la Peyrade’s attention to the fact that Cerizet always absented himself
on Sundays and Mondays, taking advantage of the total absence of clients
on those days, which are devoted by the populace to debauch. The house
toward which they directed their steps is one of the striking features
in the faubourg Saint-Jacques, and it is quite as important to study it
here as it was to study those of Phellion and Thuillier. It is not known
(true, no commission has yet been appointed to examine this phenomenon),
no one knows why certain quarters become degraded and vulgarized,
morally as well as materially; why, for instance, the ancient residence
of the court and the church, the Luxembourg and the Latin quarter, have
become what they are to-day, in spite of the presence of the finest
palaces in the world, in spite of the bold cupola of Sainte-Genevieve,
that of Mansard on the Val-de-Grace, and the charms of the Jardin des
Plantes. One asks one’s self why the elegance of life has left that
region; why the Vauquer houses, the Phellion and the Thuillier houses
now swarm with tenants and boarders, on the site of so many noble and
religious buildings, and why such mud and dirty trades and poverty
should have fastened on a hilly piece of ground, instead of spreading
out upon the flat land beyond the confines of the ancient city.

The angel whose beneficence once hovered above this quarter being dead,
usury, on the lowest scale, rushed in and took his place. To the old
judge, Popinot, succeeded Cerizet; and strange to say,--a fact which it
is well to study,--the effect produced, socially speaking, was much the
same. Popinot loaned money without interest, and was willing to lose;
Cerizet lost nothing, and compelled the poor to work hard and stay
virtuous. The poor adored Popinot, but they did not hate Cerizet. Here,
in this region, revolves the lowest wheel of Parisian financiering. At
the top, Nucingen & Co., the Kellers, du Tillet, and the Mongenods; a
little lower down, the Palmas, Gigonnets, and Gobsecks; lower still, the
Samonons, Chaboisseaus, and Barbets; and lastly (after the pawn-shops)
comes this king of usury, who spreads his nets at the corners of the
streets to entangle all miseries and miss none,--Cerizet, “money lender
by the little week.”

The frogged frock-coat will have prepared you for the den in which this
convicted stock-broker carried on his present business.

The house was humid with saltpetre; the walls, sweating moisture, were
enamelled all over with large slabs of mould. Standing at the corner
of the rue des Postes and rue des Poules, it presented first a
ground-floor, occupied partly by a shop for the sale of the commonest
kind of wine, painted a coarse bright red, decorated with curtains of
red calico, furnished with a leaden counter, and guarded by formidable
iron bars. Above the gate of an odious alley hung a frightful lantern,
on which were the words “Night lodgings here.” The outer walls were
covered with iron crossbars, showing, apparently, the insecurity of the
building, which was owned by the wine-merchant, who also inhabited the
entresol. The widow Poiret (nee Michonneau) kept furnished lodgings
on the first, second, and third floors, consisting of single rooms for
workmen and for the poorest class of students.

Cerizet occupied one room on the ground-floor and another in the
entresol, to which he mounted by an interior staircase; this entresol
looked out upon a horrible paved court, from which arose mephitic odors.
Cerizet paid forty francs a month to the widow Poiret for his breakfast
and dinner; he thus conciliated her by becoming her boarder; he also
made himself acceptable to the wine-merchant by procuring him an immense
sale of wine and liquors among his clients--profits realized before
sunrise; the wine-shop beginning operations about three in the morning
in summer, and five in winter.

The hour of the great Market, which so many of his clients, male and
female, attended, was the determining cause of Cerizet’s early hours.
The Sieur Cadenet, the wine-merchant, in view of the custom which he
owed to the usurer, had let him the two rooms for the low price of
eighty francs a year, and had given him a lease for twelve years, which
Cerizet alone had a right to break, without paying indemnity, at three
months’ notice. Cadenet always carried in a bottle of excellent wine for
the dinner of this useful tenant; and when Cerizet was short of money
he had only to say to his friend, “Cadenet, lend me a few hundred
francs,”--loans which he faithfully repaid.

Cadenet, it was said, had proof of the widow Poiret having deposited
in Cerizet’s hands some two thousand francs for investment, which may
explain the progress of the latter’s affairs since the day when he
first took up his abode in the quarter, supplied with a last note of a
thousand francs and Dutocq’s protection. Cadenet, prompted by a cupidity
which success increased, had proposed, early in the year, to put twenty
thousand francs into the hands of his friend Cerizet. But Cerizet had
positively declined them, on the ground that he ran risks of a nature to
become a possible cause of dispute with associates.

“I could only,” he said to Cadenet, “take them at six per cent interest,
and you can do better than that in your own business. We will go into
partnership later, if you like, in some serious enterprise, some good
opportunity which may require, say, fifty thousand francs. When you have
got that sum to invest, let me know, and we’ll talk about it.”

Cerizet had only suggested the affair of the house to Theodose after
making sure that among the three, Madame Poiret, Cadenet, and himself,
it was impossible to raise the full sum of one hundred thousand francs.

The “lender by the little week” was thus in perfect safety in his den,
where he could even, if necessity came, appeal to the law. On certain
mornings there might be seen as many as sixty or eighty persons, men as
often as women, either in the wine-shop, or the alley, or sitting on the
staircase, for the distrustful Cerizet would only admit six persons at
a time into his office. The first comers were first served, and each had
to go by his number, which the wine-merchant, or his shop-boy, affixed
to the hats of the man and the backs of the women. Sometimes the clients
would sell to each other (as hackney-coachmen do on the cabstands), head
numbers for tail numbers. On certain days, when the market business was
pressing, a head number was often sold for a glass of brandy and a
sou. The numbers, as they issued from Cerizet’s office, called up the
succeeding numbers; and if any disputes arose Cadenet put a stop to the
fray at once my remarking:--

“If you get the police here you won’t gain anything; _he_‘ll shut up
shop.”

HE was Cerizet’s name. When, in the course of the day, some hapless
woman, without an atom of food in her room, and seeing her children pale
with hunger, would come to borrow ten or twenty sous, she would say to
the wine-merchant anxiously:--

“Is _he_ there?”

Cadenet, a short, stout man, dressed in blue, with outer sleeves of
black stuff and a wine-merchant’s apron, and always wearing a cap,
seemed an angel to these mothers when he replied to them:--

“_He_ told me that you were an honest woman and I might give you forty
sous. You know what you must do about it--”

And, strange to say, _he_ was blessed by these poor people, even as they
had lately blessed Popinot.

But Cerizet was cursed on Sunday mornings when accounts were settled;
and they cursed him even more on Saturdays, when it was necessary to
work in order to repay the sum borrowed with interest. But, after all,
he was Providence, he was God from Tuesday to Friday of every week.

The room which he made his office, formerly the kitchen of the next
floor, was bare; the beams of the ceiling had been whitewashed, but
still bore marks of smoke. The walls, along which he had put benches,
and the stone floor, retained and gave out dampness. The fireplace,
where the crane remained, was partly filled by an iron stove in which
Cerizet burned sea-coal when the weather was severe. A platform about
half a foot high and eight feet square extended from the edge of the
fireplace; on it was fastened a common table and an armchair with
a round cushion covered with green leather. Behind him, Cerizet had
sheathed the walls with planks; also protecting himself with a little
wooden screen, painted white, from the draught between the window and
door; but this screen, made of two leaves, was so placed that the warmth
from the stove reached him. The window had enormous inside shutters of
cast-iron, held, when closed, by a bar. The door commanded respect by an
armor of the same character.

At the farther end of this room, in a corner, was a spiral-staircase,
coming, evidently, from some pulled-down shop, and bought in the rue
Chapon by Cadenet, who had fitted it through the ceiling into the
room in the entresol occupied by Cerizet. In order to prevent all
communication with the upper floors, Cerizet had exacted that the door
of that room which opened on the common landing should be walled up. The
place had thus become a fortress. The bedroom above had a cheap carpet
bought for twenty francs, an iron bedstead, a bureau, three chairs,
and an iron safe, made by a good workman, which Cerizet had bought at
a bargain. He shaved before a glass on the chimney-piece; he owned two
pairs of cotton sheets and six cotton shirts; the rest of his visible
wardrobe was of the same character. Cadenet had once seen Cerizet
dressed like a dandy of the period; he must, therefore, have kept
hidden, in some drawer of his bureau, a complete disguise with which he
could go to the opera, see the world, and not be recognized, for, had it
not been that Cadenet heard his voice, he would certainly have asked him
who he was.

What pleased the clients of this man most was his joviality and his
repartees; he talked their language. Cadenet, his two shop-men, and
Cerizet, living in the midst of dreadful misery, behaved with the
calmness of undertakers in presence of afflicted heirs, of old sergeants
of the Guard among heaps of dead. They no more shuddered on hearing
cries of hunger and despair than surgeons shudder at the cries of their
patients in hospital; they said, as the soldiers and the dressers said,
the perfunctory words, “Have patience! a little courage! What’s the good
of grieving? Suppose you kill yourself, what then? One gets accustomed
to everything; be reasonable!”

Though Cerizet took the precaution to hide the money necessary for his
morning operations in the hollow seat of the chair in which he sat,
taking out no more than a hundred francs at a time, which he put in
the pockets of his trousers, never dipping into the funds of the chair
except between the entrance of two batches of clients (keeping his door
locked and not opening it till all was safely stowed in his pockets), he
had really nothing to fear from the various despairs which found their
way from all sides to this rendezvous of misery. Certainly, there are
many different ways of being honest and virtuous; and the “Monograph of
Virtue” has no other basis than this social axiom.[*] A man is false
to his conscience; he fails, apparently, in delicacy; he forfeits
that bloom of honor which, though lost, does not, as yet, mean general
disrepute; at last, however, he fails decidedly in honor; if he falls
into the hands of the correctional police, he is not, as yet, guilty of
crime before the court of assizes; but after he is branded with infamy
by the verdict of a jury he may still be honored at the galleys for the
species of honor and integrity practised by criminals among themselves,
which consists in not betraying each other, in sharing booty loyally,
and in running all dangers. Well, this last form of honor--which is
perhaps a calculation, a necessity, the practice of which offers certain
opportunities for grandeur to the guilty man and the possibility of
a return to good--reigned absolutely between Cerizet and his clients.
Never did Cerizet make an error, nor his poor people either; neither
side ever denied what was due, either capital or interests. Many a
time Cerizet, who was born among the people, corrected from one week
to another some accidental error, to the benefit of a poor man who had
never discovered it. He was called a Jew, but an honest one, and his
word in that city of sorrows was sacred. A woman died, causing a loss to
him of thirty francs:

     [*] A book on which the author has been at work since 1833,
     the year in which it was first announced.--Author’s note.

“See my profits! there they go!” he said to his assemblage, “and you
howl upon me! You know I’ll never trouble the brats; in fact, Cadenet
has already taken them bread and heel-taps.”

After that it was said of him in both faubourgs:--

“He is not a bad fellow!”

The “loan by the little week,” as interpreted by Cerizet, is not,
considering all things, so cruel a thing as the pawn-shop. Cerizet
loaned ten francs Tuesday on condition of receiving twelve francs Sunday
morning. In five weeks he doubled his capital; but he had to make many
compromises. His kindness consisted in accepting, from time to time,
eleven francs and fifty centimes; sometimes the whole interest was still
owing. When he gave fifty francs for sixty to a fruit-stall man, or a
hundred francs for one hundred and twenty to a seller of peat-fuel, he
ran great risks.

On reaching the rue des Poules through the rue des Postes, Theodose and
Dutocq saw a great assemblage of men and women, and by the light which
the wine-merchant’s little oil-lamps cast upon these groups, they were
horrified at beholding that mass of red, seamed, haggard faces; solemn
with suffering, withered, distorted, swollen with wine, pallid from
liquor; some threatening, others resigned, some sarcastic or jeering,
others besotted; all rising from the midst of those terrible rags, which
no designer can surpass in his most extravagant caricatures.

“I shall be recognized,” said Theodose, pulling Dutocq away; “we have
done a foolish thing to come here at this hour and take him in the midst
of his business.”

“All the more that Claparon may be sleeping in his lair, the interior
of which we know nothing about. Yes, there are dangers for you, but none
for me; I shall be thought to have business with my copying-clerk, and
I’ll go and tell him to come and dine with us; this is court day, so we
can’t have him to breakfast. I’ll tell him to meet us at the ‘Chaumiere’
in one of the garden dining-rooms.”

“Bad; anybody could listen to us there without being seen,” said la
Peyrade. “I prefer the ‘Petit Rocher de Cancale’; we can go into a
private room and speak low.”

“But suppose you are seen with Cerizet?”

“Well, then, let’s go to the ‘Cheval Rouge,’ quai de la Tournelle.”

“That’s best; seven o’clock; nobody will be there then.”

Dutocq advanced alone into the midst of that congress of beggars, and
he heard his own name repeated from mouth to mouth, for he could hardly
fail to encounter among them some jail-bird familiar with the judge’s
office, just as Theodose was certain to have met a client.

In these quarters the justice-of-peace is the supreme authority; all
legal contests stop short at his office, especially since the law was
passed giving to those judges sovereign power in all cases of litigation
involving not over one hundred and forty francs. A way was made for the
judge’s clerk, who was not less feared than the judge himself. He
saw women seated on the staircase; a horrible display of pallor and
suffering of many kinds. Dutocq was almost asphyxiated when he opened
the door of the room in which already sixty persons had left their
odors.

“Your number? your number?” cried several voices.

“Hold your jaw!” cried a gruff voice from the street, “that’s the pen of
the judge.”

Profound silence followed. Dutocq found his copying clerk clothed in
a jacket of yellow leather like that of the gloves of the gendarmerie,
beneath which he wore an ignoble waistcoat of knitted wool. The reader
must imagine the man’s diseased head issuing from this species of
scabbard and covered with a miserable Madras handkerchief, which,
leaving to view the forehead and neck, gave to that head, by the gleam
of a tallow candle of twelve to the pound, its naturally hideous and
threatening character.

“It can’t be done that way, papa Lantimeche,” Cerizet was saying to a
tall old man, seeming to be about seventy years of age, who was standing
before him with a red woollen cap in his hand, exhibiting a bald head,
and a breast covered with white hairs visible through his miserable
linen jacket. “Tell me exactly what you want to undertake. One hundred
francs, even on condition of getting back one hundred and twenty, can’t
be let loose that way, like a dog in a church--”

The five other applicants, among whom were two women, both with infants,
one knitting, the other suckling her child, burst out laughing.

When Cerizet saw Dutocq, he rose respectfully and went rather hastily to
meet him, adding to his client:--

“Take time to reflect; for, don’t you see? it makes me doubtful to have
such a sum as that, one hundred francs! asked for by an old journeyman
locksmith!”

“But I tell you it concerns an invention,” cried the old workman.

“An invention and one hundred francs!” said Dutocq. “You don’t know the
laws; you must take out a patent, and that costs two thousand francs,
and you want influence.”

“All that is true,” said Cerizet, who, however, reckoned a good deal on
such chances. “Come to-morrow morning, papa Lantimeche, at six o’clock,
and we’ll talk it over; you can’t talk inventions in public.”

Cerizet then turned to Dutocq whose first words were:--

“If the thing turns out well, half profits!”

“Why did you get up at this time in the morning to come here and say
that to me?” demanded the distrustful Cerizet, already displeased with
the mention of “half profits.” “You could have seen me as usual at the
office.”

And he looked askance at Dutocq; the latter, while telling him his
errand and speaking of Claparon and the necessity of pushing forward in
the Theodose affair, seemed confused.

“All the same you could have seen me this morning at the office,”
 repeated Cerizet, conducting his visitor to the door.

“There’s a man,” thought he, as he returned to his seat, “who seems to
me to have breathed on his lantern so that I may not see clear. Well,
well, I’ll give up that place of copying clerk. Ha! your turn, little
mother!” he cried; “you invent children! That’s amusing enough, though
the trick is well known.”

It is all the more useless to relate the conversation which took place
between the three confederates at the “Cheval Rouge,” because the
arrangements there concluded were the basis of certain confidences
made, as we shall see, by Theodose to Mademoiselle Thuillier; but it is
necessary to remark that the cleverness displayed by la Peyrade seemed
almost alarming to Cerizet and Dutocq. After this conference, the banker
of the poor, finding himself in company with such powerful players, had
it in mind to make sure of his own stake at the first chance. To win the
game at any price over the heads of the ablest gamblers, by cheating if
necessary, is the inspiration of a special sort of vanity peculiar
to friends of the green cloth. Hence came the terrible blow which la
Peyrade was about to receive.

He knew his two associates well; and therefore, in spite of the
perpetual activity of his intellectual forces, in spite of the perpetual
watchfulness his personality of ten faces required, nothing fatigued him
as much as the part he had to play with his two accomplices. Dutocq was
a great knave, and Cerizet had once been a comic actor; they were both
experts in humbug. A motionless face like Talleyrand’s would have made
then break at once with the Provencal, who was now in their clutches;
it was necessary, therefore, that he should make a show of ease and
confidence and of playing above board--the very height of art in such
affairs. To delude the pit is an every-day triumph, but to deceive
Mademoiselle Mars, Frederic Lemaitre, Potier, Talma, Monrose, is the
acme of art.

This conference at the “Cheval Rouge” had therefore the result of giving
to la Peyrade, who was fully as sagacious as Cerizet, a secret fear,
which, during the latter period of this daring game, so fired his blood
and heated his brain that there came moments when he fell into the
morbid condition of the gambler, who follows with his eye the roll of
the ball on which he has staked his last penny. The senses then have
a lucidity in their action and the mind takes a range, which human
knowledge has no means of measuring.



CHAPTER X. HOW BRIGITTE WAS WON

The day after this conference at the “Cheval Rouge,” la Peyrade went to
dine with the Thuilliers, and on the commonplace pretext of a visit
to pay, Thuillier carried off his wife, leaving Theodose alone with
Brigitte. Neither Thuillier, nor his sister, nor Theodose, were the
dupes of this comedy; but the old beau of the Empire considered the
manoeuvre a piece of diplomacy.

“Young man, do not take advantage of my sister’s innocence; respect it,”
 said Thuillier solemnly, as he departed.

“Mademoiselle,” said Theodose, drawing his chair closer to the sofa
where Brigitte sat knitting, “have you thought of inducing the business
men of the arrondissement to support Thuillier’s interests?”

“How can I?” she asked.

“Why! you are in close relations with Barbet and Metivier.”

“Ah! you are right! Faith! you are no blunderer!” she said after a
pause.

“When we love our friends, we serve them,” he replied, sententiously.

To capture Brigitte would be like carrying the redoubt of the Moskowa,
the culminating strategic point. But it was necessary to possess that
old maid as the devil was supposed in the middle ages to possess men,
and in a way to make any awakening impossible for her. For the last
three days la Peyrade had been measuring himself for the task; he had
carefully reconnoitred the ground to see all difficulty. Flattery, that
almost infallible means in able hands, would certainly miscarry with
a woman who for years had known she had no beauty. But a man of strong
will finds nothing impregnable; the Lamarques could never have failed to
take Capri. Therefore, nothing must be omitted from the memorable
scene which was now to take place; all things about it had their own
importance,--inflections of the voice, pauses, glances, lowered eyes.

“But,” rejoined Brigitte, “you have already proved to us your
affection.”

“Your brother has told you--?”

“No, he merely told me that you had something to tell me.”

“Yes, mademoiselle, I have; for you are the man of the family. In
reflecting on this matter, I find many dangers for myself, such as a man
only risks for his nearest and dearest. It involves a fortune; thirty to
forty thousand francs a year, and not the slightest speculation--a piece
of landed property. The hope of helping Thuillier to win such a fortune
enticed me from the first. ‘It fascinates me,’ I said to him--for,
unless a man is an absolute fool, he can’t help asking himself: ‘Why
should he care to do us all this good?’ So I told him frankly that in
working for his interests, I flattered myself I was working for my own,
as I’ll explain to you later. If he wishes to be deputy, two things are
absolutely necessary: to comply with the law as to property, and to win
for his name some sort of public celebrity. If I myself push my devotion
to the point of helping him to write a book on public financiering--or
anything else, no matter what--which would give him that celebrity,
I ought also to think of the other matter, his property--it would be
absurd to expect you to give him this house--”

“For my brother? Why, I’d put it in his name to-morrow,” cried Brigitte.
“You don’t know me.”

“I don’t know you thoroughly,” said la Peyrade, “but I do know things
about you which now make me regret that I did not tell you the whole
affair from its origin; I mean from the moment when I conceived the plan
to which Thuillier will owe his nomination. He will be hunted down by
envy and jealousy, and the task of upholding him will be a hard one;
we must, however, get the better of his rivals and take the wind out of
their sails.”

“But this affair,” said Brigitte, “what are the difficulties?”

“Mademoiselle, the difficulties lie within my own conscience. Assuredly,
I could not serve you in this matter without first consulting my
confessor. From a worldly point of view--oh! the affair is perfectly
legal, and I am--you’ll understand me?--a barrister inscribed on the
panel, that is, member of a bar controlled by the strictest rules. I am
therefore incapable of proposing an enterprise which might give occasion
for blame. In the first place, I myself don’t make a penny by it.”

Brigitte was on thorns; her face was flaming; she broke her wool, mended
it, broke it again, and did not know which way to look.

“One can’t get,” she said, “in these days, forty thousand francs a
year from landed property unless it is worth one million eight hundred
thousand.”

“Well, I will undertake that you shall see a piece of property and
estimate yourself its probable revenue, which I can make Thuillier the
owner of for fifty thousand francs down.”

“Oh! if you can make us obtain that!” cried Brigitte, worked up to the
highest excitement by the spur of her natural cupidity. “Go on, my dear
Monsieur Theodose, and--”

She stopped short.

“Well, mademoiselle?”

“You will, perhaps, have done yourself a service.”

“Ah! if Thuillier has told you my secret, I must leave this house.”

Brigitte looked up.

“Did he tell you that I love Celeste?”

“No, on my word of honor!” cried Brigitte, “but I myself was just about
to speak of her.”

“And offer her to me? Oh! may God forgive us! I can only win her of
herself, her parents, by a free choice--No, no, all I ask of you is your
good-will, your protection. Promise me, as Thuillier has, in return for
my services your influence, your friendship; tell me that you will treat
me as a son. If you will do that, I will abide by your decision in this
matter; I can trust it; I need not speak to my confessor. For the last
two years, ever since I have seen much of this family, to whom I would
fain give my powers and devote my utmost energy--for, I shall succeed!
surely I shall!--I have observed that your integrity, your honor is that
of the olden time, your judgment righteous and inflexible. Also, you
have a knowledge of business; and these qualities combined are precious
helps to a man. With a mother-in-law, as I may say, of your powers, I
should find my home life relieved of a crowd of cares and details as to
property, which hinder a man’s advance in a political career if he is
forced to attend to them. I admired you deeply on Sunday evening.
Ah! you were fine! How you did manage matters! In ten minutes that
dining-room was cleared! And, without going outside of your own
apartment, you had everything at hand for the refreshments, for
the supper! ‘There,’ I said to myself, as I watched you, ‘is a true
“maitresse-femme”--a masterly woman!’”

Brigitte’s nostrils dilated; she breathed in the words of the young
lawyer. He gave her a side-long glance to enjoy his triumph; he had
touched the right chord in her breast.

At this moment he was standing, but he now resumed his seat beside her,
and said:--

“Now here is our affair, dear aunt--for you will be a sort of aunt--”

“Hush! you naughty fellow!” said Brigitte, “and go on.”

“I’ll tell you the matter roughly--and remark, if you please, that I
compromise myself in telling it to you; for these secrets are entrusted
to me as a lawyer. Therefore understand that you and I are both
committing a crime, so to speak, of leze-confidence! A notary of Paris
was in partnership with an architect; they bought land and built upon
it; at the present moment, property has come down with a rush; they
find themselves embarrassed--but all that doesn’t concern us. Among the
houses built by this illegal partnership--for notaries, you know, are
sworn to have nothing to do with enterprises--is a very good one which,
not being finished, must be sold at a great sacrifice; so great that
they now ask only one hundred thousand francs for it, although the cost
of the land and the building was at least four hundred thousand. As the
whole interior is still unfinished, the value of what is still to do
is easily appraised; it will probably not be more than fifty thousand
francs. Now, owing to its excellent position, this house, when finished,
will certainly bring in a rental, over and above the taxes, of forty
thousand francs a year. It is built of freestone, the corners and
copings of cut granite; the facade is covered with handsome carvings, on
which they spent more than twenty thousand francs; the windows are plate
glass with a new style of fastening called ‘cremona.’”

“Well, where is the difficulty?”

“Just here: the notary wants to reserve to himself this bit of the
cake he is forced to surrender; he is, under the name of a friend, the
creditor who requests the sale of the property by the assignee of
the bankruptcy. The case has not been brought into court; for legal
proceedings cost so much money. The sale is to be made by voluntary
agreement. Now, this notary has applied to one of my clients to lend
him his name for this purchase. My client, a poor devil, says to me:
‘There’s a fortune to made out of that house by fooling the notary.’”

“And they do that sort of thing in business!” said Brigitte, quickly.

“If that were the only difficulty,” continued Theodose, “it would be, as
a friend of mine said to his pupil, who was complaining of the length of
time it took to produce masterpieces in painting: ‘My dear young
fellow, if it were not so, our valets would be painting pictures.’ But,
mademoiselle, if we now get the better of this notary, who certainly
deserves it, for he has compromised a number of private fortunes, yet,
as he is a very shrewd man (though a notary), it might perhaps be very
difficult to do it a second time, and here’s the rub: When a piece of
landed property is bought at a forced sale, if those who have lent money
on that property see that is likely to be sold so low as not to cover
the sum loaned upon it, they have the right, until the expiration of a
certain time, to bid it in; that is, to offer more and keep the property
in their own hands. If this trickster can’t be hoodwinked as to the sale
being a bona fide one until the time when his right to buy it expires,
some other scheme must be resorted to. Now, is this business strictly
legal? Am I justified in doing it for the benefit of a family I seek
to enter? That is the question I have been revolving in my mind for the
last three days.”

Brigitte, we must acknowledge, hesitated, and Theodose then brought
forward his last card:--

“Take the night to think of it,” he said, “to-morrow we will talk it
over.”

“My young friend,” said Brigitte, looking at the lawyer with an almost
loving air, “the first thing to be done is to see the house. Where is
it?”

“Near the Madeleine. That will be the heart of Paris in ten years. All
that property has been desirable since 1819; the banker Du Tillet’s
fortune was derived from property about there. The famous failure of
Maitre Roquin, which carried terror to all Paris, and did such harm to
the confidence given to the notariat, was also caused by it; they went
into heavy speculations on that land too soon; they should have waited
until now.”

“I remember about that,” said Brigitte.

“The house might be finished by the end of the year,” continued
Theodose, “and the rentals could begin next spring.”

“Could we go there to-morrow?”

“Dear aunt, I am at your orders.”

“Ah ca!” she cried, “don’t call me that before people. As to this
affair,” she continued, “I can’t have any opinion until I have seen the
house.”

“It has six storeys; nine windows on the front; a fine courtyard, four
shops, and it stands on a corner. Ah! that notary knows what he is about
in wishing to hold on to such pieces of property! But let political
events interfere, and down go the Funds! If I were you, I should sell
out all that you and Madame Thuillier have on the Grand Livre and
buy this fine piece of real estate for Thuillier, and I’d recover the
fortune of that poor, pious creature by savings from its proceeds. Can
the Funds go higher than they are to-day? One hundred and twenty-two! it
is fabulous; I should make haste to sell.”

Brigitte licked her lips; she perceived the means of keeping her own
property intact, and of enriching her brother by this use of Madame
Thuillier’s fortune.

“My brother is right,” she said to Theodose; “you certainly are a rare
man; you’ll get on in the world.”

“And he’ll walk before me,” responded Theodose with a naivete that
touched the old maid.

“You will live in the family,” she said.

“There may be obstacles to that,” he remarked. “Madame Thuillier is very
queer at times; she doesn’t like me.”

“Ha! I’ll settle that,” cried Brigitte. “Do you attend to that affair
and carry it through if it is feasible, and leave your interests in my
hands.”

“Thuillier, member of the municipal council, owner of an estate with a
rental of forty thousand francs a year, with the cross of the Legion
of honor and the author of a political work, grave, serious, important,
will be deputy at the forthcoming general election. But, between
ourselves, little aunt, one couldn’t devote one’s self so utterly except
for a father-in-law.”

“You are right.”

“Though I have no fortune I shall have doubled yours; and if this affair
goes through discreetly, others will turn up.”

“Until I have seen the house,” said Mademoiselle Thuillier again, “I can
decide on nothing.”

“Well then, send for a carriage to-morrow and let us go there. I will
get a ticket early in the morning to view the premises.”

“To-morrow, then, about mid-day,” responded Brigitte, holding out her
hand to Theodose that he might shake it, but instead of that he laid
upon it the most respectful and the most tender kiss that Brigitte had
ever in her life received.

“Adieu, my child,” she said, as he reached the door.

She rang the bell hurriedly and when the servant came:--

“Josephine,” she cried, “go at once to Madame Colleville, and ask her to
come over and speak to me.”

Fifteen minutes later Flavie entered the salon, where Brigitte was
walking up and down, in a state of extreme agitation.

“My dear,” she cried on seeing Flavie, “you can do me a great service,
which concerns our dear Celeste. You know Tullia, don’t you?--a danseuse
at the opera; my brother was always dinning her into my ears at one
time.”

“Yes, I know her; but she is no longer a danseuse; she is Madame la
Comtesse du Bruel. Her husband is peer of France!”

“Does she still like you?”

“We never see each other now.”

“Well, I know that Chaffaroux, the rich contractor, is her uncle,” said
Brigitte. “He is old and wealthy. Go and see your former friend, and get
her to give you a line of introduction to him, saying he would do her an
eminent favor if he would give a piece of friendly advice to the bearer
of the note, and then you and I will take it to him to-morrow about one
o’clock. But tell Tullia she must request her uncle to keep secret about
it. Go, my dear. Celeste, our dear child, will be a millionaire! I can’t
say more; but she’ll have, from me, a husband who will put her on a
pinnacle.”

“Do you want me to tell you the first letters of his name?”

“Yes.”

“T. P.,--Theodose de la Peyrade. You are right. That’s a man who may, if
supported by a woman like you, become a minister.”

“It is God himself who has placed him in our house!” cried the old maid.

At this moment Monsieur and Madame Thuillier returned home.

Five days later, in the month of April, the ordinance which convoked the
electors to appoint a member of the municipal council on the 20th of the
same month was inserted in the “Moniteur,” and placarded about Paris.
For several weeks the ministry, called that of March 1st, had been in
power. Brigitte was in a charming humor. She had been convinced of the
truth of all la Peyrade’s assertions. The house, visited from garret
to cellar by old Chaffaroux, was admitted by him to be an admirable
construction; poor Grindot, the architect, who was interested with the
notary and Claparon in the affair, thought the old man was employed in
the interests of the contractor; the old fellow himself thought he was
acting in the interests of his niece, and he gave it as his opinion that
thirty thousand francs would finish the house. Thus, in the course of
one week la Peyrade became Brigitte’s god; and she proved to him by the
most naively nefarious arguments that fortune should be seized when it
offered itself.

“Well, if there _is_ any sin in the business,” she said to him in the
middle of the garden, “you can confess it.”

“The devil!” cried Thuillier, “a man owes himself to his relatives, and
you are one of us now.”

“Then I decide to do it,” replied la Peyrade, in a voice of emotion;
“but on conditions that I must now distinctly state. I will not, in
marrying Celeste, be accused of greed and mercenary motives. If you lay
remorse upon me, at least you must consent that I shall remain as I
am for the present. Do not settle upon Celeste, my old Thuillier, the
future possession of the property I am about to obtain for you--”

“You are right.”

“Don’t rob yourself; and let my dear little aunt here act in the same
way in relation to the marriage contract. Put the remainder of the
capital in Madame Thuillier’s name, on the Grand Livre, and she can do
what she likes with it. We shall all live together as one family, and
I’ll undertake to make my own fortune, now that I am free from anxiety
about the future.”

“That suits me,” said Thuillier; “that’s the talk of an honest man.”

“Let me kiss you on the forehead, my son,” said the old maid; “but,
inasmuch as Celeste cannot be allowed to go without a ‘dot,’ we shall
give her sixty thousand francs.”

“For her dress,” said la Peyrade.

“We are all three persons of honor,” cried Thuillier. “It is now
settled, isn’t it? You are to manage the purchase of the house; we
are to write together, you and I, my political work; and you’ll bestir
yourself to get me the decoration?”

“You will have that as soon as you are made a municipal councillor on
the 1st of May. Only, my good friend, I must beg you, and you, too, dear
aunt, to keep the most profound secrecy about me in this affair; and do
not listen to the calumnies which all the men I am about to trick will
spread about me. I shall become, you’ll see, a vagabond, a swindler, a
dangerous man, a Jesuit, an ambitious fortune-hunter. Can you hear those
accusations against me with composure?”

“Fear nothing,” replied Brigitte.



CHAPTER XI. THE REIGN OF THEODOSE

From that day forth Thuillier became a dear, good friend. “My dear, good
friend,” was the name given to him by Theodose, with voice inflections
of varieties of tenderness which astonished Flavie. But “little aunt,”
 a name that flattered Brigitte deeply, was only given in family secrecy,
and occasionally before Flavie. The activity of Theodose and Dutocq,
Cerizet, Barbet, Metivier, Minard, Phellion, Colleville, and others of
the Thuillier circle was extreme. Great and small, they all put their
hands to the work. Cadenet procured thirty votes in his section. On the
30th of April Thuillier was proclaimed member of the Council-general of
the department of the Seine by an imposing majority; in fact, he
only needed sixty more votes to make his election unanimous. May
1st Thuillier joined the municipal body and went to the Tuileries to
congratulate the King on his fete-day, and returned home radiant. He had
gone where Minard went!

Ten days later a yellow poster announced the sale of the house, after
due publication; the price named being seventy-five thousand francs;
the final purchase to take place about the last of July. On this point
Cerizet and Claparon had an agreement by which Cerizet pledged the sum
of fifteen thousand francs (in words only, be it understood) to Claparon
in case the latter could deceive the notary and keep him quiet until the
time expired during which he might withdraw the property by bidding it
in. Mademoiselle Thuillier, notified by Theodose, agreed entirely to
this secret clause, understanding perfectly the necessity of paying
the culprits guilty of the treachery. The money was to pass through la
Peyrade’s hands. Claparon met his accomplice, the notary, on the Place
de l’Observatoire by midnight. This young man, the successor of Leopold
Hannequin, was one of those who run after fortune instead of following
it leisurely. He now saw another future before him, and he managed his
present affairs in order to be free to take hold of it. In this midnight
interview, he offered Claparon ten thousand francs to secure himself
in this dirty business,--a sum which was only to be paid on receipt,
through Claparon, of a counter-deed from the nominal purchaser of
the property. The notary was aware that that sum was all-important to
Claparon to extricate him from present difficulties, and he felt secure
of him.

“Who but you, in all Paris, would give me such a fee for such an
affair?” Claparon said to him, with a false show of naivete. “You can
sleep in peace; my ostensible purchaser is one of those men of honor who
are too stupid to have ideas of your kind; he is a retired government
employee; give him the money to make the purchase and he’ll sign the
counter-deed at once.”

When the notary had made Claparon clearly understand that he could not
get more than the ten thousand francs from him, Cerizet offered the
latter twelve thousand down, and asked Theodose for fifteen thousand,
intending to keep the balance for himself. All these scenes between
the four men were seasoned with the finest speeches about feelings,
integrity, and the honor that men owed to one another in doing business.
While these submarine performances were going on, apparently in the
interests of Thuillier, to whom Theodose related them with the deepest
manifestations of disgust at being implicated therein, the pair were
meditating the great political work which “my dear good friend” was
to publish. Thus the new municipal councillor naturally acquired a
conviction that he could never do or be anything without the help of
this man of genius; whose mind so amazed him, and whose ability was now
so important to him, that every day he became more and more convinced of
the necessity of marrying him to Celeste, and of taking the young couple
to live with him. In fact, after May the 1st, Theodose had already dined
four times a week with “my dear, good friend.”

This was the period when Theodose reigned without a dissenting voice in
the bosom of that household, and all the friends of the family approved
of him--for the following reason: The Phellions, hearing his praises
sung by Brigitte and Thuillier, feared to displease the two powers and
chorussed their words, even when such perpetual laudation seemed to them
exaggerated. The same may be said of the Minards. Moreover la Peyrade’s
behavior, as “friend of the family” was perfect. He disarmed distrust by
the manner in which he effaced himself; he was there like a new piece
of furniture; and he contrived to make both the Phellions and Minards
believe that Brigitte and Thuillier had weighed him, and found him too
light in the scales to be anything more in the family than a young man
whose services were useful to them.

“He may think,” said Thuillier one day to Minard, “that my sister will
put him in her will; he doesn’t know her.”

This speech, inspired by Theodose himself, calmed the uneasiness of
Minard “pere.”

“He is devoted to us,” said Brigitte to Madame Phellion; “but he
certainly owes us a great deal of gratitude. We have given him his
lodging rent-free, and he dines with us almost every day.”

This speech of the old maid, also instigated by Theodose, went from
ear to ear among the families who frequented the Thuillier salon, and
dissipated all fears. The young man called attention to the remarks
of Thuillier and his sister with the servility of a parasite; when he
played whist he justified the blunders of his dear, good friend, and he
kept upon his countenance a smile, fixed and benign, like that of Madame
Thuillier, ready to bestow upon all the bourgeois sillinesses of the
brother and sister.

He obtained, what he wanted above all, the contempt of his true
antagonists; and he used it as a cloak to hide his real power. For four
consecutive months his face wore a torpid expression, like that of a
snake as it gulps and digests its prey. But at times he would rush into
the garden with Colleville or Flavie, to laugh and lay off his mask,
and rest himself; or get fresh strength by giving way before his future
mother-in-law to fits of nervous passion which either terrified or
deeply touched her.

“Don’t you pity me?” he cried to her the evening before the preparatory
sale of the house, when Thuillier was to make the purchase at
seventy-five thousand francs. “Think of a man like me, forced to creep
like a cat, to choke down every pointed word, to swallow my own gall,
and submit to your rebuffs!”

“My friend! my child!” Flavie replied, undecided in mind how to take
him.

These words are a thermometer which will show the temperature at which
this clever manipulator maintained his intrigue with Flavie. He kept
her floating between her heart and her moral sense, between religious
sentiments and this mysterious passion.

During this time Felix Phellion was giving, with a devotion and
constancy worthy of all praise, regular lessons to young Colleville.
He spent much of his time upon these lessons, feeling that he was thus
working for his future family. To acknowledge this service, he was
invited, by advice of Theodose to Flavie, to dine at the Collevilles’
every Thursday, where la Peyrade always met him. Flavie was usually
making either a purse or slippers or a cigar-case for the happy young
man, who would say, deprecatingly:--

“I am only too well rewarded, madame, by the happiness I feel in being
useful to you.”

“We are not rich, monsieur,” replied Colleville, “but, God bless me! we
are not ungrateful.”

Old Phellion would rub his hands as he listened to his son’s account
of these evenings, beholding his dear and noble Felix already wedded to
Celeste.

But Celeste, the more she loved Felix, the more grave and serious she
became with him; partly because her mother sharply lectured her, saying
to her one evening:--

“Don’t give any hope whatever to that young Phellion. Neither your
father nor I can arrange your marriage. You have expectations to be
consulted. It is much less important to please a professor without a
penny than to make sure of the affection and good-will of Mademoiselle
Brigitte and your godfather. If you don’t want to kill your mother--yes,
my dear, kill her--you must obey me in this affair blindly; and remember
that what we want to secure, above all, is your good.”

As the date of the final sale was set for the last of July, Theodose
advised Brigitte by the end of June to arrange her affairs in time to
be ready for the payment. Accordingly, she now sold out her own and her
sister-in-law’s property in the Funds. The catastrophe of the treaty of
the four powers, an insult to France, is now an established historical
fact; but it is necessary to remind the reader that from July to the
last of August the French funds, alarmed by the prospect of war, a fear
which Monsieur Thiers did much to promote, fell twenty francs, and the
Three-per-cents went down to sixty. That was not all: this financial
fiasco had a most unfortunate influence on the value of real estate in
Paris; and all those who had such property then for sale suffered
loss. These events made Theodose a prophet in the eyes of Brigitte and
Thuillier, to whom the house was now about to be definitely sold for
seventy-five thousand francs. The notary, involved in the political
disaster, and whose practice was already sold, concealed himself for a
time in the country; but he took with him the ten thousand francs for
Claparon. Advised by Theodose, Thuillier made a contract with Grindot,
who supposed he was really working for the notary in finishing the
house; and as, during this period of financial depression, suspended
work left many workmen with their arms folded, the architect was able
to finish off the building in a splendid manner at a low cost. Theodose
insisted that the agreement should be in writing.

This purchase increased Thuillier’s importance ten-fold. As for the
notary, he had temporarily lost his head in presence of political events
which came upon him like a waterspout out of cloudless skies. Theodose,
certain now of his supremacy, holding Thuillier fast by his past
services and by the literary work in which they were both engaged,
admired by Brigitte for his modesty and discretion,--for never had he
made the slightest allusion to his own poverty or uttered one word about
money,--Theodose began to assume an air that was rather less servile
than it had been. Brigitte and Thuillier said to him one day:--

“Nothing can deprive you of our esteem; you are here in this house as if
in your own home; the opinion of Minard and Phellion, which you seem to
fear, has no more value for us than a stanza of Victor Hugo. Therefore,
let them talk! Carry your head high!”

“But we shall still need them for Thuillier’s election to the Chamber,”
 said Theodose. “Follow my advice; you have found it good so far, haven’t
you? When the house is actually yours, you will have got it for almost
nothing; for you can now buy into the Three-per-cents at sixty in Madame
Thuillier’s name, and thus replace nearly the whole of her fortune. Wait
only for the expiration of the time allowed to the nominal creditor
to buy it in, and have the fifteen thousand francs ready for our
scoundrels.”

Brigitte did not wait; she took her whole capital with the exception
of a sum of one hundred and twenty thousand francs, and bought into
the Three-per-cents in Madame Thuillier’s name to the amount of
twelve thousand francs a year, and in her own for ten thousand a year,
resolving in her own mind to choose no other kind of investment in
future. She saw her brother secure of forty thousand francs a year
besides his pension, twelve thousand a year for Madame Thuillier and
eighteen thousand a year for herself, besides the house they lived in,
the rental of which she valued at eight thousand.

“We are worth quite as much as the Minards,” she remarked.

“Don’t chant victory before you win it,” said Theodose. “The right of
redemption doesn’t expire for another week. I have attended to your
affairs, but mine have gone terribly to pieces.”

“My dear child, you have friends,” cried Brigitte; “if you should happen
to want five hundred francs or so, you will always find them here.”

Theodose exchanged a smile with Thuillier, who hastened to carry him
off, saying:--

“Excuse my poor sister; she sees the world through a small hole. But if
you should want twenty-five thousand francs I’ll lend them to you--out
of my first rents,” he added.

“Thuillier,” exclaimed Theodose, “the rope is round my neck. Ever
since I have been a barrister I have had notes of hand running. But say
nothing about it,” added Theodose, frightened himself at having let out
the secret of his situation. “I’m in the claws of scoundrels, but I hope
to crush them yet.”

In telling this secret Theodose, though alarmed as he did so, had a
two-fold purpose: first, to test Thuillier; and next, to avert the
consequences of a fatal blow which might be dealt to him any day in
a secret and sinister struggle he had long foreseen. Two words will
explain his horrible position.



CHAPTER XII. DEVILS AGAINST DEVILS

During the extreme poverty of la Peyrade’s first years in Paris, none
but Cerizet had ever gone to see him in the wretched garret where, in
severely cold weather, he stayed in bed for want of clothes. Only one
shirt remained to him. For three days he lived on one loaf of bread,
cutting it into measured morsels, and asking himself, “What am I to do?”
 At this moment it was that his former partner came to him, having just
left prison, pardoned. The projects which the two men then formed before
a fire of laths, one wrapped in his landlady’s counterpane, the other
in his infamy, it is useless to relate. The next day Cerizet, who had
talked with Dutocq in the course of the morning, returned, bringing
trousers, waistcoat, coat, hat, and boots, bought in the Temple, and
he carried off Theodose to dine with himself and Dutocq. The hungry
Provencal ate at Pinson’s, rue de l’Ancienne Comedie, half of a dinner
costing forty-seven francs. At dessert, after Theodose had drunk freely,
Cerizet said to him:--

“Will you sign me bills of exchange for fifty thousand francs in your
capacity as a barrister?”

“You couldn’t get five thousand on them.”

“That’s not your affair, but ours; I mean monsieur’s here, who is giving
us this dinner, and mine, in a matter where you risk nothing, but in
which you’ll get your title as barrister, a fine practice, and the hand
in marriage of a girl about the age of an old dog, and rich by twenty or
thirty thousand francs a year. Neither Dutocq nor I can marry her; but
we’ll equip you, give you the look of a decent man, feed and lodge you,
and set you up generally. Consequently, we want security. I don’t say
that on my own account, for I know you, but for monsieur here, whose
proxy I am. We’ll equip you as a pirate, hey! to do the white-slave
trade! If we can’t capture that ‘dot,’ we’ll try other plans. Between
ourselves, none of us need be particular what we touch--that’s plain
enough. We’ll give you careful instructions; for the matter is certain
to take time, and there’ll probably be some bother about it. Here, see,
I have brought stamped paper.”

“Waiter, pens and ink!” cried Theodose.

“Ha! I like fellows of that kind!” exclaimed Dutocq.

“Sign: ‘Theodose de la Peyrade,’ and after your name put ‘Barrister, rue
Saint-Dominique d’Enfer,’ under the words ‘Accepted for ten thousand.’
We’ll date the notes and sue you,--all secretly, of course, but in
order to have a hold upon you; the owners of a privateer ought to have
security when the brig and the captain are at sea.”

The day after this interview the bailiff of the justice-of-peace did
Cerizet the service of suing la Peyrade secretly. He went to see the
barrister that evening, and the whole affair was done without any
publicity. The Court of commerce has a hundred such cases in the course
of one term. The strict regulations of the council of barristers of
the bar of Paris are well known. This body, and also the council of
attorneys, exercise severe discipline over their members. A barrister
liable to go to Clichy would be disbarred. Consequently, Cerizet, under
Dutocq’s advice, had taken against their puppet measures which were
certain to secure to each of them twenty-five thousand francs out of
Celeste’s “dot.” In signing the notes, Theodose saw but one thing,--his
means of living secured; but as time had gone on, and the horizon grew
clearer, and he mounted, step by step, to a better position on the
social ladder, he began to dream of getting rid of his associates. And
now, on obtaining twenty-five thousand francs from Thuillier, he hoped
to treat on the basis of fifty per cent for the return of his fatal
notes by Cerizet.

Unfortunately, this sort of infamous speculation is not an exceptional
fact; it takes place in Paris under various forms too little disguised
for the historian of manners and morals to pass them over unnoticed in
a complete and accurate picture of society in the nineteenth century.
Dutocq, an arrant scoundrel, still owed fifteen thousand francs on his
practice, and lived in hopes of something turning up to keep his head,
as the saying is, above water until the close of 1840. Up to the present
time none of the three confederates had flinched or groaned. Each felt
his strength and knew his danger. Equals they were in distrust, in
watchfulness; equals, too, in apparent confidence; and equally stolid in
silence and look when mutual suspicions rose to the surface of face or
speech. For the last two months the position of Theodose was acquiring
the strength of a detached fort. But Cerizet and Dutocq held it
undermined by a mass of powder, with the match ever lighted; but the
wind might extinguish the match or the devil might flood the mine.

The moment when wild beasts seize their food is always the most
critical, and that moment had now arrived for these three hungry tigers.
Cerizet would sometimes say to Theodose, with that revolutionary glance
which twice in this century sovereigns have had to meet:--

“I have made you king, and here am I still nothing! for it is nothing
not to be all.”

A reaction of envy was rushing its avalanche through Cerizet. Dutocq was
at the mercy of his copying clerk. Theodose would gladly have burned his
copartners could he have burned their papers in the same conflagration.
All three studied each other too carefully, in order to conceal their
own thoughts, not to be in turn divined. Theodose lived a life of three
hells as he thought of what lay below the cards, then of his own game,
and then of his future. His speech to Thuillier was a cry of despair;
he threw his lead into the waters of the old bourgeois and found there
nothing more than twenty-five thousand francs.

“And,” he said to himself as he went to his own room, “possibly nothing
at all a month hence.”

He new felt the deepest hatred to the Thuilliers. But Thuillier himself
he held by a harpoon stuck into the depths of the man’s vanity; namely,
by the projected work, entitled “Taxation and the Sinking Fund,” for
which he intended to rearrange the ideas of the Saint-Simonian “Globe,”
 giving them a systematic form, and coloring them with his fervid
Southern diction. Thuillier’s bureaucratic knowledge of the subject
would be of use to him here. Theodose therefore clung to this rope,
resolving to do battle, on so poor a base of operations, with the vanity
of a fool, which, according to individual character, is either granite
or sand. On reflection, Theodose was inclined to be content with the
prospect.

On the evening before the right of redemption expired, Claparon and
Cerizet proceeded to manipulate the notary in the following manner.
Cerizet, to whom Claparon had revealed the password and the notary’s
retreat, went out to this hiding-place to say to the latter:--

“One of my friends, Claparon, whom you know, has asked me to come and
see you; he will expect you to-morrow, in the evening, you know where.
He has the paper you expect from him, which he will exchange with
you for the ten thousand agreed upon; but I must be present, for five
thousand of that sum belong to me; and I warn you, my dear monsieur,
that the name in the counter-deed is in blank.”

“I shall be there,” replied the ex-notary.

The poor devil waited the whole night in agonies of mind that can well
be imagined, for safety or inevitable ruin were in the balance. At
sunrise he saw approaching him, instead of Claparon, a bailiff of the
Court of commerce, who produced a judgment against him in regular form,
and informed him that he must go with him to Clichy.

Cerizet had made an arrangement with one of the creditors of the
luckless notary, pledging himself to deliver up the debtor on payment
to himself of half the debt. Out of the ten thousand francs promised to
Claparon, the victim of this trap was obliged, in order to obtain his
liberty, to pay six thousand down, the amount of his debt.

On receiving his share of this extortion Cerizet said to himself:
“There’s three thousand to make Cerizet clear out.”

Cerizet then returned to the notary and said: “Claparon is a scoundrel,
monsieur; he has received fifteen thousand francs from the proposed
purchaser of your house, who will now, of course, become the owner.
Threaten to reveal his hiding-place to his creditors, and to have him
sued for fraudulent bankruptcy, and he’ll give you half.”

In his wrath the notary wrote a fulminating letter to Claparon.
Claparon, alarmed, feared an arrest, and Cerizet offered to get him a
passport.

“You have played me many a trick, Claparon,” he said, “but listen to
me now, and you can judge of my kindness. I possess, as my whole means,
three thousand francs; I’ll give them to you; start for America, and
make your fortune there, as I’m trying to make mine here.”

That evening Claparon, carefully disguised by Cerizet, left for Havre by
the diligence. Cerizet remained master of the fifteen thousand francs
to be paid to Claparon, and he awaited Theodose with the payment thereof
tranquilly.

“The limit for bidding-in is passed,” thought Theodose, as he went to
find Dutocq and ask him to bring Cerizet to his office. “Suppose I were
now to make an effort to get rid of my leech?”

“You can’t settle this affair anywhere but at Cerizet’s, because
Claparon must be present, and he is hiding there,” said Dutocq.

Accordingly, Theodose went, between seven and eight o’clock, to the den
of the “banker of the poor,” whom Dutocq had notified of his coming.
Cerizet received him in the horrible kitchen where miseries and sorrows
were chopped and cooked, as we have seen already. The pair then walked
up and down, precisely like two animals in a cage, while mutually
playing the following scene:--

“Have you brought the fifteen thousand francs?”

“No, but I have them at home.”

“Why not have them in your pocket?” asked Cerizet, sharply.

“I’ll tell you,” replied Theodose, who, as he walked from the rue
Saint-Dominique to the Estrapade, had decided on his course of action.

The Provencal, writhing upon the gridiron on which his partners held
him, became suddenly possessed with a good idea, which flashed from the
body of the live coal under him. Peril has gleams of light. He
resolved to rely on the power of frankness, which affects all men, even
swindlers. Every one is grateful to an adversary who bares himself to
the waist in a duel.

“Well!” said Cerizet, “now the humbug begins.”

The words seemed to come wholly through the hole in his nose with
horrible intonations.

“You have put me in a magnificent position, and I shall never forget the
service you have done me, my friend,” began Theodose, with emotion.

“Oh, that’s how you take it, is it?” said Cerizet.

“Listen to me; you don’t understand my intentions.”

“Yes, I do!” replied the lender by “the little week.”

“No, you don’t.”

“You intend not to give up those fifteen thousand francs.”

Theodose shrugged his shoulders and looked fixedly at Cerizet, who,
struck by the two motions, kept silence.

“Would you live in my position, knowing yourself within range of a
cannon loaded with grape-shot, without feeling a strong desire to
get out of it? Now listen to me carefully. You are doing a dangerous
business, and you would be glad enough to have some solid protection in
the very heart of the magistracy of Paris. If I can continue my
present course, I shall be substitute attorney-general, possibly
attorney-general, in three years. I offer you to-day the offices of a
devoted friendship, which will serve you hereafter most assuredly, if
only to replace you in a honorable position. Here are my conditions--”

“Conditions!” exclaimed Cerizet.

“In ten minutes I will bring you twenty-five thousand francs if you
return to me all the notes which you have against me.”

“But Dutocq? and Claparon?” said Cerizet.

“Leave them in the lurch!” replied Theodose, with his lips at Cerizet’s
ear.

“That’s a pretty thing to say!” cried Cerizet. “And so you have invented
this little game of hocus-pocus because you hold in your fingers fifteen
thousand francs that don’t belong to you!”

“But I’ve added ten thousand francs to them. Besides, you and I know
each other.”

“If you are able to get ten thousand francs out of your bourgeois you
can surely get fifteen,” said Cerizet. “For thirty thousand I’m your
man. Frankness for frankness, you know.”

“You ask the impossible,” replied Theodose. “At this very moment, if you
had to do with Claparon instead of with me, your fifteen thousand would
be lost, for Thuillier is to-day the owner of that house.”

“I’ll speak to Claparon,” said Cerizet, pretending to go and consult
him, and mounting the stairs to the bedroom, from which Claparon had
only just departed on his road to Havre.

The two adversaries had been speaking, we should here remark, in a
manner not to be overheard; and every time that Theodose raised his
voice Cerizet would make a gesture, intimating that Claparon, from
above, might be listening. The five minutes during which Theodose heard
what seemed to be the murmuring of two voices were torture to him, for
he had staked his very life upon the issue. Cerizet at last came down,
with a smile upon his lips, his eyes sparkling with infernal mischief,
his whole frame quivering in his joy, a Lucifer of gaiety!

“I know nothing, so it seems!” he cried, shaking his shoulders, “but
Claparon knows a great deal; he has worked with the big-wig bankers, and
when I told what you wanted he began to laugh, and said, ‘I thought as
much!’ You will have to bring me the twenty-five thousand you offer me
to-morrow morning, my lad; and as much more before you can recover your
notes.”

“Why?” asked Theodose, feeling his spinal column liquidizing as if the
discharge of some inward electric fluid had melted it.

“The house is ours.”

“How?”

“Claparon has bit it in under the name of one of his creditors, a little
toad named Sauvaignou. Desroches, the lawyer, has taken the case, and
you’ll get a notice to-morrow. This affair will oblige Claparon, Dutocq,
and me to raise funds. What would become of me without Claparon! So I
forgive him--yes, I forgave him, and though you may not believe it, my
dear friend, I actually kissed him! Change your terms.”

The last three words were horrible to hear, especially when illustrated
by the face of the speaker, who amused himself by playing a scene from
the “Legataire,” all the while studying attentively the Provencal’s
character.

“Oh, Cerizet!” cried Theodose; “I, who wished to do you so much good!”

“Don’t you see, my dear fellow,” returned Cerizet, “that between you and
me there ought to be _this_,--” and he struck his heart,--“of which you
have none. As soon as you thought you had a lever on us, you have tried
to knock us over. I saved you from the horrors of starvation and vermin!
You’ll die like the idiot you are. We put you on the high-road to
fortune; we gave you a fine social skin and a position in which you
could grasp the future--and look what you do! _Now_ I know you! and from
this time forth, we shall go armed.”

“Then it is war between us!” exclaimed Theodose.

“You fired first,” returned Cerizet.

“If you pull me down, farewell to your hopes and plans; if you don’t
pull me down, you have in me an enemy.”

“That’s just what I said yesterday to Dutocq; but, how can we help it?
We are forced to choose between two alternatives--we must go according
to circumstances. I’m a good-natured fellow myself,” he added, after a
pause; “bring me your twenty-five thousand francs to-morrow morning and
Thuillier shall keep the house. We’ll continue to help you at both ends,
but you’ll have to pay up, my boy. After what has just happened that’s
pretty kind, isn’t it?”

And Cerizet patted Theodose on the shoulder, with a cynicism that seemed
to brand him more than the iron of the galleys.

“Well, give me till to-morrow at mid-day,” replied the Provencal, “for
there’ll be, as you said, some manipulation to do.”

“I’ll try to keep Claparon quiet; he’s in such a hurry, that man!”

“To-morrow then,” said Theodose, in the tone of a man who decides his
course.

“Good-night, friend,” said Cerizet, in his nasal tone, which degraded
the finest word in the language. “There’s one who has got a mouthful
to suck!” thought Cerizet, as he watched Theodose going down the street
with the step of a dazed man.

When la Peyrade reached the rue des Postes he went with rapid strides
to Madame Colleville’s house, exciting himself as he walked along, and
talking aloud. The fire of his roused passions and the sort of inward
conflagration of which many Parisians are conscious (for such situations
abound in Paris) brought him finally to a pitch of frenzy and eloquence
which found expression, as he turned into the rue des Deux-Eglises, in
the words:--

“I will kill him!”

“There’s a fellow who is not content!” said a passing workman, and the
jesting words calmed the incandescent madness to which Theodose was a
prey.

As he left Cerizet’s the idea came to him to go to Flavie and tell
her all. Southern natures are born thus--strong until certain passions
arise, and then collapsed. He entered Flavie’s room; she was alone, and
when she saw Theodose she fancied her last hour had come.

“What is the matter?” she cried.

“I--I--” he said. “Do you love me, Flavie?”

“Oh! how can you doubt it?”

“Do you love me absolutely?--if I were criminal, even?”

“Has he murdered some one?” she thought, replying to his question by a
nod.

Theodose, thankful to seize even this branch of willow, drew a chair
beside Flavie’s sofa, and there gave way to sobs that might have touched
the oldest judge, while torrents of tears began to flow from his eyes.

Flavie rose and left the room to say to her maid: “I am not at home to
any one.” Then she closed all doors and returned to Theodose, moved to
the utmost pitch of maternal solicitude. She found him stretched out,
his head thrown back, and weeping. He had taken out his handkerchief,
and when Flavie tried to move it from his face it was heavy with tears.

“But what is the matter?” she asked; “what ails you?”

Nature, more impressive than art, served Theodose well; no longer was he
playing a part; he was himself; this nervous crisis and these tears were
the winding up of his preceding scenes of acted comedy.

“You are a child,” she said, in a gentle voice, stroking his hair
softly.

“I have but you, you only, in all the world!” he replied, kissing her
hands with a sort of passion; “and if you are true to me, if you are
mine, as the body belongs to the soul and the soul to the body, then--”
 he added, recovering himself with infinite grace, “_Then_ I can have
courage.”

He rose, and walked about the room.

“Yes, I will struggle; I will recover my strength, like Antaeus, from
a fall; I will strangle with my own hands the serpents that entwine
me, that kiss with serpent kisses, that slaver my cheeks, that suck my
blood, my honor! Oh, misery! oh, poverty! Oh, how great are they who can
stand erect and carry high their heads! I had better have let myself die
of hunger, there, on my wretched pallet, three and a half years ago! A
coffin is a softer bed to lie in than the life I lead! It is eighteen
months that I have _fed on bourgeois_! and now, at the moment of
attaining an honest, fortunate life, a magnificent future, at the moment
when I was about to sit down to the social banquet, the executioner
strikes me on the shoulder! Yes, the monster! he struck me there, on my
shoulder, and said to me: ‘Pay thy dues to the devil, or die!’ And shall
I not crush them? Shall I not force my arm down their throats to their
very entrails? Yes, yes, I will, I will! See, Flavie, my eyes are dry
now. Ha, ha! now I laugh; I feel my strength come back to me; power is
mine! Oh! say that you love me; say it again! At this moment it sounds
like the word ‘Pardon’ to the man condemned to death!”

“You are terrible, my friend!” cried Flavie. “Oh! you are killing me.”

She understood nothing of all this, but she fell upon the sofa,
exhausted by the spectacle. Theodose flung himself at her feet.

“Forgive me! forgive me!” he said.

“But what is the matter? what is it?” she asked again.

“They are trying to destroy me. Oh! promise to give me Celeste, and
you shall see what a glorious life I will make you share. If you
hesitate--very good; that is saying you will be wholly mine, and I will
have you!”

He made so rapid a movement that Flavie, terrified, rose and moved away.

“Oh! my saint!” he cried, “at thy feet I fall--a miracle! God is for me,
surely! A flash of light has come to me--an idea--suddenly! Oh, thanks,
my good angel, my grand Saint-Theodose! thou hast saved me!”

Flavie could not help admiring that chameleon being; one knee on the
floor, his hands crossed on his breast, and his eyes raised to heaven
in religious ecstasy, he recited a prayer; he was a fervent Catholic;
he reverently crossed himself. It was fine; like the vision of
Saint-Jerome.

“Adieu!” he said, with a melancholy look and a moving tone of voice.

“Oh!” cried Flavie, “leave me this handkerchief.”

Theodose rushed away like one possessed, sprang into the street, and
darted towards the Thuilliers’, but turned, saw Flavie at her window,
and made her a little sign of triumph.

“What a man!” she thought to herself.

“Dear, good friend,” he said to Thuillier, in a calm and gentle, almost
caressing voice, “we have fallen into the hands of atrocious scoundrels.
But I mean to read them a lesson.”

“What has happened?” asked Brigitte.

“They want twenty-five thousand francs, and, in order to get the better
of us, the notary, or his accomplices, have determined to bid in the
property. Thuillier, put five thousand francs in your pocket and come
with me; I will secure that house to you. I am making myself implacable
enemies!” he cried; “they are seeking to destroy me morally. But all
I ask is that you will disregard their infamous calumnies and feel no
change of heart to me. After all, what is it? If I succeed, you will
only have paid one hundred and twenty-five thousand francs for the house
instead of one hundred and twenty.”

“Provided the same thing doesn’t happen again,” said Brigitte, uneasily,
her eyes dilating under the effect of a violent suspicion.

“Preferred creditors have alone the right to bid in property, and as,
in this case, there is but one, and he has used that right, we are safe.
The amount of his claim is really only two thousand francs, but there
are lawyers, attorneys, and so forth, to pay in such matters, and we
shall have to drop a note of a thousand francs to make the creditor
happy.”

“Go, Thuillier,” said Brigitte, “get your hat and gloves, and take the
money--from you know where.”

“As I paid those fifteen thousand francs without success, I don’t wish
to have any more money pass through my hands. Thuillier must pay it
himself,” said Theodose, when he found himself alone with Brigitte. “You
have, however, gained twenty thousand on the contract I enabled you to
make with Grindot, who thought he was serving the notary, and you own a
piece of property which in five years will be worth nearly a million. It
is what is called a ‘boulevard corner.’”

Brigitte listened uneasily, precisely like a cat which hears a mouse
within the wall. She looked Theodose straight in the eye, and, in spite
of the truth of his remarks, doubts possessed her.

“What troubles you, little aunt?”

“Oh! I shall be in mortal terror until that property is securely ours.”

“You would be willing to give twenty thousand francs, wouldn’t you,”
 said Theodose, “to make sure that Thuillier was what we call, in law,
‘owner not dispossessable’ of that property? Well, then, remember that I
have saved you twice that amount.”

“Where are we going?” asked Thuillier, returning.

“To Maitre Godeschal! We must employ him as our attorney.”

“But we refused him for Celeste.”

“Well, that’s one reason for going to him,” replied Theodose. “I have
taken his measure; he’s a man of honor, and he’ll think it a fine thing
to do you a service.”

Godeschal, now Derville’s successor, had formerly been, for more
than two years, head-clerk with Desroches. Theodose, to whom that
circumstance was known, seemed to hear the name flung into his ear
in the midst of his despair by an inward voice, and he foresaw a
possibility of wrenching from the hands of Claparon the weapon with
which Cerizet had threatened him. He must, however, in the first
instance, gain an entrance to Desroches, and get some light on the
actual situation of his enemies. Godeschal, by reason of the intimacy
still existing between the former clerk and his old master, could be his
go-between. When the attorneys of Paris have ties like those which bound
Godeschal and Desroches together, they live in true fraternity, and the
result is a facility in arranging any matters which are, as one may say,
arrangeable. They obtain from one another, on the ground of reciprocity,
all possible concessions by the application of the proverb, “Pass me the
rhubarb, and I’ll pass you the senna,” which is put in practice in
all professions, between ministers, soldiers, judges, business men;
wherever, in short, enmity has not raised barriers too strong and high
between the parties.

“I gain a pretty good fee out of this compromise,” is a reason that
needs no expression in words: it is visible in the gesture, the tone,
the glance; and as attorneys and solicitors meet constantly on this
ground, the matter, whatever it is, is arranged. The counterpoise
of this fraternal system is found in what we may call professional
conscience. The public must believe the physician who says, giving
medical testimony, “This body contains arsenic”; nothing is supposed to
exceed the integrity of the legislator, the independence of the cabinet
minister. In like manner, the attorney of Paris says to his brother
lawyer, good-humoredly, “You can’t obtain that; my client is furious,”
 and the other answers, “Very good; I must do without it.”

Now, la Peyrade, a shrewd man, had worn his legal gown about the Palais
long enough to know how these judicial morals might be made to serve his
purpose.

“Sit in the carriage,” he said to Thuillier, when they reached the rue
Vivienne, where Godeschal was now master of the practice he had formerly
served as clerk. “You needn’t show yourself until he undertakes the
affair.”

It was eleven o’clock at night; la Peyrade was not mistaken in supposing
that he should find a newly fledged master of a practice in his office
at that hour.

“To what do I owe this visit, monsieur?” said Godeschal, coming forward
to meet the barrister.

Foreigners, provincials, and persons in high society may not be aware
that barristers are to attorneys what generals are to marshals. There
exists a line of demarcation, strictly maintained, between the order of
barristers and the guild of attorneys and solicitors in Paris. However
venerable an attorney may be, however capable and strong in his
profession, he must go to the barrister. The attorney is the
administrator, who maps out the plan of the campaign, collects the
munitions of war, and puts the force in motion; the barrister gives
battle. It is not known why the law gives a man two men to defend him
any more than it is known why an author is forced to have both printer
and publisher. The rules of the bar forbid its members to do any act
belonging to the guild of attorneys. It is very rare that a barrister
puts his foot in an attorney’s office; the two classes meet in the
law-courts. In society, there is no barrier between them, and some
barristers, those in la Peyrade’s situation particularly, demean
themselves by calling occasionally on attorneys, though even these cases
are rare, and are usually excused by some special urgency.

“I have come on important business,” replied la Peyrade; “it concerns,
especially, a question of delicacy which you and I ought to solve
together. Thuillier is below, in a carriage, and I have come up to see
you, not as a barrister, but as his friend. You are in a position to do
him an immense service; and I have told him that you have too noble a
soul (as a worthy successor of our great Derville must have) not to put
your utmost capacity at his orders. Here’s the affair.”

After explaining, wholly to his own advantage, the swindling trick which
must, he said, be met with caution and ability, the barrister developed
his plan of campaign.

“You ought, my dear maitre, to go this very evening to Desroches,
explain the whole plot and persuade him to send to-morrow for his
client, this Sauvaignou. We’ll confess the fellow between us, and if
he wants a note for a thousand francs over and above the amount of his
claim, we’ll let him have it; not counting the five hundred for you
and as much more for Desroches, provided Thuillier receives the
relinquishment of his claim by ten o’clock to-morrow morning. What does
this Sauvaignou want? Nothing but money. Well, a haggler like that won’t
resist the attraction of an extra thousand francs, especially if he is
only the instrument of a cupidity behind him. It is no matter to us how
he fights it out with those who prompt him. Now, then, do you think you
can get the Thuillier family out of this?”

“I’ll go and see Desroches at once,” said Godeschal.

“Not before Thuillier gives you a power of attorney and five hundred
francs. The money should be on the table in a case like this.”

After the interview with Thuillier was over, la Peyrade took Godeschal
in the carriage to the rue du Bethizy, where Desroches lived, explaining
that it was on their way back to the rue Saint-Dominique d’Enfer. When
they stopped at Desroches’s door la Peyrade made an appointment with
Godeschal to meet him there the next morning at seven o’clock.

La Peyrade’s whole future and fortune lay in the outcome of this
conference. It is therefore not astonishing that he disregarded the
customs of the bar and went to Desroches’s office, to study Sauvaignou
and take part in the struggle, in spite of the danger he ran in thus
placing himself visibly before the eyes of one of the most dreaded
attorneys in Paris.

As he entered the office and made his salutations, he took note
of Sauvaignou. The man was, as the name had already told him, from
Marseilles,--the foreman of a master-carpenter, entrusted with the
giving out of sub-contracts. The profits of this work consisted of what
he could make between the price he paid for the work and that paid to
him by the master-carpenter; this agreement being exclusive of material,
his contract being only for labor. The master-carpenter had failed.
Sauvaignou had thereupon appealed to the court of commerce for
recognition as creditor with a lien on the property. He was a stocky
little man, dressed in a gray linen blouse, with a cap on his head, and
was seated in an armchair. Three banknotes, of a thousand francs each,
lying visibly before him on Desroches’s desk, informed la Peyrade that
the negotiation had already taken place, and that the lawyers were
worsted. Godeschal’s eyes told the rest, and the glance which Desroches
cast at the “poor man’s advocate” was like the blow of a pick-axe into
the earth of a grave. Stimulated by his danger, the Provencal became
magnificent. He coolly took up the bank-notes and folded them, as if to
put them in his pocket, saying to Desroches:--

“Thuillier has changed his mind.”

“Very good; then we are all agreed,” said the terrible attorney.

“Yes; your client must now hand over to us the fifty thousand francs
we have spent on finishing the house, according to the contract between
Thuillier and Grindot. I did not tell you that yesterday,” he added,
turning to Godeschal.

“Do you hear that?” said Desroches to Sauvaignou. “That’s a case I shall
not touch without proper guarantees.”

“But, messieurs,” said Sauvaignou, “I can’t negotiate this matter until
I have seen the worthy man who paid me five hundred francs on account
for having signed him that bit of a proxy.”

“Are you from Marseilles?” said la Peyrade, in patois.

“Oh! if he tackles him with patois the fellow is beaten,” said Godeschal
to Desroches in a low tone.

“Yes, monsieur,” replied the Marseillais.

“Well, you poor devil,” continued Theodose, “don’t you see that they
want to ruin you? Shall I tell you what you ought to do? Pocket these
three thousand francs, and when your worthy man comes after you, take
your rule and hit him a rap over the knuckles; tell him he’s a rascal
who wants you to do his dirty work, and instead of that you revoke your
proxy and will pay him his five hundred francs in the week with three
Thursdays. Then be off with you to Marseilles with these three thousand
francs and your savings in your pocket. If anything happens to you
there, let me know through these gentlemen, and I’ll get you out of the
scrape; for, don’t you see? I’m not only a Provencal, but I’m also one
of the leading lawyers in Paris, and the friend of the poor.”

When the workman found a compatriot sanctioning in a tone of authority
the reasons by which he could betray Cerizet, he capitulated, asking,
however, for three thousand five hundred francs. That demand having been
granted he remarked:--

“It is none too much for a rap over the knuckles; he might put me in
prison for assault.”

“Well, you needn’t strike unless he insults you,” replied la Peyrade,
“and that’s self-defence.”

When Desroches had assured him that la Peyrade was really a barrister in
good standing, Sauvaignou signed the relinquishment, which contained a
receipt for the amount, principal and interest, of his claim, made
in duplicate between himself and Thuillier, and witnessed by the two
attorneys; so that the paper was a final settlement of the whole matter.

“We’ll leave the remaining fifteen hundred between you,” whispered la
Peyrade to Desroches and Godeschal, “on condition that you give me the
relinquishment, which I will have Thuillier accept and sign before his
notary, Cardot. Poor man! he never closed his eyes all night!”

“Very well,” replied Desroches. “You may congratulate yourself,” he
added, making Sauvaignou sign the paper, “that you’ve earned that money
pretty easily.”

“It is really mine, isn’t it, monsieur?” said the Marseillais, already
uneasy.

“Yes, and legally, too,” replied Desroches, “only you must let your
man know this morning that you have revoked your proxy under date of
yesterday. Go out through my clerk’s office, here, this way.”

Desroches told his head-clerk what the man was to do, and he sent a
pupil-clerk with him to see that a sheriff’s officer carried the notice
to Cerizet before ten o’clock.

“I thank you, Desroches,” said la Peyrade, pressing the attorney’s hand;
“you think of everything; I shall never forget this service.”

“Don’t deposit the deed with Cardot till after twelve o’clock,” returned
Desroches.

“Hay! comrade,” cried the barrister, in Provencal, following Sauvaignou
into the next room, “take your Margot to walk about Belleville, and be
sure you don’t go home.”

“I hear,” said Sauvaignou. “I’m off to-morrow; adieu!”

“Adieu,” returned la Peyrade, with a Provencal cry.

“There is something behind all this,” said Desroches in an undertone to
Godeschal, as la Peyrade followed Sauvaignou into the clerk’s office.

“The Thuilliers get a splendid piece of property for next to nothing,”
 replied Godeschal; “that’s all.”

“La Peyrade and Cerizet look to me like two divers who are fighting
under water,” replied Desroches. “What am I to say to Cerizet, who put
the matter into my hands?” he added, as the barrister returned to them.

“Tell him that Sauvaignou forced your hand,” replied la Peyrade.

“And you fear nothing?” said Desroches, in a sudden manner.

“I? oh no! I want to give Cerizet a lesson.”

“To-morrow, I shall know the truth,” said Desroches, in a low tone, to
Godeschal; “no one chatters like a beaten man.”

La Peyrade departed, carrying with him the deed of relinquishment.
At eleven o’clock he was in the courtroom of the justice-of-peace,
perfectly calm, and firm. When he saw Cerizet come in, pale with rage,
his eyes full of venom, he said in his ear:--

“My dear friend, I’m a pretty good fellow myself, and I hold that
twenty-five thousand francs in good bank-bills at your disposal,
whenever you will return to me those notes of mine which you hold.”

Cerizet looked at the advocate of the poor, without being able to say
one word in reply; he was green; the bile had struck in.



CHAPTER XIII. THE PERVERSITY OF DOVES

“I am a non-dispossessable property-owner!” cried Thuillier, coming home
after visiting his notary. “No human power can get that house away from
me. Cardot says so.”

The bourgeoisie think much more of what their notary tells them than of
what their attorney says. The notary is nearer to them than any other
ministerial officer. The Parisian bourgeois never pays a visit to his
attorney without a sense of fear; whereas he mounts the stairs with
ever-renewed pleasure to see his notary; he admires that official’s
virtue and his sound good sense.

“Cardot, who is looking for an apartment for one of his clients, wants
to know about our second floor,” continued Thuillier. “If I choose he’ll
introduce to me on Sunday a tenant who is ready to sign a lease for
eighteen years at forty thousand francs and taxes! What do you say to
that, Brigitte?”

“Better wait,” she replied. “Ah! that dear Theodose, what a fright he
gave me!”

“Hey! my dearest girl, I must tell you that when Cardot asked who put me
in the way of this affair he said I owed him a present of at least ten
thousand francs. The fact is, I owe it all to him.”

“But he is the son of the house,” responded Brigitte.

“Poor lad! I’ll do him the justice to say that he asks for nothing.”

“Well, dear, good friend,” said la Peyrade, coming in about three
o’clock, “here you are, richissime!”

“And through you, Theodose.”

“And you, little aunt, have you come to life again? Ah! you were not
half as frightened as I was. I put your interests before my own; I
haven’t breathed freely till this morning at eleven o’clock; and yet I
am sure now of having two mortal enemies at my heels in the two men I
have tricked for your sake. As I walked home, just now, I asked myself
what could be your influence over me to make me commit such a crime, and
whether the happiness of belonging to your family and becoming your son
could ever efface the stain I have put upon my conscience.”

“Bah! you can confess it,” said Thuillier, the free-thinker.

“And now,” said Theodose to Brigitte, “you can pay, in all security,
the cost of the house,--eighty thousand francs, and thirty thousand
to Grindot; in all, with what you have paid in costs, one hundred and
twenty thousand; and this last twenty thousand added make one hundred
and forty thousand. If you let the house outright to a single tenant ask
him for the last year’s rent in advance, and reserve for my wife and me
the whole of the first floor above the entresol. Make those conditions
and you’ll still get your forty thousand francs a year. If you should
want to leave this quarter so as to be nearer the Chamber, you can
always take up your abode with us on that vast first floor, which has
stables and coach-house belonging to it; in fact, everything that is
needful for a splendid life. And now, Thuillier, I am going to get the
cross of the Legion of honor for you.”

Hearing this last promise, Brigitte cried out in her enthusiasm:--

“Faith! my dear boy, you’ve done our business so well that I’ll leave
you to manage that of letting the house.”

“Don’t abdicate, dear aunt,” replied Theodose. “God keep me from ever
taking a step without you! You are the good genius of this family; I
think only of the day when Thuillier will take his seat in the Chamber.
If you let the house you will come into possession of your forty
thousand francs for the last year of the lease in two months from now;
and that will not prevent Thuillier from drawing his quarterly ten
thousand of the rental.”

After casting this hope into the mind of the old maid, who was jubilant,
Theodose drew Thuillier into the garden and said to him, without beating
round the bush:--

“Dear, good friend, find means to get ten thousand francs from your
sister, and be sure not to let her suspect that you pay them to me; tell
her that sum is required in the government office to facilitate your
appointment as chevalier of the Legion of honor; tell her, too, that you
know the persons among whom that sum should be distributed.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Thuillier; “besides, I’ll pay it back to her
when I get my rents.”

“Have the money ready this evening, dear friend. Now I am going out on
business about your cross; to-morrow we shall know something definitely
about it.”

“What a man you are!” cried Thuillier.

“The ministry of the 1st of March is going to fall, and we must get it
out of them beforehand,” said Theodose, shrewdly.

He now hurried to Madame Colleville, crying out as he entered her
room:--

“I’ve conquered! We shall have a piece of landed property for Celeste
worth a million, a life-interest in which will be given to her by her
marriage-contract; but keep the secret, or your daughter will be hunted
down by peers of France. Besides, this settlement will only be made in
my favor. Now dress yourself, and let us go and call on Madame du Bruel;
she can get the cross for Thuillier. While you are getting under arms
I’ll do a little courting to Celeste; you and I can talk as we drive
along.”

La Peyrade had seen, as he passed the door of the salon, Celeste and
Felix Phellion in close conversation. Flavie had such confidence in
her daughter that she did not fear to leave them together. Now that the
great success of the morning was secured, Theodose felt the necessity
of beginning his courtship of Celeste. It was high time, he thought,
to bring about a quarrel between the lovers. He did not, therefore,
hesitate to apply his ear to the door of the salon before entering it,
in order to discover what letters of the alphabet of love they were
spelling; he was even invited to commit this domestic treachery by
sounds from within, which seemed to say that they were disputing. Love,
according to one of our poets, is a privilege which two persons mutually
take advantage of to cause each other, reciprocally, a great deal of
sorrow about nothing at all.

When Celeste knew that Felix was elected by her heart to be the
companion of her life, she felt a desire, not so much to study him as to
unite herself closely with him by that communion of souls which is the
basis of all affections, and leads, in youthful minds, to involuntary
examination. The dispute to which Theodose was now to listen took its
rise in a disagreement which had sprung up within the last few days
between the mathematician and Celeste. The young girl’s piety was
real; she belonged to the flock of the truly faithful, and to her,
Catholicism, tempered by that mysticism which attracts young souls, was
an inward poem, a life within her life. From this point young girls are
apt to develop into either extremely high-minded women or saints. But,
during this beautiful period of their youth they have in their heart,
in their ideas, a sort of absolutism: before their eyes is the image
of perfection, and all must be celestial, angelic, or divine to satisfy
them. Outside of their ideal, nothing of good can exist; all is stained
and soiled. This idea causes the rejection of many a diamond with a flaw
by girls who, as women, fall in love with paste.

Now, Celeste had seen in Felix, not irreligion, but indifference to
matters of religion. Like most geometricians, chemists, mathematicians,
and great naturalists, he had subjected religion to reason; he
recognized a problem in it as insoluble as the squaring of the circle.
Deist “in petto,” he lived in the religion of most Frenchmen, not
attaching more importance to it than he did to the new laws promulgated
in July. It was necessary to have a God in heaven, just as they set up a
bust of the king at the mayor’s office. Felix Phellion, a worthy son of
his father, had never drawn the slightest veil over his opinions or his
conscience; he allowed Celeste to read into them with the candor and
the inattention of a student of problems. The young girl, on her side,
professed a horror for atheism, and her conscience assured her that a
deist was cousin-germain to an atheist.

“Have you thought, Felix, of doing what you promised me?” asked Celeste,
as soon as Madame Colleville had left them alone.

“No, my dear Celeste,” replied Felix.

“Oh! to have broken his word!” she cried, softly.

“But to have kept it would have been a profanation,” said Felix. “I love
you so deeply, with a tenderness so little proof against your wishes,
that I promised a thing contrary to my conscience. Conscience, Celeste,
is our treasure, our strength, our mainstay. How can you ask me to go
into a church and kneel at the feet of a priest, in whom I can see only
a man? You would despise me if I obeyed you.”

“And so, my dear Felix, you refuse to go to church,” said Celeste,
casting a tearful glance at the man she loved. “If I were your wife you
would let me go alone? You do not love me as I love you! for, alas! I
have a feeling in my heart for an atheist contrary to that which God
commands.”

“An atheist!” cried Felix. “Oh, no! Listen to me, Celeste. There is
certainly a God; I believe in that; but I have higher ideas of Him than
those of your priests; I do not wish to bring Him down to my level;
I want to rise to Him. I listen to the voice He has put within me,--a
voice which honest men call conscience, and I strive not to darken that
divine ray as it comes to me. For instance, I will never harm others;
I will do nothing against the commandments of universal morality, which
was that of Confucius, Moses, Pythagoras, Socrates, as well as of Jesus
Christ. I will stand in the presence of God; my actions shall be my
prayers; I will never be false in word or deed; never will I do a
base or shameful thing. Those are the precepts I have learned from my
virtuous father, and which I desire to bequeath to my children. All the
good that I can do I shall try to accomplish, even if I have to suffer
for it. What can you ask more of a man than that?”

This profession of the Phellion faith caused Celeste to sadly shake her
head.

“Read attentively,” she replied, “‘The Imitation of Jesus Christ.’
Strive to convert yourself to the holy Catholic, apostolic, and Roman
Church, and you will see how empty your words are. Hear me, Felix;
marriage is not, the Church says, the affair of a day, the mere
satisfaction of our own desires; it is made for eternity. What! shall we
be united day and night, shall we form one flesh, one word, and yet
have two languages, two faiths in our heart, and a cause of perpetual
dissension? Would you condemn me to weep tears over the state of your
soul,--tears that I must ever conceal from you? Could I address myself
in peace to God when I see his arm stretched out in wrath against you?
Must my children inherit the blood of a deist and his convictions? Oh!
God, what misery for a wife! No, no, these ideas are intolerable. Felix!
be of my faith, for I cannot share yours. Do not put a gulf between us.
If you loved me, you would already have read ‘The Imitation of Jesus
Christ.’”

The Phellion class, sons of the “Constitutionnel,” dislike the priestly
mind. Felix had the imprudence to reply to this sort of prayer from the
depths of an ardent heart:--

“You are repeating, Celeste, the lessons your confessor teaches you;
nothing, believe me, is more fatal to happiness than the interference of
priests in a home.”

“Oh!” cried Celeste, wounded to the quick, for love alone inspired her,
“you do not love! The voice of my heart is not in unison with yours!
You have not understood me, because you have not listened to me; but I
forgive you, for you know not what you say.”

She wrapped herself in solemn silence, and Felix went to the window and
drummed upon the panes,--music familiar to those who have indulged
in poignant reflections. Felix was, in fact, presenting the following
delicate and curious questions to the Phellion conscience.

“Celeste is a rich heiress, and, in yielding against the voice of
natural religion, to her ideas, I should have in view the making of what
is certainly an advantageous marriage,--an infamous act. I ought not, as
father of a family, to allow the priesthood to have an influence in my
home. If I yield to-day, I do a weak act, which will be followed by many
others equally pernicious to the authority of a husband and father. All
this is unworthy of a philosopher.”

Then he returned to his beloved.

“Celeste, I entreat you on my knees,” he said, “not to mingle that which
the law, in its wisdom, has separated. We live in two worlds,--society
and heaven. Each has its own way of salvation; but as to society, is it
not obeying God to obey the laws? Christ said: ‘Render unto Caesar that
which is Caesar’s.’ Caesar is the body politic. Dear, let us forget our
little quarrel.”

“Little quarrel!” cried the young enthusiast; “I want you to have my
whole heart as I want to have the whole of yours; and you make it
into two parts! Is not that an evil? You forget that marriage is a
sacrament.”

“Your priesthood have turned your head,” exclaimed the mathematician,
impatiently.

“Monsieur Phellion,” said Celeste, interrupting him hastily, “enough of
this!”

It was at this point of the quarrel that Theodose considered it
judicious to enter the room. He found Celeste pale, and the young
professor as anxious as a lover should be who has just irritated his
mistress.

“I heard the word ‘enough’; then something is too much?” he said,
inquiringly, looking in turn from Celeste to Felix.

“We were talking religion,” replied Felix, “and I was saying to
mademoiselle how dangerous ecclesiastical influence is in the bosom of
families.”

“That was not the point, monsieur,” said Celeste, sharply; “it was
to know if husband and wife could be of one heart when the one is an
atheist and the other Catholic.”

“Can there be such a thing as atheists?” cried Theodose, with all the
signs of extreme wonderment. “Could a true Catholic marry a Protestant?
There is no safety possible for a married pair unless they have perfect
conformity in the matter of religious opinions. I, who come from the
Comtat, of a family which counts a pope among its ancestors--for our
arms are: gules, a key argent, with supporters, a monk holding a church,
and a pilgrim with a staff, or, and the motto, ‘I open, I shut’--I am,
of course, intensely dogmatic on such points. But in these days, thanks
to our modern system of education, it does not seem to me strange that
religion should be called into question. I myself would never marry a
Protestant, had she millions, even if I loved her distractedly. Faith is
a thing that cannot be tampered with. ‘Una fides, unus Dominus,’ that is
my device in life.”

“You hear that!” cried Celeste, triumphantly, looking at Felix Phellion.

“I am not openly devout,” continued la Peyrade. “I go to mass at six
every morning, that I may not be observed; I fast on Fridays; I am,
in short, a son of the Church, and I would not undertake any serious
enterprise without prayer, after the ancient fashion of our ancestors;
but no one is able to notice my religion. A singular thing happened to
our family during the Revolution of 1789, which attached us more closely
than ever to our holy mother the Church. A poor young lady of the elder
branch of the Peyrades, who owned the little estate of la Peyrade,--for
we ourselves are Peyrades of Canquoelle, but the two branches inherit
from one another,--well, this young lady married, six years before
the Revolution, a barrister who, after the fashion of the times, was
Voltairean, that is to say, an unbeliever, or, if you choose, a deist.
He took up all the revolutionary ideas, and practised the charming rites
that you know of in the worship of the goddess Reason. He came into
our part of the country imbued with the ideas of the Convention, and
fanatical about them. His wife was very handsome; he compelled her to
play the part of Liberty; and the poor unfortunate creature went mad.
She died insane! Well, as things are going now it looks as if we might
have another 1793.”

This history, invented on the spot, made such an impression on Celeste’s
fresh and youthful imagination that she rose, bowed to the young men and
hastened to her chamber.

“Ah! monsieur, why did you tell her that?” cried Felix, struck to the
heart by the cold look the young girl, affecting profound indifference,
cast upon him. She fancied herself transformed into a goddess of Reason.

“Why not? What were you talking about?” asked Theodose.

“About my indifference to religion.”

“The great sore of this century,” replied Theodose, gravely.

“I am ready,” said Madame Colleville, appearing in a toilet of much
taste. “But what is the matter with my poor daughter? She is crying!”

“Crying? madame,” exclaimed Felix; “please tell her that I will study
‘The Imitation of Christ’ at once.”

Felix left the house with Theodose and Flavie, whose arm the barrister
pressed to let her know he would explain in the carriage the apparent
dementia of the young professor.

An hour later, Madame Colleville and Celeste, Colleville and Theodose
were entering the Thuilliers’ apartment to dine there. Theodose and
Flavie took Thuillier into the garden, where the former said to him:--

“Dear, good friend! you will have the cross within a week. Our charming
friend here will tell you about our visit to the Comtesse du Bruel.”

And Theodose left Thuillier, having caught sight of Desroches in the
act of being brought by Mademoiselle Thuillier into the garden; he went,
driven by a terrible and glacial presentiment, to meet him.

“My good friend,” said Desroches in his ear, “I have come to see if you
can procure at once twenty-five thousand francs plus two thousand six
hundred and eighty for costs.”

“Are you acting for Cerizet?” asked the barrister.

“Cerizet has put all the papers into the hands of Louchard, and you know
what you have to expect if arrested. Is Cerizet wrong in thinking you
have twenty-five thousand francs in your desk? He says you offered them
to him and he thinks it only natural not to leave them in your hands.”

“Thank you for taking the step, my good friend,” replied Theodose. “I
have been expecting this attack.”

“Between ourselves,” replied Desroches, “you have made an utter fool
of him, and he is furious. The scamp will stop at nothing to get his
revenge upon you--for he’ll lose everything if he forces you to fling
your barrister’s gown, as they say, to the nettles and go to prison.”

“I?” said Theodose. “I’m going to pay him. But even so, there will still
be five notes of mine in his hands, for five thousand francs each; what
does he mean to do with them?”

“Oh! after the affair of this morning, I can’t tell you; my client is a
crafty, mangy cur, and he is sure to have his little plans.”

“Look here, Desroches,” said Theodose, taking the hard, unyielding
attorney round the waist, “those papers are in your hands, are not
they?”

“Will you pay them?”

“Yes, in three hours.”

“Very good, then. Be at my office at nine o’clock; I’ll receive the
money and give you your notes; _but_, at half-past nine o’clock, they
will be in the sheriff’s hands.”

“To-night, then, at nine o’clock,” said Theodose.

“Nine o’clock,” repeated Desroches, whose glance had taken in the whole
family, then assembled in the garden.

Celeste, with red eyes, was talking to her godmother; Colleville and
Brigitte, Flavie and Thuillier were on the steps of the broad portico
leading to the entrance-hall. Desroches remarked to Theodose, who
followed him to the door:--

“You can pay off those notes.”

At a single glance the shrewd attorney had comprehended the whole scheme
of the barrister.



CHAPTER XIV. ONE OF CERIZET’S FEMALE CLIENTS

The next morning, at daybreak, Theodose went to the office of the banker
of the poor, to see the effect produced upon his enemy by the punctual
payment of the night before, and to make another effort to get rid of
his hornet.

He found Cerizet standing up, in conference with a woman, and he
received an imperative sign to keep at a distance and not to interrupt
the interview. The barrister was therefore reduced to conjectures as to
the importance of this woman, an importance revealed by the eager
look on the face of the lender “by the little week.” Theodose had
a presentiment, though a very vague one, that the upshot of this
conference would have some influence on Cerizet’s own arrangements, for
he suddenly beheld on that crafty countenance the change produced by a
dawning hope.

“But, my dear mamma Cardinal--”

“Yes, my good monsieur--”

“What is it you want--?”

“It must be decided--”

These beginnings, or these ends of sentences were the only gleams of
light that the animated conversation, carried on in the lowest tones
with lip to ear and ear to lip, conveyed to the motionless witness,
whose attention was fixed on Madame Cardinal.

Madame Cardinal was one of Cerizet’s earliest clients; she peddled fish.
If Parisians know these creations peculiar to their soil, foreigners
have no suspicion of their existence; and Mere Cardinal--technologically
speaking, of course, deserved all the interest she excited in Theodose.
So many women of her species may be met with in the streets that the
passers-by give them no more attention than they give to the three
thousand pictures of the Salon. But as she stood in Cerizet’s office
the Cardinal had all the value of an isolated masterpiece; she was a
complete and perfect type of her species.

The woman was mounted on muddy sabots; but her feet, carefully wrapped
in gaiters, were still further protected by stout and thick-ribbed
stockings. Her cotton gown, adorned with a glounce of mud, bore the
imprint of the strap which supported the fish-basket. Her principal
garment was a shawl of what was called “rabbit’s-hair cashmere,” the two
ends of which were knotted behind, above her bustle--for we must
needs employ a fashionable word to express the effect produced by the
transversal pressure of the basket upon her petticoats, which projected
below it, in shape like a cabbage. A printed cotton neckerchief, of the
coarsest description, gave to view a red neck, ribbed and lined like the
surface of a pond where people have skated. Her head was covered in a
yellow silk foulard, twined in a manner that was rather picturesque.
Short and stout, and ruddy of skin, Mere Cardinal probably drank her
little drop of brandy in the morning. She had once been handsome. The
Halle had formerly reproached her, in the boldness of its figurative
speech, for doing “a double day’s-work in the twenty-four.” Her voice,
in order to reduce itself to the diapason of ordinary conversation, was
obliged to stifle its sound as other voices do in a sick-room; but at
such times it came thick and muffled, from a throat accustomed to send
to the farthest recesses of the highest garret the names of the fish in
their season. Her nose, a la Roxelane, her well-cut lips, her blue eyes,
and all that formerly made up her beauty, was now buried in folds of
vigorous flesh which told of the habits and occupations of an outdoor
life. The stomach and bosom were distinguished for an amplitude worthy
of Rubens.

“Do you want to make me lie in the straw?” she said to Cerizet. “What
do I care for the Toupilliers? Ain’t I a Toupillier myself? What do you
want to do with them, those Toupilliers?”

This savage outburst was hastily repressed by Cerizet, who uttered a
prolonged “Hush-sh!” such as all conspirators obey.

“Well, go and find out all you can about it, and come back to me,” said
Cerizet, pushing the woman toward the door, and whispering, as he did
so, a few words in her ear.

“Well, my dear friend,” said Theodose to Cerizet, “you have got your
money?”

“Yes,” returned Cerizet “we have measured our claws, they are the same
length, the same strength, and the same sharpness. What next?”

“Am I to tell Dutocq that you received, last night, twenty-five thousand
francs?”

“Oh! my dear friend, not a word, if you love me!” cried Cerizet.

“Listen,” said Theodose. “I must know, once for all, what you want. I
am positively determined not to remain twenty-four hours longer on the
gridiron where you have got me. Cheat Dutocq if you will; I am utterly
indifferent to that; but I intend that you and I shall come to an
understanding. It is a fortune that I have paid you, twenty-five
thousand francs, and you must have earned ten thousand more in your
business; it is enough to make you an honest man. Cerizet, if you will
leave me in peace, if you won’t prevent my marriage with Mademoiselle
Colleville, I shall certainly be king’s attorney-general, or something
of that kind in Paris. You can’t do better than make sure of an
influence in that sphere.”

“Here are my conditions; and they won’t allow of discussion; you can
take them or leave them. You will obtain for me the lease of Thuillier’s
new house for eighteen years, and I’ll hand you back one of your five
notes cancelled, and you shall not find me any longer in your way. But
you will have to settle with Dutocq for the remaining four notes. You
got the better of _me_, and I know Dutocq hasn’t the force to stand
against you.”

“I’ll agree to that, provided you’ll pay a rent of forty-eight thousand
francs for the house, the last year in advance, and begin the lease in
October.”

“Yes; but I shall not give for the last year’s rent more than
forty-three thousand francs; your note will pay the remainder. I have
seen the house, and examined it. It suits me very well.”

“One last condition,” said Theodose; “you’ll help me against Dutocq?”

“No,” said Cerizet, “you’ll cook him brown yourself; he doesn’t need any
basting from me; he’ll give out his gravy fast enough. But you ought to
be reasonable. The poor fellow can’t pay off the last fifteen thousand
francs due on his practice, and you should reflect that fifteen thousand
francs would certainly buy back your notes.”

“Well; give me two weeks to get your lease--”

“No, not a day later than Monday next! Tuesday your notes will be in
Louchard’s hands; unless you pay them Monday, or Thuillier signs the
lease.”

“Well, Monday, so be it!” said Theodose; “are we friends?”

“We shall be Monday,” responded Cerizet.

“Well, then, Monday you’ll pay for my dinner,” said Theodose, laughing.

“Yes, at the Rocher de Cancale, if I have the lease. Dutocq shall be
there--we’ll all be there--ah! it is long since I’ve had a good laugh.”

Theodose and Cerizet shook hands, saying, reciprocally:--

“We’ll meet soon.”

Cerizet had not calmed down so suddenly without reasons. In the first
place, as Desroches once said, “Bile does not facilitate business,” and
the usurer had too well seen the justice of that remark not to coolly
resolve to get something out of his position, and to squeeze the jugular
vein of the crafty Provencal until he strangled him.

“It is a fair revenge,” Desroches said to him; “mind you extract its
quintessence. You hold that fellow.”

For ten years past Cerizet had seen men growing rich by practising the
trade of principal tenant. The principal tenant is, in Paris, to the
owners of houses what farmers are to country landlords. All Paris has
seen one of its great tailors, building at his own cost, on the famous
site of Frascati, one of the most sumptuous of houses, and paying, as
principal tenant, fifty thousand francs a year for the ground rent of
the house, which, at the end of nineteen years’ lease, was to become
the property of the owner of the land. In spite of the costs of
construction, which were something like seven hundred thousand francs,
the profits of those nineteen years proved, in the end, very large.

Cerizet, always on the watch for business, had examined the chances
for gain offered by the situation of the house which Thuillier had
_stolen_,--as he said to Desroches,--and he had seen the possibility of
letting it for sixty thousand at the end of six years. There were four
shops, two on each side, for it stood on a boulevard corner. Cerizet
expected, therefore, to get clear ten thousand a year for a dozen years,
allowing for eventualities and sundries attendant on renewal of leases.
He therefore proposed to himself to sell his money-lending business
to the widow Poiret and Cadenet for ten thousand francs; he already
possessed thirty thousand; and the two together would enable him to pay
the last year’s rent in advance, which house-owners in Paris usually
demand as a guarantee from a principal tenant on a long lease. Cerizet
had spent a happy night; he fell asleep in a glorious dream; he
saw himself in a fair way to do an honest business, and to become a
bourgeois like Thuillier, like Minard, and so many others.

But he had a waking of which he did not dream. He found Fortune standing
before him, and emptying her gilded horns of plenty at his feet in the
person of Madame Cardinal. He had always had a liking for the woman, and
had promised her for a year past the necessary sum to buy a donkey and
a little cart, so that she could carry on her business on a large scale,
and go from Paris to the suburbs. Madame Cardinal, widow of a porter in
the corn-market, had an only daughter, whose beauty Cerizet had heard
of from some of the mother’s cronies. Olympe Cardinal was about thirteen
years of age at the time, 1837, when Cerizet began his system of loans
in the quarter; and with a view to an infamous libertinism, he had paid
great attention to the mother, whom he rescued from utter misery, hoping
to make Olympe his mistress. But suddenly, in 1838, the girl left her
mother, and “made her life,” to use an expression by which the lower
classes in Paris describe the abuse of the most precious gifts of nature
and youth.

To look for a girl in Paris is to look for a smelt in the Seine; nothing
but chance can throw her into the net. The chance came. Mere Cardinal,
who to entertain a neighbor had taken her to the Bobino theatre,
recognized in the leading lady her own daughter, whom the first comedian
had held under his control for three years. The mother, gratified at
first at beholding her daughter in a fine gown of gold brocade, her hair
dressed like that of a duchess, and wearing open-worked stockings, satin
shoes, and receiving the plaudits of the audience, ended by screaming
out from her seat in the gallery:--

“You shall soon hear of me, murderer of your own mother! I’ll know
whether miserable strolling-players have the right to come and debauch
young girls of sixteen!”

She waited at the stage-door to capture her daughter, but the first
comedian and the leading lady had no doubt jumped across the footlights
and left the theatre with the audience, instead of issuing by the
stage-door, where Madame Cardinal and her crony, Mere Mahoudeau, made an
infernal rumpus, which two municipal guards were called upon to pacify.
Those august personages, before whom the two women lowered the diapason
of their voices, called the mother’s attention to the fact that the girl
was of legitimate theatrical age, and that instead of screaming at
the door after the director, she could summon him before the
justice-of-peace, or the police-court, whichever she pleased.

The next day Madame Cardinal intended to consult Cerizet, in view of
the fact that he was a clerk in the office of the justice-of-peace;
but, before reaching his lair in the rue des Poules, she was met by the
porter of a house in which an uncle of hers, a certain Toupillier, was
living, who told her that the old man hadn’t probably two days to live,
being then in the last extremity.

“Well, how do you expect me to help it?” replied the widow Cardinal.

“We count on you, my dear Madame Cardinal; we know you won’t forget the
good advice we’ll give you. Here’s the thing. Lately, your poor uncle,
not being able to stir round, has trusted me to go and collect the
rents of his house, rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth, and the arrears of his
dividends at the Treasury, which come to eighteen hundred francs.”

By this time the widow Cardinal’s eyes were becoming fixed instead of
wandering.

“Yes, my dear,” continued Perrache, a hump-backed little concierge;
“and, seeing that you are the only person who ever thinks about him, and
that you come and see him sometimes, and bring him fish, perhaps he may
make a bequest in your favor. My wife, who has been nursing him for
the last few days since he has been so ill, spoke to him of you, but he
wouldn’t have you told about his illness. But now, don’t you see, it is
high time you should show yourself there. It is pretty nigh two months
since he has been able to attend to business.”

“You may well think, you old thief,” replied Madame Cardinal, hurrying
at top speed toward the rue Honore-Chevalier, where her uncle lived in
a wretched garret, “that the hair would grow on my hand before I could
ever imagine that. What! my uncle Toupillier rich! the old pauper of the
church of Saint-Sulpice!”

“Ah!” returned the porter, “but he fed well. He went to bed every night
with his best friend, a big bottle of Roussillon. My wife has tasted it,
though he told us it was common stuff. The wine-merchant in the rue des
Canettes supplies it to him.”

“Don’t say a word about all this,” said the widow, when she parted from
the man who had given her the information. “I’ll take care and remember
you--if anything comes of it.”

Toupillier, former drum-major in the French Guards, had been for the
two years preceding 1789 in the service of the Church as beadle of
Saint-Sulpice. The Revolution deprived him of that post, and he then
dropped down into a state of abject misery. He was even obliged to
take to the profession of model, for he _enjoyed_, as they say, a fine
physique. When public worship was restored, he took up his beadle’s
staff once more; but in 1816 he was dismissed, as much on account of his
immorality as for his political opinions. Nevertheless, he was allowed
to stay about the door of the church and distribute the holy water.
Later, an unfortunate affair, which we shall presently mention, made
him lose even that position; but, still finding means to keep to the
sanctuary, he obtained permission to be allowed as a pauper in the
porch. At this period of life, being then seventy-two years of age, he
made himself ninety-six, and began the profession of centenarian.

In all Paris it was impossible to find another such beard and head of
hair as Toupillier’s. As he walked he appeared bent double; he held a
stick in his shaking hand,--a hand that was covered with lichen, like
a granite rock, and with the other he held out the classic hat with
a broad brim, filthy and battered, into which, however, there fell
abundant alms. His legs were swathed in rags and bandages, and his feet
shuffled along in miserable overshoes of woven mat-weed, inside of which
he had fastened excellent cork soles. He washed his face with certain
compounds, which gave it an appearance of forms of illness, and he
played the senility of a centenarian to the life. He reckoned himself a
hundred years old in 1830, at which time his actual age was eighty; he
was the head of the paupers of Saint-Sulpice, the master of the place,
and all those who came to beg under the arcades of the church, safe from
the persecutions of the police and beneath the protection of the beadle
and the giver of holy water, were forced to pay him a sort of tithe.

When a new heir, a bridegroom, or some godfather left the church,
saying, “Here, this is for all of you; don’t torment any of my party,”
 Toupillier, appointed by the beadle to receive these alms, pocketed
three-fourths, and distributed only the remaining quarter among his
henchmen, whose tribute amounted to a sou a day. Money and wine were his
last two passions; but he regulated the latter and gave himself up to
the former, with neglecting his personal comfort. He drank at night
only, after his dinner, and for twenty years he slept in the arms of
drunkenness, his last mistress.

In the early morning he was at his post with all his faculties. From
then until his dinner, which he took at Pere Lathuile’s (made famous by
Charlet), he gnawed crusts of bread by way of nourishment; and he gnawed
them artistically, with an air of resignation which earned him abundant
alms. The beadle and the giver of holy water, with whom he may have had
some private understanding, would say of him:--

“He is one of the worthy poor of the church; he used to know the rector
Languet, who built Saint-Sulpice; he was for twenty years beadle of the
church before the Revolution, and he is now over a hundred years old.”

This little biography, well known to all the pious attendants of the
church, was, of course, the best of his advertisements, and no hat was
so well lined as his. He bought his house in 1826, and began to invest
his money in the Funds in 1830. From the value of the two investments he
must have made something like six thousand francs a year, and probably
turned them over by usury, after Cerizet’s own fashion; for the sum he
paid for the house was forty thousand francs, while his investment in
1830 was forty-eight thousand more. His niece, deceived by the old man
as much as he deceived the functionaries and the pious souls of the
church, believed him the most miserable of paupers, and when she had any
fish that were spoiling she sometimes took them to the aged beggar.

Consequently, she now felt it her right to get what she could in return
for her pity and her liberality to an uncle who was likely to have
a crowd of collateral heirs; she herself being the third and last
Toupillier daughter. She had four brothers, and her father, a porter
with a hand-cart, had told her, in her childhood, of three aunts and
four uncles, who all led an existence of the baser sort.

After inspecting the sick man, she went, at full speed, to consult
Cerizet, telling him, in the first place, how she had found her
daughter, and then the reasons and indications which made her think that
her uncle Toupillier was hoarding a pile of gold in his mattress. Mere
Cardinal did not feel herself strong enough to seize upon the property,
legally or illegally, and she therefore came to confide in Cerizet and
get his advice.

So, then, the banker of the poor, like other scavengers, had, at last,
found diamonds in the slime in which he had paddled for the last four
years, being always on the watch for some such chance,--a chance,
they say, occasionally met with in the purlieus, which give birth to
heiresses in sabots. This was the secret of his unexpected gentleness to
la Peyrade, the man whose ruin he had vowed. It is easy to imagine the
anxiety with which he awaited the return of Madame Cardinal, to whom
this wily schemer of nefarious plots had given means to verify her
suspicions as to the existence of the hoarded treasure, promising her
complete success if she would trust him to obtain for her so rich a
harvest. He was not the man to shrink from a crime, above all, when he
saw that others could commit it, while he obtained the benefits.

“Well, monsieur,” cried the fishwife, entering Cerizet’s den with a face
as much inflamed by cupidity as by the haste of her movements, “my uncle
sleeps on more than a hundred thousand francs in gold, and I am certain
that those Perraches, by dint of nursing him, have smelt the rat.”

“Shared among forty heirs that won’t be much to each,” said Cerizet.
“Listen to me, Mere Cardinal: I’ll marry your daughter; give her your
uncle’s gold, and I’ll guarantee to you a life-interest in the house and
the dividends from the money in the Funds.”

“We sha’n’t run any risk?”

“None, whatever.”

“Agreed, then,” said the widow Cardinal, holding out her hand to her
future son-in-law. “Six thousand francs a year; hey! what a fine life
I’ll have.”

“With a son-in-law like me!” added Cerizet.

“I shall be a bourgeoisie of Paris!”

“Now,” resumed Cerizet, after a pause, “I must study the ground. Don’t
leave your uncle alone a minute; tell the Perraches that you expect a
doctor. I’ll be the doctor, and when I get there you must seem not to
know me.”

“Aren’t you sly, you old rogue,” said Madame Cardinal, with a punch on
Cerizet’s stomach by way of farewell.

An hour later, Cerizet, dressed in black, disguised by a rusty wig and
an artificially painted physiognomy, arrived at the house in the rue
Honore-Chevalier in the regulation cabriolet. He asked the porter to
tell him how to find the lodging of an old beggar named Toupillier.

“Is monsieur the doctor whom Madame Cardinal expects?” asked Perrache.

Cerizet had no doubt reflected on the gravity of the affair he was
undertaking, for he avoided giving an answer to that question.

“Is this the way?” he said, turning at random to one side of the
courtyard.

“No, monsieur,” replied Perrache, who then took him to the back stairs
of the house, which led up to the wretched attic occupied by the pauper.

Nothing remained for the inquisitive porter to do but to question the
driver of the cabriolet; to which employment we will leave him, while we
pursue our own inquiries elsewhere.



CHAPTER XV

       THE DIFFICULTIES THAT CROP UP IN THE EASIEST OF THEFTS

The house in which Toupillier lived is one of those which have lost half
their depth, owing to the straightening of the line of the street, the
rue Honore-Chevalier being one of the narrowest in the Saint-Sulpice
quarter. The owner, forbidden by the law to repair it, or to add new
storeys, was compelled to let the wretched building in the condition
in which he bought it. It consisted of a first storey above the
ground-floor, surmounted by garrets, with two small wings running back
on either side. The courtyard thus formed ended in a garden planted with
trees, which was always rented to the occupant of the first floor. This
garden, separated by an iron railing from the courtyard, would have
allowed a rich owner to sell the front buildings to the city, and to
build a new house upon the courtyard; but the whole of the first floor
was let on an eighteen years’ lease to a mysterious personage, about
whom neither the official policing of the concierge nor the curiosity of
the other tenants could find anything to censure.

This tenant, now seventy years of age, had built, in 1829, an outer
stairway, leading from the right wing of the first floor to the garden,
so that he could get there without going through the courtyard. Half the
ground-floor was occupied by a book-stitcher, who for the last ten
years had used the stable and coach-house for workshops. A book-binder
occupied the other half. The binder and the stitcher lived, each of
them, in half the garret rooms over the front building on the street.
The garrets above the rear wings were occupied, the one on the right
by the mysterious tenant, the one on the left by Toupillier, who paid
a hundred francs a year for it, and reached it by a dark staircase,
lighted by small round windows. The porte-cochere was made in the
circular form indispensable in a street so narrow that two carriages
cannot pass in it.

Cerizet laid hold of the rope which served as a baluster, to climb the
species of ladder leading to the room where the so-called beggar was
dying,--a room in which the odious spectacle of pretended pauperism
was being played. In Paris, everything that is done for a purpose
is thoroughly done. Would-be paupers are as clever at mounting their
disguise as shopkeepers in preparing their show-windows, or sham rich
men in obtaining credit.

The floor had never been swept; the bricks had disappeared beneath
layers of dirt, dust, dried mud, and any and every thing thrown down by
Toupillier. A miserable stove of cast-iron, the pipe of which entered
a crumbling chimney, was the most apparent piece of furniture in this
hovel. In an alcove stood a bed, with tester and valence of green serge,
which the moths had transformed into lace. The window, almost useless,
had a heavy coating of grease upon its panes, which dispensed with
the necessity of curtains. The whitewashed walls presented to the eye
fuliginous tones, due to the wood and peat burned by the pauper in his
stove. On the fireplace were a broken water-pitcher, two bottles, and
a cracked plate. A worm-eaten chest of drawers contained his linen and
decent clothes. The rest of the furniture consisted of a night-table of
the commonest description, another table, worth about forty sous, and
two kitchen chairs with the straw seats almost gone. The extremely
picturesque costume of the centenarian pauper was hanging from a nail,
and below it, on the floor, were the shapeless mat-weed coverings that
served him for shoes, the whole forming, with his amorphous old hat and
knotty stick, a sort of panoply of misery.

As he entered, Cerizet gave a rapid glance at the old man, whose head
lay on a pillow brown with grease and without a pillow-case; his angular
profile, like those which engravers of the last century were fond
of making out of rocks in the landscapes they engraved, was strongly
defined in black against the green serge hangings of the tester.
Toupillier, a man nearly six feet tall, was looking fixedly at some
object at the foot of his bed; he did not move on hearing the groaning
of the heavy door, which, being armed with iron bolts and a strong lock,
closed his domicile securely.

“Is he conscious?” said Cerizet, before whom Madame Cardinal started
back, not having recognized him till he spoke.

“Pretty nearly,” she replied.

“Come out on the staircase, so that he doesn’t hear us,” whispered
Cerizet. “This is how we’ll manage it,” he continued, in the ear of his
future mother-in-law. “He is weak, but he isn’t so very low; we have
fully a week before us. I’ll send you a doctor who’ll suit us,--you
understand? and later in the evening I’ll bring you six poppy-heads.
In the state he’s in, you see, a decoction of poppy-heads will send him
into a sound sleep. I’ll send you a cot-bed on pretence of your sleeping
in the room with him. We’ll move him from one bed to the other, and when
we’ve found the money there won’t be any difficulty in carrying it off.
But we ought to know who the people are who live in this old barrack.
If Perrache suspects, as you think, about the money, he might give an
alarm, and so many tenants, so many spies, you know--”

“Oh! as for that,” said Madame Cardinal, “I’ve found out already that
Monsieur du Portail, the old man who occupies the first floor, has
charge of an insane woman; I heard their Dutch servant-woman, Katte,
calling her Lydie this morning. The only other servant is an old valet
named Bruneau; he does everything, except cook.”

“But the binder and the stitcher down below,” returned Cerizet, “they
begin work very early in the morning--Well, anyhow, we must study the
matter,” he added, in the tone of a man whose plans are not yet decided.
“I’ll go to the mayor’s office of your arrondissement, and get Olympe’s
register of birth, and put up the banns. The marriage must take place a
week from Saturday.”

“How he goes it, the rascal!” cried the admiring Madame Cardinal,
pushing her formidable son-in-law by the shoulder.

As he went downstairs Cerizet was surprised to see, through one of the
small round windows, an old man, evidently du Portail, walking in the
garden with a very important member of the government, Comte Martial de
la Roche-Hugon. He stopped in the courtyard when he reached it, as if
to examine the old house, built in the reign of Louis XIV., the yellow
walls of which, though of freestone, were bent like the elderly beggar
they contained. Then he looked at the workshops, and counted the
workmen. The house was otherwise as silent as a cloister. Being observed
himself, Cerizet departed, thinking over in his mind the various
difficulties that might arise in extracting the sum hidden beneath the
dying man.

“Carry off all that gold at night?” he said to himself; “why, those
porters will be on the watch, and twenty persons might see us! It is
hard work to carry even twenty-five thousand francs of gold on one’s
person.”

Societies have two goals of perfection; the first is a state of
civilization in which morality equally infused and pervasive does not
admit even the idea of crime; the Jesuits reached that point, formerly
presented by the primitive Church. The second is the state of another
civilization in which the supervision of citizens over one another makes
crime impossible. The end which modern society has placed before itself
is the latter; namely, that in which a crime presents such difficulties
that a man must abandon all reasoning in order to commit it. In fact,
iniquities which the law cannot reach are not left actually unpunished,
for social judgment is even more severe than that of courts. If a
man like Minoret, the post-master at Nemours [see “Ursule Mirouet”]
suppresses a will and no one witnesses the act, the crime is traced home
to him by the watchfulness of virtue as surely as a robbery is followed
up by the detective police. No wrong-doing passes actually unperceived;
and wherever a lesion in rectitude takes place the scar remains. Things
can be no more made to disappear than men; so carefully, in Paris
especially, are articles and objects ticketed and numbered, houses
watched, streets observed, places spied upon. To live at ease, crime
must have a sanction like that of the Bourse; like that conceded by
Cerizet’s clients; who never complained of his usury, and, indeed, would
have been troubled in mind if their flayer were not in his den of a
Tuesday.

“Well, my dear monsieur,” said Madame Perrache, the porter’s wife, as
he passed her lodge, “how do you find him, that friend of God, that poor
man?”

“I am not the doctor,” replied Cerizet, who now decidedly declined that
role. “I am Madame Cardinal’s business man. I have just advised her to
have a cot-bed put up, so as to nurse her uncle night and day; though,
perhaps, she will have to get a regular nurse.”

“I can help her,” said Madame Perrache. “I nurse women in childbed.”

“Well, we’ll see about it,” said Cerizet; “I’ll arrange all that. Who is
the tenant on your first floor?”

“Monsieur du Portail. He has lodged here these thirty years. He is a man
with a good income, monsieur; highly respectable, and elderly. You know
people who invest in the Funds live on their incomes. He used to be in
business. But it is more than eleven years now since he has been trying
to restore the reason of a daughter of one of his friends, Mademoiselle
Lydie de la Peyrade. She has the best advice, I can tell you; the very
first doctors in Paris; only this morning they had a consultation. But
so far nothing has cured her; and they have to watch her pretty close;
for sometimes she gets up and walks at night--”

“Mademoiselle Lydie de la Peyrade!” exclaimed Cerizet; “are you sure of
the name?”

“I’ve heard Madame Katte, her nurse, who also does the cooking, call
her so a thousand times, monsieur; though, generally, neither Monsieur
Bruneau, the valet, nor Madame Katte say much. It’s like talking to the
wall to try and get any information out of them. We have been porters
here these twenty years and we’ve never found out anything about
Monsieur du Portail yet. More than that, monsieur, he owns the little
house alongside; you see the double door from here. Well, he can go out
that way and receive his company too, and we know nothing about it. Our
owner doesn’t know anything more than we do; when people ring at that
door, Monsieur Bruneau goes and opens it.”

“Then you didn’t see the gentleman who is talking with him in the garden
go by this way?”

“Bless me! no, that I didn’t!”

“Ah!” thought Cerizet as he got into the cabriolet, “she must be the
daughter of that uncle of Theodose. I wonder if du Portail can be the
secret benefactor who sent money from time to time to that rascal?
Suppose I send an anonymous letter to the old fellow, warning him of
the danger the barrister runs from those notes for twenty-five thousand
francs?”

An hour later the cot-bed had arrived for Madame Cardinal, to whom the
inquisitive portress offered her services to bring her something to eat.

“Do you want to see the rector?” Madame Cardinal inquired of her uncle.

She had noticed that the arrival of the bed seemed to draw him from his
somnolence.

“I want wine!” replied the pauper.

“How do you feel now, Pere Toupillier?” asked Madame Perrache, in a
coaxing voice.

“I tell you I want wine,” repeated the old man, with an energetic
insistence scarcely to be expected of his feebleness.

“We must first find out if it is good for you, uncle,” said Madame
Cardinal, soothingly. “Wait till the doctor comes.”

“Doctor! I won’t have a doctor!” cried Toupillier; “and you, what are
you doing here? I don’t want anybody.”

“My good uncle, I came to know if you’d like something tasty. I’ve got
some nice fresh soles--hey! a bit of fried sole, with a squeeze of lemon
on it?”

“Your fish, indeed!” cried Toupillier; “all rotten! That last you
brought me, more than six weeks ago, it is there in the cupboard; you
can take it away with you.”

“Heavens! how ungrateful sick men are!” whispered the widow Cardinal to
Perrache.

Nevertheless, to exhibit solicitude, she arranged the pillow under the
patient’s head, saying:--

“There! uncle, don’t you feel better like that?”

“Let me alone!” shouted Toupillier, angrily; “I want no one here; I want
wine; leave me in peace.”

“Don’t get angry, little uncle; we’ll fetch you some wine.”

“Number six wine, rue des Canettes,” cried the pauper.

“Yes, I know,” replied Madame Cardinal; “but let me count out my
coppers. I want to get something better for you than that kind of wine;
for, don’t you see, an uncle, he’s a kind of father, and one shouldn’t
mind what one does for him.”

So saying, she sat down, with her legs apart, on one of the dilapidated
chairs, and poured into her apron the contents of her pockets, namely:
a knife, her snuff-box, two pawn-tickets, some crusts of bread, and a
handful of copper, from which she extracted a few silver bits.

This exhibition, intended to prove her generous and eager devotion, had
no result. Toupillier seemed not to notice it. Exhausted by the feverish
energy with which he had demanded his favorite remedy, he made an effort
to change his position, and, with his back turned to his two nurses, he
again muttered: “Wine! wine!” after which nothing more was heard of him
but a stentorous breathing, that plainly showed the state of his lungs,
which were beginning to congest.

“I suppose I must go and fetch his wine!” said the Cardinal, restoring
to her pockets, with some ill-humor, the cargo she had just pulled out
of them.

“If you don’t want to go--” began Madame Perrache, always ready to offer
her services.

The fishwife hesitated for a moment; then, reflecting that something
might be got out of a conversation with the wine-merchant, and sure,
moreover, that as long as Toupillier lay on his gold she could safely
leave him alone with the portress, she said:--

“Thank you, Madame Perrache, but I’d better make acquaintance with his
trades-folk.”

Then, having spied behind the night-table a dirty bottle which might
hold about two quarts,--

“Did he say the rue des Canelles?” she inquired of the portress.

“Corner of the rue Guisarde,” replied Madame Perrache. “Monsieur
Legrelu, a tall, fine man with big whiskers and no hair.” Then, lowering
her voice, she added: “His number-six wine, you know, is Roussillon,
and the best, too. However, the wine-merchant knows; it is enough if you
tell him you have come from his customer, the pauper of Saint-Sulpice.”

“No need to tell me anything twice,” said the Cardinal, opening the door
and making, as they say, a false exit. “Ah ca!” she said, coming back;
“what does he burn in his stove, supposing I want to heat some remedy
for him?”

“Goodness!” said the portress, “he doesn’t make much provision for
winter, and here we are in the middle of summer!”

“And not a saucepan! not a pot, even! Gracious! what a way to live. I’ll
have to fetch him some provisions; I hope nobody will see the things I
bring back; I’d be ashamed they should--”

“I’ll lend you a hand-bag,” said the portress, always ready and
officious.

“No, I’ll buy a basket,” replied the fishwife, more anxious about what
she expected to carry away than what she was about to bring home to
the pauper. “There must be some Auvergnat in the neighborhood who sells
wood,” she added.

“Corner of the rue Ferou; you’ll find one there. A fine establishment,
with logs of wood painted in a kind of an arcade all round the shop--so
like, you’d think they were going to speak to you.”

Before going finally off, Madame Cardinal went through a piece of
very deep hypocrisy. We have seen how she hesitated about leaving the
portress alone with the sick man:--

“Madame Perrache,” she said to her, “you won’t leave him, the poor
darling, will you, till I get back?”

It may have been noticed that Cerizet had not decided on any definite
course of action in the new affair he was now undertaking. The part of
doctor, which for a moment he thought of assuming, frightened him, and
he gave himself out, as we have seen, to Madame Perrache as the business
agent of his accomplice. Once alone, he began to see that his original
idea complicated with a doctor, a nurse, and a notary, presented the
most serious difficulties. A regular will drawn in favor of Madame
Cardinal was not a thing to be improvised in a moment. It would take
some time to acclimatize the idea in the surly and suspicious mind of
the old pauper, and death, which was close at hand, might play them a
trick at any moment, and balk the most careful preparations.

It was true that unless a will were made the income of eight thousand
francs on the Grand Livre and the house in the rue Notre-Dame de
Nazareth would go to the heirs-at-law, and Madame Cardinal would get
only her share of the property; but the abandonment of this visible
portion of the inheritance was the surest means of laying hands on the
invisible part of it. Besides, if the latter were secured, what hindered
their returning to the idea of a will?

Resolving, therefore, to confine the _operation_ to the simplest terms
at first, Cerizet summed them up in the manoeuvre of the poppy-heads,
already mentioned, and he was making his way back to Toupillier’s abode,
armed with that single weapon of war, intending to give Madame Cardinal
further instructions, when he met her, bearing on her arm the basket she
had just bought; and in that basket was the sick man’s panacea.

“Upon my word!” cried the usurer, “is this the way you keep your watch?”

“I had to go out and buy him wine,” replied the Cardinal; “he is howling
like a soul in hell that he wants to be at peace, and to be let alone,
and get his wine! It is his one idea that Roussillon is good for his
disease. Well, when he has drunk it, I dare say he will be quieter.”

“You are right,” said Cerizet, sententiously; “never contradict a sick
man. But this wine, you know, ought to be improved; by infusing these”
 (and lifting one of the covers of the basket he slipped in the poppies)
“you’ll procure the poor man a good, long sleep,--five or six hours at
least. This evening I’ll come and see you, and nothing, I think, need
prevent us from examining a little closer those matters of inheritance.”

“I see,” said Madame Cardinal, winking.

“To-night, then,” said Cerizet, not wishing to prolong the conversation.

He had a strong sense of the difficulty and danger of the affair,
and was very reluctant to be seen in the street conversing with his
accomplice.

Returning to her uncle’s garret, Madame Cardinal found him still in
a state of semi-torpor; she relieved Madame Perrache, and bade her
good-bye, going to the door to receive a supply of wood, all sawed,
which she had ordered from the Auvergnat in the rue Ferou.

Into an earthen pot, which she had bought of the right size to fit upon
the hole in the stoves of the poor where they put their soup-kettles,
she now threw the poppies, pouring over them two-thirds of the wine
she had brought back with her. Then she lighted a fire beneath the pot,
intending to obtain the decoction agreed upon as quickly as possible.
The crackling of the wood and the heat, which soon spread about the
room, brought Toupillier out of his stupor. Seeing the stove lighted he
called out:--

“Who is making a fire here? Do you want to burn the house down?”

“Why, uncle,” said the Cardinal, “it is wood I bought with my own money,
to warm your wine. The doctor doesn’t want you to drink it cold.”

“Where is it, that wine?” demanded Toupillier, calming down a little at
the thought that the fire was not burning at his expense.

“It must come to a boil,” said his nurse; “the doctor insisted upon
that. Still, if you’ll be good I’ll give you half a glass of it cold,
just to wet your whistle. I’ll take that upon myself, but don’t you tell
the doctor.”

“Doctor! I won’t have a doctor; they are all scoundrels, invented to
kill people,” cried Toupillier, whom the idea of drink had revived.
“Come, give me the wine!” he said, in the tone of a man whose patience
had come to an end.

Convinced that though this compliance would do no harm it could do no
good, Madame Cardinal poured out half a glass, and while she gave
it with one hand to the sick man, with the other she raised him to a
sitting posture that he might drink it.

With his fleshless, eager fingers Toupillier clutched the glass, emptied
it at a gulp, and exclaimed:--

“Ah! that’s a fine drop, that is! though you’ve watered it.”

“You mustn’t say that, uncle; I went and bought it myself of Pere
Legrelu, and I’ve given it you quite pure. But you let me simmer the
rest; the doctor said I might then give you all you wanted.”

Toupillier resigned himself with a shrug of the shoulders. At the end
of fifteen minutes, the infusion being in condition to serve, Madame
Cardinal brought him, without further appeal, a full cup of it.

The avidity with which the old pauper drank it down prevented him from
noticing at first that the wine was drugged; but as he swallowed the
last drops he tasted the sickly and nauseating flavor, and flinging the
cup on the bed he cried out that some one was trying to poison him.

“Poison! nonsense!” said the fishwife, pouring into her own mouth a few
drops of that which remained in the bottle, declaring to the old man
that if the wine did not seem to him the same as usual, it was because
his mouth had a “bad taste to it.”

Before the end of the dispute, which lasted some time, the narcotic
began to take effect, and at the end of an hour the sick man was sound
asleep.

While idly waiting for Cerizet, an idea took possession of the
Cardinal’s mind. She thought that in view of their comings and goings
with the treasure, it would be well if the vigilance of the Perrache
husband and wife could be dulled in some manner. Consequently, after
carefully flinging the refuse poppy-heads into the privy, she called to
the portress:--

“Madame Perrache, come up and taste his wine. Wouldn’t you have thought
to hear him talk he was ready to drink a cask of it? Well, a cupful
satisfied him.”

“Your health!” said the portress, touching glasses with the Cardinal,
who was careful to have hers filled with the unboiled wine. Less
accomplished as a gourmet than the old beggar, Madame Perrache perceived
nothing in the insidious liquid (cold by the time she drank it) to make
her suspect its narcotic character; on the contrary, she declared it was
“velvet,” and wished that her husband were there to have a share in the
treat. After a rather long gossip, the two women separated. Then, with
the cooked meat she had provided for herself, and the remains of the
Roussillon, Madame Cardinal made a repast which she finished off with a
siesta. Without mentioning the emotions of the day, the influence of one
of the most heady wines of the country would have sufficed to explain
the soundness of her sleep; when she woke darkness was coming on.

Her first care was to give a glance at her patient; his sleep was
restless, and he was dreaming aloud.

“Diamonds,” he said; “those diamonds? At my death, but not before.”

“Gracious!” thought Madame Cardinal, “that was the one thing
lacking,--diamonds! that he should have diamonds!”

Then, as Toupillier seemed to be in the grasp of a violent nightmare,
she leaned over him so as not to lose a word of his speech, hoping to
gather from it some important revelation. At this moment a slight rap
given to the door, from which the careful nurse had removed the key,
announced the arrival of Cerizet.

“Well?” he said, on entering.

“He has taken the drug. He’s been sound asleep these two hours; just
now, in dreaming, he was talking of diamonds.”

“Well,” said Cerizet, “it wouldn’t be surprising if we found some. These
paupers when they set out to be rich, like to pile up everything.”

“Ah ca!” cried the Cardinal, suddenly, “what made you go and tell
Mere Perrache that you were my man of business, and that you weren’t
a doctor? I thought we agreed this morning that you were coming as a
doctor?”

Cerizet did not choose to admit that the usurpation of that title had
seemed to him dangerous; he feared to discourage his accomplice.

“I saw that the woman was going to propose a consultation,” he replied,
“and I got out of it that way.”

“Goodness!” exclaimed Madame Cardinal, “they say fine minds come
together; that was my dodge, too. Calling you my man of business seemed
to give that old pilferer a few ideas. Did they see you come in, those
porters?”

“I thought, as I went by,” replied Cerizet, “that the woman was asleep
in her chair.”

“And well she might be,” said the Cardinal, significantly.

“What, really?” said Cerizet.

“Parbleu!” replied the fishwife; “what’s enough for one is enough for
two; the rest of the stuff went that way.”

“As for the husband, he was there,” said Cerizet; “for he gave me a
gracious sign of recognition, which I could have done without.”

“Wait till it is quite dark, and we’ll play him a comedy that shall fool
him finely.”

Accordingly, ten minutes later, the fishwife, with a vim that delighted
the usurer, organized for the innocent porter the comedy of a _monsieur_
who would not, out of politeness, let her accompany him to the door; she
herself with equal politeness insisting. Appearing to conduct the sham
physician into the street gate she pretended that the wind had blown
out of her lamp, and under pretext of relighting it she put out that of
Perrache. All this racket, accompanied by exclamations and a bewildering
loquacity, was so briskly carried out that the porter, if summoned
before the police-court, would not have hesitated to swear that the
doctor, whose arrival he had witnessed, left the house between nine and
ten o’clock.

When the two accomplices were thus in tranquil possession of the field
of operations Madame Cardinal hung up her rabbit’s-hair shawl before the
window to exclude all possible indiscretion on the part of a neighbor.
In the Luxembourg quarter life quiets down early. By ten o’clock all
the sounds in the house as well as those out of doors were stilled, and
Cerizet declared that the moment had come to go to work; by beginning at
once they were certain that the sleeper would remain under the influence
of the drug; besides, if the booty were found at once, Madame Cardinal
could, under pretence of a sudden attack on her patient, which required
her to fetch a remedy from the apothecary, get the porter to open the
street gate for her without suspicion. As all porters pull the gate-cord
from their beds, Cerizet would be able to get away at the same time
without notice.

Powerful in advice, Cerizet was a very incapable hand in action; and,
without the robust assistance of Mere Cardinal he could never have
lifted what might almost be called the corpse of the former drum-major.
Completely insensible, Toupillier was now an inert mass, a dead-weight,
which could, fortunately, be handled without much precaution, and
the athletic Madame Cardinal, gathering strength from her cupidity,
contrived, notwithstanding Cerizet’s insufficient assistance, to effect
the transfer of her uncle from one bed to the other.

On rummaging the bed from which the body was moved, nothing was
found, and Madame Cardinal, pressed by Cerizet to explain why she had
confidently asserted that her uncle “was lying on one hundred thousand
francs in gold,” was forced to admit that a talk with Madame Perrache,
and her own fervid imagination were the sole grounds of her certainty.
Cerizet was furious; having for one whole day dallied with the idea
and hope of fortune, having, moreover, entered upon a dangerous and
compromising course of action, only to find himself, at the supreme
moment, face to face with--nothing! The disappointment was so bitter
that if he had not been afraid of the muscular strength of his
future mother-in-law, he would have rushed upon her with some frantic
intention.

His anger, however, spent itself in words. Harshly abused, Madame
Cardinal contented herself by remarking that all hope was not lost, and
then, with a faith that ought to have moved mountains, she set to work
to empty the straw from the mattress she had already vainly explored
in all directions. But Cerizet would not allow that extreme measure; he
remarked that after the autopsy of a straw mattress such detritus would
remain upon the floor as must infallibly give rise to suspicion. But
the Cardinal, who thought this caution ridiculous, was determined to,
at least, take apart the flock bedstead. The passion of the search gave
extraordinary vigilance to her senses, and as she raised the wooden
side-frame she heard the fall of some tiny object on the floor. Seizing
the light she began to search in the mound of filth of all kinds that
was under the bed, and finally laid her hand on a bit of polished steel
about half an inch long, the use of which was to her inexplicable.

“That’s a key!” cried Cerizet, who was standing beside her with some
indifference, but whose imagination now set off at a gallop.

“Ha! ha! you see I was right,” cried the Cardinal. “But what can it
open?” she added, on reflection; “nothing bigger than a doll’s house.”

“No,” said Cerizet, “it is a modern invention, and very strong locks can
be opened with that little instrument.”

With a rapid glance he took in all the pieces of furniture in the room;
went to the bureau and pulled out the drawers; looked in the stove, in
the table; but nowhere did he find a lock to which the little key could
be adapted.

Suddenly the Cardinal had a flash of illumination.

“See here!” she said. “I remarked that the old thief, as he lay on his
bed, never took his eyes off the wall just opposite to him.”

“A cupboard hidden in the wall!” cried Cerizet, seizing the light
eagerly; “it is not impossible!”

Examining attentively the door of the alcove, which was opposite the
bed’s head, he could see nothing there but a vast accumulation of dust
and spiders’ webs. He next employed the sense of touch, and began to rap
and sound the wall in all directions. At the spot to which Toupillier’s
constant gaze was directed he thought he perceived in a very narrow
space a slight sonority, and he presently perceived that he was rapping
on wood. He then rubbed the spot vigorously with his handkerchief, and
beneath the thick layer of dust and dirt which he thus removed he found
a piece of oak plank carefully inserted in the wall. On one side of
this plank was a small round hole; it was that of the lock which the key
fitted!

While Cerizet was turning the key, which worked with great difficulty,
Madame Cardinal, holding the light, was pale and breathless; but, oh!
cruel deception! the cupboard, at last unlocked and open, showed only an
empty space, into which the light in her hand fell uselessly.

Allowing this bacchante to give vent to her despair by saluting her
much-beloved uncle with the harshest epithets, Cerizet quietly inserted
his arm into the cupboard, and after feeling it over at the back, he
cried out, “An iron safe!” adding, impatiently, “Give me more light,
Madame Cardinal.”

Then, as the light did not penetrate to the depths of the cupboard, he
snatched the candle from the bottle, where, in default of a candlestick,
the Cardinal had stuck it, and, taking it in his hand, moved it
carefully over all parts of the iron safe, the existence of which was
now a certainty.

“There is no visible lock,” he said. “There must be a secret opening.”

“Isn’t he sly, that old villain!” exclaimed Madame Cardinal, while
Cerizet’s bony fingers felt the side of the safe over minutely.

“Ha!” he exclaimed, after groping for ten minutes, “I have it!”

During this time Madame Cardinal’s life seemed actually suspended.

Under the pressure which Cerizet now applied, the iron side rose quickly
into the thickness of the wall above, and in the midst of a mass of gold
thrown pell-mell into a large excavation that was now exposed to view,
lay a case of red morocco, which, from its size and appearance, gave
promise of magnificent booty.

“I take the diamonds for myself,” said Cerizet, when he had opened the
case and seen the splendid jewels it contained; “you won’t know how
to get rid of them. I’ll leave you the gold for your share. As for the
house and the money in the Funds, they are not worth the trouble it
would be to get the old fellow to make a will.”

“Not so fast, my little man!” replied the Cardinal, who thought this
decision rather summary; “we will first count the money--”

“Hush!” exclaimed Cerizet, apparently listening to a sound.

“What is it?” asked the Cardinal.

“Don’t you hear some one moving below?”

“No, I hear nothing.”

Cerizet, making her a sign to be silent, listened attentively.

“I hear a step on the stairs,” he said, a moment later.

Then he hastily replaced the morocco case, and made desperate but
unavailing efforts to lower the panel.

“Yes!” cried Madame Cardinal, terrified; “some one is really coming.”
 Then, fastening to a hope of safety, she added, “I dare say it is that
insane girl; they say she walks at night.”

At any rate, the insane girl (if it were she) had a key to the room, for
a moment later, this key was inserted in the lock. With a rapid glance
Madame Cardinal measured the distance to the door; should she have time
to push the bolt? No; certain that it was then too late, so she blew out
the candle to give herself at least some chances in the darkness.

Useless effort! the intruder who now appeared had brought a candle with
him.

When Madame Cerizet saw that she had to do with a small, old man of
puny appearance, she flung herself before him with flaming eyes, like a
lioness from whom the hunter is seeking to take her cubs.

“Be calm, my good woman,” said the little man, in a jeering tone; “the
police are sent for; they will be here in a moment.”

At the word “police” the Cardinal’s legs gave way.

“But, monsieur,” she said, “why the police? we are not robbers.”

“No matter for that; if I were in your place I shouldn’t wait for them,”
 said the little old man; “they make unfortunate mistakes sometimes.”

“Can I clear out?” asked the woman, incredulously.

“Yes, if you empty your pockets of anything which has, _by accident_,
got into them.”

“Oh! my good monsieur, I haven’t a thing in my hands or my pockets; I
wasn’t here to harm any one,--only to nurse my poor dear uncle; you can
search me.”

“Come, be off with you! that will do,” said the old man.

Madame Cardinal did not oblige him to repeat the order, and she rapidly
disappeared down the staircase.

Cerizet made as though he would take the same road.

“You, monsieur, are quite another thing,” said the little old man. “You
and I must talk together; but if you are tractable, the affair between
us can be settled amicably.”

Whether it was that the narcotic had ceased to operate, or that the
noise going on about Toupillier put an end to his sleep, he now opened
his eyes and cast around him the glance of a man who endeavors to
remember where he is; then, seeing his precious cupboard open, he found
in the emotion that sight produced the strength to cry out two or three
times, “Help! help! robbers!” in a voice that was loud enough to rouse
the house.

“No, Toupillier,” said the little old man; “you have not been robbed; I
came here in time to prevent it; nothing has been taken.”

“Why don’t you arrest that villain?” shouted the old pauper, pointing to
Cerizet.

“Monsieur is not a thief,” replied the old man. “On the contrary, he
came up with me to lend assistance.” Then, turning to Cerizet, he added,
in a low voice: “I think, my good friend, that we had better postpone
the interview I desire to have with you until to-morrow. Come at ten
o’clock to the adjoining house, and ask for Monsieur du Portail. After
what has passed this evening, there will, I ought to warn you, be
some danger to you in not accepting this conference. I shall find you
elsewhere, infallibly; for I have the honor to know who you are; you
are the man whom the Opposition journals were accustomed to call ‘the
courageous Cerizet.’”

In spite of the profound sarcasm of this remark, Cerizet, perceiving
that he was not to be treated more rigorously than Madame Cardinal, felt
so pleased with this conclusion that he promised, very readily, to keep
the appointment, and then slipped away with all the haste he could.



CHAPTER XVI. DU PORTAIL

The next day Cerizet did not fail to appear at the rendezvous given
to him. Examined, at first, through the wicket of the door, he was
admitted, after giving his name, into the house, and was ushered
immediately to the study of Monsieur du Portail, whom he found at his
desk.

Without rising, and merely making a sign to his guest to take a chair,
the little old man continued the letter he was then writing. After
sealing it with wax, with a care and precision that denoted a nature
extremely fastidious and particular, or else a man accustomed to
discharge diplomatic functions, du Portail rang for Bruneau, his valet,
and said, as he gave him the letter:--

“For the justice-of-peace of the arrondissement.”

Then he carefully wiped the steel pen he had just used, restored to
their places, symmetrically, all the displaced articles on his desk, and
it was only when these little arrangements were completed that he turned
to Cerizet, and said:--

“You know, of course, that we lost that poor Monsieur Toupillier last
night?”

“No, really?” said Cerizet, putting on the most sympathetic air he could
manage. “This is my first knowledge of it.”

“But you probably expected it. When one gives a dying man an immense
bowl of hot wine, which has also been narcotized,--for the Perrache
woman slept all night in a sort of lethargy after drinking a small glass
of it,--it is evident that the catastrophe has been hastened.”

“I am ignorant, monsieur,” said Cerizet, with dignity, “of what Madame
Cardinal may have given to her uncle. I have no doubt committed a
great piece of thoughtlessness in assisting this woman to obtain an
inheritance to which she assured me she had legal rights; but as to
attempting the life of that old pauper, I am quite incapable of such a
thing; nothing of the kind ever entered my mind.”

“You wrote me this letter, I think,” said du Portail, abruptly, taking
from beneath a bohemian glass bowl a paper which he offered to Cerizet.

“A letter?” replied Cerizet, with the hesitation of a man who doesn’t
know whether to lie or speak the truth.

“I am quite sure of what I say,” continued du Portail. “I have a mania
for autographs, and I possess one of yours, obtained at the period
when the Opposition exalted you to the glorious rank of martyr. I have
compared the two writings, and I find that you certainly wrote me,
yesterday, the letter which you hold in your hand, informing me of the
money embarrassments of young la Peyrade at the present moment.”

“Well,” said Cerizet, “knowing that you had given a home to Mademoiselle
de la Peyrade, who is probably cousin of Theodose, I thought I
recognized in you the mysterious protector from whom, on more than one
occasion, my friend has received the most generous assistance. Now, as
I have a sincere affection for that poor fellow, it was in his interests
that I permitted myself--”

“You did quite right,” interrupted du Portail. “I am delighted to have
fallen in with a friend of la Peyrade. I ought not to conceal from you
that it was this particular fact which protected you last night. But
tell me, what is this about notes for twenty-five thousand francs?
Is our friend so badly off in his affairs? Is he leading a dissipated
life?”

“On the contrary,” replied Cerizet, “he’s a puritan. Given to the
deepest piety, he did not choose to take, as a barrister, any other
cases but those of the poor. He is now on the point of making a rich
marriage.”

“Ah! is he going to be married? and to whom?”

“To a Demoiselle Colleville, daughter of the secretary of the mayor
of the 12th arrondissement. In herself, the girl has no fortune, but a
certain Monsieur Thuillier, her godfather, member of the Council-general
of the Seine, has promised her a suitable ‘dot.’”

“Who has handled this affair?”

“La Peyrade has been devoted to the Thuillier family, into which he was
introduced by Monsieur Dutocq, clerk of the justice-of-peace of their
arrondissement.”

“But you wrote me that these notes were signed in favor of Monsieur
Dutocq. The affair is a bit of matrimonial brokerage, in short?”

“Well, something of that kind,” replied Cerizet. “You know, monsieur,
that in Paris such transactions are very common. Even the clergy won’t
disdain to have a finger in them.”

“Is the marriage a settled thing?”

“Yes, and within the last few days especially.”

“Well, my good sir, I rely on you to put an end to it. I have other
views for Theodose,--another marriage to propose to him.”

“Excuse me!” said Cerizet, “to break up this marriage would make it
impossible for him to pay his notes; and I have the honor to call
your attention to the fact that these particular bills of exchange
are serious matters. Monsieur Dutocq is in the office of the
justice-of-peace; in other words, he couldn’t be easily defeated in such
a matter.”

“The debt to Monsieur Dutocq you shall buy off yourself,” replied du
Portail. “Make arrangements with him to that effect. Should Theodose
prove reluctant to carry out my plans, those notes may become a useful
weapon in our hands. You will take upon yourself to sue him for them,
and you shall have no money responsibility in the matter. I will pay you
the amount of the notes for Dutocq, and your costs in suing Theodose.”

“You are square in business, monsieur,” said Cerizet. “There’s some
pleasure in being your agent. Now, if you think the right moment has
come, I should be glad if you would give me some better light on the
mission you are doing me the honor to place in my hands.”

“You spoke just now,” replied du Portail, “of the cousin of Theodose,
Mademoiselle Lydie de la Peyrade. This young woman, who is not in her
first youth, for she is nearly thirty, is the natural daughter of the
celebrated Mademoiselle Beaumesnil of the Theatre Francais and Peyrade,
the commissary-general of police under the Empire, and the uncle of our
friend. Until his death, which occurred suddenly, leaving his daughter,
whom he loved tenderly, without means of support, I was bound to that
excellent man with the warmest friendship.”

Glad to show that he had some knowledge of du Portail’s interior life,
Cerizet hastened to remark:--

“And you have secretly fulfilled the duties of that friendship,
monsieur; for, in taking into your home that interesting orphan you
assumed a difficult guardianship. Mademoiselle de la Peyrade’s state
of health requires, I am told, a care not only affectionate, but
persevering.”

“Yes,” replied du Portail, “the poor girl, after the death of her
father, was so cruelly tried that her mind has been somewhat affected;
but a fortunate change has lately occurred in her condition, and
only yesterday I called in consultation Doctor Bianchon and the two
physicians-in-charge of Bicetre and the Salpetriere. These gentlemen
unanimously declare that marriage and the birth of a first child would
undoubtedly restore her to perfect health. You can readily understand
that the remedy is too easy and agreeable not to be attempted.”

“Then,” said Cerizet, “it is to Mademoiselle Lydie de la Peyrade, his
cousin, that you wish to marry Theodose.”

“You have said it,” returned du Portail, “and you must not think that
our young friend, if he accepts the marriage, will be called upon to
show a gratuitous devotion. Lydie is very agreeable in person; she
has talents, a charming disposition, and she can bring to bear, in
her husband’s interest, a strong influence in public life. She has,
moreover, a pretty fortune, consisting of what her mother left her, and
of my entire property, which, having no heirs myself, I intend to secure
to her in the marriage contract. Besides all this, she has this very
night acquired a not inconsiderable legacy.”

“What!” exclaimed Cerizet, “do you mean that old Toupillier--”

“By a will in his own handwriting, which I have here, that old pauper
constitutes her his sole legatee. You see, therefore, that I showed
some kindness in not proceeding against you and Madame Cardinal for
your little attempt last night; it was simply our property that you were
trying to pillage.”

“Heavens!” cried Cerizet, “I won’t pretend to excuse Madame Cardinal’s
misconduct; and yet, as one of the legal heirs, dispossessed by a
stranger, she had, it seems to me, some right to the indulgence which
you certainly showed to her.”

“In that you are mistaken,” said du Portail; “the apparent liberality
of the old beggar to Mademoiselle de la Peyrade happens to be only a
restitution.”

“A restitution!” exclaimed Cerizet, in a tone of curiosity.

“A restitution,” repeated du Portail, “and nothing is easier than to
prove it. Do you remember the robbery of some diamonds from one of our
dramatic celebrities about ten years ago?”

“Yes,” replied Cerizet. “I was manager of one of my newspapers at the
time, and I used to write the ‘Paris items.’ But stay, I remember, the
actress who lost them was Mademoiselle Beaumesnil.”

“Precisely; the mother of Mademoiselle de la Peyrade.”

“Consequently, this miserable old Toupillier--no, I remember that the
thief was convicted; his name was Charles Crochard. It was said, under
the rose, that he was the natural son of a great personage, the Comte
de Granville, attorney-general under the Restoration.” [See “A Double
Life.”]

“Well,” said du Portail, “this is how it happened. The robbery was
committed in a house in the rue de Tournon, occupied by Mademoiselle
Beaumesnil. Charles Crochard, who was a handsome fellow, was said to
have the run of it--”

“Yes, yes,” cried Cerizet, “I remember Mademoiselle Beaumesnil’s
embarrassment when she gave her testimony--and also the total extinction
of voice that attacked her when the judge asked her age.”

“The robbery,” continued du Portail, “was audaciously committed in the
daytime; and no sooner did Charles Crochard get possession of the casket
than he went to the church of Saint-Sulpice, where he had an appointment
with an accomplice, who, being supplied with a passport, was to start
immediately with the diamonds for foreign parts. It so chanced that on
entering the church, instead of meeting the man he expected, who was a
trifle late, Charles Crochard came face to face with a celebrated agent
of the detective force, who was well known to him, inasmuch as the young
rascal was not at his first scrimmage with the police. The absence of
his accomplice, this encounter with the detective, and, lastly, a rapid
movement made by the latter, by the merest chance, toward the door,
induced the robber to fancy he was being watched. Losing his head
under this idea, he wanted, at any cost, to put the casket out of his
possession, knowing that if arrested, as he expected, at the door of the
church, it would be a damning proof against him. Catching sight at that
moment of Toupillier, who was then the giver of holy water, ‘My man,’
said he, making sure that no one overheard their colloquy, ‘will you
take care of this little package for me? It is a box of lace. I am going
near by to a countess who is slow to pay her bill; and if I have the
lace with me she’ll want to see it, for it is a new style, and she’ll
ask me to leave it with her on credit, instead of paying the bill;
therefore I don’t want to take it. But,’ he added, ‘be sure not to touch
the paper that wraps the box, for there’s nothing harder than to do up a
package in the same folds--’”

“The booby!” cried Cerizet, naively; “why, that very caution would make
the man want to open it.”

“You are an able casuist,” said du Portail. “Well, an hour later,
Charles Crochard, finding that nothing happened to him, returned to the
church to obtain his deposit, but Toupillier was no longer there. You
can imagine the anxiety with which Charles Crochard attended early mass
the next day, and approached the giver of holy water, who was there,
sure enough, attending to his functions. But night, they say, brings
counsel; the worthy beggar audaciously declared that he had received no
package, and did not know what his interlocutor meant.”

“And there was no possibility of arguing with him, for that would be
exposure,” remarked Cerizet, who was not far from sympathizing in a
trick so boldly played.

“No doubt,” resumed du Portail; “the robbery was already noised about,
and Toupillier, who was a very able fellow, had calculated that Charles
Crochard would not dare to publicly accuse him, for that would reveal
the theft. In fact, on his trial Charles Crochard never said a word of
his mishap, and during the six years he spent at the galleys (he was
condemned to ten, but four were remitted) he did not open his lips to a
single soul about the treachery of which he had been a victim.”

“That was pretty plucky,” said Cerizet; the tale excited him, and he
showed openly that he saw the matter as an artist and a connoisseur.

“In that interval,” continued du Portail, “Madame Beaumesnil died,
leaving her daughter a few fragments of a once great fortune, and the
diamonds which the will expressly stated Lydie was to receive ‘in case
they were recovered.’”

“Ha! ha!” exclaimed Cerizet, “bad for Toupillier, because, having to do
with a man of your calibre--”

“Charles Crochard’s first object on being liberated was vengeance on
Toupillier, and his first step was to denounce him to the police as
receiver of the stolen property. Taken in hand by the law, Toupillier
defended himself with such singular good-humor, being able to show that
no proof whatever existed against him, that the examining judge let him
off. He lost his place, however, as giver of holy water, obtaining, with
great difficulty, permission to beg at the door of the church. For my
part, I was certain of his guilt; and I managed to have the closest
watch kept upon him; though I relied far more upon myself. Being a man
of means and leisure, I stuck, as you may say, to the skin of my thief,
and did, in order to unmask him, one of the cleverest things of my
career. He was living at that time in the rue du Coeur-Volant. I
succeeded in becoming the tenant of the room adjoining his; and one
night, through a gimlet hole I had drilled in the partition, I saw
my man take the case of diamonds from a very cleverly contrived
hiding-place. He sat for an hour gazing at them and fondling them; he
made them sparkle in the light, he pressed them passionately to his
lips. The man actually loved those diamonds for themselves, and had
never thought of turning them to money.”

“I understand,” said Cerizet,--“a mania like that of Cardillac, the
jeweller, which has now been dramatized.”

“That is just it,” returned du Portail; “the poor wretch was in love
with that casket; so that when, shortly after, I entered his room and
told him I knew all, he proposed to me to leave him the life use of
what he called the consolation of his old age, pledging himself to make
Mademoiselle de la Peyrade his sole heir, revealing to me at the same
time the existence of a hoard of gold (to which he was adding every
day), and also the possession of a house and an investment in the
Funds.”

“If he made that proposal in good faith,” said Cerizet, “it was a
desirable one. The interest of the capital sunk in the diamonds was more
than returned by that from the other property.”

“You now see, my dear sir,” said du Portail, “that I was not mistaken
in trusting him. All my precautions were well taken; I exacted that he
should occupy a room in the house I lived in, where I could keep a close
eye upon him. I assisted him in making that hiding-place, the secret of
which you discovered so cleverly; but what you did not find out was that
in touching the spring that opened the iron safe you rang a bell in my
apartment, which warned me of any attempt that was made to remove our
treasure.”

“Poor Madame Cardinal!” cried Cerizet, good-humoredly, “how far she was
from suspecting it!”

“Now here’s the situation,” resumed du Portail. “On account of the
interest I feel in the nephew of my old friend, and also, on account
of the relationship, this marriage seems to me extremely desirable; in
short, I unite Theodose to his cousin and her ‘dot.’ As it is possible
that, considering the mental state of his future wife, Theodose may
object to sharing my views, I have not thought it wise to make this
proposal directly to himself. You have suddenly turned up upon my path;
I know already that you are clever and wily, and that knowledge induces
me to put this little matrimonial negotiation into your hands. Now,
I think, you understand the matter thoroughly; speak to him of a fine
girl, with one little drawback, but, on the other hand, a comfortable
fortune. Do not name her to him; and come here and let me know how the
proposal has been taken.”

“Your confidence delights me as much as it honors me,” replied Cerizet,
“and I will justify it the best I can.”

“We must not expect too much,” said du Portail. “Refusal will be the
first impulse of a man who has an affair on hand elsewhere; but we need
not consider ourselves beaten. I shall not easily give up a plan which
I know to be just, even if I push my zeal so far as to put la Peyrade
under lock and key in Clichy. I am resolved not to take no for his
answer to a proposal of which, in the end, he cannot fail to see the
propriety. Therefore, in any case, buy up those notes from Monsieur
Dutocq.”

“At par?” asked Cerizet.

“Yes, at par, if you cannot do better; we are not going to haggle over
a few thousand francs; only, when this transaction is arranged, Monsieur
Dutocq must pledge us either his assistance, or, at the very least,
his neutrality. After what you have said of the other marriage, it is
unnecessary for me to warn you that there is not a moment to lose in
putting our irons into the fire.”

“Two days hence I have an appointment with la Peyrade,” said Cerizet.
“We have a little matter of business of our own to settle. Don’t you
think it would be best to wait till then, when I can introduce the
proposal incidentally? In case of resistance, I think that arrangement
would best conduce to OUR dignity.”

“So be it,” said du Portail; “it isn’t much of a delay. Remember,
monsieur, that if you succeed you have, in place of a man able to
bring you to a stern account for your _imprudent assistance_ to Madame
Cardinal, a greatly obliged person, who will be ready at all times to
serve you, and whose influence is greater than is generally supposed.”

After these friendly words, the pair separated with a thoroughly good
understanding, and well satisfied with each other.



CHAPTER XVII. IN WHICH THE LAMB DEVOURS THE WOLF

The evening before the day already agreed upon, Theodose received from
Cerizet the following note:--

“To-morrow, lease or no lease, Rocher de Cancale, half-past six
o’clock.”

As for Dutocq, Cerizet saw him every day, for he was still his copying
clerk; he therefore gave him his invitation by word of mouth; but
the attentive reader must remark a difference in the hour named:
“Quarter-past-six, Rocher de Cancale,” said Cerizet. It was evident,
therefore, that he wanted that fifteen minutes with Dutocq before the
arrival of la Peyrade.

These minutes the usurer proposed to employ in jockeying Dutocq in the
purchase of the notes; he fancied that if the proposition to buy them
were suddenly put before him without the slightest preparation it might
be more readily received. By not leaving the seller time to bethink
himself, perhaps he might lead him to loosen his grasp, and the notes
once bought below par, he could consider at his leisure whether to
pocket the difference or curry favor with du Portail for the discount
he had obtained. Let us say, moreover, that apart from self-interest,
Cerizet would still have endeavored to scrape a little profit out of his
friend; ‘twas an instinct and a need of his nature. He had as great a
horror for straight courses as the lovers of English gardens show in the
lines of their paths.

Dutocq, having still a portion of the cost of his practice to pay off,
was forced to live very sparingly, so that a dinner at the Rocher de
Cancale was something of an event in the economy of his straitened
existence. He arrived, therefore, with that punctuality which testifies
to an interest in the occasion, and precisely at a quarter past six he
entered the private room of the restaurant where Cerizet awaited him.

“It is queer,” he said; “here we are returned to precisely the situation
in which we began our business relationship with la Peyrade,--except,
to be sure, that this present place of meeting of the three emperors
is more comfortable; I prefer the Tilsit of the rue Montgorgeuil to the
Tilsit of the Cheval Rouge.”

“Faith!” said Cerizet, “I don’t know that the results justify the
change, for, to be frank, where are the profits to _us_ in the scheme of
our triumvirate?”

“But,” said Dutocq, “it was a bargain with a long time limit. It can’t
be said that la Peyrade has lost much time in getting installed--forgive
the pun--at the Thuilleries. The scamp has made his way pretty fast, you
must own that.”

“Not so fast but what his marriage,” said Cerizet, “is at the present
moment a very doubtful thing.”

“Doubtful!” cried Dutocq; “why doubtful?”

“Well, I am commissioned to propose to him another wife, and I’m not
sure that any choice is left to him.”

“What the devil are you about, my dear fellow, lending your hand in this
way to another marriage when you know we have a mortgage on the first?”

“One isn’t always master of circumstances, my friend; I saw at once when
the new affair was laid before me that the one we had settled on must
infallibly go by the board. Consequently, I’ve tried to work it round in
our interests, yours and mine.”

“Ah ca! do you mean they are pulling caps for this Theodose? Who is the
new match? Has she money?”

“The ‘dot’ is pretty good; quite as much as Mademoiselle Colleville’s.”

“Then I wouldn’t give a fig for it. La Peyrade has signed those notes
and he will pay them.”

“Will he pay them? that’s the question. You are not a business man,
neither is Theodose; it may come into his head to dispute the validity
of those notes. What security have we that if the facts about their
origin should come out, and the Thuillier marriage shouldn’t come
off, the court of commerce mightn’t annul them as ‘obligations without
cause.’ For my part, I should laugh at such a decision; I can stand
it; and, moreover, my precautions are taken; but you, as clerk to a
justice-of-peace, don’t you see that such an affair would give the
chancellor a bone to pick with you?”

“But, my good fellow,” said Dutocq, with the ill-humor of a man who sees
himself face to face with an argument he can’t refute, “you seem to have
a mania for stirring up matters and meddling with--”

“I tell you again,” said Cerizet, “this came to me; I didn’t seek it;
but I saw at once that there was no use struggling against the influence
that is opposing us; so I chose the course of saving ourselves by a
sacrifice.”

“A sacrifice! what sort of sacrifice?”

“Parbleu! I’ve sold my share of those notes, leaving those who bought
them to fight it out with Master barrister.”

“Who is the purchaser?”

“Who do you suppose would step into my shoes unless it were the persons
who have an interest in this other marriage, and who want to hold a
power over Theodose, and control him by force if necessary.”

“Then my share of the notes is equally important to them?”

“No doubt; but I couldn’t speak for you until I had consulted you.”

“What do they offer?”

“Hang it! my dear fellow, the same that I accepted. Knowing better
than you the danger of their competition I sold out to them on very bad
terms.”

“Well, but what are they, those terms?”

“I gave up my shares for fifteen thousand francs.”

“Come, come!” said Dutocq, shrugging his shoulders, “what you are after
is to recover a loss (if you made it) by a commission on my share--and
perhaps, after all, the whole thing is only a plot between you and la
Peyrade--”

“At any rate, my good friend, you don’t mince your words; an infamous
thought comes into your head and you state it with charming frankness.
Luckily you shall presently hear me make the proposal to Theodose,
and you are clever enough to know by his manner if there has been any
connivance between us.”

“So be it!” said Dutocq. “I withdraw the insinuation; but I must say
your employers are pirates; I call their proposal throttling people. I
have not, like you, something to fall back upon.”

“Well, you poor fellow, this is how I reasoned: I said to myself, That
good Dutocq is terribly pressed for the last payment on his practice;
this will give him enough to pay it off at one stroke; events
have proved that there are great uncertainties about our
Theodose-and-Thuillier scheme; here’s money down, live money, and
therefore it won’t be so bad a bargain after all.”

“It is a loss of two-fifths!”

“Come,” said Cerizet, “you were talking just now of commissions. I see
a means of getting one for you if you’ll engage to batter down this
Colleville marriage. If you will cry it down as you have lately cried it
up I shouldn’t despair of getting you a round twenty thousand out of the
affair.”

“Then you think that this new proposal will not be agreeable to la
Peyrade,--that he’ll reject it? Is it some heiress on whom he has
already taken a mortgage?”

“All that I can tell you is that these people expect some difficulty in
bringing the matter to a conclusion.”

“Well, I don’t desire better than to follow your lead and do what is
disagreeable to la Peyrade; but five thousand francs--think of it!--it
is too much to lose.”

At this moment the door opened, and a waiter ushered in the expected
guest.

“You can serve dinner,” said Cerizet to the waiter; “we are all here.”

It was plain that Theodose was beginning to take wing toward higher
social spheres; elegance was becoming a constant thought in his mind. He
appeared in a dress suit and varnished shoes, whereas his two associates
received him in frock-coats and muddy boots.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “I think I am a little late, but that devil of a
Thuillier is the most intolerable of human beings about a pamphlet I am
concocting for him. I was unlucky enough to agree to correct the proofs
with him, and over every paragraph there’s a fight. ‘What I can’t
understand,’ he says, ‘the public can’t, either. I’m not a man of
letters, but I’m a practical man’; and that’s the way we battle it, page
after page. I thought the sitting this afternoon would never end.”

“How unreasonable you are, my dear fellow,” said Dutocq; “when a man
wants to succeed he must have the courage to make sacrifices. Once
married, you can lift your head.”

“Ah, yes!” said la Peyrade with a sigh, “I’ll lift it; for since the day
you made me eat this bread of anguish I’ve become terribly sick of it.”

“Cerizet,” said Dutocq, “has a plan that will feed you more
succulently.”

Nothing more was said at the moment, for justice had to be done to
the excellent fare ordered by Cerizet in honor of his coming lease. As
usually happens at dinners where affairs are likely to be discussed,
each man, with his mind full of them, took pains not to approach those
topics, fearing to compromise his advantages by seeming eager; the
conversation, therefore, continued for a long time on general subjects,
and it was not until the dessert was served that Cerizet brought himself
to ask la Peyrade what had been settled about the terms of his lease.

“Nothing, my friend,” replied Theodose.

“What! nothing? I certainly allowed you time enough to decide the
matter.”

“Well, as to that, something is decided. There will not be any principal
tenant at all; Mademoiselle Brigitte is going to let the house herself.”

“That’s a singular thing,” said Cerizet, stiffly. “After your agreement
with me, I certainly did not expect such a result as this.”

“How can I help it, my dear fellow? I agreed with you, barring
amendments on the other side; I wasn’t able to give another turn to the
affair. In her natural character as a managing woman and a sample of
perpetual motion, Brigitte has reflected that she might as well manage
that house herself and put into her own pocket the profits you proposed
to make. I said all I could about the cares and annoyances which she
would certainly saddle upon herself. ‘Oh! nonsense!’ she said; ‘they’ll
stir my blood and do my health good!’”

“It is pitiable!” said Cerizet. “That poor old maid will never know
which end to take hold of; she doesn’t imagine what it is to have
an empty house, and which must be filled with tenants from garret to
cellar.”

“I plied her with all those arguments,” replied la Peyrade; “but I
couldn’t move her resolution. Don’t you see, my dear democrats, you
stirred up the revolution of ‘89; you thought to make a fine speculation
in dethroning the noble by the bourgeois, and the end of it is you are
shoved out yourselves. This looks like paradox; but you’ve found out now
that the peasant and clodhopper isn’t malleable; he can’t be forced
down and kept under like the noble. The aristocracy, on behalf of
its dignity, would not condescend to common cares, and was therefore
dependent on a crowd of plebeian servitors to whom it had to trust for
three-fourths of the actions of its own life. That was the reign of
stewards and bailiffs, wily fellows, into whose hands the interests of
the great families passed, and who fed and grew fat on the parings of
the great fortunes they managed. But now-a-days, utilitarian theories,
as they call them, have come to the fore,--‘We are never so well served
as by ourselves,’ ‘There’s no shame in attending to one’s own business,’
and many other bourgeois maxims which have suppressed the role of
intermediaries. Why shouldn’t Mademoiselle Brigitte Thuillier manage her
own house when dukes and peers go in person to the Bourse, where such
men sign their own leases and read the deeds before they sign them, and
go themselves to the notary, whom, in former days, they considered a
servant.”

During this time Cerizet had time to recover from the blow he had just
received squarely in the face, and to think of the transition he had
to make from one set of interests to the other, of which he was now the
agent.

“What you are declaiming there is all very clever,” he said, carelessly,
“but the thing that proves to me our defeat is the fact that you are not
on the terms with Mademoiselle Thuillier you would have us believe
you are. She is slipping through your fingers; and I don’t think that
marriage is anything like as certain as Dutocq and I have been fancying
it was.”

“Well, no doubt,” said la Peyrade, “there are still some touches to be
given to our sketch, but I believe it is well under way.”

“And I think, on the contrary, that you have lost ground; and the reason
is simple: you have done those people an immense service; and that’s a
thing never forgiven.”

“Well, we shall see,” said la Peyrade. “I have more than one hold upon
them.”

“No, you are mistaken. You thought you did a brilliant thing in putting
them on a pinnacle, but the fact is you emancipated them; they’ll keep
you now at heel. The human heart, particularly the bourgeois heart, is
made that way. If I were in your place I shouldn’t feel so sure of being
on solid ground, and if something else turned up that offered me a good
chance--”

“What! just because I couldn’t get you the lease of that house do you
want to knock everything to pieces?”

“No,” said Cerizet, “I am not looking at the matter in the light of my
own interests; I don’t doubt that as a trustworthy friend you have done
every imaginable thing to promote them; but I think the manner in which
you have been shoved aside a very disturbing symptom. It even decides
me to tell you something I did not intend to speak of; because, in my
opinion, when persons start a course they ought to keep on steadily,
looking neither forward nor back, and not allowing themselves to be
diverted to other aspirations.”

“Ah ca!” cried la Peyrade, “what does all this verbiage mean? Have you
anything to propose to me? What’s the price of it?”

“My dear Theodose,” said Cerizet, paying no attention to the
impertinence, “you yourself can judge of the value of discovering a
young girl, well brought-up, adorned with beauty and talents and a ‘dot’
equal to that of Celeste, which she has in her own right, _plus_ fifty
thousand francs’ worth of diamonds (as Mademoiselle Georges says on her
posters in the provinces), and, moreover,--a fact which ought to strike
the mind of an ambitious man,--a strong political influence, which she
can use for a husband.”

“And this treasure you hold in your hand?” said la Peyrade, in a tone of
incredulity.

“Better still, I am authorized to offer it to you; in fact, I might say
that I am charged to do so.”

“My friend, you are poking fun at me; unless, indeed, this phoenix has
some hideous or prohibitory defect.”

“Well, I’ll admit,” said Cerizet, “that there is a slight objection,
not on the score of family, for, to tell the truth, the young woman has
none--”

“Ah!” said la Peyrade, “a natural child--Well, what next?”

“Next, she is not so very young,--something like twenty-nine or so; but
there’s nothing easier than to turn an elderly girl into a young widow
if you have imagination.”

“Is that all the venom in it?”

“Yes, all that is irreparable.”

“What do you mean by that? Is it a case of rhinoplasty?”

Addressed to Cerizet the word had an aggressive air, which, in fact,
was noticeable since the beginning of the dinner in the whole manner and
conversation of the barrister. But it did not suit the purpose of the
negotiator to resent it.

“No,” he replied, “our nose is as well made as our foot and our waist;
but we may, perhaps, have a slight touch of hysteria.”

“Oh! very good,” said la Peyrade; “and as from hysteria to insanity
there is but a step--”

“Well, yes,” interrupted Cerizet, hastily, “sorrows have affected our
brain slightly; but the doctors are unanimous in their diagnosis; they
all say that after the birth of the first child not a trace will remain
of this little trouble.”

“I am willing to admit that doctors are infallible,” replied la Peyrade;
“but, in spite of your discouragement, you must allow me, my friend, to
persist in my suit to Mademoiselle Colleville. Perhaps it is ridiculous
to confess it, but the truth is I am gradually falling in love with
that little girl. It isn’t that her beauty is resplendent, or that the
glitter of her ‘dot’ has dazzled me, but I find in that child a great
fund of sound sense joined to simplicity; and, what to mind is of
greater consequence, her sincere and solid piety attracts me; I think a
husband ought to be very happy with her.”

“Yes,” said Cerizet, who, having been on the stage, may very well have
known his Moliere, “this marriage will crown your wishes with all good;
it will be filled with sweetness and with pleasures.”

The allusion to Tartuffe was keenly felt by la Peyrade, who took it up
and said, hotly:--

“The contact with innocence will disinfect me of the vile atmosphere in
which I have lived too long.”

“And you will pay your notes of hand,” added Cerizet, “which I advise
you to do with the least possible delay; for Dutocq here was saying to
me just now that he would like to see the color of your money.”

“I? not at all,” interposed Dutocq. “I think, on the contrary, that our
friend has a right to the delay.”

“Well,” said la Peyrade, “I agree with Cerizet. I hold that the less a
debt is due, and therefore the more insecure and open to contention it
is, the sooner one ought to free one’s self by paying it.”

“But, my dear la Peyrade,” said Dutocq, “why take this bitter tone?”

Pulling from his pocket a portfolio, la Peyrade said:--

“Have you those notes with you, Dutocq?”

“Faith! no, my dear fellow,” replied Dutocq, “I don’t carry them about
with me; besides, they are in Cerizet’s hands.”

“Well,” said the barrister, rising, “whenever you come to my house I’ll
pay you on the nail, as Cerizet can tell you.”

“What! are you going to leave us without your coffee?” said Cerizet,
amazed to the last degree.

“Yes; I have an arbitration case at eight o’clock. Besides, we have said
all we had to say. You haven’t your lease, but you’ve got your twenty
five thousand francs in full, and those of Dutocq are ready for him
whenever he chooses to come to my office. I see nothing now to prevent
me from going where my private business calls me, and I therefore very
cordially bid you good-bye.”

“Ah ca! Dutocq,” cried Cerizet, as la Peyrade disappeared, “this means a
rupture.”

“Prepared with the utmost care,” added Dutocq. “Did you notice the air
with which he pulled out that pocket-book?”

“But where the devil,” said the usurer, “could he have got the money?”

“Probably,” replied Dutocq, sarcastically, “where he got that with which
he paid you in full for those notes you sold at a sacrifice.”

“My dear Dutocq,” said Cerizet, “I’ll explain to you the circumstances
under which that insolent fellow freed himself, and you’ll see if he
didn’t rob me of fifteen thousand francs.”

“Possibly, but you, my worthy clerk, were trying to get ten thousand
away from me.”

“No, no; I was positively ordered to buy up your claim; and you ought to
remember that my offer had risen to twenty thousand when Theodose came
in.”

“Well,” said Dutocq, “when we leave here we’ll go to your house, where
you will give me those notes; for, you’ll understand that to-morrow
morning, at the earliest decent hour, I shall go to la Peyrade’s office;
I don’t mean to let his paying humor cool.”

“And right you are; for I can tell you now that before long there’ll be
a fine upset in his life.”

“Then the thing is really serious--this tale of a crazy woman you want
him to marry? I must say that in his place, with these money-matters
evidently on the rise, I should have backed out of your proposals just
as he did. Ninas and Ophelias are all very well on the stage, but in a
home--”

“In a home, when they bring a ‘dot,’ we can be their guardian,” replied
Cerizet, sententiously. “In point of fact, we get a fortune and not a
wife.”

“Well,” said Dutocq, “that’s one way to look at it.”

“If you are willing,” said Cerizet, “let us go and take our coffee
somewhere else. This dinner has turned out so foolishly that I want to
get out of this room, where there’s no air.” He rang for the waiter.
“Garcon!” he said, “the bill.”

“Monsieur, it is paid.”

“Paid! by whom?”

“By the gentleman who just went out.”

“But this is outrageous,” cried Cerizet. “I ordered the dinner, and you
allow some one else to pay for it!”

“It wasn’t I, monsieur,” said the waiter; “the gentleman went and paid
the ‘dame du comptoir’; she must have thought it was arranged between
you. Besides, it is not so uncommon for gentlemen to have friendly
disputes about paying.”

“That’s enough,” said Cerizet, dismissing the waiter.

“Won’t these gentlemen take their coffee?--it is paid for,” said the man
before he left the room.

“A good reason for not taking it,” replied Cerizet, angrily. “It is
really inconceivable that in a house of this kind such an egregious
blunder should be committed. What do you think of such insolence?” he
added, when the waiter had left the room.

“Bah!” exclaimed Dutocq, taking his hat, “it is a schoolboy proceeding;
he wanted to show he had money; it is easy to see he never had any
before.”

“No, no! that’s not it,” said Cerizet; “he meant to mark the rupture. ‘I
will not owe you even a dinner,’ is what he says to me.”

“But, after all,” said Dutocq, “this banquet was given to celebrate your
enthronement as principal tenant of the grand house. Well, he has failed
to get you the lease, and I can understand that his conscience was
uneasy at letting you pay for a dinner which, like those notes of mine,
were an ‘obligation without cause.’”

Cerizet made no reply to this malicious observation. They had reached
the counter where reigned the dame who had permitted the improper
payment, and, for the sake of his dignity, the usurer thought it proper
to make a fuss. After which the two men departed, and the copying-clerk
took his employer to a low coffee-house in the Passage du Saumon.
There Cerizet recovered his good-humor; he was like a fish out of water
suddenly returned to his native element; for he had reached that state
of degradation when he felt ill at ease in places frequented by good
society; and it was with a sort of sensuous pleasure that he felt
himself back in the vulgar place where they were noisily playing pool
for the benefit of a “former conqueror of the Bastille.”

In this establishment Cerizet enjoyed the fame of being a skilful
billiard-player, and he was now entreated to take part in a game already
begun. In technical language, he “bought his ball”; that is, one of
the players sold him his turn and his chances. Dutocq profited by this
arrangement to slip away, on pretence of inquiring for a sick friend.

Presently, in his shirt-sleeves, with a pipe between his lips, Cerizet
made one of those masterly strokes which bring down the house with
frantic applause. As he waited a moment, looking about him triumphantly,
his eye lighted on a terrible kill-joy. Standing among the spectators
with his chin on his cane, du Portail was steadily watching him.

A tinge of red showed itself in Cerizet’s cheeks. He hesitated to bow or
to recognize the old gentleman, a most unlikely person to meet in such
a place. Not knowing how to take the unpleasant encounter, he went on
playing; but his hand betrayed his uneasiness, and presently an unlucky
stroke threw him out of the game. While he was putting on his coat in a
tolerably ill-humor, du Portail passed, almost brushing him, on his way
to the door.

“Rue Montmartre, at the farther end of the Passage,” said the old man,
in a low tone.

When they met, Cerizet had the bad taste to try to explain the
disreputable position in which he had just been detected.

“But,” said du Portail, “in order to see you there, I had to be there
myself.”

“True,” returned Cerizet. “I was rather surprised to see a quiet
inhabitant of the Saint-Sulpice quarter in such a place.”

“It merely proves to you,” said the little old man, in a tone which cut
short all explanation, and all curiosity, “that I am in the habit of
going pretty nearly everywhere, and that my star leads me into the path
of those persons whom I wish to meet. I was thinking of you at the very
moment you came in. Well, what have you done?”

“Nothing good,” replied Cerizet. “After playing me a devilish trick
which deprived me of a magnificent bit of business, our man rejected
your overture with scorn. There is no hope whatever in that claim of
Dutocq’s; for la Peyrade is chock-full of money; he wanted to pay the
notes just now, and to-morrow morning he will certainly do so.”

“Does he regard his marriage to this Demoiselle Colleville as a settled
thing?”

“He not only considers it settled, but he is trying now to make people
believe it is a love-match. He rattled off a perfect tirade to convince
me that he is really in love.”

“Very well,” said du Portail, wishing, perhaps, to show that he could,
on occasion, use the slang of a low billiard-room, “‘stop the charge’”
 (meaning: Do nothing more); “I will undertake to bring monsieur to
reason. But come and see me to-morrow, and tell me all about the family
he intends to enter. You have failed in this affair; but don’t mind
that; I shall have others for you.”

So saying, he signed to the driver of an empty citadine, which was
passing, got into it, and, with a nod to Cerizet, told the man to drive
to the rue Honore-Chevalier.

As Cerizet walked down the rue Montmartre to regain the Estrapade
quarter, he puzzled his brains to divine who that little old man with
the curt speech, the imperious manner, and a tone that seemed to cast
upon all those with whom he spoke a boarding-grapnel, could be; a man,
too, who came from such a distance to spend his evening in a place
where, judging by his clothes alone, he had no business to be.

Cerizet had reached the Market without finding any solution to that
problem, when he was roughly shaken out of it by a heavy blow in the
back. Turning hastily, he found himself in presence of Madame Cardinal,
an encounter with whom, at a spot where she came every morning to get
fish to peddle, was certainly not surprising.

Since that evening in Toupillier’s garret, the worthy woman, in spite of
the clemency so promptly shown to her, had judged it imprudent to make
other than very short apparitions in her own domicile, and for the
last two days she had been drowning among the liquor-dealers (called
“retailers of comfort”) the pangs of her defeat. With flaming face and
thickened voice she now addressed her late accomplice:--

“Well, papa,” she said, “what happened after I left you with that little
old fellow?”

“I made him understand in a very few words,” replied the banker of
the poor, “that it was all a mistake as to me. In this affair, my dear
Madame Cardinal, you behaved with a really unpardonable heedlessness.
How came you to ask my assistance in obtaining your inheritance from
your uncle, when with proper inquiry you might have known there was a
natural daughter, in whose favor he had long declared he should make a
will? That little old man, who interrupted you in your foolish attempt
to anticipate your legacy, was no other than the guardian of the
daughter to whom everything is left.”

“Ha! guardian, indeed! a fine thing, guardian!” cried the Cardinal.
“To talk of a woman of my age, just because I wanted to see if my uncle
owned anything at all, to talk to _me_ of the police! It’s hateful! it’s
_disgusting_!”

“Come, come!” said Cerizet, “you needn’t complain; you got off cheaply.”

“Well, and you, who broke the locks and said you were going to take the
diamonds, under color of marrying my daughter! Just as if she would have
you,--a legitimate daughter like her! ‘Never, mother,’ said she; ‘never
will I give my heart to a man with such a nose.’”

“So you’ve found her, have you?” said Cerizet.

“Not until last night. She has left her blackguard of a player, and
she is now, I flatter myself, in a fine position, eating money; has her
citadine by the month, and is much respected by a barrister who would
marry her at once, but he has got to wait till his parents die, for the
father happens to be mayor, and the government wouldn’t like it.”

“What mayor?”

“11th arrondissement,--Minard, powerfully rich, used to do a business in
cocoa.”

“Ah! very good! very good! I know all about him. You say Olympe is
living with his son?”

“Well, not to say living together, for that would make talk, though he
only sees her with good motives. He lives at home with his father, but
he has bought their furniture, and has put it, and my daughter, too,
into a lodging in the Chausee d’Antin; stylish quarter, isn’t it?”

“It seems to me pretty well arranged,” said Cerizet; “and as Heaven, it
appears, didn’t destine us for each other--”

“No, yes, well, that’s how it was; and I think that girl is going to
give me great satisfaction; and there’s something I want to consult you
about.”

“What?” demanded Cerizet.

“Well, my daughter being in luck, I don’t think I ought to continue to
cry fish in the streets; and now that my uncle has disinherited me, I
have, it seems to me, a right to an ‘elementary allowance.’”

“You are dreaming, my poor woman; your daughter is a minor; it is you
who ought to be feeding her; the law doesn’t require her to give you
aliment.”

“Then do you mean,” said Madame Cardinal, “that those who have nothing
are to give to those who have much? A fine thing such a law as that!
It’s as bad as guardians who, for nothing at all, talk about calling
the police. Yes! I’d like to see ‘em calling the police to me! Let ‘em
guillotine me! It won’t prevent my saying that the rich are swindlers;
yes, swindlers! and the people ought to make another revolution to get
their rights; and _then_, my lad, you, and my daughter, and barrister
Minard, and that little old guardian, you’ll all come down under it--”

Perceiving that his ex-mother-in-law was reaching stage of exaltation
that was not unalarming, Cerizet hastened to get away, her epithets
pursuing him for more than a hundred feet; but he comforted himself by
thinking that he would make her pay for them the next time she came to
his back to ask for a “convenience.”



CHAPTER XVIII. SET A SAINT TO CATCH A SAINT

As he approached his own abode, Cerizet, who was nothing so little as
courageous, felt an emotion of fear. He perceived a form ambushed near
the door, which, as he came nearer, detached itself as if to meet him.
Happily, it was only Dutocq. He came for his notes. Cerizet returned
them in some ill-humor, complaining of the distrust implied in a visit
at such an hour. Dutocq paid no attention to this sensitiveness, and the
next morning, very early, he presented himself at la Peyrade’s.

La Peyrade paid, as he had promised, on the nail, and to a few sentinel
remarks uttered by Dutocq as soon as the money was in his pocket,
he answered with marked coldness. His whole external appearance and
behavior was that of a slave who has burst his chain and has promised
himself not to make a gospel use of his liberty.

As he conducted his visitor to the door, the latter came face to face
with a woman in servant’s dress, who was just about to ring the bell.
This woman was, apparently, known to Dutocq, for he said to her:--

“Ha ha! little woman; so we feel the necessity of consulting a
barrister? You are right; at the family council very serious matters
were brought up against you.”

“Thank God, I fear no one. I can walk with my head up,” said the person
thus addressed.

“So much the better for you,” replied the clerk of the justice-of-peace;
“but you will probably be summoned before the judge who examines the
affair. At any rate, you are in good hands here; and my friend la
Peyrade will advise you for the best.”

“Monsieur is mistaken,” said the woman; “it is not for what he thinks
that I have come to consult a lawyer.”

“Well, be careful what you say and do, my dear woman, for I warn you
you are going to be finely picked to pieces. The relations are furious
against you, and you can’t get the idea out of their heads that you have
got a great deal of money.”

While speaking thus, Dutocq kept his eye on Theodose, who bore the look
uneasily, and requested his client to enter.

Here follows a scene which had taken place the previous afternoon
between this woman and la Peyrade.

La Peyrade, we may remember, was in the habit of going to early mass at
his parish church. For some little time he had felt himself the object
of a singular attention which he could not explain on the part of the
woman whom we have just seen entering his office, who daily attended
the church at, as Dorine says, his “special hour.” Could it be for
love? That explanation was scarcely compatible with the maturity and the
saintly, beatific air of this person, who, beneath a plain cap, called
“a la Janseniste,” by which fervent female souls of that sect were
recognized, affected, like a nun, to hide her hair. On the other hand,
the rest of her clothing was of a neatness that was almost dainty,
and the gold cross at her throat, suspended by a black velvet ribbon,
excluded the idea of humble and hesitating mendicity.

The morning of the day on which the dinner at the Rocher de Cancale was
to take place, la Peyrade, weary of a performance which had ended by
preoccupying his mind, went up to the woman and asked her pointblank if
she had any request to make of him.

“Monsieur,” she answered, in a tone of solemnity, “is, I think, the
celebrated Monsieur de la Peyrade, the advocate of the poor?”

“I am la Peyrade; and I have had, it is true, an opportunity to render
services to the indigent persons of this quarter.”

“Would it, then, be asking too much of monsieur’s goodness that he
should suffer me to consult him?”

“This place,” replied la Peyrade, “is not well chosen for such
consultation. What you have to say to me seems important, to judge by
the length of time you have been hesitating to speak to me. I live near
here, rue Saint-Dominique d’Enfer, and if you will take the trouble to
come to my office--”

“It will not annoy monsieur?”

“Not in the least; my business is to hear clients.”

“At what hour--lest I disturb monsieur--?”

“When you choose; I shall be at home all the morning.”

“Then I will hear another mass, at which I can take the communion. I did
not dare to do so at this mass, for the thought of speaking to monsieur
so distracted my mind. I will be at monsieur’s house by eight o’clock,
when I have ended my meditation, if that hour does not inconvenience
him.”

“No; but there is no necessity for all this ceremony,” replied la
Peyrade, with some impatience.

Perhaps a little professional jealousy inspired his ill-humor, for it
was evident that he had to do with an antagonist who was capable of
giving him points.

At the hour appointed, not a minute before nor a minute after, the
pious woman rang the bell, and the barrister having, not without some
difficulty, induced her to sit down, he requested her to state her case.
She was then seized with that delaying little cough with which we obtain
a respite when brought face to face with a difficult subject. At last,
however, she compelled herself to approach the object of her visit.

“It is to ask monsieur,” she said, “if he would be so very good as to
inform me whether it is true that a charitable gentleman, now deceased,
has bequeathed a fund to reward domestic servants who are faithful to
their masters.”

“Yes,” replied la Peyrade; “that is to say, Monsieur de Montyon founded
‘prizes for virtue,’ which are frequently given to zealous and exemplary
domestic servants. But ordinary good conduct is not sufficient;
there must be some act or acts of great devotion, and truly Christian
self-abnegation.”

“Religion enjoins humility upon us,” replied the pious woman, “and
therefore I dare not praise myself; but inasmuch as for the last
twenty years I have lived in the service of an old man of the dullest
description, a savant, who has wasted his substance on inventions, so
that I myself have had to feed and clothe him, persons have thought that
I am not altogether undeserving of that prize.”

“It is certainly under such conditions that the Academy selects its
candidates,” said la Peyrade. “What is your master’s name?”

“Pere Picot; he is never called otherwise in our quarter; sometimes he
goes out into the streets as if dressed for the carnival, and all the
little children crowd about him, calling out: ‘How d’ye do, Pere Picot!
Good-morning, Pere Picot!’ But that’s how it is; he takes no care of his
dignity; he goes about full of his own ideas; and though I kill myself
trying to give him appetizing food, if you ask him what he has had for
his dinner he can’t tell you. Yet he’s a man full of ability, and he has
taught good pupils. Perhaps monsieur knows young Phellion, a professor
in the College of Saint-Louis; he was one of his scholars, and he comes
to see him very often.”

“Then,” said la Peyrade, “your master is a mathematician?”

“Yes, monsieur; mathematics have been his bane; they have flung him into
a set of ideas which don’t seem to have any common-sense in them ever
since he has been employed at the Observatory, near here.”

“Well,” said la Peyrade, “you must bring testimony proving your long
devotion to this old man, and I will then draw up a memorial to the
Academy and take the necessary steps to present it.”

“How good monsieur is!” said the pious woman, clasping her hands; “and
if he would also let me tell him of a little difficulty--”

“What is it?”

“They tell me, monsieur, that to get this prize persons must be really
very poor.”

“Not exactly; still, the Academy does endeavor to choose whose who are
in straitened circumstances, and who have made sacrifices too heavy for
their means.”

“Sacrifices! I think I may indeed say I have made sacrifices, for
the little property I inherited from my parents has all been spent in
keeping the old man, and for fifteen years I have had no wages, which,
at three hundred francs a year and compound interest, amount now to a
pretty little sum; as monsieur, I am sure, will agree.”

At the words “compound interest,” which evidenced a certain amount of
financial culture, la Peyrade looked at this Antigone with increased
attention.

“In short,” he said, “your difficulty is--”

“Monsieur will not think it strange,” replied the saintly person, “that
a very rich uncle dying in England, who had never done anything for
his family in his lifetime, should have left me twenty-five thousand
francs.”

“Certainly,” said the barrister, “there’s nothing in that but what is
perfectly natural and proper.”

“But, monsieur, I have been told that the possession of this money will
prevent the judges from considering my claims to the prize.”

“Possibly; because seeing you in possession of a little competence,
the sacrifices which you apparently intend to continue in favor of your
master will be less meritorious.”

“I shall never abandon him, poor, dear man, in spite of his faults,
though I know that this poor little legacy which Heaven has given me is
in the greatest danger from him.”

“How so?” asked la Peyrade, with some curiosity.

“Eh! monsieur, let him only get wind of that money, and he’d snap it up
at a mouthful; it would all go into his inventions of perpetual motion
and other machines of various kinds which have already ruined him, and
me, too.”

“Then,” said la Peyrade, “your desire is that this legacy should remain
completely unknown, not only to your master but to the judges of the
Academy?”

“How clever monsieur is, and how well he understands things!” she
replied, smiling.

“And also,” continued the barrister, “you don’t want to keep that money
openly in your possession?”

“For fear my master should find it out and get it away from me? Exactly.
Besides, as monsieur will understand, I shouldn’t be sorry, in order to
supply the poor dear man with extra comforts, that the sum should bear
interest.”

“And the highest possible interest,” said the barrister.

“Oh! as for that, monsieur, five or six per cent.”

“Very good; then it is not only about the memorial to the Academy for
the prize of virtue, but also about an investment of your legacy that
you have so long been desirous of consulting me?”

“Monsieur is so kind, so charitable, so encouraging!”

“The memorial, after I have made a few inquiries, will be easy enough;
but an investment, offering good security, the secret of which you
desire to keep, is much less readily obtained.”

“Ah! if I dared to--” said the pious woman, humbly.

“What?” asked la Peyrade.

“Monsieur understands me?”

“I? not the least in the world.”

“And yet I prayed earnestly just now that monsieur might be willing to
keep this money for me. I should feel such confidence if it were in his
hands; I know he would return it to me, and never speak of it.”

La Peyrade gathered, at this instant, the fruit of his comedy of legal
devotion to the necessitous classes. The choir of porters chanting his
praises to the skies could alone have inspired this servant-woman with
the boundless confidence of which he found himself the object. His
thoughts reverted instantly to Dutocq and his notes, and he was not far
from thinking that this woman had been sent to him by Providence.
But the more he was inclined to profit by this chance to win his
independence, the more he felt the necessity of seeming to yield only to
her importunity; consequently his objections were many.

Moreover, he had no great belief in the character of his client, and did
not care, as the common saying is, to uncover Saint Peter to cover Saint
Paul; in other words, to substitute for a creditor who, after all, was
his accomplice, a woman who might at any time become exacting and insist
in repayment in some public manner that would injure his reputation. He
decided, therefore, to play the game with a high hand.

“My good woman,” he said, “I am not in want of money, and I am not rich
enough to pay interest on twenty-five thousand francs for which I have
no use. All that I can do for you is to place that sum, in my name, with
the notary Dupuis. He is a religious man; you can see him every Sunday
in the warden’s pew in our church. Notaries, you know, never give
receipts, therefore I could not give you one myself; I can only promise
to leave among my papers, in case of death, a memorandum which will
secure the restitution of the money into your hands. The affair, you
see, is one of blind confidence, and I am very unwilling to make it. If
I do so, it is only to oblige a person whose piety and the charitable
use she intends to make of the proceeds of her little fortune entitle
her to my good-will.”

“If monsieur thinks that the matter cannot be otherwise arranged--”

“This appears to me the only possible way,” said la Peyrade. “I shall
hope to get you six per cent interest, and you may rely that it will
be paid with the utmost regularity. But remember, six months, or even a
year, may elapse before the notary will be in a position to repay this
money, because notaries invest such trust funds chiefly in mortgages
which require a certain time to mature. Now, when you have obtained the
prize for virtue, which, according to all appearance, I can readily
do for you, there will be no reason to hide your little property any
longer,--a reason which I fully understand; but you will not be able
to withdraw it from the notary’s hands immediately; and in case of any
difficulty arising, I should be forced to explain the situation, the
manner in which you have concealed your prosperity from your master, to
whom you have been supposed to be wholly devoted. This, as you will see,
would put you in the position of falsely professing virtue, and would do
great harm to your reputation for piety.”

“Oh! monsieur,” said the saintly woman, “can it be that any one would
think me a person who did not speak the truth?”

“Bless you! my good creature, in business it is necessary to foresee
everything. Money embroils the best friends, and leads to actions they
never foresaw. Therefore reflect; you can come and see me again in a few
days. It is possible that between now and then you will find some better
investment; and I myself, who am doing at this moment a thing I don’t
altogether like, may have found other difficulties which I do not now
expect.”

This threat, adroitly thrown out as an afterthought, was intended to
immediately clinch the matter.

“I have reflected carefully,” said the pious woman, “and I feel sure
that in the hands of so religious a man as monsieur I run no risks.”

Taking from her bosom a little pocket-book, she pulled out twenty-five
bank notes. The rapid manner in which she counted them was a revelation
to la Peyrade. The woman was evidently accustomed to handle money, and a
singular idea darted through his mind.

“Can it be that she is making me a receiver of stolen property? No,” he
said aloud, “in order to draw up the memorial for the Academy, I must,
as I told you, make a few inquiries; and that will give me occasion to
call upon you. At what hour can I see you alone?”

“At four o’clock, when monsieur goes to take his walk in the
Luxembourg.”

“And where do you live?”

“Rue du Val-de-Grace, No. 9.”

“Very good; at four o’clock; and if, as I doubt not, the result of my
inquiry is favorable, I will take your money then. Otherwise, if there
are not good grounds for your application for the prize of virtue there
will be no reason why you should make a mystery of your legacy. You
could then invest it in some more normal manner than that I have
suggested to you.”

“Oh! how cautious monsieur is!” she said, with evident disappointment,
having thought the affair settled. “This money, God be thanked! I have
not stolen, and monsieur can make what inquiries he likes about me in
the quarter.”

“It is quite indispensable that I should do so,” said la Peyrade, dryly,
for he did not at all like, under this mask of simplicity, the quick
intelligence that penetrated his thoughts. “Without being a thief, a
woman may very well not be a Sister of Charity; there’s a wide margin
between the two extremes.”

“As monsieur chooses,” she replied; “he is doing me so great a service
that I ought to let him take all precautions.”

Then, with a piously humble bow, she went away, taking her money with
her.

“The devil!” thought la Peyrade; “that woman is stronger than I; she
swallows insults with gratitude and without the sign of a grimace! I
have never yet been able to master myself like that.”

He began now to fear that he had been too timid, and to think that his
would-be creditor might change her mind before he could pay her the
visit he had promised. But the harm was done, and, although consumed
with anxiety lest he had lost a rare chance, he would have cut off a leg
sooner than yield to his impulse to go to her one minute before the hour
he had fixed. The information he obtained about her in the quarter
was rather contradictory. Some said his client was a saint; otherwise
declared her to be a sly creature; but, on the whole, nothing was said
against her morality that deterred la Peyrade from taking the piece of
luck she had offered him.

When he met her at four o’clock he found her in the same mind.

With the money in his pocket he went to dine with Cerizet and Dutocq at
the Rocher de Cancale; and it is to the various emotions he had
passed through during the day that we must attribute the sharp and
ill-considered manner in which he conducted his rupture with his two
associates. This behavior was neither that of his natural disposition
nor of his acquired temperament; but the money that was burning in his
pockets had slightly intoxicated him; its very touch had conveyed to
him an excitement and an impatience for emancipation of which he was not
wholly master. He flung Cerizet over in the matter of the lease without
so much as consulting Brigitte; and yet, he had not had the full courage
of his duplicity; for he had laid to the charge of the old woman a
refusal which was merely the act of his own will, prompted by bitter
recollections of his fruitless struggles with the man who had so long
oppressed him.

In short, during the whole day, la Peyrade had not shown himself the
able and infallible man that we have hitherto seen him. Once before,
when he carried the fifteen thousand francs entrusted to him by
Thuillier, he had been led by Cerizet into an insurrectionary proceeding
which necessitated the affair of Sauvaignou. Perhaps, on the whole, it
is more difficult to be strong under good than under evil fortune. The
Farnese Hercules, calm and in still repose, expresses more energetically
the plenitude of muscular power than a violent and agitated Hercules
represented in the over-excited energy of his labors.



PART II. THE PARVENUS



CHAPTER I. PHELLION, UNDER A NEW ASPECT

Between the first and second parts of this history an immense event had
taken place in the life of Phellion.

There is no one who has not heard of the misfortunes of the Odeon,
that fatal theatre which, for years, ruined all its directors. Right
or wrong, the quarter in which this dramatic impossibility stands is
convinced that its prosperity depends upon it; so that more than once
the mayor and other authorities of the arrondissement have, with a
courage that honors them, taken part in the most desperate efforts to
galvanize the corpse.

Now to meddle with theatrical matters is one of the eternally perennial
ambitions of the lesser bourgeoisie. Always, therefore, the successive
saviours of the Odeon feel themselves magnificently rewarded if they are
given ever so small a share in the administration of that enterprise. It
was at some crisis in its affairs that Minard, in his capacity as mayor
of the 11th arrondissement, had been called to the chairmanship of the
committee for reading plays, with the power to join unto himself as
assistants a certain number of the notables of the Latin quarter,--the
selection being left to him.

We shall soon know exactly how near was the realization of la Peyrade’s
projects for the possession of Celeste’s “dot”; let us merely say now
that these projects in approaching maturity had inevitably become noised
abroad; and as this condition of things pointed, of course, to the
exclusion of Minard junior and also of Felix the professor, the
prejudice hitherto manifested by Minard pere against old Phellion was
transformed into an unequivocal disposition towards friendly cordiality;
there is nothing that binds and soothes like the feeling of a checkmate
shared in common. Judged without the evil eye of paternal rivalry,
Phellion became to Minard a Roman of incorruptible integrity and a man
whose little treatises had been adopted by the University,--in other
words, a man of sound and tested intellect.

So that when it became the duty of the mayor to select the members of
the dramatic custom-house, of which he was now the head, he immediately
thought of Phellion. As for the great citizen, he felt, on the day when
a post was offered to him in that august tribunal, that a crown of gold
had been placed upon his brow.

It will be well understood that it was not lightly, nor without having
deeply meditated, that a man of Phellion’s solemnity had accepted the
high and sacred mission which was offered to him. He said within himself
that he was called upon to exercise the functions of a magistracy, a
priestly office.

“To judge of men,” he replied to Minard, who was much surprised at
his hesitation, “is an alarming task, but to judge of minds!--who can
believe himself equal to such a mission?”

Once more the family--that rock on which the firmest resolutions
split--had threatened to infringe on the domain of his conscience. The
thought of boxes and tickets of which the future member of the committee
could dispose in favor of his own kin had excited in the household so
eager a ferment that his freedom of decision seemed for a moment in
danger. But, happily, Brutus was able to decide himself in the same
direction along which a positive uprising of the whole Phellionian tribe
intended to push him. From the observations of Barniol, his son-in-law,
and also by his own personal inspiration, he became persuaded that by
his vote, always given to works of irreproachable morality, and by his
firm determination to bar the way to all plays that mothers of families
could not take their daughters to witness, he was called upon to render
the most signal services to morals and public order. Phellion, to use
his own expression, had therefore become a member of the areopagus
presided over by Minard, and--still speaking as he spoke--he was
issuing from the exercise of his functions, which were both delicate and
interesting, when the conversation we are about to report took place. A
knowledge of this conversation is necessary to an understanding of the
ulterior events of this history, and it will also serve to put into
relief the envious insight which is one of the most marked traits of the
bourgeois character.

The session of the committee had been extremely stormy. On the subject
of a tragedy entitled, “The Death of Hercules,” the classic party
and the romantic party, whom the mayor had carefully balanced in the
composition of his committee, had nearly approached the point of tearing
each other’s hair out. Twice Phellion had risen to speak, and his
hearers were astonished at the quantity of metaphors the speech of a
major of the National Guard could contain when his literary convictions
were imperilled. As the result of a vote, victory remained with
the opinions of which Phellion was the eloquent organ. It was while
descending the stairway of the theatre with Minard that he remarked:--

“We have done a good work this day. ‘The Death of Hercules’ reminded me
of ‘The Death of Hector,’ by the late Luce de Lancival; the work we have
just accepted sparkles with sublime verses.”

“Yes,” said Minard, “the versification has taste; there are some
really fine lines in it, and I admit to you that I think this sort of
literature rather above the anagrams of Master Colleville.”

“Oh!” replied Minard, “Colleville’s anagrams are mere witticisms, which
have nothing in common with the sterner accents of Melpomene.”

“And yet,” said Minard, “I can assure you he attaches the greatest
importance to that rubbish, and apropos to his anagrams, as, indeed,
about many other things, he is not a little puffed up. Since their
emigration to the Madeleine quarter it seems to me that not only the
Sieur Colleville, but his wife and daughter, and the Thuilliers and
the whole coterie have assumed an air of importance which is rather
difficult to justify.”

“No wonder!” said Phellion; “one must have a pretty strong head to
stand the fumes of opulence. Our friends have become so very rich by the
purchase of that property where they have gone to live that we ought to
forgive them for a little intoxication; and I must say the dinner they
gave us yesterday for a house-warming was really as well arranged as it
was succulent.”

“I myself,” said Minard, “have given a few remarkable dinners to which
men in high government positions have not disdained to come, yet I am
not puffed up with pride on that account; such as my friends have always
known me, that I have remained.”

“You, Monsieur le maire, have long been habituated to the splendid
existence you have made for yourself by your high commercial talents;
our friends, on the contrary, so lately embarked on the smiling ship of
Fortune, have not yet found, as the vulgar saying is, their sea-legs.”

And then to cut short a conversation in which Phellion began to think
the mayor rather “caustic,” he made as if he intended to take leave of
him. In order to reach their respective homes they did not always take
the same way.

“Are you going through the Luxembourg?” asked Minard, not allowing
Phellion to give him the slip.

“I shall cross it, but I have an appointment to meet Madame Phellion and
the little Barniols at the end of the grand alley.”

“Then,” said Minard, “I’ll go with you and have the pleasure of making
my bow to Madame Phellion; and I shall get the fresh air at the same
time, for, in spite of hearing fine things, one’s head gets tired at the
business we have just been about.”

Minard had felt that Phellion gave rather reluctant assent to his sharp
remarks about the new establishment of the Thuilliers, and he did not
attempt to renew the subject; but when he had Madame Phellion for a
listener, he was very sure that his spite would find an echo.

“Well, fair lady,” he began, “what did you think of yesterday’s dinner?”

“It was very fine,” replied Madame Phellion; “as I tasted that soup ‘a
la bisque’ I knew that some caterer, like Chevet, had supplanted the
cook. But the whole affair was dull; it hadn’t the gaiety of our old
meetings in the Latin quarter. And then, didn’t it strike you, as it did
me, that Madame and Mademoiselle Thuillier no longer seemed mistresses
of their own house? I really felt as if I were the guest of Madame--what
_is_ her name? I never can remember it.”

“Torna, Comtesse de Godollo,” said Phellion, intervening. “The name is
euphonious enough to remember.”

“Euphonious if you like, my dear; but to me it never seems a name at
all.”

“It is a Magyar, or to speak more commonly, a Hungarian name. Our own
name, if we wanted to discuss it, might be said to be a loan from the
Greek language.”

“Very likely; at any rate we have the advantage of being known, not
only in our own quarter, but throughout the tuition world, where we have
earned an honorable position; while this Hungarian countess, who makes,
as they say, the good and the bad weather in the Thuilliers’ home, where
does she come from, I’d like to know? How did such a fine lady,--for
she has good manners and a very distinguished air, no one denies
her that,--how came she to fall in love with Brigitte; who, between
ourselves, keeps a sickening odor of the porter’s lodge about her. For
my part, I think this devoted friend is an intriguing creature, who
scents money, and is scheming for some future gain.”

“Ah ca!” said Minard, “then you don’t know the original cause of the
intimacy between Madame la Comtesse de Godollo and the Thuilliers?”

“She is a tenant in their house; she occupies the entresol beneath their
apartment.”

“True, but there’s something more than that in it. Zelie, my wife, heard
it from Josephine, who wanted, lately, to enter our service; the matter
came to nothing, for Francoise, our woman, who thought of marrying,
changed her mind. You must know, fair lady, that it was solely Madame
de Godollo who brought about the emigration of the Thuilliers, whose
upholsterer, as one might say, she is.”

“What! their upholsterer?” cried Phellion,--“that distinguished woman,
of whom one may truly say, ‘Incessu patuit dea’; which in French we very
inadequately render by the expression, ‘bearing of a queen’?”

“Excuse me,” said Minard. “I did not mean that Madame de Godollo is
actually in the furniture business; but, at the time when Mademoiselle
Thuillier decided, by la Peyrade’s advice, to manage the new house
herself, that little fellow, who hasn’t all the ascendancy over her
mind he thinks he has, couldn’t persuade her to move the family into
the splendid apartment where they received us yesterday. Mademoiselle
Brigitte objected that she should have to change her habits, and
that her friends and relations wouldn’t follow her to such a distant
quarter--”

“It is quite certain,” interrupted Madame Phellion, “that to make up
one’s mind to hire a carriage every Sunday, one wants a prospect of
greater pleasure than can be found in that salon. When one thinks that,
except on the day of the famous dance of the candidacy, they never once
opened the piano in the rue Saint-Dominique!”

“It would have been, I am sure, most agreeable to the company to have a
talent like yours put in requisition,” remarked Minard; “but those are
not ideas that could ever come into the mind of that good Brigitte.
She’d have seen two more candles to light. Five-franc pieces are her
music. So, when la Peyrade and Thuillier insisted that she should move
into the apartment in the Place de la Madeleine, she thought of nothing
but the extra costs entailed by the removal. She judged, rightly enough,
that beneath those gilded ceilings her old ‘penates’ might have a
singular effect.”

“See how all things link together,” remarked Phellion, “and how, from
the summits of society, luxury infiltrates itself, sooner or later,
through the lower classes, leading to the ruin of empires.”

“You are broaching there, my dear commander,” said Minard, “one of the
most knotty questions of political economy. Many good minds think, on
the contrary, that luxury is absolutely demanded in the interests of
commerce, which is certainly the life of States. In any case, this view,
which isn’t yours, appears to have been that of Madame de Godollo, for,
they tell me, her apartment is very coquettishly furnished; and to coax
Mademoiselle Brigitte into the same path of elegance she made a proposal
to her as follows: ‘A friend of mine,’ she said, ‘a Russian princess for
whom one of the first upholsterers has just made splendid furniture, is
suddenly recalled to Russia by the czar, a gentleman with whom no one
dares to trifle. The poor woman is therefore obliged to turn everything
she owns here into money as fast as possible; and I feel sure she would
sell this furniture for ready money at a quarter of the price it cost
her. All of it is nearly new, and some things have never been used at
all.’”

“So,” cried Madame Phellion, “all that magnificence displayed before our
eyes last night was a magnificent economical bargain?”

“Just so,” replied Minard; “and the thing that decided Mademoiselle
Brigitte to take that splendid chance was not so much the desire to
renew her shabby furniture as the idea of doing an excellent stroke
of business. In that old maid there’s always something of Madame la
Ressource in Moliere’s ‘Miser.’”

“I think, Monsieur le maire, that you are mistaken,” said Phellion.
“Madame la Ressource is a character in ‘Turcaret,’ a very immoral play
by the late Le Sage.”

“Do you think so?” said Minard. “Well, very likely. But what is certain
is that, though the barrister ingratiated himself with Brigitte in
helping her to buy the house, it was by this clever jockeying about the
furniture that the foreign countess got upon the footing with Brigitte
that you now see. You may have remarked, perhaps, that a struggle is
going on between those two influences; which we may designate as the
house, and its furniture.”

“Yes, certainly,” said Madame Phellion, with a beaming expression that
bore witness to the interest she took in the conversation, “it did seem
to me that the great lady allowed herself to contradict the barrister,
and did it, too, with a certain sharpness.”

“Very marked sharpness,” resumed Minard, “and that intriguing fellow
perceives it. It strikes me that the lady’s hostility makes him uneasy.
The Thuilliers he got cheaply; for, between ourselves you know, there’s
not much in Thuillier himself; but he feels now that he has met a tough
adversary, and he is looking anxiously for a weak spot on which to
attack her.”

“Well, that’s justice,” said Madame Phellion. “For some time past that
man, who used to make himself so small and humble, has been taking airs
of authority in the house which are quite intolerable; he behaves openly
as the son-in-law; and you know very well, in that affair of Thuillier’s
election he jockeyed us all, and made us the stepping-stone for his
matrimonial ambition.”

“Yes; but I can assure you,” said Minard, “that at the present time his
influence is waning. In the first place, he won’t find every day for his
dear, good friend, as he calls him, a fine property worth a million to
be bought for a bit of bread.”

“Then they did get that house very cheap?” said Madame Phellion,
interrogatively.

“They got it for nothing, as the result of a dirty intrigue which the
lawyer Desroches related to me the other day. If it ever became known
to the council of the bar, that little barrister would be badly
compromised. The next thing is the coming election to the Chamber.
Eating gives appetite, as they say, and our good Thuillier is hungry;
but he begins to perceive that Monsieur de la Peyrade, when it becomes a
question of getting him that mouthful, hasn’t his former opportunity
to make dupes of us. That is why the family is turning more and more to
Madame de Godollo, who seems to have some very high acquaintances in
the political world. Besides all this, in fact, without dwelling on
the election business, which is still a distant matter, this Hungarian
countess is becoming, every day, more and more a necessity to Brigitte;
for it must be owned that without the help of the great lady, the poor
soul would look in the midst of her gilded salon like a ragged gown in a
bride’s trousseau.”

“Oh, Monsieur le maire, you are cruel,” said Madame Phellion, affecting
compunction.

“No, but say,” returned Minard, “with your hand on your conscience,
whether Brigitte, whether Madame Thuillier could preside in such a
salon? No, it is the Hungarian countess who does it all. She furnished
the rooms; she selected the male domestic, whose excellent training and
intelligence you must have observed; it was she who arranged the menu
of that dinner; in short, she is the providence of the parvenu colony,
which, without her intervention, would have made the whole quarter laugh
at it. And--now this is a very noticeable thing--instead of being a
parasite like la Peyrade, this Hungarian lady, who seems to have a
fortune of her own, proves to be not only disinterested, but generous.
The two gowns that you saw Brigitte and Madame Thuillier wear last
night were a present from her, and it was because she came herself to
superintend the toilet of our two ‘amphitryonesses’ that you were
so surprised last night not to find them rigged in their usual dowdy
fashion.”

“But what can be the motive,” asked Madame Phellion, “of this maternal
and devoted guardianship?”

“My dear wife,” said Phellion, solemnly, “the motives of human actions
are not always, thank God! selfishness and the consideration of vile
interests. There are hearts in this world that find pleasure in doing
good for its own sake. This lady may have seen in our good friends a set
of people about to enter blindly into a sphere they knew nothing
about, and having encouraged their first steps by the purchase of this
furniture, she may, like a nurse attached to her nursling, find pleasure
in giving them the milk of her social knowledge and her counsels.”

“He seems to keep aloof from our strictures, the dear husband!” cried
Minard; “but just see how he goes beyond them!”

“I!” said Phellion; “it is neither my intention nor my habit to do so.”

“All the same it would be difficult to say more neatly that the
Thuilliers are geese, and that Madame de Godollo is bringing them up by
hand.”

“I do not accept for these friends of ours,” said Phellion, “a
characterization so derogatory to their repute. I meant to say that they
were lacking, perhaps, in that form of experience, and that this noble
lady has placed at their service her knowledge of the world and its
usages. I protest against any interpretation of my language which goes
beyond my thought thus limited.”

“Well, anyhow, you will agree, my dear commander, that in the idea of
giving Celeste to this la Peyrade, there is something more than want of
experience; there is, it must be said, blundering folly and immorality;
for really the goings on of that barrister with Madame Colleville--”

“Monsieur le maire,” interrupted Phellion, with redoubled solemnity,
“Solon, the law-giver, decreed no punishment for parricide, declaring
it to be an impossible crime. I think the same thing may be said of the
offence to which you seem to make allusion. Madame Colleville granting
favors to Monsieur de la Peyrade, and all the while intending to give
him her daughter? No, monsieur, no! that passes imagination. Questioned
on this subject, like Marie Antoinette, by a human tribunal, Madame
Colleville would answer with the queen, ‘I appeal to all mothers.’”

“Nevertheless, my friend,” said Madame Phellion, “allow me to remind you
that Madame Colleville is excessively light-minded, and has given, as we
al know, pretty good proofs of it.”

“Enough, my dear,” said Phellion. “The dinner hour summons us; I think
that, little by little, we have allowed this conversation to drift
toward the miry slough of backbiting.”

“You are full of illusions, my dear commander,” said Minard, taking
Phellion by the hand and shaking it; “but they are honorable illusions,
and I envy them. Madame, I have the honor--” added the mayor, with a
respectful bow to Madame Phellion.

And each party took its way.



CHAPTER II. THE PROVENCAL’S PRESENT POSITION

The information acquired by the mayor of the 11th arrondissement was by
no means incorrect. In the Thuillier salon, since the emigration to the
Madeleine quarter, might be seen daily, between the tart Brigitte and
the plaintive Madame Thuillier, the graceful and attractive figure of
a woman who conveyed to this salon an appearance of the most unexpected
elegance. It was quite true that through the good offices of this
lady, who had become her tenant in the new house, Brigitte had made
a speculation in furniture not less advantageous in its way, but more
avowable, than the very shady purchase of the house itself. For six
thousand francs in ready money she had obtained furniture lately from
workshops representing a value of at least thirty thousand.

It was still further true that in consequence of a service which went
deep into her heart, Brigitte was showing to the beautiful foreign
countess the respectful deference which the bourgeoisie, in spite of its
sulky jealousy, is much less indisposed to give to titles of nobility
and high positions in the social hierarchy than people think. As this
Hungarian countess was a woman of great tact and accomplished training,
in taking the direction which she had thought it wise to assume over
the affairs of her proteges, she had been careful to guard her influence
from all appearance of meddlesome and imperious dictation. On the
contrary, she flattered Brigitte’s claim to be a model housekeeper; in
her own household expenses she affected to ask the spinster’s advice; so
that by reserving to herself the department of luxurious expenses, she
had more the air of giving information than of exercising supervision.

La Peyrade could not disguise from himself that a change was taking
place. His influence was evidently waning before that of this stranger;
but the antagonism of the countess was not confined to a simple struggle
for influence. She made no secret of being opposed to his suit for
Celeste; she gave her unequivocal approval to the love of Felix
Phellion, the professor. Minard, by whom this fact was not unobserved,
took very good care, in the midst of his other information, not to
mention it to those whom it most concerned.

La Peyrade was all the more anxious at being thus undermined by a
hostility the cause of which was inexplicable to him, because he knew
he had himself to blame for bringing this disquieting adversary into
the very heart of his citadel. His first mistake was in yielding to the
barren pleasure of disappointing Cerizet in the lease of the house. If
Brigitte by his advice and urging had not taken the administration of
the property into her own hands there was every probability that she
would never have made the acquaintance of Madame de Godollo. Another
imprudence had been to urge the Thuilliers to leave their old home in
the Latin quarter.

At this period, when his power and credit had reached their apogee,
Theodose considered his marriage a settled thing; and he now felt an
almost childish haste to spring into the sphere of elegance which seemed
henceforth to be his future. He had therefore furthered the inducements
of the countess, feeling that he thus sent the Thuilliers before him to
make his bed in the splendid apartment he intended to share with
them. By thus removing them from their old home he saw another
advantage,--that of withdrawing Celeste from daily intercourse with
a rival who seemed to him dangerous. Deprived of the advantage of
propinquity, Felix would be forced to make his visits farther apart; and
therefore there would be greater facilities to ruin him in the
girl’s heart, where he was installed on condition of giving religious
satisfaction,--a requirement to which he showed himself refractory.

But in all these plans and schemes various drawbacks confronted him.
To enlarge the horizon of the Thuilliers was for la Peyrade to run the
chance of creating competition for the confidence and admiration
of which he had been till then the exclusive object. In the sort of
provincial life they had hitherto lived, Brigitte and his dear, good
friend placed him, for want of comparison, at a height from which the
juxtaposition of other superiorities and elegances must bring him down.
So, then, apart from the blows covertly dealt him by Madame de Godollo,
the idea of the transpontine emigration had proved to be, on the whole,
a bad one.

The Collevilles had followed their friends the Thuilliers, to the
new house near the Madeleine, where an entresol at the back had been
conceded to them at a price conformable to their budget. But Colleville
declared it lacked light and air, and being obliged to go daily from
the boulevard of the Madeleine to the faubourg Saint-Jacques, where his
office was, he fumed against the arrangement of which he was the victim,
and felt at times that la Peyrade was a tyrant. Madame Colleville, on
the other hand, had flung herself into an alarming orgy of bonnets,
mantles, and new gowns, requiring the presentation of a mass of bills,
which led not infrequently to scenes in the household which were more or
less stormy. As for Celeste, she had undoubtedly fewer opportunities
to see young Phellion, but she had also fewer chances to rush into
religious controversy; and absence, which is dangerous to none
but inferior attachments, made her think more tenderly and less
theologically of the man of her dreams.

But all these false calculations of Theodose were as nothing in the
balance with another cause for his diminishing influence which was now
to weigh heavily on his situation.

He had assured Thuillier that, after a short delay and the payment
of ten thousand francs, to which his dear, good friend submitted with
tolerable grace, the cross of the Legion of honor would arrive to
realize the secret desire of all his life. Two months had now passed
without a sign of that glorious rattle; and the former sub-director, who
would have felt such joy in parading his red ribbon on the boulevard
of the Madeleine, of which he was now one of the most assiduous
promenaders, had nothing to adorn his buttonhole but the flowers of the
earth, the privilege of everybody,--of which he was far less proud than
Beranger.

La Peyrade had, to be sure, mentioned an unforeseen and inexplicable
difficulty by which all the efforts of the Comtesse du Bruel had been
paralyzed; but Thuillier did not take comfort in the explanation; and
on certain days, when the disappointment became acute, he was very near
saying with Chicaneau in Les Plaideurs, “Return my money.”

However, no outbreak happened, for la Peyrade held him in leash by the
famous pamphlet on “Taxation and the Sliding-Scale”; the conclusion of
which had been suspended during the excitement of the moving; for during
that agitating period Thuillier had been unable to give proper care to
the correction of proofs, about which, we may remember, he had reserved
the right of punctilious examination. La Peyrade had now reached a point
when he was forced to see that, in order to restore his influence,
which was daily evaporating, he must strike some grand blow; and it was
precisely this nagging and vexatious fancy about the proofs that the
barrister decided to take as the starting-point of a scheme, both deep
and adventurous, which came into his mind.

One day, when the pair were engaged on the sheets of the pamphlet, a
discussion arose upon the word “nepotism,” which Thuillier wished to
eliminate from one of la Peyrade’s sentences, declaring that never had
he met with it anywhere; it was pure neologism--which, to the literary
notions of the bourgeoisie, is equivalent to the idea of 1793 and the
Terror.

Generally la Peyrade took the ridiculous remarks of his dear,
good friend pretty patiently; but on this occasion he made himself
exceedingly excited, and signified to Thuillier that he might terminate
himself a work to which he applied such luminous and intelligent
criticism; after which remark he departed and was not seen again for
several days.

At first Thuillier supposed this outbreak to be a mere passing effect
of ill-humor; but when la Peyrade’s absence grew prolonged he felt the
necessity of taking some conciliatory step, and accordingly he went to
see the barrister, intending to make honorable amends and so put an end
to his sulkiness. Wishing, however, to give this advance an air which
allowed an honest issue to his own self-love, he entered la Peyrade’s
room with an easy manner, and said, cheerfully:--

“Well, my dear fellow, it turns out that we were both right: ‘nepotism’
means the authority that the nephews of popes take in public affairs.
I have searched the dictionary and it gives no other explanation; but,
from what Phellion tells me, I find that in the political vocabulary
the meaning of the word has been extended to cover the influence which
corrupt ministers permit certain persons to exercise illegally. I think,
therefore, that we may retain the expression, though it is certainly not
taken in that sense by Napoleon Landais.”

La Peyrade, who, in receiving his visitor, had affected to be extremely
busy in sorting his papers, contented himself by shrugging his shoulders
and saying nothing.

“Well,” said Thuillier, “have you got the last proofs? We ought to be
getting on.”

“If you have sent nothing to the printing-office,” replied la
Peyrade, “of course there are no proofs. I myself haven’t touched the
manuscript.”

“But, my dear Theodose,” said Thuillier, “it isn’t possible that for
such a trifle you are affronted. I don’t pretend to be a writer, only as
my name is on the book I have, I think, the right to my opinion about a
word.”

“But ‘Mossie’ Phellion,” replied Theodose, “is a writer; and inasmuch as
you have consulted him, I don’t see why you can’t engage him to finish
the work in which, for my part, I have resolved not to co-operate any
longer.”

“Heavens! what temper!” cried Thuillier; “here you are furious just
because I seemed to question a word and then consulted some one. You
know very well that I have read passages to Phellion, Colleville,
Minard, and Barniol as if the work were mine, in order to see the effect
it would produce upon the public; but that’s no reason why I should be
willing to give my name to the things they are capable of writing. Do
you wish me to give you a proof of the confidence I have in you? Madame
la Comtesse de Godollo, to whom I read a few pages last night, told
me that the pamphlet was likely to get me into trouble with the
authorities; but I wouldn’t allow what she said to have any influence
upon me.”

“Well,” said la Peyrade, “I think that the oracle of the family sees the
matter clearly; and I’ve no desire to bring your head to the scaffold.”

“All that is nonsense,” said Thuillier. “Have you, or have you not, an
intention to leave me in the lurch?”

“Literary questions make more quarrels among friends than political
questions,” replied Theodose. “I wish to put an end to these discussions
between us.”

“But, my dear Theodose, never have I assumed to be a literary man. I
think I have sound common-sense, and I say out my ideas; you can’t be
angry at that; and if you play me this trick, and refuse to collaborate
any longer, it is because you have some other grudge against me that I
know nothing about.”

“I don’t see why you call it a trick. There’s nothing easier for you
than not to write a pamphlet; you’ll simply be Jerome Thuillier, as
before.”

“And yet it was you yourself who declared that this publication would
help my election; besides, I repeat, I have read passages to all our
friends, I have announced the matter in the municipal council, and if
the work were not to appear I should be dishonored; people would be sure
to say the government had bought me up.”

“You have only to say that you are the friend of Phellion, the
incorruptible; that will clear you. You might even give Celeste to
his booby of a son; that alliance would certainly protect you from all
suspicion.”

“Theodose,” said Thuillier, “there is something in your mind that you
don’t tell me. It is not natural that for a simple quarrel about a word
you should wish to lose a friend like me.”

“Well, yes, there is,” replied la Peyrade, with the air of a man who
makes up his mind to speak out. “I don’t like ingratitude.”

“Nor I either; I don’t like it,” said Thuillier, hotly; “and if you
accuse me of so base an action, I summon you to explain yourself. We
must get out of these hints and innuendoes. What do you complain of?
What have you against a man whom only a few days ago you called your
friend?”

“Nothing and everything,” replied la Peyrade. “You and your sister
are much too clever to break openly with a man who, at the risk of his
reputation, has put a million in your hands. But I am not so simple that
I don’t know how to detect changes. There are people about you who have
set themselves, in an underhand way, to destroy me; and Brigitte has
only one thought, and that is, how to find a decent way of not keeping
her promises. Men like me don’t wait till their claims are openly
protested, and I certainly do not intend to impose myself on any family;
still, I was far, I acknowledge, from expecting such treatment.”

“Come, come,” said Thuillier, kindly, seeing in the barrister’s eye the
glint of a tear of which he was completely the dupe, “I don’t know what
Brigitte may have been doing to you, but one thing is very certain: I
have never ceased to be your most devoted friend.”

“No,” said la Peyrade, “since that mishap about the cross I am only
good, as the saying is, to throw to the dogs. How could I have struggled
against secret influences? Possibly it is that pamphlet, about which you
have talked a great deal too much, that has hindered your appointment.
The ministers are so stupid! They would rather wait and have their hand
forced by the fame of the publication than do the thing with a good
grace as the reward of your services. But these are political mysteries
which would never enter your sister’s mind.”

“The devil!” cried Thuillier. “I think I’ve got a pretty observing eye,
and yet I can’t see the slightest change in Brigitte toward you.”

“Oh, yes!” said la Peyrade, “your eyesight is so good that you have
never seen perpetually beside her that Madame de Godollo, whom she now
thinks she can’t live without.”

“Ha, ha!” said Thuillier, slyly, “so it is a little jealousy, is it, in
our mind?”

“Jealousy!” retorted la Peyrade. “I don’t know if that’s the right word,
but certainly your sister--whose mind is nothing above the ordinary,
and to whom I am surprised that a man of your intellectual superiority
allows a supremacy in your household which she uses and abuses--”

“How can I help it, my dear fellow,” interrupted Thuillier, sucking in
the compliment; “she is so absolutely devoted to me.”

“I admit the weakness, but, I repeat, your sister doesn’t fit into your
groove. Well, I say that when a man of the value which you are good
enough to recognize in me, does her the honor to consult her and devote
himself to her as I have done, it can hardly be agreeable to him to find
himself supplanted by a woman who comes from nobody knows where--and all
because of a few trumpery chairs and tables she has helped her to buy!”

“With women, as you know very well,” replied Thuillier, “household
affairs have the first place.”

“And Brigitte, who wants a finger in everything, also assumes to
carry matters with a high hand in affairs of the heart. As you are so
extraordinarily clear-sighted you ought to have seen that in Brigitte’s
mind nothing is less certain than my marriage with Mademoiselle
Colleville; and yet my love has been solemnly authorized by you.”

“Good gracious!” cried Thuillier, “I’d like to see any one attempt to
meddle with my arrangements!”

“Well, without speaking of Brigitte, I can tell you of another person,”
 said Theodose, “who is doing that very thing; and that person is
Mademoiselle Celeste herself. In spite of their quarrels about religion,
her mind is none the less full of that little Phellion.”

“But why don’t you tell Flavie to put a stop to it?”

“No one knows Flavie, my dear Thuillier, better than you. She is a woman
rather than a mother. I have found it necessary to do a little bit of
courting to her myself, and, you understand, while she is willing for
this marriage she doesn’t desire it very much.”

“Well,” said Thuillier, “I’ll undertake to speak to Celeste myself. It
shall never be said that a slip of a girl lays down the law to me.”

“That’s exactly what I don’t want you to do,” cried la Peyrade. “Don’t
meddle in all this. Outside of your relations to your sister you have an
iron will, and I will never have it said that you exerted your authority
to put Celeste in my arms; on the contrary, I desire that the child may
have complete control over her own heart. The only thing I request is
that she shall decide positively between Felix Phellion and myself;
because I do not choose to remain any longer in this doubtful position.
It is true we agreed that the marriage should only take place after
you became a deputy; but I feel now that it is impossible to allow
the greatest event of my life to remain at the mercy of doubtful
circumstances. And, besides, such an arrangement, though at first agreed
upon, seems to me now to have a flavor of a bargain which is unbecoming
to both of us. I think I had better make you a confidence, to which I
am led by the unpleasant state of things now between us. Dutocq may have
told you, before you left the apartment in the rue Saint-Dominique, that
an heiress had been offered to me whose immediate fortune is larger than
that which Mademoiselle Colleville will eventually inherit. I refused,
because I have had the folly to let my heart be won, and because
an alliance with a family as honorable as yours seemed to me more
desirable; but, after all, it is as well to let Brigitte know that if
Celeste refuses me, I am not absolutely turned out into the cold.”

“I can easily believe that,” said Thuillier; “but as for putting the
whole decision into the hands of that little girl, especially if she
has, as you tell me, a fancy for Felix--”

“I can’t help it,” said the barrister. “I must, at any price, get out of
this position; it is no longer tenable. You talk about your pamphlet;
I am not in a fit condition to finish it. You, who have been a man
of gallantry, you must know the dominion that women, fatal creatures!
exercise over our whole being.”

“Bah!” said Thuillier, conceitedly, “they cared for me, but I did not
often care for them; I took them, and left them, you know.”

“Yes, but I, with my Southern nature, love passionately; and Celeste has
other attractions besides fortune. Brought up in your household, under
your own eye, you have made her adorable. Only, I must say, you have
shown great weakness in letting that young fellow, who does not suit her
in any respect, get such hold upon her fancy.”

“You are quite right; but the thing began in a childish friendship; she
and Felix played together. You came much later; and it is a proof of
the great esteem in which we hold you, that when you made your offer we
renounced our earlier projects.”

“_You_ did, yes,” said la Peyrade, “and with some literary
manias--which, after all, are frequently full of sense and wit--you have
a heart of gold; with you friendship is a sure thing, and you know what
you mean. But Brigitte is another matter; you’ll see, when you propose
to her to hasten the marriage, what a resistance she will make.”

“I don’t agree with you. I think that Brigitte has always wanted you and
still wants you for son-in-law--if I may so express myself. But whether
she does or not, I beg you to believe that in all important matters I
know how to have my will obeyed. Only, let us come now to a distinct
understanding of what you wish; then we can start with the right foot
foremost, and you’ll see that all will go well.”

“I wish,” replied la Peyrade, “to put the last touches to your pamphlet;
for, above all things, I think of you.”

“Certainly,” said Thuillier, “we ought not to sink in port.”

“Well, in consequence of the feeling that I am oppressed, stultified by
the prospect of a marriage still so doubtful, I am certain that not
a page of manuscript could be got out of me in any form, until the
question is settled.”

“Very good,” said Thuillier; “then how do you present that question?”

“Naturally, if Celeste’s decision be against me, I should wish an
immediate solution. If I am condemned to make a marriage of convenience
I ought to lose no time in taking the opportunity I mentioned to you.”

“So be it; but what time do you intend to allow us?”

“I should think that in fifteen days a girl might be able to make up her
mind.”

“Undoubtedly,” replied Thuillier; “but it is very repugnant to me to let
Celeste decide without appeal.”

“For my part, I will take that risk; in any case, I shall be rid of
uncertainty; and that is really my first object. Between ourselves, I
am not risking as much as you think. It will take more than fifteen days
for a son of Phellion, in other words, obstinacy incarnate in silliness,
to have done with philosophical hesitations; and it is very certain
that Celeste will not accept him for a husband unless he gives her some
proofs of conversion.”

“That’s probable. But suppose Celeste tries to dawdle; suppose she
refuses to accept the alternative?”

“That’s your affair,” said the Provencal. “I don’t know how you regard
the family in Paris; I only know that in my part of the country it is
an unheard-of thing that a girl should have such liberty. If you, your
sister (supposing she plays fair in the matter), and the father and
mother can’t succeed in making a girl whom you dower agree to so simple
a thing as to make a perfectly free choice between two suitors, then
good-bye to you! You’ll have to write upon your gate-post that Celeste
is queen and sovereign of the house.”

“Well, we haven’t got to that point yet,” said Thuillier, with a capable
air.

“As for you, my old fellow,” resumed la Peyrade, “I must postpone our
business until after Celeste’s decision. Be that in my favor or not, I
will then go to work, and in three days the pamphlet can be finished.”

“Now,” said Thuillier, “I know what you have had on your mind. I’ll talk
about it with Brigitte.”

“That’s a sad conclusion,” said la Peyrade; “but, unhappily, so it is.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I would rather, as you can easily imagine, hear you say of yourself
that the thing shall be done; but old habits can’t be broken up.”

“Ah ca! do you think I’m a man without any will, any initiative of my
own?”

“No! but I’d like to be hidden in a corner and hear how you will open
the subject with your sister.”

“Parbleu! I shall open it frankly. I WILL, very firmly said, shall meet
every one of her objections.”

“Ah, my poor fellow!” said la Peyrade, clapping him on the shoulder,
“from Chrysale down how often have we seen brave warriors lowering their
penants before the wills of women accustomed to master them!”

“We’ll see about _that_,” replied Thuillier, making a theatrical exit.

The eager desire to publish his pamphlet, and the clever doubt thrown
upon the strength of his will had made him furious,--an actual tiger;
and he went away resolved, in case of opposition, to reduce his
household, as the saying is, by fire and sword.

When he reached home Thuillier instantly laid the question before
Brigitte. She, with her crude good sense and egotism, pointed out to him
that by thus hastening the period formerly agreed upon for the marriage,
they committed the blunder of disarming themselves; they could not be
sure that when the election took place la Peyrade would put the same
zeal into preparing for it. “It might be,” said the old maid, “just as
it has been about the cross.”

“There’s this difference,” said Thuillier; “the cross doesn’t depend
directly upon la Peyrade, whereas the influence he exerts in the 12th
arrondissement he can employ as he will.”

“And suppose he willed, after we have feathered his nest,” said
Brigitte, “to work his influence for his own election? He is very
ambitious, you know.”

This danger did not fail to strike the mind of the future legislator,
who thought, however, that he might feel some security in the honor and
morality of la Peyrade.

“A man’s honor can’t be very delicate,” returned Brigitte, “when he
tries to get out of a bargain; and this fashion of dangling a bit of
sugar before us about getting your pamphlet finished, doesn’t please me
at all. Can’t you get Phellion to help you, and do without Theodose? Or,
I dare say, Madame de Godollo, who knows everybody in politics, could
find you a journalist--they say there are plenty of them out at elbows;
a couple of hundred francs would do the thing.”

“But the secret would get into the papers,” said Thuillier. “No, I must
absolutely have Theodose; he knows that, and he makes these conditions.
After all, we did promise him Celeste, and it is only fulfilling the
promise a year earlier--what am I saying?--a few months, a few weeks,
possibly; for the king may dissolve the Chamber before any one expects
it.”

“But suppose Celeste won’t have him?” objected Brigitte.

“Celeste! Celeste, indeed!” ejaculated Thuillier; “she _must_ have
whomsoever we choose. We ought to have thought of that when we made the
engagement with la Peyrade; our word is passed now, you know. Besides,
if the child is allowed to choose between la Peyrade and Phellion--”

“So you really think,” said the sceptical old maid, “that if Celeste
decides for Phellion you can still count on la Peyrade’s devotion?”

“What else can I do? Those are his conditions. Besides, the fellow has
calculated the whole thing; he knows very well that Felix will never
bring himself in two weeks to please Celeste by going to confession, and
unless he does, that little monkey will never accept him for a husband.
La Peyrade’s game is very clever.”

“Too clever,” said Brigitte. “Well, settle the matter as you choose; I
shall not meddle; all this manoeuvring is not to my taste.”

Thuillier went to see Madame Colleville, and intimated to her that she
must inform Celeste of the designs upon her.

Celeste had never been officially authorized to indulge her sentiment
for Felix Phellion. Flavie, on the contrary, had once expressly
forbidden her to encourage the hopes of the young professor; but as, on
the part of Madame Thuillier, her godmother and her confidant, she knew
she was sustained in her inclination, she had let herself gently follow
it without thinking very seriously of the obstacles her choice might
encounter. When, therefore, she was ordered to choose at once between
Felix and la Peyrade, the simple-hearted girl was at first only struck
by the advantages of one half of the alternative, and she fancied she
did herself a great service by agreeing to an arrangement which made her
the mistress of her own choice and allowed her to bestow it as her heart
desired.

But la Peyrade was not mistaken in his calculation when he reckoned
that the religious intolerance of the young girl on one side, and the
philosophical inflexibility of Phellion’s son on the other, would create
an invincible obstacle to their coming together.



CHAPTER III. GOOD BLOOD CANNOT LIE

The evening of the day on which Flavie had communicated to Celeste the
sovereign orders of Thuillier, the Phellions called to spend the evening
with Brigitte, and a very sharp engagement took place between the two
young people. Mademoiselle Colleville did not need to be told by her
mother that it would be extremely unbecoming if she allowed Felix to
know of the conditional approval that was granted to their sentiments.
Celeste had too much delicacy, and too much real religious feeling to
wish to obtain the conversion of the man she loved on any other ground
than that of his conviction. Their evening was therefore passed in
theological debate; but love is so strange a Proteus, and takes so many
and such various forms, that though it appeared on this occasion in
a black gown and a mob cap, it was not at all as ungraceful and
displeasing as might have been imagined. But Phellion junior was in this
encounter, the solemnity of which he little knew, unlucky and blundering
to the last degree. Not only did he concede nothing, but he took a tone
of airy and ironical discussion, and ended by putting poor Celeste so
beside herself that she finally declared an open rupture and forbade him
to appear in her presence again.

It was just the case for a lover more experienced than the young savant
to reappear the very next day, for young hearts are never so near to
understanding each other as when they have just declared the necessity
of eternal separation. But this law is not one of logarithms, and Felix
Phellion, being incapable of guessing it, thought himself positively and
finally banished; so much so, that during the fifteen days granted
to the poor girl to deliberate (as says the Code in the matter of
beneficiary bequests), although he was expected day by day, and from
minute to minute by Celeste, who gave no more thought to la Peyrade than
if he had nothing to do with the question, the deplorably stupid youth
did not have the most distant idea of breaking his ban.

Luckily for this hopeless lover, a beneficent fairy was watching over
him, and the evening before the day on which the young girl was to make
her decision the following affair took place.

It was Sunday, the day on which the Thuilliers still kept up their
weekly receptions.

Madame Phellion, convinced that the housekeeping leakage, vulgarly
called “the basket dance,” was the ruin of the best-regulated
households, was in the habit of going in person to her tradespeople.
From time immemorial in the Phellion establishment, Sunday was the
day of the “pot-au-feu,” and the wife of the great citizen, in that
intentionally dowdy costume in which good housekeepers bundle themselves
when they go to market, was prosaically returning from a visit to the
butcher, followed by her cook and the basket, in which lay a magnificent
cut of the loin of beef. Twice had she rung her own doorbell, and
terrible was the storm gathering on the head of the foot-boy, who by
his slowness in opening the door was putting his mistress in a situation
less tolerable than that of Louis XIV., who had only _almost_ waited. In
her feverish impatience Madame Phellion had just given the bell a third
and ferocious reverberation, when, judge of her confusion, a little
coupe drew up with much clatter at the door of her house, and a lady
descended, whom she recognized, at this untimely hour, as the elegant
Comtesse Torna de Godollo!

Turning a purplish scarlet, the unfortunate bourgeoise lost her head,
and, floundering in excuses, she was about to complicate the position
by some signal piece of awkwardness, when, happily for her, Phellion,
attracted by the noise of the bell, and attired in a dressing-gown and
Greek cap, came out of his study to inquire what was the matter. After
a speech, the pompous charm of which did much to compensate for his
dishabille, the great citizen, with the serenity that never abandoned
him, offered his hand very gallantly to the lady, and having installed
her in the salon, said:--

“May I, without indiscretion, ask Madame la comtesse what has procured
for us the unhoped-for advantage of this visit?”

“I have come,” said the lady, “to talk with Madame Phellion on a matter
which must deeply interest her. I have no other way of meeting her
without witnesses; and therefore, though I am hardly known to Madame
Phellion, I have taken the liberty to call upon her here.”

“Madame, your visit is a great honor to this poor dwelling. But where is
Madame Phellion?” added the worthy man, impatiently, going towards the
door.

“No, I beg of you, don’t disturb her,” said the countess; “I have
heedlessly come at a moment when she is busy with household cares.
Brigitte has been my educator in such matters, and I know the respect we
ought to pay to good housekeepers. Besides, I have the pleasure of your
presence, which I scarcely expected.”

Before Phellion could reply to these obliging words, Madame Phellion
appeared. A cap with ribbons had taken the place of the market bonnet,
and a large shawl covered the other insufficiencies of the morning
toilet. When his wife arrived, the great citizen made as though he would
discreetly retire.

“Monsieur Phellion,” said the countess, “you are not one too many in
the conference I desire with madame; on the contrary, your excellent
judgment will be most useful in throwing light upon a matter as
interesting to you as to your wife. I allude to the marriage of your
son.”

“The marriage of my son!” cried Madame Phellion, with a look of
astonishment; “but I am not aware that anything of the kind is at
present in prospect.”

“The marriage of Monsieur Felix with Mademoiselle Celeste is, I think,
one of your strongest desires--”

“But we have never,” said Phellion, “taken any overt steps for that
object.”

“I know that only too well,” replied the countess; “on the contrary,
every one in your family seems to study how to defeat my efforts in that
direction. However, one thing is clear in spite of the reserve, and,
you must allow me to say so, the clumsiness in which the affair has been
managed, and that is that the young people love each other, and
they will both be unhappy if they do not marry. Now, to prevent this
catastrophe is the object with which I have come here this morning.”

“We cannot, madame, be otherwise than deeply sensible of the interest
you are so good as to show in the happiness of our son,” said Phellion;
“but, in truth, this interest--”

“Is something so inexplicable,” interrupted the countess, “that you feel
a distrust of it?”

“Oh! madame!” said Phellion, bowing with an air of respectful dissent.

“But,” continued the lady, “the explanation of my proceeding is very
simple. I have studied Celeste, and in that dear and artless child I
find a moral weight and value which would make me grieve to see her
sacrificed.”

“You are right, madame,” said Madame Phellion. “Celeste is, indeed, an
angel of sweetness.”

“As for monsieur Felix, I venture to interest myself because, in the
first place, he is the son of so virtuous a father--”

“Oh, madame! I entreat--” said Phellion, bowing again.

“--and he also attracts me by the awkwardness of true love, which
appears in all his actions and all his words. We mature women find an
inexpressible charm in seeing the tender passion under a form which
threatens us with no deceptions and no misunderstandings.”

“My son is certainly not brilliant,” said Madame Phellion, with a faint
tone of sharpness; “he is not a fashionable young man.”

“But he has the qualities that are most essential,” replied the
countess, “and a merit which ignores itself,--a thing of the utmost
consequence in all intellectual superiority--”

“Really, madame,” said Phellion, “you force us to hear things that--”

“That are not beyond the truth,” interrupted the countess. “Another
reason which leads me to take a deep interest in the happiness of these
young people is that I am not so desirous for that of Monsieur Theodose
de la Peyrade, who is false and grasping. On the ruin of their hopes
that man is counting to carry out his swindling purposes.”

“It is quite certain,” said Phellion, “that there are dark depths in
Monsieur de la Peyrade where light does not penetrate.”

“And as I myself had the misfortune to marry a man of his description,
the thought of the wretchedness to which Celeste would be condemned
by so fatal a connection, impels me, in the hope of saving her, to the
charitable effort which now, I trust, has ceased to surprise you.”

“Madame,” said Phellion, “we do not need the conclusive explanations by
which you illumine your conduct; but as to the faults on our part, which
have thwarted your generous efforts, I must declare that in order to
avoid committing them in future, it seems to me not a little desirable
that you should plainly indicate them.”

“How long is it,” asked the countess, “since any of your family have
paid a visit to the Thuilliers’?”

“If my memory serves me,” said Phellion, “I think we were all there the
Sunday after the dinner for the house-warming.”

“Fifteen whole days of absence!” exclaimed the countess; “and you think
that nothing of importance could happen in fifteen days?”

“No, indeed! did not three glorious days in July, 1830, cast down a
perjured dynasty and found the noble order of things under which we now
live?”

“You see it yourself!” said the countess. “Now, tell me, during that
evening, fifteen days ago, did nothing serious take place between your
son and Celeste?”

“Something did occur,” replied Phellion,--“a very disagreeable
conversation on the subject of my son’s religious opinions; it must be
owned that our good Celeste, who in all other respects has a charming
nature, is a trifle fanatic in the matter of piety.”

“I agree to that,” said the countess; “but she was brought up by the
mother whom you know; she was never shown the face of true piety; she
saw only the mimicry of it. Repentant Magdalens of the Madame Colleville
species always assume an air of wishing to retire to a desert with their
death’s-head and crossed bones. They think they can’t get salvation at
a cheaper rate. But after all, what did Celeste ask of Monsieur Felix?
Merely that he would read ‘The Imitation of Christ.’”

“He has read it, madame,” said Phellion, “and he thinks it a
book extremely well written; but his convictions--and that is a
misfortune--have not been affected by the perusal.”

“And do you think he shows much cleverness in not assuring his mistress
of some little change in his inflexible convictions?”

“My son, madame, has never received from me the slightest lesson in
cleverness; loyalty, uprightness, those are the principles I have
endeavored to inculcate in him.”

“It seems to me, monsieur, that there is no want of loyalty when, in
dealing with a troubled mind, we endeavor to avoid wounding it. But let
us agree that Monsieur Felix owed it to himself to be that iron door
against which poor Celeste’s applications beat in vain; was that a
reason for keeping away from her and sulking in his tent for fifteen
whole days? Above all, ought he to have capped these sulks by a
proceeding which I can’t forgive, and which--only just made known to
us--has struck the girl’s heart with despair, and also with a feeling of
extreme irritation?”

“My son capable of any such act! it is quite impossible, madame!” cried
Phellion. “I know nothing of this proceeding; but I do not hesitate to
affirm that you have been ill-informed.”

“And yet, nothing is more certain. Young Colleville, who came home
to-day for his half-holiday, has just told us that Monsieur Felix, who
had previously gone with the utmost punctuality to hear him recite has
ceased entirely to have anything to do with him. Unless your son is ill,
I do not hesitate to say that this neglect is the greatest of blunders,
in the situation in which he now stands with the sister he ought not to
have chosen this moment to put an end to these lessons.”

The Phellions looked at each other as if consulting how to reply.

“My son,” said Madame Phellion, “is not exactly ill; but since you
mention a fact which is, I acknowledge, very strange and quite out of
keeping with his nature and habits, I think it right to tell you that
from the day when Celeste seemed to signify that all was at an end
between them, a very extraordinary change has come over Felix, which is
causing Monsieur Phellion and myself the deepest anxiety.”

“Yes, madame,” said Phellion, “the young man is certainly not in his
normal condition.”

“But what is the matter with him?” asked the countess, anxiously.

“The night of that scene with Celeste,” replied Phellion, “after his
return home, he wept a flood of hot tears on his mother’s bosom, and
gave us to understand that the happiness of his whole life was at an
end.”

“And yet,” said Madame de Godollo, “nothing very serious happened; but
lovers always make the worst of things.”

“No doubt,” said Madame Phellion; “but since that night Felix has not
made the slightest allusion to his misfortune, and the next day he went
back to his work with a sort of frenzy. Does that seem natural to you?”

“It is capable of explanation; work is said to be a great consoler.”

“That is most true,” said Phellion; “but in Felix’s whole personality
there is something excited, and yet repressed, which is difficult to
describe. You speak to him, and he hardly seems to hear you; he
sits down to table and forgets to eat, or takes his food with an
absent-mindedness which the medical faculty consider most injurious to
the process of digestion; his duties, his regular occupations, we have
to remind him of--him, so extremely regular, so punctual! The other day,
when he was at the Observatory, where he now spends all his evenings,
only coming home in the small hours, I took it upon myself to enter his
room and examine his papers. I was terrified, madame, at finding a paper
covered with algebraic calculations which, by their vast extent appeared
to me to go beyond the limits of the human intellect.”

“Perhaps,” said the countess, “he is on the road to some great
discovery.”

“Or to madness,” said Madame Phellion, in a low voice, and with a heavy
sigh.

“That is not probable,” said Madame de Godollo; “with an organization
so calm and a mind so well balanced, he runs but little danger of
that misfortune. I know myself of another danger that threatens him
to-morrow, and unless we can take some steps this evening to avert it,
Celeste is positively lost to him.”

“How so?” said the husband and wife together.

“Perhaps you are not aware,” replied the countess, “that Thuillier and
his sister have made certain promises to Monsieur de la Peyrade about
Celeste?”

“We suspected as much,” replied Madame Phellion.

“The fulfilment of these pledges was postponed to a rather distant
period, and subordinated to certain conditions. Monsieur de la Peyrade,
after enabling them to buy the house near the Madeleine, pledged himself
not only to obtain the cross for Monsieur Thuillier, but to write in his
name a political pamphlet, and assist him in his election to the Chamber
of Deputies. It sounds like the romances of chivalry, in which the hero,
before obtaining the hand of the princess, is compelled to exterminate a
dragon.”

“Madame is very witty,” said Madame Phellion, looking at her husband,
who made her a sign not to interrupt.

“I have no time now,” said the countess; “in fact it would be useless to
tell you the manoeuvres by which Monsieur de la Peyrade has contrived
to hasten the period of this marriage; but it concerns you to know that,
thanks to his duplicity, Celeste is being forced to choose between him
and Monsieur Felix; fifteen days were given her in which to make her
choice; the time expires to-morrow, and, thanks to the unfortunate state
of feeling into which your son’s attitude has thrown her, there is
very serious danger of seeing her sacrifice to her wounded feelings the
better sentiments of her love and her instincts.”

“But what can be done to prevent it?” asked Phellion.

“Fight, monsieur; come this evening in force to the Thuilliers’; induce
Monsieur Felix to accompany you; lecture him until he promises to be a
little more flexible in his philosophical opinions. Paris, said Henri
IV., is surely worth a mass. But let him avoid all such questions; he
can certainly find in his heart the words and tones to move a woman
who loves him; it requires so little to satisfy her! I shall be there
myself, and I will help him to my utmost ability; perhaps, under the
inspiration of the moment, I may think of some way to do effectually.
One thing is very certain: we have to fight a great battle to-night, and
if we do not ALL do our duty valorously, la Peyrade may win it.”

“My son is not here, madame,” said Phellion, “and I regret it, for
perhaps your generous devotion and urgent words would succeed in shaking
off his torpor; but, at any rate, I will lay before him the gravity of
the situation, and, beyond all doubt, he will accompany us to-night to
the Thuilliers’.”

“It is needless to say,” added the countess, rising, “that we must
carefully avoid the very slightest appearance of collusion; we must not
converse together; in fact, unless it can be done in some casual way, it
would be better not to speak.”

“I beg you to rely, madame, upon my prudence,” replied Phellion, “and
kindly accept the assurance--”

“Of your most distinguished sentiments,” interrupted the countess,
laughing.

“No, madame,” replied Phellion, gravely, “I reserve that formula for
the conclusion of my letters; I beg you to accept the assurance of my
warmest and most unalterable gratitude.”

“We will talk of that when we are out of danger,” said Madame de
Godollo, moving towards the door; “and if Madame Phellion, the tenderest
and most virtuous of mothers, will grant me a little place in her
esteem, I shall count myself more than repaid for my trouble.”

Madame Phellion plunged headlong into a responsive compliment; and the
countess, in her carriage, was at some distance from the house before
Phellion had ceased to offer her his most respectful salutations.

As the Latin-quarter element in Brigitte’s salon became more rare and
less assiduous, a livelier Paris began to infiltrate it. Among his
colleagues in the municipal council and among the upper employees of
the prefecture of the Seine, the new councillor had made several
very important recruits. The mayor, and the deputy mayors of the
arrondissement, on whom, after his removal to the Madeleine quarter,
Thuillier had called, hastened to return the civility; and the same
thing happened with the superior officers of the first legion. The
house itself had produced a contingent; and several of the new tenants
contributed, by their presence, to change the aspect of the
dominical meetings. Among the number we must mention Rabourdin [see
“Bureaucracy”], the former head of Thuillier’s office at the ministry of
finance. Having had the misfortune to lose his wife, whose salon, at an
earlier period, checkmated that of Madame Colleville, Rabourdin occupied
as a bachelor the third floor, above the apartment let to Cardot, the
notary. As the result of an odious slight to his just claims, Rabourdin
had voluntarily resigned his public functions. At this time, when he
again met Thuillier, he was director of one of those numerous projected
railways, the construction of which is always delayed by either
parliamentary rivalry or parliamentary indecision. Let us say, in
passing, that the meeting with this able administrator, now become
an important personage in the financial world, was an occasion to the
worthy and honest Phellion to display once more his noble character. At
the time of the resignation to which Rabourdin had felt himself driven,
Phellion alone, of all the clerks in the office, had stood by him in his
misfortunes. Being now in a position to bestow a great number of places,
Rabourdin, on meeting once more his faithful subordinate, hastened to
offer him a position both easy and lucrative.

“Mossieu,” said Phellion, “your benevolence touches me and honors me,
but my frankness owes you an avowal, which I beg you not to take in ill
part: I do not believe in ‘railways,’ as the English call them.”

“That’s an opinion to which you have every right,” said Rabourdin,
smiling; “but, meanwhile, until the contrary is proved, we pay the
employees in our office well, and I should be glad to have you with me
in that capacity. I know by experience that you are a man on whom I can
count.”

“Mossieu,” returned the great citizen, “I did my duty at that time, and
nothing more. As for the offer you have been so good as to make to me, I
cannot accept it; satisfied with my humble fortunes, I feel neither the
need nor the desire to re-enter an administrative career; and, in common
with the Latin poet, I may say, ‘Claudite jam rivos, pueri, sat prata
biberunt.’”

Thus elevated in the character of its habitues, the salon Thuillier
still needed a new element of life. Thanks to the help of Madame de
Godollo, a born organizer, who successfully put to profit the former
connection of Colleville with the musical world, a few artists came to
make diversion from bouillotte and boston. Old-fashioned and venerable,
those two games were forced to beat a retreat before whist, the only
manner, said the Hungarian countess, in which respectable people can
kill time.

Like Louis XVI., who began by putting his own hand to reforms which
subsequently engulfed his throne, Brigitte had encouraged, at first,
this domestic revolution; the need of sustaining her position suitably
in the new quarter to which she had emigrated had made her docile to all
suggestions of comfort and elegance. But the day on which occurred the
scene we are about to witness, an apparently trivial detail had revealed
to her the danger of the declivity on which she stood. The greater
number of the new guests, recently imported by Thuillier, knew nothing
of his sister’s supremacy in his home. On arrival, therefore, they all
asked Thuillier to present them to _Madame_, and, naturally, Thuillier
could not say to them that his wife was a figure-head who groaned under
the iron hand of a Richelieu, to whom the whole household bent the knee.
It was therefore not until the first homage rendered to the sovereign
“de jure” was paid, that the new-comers were led up to Brigitte, and by
reason of the stiffness which displeasure at this misplacement of
power gave to her greeting they were scarcely encouraged to pay her any
further attentions. Quick to perceive this species of overthrow, Queen
Elizabeth said to herself, with that profound instinct of domination
which was her ruling passion:--

“If I don’t take care I shall soon be nobody in this house.”

Burrowing into that idea, she came to think that if the project of
making a common household with la Peyrade, then Celeste’s husband, were
carried out, the situation which was beginning to alarm her would become
even worse. From that moment, and by sudden intuition, Felix Phellion,
that good young man, with his head too full of mathematics ever to
become a formidable rival to her sovereignty, seemed to her a far better
match than the enterprising lawyer, and she was the first, on seeing the
Phellion father and mother arrive without the son, to express regret at
his absence. Brigitte, however, was not the only one to feel the injury
that the luckless professor was doing to his prospects in thus keeping
away from her reception. Madame Thuillier, with simple candor, and
Celeste with feigned reserve, both made manifest their displeasure. As
for Madame de Godollo, who, in spite of a very remarkable voice, usually
required much pressing before she would sing (the piano having been
opened since her reign began), she now went up to Madame Phellion and
asked her to accompany her, and between two verses of a song she said in
her ear:--

“Why isn’t your son here?”

“He is coming,” said Madame Phellion. “His father talked to him very
decidedly; but to-night there happens to be a conjunction of I don’t
know what planets; it is a great night at the Observatory, and he did
not feel willing to dispense with--”

“It is inconceivable that a man should be so foolish!” exclaimed Madame
de Godollo; “wasn’t theology bad enough, that he must needs bring in
astronomy too?”

And her vexation gave to her voice so vibrating a tone that her song
ended in the midst of what the English call a thunder of applause. La
Peyrade, who feared her extremely, was not one of the last, when she
returned to her place, to approach her, and express his admiration; but
she received his compliments with a coldness so near to incivility that
their mutual hostility was greatly increased. La Peyrade turned away
to console himself with Madame Colleville, who had still too many
pretensions to beauty not to be the enemy of a woman made to intercept
all homage.

“So you also, you think that woman sings well?” she said,
contemptuously, to Theodose.

“At any rate, I have been to tell her so,” replied la Peyrade, “because
without her, in regard to Brigitte, there’s no security. But do just
look at your Celeste; her eyes never leave that door, and every time a
tray is brought in, though it is an hour at least since the last guest
came, her face expresses disappointment.”

We must remark, in passing, that since the reign of Madame de Godollo
trays were passed round on the Sunday reception days, and that without
scrimping; on the contrary, they were laden with ices, cakes, and
syrups, from Taurade’s, then the best confectioner.

“Don’t harass me!” cried Flavie. “I know very well what that foolish
girl has in her mind; and your marriage will take place only too soon.”

“But you know it is not for myself I make it,” said la Peyrade; “it is
a necessity for the future of all of us. Come, come, there are tears in
your eyes! I shall leave you; you are not reasonable. The devil! as that
Prudhomme of a Phellion says, ‘Whoso wants the end wants the means.’”

And he went toward the group composed of Celeste, Madame Thuillier,
Madame de Godollo, Colleville, and Phellion. Madame Colleville followed
him; and, under the influence of the feeling of jealousy she had just
shown, she became a savage mother.

“Celeste,” she said, “why don’t you sing? These gentlemen wish to hear
you.”

“Oh, mamma!” cried the girl, “how can I sing after Madame de Godollo,
with my poor thread of a voice? Besides, you know I have a cold.”

“That is to say that, as usual, you make yourself pretentious and
disagreeable; people sing as they can sing; all voices have their own
merits.”

“My dear,” said Colleville, who, having just lost twenty francs at the
card-tables, found courage in his ill-humor to oppose his wife, “that
saying, ‘People sing as they can sing’ is a bourgeois maxim. People sing
with a voice, if they have one; but they don’t sing after hearing such
a magnificent opera voice as that of Madame la comtesse. For my part,
I readily excuse Celeste for not warbling to us one of her sentimental
little ditties.”

“Then it is well worth while,” said Flavie, leaving the group, “to spend
so much money on expensive masters who are good for nothing.”

“So,” said Colleville, resuming the conversation which the invasion of
Flavie had interrupted, “Felix no longer inhabits this earth; he lives
among the stars?”

“My dear and former colleague,” said Phellion, “I am, as you are,
annoyed with my son for neglecting, as he does, the oldest friends of
his family; and though the contemplation of those great luminous bodies
suspended in space by the hand of the Creator presents, in my opinion,
higher interest than it appears to have to your more eager brain, I
think that Felix, by not coming here to-night, as he promised me he
would, shows a want of propriety, about which, I can assure you I shall
speak my mind.”

“Science,” said la Peyrade, “is a fine thing, but it has, unfortunately,
the attribute of making bears and monomaniacs.”

“Not to mention,” said Celeste, “that it destroys all religious
sentiments.”

“You are mistaken there, my dear child,” said Madame de Godollo.
“Pascal, who was himself a great example of the falseness of your point
of view, says, if I am not mistaken, that a little science draws us from
religion, but a great deal draws us back to it.”

“And yet, madame,” said Celeste, “every one admits that Monsieur Felix
is really very learned; when he helped my brother with his studies
nothing could be, so Francois told me, clearer or more comprehensible
than his explanations; and you see, yourself, he is not the more
religious for that.”

“I tell you, my dear child, that Monsieur Felix is not irreligious, and
with a little gentleness and patience nothing would be easier than to
bring him back.”

“Bring back a savant to the duties of religion!” exclaimed la Peyrade.
“Really, madame, that seems to me very difficult. These gentlemen put
the object of their studies before everything else. Tell a geometrician
or a geologist, for example, that the Church demands, imperatively, the
sanctification of the Sabbath by the suspension of all species of work,
and they will shrug their shoulders, though God Himself did not disdain
to rest from His labors.”

“So that in not coming here this evening,” said Celeste, naively,
“Monsieur Felix commits not only a fault against good manners, but a
sin.”

“But, my dearest,” said Madame de Godollo, “do you think that our
meeting here this evening to sing ballads and eat ices and say evil of
our neighbor--which is the customary habit of salons--is more pleasing
to God than to see a man of science in his observatory busied in
studying the magnificent secrets of His creation?”

“There’s a time for all things,” said Celeste; “and, as Monsieur de la
Peyrade says, God Himself did not disdain to rest.”

“But, my love,” said Madame de Godollo, “God has time to do so; He is
eternal.”

“That,” said la Peyrade, “is one of the wittiest impieties ever uttered;
those are the reasons that the world’s people put forth. They interpret
and explain away the commands of God, even those that are most explicit
and imperative; they take them, leave them, or choose among them;
the free-thinker subjects them to his lordly revision, and from
free-thinking the distance is short to free actions.”

During this harangue of the barrister Madame de Godollo had looked at
the clock; it then said half-past eleven. The salon began to empty. Only
one card-table was still going on, Minard, Thuillier, and two of the
new acquaintances being the players. Phellion had just quitted the group
with which he had so far been sitting, to join his wife, who was talking
with Brigitte in a corner; by the vehemence of his pantomimic action
it was easy to see that he was filled with some virtuous indignation.
Everything seemed to show that all hope of seeing the arrival of the
tardy lover was decidedly over.

“Monsieur,” said the countess to la Peyrade, “do you consider the
gentlemen attached to Saint-Jacques du Haut Pas in the rue des Postes
good Catholics?”

“Undoubtedly,” replied the barrister, “religion has no more loyal
supporters.”

“This morning,” continued the countess, “I had the happiness to be
received by Pere Anselme. He is thought the model of all Christian
virtues, and yet the good father is a very learned mathematician.”

“I have not said, madame, that the two qualities were absolutely
incompatible.”

“But you did say that a true Christian could not attend to any species
of work on Sunday. If so, Pere Anselme must be an unbeliever; for when I
was admitted to his room I found him standing before a blackboard with
a bit of chalk in his hand, busy with a problem which was, no doubt,
knotty, for the board was three-parts covered with algebraic signs; and
I must add that he did not seem to care for the scandal this ought to
cause, for he had with him an individual whom I am not allowed to name,
a younger man of science, of great promise, who was sharing his profane
occupation.”

Celeste and Madame Thuillier looked at each other, and both saw a gleam
of hope in the other’s eyes.

“Why can’t you tell us the name of that young man of science?” Madame
Thuillier ventured to say, for she never put any diplomacy into the
expression of her thoughts.

“Because he has not, like Pere Anselme, the saintliness which would
absolve him in the eyes of monsieur here for this flagrant violation of
the Sabbath. Besides,” added Madame de Godollo, in a significant manner,
“he asked me not to mention that I had met him there.”

“Then you know a good many scientific young men?” said Celeste,
interrogatively; “this one and Monsieur Felix--that makes two.”

“My dear love,” said the countess, “you are an inquisitive little girl,
and you will not make me say what I do not choose to say, especially
after a confidence that Pere Anselme made to me; for if I did, your
imagination would at once set off at a gallop.”

The gallop had already started, and every word the countess said only
added to the anxious eagerness of the young girl.

“As for me,” said la Peyrade, sarcastically, “I shouldn’t be at all
surprised if Pere Anselme’s young collaborator was that very Felix
Phellion. Voltaire always kept very close relations with the Jesuits who
brought him up; but he never talked religion with them.”

“Well, my young savant does talk of it to his venerable brother in
science; he submits his doubts to him; in fact, that was the beginning
of their scientific intimacy.”

“And does Pere Anselme,” asked Celeste, “hope to convert him?”

“He is sure of it,” replied the countess. “His young collaborator,
apart from a religious education which he certainly never had, has
been brought up to the highest principles; he knows, moreover, that his
conversion to religion would make the happiness of a charming girl whom
he loves, and who loves him. Now, my dear, you will not get another word
out of me, and you may think what you like.”

“Oh! godmother!” whispered Celeste, yielding to the freshness of her
feelings, “suppose it were he!”

And the tears filled her eyes as she pressed Madame Thuillier’s hand.

At this moment the servant threw open the door of the salon, and,
singular complication! announced Monsieur Felix Phellion.

The young professor entered the room, bathed in perspiration, his cravat
in disorder, and himself out of breath.

“A pretty hour,” said Phellion, sternly, “to present yourself.”

“Father,” said Felix, moving to the side of the room where Madame
Thuillier and Celeste were seated, “I could not leave before the end of
the phenomenon; and then I couldn’t find a carriage, and I have run the
whole way.”

“Your ears ought to have burned as you came,” said la Peyrade, “for you
have been for the last half-hour in the minds of these ladies, and a
great problem has been started about you.”

Felix did not answer. He saw Brigitte entering the salon from the
dining-room where she had gone to tell the man-servant not to bring in
more trays, and he hurried to greet her.

After listening to a few reproaches for the rarity of his visits and
receiving forgiveness in a very cordial “Better late than never,”
 he turned towards his pole, and was much astonished to hear himself
addressed by Madame de Godollo as follows:--

“Monsieur,” she said, “I hope you will pardon the indiscretion I have,
in the heat of conversation, committed about you. I have told these
ladies where I met you this morning.”

“Met me?” said Felix; “if I had the honor to meet you, madame, I did not
see you.”

An almost imperceptible smile flickered on la Peyrade’s lips.

“You saw me well enough to ask me to keep silence as to where I had met
you; but, at any rate, I did not go beyond a simple statement; I said
you saw Pere Anselme sometimes, and had certain scientific relations
with him; also that you defended your religious doubts to him as you do
to Celeste.”

“Pere Anselme!” said Felix, stupidly.

“Yes, Pere Anselme,” said la Peyrade, “a great mathematician who does
not despair of converting you. Mademoiselle Celeste wept for joy.”

Felix looked around him with a bewildered air. Madame de Godollo fixed
upon him a pair of eyes the language of which a poodle could have
understood.

“I wish,” he said finally, “I could have given that joy to Mademoiselle
Celeste, but I think, madame, you are mistaken.”

“Ah! monsieur, then I must be more precise,” said the countess, “and if
your modesty still induces you to hide a step that can only honor you,
you can contradict me; I will bear the mortification of having divulged
a secret which, I acknowledge, you trusted implicitly to my discretion.”

Madame Thuillier and Celeste were truly a whole drama to behold; never
were doubt and eager expectation more plainly depicted on the human
face. Measuring her words deliberately, Madame de Godollo thus
continued:--

“I said to these ladies, because I know how deep an interest they take
in your salvation, and because you are accused of boldly defying the
commandments of God by working on Sundays, that I had met you this
morning at the house of Pere Anselme, a mathematician like yourself,
with whom you were busy in solving a problem; I said that your
scientific intercourse with that saintly and enlightened man had led
to other explanations between you; that you had submitted to him your
religious doubts, and he did not despair of removing them. In the
confirmation you can give of my words there is nothing, I am sure, to
wound your self-esteem. The matter was simply a surprise you intended
for Celeste, and I have had the stupidity to divulge it. But when she
hears you admit the truth of my words you will have given her such
happiness that I shall hope to be forgiven.”

“Come, monsieur,” said la Peyrade, “there’s nothing absurd or mortifying
in having sought for light; you, so honorable and so truly an enemy to
falsehood, you cannot deny what madame affirms with such decision.”

“Well,” said Felix, after a moment’s hesitation, “will you, Mademoiselle
Celeste, allow me to say a few words to you in private, without
witnesses?”

Celeste rose, after receiving an approving sign from Madame Thuillier.
Felix took her hand and led her to the recess of the nearest window.

“Celeste,” he said, “I entreat you: wait! See,” he added, pointing to
the constellation of Ursa Minor, “beyond those visible stars a future
lies before us; I will place you there. As for Pere Anselme, I cannot
admit what has been said, for it is not true. It is an invented tale.
But be patient with me; you shall soon know all.”

“He is mad!” said the young girl, in tones of despair, as she resumed
her place beside Madame Thuillier.

Felix confirmed this judgment by rushing frantically from the salon,
without perceiving the emotion in which his father and his mother
started after him. After this sudden departure, which stupefied
everybody, la Peyrade approached Madame de Godollo very respectfully,
and said to her:--

“You must admit, madame, that it is difficult to drag a man from the
water when he persists in being drowned.”

“I had no idea until this moment of such utter simplicity,” replied
the countess; “it is too silly. I pass over to the enemy; and with that
enemy I am ready and desirous to have, whenever he pleases, a frank and
honest explanation.”



CHAPTER IV. HUNGARY VERSUS PROVENCE

The next day Theodose felt himself possessed by two curiosities:
How would Celeste behave as to the option she had accepted? and this
Comtesse Torna de Godollo, what did she mean by what she had said; and
what did she want with him?

The first of these questions seemed, undoubtedly, to have the right of
way, and yet, by some secret instinct, la Peyrade felt more keenly drawn
toward the conclusion of the second problem. He decided, therefore, to
take his first step in that direction, fully understanding that he could
not too carefully arm himself for the interview to which the countess
had invited him.

The morning had been rainy, and this great calculator was, of course,
not ignorant how much a spot of mud, tarnishing the brilliancy of
varnished boots, could lower a man in the opinion of some. He therefore
sent his porter for a cabriolet, and about three o’clock in the
afternoon he drove from the rue Saint-Dominique d’Enfer toward the
elegant latitudes of the Madeleine. It may well be believed that certain
cares had been bestowed upon his toilet, which ought to present a
happy medium between the negligent ease of a morning costume and the
ceremonious character of an evening suit. Condemned by his profession to
a white cravat, which he rarely laid aside, and not venturing to present
himself in anything but a dress-coat, he felt himself being drawn,
of necessity, to one of the extremes he desired to avoid. However by
buttoning up his coat and wearing tan instead of straw-colored gloves,
he managed to _unsolemnize_ himself, and to avoid that provincial air
which a man in full dress walking the streets of Paris while the sun is
above the horizon never fails to convey.

The wary diplomatist was careful not to drive to the house where he was
going. He was unwilling to be seen from the countess’ entresol issuing
from a hired cab, and from the first floor he feared to be discovered
stopping short on his way up at the lower floor,--a proceeding which
could not fail to give rise to countless conjectures.

He therefore ordered the driver to pull up at the corner of the rue
Royale, whence, along a pavement that was now nearly dry, he picked his
way on tiptoe to the house. It so chanced that he was not seen by either
the porter or his wife; the former being beadle of the church of the
Madeleine, was absent at a service, and the wife had just gone up to
show a vacant apartment to a lodger. Theodose was therefore able to
glide unobserved to the door of the sanctuary he desired to penetrate.
A soft touch of his hand to the silken bell-rope caused a sound which
echoed from the interior of the apartment. A few seconds elapsed, and
then another and more imperious bell of less volume seemed to him
a notification to the maid that her delay in opening the door was
displeasing to her mistress. A moment later, a waiting-woman, of middle
age, and too well trained to dress like a “soubrette” of comedy, opened
the door to him.

The lawyer gave his name, and the woman ushered him into a dining-room,
severely luxurious, where she asked him to wait. A moment later,
however, she returned, and admitted him into the most coquettish and
splendid salon it was possible to insert beneath the low ceilings of an
entresol. The divinity of the place was seated before a writing-table
covered with a Venetian cloth, in which gold glittered in little spots
among the dazzling colors of the tapestry.

“Will you allow me, monsieur, to finish a letter of some importance?”
 she said.

The barrister bowed in sign of assent. The handsome Hungarian then
concluded a note on blue English paper, which she placed in an envelope;
after sealing it carefully, she rang the bell. The maid appeared
immediately and lighted a little spirit lamp; above the lamp was
suspended a sort of tiny crucible, in which was a drop of sealing-wax;
as soon as this had melted, the maid poured it on the envelope,
presenting to her mistress a seal with armorial bearings. This the
countess imprinted on the wax with her own beautiful hands, and then
said:--

“Take the letter at once to that address.”

The woman made a movement to take the letter, but, either from haste or
inadvertence, the paper fell from her hand close to la Peyrade’s feet.
He stooped hastily to pick it up, and read the direction involuntarily.
It bore the words, “His Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs”;
the significant words, “For him only,” written higher up, seemed to give
this missive a character of intimacy.

“Pardon, monsieur,” said the countess, receiving the paper, which he had
the good taste to return to her own hands in order to show his eagerness
to serve her. “Be so good, mademoiselle, as to carry that in a way not
to lose it,” she added in a dry tone to the unlucky maid. The countess
then left her writing-table and took her seat on a sofa covered with
pearl-gray satin.

During these proceedings la Peyrade had the satisfaction of making an
inventory of all the choice things by which he was surrounded. Paintings
by good masters detached themselves from walls of even tone; on a
pier-table stood a very tall Japanese vase; before the windows the
jardinieres were filled with lilium rubrum, showing its handsome
reversely curling petals surmounted by white and red camellias and a
dwarf magnolia from China, with flowers of sulphur white with scarlet
edges. In a corner was a stand of arms, of curious shapes and
rich construction, explained, perhaps, by the lady’s Hungarian
nationality--always that of the hussar. A few bronzes and statuettes
of exquisite selection, chairs rolling softly on Persian carpets, and a
perfect anarchy of stuffs of all kinds completed the arrangement of
this salon, which the lawyer had once before visited with Brigitte and
Thuillier before the countess moved into it. It was so transformed that
it seemed to him unrecognizable. With a little more knowledge of the
world la Peyrade would have been less surprised at the marvellous care
given by the countess to the decoration of the room. A woman’s salon is
her kingdom, and her absolute domain; there, in the fullest sense of
the word, she reigns, she governs; there she offers battle, and nearly
always comes off victorious.

Coquettishly lying back in a corner of the sofa, her head carelessly
supported by an arm the form and whiteness of which could be seen
nearly to the elbow through the wide, open sleeve of a black velvet
dressing-gown, her Cinderella foot in its dainty slipper of Russia
leather resting on a cushion of orange satin, the handsome Hungarian had
the look of a portrait by Laurence or Winterhalter, plus the naivete of
the pose.

“Monsieur,” she said, with the slightly foreign accent which lent an
added charm to her words, “I cannot help thinking it rather droll that
a man of your mind and rare penetration should have thought you had an
enemy in me.”

“But, Madame la comtesse,” replied la Peyrade, allowing her to read in
his eyes an astonishment mingled with distrust, “all the appearances,
you must admit, were of that nature. A suitor interposes to break off a
marriage which has been offered to me with every inducement; this
rival does me the service of showing himself so miraculously stupid and
awkward that I could easily have set him aside, when suddenly a most
unlooked-for and able auxiliary devotes herself to protecting him on the
very ground where he shows himself most vulnerable.”

“You must admit,” said the countess, laughing, “that the protege
showed himself a most intelligent man, and that he seconded my efforts
valiantly.”

“His clumsiness could not have been, I think, very unexpected to you,”
 replied la Peyrade; “therefore the protection you have deigned to give
him is the more cruel to me.”

“What a misfortune it would be,” said the countess, with charmingly
affected satire, “if your marriage with Mademoiselle Celeste were
prevented! Do you really care so much, monsieur, for that little
school-girl?”

In that last word, especially the intonation with which it was uttered,
there was more than contempt, there was hatred. This expression did
not escape an observer of la Peyrade’s strength, but not being a man to
advance very far on a single remark he merely replied:--

“Madame, the vulgar expression, to ‘settle down,’ explains this
situation, in which a man, after many struggles and being at an end of
his efforts and his illusions, makes a compromise with the future.
When this compromise takes the form of a young girl with, I admit, more
virtue than beauty, but one who brings to a husband the fortune which
is indispensable to the comfort of married life, what is there so
astonishing in the fact that his heart yields to gratitude and that he
welcomes the prospect of a placid happiness?”

“I have always thought,” replied the countess, “that the power of a
man’s intellect ought to be the measure of his ambition; and I imagined
that one so wise as to make himself, at first, the poor man’s lawyer,
would have in his heart less humble and less pastoral aspirations.”

“Ah! madame,” returned la Peyrade, “the iron hand of necessity compels
us to strange resignations. The question of daily bread is one of those
before which all things bend the knee. Apollo was forced to ‘get a
living,’ as the shepherd of Admetus.”

“The sheepfold of Admetus,” said Madame de Godollo, “was at least a
royal fold; I don’t think Apollo would have resigned himself to be the
shepherd of a--bourgeois.”

The hesitation that preceded that last word seemed to convey in place of
it a proper name; and la Peyrade understood that Madame de Godollo,
out of pure clemency, had suppressed that of Thuillier, had turned her
remark upon the species and not the individual.

“I agree, madame, that your distinction is a just one,” he replied, “but
in this case Apollo has no choice.”

“I don’t like persons who charge too much,” said the countess, “but
still less do I like those who sell their merchandise below the market
price; I always suspect such persons of trying to dupe me by some clever
and complicated trick. You know very well, monsieur, your own value, and
your hypocritical humility displeases me immensely. It proves to me that
my kindly overtures have not produced even a beginning of confidence
between us.”

“I assure you, madame, that up to the present time life has never
justified the belief in any dazzling superiority in me.”

“Well, really,” said the Hungarian, “perhaps I ought to believe in the
humility of a man who is willing to accept the pitiable finale of his
life which I threw myself into the breach to prevent.”

“Just as I, perhaps,” said la Peyrade, with a touch of sarcasm, “ought
to believe in the reality of a kindness which, in order to save me, has
handled me so roughly.”

The countess cast a reproachful look upon her visitor; her fingers
crumpled the ribbons of her gown; she lowered her eyes, and gave a sigh,
so nearly imperceptible, so slight, that it might have passed for an
accident in the most regular breathing.

“You are rancorous,” she said, “and you judge people by one aspect only.
After all,” she added, as if on reflection, “you are perhaps right in
reminding me that I have taken the longest way round by meddling,
rather ridiculously, in interests that do not concern me. Go on, my dear
monsieur, in the path of this glorious marriage which offers you so many
combined inducements; only, let me hope that you may not repent a course
with which I shall no longer interfere.”

The Provencal had not been spoilt by an experience of “bonnes fortunes.”
 The poverty against which he had struggled so long never leads to
affairs of gallantry, and since he had thrown off its harsh restraint,
his mind being wholly given up to the anxious work of creating his
future, the things of the heart had entered but slightly into his
life; unless we must except the comedy he had played on Flavie. We
can therefore imagine the perplexity of this novice in the matter of
adventures when he saw himself placed between the danger of losing what
seemed to be a delightful opportunity, and the fear of finding a serpent
amid the beautiful flowers that were offered to his grasp. Too marked
a reserve, too lukewarm an eagerness, might wound the self-love of that
beautiful foreigner, and quench the spring from which he seemed invited
to draw. On the other hand, suppose that appearance of interest were
only a snare? Suppose this kindness (ill-explained, as it seemed to
him), of which he was so suddenly the object, had no other purpose than
to entice him into a step which might be used to compromise him with
the Thuilliers? What a blow to his reputation for shrewdness, and what a
role to play!--that of the dog letting go the meat for the shadow!

We know that la Peyrade was trained in the school of Tartuffe, and the
frankness with which that great master declares to Elmire that without
receiving a few of the favors to which he aspired he could not trust in
her tender advances, seemed to the barrister a suitable method to apply
to the present case, adding, however, a trifle more softness to the
form.

“Madame la comtesse,” he said, “you have turned me into a man who is
much to be pitied. I was cheerfully advancing to this marriage, and you
take all faith in it away from me. Suppose I break it off, what use can
I--with that great capacity you see in me--make of the liberty I thus
recover?”

“La Bruyere, if I am not mistaken, said that nothing freshens the blood
so much as to avoid committing a folly.”

“That may be; but it is, you must admit, a negative benefit; and I am
of an age and in a position to desire more serious results. The interest
that you deign to show to me cannot, I think, stop short at the idea
of merely putting an end to my present prospects. I love Mademoiselle
Colleville with a love, it is true, which has nothing imperative about
it; but I certainly love her, her hand is promised to me, and before
renouncing it--”

“So,” said the countess, hastily, “in a given case you would not be
averse to a rupture? And,” she added, in a more decided tone, “there
would be some chance of making you see that in taking your first
opportunity you cut yourself off from a better future, in which a more
suitable marriage may present itself?”

“But, at least, madame, I must be enabled to foresee it definitely.”

This persistence in demanding pledges seemed to irritate the countess.

“Faith,” she said, “is only a virtue when it believes without seeing.
You doubt yourself, and that is another form of stupidity. I am not
happy, it seems, in my selection of those I desire to benefit.”

“But, madame, it cannot be indiscreet to ask to know in some remote way
at least, what future your kind good-will has imagined for me.”

“It is very indiscreet,” replied the countess, coldly, “and it shows
plainly that you offer me only a conditional confidence. Let us say no
more. You are certainly far advanced with Mademoiselle Colleville; she
suits you, you say, in many ways; therefore marry her. I say again, you
will no longer find me in your way.”

“But does Mademoiselle Colleville really suit me?” resumed la Peyrade;
“that is the very point on which you have lately raised my doubts.
Do you not think there is something cruel in casting me first in one
direction and then in the other without affording me any ground to go
upon?”

“Ah!” said the countess, in a tone of impatience, “you want my opinion
on the premises! Well, monsieur, there is one very conclusive fact to
which I can bring proof: Celeste does not love you.”

“So I have thought,” said la Peyrade, humbly. “I felt that I was making
a marriage of mere convenience.”

“And she cannot love you, because,” continued Madame de Godollo, with
animation, “she cannot comprehend you. Her proper husband is that blond
little man, insipid as herself; from the union of those two natures
without life or heat will result in that lukewarm existence which, in
the opinion of the world where she was born and where she has lived,
is the ne plus ultra of conjugal felicity. Try to make that little
simpleton understand that when she had a chance to unite herself with
true talent she ought to have felt highly honored! But, above all, try
to make her miserable, odious family and surroundings understand it!
Enriched bourgeois, parvenus! there’s the roof beneath which you think
to rest from your cruel labor and your many trials! And do you believe
that you will not be made to feel, twenty times a day, that your share
in the partnership is distressingly light in the scale against their
money? On one side, the Iliad, the Cid, Der Freyschutz, and the frescos
of the Vatican; on the other, three hundred thousand francs in good,
ringing coin! Tell me which side they will trust and admire! The artist,
the man of imagination who falls into the bourgeois atmosphere--shall I
tell you to what I compare him? To Daniel cast into the lion’s den, less
the miracle of Holy Writ.”

This invective against the bourgeoisie was uttered in a tone of heated
conviction which could scarcely fail to be communicated.

“Ah! madame,” cried la Peyrade, “how eloquently you say things which
again and again have entered my troubled and anxious mind! But I have
felt myself lashed to that most cruel fate, the necessity of gaining a
position--”

“Necessity! position!” interrupted the countess, again raising the
temperature of her speech,--“words void of meaning! which have not even
sound to able men, though they drive back fools as though they were
formidable barriers. Necessity! does that exist for noble natures, for
those who know how to will? A Gascon minister uttered a saying which
ought to be engraved on the doors of all careers: ‘All things come to
him who knows how to wait.’ Are you ignorant that marriage, to men of a
high stamp, is either a chain which binds them to the lowest vulgarities
of existence, or a wing on which to rise to the highest summits of the
social world? The wife you need, monsieur,--and she would not be long
wanting to your career if you had not, with such incredible haste,
accepted the first ‘dot’ that was offered you,--the wife you should
have chosen is a woman capable of understanding you, able to divine
your intellect; one who could be to you a fellow-worker, an intellectual
confidant, and not a mere embodiment of the ‘pot-au-feu’; a woman
capable of being now your secretary, but soon the wife of a deputy, a
minister, an ambassador; one, in short, who could offer you her heart as
a mainspring, her salon for a stage, her connections for a ladder, and
who, in return for all she would give you of ardor and strength, asks
only to shine beside your throne in the rays of the glory she predicts
for you!”

Intoxicated, as it were, with the flow of her own words, the countess
was really magnificent; her eyes sparkled, her nostrils dilated; the
prospect her vivid eloquence thus unrolled she seemed to see, and touch
with her quivering fingers. For a moment, la Peyrade was dazzled by this
sunrise which suddenly burst upon his life.

However, as he was a man most eminently prudent, who had made it his
rule of life never to lend except on sound and solvent security, he was
still impelled to weigh the situation.

“Madame la comtesse,” he said, “you reproached me just now for speaking
like a bourgeois, and I, in return, am afraid that you are talking like
a goddess. I admire you, I listen to you, but I am not convinced. Such
devotions, such sublime abnegations may be met with in heaven, but in
this low world who can hope to be the object of them?”

“You are mistaken, monsieur,” replied the countess, with solemnity;
“such devotions are rare, but they are neither impossible nor
incredible; only, it is necessary to have the heart to find them, and,
above all, the hand to take them when they are offered to you.”

So saying, the countess rose majestically.

La Peyrade saw that he had ended by displeasing her, and he felt that
she dismissed him. He rose himself, bowed respectfully, and asked to be
received again.

“Monsieur,” said Madame de Godollo, “we Hungarians, primitive people
and almost savages that we are, have a saying that when our door is open
both sides of it are opened wide; when we close it it is double-locked
and bolted.”

That dignified and ambiguous speech was accompanied by a slight
inclination of the head. Bewildered, confounded by this behavior, to him
so new, which bore but little resemblance to that of Flavie, Brigitte,
and Madame Minard, la Peyrade left the house, asking himself again and
again whether he had played his game properly.



CHAPTER V. SHOWING HOW NEAR THE TARPEIAN ROCK IS TO THE CAPITOL

On leaving Madame de Godollo, la Peyrade felt the necessity of gathering
himself together. Beneath the conversation he had just maintained
with this strange woman, what could he see,--a trap, or a rich and
distinguished marriage offered to him. Under such a doubt as this, to
press Celeste for an immediate answer was neither clever nor prudent;
it was simply to bind himself, and close the door to the changes,
still very ill-defined, which seemed offered to him. The result of the
consultation which Theodose held with himself as he walked along the
boulevard was that he ought, for the moment, to think only of gaining
time. Consequently, instead of going to the Thuilliers’ to learn
Celeste’s decision, he went home, and wrote the following little note to
Thuillier:--

  My dear Thuillier,--You will certainly not think it extraordinary
  that I should not present myself at your house to-day,--partly
  because I fear the sentence which will be pronounced upon me, and
  partly because I do not wish to seem an impatient and unmannerly
  creditor. A few days, more or less, will matter little under such
  circumstances, and yet Mademoiselle Colleville may find them
  desirable for the absolute freedom of her choice. I shall,
  therefore, not go to see you until you write for me.

  I am now more calm, and I have added a few more pages to our
  manuscript; it will take but little time to hand in the whole to
  the printer.


Ever yours,

Theodose de la Peyrade.


Two hours later a servant, dressed in what was evidently the first step
towards a livery, which the Thuilliers did not as yet venture to risk,
the “male domestic,” whom Minard had mentioned to the Phellions, arrived
at la Peyrade’s lodgings with the following note:--

  Come to-night, without fail. We will talk over the whole affair
  with Brigitte.

Your most affectionately devoted Jerome Thuillier.


“Good!” said la Peyrade; “evidently there is some hindrance on the other
side; I shall have time to turn myself round.”

That evening, when the servant announced him in the Thuillier salon, the
Comtesse de Godollo, who was sitting with Brigitte, hastened to rise and
leave the room. As she passed la Peyrade she made him a very ceremonious
bow. There was nothing conclusive to be deduced from this abrupt
departure, which might signify anything, either much or nothing.

After talking of the weather and so forth for a time, as persons do who
have met to discuss a delicate subject about which they are not sure of
coming to an understanding, the matter was opened by Brigitte, who had
sent her brother to take a walk on the boulevard, telling him to leave
her to manage the affair.

“My dear boy,” she said to Theodose, “it was very nice of you not to
come here to-day like a _grasp-all_, to put your pistol at our throats,
for we were not, as it happened, quite ready to answer you. I think,”
 she added, “that our little Celeste needs a trifle more time.”

“Then,” said la Peyrade, quickly, “she has not decided in favor of
Monsieur Felix Phellion?”

“Joker!” replied the old maid, “you know very well you settled that
business last night; but you also know, of course, that her own
inclinations incline her that way.”

“Short of being blind, I must have seen that,” replied la Peyrade.

“It is not an obstacle to my projects,” continued Mademoiselle
Thuillier; “but it serves to explain why I ask for Celeste a little more
time; and also why I have wished all along to postpone the marriage to
a later date. I wanted to give you time to insinuate yourself into the
heart of my dear little girl--but you and Thuillier upset my plans.”

“Nothing, I think, has been done without your sanction,” said la
Peyrade, “and if, during these fifteen days, I have not talked with
you on the subject, it was out of pure delicacy. Thuillier told me that
everything was agreed upon with you.”

“On the contrary, Thuillier knows very well that I refused to mix myself
up on your new arrangements. If you had not made yourself so scarce
lately, I might have been the first to tell you that I did not approve
of them. However, I can truly say I did nothing to hinder their
success.”

“But that was too little,” said la Peyrade; “your active help was
absolutely necessary.”

“Possibly; but I, who know women better than you, being one of them,--I
felt very sure that if Celeste was told to choose between two suitors
she would consider that a permission to think at her ease of the one
she liked best. I myself had always left her in the vague as to Felix,
knowing as I did the proper moment to settle her mind about him.”

“So,” said la Peyrade, “you mean that she refuses me.”

“It is much worse than that,” returned Brigitte; “she accepts you, and
is willing to pledge her word; but it is so easy to see she regards
herself as a victim, that if I were in your place I should feel neither
flattered nor secure in such a position.”

In any other condition of mind la Peyrade would probably have answered
that he accepted the sacrifice, and would make it his business to win
the heart which at first was reluctantly given; but delay now suited
him, and he replied to Brigitte with a question:--

“Then what do you advise? What course had I better take?”

“Finish Thuillier’s pamphlet, in the first place, or he’ll go crazy; and
leave me to work the other affair in your interests,” replied Brigitte.

“But am I in friendly hands? For, to tell you the truth, little aunt, I
have not been able to conceal from myself that you have, for some time
past, changed very much to me.”

“Changed to you! What change do you see in me, addled-pate that you
are?”

“Oh! nothing very tangible,” said la Peyrade; “but ever since that
Countess Torna has had a footing in your house--”

“My poor boy, the countess has done me many services, and I am very
grateful to her; but is that any reason why I should be false to you,
who have done us still greater services?”

“But you must admit,” said la Peyrade, craftily, “that she has told you
a great deal of harm of me.”

“Naturally she has; these fine ladies are all that way; they expect the
whole world to adore them, and she sees that you are thinking only of
Celeste; but all she has said to me against you runs off my mind like
water from varnished cloth.”

“So, then, little aunt, I may continue to count on you?” persisted la
Peyrade.

“Yes; provided you are not tormenting, and will let me manage this
affair.”

“Tell me how you are going to do it?” asked la Peyrade, with an air of
great good-humor.

“In the first place, I shall signify to Felix that he is not to set foot
in this house again.”

“Is that possible?” said the barrister; “I mean can it be done civilly?”

“Very possible; I shall make Phellion himself tell him. He’s a man who
is always astride of principles, and he’ll be the first to see that if
his son will not do what is necessary to obtain Celeste’s hand he ought
to deprive us of his presence.”

“What next?” asked la Peyrade.

“Next, I shall signify to Celeste that she was left at liberty to choose
one husband or the other, and as she did not choose Felix she must make
up her mind to take you, a pious fellow, such as she wants. You needn’t
be uneasy; I’ll sing your praises, especially your generosity in not
profiting by the arrangement she agreed to make to-day. But all that
will take a week at least, and if Thuillier’s pamphlet isn’t out before
then, I don’t know but what we shall have to put him in a lunatic
asylum.”

“The pamphlet can be out in two days. But is it very certain, little
aunt, that we are playing above-board? Mountains, as they say, never
meet, but men do; and certainly, when the time comes to promote the
election, I can do Thuillier either good or bad service. Do you know,
the other day I was terribly frightened. I had a letter from him in
my pocket, in which he spoke of the pamphlet as being written by me. I
fancied for a moment that I had dropped it in the Luxembourg. If I had,
what a scandal it would have caused in the quarter.”

“Who would dare to play tricks with such a wily one as you?” said
Brigitte, fully comprehending the comminatory nature of la Peyrade’s
last words, interpolated into the conversation without rhyme or reason.
“But really,” she added, “why should you complain of us? It is you
who are behindhand in your promises. That cross which was to have been
granted within a week, and that pamphlet, which ought to have appeared a
long time ago--”

“The pamphlet and the cross will both appear in good time; the one will
bring the other,” said la Peyrade, rising. “Tell Thuillier to come
and see me to-morrow evening, and I think we can then correct the last
sheet. But, above all, don’t listen to the spitefulness of Madame
de Godollo; I have an idea that in order to make herself completely
mistress of this house she wants to alienate all your old friends, and
also that she is casting her net for Thuillier.”

“Well, in point of fact,” said the old maid, whom the parting shot of
the infernal barrister had touched on the ever-sensitive point of her
authority, “I must look into that matter you speak of there; she is
rather coquettish, that little woman.”

La Peyrade gained a second benefit out of that speech so adroitly
flung out; he saw by Brigitte’s answer to it that the countess had
not mentioned to her the visit he had paid her during the day. This
reticence might have a serious meaning.

Four days later, the printer, the stitcher, the paper glazier having
fulfilled their offices, Thuillier had the inexpressible happiness of
beginning on the boulevards a promenade, which he continued through
the Passages, and even to the Palais-Royal, pausing before all the
book-shops where he saw, shining in black letters on a yellow poster,
the famous title:--


TAXATION AND THE SLIDING-SCALE                      by J. Thuillier,
Member of the Council-General of the Seine.

Having reached the point of persuading himself that the care he had
bestowed upon the correction of proofs made the merit of the work his
own, his paternal heart, like that of Maitre Corbeau, could not contain
itself for joy. We ought to add that he held in very low esteem those
booksellers who did not announce the sale of the new work, destined to
become, as he believed, a European event. Without actually deciding the
manner in which he would punish their indifference, he nevertheless made
a list of these rebellious persons, and wished them as much evil as if
they had offered him a personal affront.

The next day he spent a delightful morning in writing a certain number
of letters, sending the publication to friends, and putting into paper
covers some fifty copies, to which the sacramental phrase, “From the
author,” imparted to his eyes an inestimable value.

But the third day of the sale brought a slight diminution of his
happiness. He had chosen for his editor a young man, doing business at
a breakneck pace, who had lately established himself in the Passage
des Panoramas, where he was paying a ruinous rent. He was the nephew
of Barbet the publisher, whom Brigitte had had as a tenant in the rue
Saint-Dominique d’Enfer. This Barbet junior was a youth who flinched at
nothing; and when he was presented to Thuillier by his uncle, he pledged
himself, provided he was not shackled in his advertising, to sell off
the first edition and print a second within a week.

Now, Thuillier had spent about fifteen hundred francs himself on costs
of publication, such, for instance, as copies sent in great profusion
to the newspapers; but at the close of the third day _seven_ copies only
had been sold, and three of those on credit. It might be believed that
in revealing to the horror-stricken Thuillier this paltry result the
young publisher would have lost at least something of his assurance. On
the contrary, this Guzman of the book-trade hastened to say:--

“I am delighted at what has happened. If we had sold a hundred copies
it would trouble me far more than the fifteen hundred now on our hands;
that’s what I call hanging fire; whereas this insignificant sale only
proves that the edition will go off like a rocket.”

“But when?” asked Thuillier, who thought this view paradoxical.

“Parbleu!” said Barbet, “when we get notices in the newspapers.
Newspaper notices are only useful to arouse attention. ‘Dear me!’ says
the public, ‘there’s a publication that must be interesting.’ The title
is good,--‘Taxation and the Sliding-Scale,’--but I find that the more
piquant a title is, the more buyers distrust it, they have been taken in
so often; they wait for the notices. On the other hand, for books
that are destined to have only a limited sale, a hundred ready-made
purchasers will come in at once, but after that, good-bye to them; we
don’t place another copy.”

“Then you don’t think,” said Thuillier, “that the sale is hopeless?”

“On the contrary, I think it is on the best track. When the ‘Debats,’
the ‘Constitutionnel,’ the ‘Siecle,’ and the ‘Presse’ have reviewed it,
especially if the ‘Debats’ mauls it (they are ministerial, you know), it
won’t be a week before the whole edition is snapped up.”

“You say that easily enough,” replied Thuillier; “but how are we to get
hold of those gentlemen of the press?”

“Ah! I’ll take care of that,” said Barbet. “I am on the best of terms
with the managing editors; they say the devil is in me, and that I
remind them of Ladvocat in his best days.”

“But then, my dear fellow, you ought to have seen to this earlier.”

“Ah! excuse me, papa Thuillier; there’s only one way of seeing to the
journalists; but as you grumbled about the fifteen hundred francs for
the advertisements, I did not venture to propose to you another extra
expense.”

“What expense?” asked Thuillier, anxiously.

“When you were nominated to the municipal council, where was the plan
mooted?” asked the publisher.

“Parbleu! in my own house,” replied Thuillier.

“Yes, of course, in your own house, but at a dinner, followed by a ball,
and the ball itself crowned by a supper. Well, my dear master, there are
no two ways to do this business; Boileau says:--

  “‘All is done through the palate, and not through the mind;
  And it is by our dinners we govern mankind.’”

“Then you think I ought to give a dinner to those journalists?”

“Yes; but not at your own house; for these journalists, you see, if
women are present, get stupid; they have to behave themselves. And,
besides, it isn’t dinner they want, but a breakfast--that suits
them best. In the evening these gentlemen have to go to first
representations, and make up their papers, not to speak of their own
little private doings; whereas in the mornings they have nothing to
think about. As for me, it is always breakfasts that I give.”

“But that costs money, breakfasts like that,” said Thuillier;
“journalists are gourmands.”

“Bah! twenty francs a head, without wine. Say you have ten of them;
three hundred francs will see you handsomely through the whole thing.
In fact, as a matter of economy, breakfasts are preferable; for a dinner
you wouldn’t get off under five hundred francs.”

“How you talk, young man!” said Thuillier.

“Oh, hang it! everybody knows it costs dear to get elected to the
Chamber; and all this favors your nomination.”

“But how can I invite those gentlemen? Must I go and see them myself?”

“Certainly not; send them your pamphlet and appoint them to meet you at
Philippe’s or Vefour’s--they’ll understand perfectly.”

“Ten guests,” said Thuillier, beginning to enter into the idea. “I did
not know there were so many leading journals.”

“There are not,” said the publisher; “but we must have the little dogs
as well, for they bark loudest. This breakfast is certain to make a
noise, and if you don’t ask them they’ll think you pick and choose, and
everyone excluded will be your enemy.”

“Then you think it is enough merely to send the invitations?”

“Yes; I’ll make the list, and you can write the notes and send them
to me. I’ll see that they are delivered; some of them I shall take in
person.”

“If I were sure,” said Thuillier, undecidedly, “that this expense would
have the desired effect--”

“_If I were sure_,--that’s a queer thing to say,” said Barbet. “My dear
master, this is money placed on mortgage; for it, I will guarantee the
sale of fifteen hundred copies,--say at forty sous apiece; allowing the
discounts, that makes three thousand francs. You see that your costs and
extra costs are covered, and more than covered.”

“Well,” said Thuillier, turning to go, “I’ll talk to la Peyrade about
it.”

“As you please, my dear master; but decide soon, for nothing gets mouldy
so fast as a book; write hot, serve hot, and buy hot,--that’s the rule
for authors, publishers, and public; all is bosh outside of it, and no
good to touch.”

When la Peyrade was consulted, he did not think in his heart that the
remedy was heroic, but he had now come to feel the bitterest animosity
against Thuillier, so that he was well pleased to see this new tax
levied on his self-important inexperience and pompous silliness.

As for Thuillier, the mania for posing as a publicist and getting
himself talked about so possessed him that although he moaned over this
fresh bleeding of his purse, he had decided on the sacrifice before he
even spoke to la Peyrade. The reserved and conditional approval of the
latter was, therefore, more than enough to settle his determination, and
the same evening he returned to Barbet junior and asked for the list of
guests whom he ought to invite.

Barbet gaily produced his little catalogue. Instead of the ten guests
originally mentioned, there proved to be fifteen, not counting himself
or la Peyrade, whom Thuillier wanted to second him in this encounter
with a set of men among whom he himself felt he should be a little out
of place. Casting his eyes over the list, he exclaimed, vehemently:--

“Heavens! my dear fellow, here are names of papers nobody ever heard of.
Where’s the ‘Moralisateur,’ the ‘Lanterne de Diogene,’ the ‘Pelican,’
the ‘Echo de la Bievre’?”

“You’d better be careful how you scorn the ‘Echo de la Bievre,’” said
Barbet; “why, that’s the paper of the 12th arrondissement, from which
you expect to be elected; its patrons are those big tanners of the
Mouffetard quarter!”

“Well, let that go--but the ‘Pelican’?”

“The ‘Pelican’? that’s a paper you’ll find in every dentist’s
waiting-room; dentists are the first _puffists_ in the world! How many
teeth do you suppose are daily pulled in Paris?”

“Come, come, nonsense,” said Thuillier, who proceeded to mark out
certain names, reducing the whole number present to fourteen.

“If one falls off we shall be thirteen,” remarked Barbet.

“Pooh!” said Thuillier, the free-thinker, “do you suppose I give in to
that superstition?”

The list being finally closed and settled at fourteen, Thuillier seated
himself at the publisher’s desk and wrote the invitations, naming,
in view of the urgency of the purpose, the next day but one for the
meeting, Barbet having assured him that no journalist would object to
the shortness of the invitation. The meeting was appointed at Vefour’s,
the restaurant par excellence of the bourgeoisie and all provincials.

Barbet arrived on the day named before Thuillier, who appeared in a
cravat which alone was enough to create a stir in the satirical circle
in which he was about to produce himself. The publisher, on his own
authority, had changed various articles on the bill of fare as selected
by his patron, more especially directing that the champagne, ordered in
true bourgeois fashion to be served with the dessert, should be placed
on the table at the beginning of breakfast, with several dishes of
shrimps, a necessity which had not occurred to the amphitryon.

Thuillier, who gave a lip-approval to these amendments, was followed
by la Peyrade; and then came a long delay in the arrival of the guests.
Breakfast was ordered at eleven o’clock; at a quarter to twelve not
a journalist had appeared. Barbet, who was never at a loss, made the
consoling remark that breakfasts at restaurants were like funerals,
where, as every one knew, eleven o’clock meant mid-day.

Sure enough, shortly before that hour, two gentlemen, with pointed
beards, exhaling a strong odor of tobacco, made their appearance.
Thuillier thanked them effusively for the “honor” they had done him;
after which came another long period of waiting, of which we shall not
relate the tortures. At one o’clock the assembled contingent comprised
five of the invited guests, Barbet and la Peyrade not included. It is
scarcely necessary to say that none of the self-respecting journalists
of the better papers had taken any notice of the absurd invitation.

Breakfast now had to be served to this reduced number. A few polite
phrases that reached Thuillier’s ears about the “immense” interest
of his publication, failed to blind him to the bitterness of his
discomfiture; and without the gaiety of the publisher, who had taken in
hand the reins his patron, gloomy as Hippolytus on the road to Mycenae,
let fall, nothing could have surpassed the glum and glacial coldness of
the meeting.

After the oysters were removed, the champagne and chablis which had
washed them down had begun, nevertheless, to raise the thermometer,
when, rushing into the room where the banquet was taking place, a young
man in a cap conveyed to Thuillier a most unexpected and crushing blow.

“Master,” said the new-comer to Barbet (he was a clerk in the
bookseller’s shop), “we are done for! The police have made a raid upon
us; a commissary and two men have come to seize monsieur’s pamphlet.
Here’s a paper they have given me for you.”

“Look at that,” said Barbet, handing the document to la Peyrade, his
customary assurance beginning to forsake him.

“A summons to appear at once before the court of assizes,” said la
Peyrade, after reading a few lines of the sheriff’s scrawl.

Thuillier had turned as pale as death.

“Didn’t you fulfil all the necessary formalities?” he said to Barbet, in
a choking voice.

“This is not a matter of formalities,” said la Peyrade, “it is a seizure
for what is called press misdemeanor, exciting contempt and hatred of
the government; you probably have the same sort of compliment awaiting
you at home, my poor Thuillier.”

“Then it is treachery!” cried Thuillier, losing his head completely.

“Hang it, my dear fellow! you know very well what you put in your
pamphlet; for my part, I don’t see anything worth whipping a cat for.”

“There’s some misunderstanding,” said Barbet, recovering courage;
“it will all be explained, and the result will be a fine cause of
complaint--won’t it, messieurs?”

“Waiter, pens and ink!” cried one of the journalists thus appealed to.

“Nonsense! you’ll have time to write your article later,” said another
of the brotherhood; “what has a bombshell to do with this ‘filet
saute’?”

That, of course, was a parody on the famous speech of Charles XII., King
of Sweden, when a shot interrupted him while dictating to a secretary.

“Messieurs,” said Thuillier, rising, “I am sure you will excuse me
for leaving you. If, as Monsieur Barbet thinks, there is some
misunderstanding, it ought to be explained at once; I must therefore,
with your permission, go to the police court. La Peyrade,” he added in a
significant tone, “you will not refuse, I presume, to accompany me. And
you, my dear publisher, you would do well to come too.”

“No, faith!” said Barbet, “when I breakfast, I breakfast; if the police
have committed a blunder, so much the worse for them.”

“But suppose the matter is serious?” cried Thuillier, in great
agitation.

“Well, I should say, what is perfectly true, that I had never read a
line of your pamphlet. One thing is very annoying; those damned juries
hate beards, and I must cut off mine if I’m compelled to appear in
court.”

“Come, my dear amphitryon, sit down again,” said the editor of the “Echo
de la Bievre,” “we’ll stand by you; I’ve already written an article in
my head which will stir up all the tanners in Paris; and, let me tell
you, that honorable corporation is a power.”

“No, monsieur,” replied Thuillier, “no; a man like me cannot rest an
hour under such an accusation as this. Continue your breakfast without
us; I hope soon to see you again. La Peyrade, are you coming?”

“He’s charming, isn’t he?” said Barbet, when Thuillier and his counsel
had left the room. “To ask me to leave a breakfast after the oysters,
and go and talk with the police! Come, messieurs, close up the ranks,”
 he added, gaily.

“Tiens!” said one of the hungry journalists, who had cast his eyes
into the garden of the Palais-Royal, on which the dining-room of the
restaurant opened, “there’s Barbanchu going by; suppose I call him in?”

“Yes, certainly,” said Barbet junior, “have him up.”

“Barbanchu! Barbanchu!” called out the journalist.

Barbanchu, his hat being over his eyes, was some time in discovering the
cloud above him whence the voice proceeded.

“Here, up here!” called the voice, which seemed to Barbanchu celestial
when he saw himself hailed by a man with a glass of champagne in his
hand. Then, as he seemed to hesitate, the party above called out in
chorus:--

“Come up! come up! _There’s fat to be had_!”

When Thuillier left the office of the public prosecutor he could no
longer have any illusions. The case against him was serious, and the
stern manner in which he had been received made him see that when the
trial came up he would be treated without mercy. Then, as always happens
among accomplices after the non-success of an affair they have done in
common, he turned upon la Peyrade in the sharpest manner: La Peyrade
had paid no attention to what he wrote; he had given full swing to his
stupid Saint-Simonian ideas; _he_ didn’t care for the consequences; it
was not _he_ who would have to pay the fine and go to prison! Then, when
la Peyrade answered that the matter did not look to him serious, and
he expected to get a verdict of acquittal without difficulty, Thuillier
burst forth upon him, vehemently:--

“Parbleu! the thing is plain enough; monsieur sees nothing in it? Well,
I shall not put my honor and my fortune into the hands of a little
upstart like yourself; I shall take some great lawyer if the case comes
to trial. I’ve had enough of your collaboration by this time.”

Under the injustice of these remarks la Peyrade felt his anger rising.
However, he saw himself disarmed, and not wishing to come to an open
rupture, he parted from Thuillier, saying that he forgave a man excited
by fear, and would go to see him later in the afternoon, when he would
probably be calmer; they could then decide on what steps they had better
take.

Accordingly, about four o’clock, the Provencal arrived at the house
in the Place de la Madeleine. Thuillier’s irritation was quieted, but
frightful consternation had taken its place. If the executioner were
coming in half an hour to lead him to the scaffold he could not have
been more utterly unstrung and woe-begone. When la Peyrade entered
Madame Thuillier was trying to make him take an infusion of
linden-leaves. The poor woman had come out of her usual apathy, and
proved herself, beside the present Sabinus, another Eponina.

As for Brigitte, who presently appeared, bearing a foot-bath, she had
no mercy or restraint towards Theodose; her sharp and bitter reproaches,
which were out of all proportion to the fault, even supposing him
to have committed one would have driven a man of the most placid
temperament beside himself. La Peyrade felt that all was lost to him
in the Thuillier household, where they now seemed to seize with joy the
occasion to break their word to him and to give free rein to revolting
ingratitude. On an ironical allusion by Brigitte to the manner in which
he decorated his friends, la Peyrade rose and took leave, without any
effort being made to retain him.

After walking about the streets for awhile, la Peyrade, in the midst of
his indignation, turned to thoughts of Madame de Godollo, whose
image, to tell the truth, had been much in his mind since their former
interview.



CHAPTER VI. ‘TWAS THUS THEY BADE ADIEU

Not only once when the countess met the barrister at the Thuilliers had
she left the room; but the same performance took place at each of
their encounters; and la Peyrade had convinced himself, without knowing
exactly why, that in each case, this affectation of avoiding him,
signified something that was not indifference. To have paid her another
visit immediately would certainly have been very unskilful; but now a
sufficient time had elapsed to prove him to be a man who was master of
himself. Accordingly, he returned upon his steps to the Boulevard de la
Madeleine, and without asking the porter if the countess was at home, he
passed the lodge as if returning to the Thuilliers’, and rang the bell
of the entresol.

The maid who opened the door asked him, as before, to wait until she
notified her mistress; but, on this occasion, instead of showing him
into the dining-room, she ushered him into a little room arranged as a
library.

He waited long, and knew not what to think of the delay. Still, he
reassured himself with the thought that if she meant to dismiss him he
would not have been asked to wait at all. Finally the maid reappeared,
but even then it was not to introduce him.

“Madame la comtesse,” said the woman, “was engaged on a matter of
business, but she begged monsieur be so kind as to wait, and to amuse
himself with the books in the library, because she might be detained
longer than she expected.”

The excuse, both in form and substance, was certainly not discouraging,
and la Peyrade looked about him to fulfil the behest to amuse himself.
Without opening any of the carved rosewood bookcases, which enclosed a
collection of the most elegantly bound volumes he had ever laid his
eyes upon, he saw on an oblong table with claw feet a pell-mell of books
sufficient for the amusement of a man whose attention was keenly alive
elsewhere.

But, as he opened one after another of the various volumes, he began to
fancy that a feast of Tantalus had been provided for him: one book
was English, another German, a third Russian; there was even one in
cabalistic letters that seemed Turkish. Was this a polyglottic joke the
countess had arranged for him?

One volume, however, claimed particular attention. The binding, unlike
those of the other books, was less rich than dainty. Lying by itself at
a corner of the table, it was open, with the back turned up, the edges
of the leaves resting on the green table-cloth in the shape of a tent.
La Peyrade took it up, being careful not to lose the page which it
seemed to have been some one’s intention to mark. It proved to be
a volume of the illustrated edition of Monsieur Scribe’s works. The
engraving which presented itself on the open page to la Peyrade’s eyes,
was entitled “The Hatred of a Woman”; the principal personage of which
is a young widow, desperately pursuing a poor young man who cannot help
himself. There is hatred all round. Through her devilries she almost
makes him lose his reputation, and does make him miss a rich marriage;
but the end is that she gives him more than she took away from him, and
makes a husband of the man who was thought her victim.

If chance had put this volume apart from the rest, and had left it open
at the precise page where la Peyrade found it marked, it must be owned
that, after what had passed between himself and the countess, chance can
sometimes seem clever and adroit. As he stood there, thinking over the
significance which this more or less accidental combination might have,
la Peyrade read through a number of scenes to see whether in the details
as well as the general whole they applied to the present situation.
While thus employed, the sound of an opening door was heard, and he
recognized the silvery and slightly drawling voice of the countess, who
was evidently accompanying some visitor to the door.

“Then I may promise the ambassadress,” said a man’s voice, “that you
will honor her ball with your presence?”

“Yes, commander, if my headache, which is just beginning to get a little
better, is kind enough to go away.”

“Au revoir, then, fairest lady,” said the gentleman. After which the
doors were closed, and silence reigned once more.

The title of commander reassured la Peyrade somewhat, for it was not
the rank of a young dandy. He was nevertheless curious to know who this
personage was with whom the countess had been shut up so long. Hearing
no one approach the room he was in, he went to the window and opened the
curtain cautiously, prepared to let it drop back at the slightest noise,
and to make a quick right-about-face to avoid being caught, “flagrante
delicto,” in curiosity. An elegant coupe, standing at a little distance,
was now driven up to the house, a footman in showy livery hastened to
open the door, and a little old man, with a light and jaunty movement,
though it was evident he was one of those relics of the past who have
not yet abandoned powder, stepped quickly into the carriage, which was
then driven rapidly away. La Peyrade had time to observe on his breast
a perfect string of decorations. This, combined with the powdered hair,
was certain evidence of a diplomatic individual.

La Peyrade had picked up his book once more, when a bell from the
inner room sounded, quickly followed by the appearance of the maid, who
invited him to follow her. The Provencal took care _not_ to replace the
volume where he found it, and an instant later he entered the presence
of the countess.

A pained expression was visible on the handsome face of the foreign
countess, who, however, lost nothing of her charm in the languor that
seemed to overcome her. On the sofa beside her was a manuscript written
on gilt-edged paper, in that large and opulent handwriting which
indicates an official communication from some ministerial office or
chancery. She held in her hand a crystal bottle with a gold stopper,
from which she frequently inhaled the contents, and a strong odor of
English vinegar pervaded the salon.

“I fear you are ill, madame,” said la Peyrade, with interest.

“Oh! it is nothing,” replied the countess; “only a headache, to which
I am very subject. But you, monsieur, what has become of you? I was
beginning to lose all hope of ever seeing you again. Have you come
to announce to me some great news? The period of your marriage with
Mademoiselle Colleville is probably so near that I think you can speak
of it.”

This opening disconcerted la Peyrade.

“But, madame,” he answered, in a tone that was almost tart, “you, it
seems to me, must know too well everything that goes on in the
Thuillier household not to be aware that the event you speak of is not
approaching, and, I may add, not probable.”

“No, I assure you, I know nothing; I have strictly forbidden myself from
taking any further interest in an affair which I felt I had meddled with
very foolishly. Mademoiselle Brigitte and I talk of everything except
Celeste’s marriage.”

“And it is no doubt the desire to allow me perfect freedom in the matter
that induces you to take flight whenever I have the honor to meet you in
the Thuillier salon?”

“Yes,” said the countess, “that ought to be the reason that makes me
leave the room; else, why should I be so distant?”

“Ah! madame, there are other reasons that might make a woman avoid a
man’s presence. For instance, if he has displeased her; if the advice,
given to him with rare wisdom and kindness, was not received with proper
eagerness and gratitude.”

“Oh, my dear monsieur,” she replied, “I have no such ardor in
proselytizing that I am angry with those who are not docile to my
advice. I am, like others, very apt to make mistakes.”

“On the contrary, madame, in the matter of my marriage your judgment was
perfectly correct.”

“How so?” said the countess, eagerly. “Has the seizure of the pamphlet,
coming directly after the failure to obtain the cross, led to a
rupture?”

“No,” said la Peyrade, “my influence in the Thuillier household rests
on a solid basis; the services I have rendered Mademoiselle Brigitte
and her brother outweigh these checks, which, after all, are not
irreparable.”

“Do you really think so?” said the countess.

“Certainly,” replied la Peyrade; “when the Comtesse du Bruel takes it
into her head to seriously obtain that bit of red ribbon, she can do so,
in spite of all obstacles that are put in her way.”

The countess received this assertion with a smile, and shook her head.

“But, madame, only a day or two ago Madame du Bruel told Madame
Colleville that the unexpected opposition she had met with piqued her,
and that she meant to go in person to the minister.”

“But you forget that since then this seizure has been made by the
police; it is not usual to decorate a man who is summoned before the
court of assizes. You seem not to notice that the seizure argues a
strong ill-will against Monsieur Thuillier, and, I may add, against
yourself, monsieur, for you are known to be the culprit. You have not, I
think, taken all this into account. The authorities appear to have acted
not wholly from legal causes.”

La Peyrade looked at the countess.

“I must own,” he said, after that rapid glance, “that I have tried in
vain to find any passage in that pamphlet which could be made a legal
pretext for the seizure.”

“In my opinion,” said the countess, “the king’s servants must have
a vivid imagination to persuade themselves they were dealing with
a seditious publication. But that only proves the strength of the
underground power which is thwarting all your good intentions in favor
of Monsieur Thuillier.”

“Madame,” said la Peyrade, “do you know our secret enemies?”

“Perhaps I do,” replied the countess, with another smile.

“May I dare to utter a suspicion, madame?” said la Peyrade, with some
agitation.

“Yes, say what you think,” replied Madame de Godollo. “I shall not blame
you if you guess right.”

“Well, madame, our enemies, Thuillier’s and mine, are--a woman.”

“Supposing that is so,” said the countess; “do you know how many lines
Richelieu required from a man’s hand in order to hang him?”

“Four,” replied la Peyrade.

“You can imagine, then, that a pamphlet of two hundred pages might
afford a--slightly intriguing woman sufficient ground for persecution.”

“I see it all, madame, I understand it!” cried la Peyrade, with
animation. “I believe that woman to be one of the elite of her sex, with
as much mind and malice as Richelieu! Adorable magician! it is she who
has set in motion the police and the gendarmes; but, more than that, it
is she who withholds that cross the ministers were about to give.”

“If that be so,” said the countess, “why struggle against her?”

“Ah! I struggle no longer,” said la Peyrade. Then, with an assumed air
of contrition, he added, “You must, indeed, _hate_ me, madame.”

“Not quite as much as you may think,” replied the countess; “but, after
all, suppose that I do hate you?”

“Ah! madame,” cried la Peyrade, ardently, “I should then be the happiest
of unhappy men; for that hatred would seem to me sweeter and more
precious than your indifference. But you do not hate me; why should
you feel to me that most blessed feminine sentiment which Scribe has
depicted with such delicacy and wit?”

Madame de Godollo did not answer immediately. She lowered her eyelids,
and the deeper breathing of her bosom gave to her voice when she did
speak a tremulous tone:--

“The hatred of a woman!” she said. “Is a man of your stoicism able to
perceive it?”

“Ah! yes, madame,” replied la Peyrade, “I do indeed perceive it, but not
to revolt against it; on the contrary, I bless the harshness that deigns
to hurt me. Now that I know my beautiful and avowed enemy, I shall not
despair of touching her heart; for never again will I follow any road
but the one that she points out to me, never will I march under any
banner but hers. I shall wait--for her inspiration, to think; for her
will, to will; for her commands, to act. In all things I will be her
auxiliary,--more than that, her slave; and if she still repulses me with
that dainty foot, that snowy hand, I will bear it resignedly, asking, in
return for such obedience one only favor,--that of kissing the foot that
spurns me, of bathing with tears the hand that threatens me.”

During this long cry of the excited heart, which the joy of triumph
wrung from a nature so nervous and impressionable as that of the
Provencal, he had slidden from his chair, and now knelt with one knee
on the ground beside the countess, in the conventional attitude of the
stage, which is, however, much more common in real life than people
suppose.

“Rise, monsieur,” said the countess, “and be so good as to answer me.”
 Then, giving him a questioning look from beneath her beautiful frowning
brows, she continued: “Have you well-weighed the outcome of the words
you have just uttered? Have you measured the full extent of your pledge,
and its depth? With your hand on your heart and on your conscience, are
you a man to fulfil those words? Or are you one of the falsely humble
and perfidious men who throw themselves at our feet only to make us lose
the balance of our will and our reason?”

“I!” exclaimed la Peyrade; “never can I react against the fascination
you have wielded over me from the moment of our first interview! Ah!
madame, the more I have resisted, the more I have struggled, the more
you ought to trust in my sincerity and its tardy expression. What I have
said, I think; that which I think aloud to-day I have thought in my soul
since the hour when I first had the honor of admittance to you; and the
many days I have passed in struggling against this allurement have ended
in giving me a firm and deliberate will, which understands itself, and
is not cast down by your severity.”

“Severity?” said the countess; “possibly. But you ought to think of
the kindness too. Question yourself carefully. We foreign women do not
understand the careless ease with which a Frenchwoman enters upon a
solemn engagement. To us, our _yes_ is sacred; our word is a bond. We do
and we will nothing by halves. The arms of my family bear a motto which
seems significant under the present circumstances,--‘All or Nothing’;
that is saying much, and yet, perhaps, not enough.”

“That is how I understand my pledge,” replied la Peyrade; “and on
leaving this room my first step will be to break with that ignoble
past which for an instant I seemed to hold in the balance against the
intoxicating future you do not forbid me to expect.”

“No,” said the countess, “do it calmly and advisedly; I do not like rash
conduct; you will not please me by taking open steps. These Thuilliers
are not really bad at heart; they humiliated you without knowing that
they did so; their world is not yours. Is that their fault? Loosen the
tie between you, but do not violently break it. And, above all, reflect.
Your conversion to my beliefs is of recent date. What man is certain of
what his heart will say to him to-morrow?”

“Madame,” said la Peyrade, “I am that man. We men of Southern blood do
not love as you say a Frenchwoman loves.”

“But,” said the countess, with a charming smile, “I thought it was
hatred we were talking of.”

“Ah, madame,” cried the barrister, “explained and understood as it has
been, that word is still a thing that hurts me. Tell me rather, not that
you love me, but that the words you deigned to say to me at our first
interview were indeed the expression of your thoughts.”

“My friend,” said the countess, dwelling on the word; “one of your
moralists has said: ‘There are persons who say, _that is_ or _that is
not_.’ Do me the favor to count me among such persons.”

So saying, she held out her hand to her suitor with a charming gesture
of modesty and grace. La Peyrade, quite beside himself, darted upon that
beautiful hand and devoured it with kisses.

“Enough, child!” said the countess, gently freeing her imprisoned
fingers; “adieu now, soon to meet again! Adieu! My headache, I think,
has disappeared.”

La Peyrade picked up his hat, and seemed about to rush from the
apartment; but at the door he turned and cast upon the handsome creature
a look of tenderness. The countess made him, with her head, a graceful
gesture of adieu; then, seeing that la Peyrade was inclined to return to
her, she raised her forefinger as a warning to control himself and go.

La Peyrade turned and left the apartment.



CHAPTER VII. HOW TO SHUT THE DOOR IN PEOPLE’S FACES

On the staircase la Peyrade stopped to exhale, if we may so express it,
the happiness of which his heart was full. The words of the countess,
the ingenious preparation she had made to put him on the track of her
sentiments, seemed to him the guarantee of her sincerity, and he left
her full of faith.

Possessed by that intoxication of happy persons which shows itself in
their gestures, their looks, their very gait, and sometimes in actions
not authorized by their common-sense, after pausing a moment, as we have
said, on the staircase, he ran up a few steps till he could see the door
of the Thuilliers’ apartment.

“At last!” he cried, “fame, fortune, happiness have come to me; but,
above all, I can now give myself the joy of vengeance. After Dutocq and
Cerizet, I will crush _you_, vile bourgeois brood!”

So saying, he shook his fist at the innocent door. Then he turned and
ran out; the popular saying that the earth could not hold him, was true
at that moment of his being.

The next day, for he could not restrain any longer the tempest that was
swelling within him, la Peyrade went to see Thuillier in the bitterest
and most hostile of moods. What was therefore his amazement when, before
he had time to put himself on guard and stop the demonstration of union
and oblivion, Thuillier flung himself into his arms.

“My friend,” cried the municipal councillor, as he loosened his clasp,
“my political fortune is made; this morning all the newspapers, without
exception, have spoken of the seizure of my pamphlet; and you ought to
see how the opposition sheets have mauled the government.”

“Simple enough,” said la Peyrade, not moved by this enthusiasm; “you are
a topic for them, that’s all. But this does not alter the situation; the
prosecution will be only the more determined to have you condemned.”

“Well, then,” said Thuillier, proudly raising his head, “I will go to
prison, like Beranger, like Lamennais, like Armand Carrel.”

“My good fellow, persecution is charming at a distance; but when you
hear the big bolts run upon you, you may be sure you won’t like it as
well.”

“But,” objected Thuillier, “prisoners condemned for political offences
are always allowed to do their time in hospital if they like. Besides,
I’m not yet convicted. You said yourself you expected to get me
acquitted.”

“Yes, but since then I have heard things which make that result very
doubtful; the same hand that withheld your cross has seized your
pamphlet; you are being murdered with premeditation.”

“If you know who that dangerous enemy is,” said Thuillier, “you can’t
refuse to point him out to me.”

“I don’t know him,” replied la Peyrade; “I only suspect him. This is
what you get by playing too shrewd a game.”

“Playing a shrewd game!” said Thuillier, with the curiosity of a man who
is perfectly aware that he has nothing of that kind on his conscience.

“Yes,” said la Peyrade, “you made a sort of decoy of Celeste to attract
young bloods to your salon. All the world has not the forbearance of
Monsieur Godeschal, who forgave his rejection and generously managed
that affair about the house.”

“Explain yourself better,” said Thuillier, “for I don’t see what you
mean.”

“Nothing is easier to understand. Without counting me, how many suitors
have you had for Mademoiselle Colleville? Godeschal, Minard junior,
Phellion junior, Olivier Vinet, the substitute judge,--all men who have
been sent about their business, as I am.”

“Olivier Vinet, the substitute judge!” cried Thuillier, struck with
a flash of light. “Of course; the blow must have come from him. His
father, they say, has a long arm. But it can’t be truly said that we
sent him about his business,--to use your expression, which strikes me
as indecorous,--for he never came to the house but once, and made no
offer; neither did Minard junior or Phellion junior, for that matter.
Godeschal is the only one who risked a direct proposal, and he was
refused at once, before he dipped his beak in the water.”

“It is always so!” said la Peyrade, still looking for a ground of
quarrel. “Straightforward and outspoken persons are always those that
sly men boast of fooling.”

“Ah ca! what’s all this?” said Thuillier; “what are you insinuating?
Didn’t you settle everything with Brigitte the other day? You take a
pretty time to come and talk to me about your love-affairs, when the
sword of justice is hanging over my head.”

“Oh!” said la Peyrade, ironically; “so now you are going to make the
most of your interesting position of accused person! I knew very well
how it would be; I was certain that as soon as your pamphlet appeared
the old cry of not getting what you expected out of me would come up.”

“Parbleu! your pamphlet!” cried Thuillier. “I think you are a fine
fellow to boast of that when, on the contrary, it has caused the most
deplorable complications.”

“Deplorable? how so? you have just said your political fortune was
made.”

“Well, truly, my dear Theodose,” said Thuillier, with feeling, “I should
never have thought that you would choose the hour of adversity to come
and put your pistol at our throats and make me the object of your sneers
and innuendoes.”

“Well done!” said la Peyrade; “now it is the hour of adversity! A minute
ago you were flinging yourself into my arms as a man to whom some signal
piece of luck had happened. You ought really to choose decidedly between
being a man who needs pity and a glorious victor.”

“It is all very well to be witty,” returned Thuillier; “but you can’t
controvert what I say. I am logical, if I am not brilliant. It is very
natural that I should console myself by seeing that public opinion
decides in my favor, and by reading in its organs the most honorable
assurances of sympathy; but do you suppose I wouldn’t rather that things
had taken their natural course? Besides, when I see myself the object of
unworthy vengeance on the part of persons as influential as the Vinets,
how can I help measuring the extent of the dangers to which I am
exposed?”

“Well,” said la Peyrade, with pitiless persistency, “I see that you
prefer to play the part of Jeremiah.”

“Yes,” said Thuillier, in a solemn tone. “Jeremiah laments over a
friendship I did think true and devoted, but which I find has only
sarcasms to give me when I looked for services.”

“What services?” asked la Peyrade. “Did you not tell me positively, no
later than yesterday, that you would not accept my help under any form
whatever? I offered to plead your case, and you answered that you would
take a better lawyer.”

“Yes; in the first shock of surprise at such an unexpected blow, I did
say that foolish thing; but, on reflection, who can explain as well
as you can the intention of the words you wrote with your own pen?
Yesterday I was almost out of my mind; but you, with your wounded
self-love, which can’t forgive a momentary impatience, you are very
caustic and cruel.”

“So,” said la Peyrade, “you formally request me to defend you before the
jury?”

“Yes, my dear fellow; and I don’t know any other hands in which I could
better place my case. I should have to pay a monstrous sum to some great
legal luminary, and he wouldn’t defend me as ably as you.”

“Well, I refuse. Roles have changed, as you see, diametrically.
Yesterday, I thought, as you do, that I was the man to defend you.
To-day, I see that you had better take the legal luminary, because, with
Vinet’s antagonism against you the affair is taking such proportions
that whoever defends it assumes a fearful responsibility.”

“I understand,” said Thuillier, sarcastically. “Monsieur has his eye on
the magistracy, and he doesn’t want to quarrel with a man who is already
talked of for Keeper of the Seals. It is prudent, but I don’t know that
it is going to help on your marriage.”

“You mean,” said la Peyrade, seizing the ball in its bound, “that to
get you out of the claws of that jury is a thirteenth labor of Hercules,
imposed upon me to earn the hand of Mademoiselle Colleville? I expected
that demands would multiply in proportion to the proofs of my devotion.
But that is the very thing that has worn me out, and I have come here
to-day to put an end to this slave labor by giving back to you your
pledges. You may dispose of Celeste’s hand; for my part, I am no longer
a suitor for it.”

The unexpectedness and squareness of this declaration left Thuillier
without words or voice, all the more because at this moment entered
Brigitte. The temper of the old maid had also greatly moderated since
the previous evening, and her greeting was full of the most amicable
familiarity.

“Ah! so here you are, you good old barrister,” she said.

“Mademoiselle, your servant,” he replied, gravely.

“Well,” she continued, paying no attention to the stiffness of his
manner, “the government has got itself into a pretty mess by seizing
your pamphlet. You ought to see how the morning papers lash it! Here,”
 she added, giving Thuillier a small sheet printed on sugar-paper, in
coarse type, and almost illegible,--“here’s another, you didn’t read;
the porter has just brought it up. It is a paper from our old quarter,
‘L’Echo de la Bievre.’ I don’t know, gentlemen, if you’ll be of my
opinion, but I think nothing could be better written. It is droll,
though, how inattentive these journalists are! most of them write your
name without the H; I think you ought to complain of it.”

Thuillier took the paper, and read the article inspired to the reviewer
of the tanner’s organ by stomach gratitude. Never in her life had
Brigitte paid the slightest attention to a newspaper, except to know if
it was the right size for the packages she wrapped up in it; but now,
suddenly, converted to a worship of the press by the ardor of her
sisterly love, she stood behind Thuillier and re-read, over his
shoulder, the more striking passages of the page she thought so
eloquent, pointing her finger to them.

“Yes,” said Thuillier, folding up the paper, “that’s warm, and very
flattering to me. But here’s another matter! Monsieur has come to tell
me that he refuses to plead for me, and renounces all claim to Celeste’s
hand.”

“That is to say,” said Brigitte, “he renounces her if, after having
pleaded, the marriage does not take place ‘subito.’ Well, poor fellow,
I think that’s a reasonable demand. When he has done that for us there
ought to be no further delay; and whether Mademoiselle Celeste likes it
or not, she must accept him, because, you know, there’s an end to all
things.”

“Do you hear that, my good fellow?” said la Peyrade, seizing upon
Brigitte’s speech. “When I have pleaded, the marriage is to take
place. Your sister is frankness itself; she, at least, doesn’t practise
diplomacy.”

“Diplomacy!” echoed Brigitte. “I’d like to see myself creeping
underground in matters. I say things as I think them. The workman has
worked, and he ought to have his pay.”

“Do be silent,” cried Thuillier, stamping his foot; “you don’t say a
word that doesn’t turn the knife in the wound.”

“The knife in the wound?” said Brigitte, inquiringly. “Ah ca! are you
two quarrelling?”

“I told you,” said Thuillier, “that la Peyrade had returned our
promises; and the reason he gives is that we are asking him another
service for Celeste’s hand. He thinks he has done us enough without it.”

“He has done us some services, no doubt,” said Brigitte; “but it seems
to me that we have not been ungrateful to him. Besides, it was he who
made the blunder, and I think it rather odd he should now wish to leave
us in the lurch.”

“Your reasoning, mademoiselle,” said la Peyrade, “might have some
appearance of justice if I were the only barrister in Paris; but as the
streets are black with them, and as, only yesterday, Thuillier himself
spoke of engaging some more important lawyer than myself, I have not the
slightest scruple in refusing to defend him. Now, as to the marriage, in
order that it may not be made the object of another brutal and forcible
demand upon me, I here renounce it in the most formal manner, and
nothing now prevents Mademoiselle Colleville from accepting Monsieur
Felix Phellion and all his advantages.”

“As you please, my dear monsieur,” said Brigitte, “if that’s your last
word. We shall not be at a loss to find a husband for Celeste,--Felix
Phellion or another. But you must permit me to tell you that the reason
you give is not the true one. We can’t go faster than the fiddles. If
the marriage were settled to-day, there are the banns to publish; you
have sense enough to know that Monsieur le maire can’t marry you before
the formalities are complied with, and before then Thuillier’s case will
have been tried.”

“Yes,” said la Peyrade, “and if I lose the case it will be I who have
sent him to prison,--just as yesterday it was I who brought about the
seizure.”

“As for that, it seems to me that if you had written nothing the police
would have found nothing to bite.”

“My dear Brigitte,” said Thuillier, seeing la Peyrade shrug his
shoulders, “your argument is vicious in the sense that the writing was
not incriminating on any side. It is not la Peyrade’s fault if persons
of high station have organized a persecution against me. You remember
that little substitute, Monsieur Olivier Vinet, whom Cardot brought to
one of our receptions. It seems that he and his father are furious that
we didn’t want him for Celeste, and they’ve sworn my destruction.”

“Well, why did we refuse him,” said Brigitte, “if it wasn’t for the fine
eyes of monsieur here? For, after all, a substitute in Paris is a very
suitable match.”

“No doubt,” said la Peyrade, nonchalantly. “Only, he did not happen to
bring you a million.”

“Ah!” cried Brigitte, firing up. “If you are going to talk any more
about that house you helped us to buy, I shall tell you plainly that
if you had had the money to trick the notary you never would have come
after us. You needn’t think I have been altogether your dupe. You spoke
just now of a bargain, but you proposed that bargain yourself. ‘Give me
Celeste and I’ll get you that house,’--that’s what you said to us in so
many words. Besides which, we had to pay large sums on which we never
counted.”

“Come, come, Brigitte,” said Thuillier, “you are making a great deal out
of nothing.”

“Nothing! nothing!” exclaimed Brigitte. “Did we, or did we not, have to
pay much more than we expected?”

“My dear Thuillier,” said la Peyrade, “I think, with you, that the
matter is now settled, and it can only be embittered by discussing it
further. My course was decided on before I came here; all that I have
now heard can only confirm it. I shall not be the husband of Celeste,
but you and I can remain good friends.”

He rose to leave the room.

“One moment, monsieur,” said Brigitte, barring his way; “there is one
matter which I do not consider settled; and now that we are no longer to
have interests in common, I should not be sorry if you would be so good
as to tell me what has become of a sum of ten thousand francs which
Thuillier gave you to bribe those rascally government offices in order
to get the cross we have never got.”

“Brigitte!” cried Thuillier, in anguish, “you have a devil of a tongue!
You ought to be silent about that; I told it to you in a moment of
ill-temper, and you promised me faithfully never to open your lips about
it to any one, no matter who.”

“So I did; but,” replied the implacable Brigitte, “we are parting. When
people part they settle up; they pay their debts. Ten thousand francs!
For my part, I thought the cross itself dear at that; but for a cross
that has melted away, monsieur himself will allow the price is too
high.”

“Come, la Peyrade, my friend, don’t listen to her,” said Thuillier,
going up to the barrister, who was pale with anger. “The affection she
has for me blinds her; I know very well what government offices are, and
I shouldn’t be surprised if you had had to pay out money of your own.”

“Monsieur,” said la Peyrade, “I am, unfortunately, not in a position
to return to you, instantly, that money, an accounting for which is so
insolently demanded. Grant me a short delay; and have the goodness
to accept my note, which I am ready to sign, if that will give you
patience.”

“To the devil with your note!” cried Thuillier; “you owe me nothing; on
the contrary, it is we who owe you; for Cardot told me I ought to give
you at least ten thousand francs for enabling us to buy this magnificent
property.”

“Cardot! Cardot!” said Brigitte; “he is very generous with other
people’s money. We were giving monsieur Celeste, and that’s a good deal
more than ten thousand francs.”

La Peyrade was too great a comedian not to turn the humiliation he
had just endured into a scene finale. With tears in his voice, which
presently fell from his eyes, he turned to Brigitte.

“Mademoiselle,” he said, “when I had the honor to be received by you I
was poor; you long saw me suffering and ill at ease, knowing, alas! too
well, the indignities that poverty must bear. From the day that I was
able to give you a fortune which I never thought of for myself I have
felt, it is true, more assurance; and your own kindness encouraged me
to rise out of my timidity and depression. To-day, when I, by frank
and loyal conduct, release you from anxiety,--for, if you chose to be
honest, you would acknowledge that you have been thinking of another
husband for Celeste,--we might still remain friends, even though I
renounce a marriage which my delicacy forbids me to pursue. But you have
not chosen to restrain yourself with the limits of social politeness,
of which you have a model beside you in Madame de Godollo, who, I am
persuaded, although she is not at all friendly to me, would never have
approved of your odious behavior. Thank Heaven! I have in my heart
some religious sentiment at least; the Gospel is not to me a mere
dead-letter, and--understand me well, mademoiselle--_I forgive you_.
It is not to Thuillier, who would refuse them, but to you that I shall,
before long, pay the ten thousand francs which you insinuate I have
applied to my own purposes. If, by the time they are returned to you,
you feel regret for your unjust suspicions, and are unwilling to
accept the money, I request that you will turn it over to the bureau of
Benevolence to the poor--”

“To the bureau of Benevolence!” cried Brigitte, interrupting him. “No, I
thank you! the idea of all that money being distributed among a crowd
of do-nothings and devotes, who’ll spend it in junketing! I’ve been poor
too, my lad; I made bags for the money of others long before I had any
money of my own; I have some now, and I take care of it. So, whenever
you will, I am ready to receive that ten thousand francs and keep it. If
you didn’t know how to do what you undertook to do, and spent that money
in trying to put salt on a sparrow’s tail, so much the worse for you.”

Seeing that he had missed his effect, and had made not the slightest
impression on Brigitte’s granite, la Peyrade cast a disdainful look upon
her and left the room majestically. As he did so he noticed a movement
made by Thuillier to follow him, and also the imperious gesture of
Brigitte, always queen and mistress, which nailed her brother to his
chair.



CHAPTER VIII

At the moment when la Peyrade was preparing to lay at the feet of the
countess the liberty he had recovered in so brutal a manner, he received
a perfumed note, which made his heart beat, for on the seal was that
momentous “All or Nothing” which she had given him as the rule of the
relation now to be inaugurated between them. The contents of the note
were as follows:--

  Dear Monsieur,--I have heard of the step you have taken; thank
  you! But I must now prepare to take my own. I cannot, as you may
  well think, continue to live in this house, and among these people
  who are so little of our own class and with whom we have nothing
  in common. To arrange this transaction, and to avoid explanations
  of the fact that the entresol welcomes the voluntary exile from
  the first-floor, I need to-day and to-morrow to myself. Do not
  therefore come to see me until the day after. By that time I shall
  have executed Brigitte, as they say at the Bourse, and have much
  to tell you.


Tua tota,

Torna de Godollo.


That “Wholly thine” in Latin seemed charming to la Peyrade, who was
not, however, astonished, for Latin is a second national language to the
Hungarians. The two days’ waiting to which he was thus condemned only
fanned the flame of the ardent passion which possessed him, and on the
third day when reached the house by the Madeleine his love had risen
to a degree of incandescence of which only a few days earlier he would
scarcely have supposed himself capable.

This time the porter’s wife perceived him; but he was now quite
indifferent as to whether or not the object of his visit should be
known. The ice was broken, his happiness was soon to be official, and he
was more disposed to cry it aloud in the streets than to make a mystery
of it.

Running lightly up the stairs, he prepared to ring the bell, when, on
putting out his hand to reach the silken bell-cord he perceived that the
bell-cord had disappeared. La Peyrade’s first thought was that one of
those serious illnesses which make all noises intolerable to a patient
would explain its absence; but with the thought came other observations
that weakened it, and which, moreover, were not in themselves
comforting.

From the vestibule to the countess’s door a stair carpet, held at each
step by a brass rod, made a soft ascent to the feet of visitors; this,
too, had been removed. A screen-door covered with green velvet and
studded with brass nails had hitherto protected the entrance to the
apartment; of that no sign, except the injury to the wall done by the
workmen in taking it away. For a moment the barrister thought, in his
agitation, that he must have mistaken the floor, but, casting his eye
over the baluster he saw that he had not passed the entresol. Madame de
Godollo must, therefore, be in the act of moving away.

He then resigned himself to make known his presence at the great lady’s
door as he would have done at that of a grisette. He rapped with
his knuckles, but a hollow sonority revealing the void, “intonuere
cavernae,” echoed beyond the door which he vainly appealed to with his
fist. He also perceived from beneath that door a ray of vivid light,
the sure sign of an uninhabited apartment where curtains and carpets and
furniture no longer dim the light or deaden sound. Compelled to believe
in a total removal, la Peyrade now supposed that in the rupture with
Brigitte, mentioned as probable by Madame de Godollo, some brutal
insolence of the old maid had necessitated this abrupt departure. But
why had he not been told of it? And what an idea, to expose him to
this ridiculous meeting with what the common people call, in their
picturesque language, “the wooden face”!

Before leaving the door finally, and as if some doubt still remained in
his mind, la Peyrade made a last and most thundering assault upon it.

“Who’s knocking like that, as if they’d bring the house down?” said the
porter, attracted by the noise to the foot of the staircase.

“Doesn’t Madame de Godollo still live here?” asked la Peyrade.

“Of course she doesn’t live here now; she has moved away. If monsieur
had told me he was going to her apartment I would have spared him the
trouble of battering down the door.”

“I knew that she was going to leave the apartment,” said la Peyrade, not
wishing to seem ignorant of the project of departure, “but I had no idea
she was going so soon.”

“I suppose it was something sudden,” said the porter, “for she went off
early this morning with post-horses.”

“Post-horses!” echoed la Peyrade, stupefied. “Then she has left Paris?”

“That’s to be supposed,” said the porter; “people don’t usually take
post-horses and a postilion to change from one quarter of Paris to
another.”

“And she did not tell you where she was going?”

“Ah! monsieur, what an idea! Do people account to us porters for what
they do?”

“No, but her letters--those that come after her departure?”

“Her letters? I am ordered to deliver them to Monsieur le commandeur,
the little old gentlemen who came to see her so often; monsieur must
have met him.”

“Yes, yes, certainly,” said la Peyrade, keeping his presence of mind in
the midst of the successive shocks which came upon him,--“the powered
little man who was here every day.”

“I couldn’t say every day; but he came often. Well, I am told to give
the countess’s letters to him.”

“And for other persons of her acquaintance,” said la Peyrade,
carelessly, “did she leave no message?”

“None, monsieur.”

“Very well,” said la Peyrade, “good-morning.” And he turned to go out.

“But I think,” said the porter, “that Mademoiselle Thuillier knows more
about it than I do. Won’t monsieur go up? She is at home; and so is
Monsieur Thuillier.”

“No, never mind,” said la Peyrade, “I only came to tell Madame de
Godollo about a commission she asked me to execute; I haven’t time to
stop now.”

“Well, as I told you, she left with post-horses this morning. Two hours
earlier monsieur might still have found her; but now, with post-horses,
she must by this time have gone a good distance.”

La Peyrade departed, with a sense of despair in his heart. Added to the
anxiety caused by this hasty departure, jealousy entered his soul,
and in this agonizing moment of disappointment the most distressing
explanations crowded on his mind.

Then, after further reflection, he said to himself:--

“These clever diplomatic women are often sent on secret missions which
require the most absolute silence, and extreme rapidity of movement.”

But here a sudden revulsion of thought overcame him:--

“Suppose she were one of those intriguing adventurers whom foreign
governments employ as agents? Suppose the tale, more or less probable,
of that Russian princess forced to sell her furniture to Brigitte were
also that of this Hungarian countess? And yet,” he continued, as his
brain made a third evolution in this frightful anarchy of ideas and
feelings, “her education, her manners, her language, all bespoke a woman
of the best position. Besides, if she were only a bird of passage, why
have given herself so much trouble to win me over?”

La Peyrade might have continued to plead thus for and against for a long
time had he not been suddenly grasped round the shoulders by a strong
arm and addressed in a well-known voice.

“Take care! my dear barrister; a frightful danger threatens you; you are
running right into it.”

La Peyrade, thus arrested, looked round and found himself in the arms of
Phellion.

The scene took place in front of a house which was being pulled down at
the corner of the rues Duphot and Saint-Honore. Posted on the pavement
of the other side of the street, Phellion, whose taste for watching the
process of building our readers may remember, had been witnessing for
the last fifteen minutes the drama of a wall about to fall beneath
the united efforts of a squadron of workmen. Watch in hand, the great
citizen was estimating the length of the resistance which that mass of
freestone would present to the destructive labor of which it was the
object. Precisely at the crucial moment of the impending catastrophe la
Peyrade, lost in the tumult of his thoughts, was entering, heedless of
the shouts addressed to him on all sides, the radius within which the
stones would fall. Seen by Phellion (who, it must be said, would have
done the same for a total stranger) la Peyrade undoubtedly owed his
life to him; for, at the moment when he was violently flung back by the
vigorous grasp of the worthy citizen, the wall fell with the noise of a
cannon-shot, and the stones rolled in clouds of dust almost to his very
feet.

“Are you blind and deaf?” said the workman whose business it was to warn
the passers, in a tone of amenity it is easy to imagine.

“Thank you, my dear friend,” said la Peyrade, recalled to earth. “I
should certainly have been crushed like an idiot if it hadn’t been for
you.”

And he pressed Phellion’s hand.

“My reward,” replied the latter, “lies in the satisfaction of knowing
that you are saved from an imminent peril. And I may say that that
satisfaction is mingled, for me, with a certain pride; for I was not
mistaken by a single second in the calculation which enabled me to
foresee the exact moment when that formidable mass would be displaced
from its centre of gravity. But what were you thinking of, my dear
monsieur? Probably of the plea you are about to make in the Thuillier
affair. The public prints have informed me of the danger of prosecution
by the authorities which hangs above the head of our estimable friend.
You have a noble cause to defend, monsieur. Habituated as I am, through
my labors as a member of the reading committee of the Odeon, to judge of
works of intellect, and with my hand upon my conscience, I declare that
after reading the incriminated passages, I can find nothing in the tone
of that pamphlet which justifies the severe measures of which it is the
object. Between ourselves,” added the great citizen, lowering his voice,
“I think the government has shown itself petty.”

“So I think,” said la Peyrade, “but I am not employed for the defence. I
have advised Thuillier to engage some noted lawyer.”

“It may be good advice,” said Phellion; “at any rate, it speaks well for
your modesty. Poor man! I went to him at once when the blow fell, but I
did not see him; I saw only Brigitte, who was having a discussion with
Madame de Godollo. There is a woman with strong political views; it
seems she predicted that the seizure would be made.”

“Did you know that the countess had left Paris?” said la Peyrade,
rushing at the chance of speaking on the subject of his present
monomania.

“Ah! left Paris, has she?” said Phellion. “Well, monsieur, I must tell
you that, although there was not much sympathy between us, I regard her
departure as a misfortune. She will leave a serious void in the salon
of our friends. I say this, because it is my belief, and I am not in the
habit of disguising my convictions.”

“Yes,” said la Peyrade, “she is certainly a very distinguished woman,
with whom in spite of her prejudice against me, I think I should have
come to an understanding. But this morning, without leaving any word as
to where she was going, she started suddenly with post-horses.”

“Post-horses!” said Phellion. “I don’t know whether you will agree with
me, monsieur, but I think that travelling by post is a most agreeable
method of conveyance. Certainly Louis XI., to whom we owe the
institution, had a fortunate inspiration in the matter; although, on the
other hand, his sanguinary and despotic government was not, to my humble
thinking, entirely devoid of reproach. Once only in my life have I used
that method of locomotion, and I can truly say I found it far superior,
in spite of its inferior relative rapidity, to the headlong course of
what in England are called _railways_; where speed is attained only at
the price of safety.”

La Peyrade paid but little attention to Phellion’s phraseology.
“Where can she have gone?”--round that idea he dug and delved in every
direction, an occupation that would have made him indifferent to a far
more interesting topic. However, once started, like the locomotive he
objected to, the great citizen went on:--

“I made that journey at the period of Madame Phellion’s last
confinement. She was in Perche, with her mother, when I learned that
serious complications were feared from the milk-fever. Overcome with
terror at the danger which threatened my wife, I went instantly to the
post-office to obtain a seat in the mail-coach, but all were taken; I
found they had been engaged for more than a week. Upon that, I came to a
decision; I went to the rue Pigalle, and, for a very large sum in gold
a post-chaise and three horses were placed at my disposal, when
unfortunately the formality of a passport, with which I had neglected
to supply myself, and without which, in virtue of the decrees of the
consulate of 17 Nivose, year VII., the post agents were not permitted to
deliver horses to travellers--”

The last few words were like a flash of light to la Peyrade, and without
waiting for the end of the postal odyssey of the great citizen, he
darted away in the direction of the rue Pigalle, before Phellion, in the
middle of his sentence, perceived his departure.

Reaching the Royal postal establishment, la Peyrade was puzzled as to
whom to address himself in order to obtain the information he wanted. He
began by explaining to the porter that he had a letter to send to a
lady of his acquaintance that morning by post, neglecting, very
thoughtlessly, to send him her address, and that he thought he might
discover it by means of the passport which she must have presented in
order to obtain horses.

“Was it a lady accompanied by a maid whom I took up on the boulevard de
la Madeleine?” asked a postilion sitting in the corner of the room where
la Peyrade was making his preliminary inquiry.

“Exactly,” said la Peyrade, going eagerly up to the providential being,
and slipping a five-franc piece into his hand.

“Ah! well, she’s a queer traveller!” said the man, “she told me to take
her to the Bois de Boulogne, and there she made me drive round and round
for an hour. After that, we came back to the Barriere de l’Etoile, where
she gave me a good ‘pourboire’ and got into a hackney coach, telling me
to take the travelling carriage back to the man who lets such carriages
in the Cour des Coches, Faubourg Saint-Honore.”

“Give me the name of that man?” said la Peyrade, eagerly.

“Simonin,” replied the postilion.

Furnished with that information la Peyrade resumed his course, and
fifteen minutes later he was questioning the livery-stable keeper; but
that individual knew only that a lady residing on the Boulevard de la
Madeleine had hired, without horses, a travelling-carriage for half a
day; that he had sent out the said carriage at nine that morning, and it
was brought back at twelve by a postilion of the Royal Post house.

“Never mind,” thought la Peyrade, “I am certain now she has not left
Paris, and is not avoiding me. Most probably, she wants to break utterly
with the Thuilliers, and so has invented this journey. Fool that I am!
no doubt there’s a letter waiting for me at home, explaining the whole
thing.”

Worn out with emotion and fatigue, and in order to verify as quickly as
possible this new supposition, la Peyrade flung himself into a street
cab, and in less than a quarter of an hour, having promised the driver a
good pourboire, he was deposited at the house in the rue Saint-Dominique
d’Enfer. There he was compelled to endure still longer the tortures of
waiting. Since Brigitte’s departure, the duty of the porter, Coffinet,
had been very negligently performed, and when la Peyrade rushed to the
lodge to inquire for his letter, which he thought he saw in the case
that belonged to him, the porter and his wife were both absent and their
door was locked. The wife was doing some household work in the building,
and Coffinet himself, taking advantage of that circumstance, had allowed
a friend to entice him into a neighboring wine-shop, where, between
two glasses, he was supporting, against a republican who was talking
disrespectfully against it, the cause of the owners of property.

It was twenty minutes before the worthy porter, remembering the
“property” entrusted to his charge, decided to return to his post. It is
easy to imagine the reproaches with which la Peyrade overwhelmed him.
He excused himself by saying that he had gone to do a commission for
Mademoiselle, and that he couldn’t be at the door and where his masters
chose to send him at the same time. At last, however, he gave the lawyer
a letter bearing the Paris postmark.

With his heart rather than his eyes la Peyrade recognized the
handwriting, and, turning over the missive, the arms and motto confirmed
the hope that he had reached the end of the cruellest emotion he had
ever in his life experienced. To read that letter before that odious
porter seemed to him a profanation. With a refinement of feeling which
all lovers will understand, he gave himself the pleasure of pausing
before his happiness; he would not even unseal that blissful note until
the moment when, with closed doors and no interruptions to distract him,
he could enjoy at his ease the delicious sensation of which his heart
had a foretaste.

Rushing up the staircase two steps at a time, the now joyous lover
committed the childish absurdity of locking himself in; then, having
settled himself at his ease before his desk, and having broken the seal
with religious care, he was forced to press his hand on his heart, which
seemed to burst from his bosom, before he could summon calmness to read
the following letter:--

  Dear Monsieur,--I disappear forever, because my play is played
  out. I thank you for having made it both attractive and easy. By
  setting against you the Thuilliers and Collevilles (who are fully
  informed of your sentiments towards them), and by relating in a
  manner most mortifying to their bourgeois self-love the true
  reason of your sudden and pitiless rupture with them, I am proud
  and happy to believe that I have done you a signal service. The
  girl does not love you, and you love nothing but the eyes of her
  “dot”; I have therefore saved you both from a species of hell.
  But, in exchange for the bride you have so curtly rejected,
  another charming girl is proposed to you; she is richer and more
  beautiful than Mademoiselle Colleville, and--to speak of myself
  --more at liberty than

  Your unworthy servant,

  Torna “Comtesse de Godollo.”

  P.S. For further information apply, without delay, to Monsieur du
  Portail, householder, rue Honore-Chevalier, near the rue de la
  Cassette, quartier Saint-Sulpice, by whom you are expected.


When he had read this letter the advocate of the poor took his head
in his hands; he saw nothing, heard nothing, thought nothing; he was
annihilated.

Several days were necessary to la Peyrade before he could even begin to
recover from the crushing blow which had struck him down. The shock
was terrible. Coming out of that golden dream which had shown him a
perspective of the future in so smiling an aspect, he found himself
fooled under conditions most cruel to his self-love, and to his
pretensions to depth and cleverness; irrevocably parted from the
Thuilliers; saddled with a hopeless debt of twenty-five thousand francs
to Madame Lambert, together with another of ten thousand to Brigitte,
which his dignity required him to pay with the least delay possible;
and, worst of all,--to complete his humiliation and his sense of
failure,--he felt that he was not cured of the passionate emotion he
had felt for this woman, the author of his great disaster, and the
instrument of his ruin.

Either this Delilah was a very great lady, sufficiently high in station
to allow herself such compromising caprices,--but even so, she would
scarcely have cared to play the role of a coquette in a vaudeville
where he himself played the part of ninny,--_or_ she was some noted
adventuress who was in the pay of this du Portail and the agent of his
singular matrimonial designs. Evil life or evil heart, these were the
only two verdicts to be pronounced on this dangerous siren, and in
either case, it would seem, she was not very deserving of the regrets of
her victim; nevertheless, he was conscious of feeling them. We must put
ourselves in the place of this son of Provence, this region of hot blood
and ardent heads, who, for the first time in his life finding himself
face to face with jewelled love in laces, believed he was to drink that
passion from a wrought-gold cup. Just as our minds on waking keep the
impression of a vivid dream and continue in love with what we know was
but a shadow, la Peyrade had need of all his mental energy to drive away
the memory of that treacherous countess. We might go further and say
that he never ceased to long for her, though he was careful to drape
with an honest pretext the intense desire that he had to find her.
That desire he called curiosity, ardor for revenge; and here follow the
ingenious deductions which he drew for himself:--

“Cerizet talked to me about a rich heiress; the countess, in her letter,
intimates that the whole intrigue she wound about me was to lead to a
rich marriage; rich marriages flung at a man’s head are not so plentiful
that two such chances should come to me within a few weeks; therefore
the match offered by Cerizet and that proposed by the countess must be
the crazy girl they are so frantic to make me marry; therefore Cerizet,
being in the plot, must know the countess; therefore, through him I
shall get upon her traces. In any case, I am sure of information about
this extraordinary choice that has fallen upon me; evidently, these
people, whoever they are, who can pull the wires of such puppets to
reach their ends must be persons of considerable position; therefore,
I’ll go and see Cerizet.”

And he went to see Cerizet.

Since the dinner at the Rocher de Cancale, the pair had not met. Once or
twice la Peyrade had asked Dutocq at the Thuilliers’ (where the latter
seldom went now, on account of the distance to their new abode) what had
become of his copying clerk.

“He never speaks of you,” Dutocq had answered.

Hence it might be inferred that resentment, the “manet alta mente
repostum” was still living in the breast of the vindictive usurer. La
Peyrade, however, was not stopped by that consideration. After all, he
was not going to ask for anything; he went under the pretext of renewing
an affair in which Cerizet had taken part, and Cerizet never took part
in anything unless he had a personal interest in it. The chances were,
therefore, that he would be received with affectionate eagerness rather
than unpleasant acerbity. Moreover, he decided to go and see the copying
clerk at Dutocq’s office; it would look, he thought, less like a visit
than if he went to his den in the rue des Poules. It was nearly two
o’clock when la Peyrade made his entrance into the precincts of the
justice-of-peace of the 12th arrondissement. He crossed the first room,
in which were a crowd of persons whom civil suits of one kind or another
summoned before the magistrate. Without pausing in that waiting-room, la
Peyrade pushed on to the office adjoining that of Dutocq. There he found
Cerizet at a shabby desk of blackened wood, at which another clerk, then
absent, occupied the opposite seat.

Seeing his visitor, Cerizet cast a savage look at him and said, without
rising, or suspending the copy of the judgment he was then engrossing:--

“You here, Sieur la Peyrade? You have been doing fine things for your
friend Thuillier!”

“How are you?” asked la Peyrade, in a tone both resolute and friendly.

“I?” replied Cerizet. “As you see, still rowing my galley; and, to
follow out the nautical metaphor, allow me to ask what wind has blown
you hither; is it, perchance, the wind of adversity?”

La Peyrade, without replying, took a chair beside his questioner, after
which he said in a grave tone:--

“My dear fellow, we have something to say to each other.”

“I suppose,” said Cerizet, spitefully, “the Thuilliers have grown cold
since the seizure of the pamphlet.”

“The Thuilliers are ungrateful people; I have broken with them,” replied
la Peyrade.

“Rupture or dismissal,” said Cerizet, “their door is shut against you;
and from what Dutocq tells me, I judge that Brigitte is handling you
without gloves. You see, my friend, what it is to try and manage affairs
alone; complications come, and there’s no one to smooth the angles.
If you had got me that lease, I should have had a footing at the
Thuilliers’, Dutocq would not have abandoned you, and together we could
have brought you gently into port.”

“But suppose I don’t want to re-enter that port?” said la Peyrade, with
some sharpness. “I tell you I’ve had enough of those Thuilliers, and
I broke with them myself; I warned them to get out of my sun; and if
Dutocq told you anything else you may tell him from me that he lies. Is
that clear enough? It seems to me I’ve made it plain.”

“Well, exactly, my good fellow, if you are so savage against your
Thuilliers you ought to have put me among them, and then you’d have seen
me avenge you.”

“There you are right,” said la Peyrade; “I wish I could have set you at
their legs--but as for that matter of the lease I tell you again, I was
not master of it.”

“Of course,” said Cerizet, “it was your conscience which obliged you to
tell Brigitte that the twelve thousand francs a year I expected to make
out of it were better in her pocket than in mine.”

“It seems that Dutocq continues the honorable profession of spy which he
formerly practised at the ministry of finance,” said la Peyrade, “and,
like others who do that dirty business, he makes his reports more witty
than truthful--”

“Take care!” said Cerizet; “you are talking of my patron in his own
lair.”

“Look here!” said la Peyrade. “I have come to talk to you on serious
matters. Will you do me the favor to drop the Thuilliers and all their
belongings, and give me your attention?”

“Say on, my friend,” said Cerizet, laying down his pen, which had never
ceased to run, up to this moment, “I am listening.”

“You talked to me some time ago,” said la Peyrade, “about marrying a
girl who was rich, fully of age, and slightly hysterical, as you were
pleased to put it euphemistically.”

“Well done!” cried Cerizet. “I expected this; but you’ve been some time
coming to it.”

“In offering me this heiress, what did you have in your mind?” asked la
Peyrade.

“Parbleu! to help you to a splendid stroke of business. You had only to
stoop and take it. I was formally charged to propose it to you; and,
as there wasn’t any brokerage, I should have relied wholly on your
generosity.”

“But you are not the only person who was commissioned to make me that
offer. A woman had the same order.”

“A woman!” cried Cerizet in a perfectly natural tone of surprise. “Not
that I know of.”

“Yes, a foreigner, young and pretty, whom you must have met in the
family of the bride, to whom she seems to be ardently devoted.”

“Never,” said Cerizet, “never has there been the slightest question of
a woman in this negotiation. I have every reason to believe that I am
exclusively charged with it.”

“What!” said la Peyrade, fixing upon Cerizet a scrutinizing eye, “did
you never hear of the Comtesse Torna de Godollo?”

“Never, in all my life; this is the first time I ever heard that name.”

“Then,” said la Peyrade, “it must really have been another match; for
that woman, after many singular preliminaries, too long to explain to
you, made me a formal offer of the hand of a young woman much richer
than Mademoiselle Colleville--”

“And hysterical?” asked Cerizet.

“No, she did not embellish the proposal with that accessory; but there’s
another detail which may put you on the track of her. Madame de Godollo
exhorted me, if I wished to push the matter, to go and see a certain
Monsieur du Portail--”

“Rue Honore-Chevalier?” exclaimed Cerizet, quickly.

“Precisely.”

“Then it is the same marriage which is offered to you through
two different mediums. It is strange I was not informed of this
collaboration!”

“In short,” said la Peyrade, “you not only didn’t have wind of the
countess’s intervention, but you don’t know her, and you can’t give me
any information about her--is that so?”

“At present I can’t,” replied Cerizet, “but I’ll find out about her; for
the whole proceeding is rather cavalier towards me; but this employment
of two agents only shows you how desirable you are to the family.”

At this moment the door of the room was opened cautiously, a woman’s
head appeared, and a voice, which was instantly recognized by la
Peyrade, said, addressing the copying-clerk:--

“Ah! excuse me! I see monsieur is busy. Could I say a word to monsieur
when he is alone?”

Cerizet, who had an eye as nimble as a hand, instantly noticed a
certain fact. La Peyrade, who was so placed as to be plainly seen by the
new-comer, no sooner heard that drawling, honeyed voice, than he turned
his head in a manner to conceal his features. Instead therefore of being
roughly sent away, as usually happened to petitioners who addressed the
most surly of official clerks, the modest visitor heard herself greeted
in a very surprising manner.

“Come in, come in, Madame Lambert,” said Cerizet; “you won’t be kept
waiting long; come in.”

The visitor advanced, and then came face to face with la Peyrade.

“Ah! monsieur!” cried his creditor, whom the reader has no doubt
recognized, “how fortunate I am to meet monsieur! I have been several
times to his office to ask if he had had time to attend to my little
affair.”

“I have had many engagements which have kept me away from my office
lately; but I attended to that matter; everything has been done right,
and is now in the hands of the secretary.”

“Oh! how good monsieur is! I pray God to bless him,” said the pious
woman, clasping her hands.

“Bless me! do you have business with Madame Lambert?” said Cerizet; “you
never told me that. Are you Pere Picot’s counsel?”

“No, unfortunately,” said Madame Lambert, “my master won’t take any
counsel; he is so self-willed, so obstinate! But, my good monsieur, what
I came to ask is whether the family council is to meet.”

“Of course,” said Cerizet, “and not later than to-morrow.”

“But monsieur, I hear those gentlemen of the Royal court said the family
had no rights--”

“Yes, that’s so,” said the clerk; “the lower court and the Royal court
have both, on the petition of the relatives, rejected their demand for a
commission.”

“I should hope so!” said the woman; “to think of making him out a
lunatic! him so full of wisdom and learning!”

“But the relations don’t mean to give up; they are going to try the
matter again under a new form, and ask for the appointment of a judicial
counsel. That’s what the family council meets for to-morrow; and I
think, this time, my dear Madame Lambert, your old Picot will find
himself restrained. There are serious allegations, I can tell you. It
was all very well to take the eggs, but to pluck the hen was another
thing.”

“Is it possible that monsieur can suppose--” began the devote, clasping
her hands under her chin.

“I suppose nothing,” said Cerizet; “I am not the judge of this affair.
But the relations declare that you have pocketed considerable sums, and
made investments about which they demand inquiry.”

“Oh! heavens!” said the woman, casting up her eyes; “they can inquire;
I am poor; I have not a deed, nor a note, nor a share; not the slightest
security of any kind in my possession.”

“I dare say not,” said Cerizet, glancing at la Peyrade out of the corner
of his eye; “but there are always friends to take care of such things.
However, that is none of my business; every one must settle his
own affairs in his own way. Now, then, say what you have to say,
distinctly.”

“I came, monsieur,” she replied, “to implore you, monsieur, to implore
Monsieur the judge’s clerk, to speak in our favor to Monsieur the
justice-of-peace. Monsieur the vicar of Saint-Jacques is also to speak
to him. That poor Monsieur Picot!” she went on, weeping, “they’ll kill
him if they continue to worry him in this way.”

“I sha’n’t conceal from you,” said Cerizet, “that the justice-of-peace
is very ill-disposed to your cause. You must have seen that the other
day, when he refused to receive you. As for Monsieur Dutocq and myself,
our assistance won’t help you much; and besides, my good woman, you are
too close-mouthed.”

“Monsieur asked me if I had laid by a few little savings; and I couldn’t
tell him that I had, be--because they have gone to keep the h--house
of that poor Monsieur Pi--i--cot; and now they accuse me of r--robbing
him!”

Madame Lambert sobbed.

“My opinion is,” said Cerizet, “that you are making yourself out much
poorer than you are; and if friend Peyrade here, who seems to be more
in your confidence, hadn’t his tongue tied by the rules of his
profession--”

“I!” said la Peyrade, hastily, “I don’t know anything of madame’s
affairs. She asked me to draw up a petition on a matter in which there
was nothing judicial or financial.”

“Ah! that’s it, is it?” said Cerizet. “Madame had doubtless gone to
see you about this petition the day Dutocq met her at your office, the
morning after our dinner at the Rocher de Cancale--when you were such a
Roman, you know.”

Then, without seeming to attach any importance to the reminiscence, he
added:--

“Well, my good Madame Lambert, I’ll ask my patron to speak to the
justice-of-peace, and, if I get a chance, I’ll speak to him myself; but,
I repeat it, he is very much prejudiced against you.”

Madame Lambert retired with many curtseys and protestations of
gratitude. When she was fairly gone la Peyrade remarked:--

“You don’t seem to believe that that woman came to me about a petition;
and yet nothing was ever truer. She is thought a saint in the street she
lives in, and that old man they accuse her of robbing is actually kept
alive by her devotion, so I’m told. Consequently, the neighbors have put
it into the good woman’s head to apply for the Montyon prize; and it was
for the purpose of putting her claims in legal shape that she applied to
me.”

“Dear! dear! the Montyon prize!” cried Cerizet; “well, that’s an idea!
My good fellow, we ought to have cultivated it before,--I, especially,
as banker of the poor, and you, their advocate. As for this client of
yours, it is lucky for her Monsieur Picot’s relatives are not members
of the French academy; it is in the correctional police-court, sixth
chamber, where they mean to give her the reward of virtue. However, to
come back to what we were talking about. I tell you that after all your
tergiversations you had better settle down peaceably; and I advise you,
as your countess did, to go and see du Portail.”

“Who and what is he?” asked la Peyrade.

“He is a little old man,” replied Cerizet, “as shrewd as a weasel. He
gives me the idea of having dealings with the devil. Go and see him!
Sight, as they say, costs nothing.”

“Yes,” said la Peyrade, “perhaps I will; but, first of all, I want you
to find out for me about this Comtesse de Godollo.”

“What do you care about her? She is nothing but a supernumerary, that
countess.”

“I have my reasons,” said la Peyrade; “you can certainly get some
information about her in three days; I’ll come and see you then.”

“My good fellow,” said Cerizet, “you seem to me to be amusing yourself
with things that don’t pay; you haven’t fallen in love with that
go-between, have you?”

“Plague take him!” thought la Peyrade; “he spies everything; there’s no
hiding anything from him! No,” he said, aloud, “I am not in love; on
the contrary, I am very cautious. I must admit that this marriage with a
crazy girl doesn’t attract me, and before I go a step into it I want to
know where I put my feet. These crooked proceedings are not reassuring,
and as so many influences are being brought to bear, I choose to
control one by another. Therefore don’t play sly, but give me all the
information you get into your pouch about Madame la Comtesse Torna de
Godollo. I warn you I know enough to test the veracity of your report;
and if I see you are trying to overreach me I’ll break off short with
your du Portail.”

“Trying to overreach you, monseigneur!” replied Cerizet, in the tone and
manner of Frederic Lemaitre. “Who would dare attempt it?”

As he pronounced those words in a slightly mocking tone, Dutocq
appeared, accompanied by his little clerk.

“Bless me!” he exclaimed, seeing la Peyrade and Cerizet together;
“here’s the trinity reconstituted! but the object of the alliance,
the ‘casus foederis,’ has floated off. What have you done to that good
Brigitte, la Peyrade? She is after your blood.”

“What about Thuillier?” asked la Peyrade.

Moliere was reversed; here was Tartuffe inquiring for Orgon.

“Thuillier began by not being very hostile to you; but it now seems that
the seizure business has taken a good turn, and having less need of
you he is getting drawn into his sister’s waters; and if the tendency
continues, I haven’t a doubt that he’ll soon come to think you deserving
of hanging.”

“Well, I’m out of it all,” said la Peyrade, “and if anybody ever catches
me in such a mess again!--Well, adieu, my friends,” he added. “And
you, Cerizet, as to what we were speaking about, activity, safety, and
discretion!”

When la Peyrade reached the courtyard of the municipal building, he was
accosted by Madame Lambert, who was lying in wait for him.

“Monsieur wouldn’t believe, I am sure,” she said, in a deprecating tone,
“the villainous things that Monsieur Cerizet said about me; monsieur
knows it was the little property I received from my uncle in England
that I placed in his hands.”

“Yes, yes,” said la Peyrade, “but you must understand that with all
these rumors set about by your master’s relatives the prize of virtue is
desperately endangered.”

“If it is God’s will that I am not to have it--”

“You ought also to understand how important it is for your interests
to keep secret the other service which I did for you. At the first
appearance of any indiscretion on your part that money, as I told you,
will be peremptorily returned to you.”

“Oh! monsieur may be easy about that.”

“Very well; then good-bye to you, my dear,” said la Peyrade, in a
friendly tone.

As he turned to leave her, a nasal voice was heard from a window on the
staircase.

“Madame Lambert!” cried Cerizet, who, suspecting the colloquy, had gone
to the staircase window to make sure of it. “Madame Lambert! Monsieur
Dutocq has returned; you may come up and see him, if you like.”

Impossible for la Peyrade to prevent the conference, although he knew
the secret of that twenty-five thousand francs ran the greatest danger.

“Certainly,” he said to himself as he walked away, “I’m in a run of
ill-luck; and I don’t know where it will end.”

In Brigitte’s nature there was such an all-devouring instinct of
domination, that it was without regret, and, we may even say, with a
sort of secret joy that she saw the disappearance of Madame de Godollo.
That woman, she felt, had a crushing superiority over her; and this,
while it had given a higher order to the Thuillier establishment, made
her ill at ease. When therefore the separation took place, which was
done, let us here say, on good terms, and under fair and honorable
pretexts, Mademoiselle Thuillier breathed more freely. She felt like
those kings long swayed by imperious and necessary ministers, who
celebrate within their hearts the day when death delivers them from a
master whose services and rival influence they impatiently endured.

Thuillier was not far from having the same sentiment about la Peyrade.
But Madame de Godollo was only the elegance, whereas la Peyrade was the
utility of the house they had now simultaneously abandoned; and after
the lapse of a few days, a terrible need of Theodose made itself felt
in the literary and political existence of his dear, good friend.
The municipal councillor found himself suddenly appointed to draft an
important report. He was unable to decline the task, saddled as he
was with the reputation, derived from his pamphlet, of being a man of
letters and an able writer; therefore, in presence of the perilous honor
conferred upon him by his colleagues of the general Council, he sat down
terrified by his solitude and his insufficiency.

In vain did he lock himself into his study, gorge himself with black
coffee, mend innumerable pens, and write a score of times at the head of
his paper (which he was careful to cut of the exact dimensions as that
used by la Peyrade) the solemn words: “Report to the Members of the
Municipal Council of the City of Paris,” followed, on a line by itself,
by a magnificent _Messieurs_--nothing came of it! He was fain to issue
furious from his study, complaining of the horrible household racket
which “cut the thread of his ideas”; though really no greater noise
than the closing of a door or the opening of a closet or the moving of
a chair had made itself heard. All this, however, did not help the
advancement of the work, which remained, as before--simply begun.

Most fortunately, it happened that Rabourdin, wanting to make some
change in his apartment, came, as was proper, to submit his plan to the
owner of the house. Thuillier granted cordially the request that was
made to him, and then discoursed to his tenant about the report with
which he was charged,--being desirous, he said, to obtain his ideas on
the subject.

Rabourdin, to whom no administrative question was foreign, very readily
threw upon the subject a number of very clear and lucid ideas. He was
one of those men to whom the quality of the intellect to which they
address themselves is more or less indifferent; a fool, or a man of
talent who will listen to them, serves equally well to think aloud to,
and they are, as a stimulant, about the same thing. After Rabourdin had
said his say, he observed that Thuillier had not understood him; but he
had listened to himself with pleasure, and he was, moreover, grateful
for the attention, obtuse as it was, of his hearer, and also for the
kindliness of the landlord in receiving his request.

“I must have among my papers,” he said as he went away, “something on
this subject; I will look it up and send it to you.”

Accordingly, that same evening Thuillier received a voluminous
manuscript; and he spent the entire night in delving into that precious
repository of ideas, from which he extracted enough to make a really
remarkable report, clumsily as the pillage was managed. When read before
the council it obtained a very great success, and Thuillier returned
home radiant and much elated by the congratulations he had received.
From that moment--a moment that was marked in his life, for even to
advanced old age he still talked of the “report he had had the honor
of making to the Council-general of the Seine”--la Peyrade went down
considerably in his estimation; he felt then that he could do very well
without the barrister, and this thought of emancipation was strengthened
by another happiness which came to him at almost the same time.

A parliamentary crisis was imminent,--a fact that caused the ministry
to think about depriving its adversaries of a theme of opposition which
always has great influence on public opinion. It resolved therefore
to relax its rigor, which of late had been much increased against the
press. Being included in this species of hypocritical amnesty, Thuillier
received one morning a letter from the barrister whom he had chosen in
place of la Peyrade. This letter announced that the Council of State had
dismissed the complaint, and ordered the release of the pamphlet.

Then Dutocq’s prediction was realized. That weight the less within his
bosom, Thuillier took a swing toward insolence; he chorused Brigitte,
and came at last to speak of la Peyrade as a sort of adventurer whom he
had fed and clothed, a tricky fellow who had _extracted_ much money from
him, and had finally behaved with such ingratitude that he was thankful
not to count him any longer among his friends. Orgon, in short, was in
full revolt, and like Dorine, he was ready to cry out: “A beggar! who,
when he came, had neither shoes nor coat worth a brass farthing.”

Cerizet, to whom these indignities were reported by Dutocq, would gladly
have served them up hot to la Peyrade; but the interview in which the
copying clerk was to furnish information about Madame de Godollo did
not take place at the time fixed. La Peyrade made his own discoveries in
this wise:

Pursued by the thought of the beautiful Hungarian, and awaiting, or
rather not awaiting the result of Cerizet’s inquiry, he scoured Paris in
every direction, and might have been seen, like the idlest of loungers,
in the most frequented places, his heart telling him that sooner or
later he must meet the object of his ardent search.

One evening--it was towards the middle of October--the autumn, as
frequently happens in Paris, was magnificent, and along the boulevards,
where the Provencal was airing his love and his melancholy, the out-door
life and gaiety were as animated as in summer. On the boulevard des
Italiens, formerly known as the boulevard de Gand, as he lounged past
the long line of chairs before the Cafe de Paris, where, mingled with
a few women of the Chaussee d’Antin accompanied by their husbands and
children, may be seen toward evening a cordon of nocturnal beauties
waiting only a gloved hand to gather them, la Peyrade’s heart received a
cruel shock. From afar, he thought he saw his adored countess.

She was alone, in a dazzling toilet scarcely authorized by the place and
her isolation; before her, mounted on a chair, trembled a tiny lap-dog,
which she stroked from time to time with her beautiful hands. After
convincing himself that he was not mistaken, la Peyrade was about to
dart upon that celestial vision, when he was forestalled by a dandy of
the most triumphant type. Without throwing aside his cigar, without even
touching his hat, this handsome young man began to converse with the
barrister’s ideal; but when she saw la Peyrade making towards her the
siren must have felt afraid, for she rose quickly, and taking the arm of
the man who was talking to her, she said aloud:--

“Is your carriage here, Emile? Mabille closes to-night, and I should
like to go there.”

The name of that disreputable place thus thrown in the face of the
unhappy barrister, was a charity, for it saved him from a foolish
action, that of addressing, on the arm of the man who had suddenly made
himself her cavalier, the unworthy creature of whom he was thinking a
few seconds earlier with so much tenderness.

“She is not worth insulting,” he said to himself.

But, as lovers are beings who will not allow their foothold to be taken
from them easily, the Provencal was neither convinced nor resigned as
yet. Not far from the place which his countess had left, sat another
woman, also alone; but this one was ripe with years, with feathers on
her head, and beneath the folds of a cashmere shawl she concealed the
plaintive remains of tarnished elegance and long past luxury. There was
nothing imposing about this sight, nor did it command respect, but the
contrary. La Peyrade went up to the woman without ceremony and addressed
her.

“Madame,” he said, “do you know that woman who has just gone away on the
arm of a gentleman?”

“Certainly, monsieur; I know nearly all the women who come here.”

“And her name is?--”

“Madame Komorn.”

“Is she as impregnable as the fortress of that name?”

Our readers will doubtless remember that at the time of the insurrection
in Hungary our ears were battered by the press and by novelists about
the famous citadel of Komorn; and la Peyrade knew that by assuming a
tone of indifference or flippancy he was more likely to succeed with his
inquiries.

“Has monsieur any idea of making her acquaintance?”

“I don’t know,” replied la Peyrade, “but she is a woman who makes people
think of her.”

“And a very dangerous woman, monsieur,” added his companion; “a fearful
spendthrift, but with no inclination to return generously what is done
for her. I can speak knowingly of that; when she first arrived here from
Berlin, six months ago, she was very warmly recommended to me.”

“Ah!” exclaimed la Peyrade.

“Yes, at that time I had in the environs of Ville d’Avray a very
beautiful place, with park and coverts and a stream for fishing; but as
I was alone I found it dull, and several of these ladies and gentlemen
said to me, ‘Madame Louchard, why don’t you organize parties in the
style of picnics?’”

“Madame Louchard!” repeated la Peyrade, “are you any relation to
Monsieur Louchard of the commercial police?”

“His wife, monsieur, but legally separated from him. A horrid man who
wants me to go back to him; but I, though I’m ready to forgive most
things, I can’t forgive a want of respect; just imagine that he dared to
raise his hand against me!”

“Well,” said la Peyrade, trying to bring her back to the matter in
hand; “you organized those picnics, and Madame de Godo--I mean Madame
Komorn--”

“Was one of my first lodgers. It was there she made acquaintance with an
Italian, a handsome man, and rich, a political refugee, but one of the
lofty kind. You understand it didn’t suit my purposes to have intrigues
going on in my house; still the man was so lovable, and so unhappy
because he couldn’t make Madame Komorn like him, that at last I took an
interest in this particular love affair; which produced a pot of money
for madame, for she managed to get immense sums out of that Italian.
Well, would you believe that when--being just then in great need--I
asked her to assist me with a trifling little sum, she refused me
point-blank, and left my house, taking her lover with her, who, poor
man, can’t be thankful for the acquaintance now.”

“Why not? What happened to him?” asked la Peyrade.

“It happened to him that this serpent knows every language in Europe;
she is witty and clever to the tips of her fingers, but more manoeuvring
than either; so, being, as it appears, in close relations to the
police, she gave the government a lot of papers the Italian left about
carelessly, on which they expelled him from France.”

“Well, after his departure, Madame Komorn--”

“Since then, she has had a good many adventures and upset several
fortunes, and I thought she had left Paris. For the last two months
she was nowhere to be seen, but three days ago she reappeared, more
brilliant than ever. My advice to monsieur is not to trust himself
in that direction; and yet, monsieur looks to me a Southerner, and
Southerners have passions; perhaps what I have told him will only serve
to spur them up. However, being warned, there’s not so much danger, and
she is a most fascinating creature--oh! very fascinating. She used to
love me very much, though we parted such ill-friends; and just now,
seeing me here, she came over and asked my address, and said she should
come and see me.”

“Well, madame, I’ll think about it,” said la Peyrade, rising and bowing
to her.

The bow was returned with extreme coldness; his abrupt departure did not
show him to be a man of _serious_ intentions.

It might be supposed from the lively manner in which la Peyrade made
these inquiries that his cure though sudden was complete; but this
surface of indifference and cool self-possession was only the stillness
of the atmosphere that precedes a storm. On leaving Madame Louchard, la
Peyrade flung himself into a street-cab and there gave way to a passion
of tears like that Madame Colleville had witnessed on the day he
believed that Cerizet had got the better of him in the sale of the
house.

What was his position now? The investment of the Thuilliers, prepared
with so much care, all useless; Flavie well avenged for the odious
comedy he had played with her; his affairs in a worse state than they
were when Cerizet and Dutocq had sent him, like a devouring wolf, into
the sheepfold from which he had allowed the stupid sheep to drive him;
his heart full of revengeful projects against the woman who had so
easily got the better of what he thought his cleverness; and the memory,
still vivid, of the seductions to which he had succumbed,--such were
the thoughts and emotions of his sleepless night, sleepless except for
moments shaken by agitated dreams.

The next day la Peyrade could think no more; he was a prey to fever,
the violence of which became sufficiently alarming for the physician who
attended him to take all precautions against the symptoms now appearing
of brain fever: bleeding, cupping, leeches, and ice to his head; these
were the agreeable finale to his dream of love. We must hasten to add,
however, that this violent crisis in the physical led to a perfect cure
of the mental being. The barrister came out of his illness with no other
sentiment than cold contempt for the treacherous Hungarian, a sentiment
which did not even rise to a desire for vengeance.



CHAPTER IX. GIVE AND TAKE

Once more afoot, and reckoning with his future, on which he had lost so
much ground, la Peyrade asked himself if he had not better try to renew
his relations with the Thuilliers, or whether he should be compelled
to fall back on the rich crazy woman who had bullion where others have
brains. But everything that reminded him of his disastrous campaign was
repulsive to him; besides, what safety was there in dealing with this du
Portail, a man who could use such instruments for his means of action?

Great commotions of the soul are like those storms which purify the
atmosphere; they induce reflection, they counsel good and strong
resolutions. La Peyrade, as the result of the cruel disappointment he
had just endured, examined his own soul. He asked himself what sort of
existence was this, of base and ignoble intrigue, which he had led for
the past year? Was there for him no better, no nobler use to make of the
faculties he felt within him? The bar was open to him as to others; that
was a broad, straight path which could lead him to all the satisfaction
of legitimate ambition. Like Figaro, who displayed more science and
calculation in merely getting a living than statesmen had shown in
governing Spain for a hundred years, he, la Peyrade, in order to install
and maintain himself in the Thuillier household and marry the daughter
of a clarionet and a smirched coquette, had spent more mind, more art,
and--it should also be said, because in a corrupt society it is an
element that must be reckoned--more dishonesty than was needed to
advance him in some fine career.

“Enough of such connections as Dutocq and Cerizet,” he said to himself;
“enough of the nauseating atmosphere of the Minards and Phellions and
Collevilles and Barniols and all the rest of them. I’ll shake off this
province ‘intra muros,’ a thousand times more absurd and petty than the
true provinces; they at least, side by side with their pettiness, have
habits and customs that are characteristic, a ‘sui generis’ dignity;
they are frankly what they are, the antipodes of Parisian life; this
other is but a parody of it. I will fling myself upon Paris.”

In consequence of these reflections, la Peyrade went to see two or three
barristers who had offered to introduce him at the Palais in secondary
cases. He accepted those that presented themselves at once, and three
weeks after his rupture with the Thuilliers he was no longer the
“advocate of the poor,” but a barrister pleading before the Royal court.

He had already pleaded several cases successfully when he received,
one morning, a letter which greatly disturbed him. The president of the
order of barristers requested him to come to his office at the Palais in
the course of the day, as he had something of importance to say to him.
La Peyrade instantly thought of the transaction relating to the purchase
of the house on the boulevard de la Madeleine; it must have come,
he thought, to the ears of the Council of Discipline; if so he was
accountable to that tribunal and he knew its severity.

Now this du Portail, whom he had never yet been to see, in spite of his
conditional promise to Cerizet, was likely to have heard the whole
story of that transaction from Cerizet himself. Evidently all means
were thought good by that man, judging by the use he had made of the
Hungarian woman. In his savage determination to bring about the marriage
with the crazy girl, had this virulent old man denounced him? On seeing
him courageously and with some appearance of success entering a career
in which he might find fame and independence, had his persecutor taken
a step to make that career impossible? Certainly there was enough
likelihood in this suggestion to make the barrister wait in cruel
anxiety for the hour when he might learn the true nature of the alarming
summons.

While breakfasting rather meagrely, his mind full of these painful
conjectures, Madame Coffinet, who had the honor to take charge of his
housekeeping, came up to ask if he would see Monsieur Etienne Lousteau.
[See “The Great Man of the Provinces in Paris.”]

Etienne Lousteau! la Peyrade had an idea that he had heard the name
before.

“Show him into my office,” he said to the portress.

A moment later he met his visitor, whose face did not seem utterly
unknown to him.

“Monsieur,” said this new-comer, “I had the honor of breakfasting with
you not long ago at Vefour’s; I was invited to that meeting, afterwards
rather disturbed, by Monsieur Thuillier.”

“Ah, very good!” said the barrister, offering a chair; “you are attached
to the staff of a newspaper?”

“Editor-in-chief of the ‘Echo de la Bievre,’ and it is on the subject
of that paper that I have now called to see you. You know what has
happened?”

“No,” said la Peyrade.

“Is it possible you are not aware that the ministry met with terrible
defeat last night? But instead of resigning, as every one expected, they
have dissolved the Chamber and appeal to the people.”

“I knew nothing of all that,” said la Peyrade. “I have not read the
morning papers.”

“So,” continued Lousteau, “all parliamentary ambitions will take the
field, and, if I am well informed, Monsieur Thuillier, already member
of the Council-general, intends to present himself as candidate for
election in the 12th arrondissement.”

“Yes,” said la Peyrade, “that is likely to be his intention.”

“Well, monsieur, I desire to place at his disposition an instrument the
value of which I am confident you will not underestimate. The ‘Echo de
la Bievre,’ a specialist paper, can have a decisive influence on the
election in that quarter.”

“And you would be disposed,” asked la Peyrade, “to make that paper
support Monsieur Thuillier’s candidacy?”

“Better than that,” replied Lousteau. “I have come to propose to
Monsieur Thuillier that he purchase the paper itself. Once the
proprietor of it he can use it as he pleases.”

“But in the first place,” said la Peyrade, “what is the present
condition of the enterprise? In its character as a specialist
journal--as you called it just now--it is a sheet I have seldom met
with; in fact, it would be entirely unknown to me were it not for the
remarkable article you were so good as to devote to Thuillier’s defence
at the time his pamphlet was seized.”

Etienne Lousteau bowed his thanks, and then said:

“The position of the paper is excellent; we can give it to you on easy
terms, for we were intending shortly to stop the publication.”

“That is strange for a prosperous journal.”

“On the contrary, it happens to be quite natural. The founders, who were
all representatives of the great leather interest, started this paper
for a special object. That object has been attained. The ‘Echo de la
Bievre’ has therefore become an effect without a cause. In such a case,
stockholders who don’t like the tail end of matters, and are not eager
after small profits, very naturally prefer to sell out.”

“But,” asked la Peyrade, “does the paper pay its costs?”

“That,” replied Lousteau, “is a point we did not consider; we were not
very anxious to have subscribers; the mainspring of the whole affair
was direct and immediate action on the ministry of commerce to obtain a
higher duty on the introduction of foreign leathers. You understand that
outside of the tannery circle, this interest was not very exciting to
the general reader.”

“I should have thought, however,” persisted la Peyrade, “that a
newspaper, however circumscribed its action, would be a lever which
depended for its force on the number of its subscribers.”

“Not for journals which aim for a single definite thing,” replied
Lousteau, dogmatically. “In that case, subscribers are, on the contrary,
an embarrassment, for you have to please and amuse them, and in so
doing, the real object has to be neglected. A newspaper which has a
definite and circumscribed object ought to be like the stroke of that
pendulum which, striking steadily on one spot, fires at a given hour the
cannon of the Palais-Royal.”

“At any rate,” said la Peyrade, “what price do you put upon a
publication which has no subscribers, does not pay its expenses, and
has until now been devoted to a purpose totally different from that you
propose for it?”

“Before answering,” returned Lousteau, “I shall ask you another
question. Have you any intention of buying it?”

“That’s according to circumstances,” replied la Peyrade. “Of course
I must see Thuillier; but I may here remark to you that he knows
absolutely nothing about newspaper business. With his rather bourgeois
ideas, the ownership of a newspaper will seem to him a ruinous
speculation. Therefore, if, in addition to an idea that will scare him,
you suggest an alarming price, it is useless for me to speak to him. I
am certain he would never go into the affair.”

“No,” replied Lousteau. “I have told you we should be reasonable; these
gentlemen have left the whole matter in my hands. Only, I beg to remark
that we have had propositions from other parties, and in giving Monsieur
Thuillier this option, we intended to pay him a particular courtesy.
When can I have your answer?”

“To-morrow, I think; shall I have the honor of seeing you at your own
house, or at the office of the journal?”

“No,” said Lousteau, “to-morrow I will come here, at the same hour, if
that is convenient to you.”

“Perfectly,” replied la Peyrade, bowing out his visitor, whom he was
inclined to think more consequential than able.

By the manner in which the barrister had received the proposition to
become an intermediary to Thuillier, the reader must have seen that
a rapid revolution had taken place in his ideas. Even if he had not
received that extremely disquieting letter from the president of the
order of barristers, the new situation in which Thuillier would be
placed if elected to the Chamber gave him enough to think about.
Evidently his dear good friend would have to come back to him, and
Thuillier’s eagerness for election would deliver him over, bound hand
and foot. Was it not the right moment to attempt to renew his marriage
with Celeste? Far from being an obstacle to the good resolutions
inspired by his amorous disappointment and his incipient brain fever,
such a finale would ensure their continuance and success. Moreover, if
he received, as he feared, one of those censures which would ruin
his dawning prospects at the bar, it was with the Thuilliers, the
accomplices and beneficiaries of the cause of his fall, that his
instinct led him to claim an asylum.

With these thoughts stirring in his mind la Peyrade obeyed the summons
and went to see the president of the order of barristers.

He was not mistaken; a very circumstantial statement of his whole
proceeding in the matter of the house had been laid before his brethren
of the bar; and the highest dignitary of the order, after stating
that an anonymous denunciation ought always to be received with
great distrust, told him that he was ready to receive and welcome an
explanation. La Peyrade dared not entrench himself in absolute denial;
the hand from which he believed the blow had come seemed to him too
resolute and too able not to hold the proofs as well. But, while
admitting the facts in general, he endeavored to give them an acceptable
coloring. In this, he saw that he had failed, when the president said to
him:--

“After the vacation which is now beginning I shall report to the Council
of the order the charges made against you, and the statements by which
you have defended yourself. The Council alone has the right to decide on
a matter of such importance.”

Thus dismissed, la Peyrade felt that his whole future at the bar was
imperilled; but at least he had a respite, and in case of condemnation a
new project on which to rest his head. Accordingly, he put on his gown,
which he had never worn till now, and went to the fifth court-room,
where he was employed upon a case.

As he left the court-room, carrying one of those bundles of legal papers
held together by a strip of cotton which, being too voluminous to hold
under the arm, are carried by the hand and the forearm pressed against
the chest, la Peyrade began to pace about the Salle des Pas perdus with
that harassed look of business which denotes a lawyer overwhelmed with
work. Whether he had really excited himself in pleading, or whether he
was pretending to be exhausted to prove that his gown was not a dignity
for show, as it was with many of his legal brethren, but an armor
buckled on for the fight, it is certain that, handkerchief in hand, he
was mopping his forehead as he walked, when, in the distance, he spied
Thuillier, who had evidently just caught sight of him, and was beginning
on his side to manoeuvre.

La Peyrade was not surprised by the encounter. On leaving home he had
told Madame Coffinet he was going to the Palais, and should be there
till three o’clock, and she might send to him any persons who called on
business. Not wishing to let Thuillier accost him too easily, he turned
abruptly, as if some thought had changed his purpose, and went and
seated himself on one of the benches which surround the walls of that
great antechamber of Justice. There he undid his bundle, took out a
paper, and buried himself in it with the air of a man who had not had
time to examine in his study a case he was about to plead. It is not
necessary to say that while doing this the Provencal was watching
the manoeuvres of Thuillier out of the corner of his eye. Thuillier,
believing that la Peyrade was really occupied in some serious business,
hesitated to approach him.

However, after sundry backings and fillings the municipal councillor
made up his mind, and sailing straight before the wind he headed for the
spot he had been reconnoitring for the last ten minutes.

“Bless me, Theodose!” he cried as soon as he had got within hailing
distance. “Do you come to the Palais now?”

“It seems to me,” replied Theodose, “that barristers at the Palais are
like Turks at Constantinople, where a friend of mine affirmed you could
see a good many. It is YOU whom it is rather surprising to see here.”

“Not at all,” said Thuillier, carelessly. “I’ve come about that cursed
pamphlet. Is there ever any end to your legal bothers? I was summoned
here this morning, but I don’t regret it, as it gives me the happy
chance of meeting you.”

“I, too,” said la Peyrade, tying up his bundle. “I am very glad to see
you, but I must leave you now; I have an appointment, and I suppose you
want to do your business at once.”

“I have done it,” said Thuillier.

“Did you speak to Olivier Vinet, that mortal enemy of yours? he sits in
that court,” asked la Peyrade.

“No,” said Thuillier, naming another official.

“Well, that’s queer!” said the barrister; “that fellow must have the
gift of ubiquity; he has been all the morning in the fifth court-room,
and has just this minute given a judgment on a case I pleaded.”

Thuillier colored, and got out of his hobble as best he could. “Oh, hang
it!” he said; “those men in gowns are all alike, I don’t know one from
another.”

La Peyrade shrugged his shoulders and said aloud, but as if to himself:
“Always the same; crafty, crooked, never straightforward.”

“Whom are you talking about?” asked Thuillier, rather nonplussed.

“Why, of you, my dear fellow, who take me for an imbecile, as if I and
the whole world didn’t know that your pamphlet business came to an end
two weeks ago. Why, then, summon you to court?”

“Well, I was sent for,” said Thuillier, with embarrassment; “something
about registry fees,--it is all Greek to me, I can’t comprehend their
scrawls.”

“And they chose,” said la Peyrade, “precisely the very day when the
Moniteur, announcing the dissolution of the Chamber, made you think
about being a candidate for the 12th arrondissement.”

“Why not?” asked Thuillier, “what has my candidacy to do with the fees I
owe to the court?”

“I’ll tell you,” said la Peyrade, dryly. “The court is a thing
essentially amiable and complaisant. ‘Tiens!’ it said to itself, ‘here’s
this good Monsieur Thuillier going to be a candidate for the Chamber;
how hampered he’ll be by his attitude to his ex-friend Monsieur de la
Peyrade, with whom he wishes now he hadn’t quarrelled. I’ll summon him
for fees he doesn’t owe; that will bring him to the Palais where la
Peyrade comes daily; and in that way he can meet him by chance, and so
avoid taking a step which would hurt his self-love.”

“Well, there you are mistaken!” cried Thuillier, breaking the ice. “I
used so little craft, as you call it, that I’ve just come from your
house, there! and your portress told me where to find you.”

“Well done!” said la Peyrade, “I like this frankness; I can get on with
men who play above-board. Well, what do you want of me? Have you come to
talk about your election? I have already begun to work for it.”

“No, really?” said Thuillier, “how?”

“Here,” replied la Peyrade, feeling under his gown for his pocket
and bringing out a paper, “here’s what I scribbled just now in the
court-room while the lawyer on the other side rambled on like an
expert.”

“What is it about?” asked Thuillier.

“Read and you’ll see.”

The paper read as follows:--

  Estimate for a newspaper, small size, at thirty francs a year.

  Calculating the editions at 5,000 the costs are:--

    Paper, 5 reams at 12 francs  . . . . . . . . . . 1,860 francs.
    Composition  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,400    ”
     Printing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   450    ”
     One administrator  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   250    ”
     One clerk  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   100    ”
     One editor (also cashier)  . . . . . . . . . . .   200    ”
     One despatcher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   100    ”
     Folders  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   120    ”
     One office boy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    80    ”
     Office expenses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   150    ”
     Rent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   100    ”
     License and postage  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7,500    ”
     Reporting and stenographic news  . . . . . . . . 1,800    ”
                                                   ---------

                                        Total monthly, 15,110 ”
                                         “ yearly,     181,320 ”


“Do you want to set up a paper?” asked Thuillier, in dread.

“I?” asked la Peyrade, “I want nothing at all; you are the one to be
asked if you want to be a deputy.”

“Undoubtedly I do; because, when you urged me to become a municipal
councillor, you put the idea into my head. But reflect, my dear
Theodose, one hundred and eighty one thousand three hundred and twenty
francs to put out! Have I a fortune large enough to meet such a demand?”

“Yes,” said la Peyrade, “you could very well support that expense, for
considering the end you want to obtain there is nothing exorbitant
in it. In England they make much greater sacrifices to get a seat in
Parliament; but in any case, I beg you to observe that the costs are
very high on that estimate, and some could be cut off altogether. For
instance, you would not want an administrator. You, yourself, an old
accountant, and I, an old journalist, can very well manage the affair
between us. Also rent, we needn’t count that; you have your old
apartment in the rue Saint-Dominique which is not yet leased; that will
make a fine newspaper office.”

“All that costs off two thousand four hundred francs a year,” said
Thuillier.

“Well, that’s something; but your error consists in calculating on the
yearly cost. When do the elections take place?”

“In two months,” said Thuillier.

“Very good; two months will cost you thirty thousand francs, even
supposing the paper had no subscribers.”

“True,” said Thuillier, “the expense is certainly less than I thought at
first. But does a newspaper really seem to you essential?”

“So essential that without that power in our hands, I won’t have
anything to do with the election. You don’t seem to see, my poor fellow,
that in going to live in the other quarter you have lost, electorally
speaking, an immense amount of ground. You are no longer the man of the
place, and your election could be balked by the cry of what the English
call ‘absenteeism.’ This makes your game very hard to play.”

“I admit that,” said Thuillier; “but there are so many things wanted
besides money,--a name for one thing, a manager, editorial staff, and so
forth.”

“A name, we have one made to hand; editors, they are you and I and a
few young fellows who grow on every bush in Paris. As for the manager, I
have a man in view.”

“What name is it?” asked Thuillier.

“L’Echo de la Bievre.”

“But there is already a paper of that name.”

“Precisely, and that’s why I give my approval to the affair. Do you
think I should be fool enough to advise you to start an entirely new
paper? ‘Echo de la Bievre!’ that title is a treasure to a man who wants
support for his candidacy in the 12th arrondissement. Say the word only,
and I put that treasure into your hands.”

“How?” asked Thuillier, with curiosity.

“Parbleu! by buying it; it can be had for a song.”

“There now, you see,” said Thuillier in a discouraged tone; “you never
counted in the cost of purchase.”

“How you dwell on nothings!” said la Peyrade, hunching his shoulders;
“we have other and more important difficulties to solve.”

“Other difficulties?” echoed Thuillier.

“Parbleu!” exclaimed la Peyrade; “do you suppose that after all that has
taken place between us I should boldly harness myself to your election
without knowing exactly what benefit I am to get for it?”

“But,” said Thuillier, rather astonished, “I thought that friendship was
a good exchange for such services.”

“Yes; but when the exchange consists in one side giving all and the
other side nothing, friendship gets tired of that sort of sharing, and
asks for something a little better balanced.”

“But, my dear Theodose, what have I to offer you that you have not
already rejected?”

“I rejected it, because it was offered without heartiness, and seasoned
with Mademoiselle Brigitte’s vinegar; every self-respecting man would
have acted as I did. Give and keep don’t pass, as the old legal saying
is; but that is precisely what you persist in doing.”

“I!--I think you took offence very unreasonably; but the engagement
might be renewed.”

“So be it,” replied la Peyrade; “but I will not put myself at the
mercy of either the success of the election or Mademoiselle Celeste’s
caprices. I claim the right to something positive and certain. Give and
take; short accounts make good friends.”

“I perfectly agree with you,” said Thuillier, “and I have always treated
you with too much good faith to fear any of these precautions you now
want to take. But what guarantees do you want?”

“I want that the husband of Celeste should manage your election, and not
Theodose de la Peyrade.”

“By hurrying things as much as possible, so Brigitte said, it would
still take fifteen days; and just think, with the elections only eight
weeks off, to lose two of them doing nothing!”

“Day after to-morrow,” replied la Peyrade, “the banns can be published
for the first time at the mayor’s office, in the intervals of
publication some things could be done, for though the publishing of the
banns is not a step from which there is no retreat, it is at least a
public pledge and a long step taken; after that we can get your notary
to draw the contract at once. Moreover, if you decide on buying this
newspaper, I shouldn’t be afraid that you would go back on me, for you
don’t want a useless horse in your stable, and without me I am certain
you can’t manage him.”

“But, my dear fellow,” said Thuillier, going back to his objections,
“suppose that affair proves too onerous?”

“There’s no need to say that you are the sole judge of the conditions of
the purchase. I don’t wish any more than you do to buy a pig in a poke.
If to-morrow you authorize me, I won’t say to buy, but to let these
people know that you may possibly make the purchase, I’ll confer with
one of them on your behalf, and you may be certain that I’ll stand up
for your interests as if they were my own.”

“Very good, my dear fellow,” said Thuillier, “go ahead!”

“And as soon as the paper is purchased we are to fix the day for signing
the contract?”

“Yes,” replied Thuillier; “but will you bind yourself to use your utmost
influence on the election?”

“As if it were my own,” replied la Peyrade, “which, by the bye, is not
altogether an hypothesis. I have already received suggestions about my
own candidacy, and if I were vindictive--”

“Certainly,” said Thuillier, with humility, “you would make a better
deputy than I; but you are not of the required age, I think.”

“There’s a better reason than that,” said la Peyrade; “you are my
friend; I find you again what you once were, and I shall keep the
pledges I have given you. As for the election, I prefer that people say
of me, ‘He makes deputies, but will be none himself.’ Now I must leave
you and keep my appointment. To-morrow in my own rooms, come and see me;
I shall have something to announce.”

Whoso has ever been a newspaper man will ever be one; that horoscope
is as sure and certain as that of drunkards. Whoever has tasted that
feverishly busy and relatively lazy and independent life; whoever has
exercised that sovereignty which criticises intellect, art, talent,
fame, virtue, absurdity, and even truth; whoever has occupied that
tribune erected by his own hands, fulfilled the functions of that
magistracy to which he is self-appointed,--in short, whosoever has
been, for however brief a span, that proxy of public opinion, looks
upon himself when remanded to private life as an exile, and the moment
a chance is offered to him puts out an eager hand to snatch back his
crown.

For this reason when Etienne Lousteau went to la Peyrade, a former
journalist, with an offer of the weapon entitled the “Echo de la
Bievre,” all the latter’s instincts as a newspaper man were aroused, in
spite of the very inferior quality of the blade. The paper had failed;
la Peyrade believed he could revive it. The subscribers, on the vendor’s
own showing, were few and far between, but he would exercise upon them a
“compelle intrare” both powerful and irresistible. In the circumstances
under which the affair was presented to him it might surely be
considered provincial. Threatened with the loss of his position at the
bar, he was thus acquiring, as we said before, a new position and that
of a “detached fort”; compelled, as he might be, to defend himself, he
could from that vantage-ground take the offensive and oblige his enemies
to reckon with him.

On the Thuillier side, the newspaper would undoubtedly make him a
personage of considerable importance; he would have more power on the
election; and by involving their capital in an enterprise which,
without him, they would feel a gulf and a snare, he bound them to him
by self-interests so firmly that there was nothing to fear from their
caprice or ingratitude.

This horizon, rapidly taken in during Etienne Lousteau’s visit, had
fairly dazzled the Provencal, and we have seen the peremptory manner
in which Thuillier was forced into accepting with some enthusiasm the
discovery of this philosopher’s-stone.

The cost of the purchase was ridiculously insignificant. A bank-note for
five hundred francs, for which Etienne Lousteau never clearly accounted
to the share-holders, put Thuillier in possession of the name, property,
furniture, and good-will of the newspaper, which he and la Peyrade at
once busied themselves in reorganizing.



CHAPTER X. IN WHICH CERIZET PRACTISES THE HEALING ART AND

THE ART OF POISONING ON THE SAME DAY

While this regeneration was going on, Cerizet went one morning to see du
Portail, with whom la Peyrade was now more than ever determined to hold
no communication.

“Well,” said the little old man to the poor man’s banker, “what effect
did the news we gave to the president of the bar produce on our man? Did
the affair get wind at the Palais?”

“Phew!” said Cerizet, whose intercourse, no doubt pretty frequent, with
du Portail had put him on a footing of some familiarity with the old
man, “there’s no question of that now. The eel has wriggled out of our
hands; neither softness nor violence has any effect upon that devil of
a man. He has quarrelled with the bar, and is in better odor than
ever with Thuillier. ‘Necessity,’ says Figaro, ‘obliterates distance.’
Thuillier needs him to push his candidacy in the quartier Saint-Jacques,
so they kissed and made up.”

“And no doubt,” said du Portail, without much appearance of feeling,
“the marriage is fixed for an early day?”

“Yes,” replied Cerizet, “but there’s another piece of work on hand. That
crazy fellow has persuaded Thuillier to buy a newspaper, and he’ll make
him sink forty thousand francs in it. Thuillier, once involved, will
want to get his money back, and in my opinion they are bound together
for the rest of their days.”

“What paper is it?”

“Oh, a cabbage-leaf that calls itself the ‘Echo de la Bievre’!” replied
Cerizet with great scorn; “a paper which an old hack of a journalist on
his last legs managed to set up in the Mouffetard quarter by the help of
a lot of tanners--that, you know, is the industry of the quarter. From
a political and literary point of view the affair is nothing at all, but
Thuillier has been made to think it a masterly stroke.”

“Well, for local service to the election the instrument isn’t so bad,”
 remarked du Portail. “La Peyrade has talent, activity, and much resource
of mind; he may make something out of that ‘Echo.’ Under what political
banner will Thuillier present himself?”

“Thuillier,” replied the beggars’ banker, “is an oyster; he hasn’t any
opinions. Until the publication of his pamphlet he was, like all those
bourgeois, a rabid conservative; but since the seizure he has gone over
to the Opposition. His first stage will probably be the Left-centre; but
if the election wind should blow from another quarter, he’ll go straight
before it to the extreme left. Self-interest, for those bourgeois,
that’s the measure of their convictions.”

“Dear, dear!” said du Portail, “this new combination of la Peyrade’s may
assume the importance of a political danger from the point of view of
my opinions, which are extremely conservative and governmental.” Then,
after a moment’s reflection, he added, “I think you did newspaper work
once upon a time; I remember ‘the courageous Cerizet.’”

“Yes,” replied the usurer, “I even managed one with la Peyrade,--an
evening paper; and a pretty piece of work we did, for which we were
finely recompensed.”

“Well,” said du Portail, “why don’t you do it again,--journalism, I
mean,--with la Peyrade.”

Cerizet looked at du Portail in amazement.

“Ah ca!” he cried, “are you the devil, monsieur? Can nothing ever be
hidden from you?”

“Yes,” said du Portail, “I know a good many things. But what has been
settled between you and la Peyrade?”

“Well, remembering my experience in the business, and not knowing whom
else to get, he offered to make me manager of the paper.”

“I did not know that,” said du Portail, “but it was quite probable. Did
you accept?”

“Conditionally; I asked time for reflection. I wanted to know what you
thought of the offer.”

“Parbleu! I think that out of an evil that can’t be remedied we should
get, as the proverb says, wing or foot. I had rather see you inside than
outside of that enterprise.”

“Very good; but in order to get into it there’s a difficulty. La Peyrade
knows I have debts, and he won’t help me with the thirty-three-thousand
francs’ security which must be paid down in my name. I haven’t got them,
and if I had, I wouldn’t show them and expose myself to the insults of
creditors.”

“You must have a good deal left of that twenty-five thousand francs la
Peyrade paid you not more than two months ago,” remarked du Portail.

“Only two thousand two hundred francs and fifty centimes,” replied
Cerizet. “I was adding it up last night; the rest has all gone to pay
off pressing debts.”

“But if you have paid your debts you haven’t any creditors.”

“Yes, those I’ve paid, but those I haven’t paid I still owe.”

“Do you mean to tell me that your liabilities were more than twenty-five
thousand francs?” said du Portail, in a tone of incredulity.

“Does a man go into bankruptcy for less?” replied Cerizet, as though he
were enunciating a maxim.

“Well, I see I am expected to pay that sum myself,” said du Portail,
crossly; “but the question is whether the utility of your presence
in this enterprise is worth to me the interest on one hundred
and thirty-three thousand, three hundred and thirty-three francs,
thirty-three centimes.”

“Hang it!” said Cerizet, “if I were once installed near Thuillier, I
shouldn’t despair of soon putting him and la Peyrade at loggerheads.
In the management of a newspaper there are lots of inevitable
disagreements, and by always taking the side of the fool against the
clever man, I can increase the conceit of one and wound the conceit of
the other until life together becomes impossible. Besides, you spoke
just now of political danger; now the manager of a newspaper, as you
ought to know, when he has the intellect to be something better than a
man of straw, can quietly give his sheet a push in the direction wanted.

“There’s a good deal of truth in that,” said du Portail, “but defeat to
la Peyrade, that’s what I am thinking about.”

“Well,” said Cerizet, “I think I have another nice little insidious
means of demolishing him with Thuillier.”

“Say what it is, then!” exclaimed du Portail, impatiently; “you go
round and round the pot as if I were a man it would do you some good to
finesse with.”

“You remember,” said Cerizet, coming out with it, “that some time ago
Dutocq and I were much puzzled to know how la Peyrade was, all of a
sudden, able to make that payment of twenty-five thousand francs?”

“Ha!” said the old man quickly, “have you discovered the origin of that
very improbable sum in our friend’s hands; and is that origin shady?”

“You shall judge,” said Cerizet.

And he related in all its details the affair of Madame Lambert,--adding,
however, that on questioning the woman closely at the office of the
justice-of-peace, after the meeting with la Peyrade, he had been unable
to extract from her any confession, although by her whole bearing she
had amply confirmed the suspicions of Dutocq and himself.

“Madame Lambert, rue du Val-de-Grace, No. 9; at the house of Monsieur
Picot, professor of mathematics,” said du Portail, as he made a note of
the information. “Very good,” he added; “come back and see me to-morrow,
my dear Monsieur Cerizet.”

“But please remark,” said the usurer, “that I must give an answer to
la Peyrade in the course of to-day. He is in a great hurry to start the
business.”

“Very well; you must accept, asking a delay of twenty-four hours to
obtain your security. If, after making certain inquiries I see it is
more to my interests not to meddle in the affair, you can get out of it
by merely breaking your word; you can’t be sent to the court of assizes
for that.”

Independently of a sort of inexplicable fascination which du Portail
exercised over his agent, he never lost an opportunity to remind him of
the very questionable point of departure of their intercourse.

The next day Cerizet returned.

“You guessed right,” said du Portail. “That woman Lambert, being obliged
to conceal the existence of her booty, and wanting to draw interest
on her stolen property, must have taken it into her head to consult
la Peyrade; his devout exterior may have recommended him to her. She
probably gave him that money without taking a receipt. In what kind of
money was Dutocq paid?”

“In nineteen thousand-franc notes, and twelve of five-hundred francs.”

“That’s precisely it,” said du Portail. “There can’t be the slightest
doubt left. Now, what use do you expect to make of this information
bearing upon Thuillier.”

“I expect to put it into his head that la Peyrade, to whom he is going
to give his goddaughter and heiress, is over head and ears in debt;
that he makes enormous secret loans; and that in order to get out of
his difficulties he means to gnaw the newspaper to the bone; and I shall
insinuate that the position of a man so much in debt must be known to
the public before long, and become a fatal blow to the candidate whose
right hand he is.”

“That’s not bad,” said du Portail; “but there’s another and even more
conclusive use to be made of the discovery.”

“Tell me, master; I’m listening,” said Cerizet.

“Thuillier has not yet been able, has he, to explain to himself the
reason of the seizure of the pamphlet?”

“Yes, he has,” replied Cerizet. “La Peyrade was telling me only
yesterday, by way of explaining Thuillier’s idiotic simplicity, that he
had believed a most ridiculous bit of humbug. The ‘honest bourgeois’
is persuaded that the seizure was instigated by Monsieur Olivier Vinet,
substitute to the procureur-general. The young man aspired for a moment
to the hand of Mademoiselle Colleville, and the worthy Thuillier has
been made to imagine that the seizure of his pamphlet was a revenge for
the refusal.”

“Good!” said du Portail; “to-morrow, as a preparation for the other
version of which you are to be the organ, Thuillier shall receive from
Monsieur Vinet a very sharp and decided denial of the abuse of power he
foolishly gave ear to.”

“Will he?” said Cerizet, with curiosity.

“But another explanation must take its place,” continued du Portail;
“you must assure Thuillier that he is the victim of police machinations.
That is all the police is good for, you know,--machinations.”

“I know that very well; I’ve made that affirmation scores of times when
I was working for the republican newspapers and--”

“When you were ‘the courageous Cerizet,’” interrupted du Portail. “Well,
the present machination, here it is. The government was much displeased
at seeing Thuillier elected without its influence to the Council-general
of the Seine; it was angry with an independent and patriotic citizen
who showed by his candidacy that he could do without it; and it learned,
moreover, that this excellent citizen was preparing a pamphlet on
the subject, always a delicate one, of the finances, as to which this
dangerous adversary had great experience. So, what did this essentially
corrupt government do? It suborned a man in whom, as it learned,
Thuillier placed confidence, and for a sum of twenty-five thousand
francs (a mere trifle to the police), this treacherous friend agreed
to insert into the pamphlet three or four phrases which exposed it
to seizure and caused its author to be summoned before the court
of assizes. Now the way to make the explanation clinch the doubt in
Thuillier’s mind is to let him know that the next day la Peyrade, who,
as Thuillier knew, hadn’t a sou, paid Dutocq precisely that very sum of
twenty-five thousand francs.”

“The devil!” cried Cerizet, “it isn’t a bad trick. Fellows of the
Thuillier species will believe anything against the police.”

“We shall see, then,” continued du Portail, “whether Thuillier will want
to keep such a collaborator beside him, and above all, whether he will
be so eager to give him his goddaughter.”

“You are a strong man, monsieur,” said Cerizet, again expressing his
approbation; “but I must own that I feel some scruples at the part
assigned me. La Peyrade came and offered me the management of the paper,
and, you see, I should be working to evict him.”

“And that lease he knocked you out of in spite of his promises, have you
forgotten that?” asked the little old man. “Besides, are we not aiming
for his happiness, though the obstinate fellow persists in thwarting our
benevolent intentions?”

“It is true,” said Cerizet, “that the result will absolve me. Yes, I’ll
go resolutely along the ingenious path you’ve traced out for me. But
there’s one thing more: I can’t fling my revelation at Thuillier’s head
at the very first; I must have time to prepare the way for it, but that
security will have to be paid in immediately.”

“Listen to me, Monsieur Cerizet,” said du Portail, in a tone of
authority; “if the marriage of la Peyrade to my ward takes place it is
my intention to reward your services, and the sum of thirty thousand
francs will be your perquisite. Now, thirty thousand from one side and
twenty-five thousand from the other makes precisely fifty-five thousand
francs that the matrimonial vicissitudes of your friend la Peyrade will
have put into your pocket. But, as country people do at the shows of
a fair, I shall not pay till I come out. If you take that money out of
your own hoard I shall feel no anxiety; you will know how to keep it
from the clutches of your creditors. If, on the contrary, my money is
at stake, you will have neither the same eagerness nor the same
intelligence in keeping it out of danger. Therefore arrange your affairs
so that you can pay down your own thirty-three thousand; in case of
success, that sum will bring you in pretty nearly a hundred per cent.
That’s my last word, and I shall not listen to any objections.”

Cerizet had no time to make any, for at that moment the door of du
Portail’s study opened abruptly, and a fair, slender woman, whose face
expressed angelic sweetness, entered the room eagerly. On her arm,
wrapped in handsome long clothes, lay what seemed to be the form of an
infant.

“There!” she said, “that naughty Katte insisted that the doctor was not
here. I knew perfectly well that I had seen him enter. Well, doctor,”
 she continued, addressing Cerizet, “I am not satisfied with the
condition of my little one, not satisfied at all; she is very pallid,
and has grown so thin. I think she must be teething.”

Du Portail made Cerizet a sign to accept the role so abruptly thrust
upon him.

“Yes, evidently,” he said, “it is the teeth; children always turn pale
at that crisis; but there’s nothing in that, my dear lady, that need
make you anxious.”

“Do you really think so, doctor,” said the poor crazed girl, whom our
readers have recognized as du Portail’s ward, Lydie de la Peyrade; “but
see her dear little arms, how thin they are getting.”

Then taking out the pins that fastened the swathings, she exhibited to
Cerizet a bundle of linen which to her poor distracted mind represented
a baby.

“Why, no, no,” said Cerizet, “she is a trifle thin, it is true, but the
flesh is firm and her color excellent.”

“Poor darling!” said Lydie, kissing her dream lovingly. “I do think
she is better since morning. What had I better give her, doctor? Broth
disgusts her, and she won’t take soup.”

“Well,” said Cerizet, “try panada. Does she like sweet things?”

“Oh, yes!” cried the poor girl, her face brightening, “she adores them.
Would chocolate be good for her?”

“Certainly,” replied Cerizet, “but without vanilla; vanilla is very
heating.”

“Then I’ll get what they call health-chocolate,” said Lydie, with all
the intonations of a mother, listening to the doctor as to a god who
reassured her. “Uncle,” she added, “please ring for Bruneau, and tell
him to go to Marquis at once and get some pounds of that chocolate.”

“Bruneau has just gone out,” said her guardian; “but there’s no hurry,
he shall go in the course of the day.”

“There, she is going to sleep,” said Cerizet, anxious to put an end
to the scene, which, in spite of his hardened nature, he felt to be
painful.

“True,” said the girl, replacing the bandages and rising; “I’ll put her
to bed. Adieu, doctor; it is very kind of you to come sometimes without
being sent for. If you knew how anxious we poor mothers are, and how,
with a word or two, you can do us such good. Ah, there she is crying!”

“She is so sleepy,” said Cerizet; “she’ll be much better in her cradle.”

“Yes, and I’ll play her that sonata of Beethoven that dear papa was so
fond of; it is wonderful how calming it is. Adieu, doctor,” she said
again, pausing on the threshold of the door. “Adieu, kind doctor!” And
she sent him a kiss.

Cerizet was quite overcome.

“You see,” said du Portail, “that she is an angel,--never the least
ill-humor, never a sharp word; sad sometimes, but always caused by a
feeling of motherly solicitude. That is what first gave the doctors the
idea that if reality could take the place of her constant hallucination
she might recover her reason. Well, this is the girl that fool of a
Peyrade refuses, with the accompaniment of a magnificent ‘dot.’ But
he must come to it, or I’ll forswear my name. Listen,” he added as the
sound of a piano came to them; “hear! what talent! Thousands of sane
women can’t compare with her; they are not as reasonable as she is,
except on the surface.”

When Beethoven’s sonata, played from the soul with a perfection of
shades and tones that filled her hardened hearer with admiration, had
ceased to sound, Cerizet said:--

“I agree with you, monsieur; la Peyrade refuses an angel, a treasure, a
pearl, and if I were in his place--But we shall bring him round to your
purpose. Now I shall serve you not only with zeal, but with enthusiasm,
I may say fanaticism.”

As Cerizet was concluding this oath of fidelity at the door of the
study, he heard a woman’s voice which was not that of Lydie.

“Is he in his study, the dear commander?” said that voice, with a
slightly foreign accent.

“Yes, madame, but please come into the salon. Monsieur is not alone; I
will tell him you are here.”

This was the voice of Katte, the old Dutch maid.

“Stop, go this way,” said du Portail quickly to Cerizet.

And he opened a hidden door which led through a dark corridor directly
to the staircase, whence Cerizet betook himself to the office of the
“Echo de la Bievre,” where a heated discussion was going on.

The article by which the new editors of every newspaper lay before the
public their “profession of faith,” as the technical saying is, always
produces a laborious and difficult parturition. In this particular case
it was necessary, if not openly to declare Thuillier’s candidacy, to at
least make it felt and foreseen. The terms of the manifesto, after la
Peyrade had made a rough draft of it, were discussed at great length.
This discussion took place in Cerizet’s presence, who, acting on du
Portail’s advice, accepted the management, but postponed the payment
of the security till the next day, through the latitude allowed in all
administrations for the accomplishment of that formality.

Cleverly egged on by this master-knave, who, from the start, made
himself Thuillier’s flatterer, the discussion became stormy, and
presently bitter; but as, by the deed of partnership the deciding word
was left to la Peyrade in all matters concerning the editorship, he
finally closed it by sending the manifesto, precisely as he had written
it, to the printing office.

Thuillier was incensed at what he called an abuse of power, and finding
himself alone with Cerizet later in the day, he hastened to pour his
griefs and resentments into the bosom of his faithful manager, thus
affording the latter a ready-made and natural opportunity to insinuate
the calumnious revelation agreed upon with du Portail. Leaving the knife
in the wound, Cerizet went out to make certain arrangements to obtain
the money necessary for his bond.

Tortured by the terrible revelation, Thuillier could not keep it to
himself; he felt the need of confiding it, and of talking over the
course he would be compelled to take by this infernal discovery. Sending
for a carriage he drove home, and half an hour later he had told the
whole story to his Egeria.

Brigitte had from the first very vehemently declared against all the
determinations made by Thuillier during the last few days. For no
purpose whatever, not even for the sake of her brother’s election,
would she agree to a renewal of the relation to la Peyrade. In the
first place, she had treated him badly, and that was a strong reason
for disliking him; then, in case that adventurer, as she now called him,
married Celeste, the fear of her authority being lessened gave her a
species of second-sight; she had ended by having an intuitive sense of
the dark profundities of the man’s nature, and now declared that under
no circumstances and for no possible price would she make one household
with him.

“Ruin yourself if you choose,” she said, “you are the master of that,
and you can do as you like; a fool and his money are soon parted.”

When, therefore, she listened to her brother’s confidences it was
not with reproaches, but, on the contrary, with a crow of triumph,
celebrating the probable return of her power, that she welcomed them.

“So much the better!” she cried; “it is well to know at last that the
man is a spy. I always thought so, the canting bigot! Turn him out of
doors without an explanation. WE don’t want him to work that newspaper.
This Monsieur Cerizet seems, from what you tell me, the right sort of
man, and we can get another manager. Besides, when Madame de Godollo
went away she promised to write to me; and she can easily put us in the
way of finding some one. Poor, dear Celeste! what a fate we were going
to give her!”

“How you run on!” said Thuillier. “La Peyrade, my dear, is so far only
accused. He must be heard in his defence. And besides, there’s a deed
that binds us.”

“Ah, very good!” said Brigitte; “I see how it will be; you’ll let that
man twist you round his finger again. A deed with a spy! As if there
could be deeds with such fellows.”

“Come, come, be calm, my good Brigitte,” returned Thuillier. “We
mustn’t do anything hastily. Certainly, if la Peyrade cannot furnish
a justification, clear, categorical, and convincing, I shall decide to
break with him, and I’ll prove to you that I am no milksop. But Cerizet
himself is not certain; these are mere inductions, and I only came
to consult you as to whether I ought, or ought not, to demand an
explanation outright.”

“Not a doubt about it,” replied Brigitte. “You ought to demand an
explanation and go to the bottom of this thing; if you don’t, I cast you
off as my brother.”

“That suffices,” said Thuillier, leaving the room with solemnity; “you
shall see that we will come to an understanding.”



CHAPTER XI. EXPLANATIONS AND WHAT CAME OF THEM

On his return to the office after his conference with Brigitte,
Thuillier found la Peyrade at his post as editor-in-chief, and in a
position of much embarrassment, caused by the high hand he had reserved
for himself as the sole selector of articles and contributors. At this
moment, Phellion, instigated by his family, and deeply conscious of his
position on the reading-committee of the Odeon, had come to offer his
services as dramatic critic.

“My dear monsieur,” he said, continuing his remarks to la Peyrade, after
inquiring of Thuillier about his health, “I was a great student of the
theatre in my youth; the stage and its scenic effects continue to have
for me peculiar attractions; and the white hairs which crown my
brow to-day seem to me no obstacle to my allowing your interesting
publication to profit by the fruit of my studies and my experience. As
member of the reading-committee of the Odeon theatre, I am conversant
with the modern drama, and--if I may be quite sure of your discretion--I
will even confide to you that among my papers it would not be impossible
for me to find a certain tragedy entitled ‘Sapor,’ which in my young
days won me some fame when read in salons.”

“Ah!” said la Peyrade, endeavoring to gild the refusal he should be
forced to give, “why not try to have it put upon the stage? We might be
able to help you in that direction.”

“Certainly,” said Thuillier, “the director of any theatre to whom we
should recommend--”

“No,” replied Phellion. “In the first place, as member of the
reading-committee of the Odeon, having to sit in judgment upon others,
it would not become me to descend into the arena myself. I am an old
athlete, whose business it is to judge of blows he can no longer give.
In this sense, criticism is altogether within my sphere, and all the
more because I have certain views on the proper method of composing
dramatic feuilletons which I think novel. The ‘castigat ridendo mores’
ought to be, according to my humble lights, the great law, I may say the
only law of the stage. I should therefore show myself pitiless for those
works, bred of imagination, in which morality has no part, and to which
mothers of families--”

“Excuse me,” said la Peyrade, “for interrupting you; but before allowing
you to take the trouble to develop your poetical ideas, I ought to tell
you that we have already made arrangements for our dramatic criticism.”

“Ah! that’s another thing,” said Phellion; “an honest man must keep his
word.”

“Yes,” said Thuillier, “we have our dramatic critic, little thinking
that you would offer us your valuable assistance.”

“Well,” said Phellion, suddenly becoming crafty,--for there is something
in the newspaper atmosphere, impossible to say what, which flies to
the head, the bourgeois head especially,--“since you are good enough to
consider my pen capable of doing you some service, perhaps a series of
detached thoughts on different subjects, to which I should venture to
give the name of ‘Diversities,’ might be of a nature to interest your
readers.”

“Yes,” said la Peyrade, with a maliciousness that was quite lost upon
Phellion, “thoughts, especially in the style of la Rochefoucauld or la
Bruyere, might do. What do you think yourself, Thuillier?”

He reserved to himself the right to leave the responsibility of
refusals, as far as he could, to the proprietor of the paper.

“But I imagine that thoughts, especially if detached, cannot be very
consecutive,” said Thuillier.

“Evidently not,” replied Phellion; “detached thoughts imply the idea of
a very great number of subjects on which the author lets his pen stray
without the pretension of presenting a whole.”

“You will of course sign them?” said la Peyrade.

“Oh, no!” replied Phellion, alarmed. “I could not put myself on
exhibition in that way.”

“Your modesty, which by the bye I understand and approve, settles the
matter,” said la Peyrade. “Thoughts are a subject altogether individual,
which imperatively require to be personified by a name. You must be
conscious of this yourself. ‘Divers Thoughts by Monsieur Three-Stars’
says nothing to the public.”

Seeing that Phellion was about to make objections, Thuillier, who was in
a hurry to begin his fight with la Peyrade, cut the matter short rather
sharply.

“My dear Phellion,” he said, “I beg your pardon for not being able to
enjoy the pleasure of your conversation any longer, but we have to talk,
la Peyrade and I, over a matter of much importance, and in newspaper
offices this devilish time runs away so fast. If you are willing, we
will postpone the question to another day. Madame Phellion is well, I
trust?”

“Perfectly well,” said the great citizen, rising, and not appearing to
resent his dismissal. “When does your first number appear?” he added;
“it is eagerly awaited in the arrondissement.”

“To-morrow I think our confession of faith will make its appearance,”
 replied Thuillier, accompanying him to the door. “You will receive a
copy, my dear friend. We shall meet again soon, I hope. Come and see us,
and bring that manuscript; la Peyrade’s point of view may be a little
arbitrary.”

With this balm shed upon his wound, Phellion departed, and Thuillier
rang the bell for the porter.

“Could you recognize the gentlemen who has just gone out the next time
you see him?” asked Thuillier.

“Oh, yes, m’sieu, his round ball of a head is too funny to forget;
besides, it is Monsieur Phellion; haven’t I opened the door to him
hundreds of times?”

“Well, whenever he comes again neither I nor Monsieur de la Peyrade will
be here. Remember that’s a positive rule. Now leave us.”

“The devil!” cried la Peyrade, when the two partners were alone, “how
you manage bores. But take care; among the number there may be electors.
You did right to tell Phellion you would send him a copy of the paper;
he has a certain importance in the quarter.”

“Well,” said Thuillier, “we can’t allow our time to be taken up by all
the dull-heads who come and offer their services. But now you and I have
to talk, and talk very seriously. Be seated and listen.”

“Do you know, my dear fellow,” said la Peyrade, laughing, “that
journalism is making you into something very solemn? ‘Be seated,
Cinna,’--Caesar Augustus couldn’t have said it otherwise.”

“Cinnas, unfortunately, are more plentiful than people think,” replied
Thuillier.

He was still under the goad of the promise he had made to Brigitte,
and he meant to fulfil it with cutting sarcasm. The top continued the
whirling motion imparted to it by the old maid’s lash.

La Peyrade took a seat at the round table. As he was puzzled to know
what was coming, he endeavored to seem unconcerned, and picking up the
large scissors used for the loans which all papers make from the columns
of their brethren of the press, he began to snip up a sheet of paper, on
which, in Thuillier’s handwriting, was an attempt at a leading article,
never completed.

Though la Peyrade was seated and expectant, Thuillier did not begin
immediately; he rose and went toward the door which stood ajar, with
the intention of closing it. But suddenly it was flung wide open, and
Coffinet appeared.

“Will monsieur,” said Coffinet to la Peyrade, “receive two ladies? They
are very well-dressed, and the young one ain’t to be despised.”

“Shall I let them in?” said la Peyrade to Thuillier.

“Yes, since they are here,” growled Thuillier; “but get rid of them as
soon as possible.”

Coffinet’s judgment on the toilet of the two visitors needs revision.
A woman is well-dressed, not when she wears rich clothes, but when her
clothes present a certain harmony of shapes and colors which form an
appropriate and graceful envelope to her person. Now a bonnet with a
flaring brim, surmounted by nodding plumes, an immense French cashmere
shawl, worn with the awkward inexperience of a young bride, a plaid silk
gown with enormous checks and a triple tier of flounces with far too
many chains and trinkets (though to be just, the boots and gloves were
irreproachable), constituted the apparel of the younger of these ladies.
As for the other, who seemed to be in the tow of her dressy companion,
she was short, squat, and high-colored, and wore a bonnet, shawl, and
gown which a practised eye would at once have recognized as second hand.
Mothers of actresses are always clothed by this very economical process.
Their garments, condemned to the service of two generations, reverse the
order of things, and go from descendants to ancestors.

Advancing two chairs, la Peyrade inquired, “To whom have I the honor of
speaking?”

“Monsieur,” said the younger visitor, “I am a dramatic artist, and as I
am about to make my first appearance in this quarter, I allow myself to
hope that a journal of this locality will favor me.”

“At what theatre?” asked la Peyrade.

“The Folies, where I am engaged for the Dejazets.”

“The Folies?” echoed la Peyrade, in a tone that demanded an explanation.

“Folies-Dramatiques,” interposed the agreeable Madame Cardinal, whom the
reader has doubtless recognized.

“When do you appear?” asked la Peyrade.

“Next week, monsieur,--a fairy piece in which I play five parts.”

“You’ll encourage her, monsieur, won’t you?” said Madame Cardinal, in
a coaxing voice; “she’s so young, and I can certify she works day and
night.”

“Mother!” said Olympe, with authority, “the public will judge me; all I
want is that monsieur will kindly promise to notice my debut.”

“Very good, mademoiselle,” said la Peyrade in a tone of dismissal,
beginning to edge the pair to the door.

Olympe Cardinal went first, leaving her mother to hurry after her as
best she could.

“At home to no one!” cried Thuillier to the office-boy as he closed the
door and slipped the bolt. “Now,” he said, addressing la Peyrade, “we
will talk. My dear fellow,” he went on, starting with irony, for
he remembered to have heard that nothing was more confusing to an
adversary, “I have heard something that will give you pleasure. I know
now why MY pamphlet was seized.”

So saying, he looked fixedly at la Peyrade.

“Parbleu!” said the latter in a natural tone of voice, “it was seized
because they chose to seize it. They wanted to find, and they found,
because they always find the things they want, what the king’s adherents
call ‘subversive doctrine.’”

“No, you are wrong,” said Thuillier; “the seizure was planned,
concocted, and agreed upon before publication.”

“Between whom?” asked la Peyrade.

“Between those who wanted to kill the pamphlet, and the wretches who
were paid to betray it.”

“Well, in any case, those who paid,” said la Peyrade, “got mighty little
for their money; for, persecuted though it was, I don’t see that your
pamphlet made much of a stir.”

“Those who sold may have done better?” said Thuillier with redoubled
irony.

“Those who sold,” returned la Peyrade, “were the cleverer of the two.”

“Ah, I know,” said Thuillier, “that you think a great deal of
cleverness; but allow me to tell you that the police, whose hand I see
in all this, doesn’t usually throw its money away.”

And again he looked fixedly at la Peyrade.

“So,” said the barrister, without winking, “you have discovered that the
police had plotted in advance the smothering of your pamphlet?”

“Yes, my dear fellow; and what is more, I know the actual sum paid to
the person who agreed to carry out this honorable plot.”

“The person,” said la Peyrade, thinking a moment,--“perhaps I know the
person; but as for the money, I don’t know a word about that.”

“Well, I can tell you the amount. It was twenty-five--thousand--francs,”
 said Thuillier, dwelling on each word; “that was the sum paid to Judas.”

“Oh! excuse me, my dear fellow, but twenty-five thousand francs is a
good deal of money. I don’t deny that you have become an important man;
but you are not such a bugbear to the government as to lead it to make
such sacrifices. Twenty-five thousand francs is as much as would ever be
given for the suppression of one of those annoying pamphlets about the
Civil list. But our financial lucubrations didn’t annoy in that way; and
such a sum borrowed from the secret-service money for the mere pleasure
of plaguing you, seems to me rather fabulous.”

“Apparently,” said Thuillier, acrimoniously, “this honest go-between
had some interest in exaggerating my value. One thing is very sure; this
monsieur had a debt of twenty-five thousand francs which harassed him
much; and a short time before the seizure this same monsieur, who had no
means of his own, paid off that debt; and unless you can tell me where
else he got the money, the inference I think is not difficult to draw.”

It was la Peyrade’s turn to look fixedly at Thuillier.

“Monsieur Thuillier,” he said, raising his voice, “let us get out of
enigmas and generalities; will you do me the favor to name that person?”

“Well, no,” replied Thuillier, striking his hand upon the table, “I
shall not name him, because of the sentiments of esteem and affection
which formerly united us; but you have understood me, Monsieur la
Peyrade.”

“I ought to have known,” said the Provencal, in a voice changed by
emotion, “that in bringing a serpent to this place I should soon be
soiled by his venom. Poor fool! do you not see that you have made
yourself the echo of Cerizet’s calumny?”

“Cerizet has nothing to do with it; on the contrary, he has told me
the highest good of you. How was it, not having a penny the night
before,--and I had reason to know it,--that you were able to pay Dutocq
the round sum of twenty-five thousand francs the next day?”

La Peyrade reflected for a moment.

“No,” he said, “it was not Dutocq who told you that. He is not a man to
wrestle with an enemy of my strength without a strong interest in it. It
was Cerizet; he’s the infamous calumniator, from whose hands I wrenched
the lease of your house near the Madeleine,--Cerizet, whom in kindness,
I went to seek on his dunghill that I might give him the chance of
honorable employment; that is the wretch, to whom a benefit is only an
encouragement to treachery. Tiens! if I were to tell you what that man
is I should turn you sick with disgust; in the sphere of infamy he has
discovered worlds.”

This time Thuillier made an able reply.

“I don’t know anything about Cerizet except through you,” he said;
“you introduced him to me as a manager, offering every guarantee; but,
allowing him to be blacker than the devil, and supposing that this
communication comes from him, I don’t see, my friend, that all that
makes YOU any the whiter.”

“No doubt I was to blame,” said la Peyrade, “for putting such a man into
relations with you; but we wanted some one who understood journalism,
and that value he really had for us. But who can ever sound the depths
of souls like his? I thought him reformed. A manager, I said to myself,
is only a machine; he can do no harm. I expected to find him a man of
straw; well, I was mistaken, he will never be anything but a man of
mud.”

“All that is very fine,” said Thuillier, “but those twenty-five thousand
francs found so conveniently in your possession, where did you get them?
That is the point you are forgetting to explain.”

“But to reason about it,” said la Peyrade; “a man of my character in the
pay of the police and yet so poor that I could not pay the ten thousand
francs your harpy of a sister demanded with an insolence which you
yourself witnessed--”

“But,” said Thuillier, “if the origin of this money is honest, as I
sincerely desire it may be, what hinders you from telling me how you got
it?”

“I cannot,” said la Peyrade; “the history of that money is a secret
entrusted to me professionally.”

“Come, come, you told me yourself that the statutes of your order forbid
all barristers from doing business of any kind.”

“Let us suppose,” said la Peyrade, “that I have done something not
absolutely regular; it would be strange indeed after what I risked, as
you know, for you, if you should have the face to reproach me with it.”

“My poor friend, you are trying to shake off the hounds; but you can’t
make me lose the scent. You wish to keep your secret; then keep it. I am
master of my own confidence and my own esteem; by paying you the forfeit
stipulated in our deed I take the newspaper into my own hands.”

“Do you mean that you dismiss me?” cried la Peyrade. “The money that you
have put into the affair, all your chances of election, sacrificed to
the calumnies of such a being as Cerizet!”

“In the first place,” said Thuillier, “another editor-in-chief can be
found; it is a true saying that no man is indispensable. As for election
to the Chamber I would rather never receive it than owe it to the help
of one who--”

“Go on,” said la Peyrade, seeing that Thuillier hesitated, “or rather,
no, be silent, for you will presently blush for your suspicions and ask
my pardon humbly.”

By this time la Peyrade saw that without a confession to which he must
compel himself, the influence and the future he had just recovered would
be cut from under his feet. Resuming his speech he said, solemnly:--

“You will remember, my friend, that you were pitiless, and, by
subjecting me to a species of moral torture, you have forced me to
reveal to you a secret that is not mine.”

“Go on,” said Thuillier, “I take the whole responsibility upon myself.
Make me see the truth clearly in this darkness, and if I have done wrong
I will be the first to say so.”

“Well,” said la Peyrade, “those twenty-five thousand francs are the
savings of a servant-woman who came to me and asked me to take them and
to pay her interest.”

“A servant with twenty-five thousand francs of savings! Nonsense; she
must serve in monstrously rich households.”

“On the contrary, she is the one servant of an infirm old savant; and
it was on account of the discrepancy which strikes your mind that she
wanted to put her money in my hands as a sort of trustee.”

“Bless me! my friend,” said Thuillier, flippantly, “you said we were in
want of a romance-feuilletonist; but really, after this, I sha’n’t be
uneasy. Here’s imagination for you!”

“What?” said la Peyrade, angrily, “you don’t believe me?”

“No, I do not believe you. Twenty-five thousand francs savings in the
service of an old savant! that is about as believable as the officer of
La Dame Blanche buying a chateau with his pay.”

“But if I prove to you the truth of my words; if I let you put your
finger upon it?”

“In that case, like Saint Thomas, I shall lower my flag before the
evidence. Meanwhile you must permit me, my noble friend, to wait until
you offer me that proof.”

Thuillier felt really superb.

“I’d give a hundred francs,” he said to himself, “if Brigitte could have
been here and heard me impeach him.”

“Well,” said la Peyrade, “suppose that without leaving this office, and
by means of a note which you shall read, I bring into your presence the
person from whom I received the money; if she confirms what I say will
you believe me?”

This proposal and the assurance with which it was made rather staggered
Thuillier.

“I shall know what to do when the time comes,” he replied, changing his
tone. “But this must be done at once, now, here.”

“I said, without leaving this office. I should think that was clear
enough.”

“And who will carry the note you write?” asked Thuillier, believing
that by thus examining every detail he was giving proofs of amazing
perspicacity.

“Carry the note! why, your own porter of course,” replied la Peyrade;
“you can send him yourself.”

“Then write it,” said Thuillier, determined to push him to the wall.

La Peyrade took a sheet of paper with the new heading and wrote as
follows, reading the note aloud:--

  Madame Lambert is requested to call at once, on urgent business,
  at the office of the “Echo de la Bievre,” rue Saint-Dominique
  d’Enfer. The bearer of this note will conduct her. She is awaited
  impatiently by her devoted servant,


Theodose de la Peyrade.


“There, will that suit you?” said the barrister, passing the paper to
Thuillier.

“Perfectly,” replied Thuillier, taking the precaution to fold the letter
himself and seal it. “Put the address,” he added.

Then he rang the bell for the porter.

“You will carry this letter to its address,” he said to the man, “and
bring back with you the person named. But will she be there?” he asked,
on reflection.

“It is more than probable,” replied la Peyrade; “in any case, neither
you nor I will leave this room until she comes. This matter must be
cleared up.”

“Then go!” said Thuillier to the porter, in a theatrical tone.

When they were alone, la Peyrade took up a newspaper and appeared to be
absorbed in its perusal.

Thuillier, beginning to get uneasy as to the upshot of the affair,
regretted that he had not done something the idea of which had come to
him just too late.

“Yes, I ought,” he said to himself, “to have torn up that letter, and
not driven him to prove his words.”

Wishing to do something that might look like retaining la Peyrade in
the position of which he had threatened to deprive him, he remarked
presently:--

“By the bye, I have just come from the printing-office; the new type has
arrived, and I think we might make our first appearance to-morrow.”

La Peyrade did not answer; but he got up and took his paper nearer to
the window.

“He is sulky,” thought Thuillier, “and if he is innocent, he may well
be. But, after all, why did he ever bring a man like that Cerizet here?”

Then to hide his embarrassment and the preoccupation of his mind, he sat
down before the editor’s table, took a sheet of the head-lined paper and
made himself write a letter.

Presently la Peyrade returned to the table and sitting down, took
another sheet and with the feverish rapidity of a man stirred by some
emotion he drove his pen over the paper.

From the corner of his eye, Thuillier tried hard to see what la Peyrade
was writing, and noticing that his sentences were separated by numbers
placed between brackets, he said:--

“Tiens! are you drawing up a parliamentary law?”

“Yes,” replied la Peyrade, “the law of the vanquished.”

Soon after this, the porter opened the door and introduced Madame
Lambert, whom he had found at home, and who arrived looking rather
frightened.

“You are Madame Lambert?” asked Thuillier, magisterially.

“Yes, monsieur,” said the woman, in an anxious voice.

After requesting her to be seated and noticing that the porter was still
there as if awaiting further orders he said to the man:--

“That will do; you may go; and don’t let any one disturb us.”

The gravity and the lordly tone assumed by Thuillier only increased
Madame Lambert’s uneasiness. She came expecting to see only la Peyrade,
and she found herself received by an unknown man with a haughty manner,
while the barrister, who had merely bowed to her, said not a word;
moreover, the scene took place in a newspaper office, and it is a
well-known fact that to pious persons especially all that relates to the
press is infernal and diabolical.

“Well,” said Thuillier to the barrister, “it seems to me that nothing
hinders you from explaining to madame why you have sent for her.”

In order to leave no loophole for suspicion in Thuillier’s mind la
Peyrade knew that he must put his question bluntly and without the
slightest preparation; he therefore said to her “ex abrupto”:--

“We wish to ask you, madame, if it is not true that about two and a
half months ago you placed in my hands, subject to interest, the sum, in
round numbers, of twenty-five thousand francs.”

Though she felt the eyes of Thuillier and those of la Peyrade upon
her, Madame Lambert, under the shock of this question fired at her
point-blank, could not restrain a start.

“Heavens!” she exclaimed, “twenty-five thousand francs! and where should
I get such a sum as that?”

La Peyrade gave no sign on his face of the vexation he might be
supposed to feel. As for Thuillier, who now looked at him with sorrowful
commiseration, he merely said:--

“You see, my friend!”

“So,” resumed la Peyrade, “you are very certain that you did not place
in my hands the sum of twenty-five thousand francs; you declare this,
you affirm it?”

“Why, monsieur! did you ever hear of such a sum as that in the pocket
of a poor woman like me? The little that I had, as everybody knows,
has gone to eke out the housekeeping of that poor dear gentleman whose
servant I have been for more than twenty years.”

“This,” said Thuillier, pompously, “seems to me categorical.”

La Peyrade still did not show the slightest sign of annoyance; on the
contrary, he seemed to be playing into Thuillier’s hand.

“You hear, my dear Thuillier,” he said, “and if necessary I shall call
for your testimony, that madame here declares that she did not possess
twenty-five thousand francs and could not therefore have placed them
in my hands. Now, as the notary Dupuis, in whose hands I fancied I had
placed them, left Paris this morning for Brussels carrying with him
the money of all his clients, I have no account with madame, by her own
showing, and the absconding of the notary--”

“Has the notary Dupuis absconded?” screamed Madame Lambert, driven by
this dreadful news entirely out of her usual tones of dulcet sweetness
and Christian resignation. “Ah, the villain! it was only this morning
that he was taking the sacrament at Saint-Jacques du Haut-Pas.”

“To pray for a safe journey, probably,” said la Peyrade.

“Monsieur talks lightly enough,” continued Madame Lambert, “though that
brigand has carried off my savings. But I gave them to monsieur, and
monsieur is answerable to me for them; he is the only one I know in this
transaction.”

“Hey?” said la Peyrade to Thuillier, pointing to Madame Lambert, whose
whole demeanor had something of the mother-wolf suddenly bereft of her
cubs; “is that nature? tell me! Do you think now that madame and I are
playing a comedy for your benefit?”

“I am thunderstruck at Cerizet’s audacity,” said Thuillier. “I am
overwhelmed with my own stupidity; there is nothing for me to do but to
submit myself entirely to your discretion.”

“Madame,” said la Peyrade, gaily, “excuse me for thus frightening you;
the notary Dupuis is still a very saintly man, and quite incapable of
doing an injury to his clients. As for monsieur here, it was necessary
that I should prove to him that you had really placed that money in my
hands; he is, however, another myself, and your secret, though known to
him, is as safe as it is with me.”

“Oh, very good, monsieur!” said Madame Lambert. “I suppose these
gentlemen have no further need of me?”

“No, my dear madame, and I beg you to pardon me for the little terror I
was compelled to occasion you.”

Madame Lambert turned to leave the room with all the appearance of
respectful humility, but when she reached the door, she retraced her
steps, and coming close to la Peyrade said, in her smoothest tones:--

“When does monsieur expect to be able to refund me that money?”

“But I told you,” said la Peyrade, stiffly, “that notaries never return
on demand the money placed in their hands.”

“Does monsieur think that if I went to see Monsieur Dupuis himself and
asked him--”

“I think,” said la Peyrade, interrupting her, “that you would do a most
ridiculous thing. He received the money from me in my own name, as you
requested, and he knows only me in the matter.”

“Then monsieur will be so kind, will he not, as to get back that
money for me as soon as possible? I am sure I would not wish to press
monsieur, but in two or three months from now I may want it; I have
heard of a little property it would suit me to buy.”

“Very good, Madame Lambert,” said la Peyrade, with well-concealed
irritation, “it shall be done as you wish; and in less time, perhaps,
than you have stated I shall hope to return your money to you.”

“That won’t inconvenience monsieur, I trust,” said the woman; “he told
me that at the first indiscretion I committed--”

“Yes, yes, that is all understood,” said la Peyrade, interrupting her.

“Then I have the honor to be the very humble servant of these
gentlemen,” said Madame Lambert, now departing definitively.

“You see, my friend, the trouble you have got me into,” said la Peyrade
to Thuillier as soon as they were alone, “and to what I am exposed by my
kindness in satisfying your diseased mind. That debt was dormant; it
was in a chronic state; and you have waked it up and made it acute. The
woman brought me the money and insisted on my keeping it, at a good rate
of interest. I refused at first; then I agreed to place it in Dupuis’s
hands, explaining to her that it couldn’t be withdrawn at once; but
subsequently, when Dutocq pressed me, I decided, after all, to keep it
myself.”

“I am dreadfully sorry, dear friend, for my silly credulity. But don’t
be uneasy about the exactions of that woman; we will manage to arrange
all that, even if I have to make you an advance upon Celeste’s ‘dot.’”

“My excellent friend,” said la Peyrade, “it is absolutely necessary that
we should talk over our private arrangements; to tell you the truth, I
have no fancy for being hauled up every morning and questioned as to
my conduct. Just now, while waiting for that woman, I drew up a little
agreement, which you and I will discuss and sign, if you please, before
the first number of the paper is issued.”

“But,” said Thuillier, “our deed of partnership seems to me to settle--”

“--that by a paltry forfeit of five thousand francs, as stated in
Article 14,” interrupted Theodose, “you can put me, when you choose,
out of doors. No, I thank you! After my experience to-day, I want some
better security than that.”

At this moment Cerizet with a lively and all-conquering air, entered the
room.

“My masters!” he exclaimed, “I’ve brought the money; and we can now sign
the bond.”

Then, remarking that his news was received with extreme coldness, he
added:--

“Well? what is it?”

“It is this,” replied Thuillier: “I refuse to be associated with
double-face men and calumniators. We have no need of you or your money;
and I request you not to honor these precincts any longer with your
presence.”

“Dear! dear! dear!” said Cerizet; “so papa Thuillier has let the wool be
pulled over his eyes again!”

“Leave the room!” said Thuillier; “you have nothing more to do here.”

“Hey, my boy!” said Cerizet, turning to la Peyrade, “so you’ve twisted
the old bourgeois round your finger again? Well, well, no matter! I
think you are making a mistake not to go and see du Portail, and I shall
tell him--”

“Leave this house!” cried Thuillier, in a threatening tone.

“Please remember, my dear monsieur, that I never asked you to employ me;
I was well enough off before you sent for me, and I shall be after.
But I’ll give you a piece of advice: don’t pay the twenty-five thousand
francs out of your own pocket, for that’s hanging to your nose.”

So saying, Cerizet put his thirty-three thousand francs in banknotes
back into his wallet, took his hat from the table, carefully smoothed
the nap with his forearm and departed.

Thuillier had been led by Cerizet into what proved to be a most
disastrous campaign. Now become the humble servant of la Peyrade, he
was forced to accept his conditions, which were as follows: five hundred
francs a month for la Peyrade’s services in general; his editorship of
the paper to be paid at the rate of fifty francs a column,--which was
simply enormous, considering the small size of the sheet; a binding
pledge to continue the publication of the paper for six months,
under pain of the forfeiture of fifteen thousand francs; an absolute
omnipotence in the duties of editor-in-chief,--that is to say, the
sovereign right of inserting, controlling, and rejecting all articles
without being called to explain the reasons of his actions,--such were
the stipulations of a treaty in duplicate made openly, “in good faith,”
 between the contracting parties. _But_, in virtue of another and secret
agreement, Thuillier gave security for the payment of the twenty-five
thousand francs for which la Peyrade was accountable to Madame Lambert,
binding the said Sieur de la Peyrade, in case the payment were required
before his marriage with Celeste Colleville could take place, to
acknowledge the receipt of said sum advanced upon the dowry.

Matters being thus arranged and accepted by the candidate, who saw no
chance of election if he lost la Peyrade, Thuillier was seized with a
happy thought. He went to the Cirque-Olympique, where he remembered to
have seen in the ticket-office a former employee in his office at the
ministry of Finance,--a man named Fleury; to whom he proposed the post
of manager. Fleury, being an old soldier, a good shot, and a skilful
fencer, would certainly make himself an object of respect in a newspaper
office. The working-staff of the paper being thus reconstituted, with
the exception of a few co-editors or reporters to be added later, but
whom la Peyrade, thanks to the facility of his pen, was able for the
present to do without, the first number of the new paper was launched
upon the world.

Thuillier now recommenced the explorations about Paris which we saw him
make on the publication of his pamphlet. Entering all reading-rooms and
cafes, he asked for the “Echo de la Bievre,” and when informed,
alas, very frequently, that the paper was unknown in this or that
establishment, “It is incredible!” he would exclaim, “that a house which
respects itself does not take such a widely known paper.”

On that, he departed disdainfully, not observing that in many places,
where this ancient trick of commercial travellers was well understood,
they were laughing behind his back.

The evening of the day when the inauguration number containing the
“profession of faith” appeared, Brigitte’s salon, although the day was
not Sunday, was filled with visitors. Reconciled to la Peyrade, whom her
brother had brought home to dinner, the old maid went so far as to tell
him that, without flattery, she thought his leading article was a famous
HIT. For that matter, all the guests as they arrived, reported that the
public seemed enchanted with the first number of the new journal.

The public! everybody knows what that is. To every man who launches
a bit of writing into the world, the public consists of five or six
intimates who cannot, without offending the author, avoid knowing
something more or less of his lucubrations.

“As for me!” cried Colleville, “I can truthfully declare that it is the
first political article I ever read that didn’t send me to sleep.”

“It is certain,” said Phellion, “that the leading article seems to me to
be stamped with vigor joined to an atticism which we may seek in vain in
the columns of the other public prints.”

“Yes,” said Dutocq, “the matter is very well presented; and besides,
there’s a turn of phrase, a clever diction, that doesn’t belong to
everybody. However, we must wait and see how it keeps on. I fancy that
to-morrow the ‘Echo de la Bievre’ will be strongly attacked by the other
papers.”

“Parbleu!” cried Thuillier, “that’s what we are hoping for; and if the
government would only do us the favor to seize us--”

“No, thank you,” said Fleury, whom Thuillier had also brought home to
dinner, “I don’t want to enter upon those functions at first.”

“Seized!” said Dutocq, “oh, you won’t be seized; but I think the
ministerial journals will fire a broadside at you.”

The next day Thuillier was at the office as early as eight o’clock, in
order to be the first to receive that formidable salvo. After looking
through every morning paper he was forced to admit that there was no
more mention of the “Echo de la Bievre” than if it didn’t exist. When la
Peyrade arrived he found his unhappy friend in a state of consternation.

“Does that surprise you?” said the Provencal, tranquilly. “I let you
enjoy yesterday your hopes of a hot engagement with the press; but I
knew myself that in all probability there wouldn’t be the slightest
mention of us in to-day’s papers. Against every paper which makes its
debut with some distinction, there’s always a two weeks’, sometimes a
two months’ conspiracy of silence.”

“Conspiracy of silence!” echoed Thuillier, with admiration.

He did not know what it meant, but the words had a grandeur and a
_something_ that appealed to his imagination. After la Peyrade had
explained to him that by “conspiracy of silence” was meant the agreement
of existing journals to make no mention of new-comers lest such notice
should serve to advertise them, Thuillier’s mind was hardly better
satisfied than it had been by the pompous flow of the words. The
bourgeois is born so; words are coins which he takes and passes without
question. For a word, he will excite himself or calm down, insult
or applaud. With a word, he can be brought to make a revolution and
overturn a government of his own choice.

The paper, however, was only a means; the object was Thuillier’s
election. This was insinuated rather than stated in the first numbers.
But one morning, in the columns of the “Echo,” appeared a letter from
several electors thanking their delegate to the municipal council for
the firm and frankly liberal attitude in which he had taken on all
questions of local interests. “This firmness,” said the letter, “had
brought down upon him the persecution of the government, which, towed
at the heels of foreigners, had sacrificed Poland and sold itself to
England. The arrondissement needed a man of such tried convictions to
represent it in the Chamber,--a man holding high and firm the banner of
dynastic opposition, a man who would be, by the mere signification of
his name, a stern lesson given to the authorities.”

Enforced by an able commentary from la Peyrade, this letter was signed
by Barbet and Metivier and all Brigitte’s tradesmen (whom, in view of
the election she had continued to employ since her emigration); also
by the family doctor and apothecary, and by Thuillier’s builder, and
Barniol, Phellion’s son-in-law, who professed to hold rather “advanced”
 political opinions. As for Phellion himself, he thought the wording
of the letter not altogether circumspect, and--always without fear as
without reproach--however much he might expect that this refusal would
injure his son in his dearest interests, he bravely refrained from
signing it.

This trial kite had the happiest effect. The ten or a dozen names thus
put forward were considered to express the will of the electors and were
called “the voice of the quarter.” Thus Thuillier’s candidacy made
from the start such rapid progress that Minard hesitated to put his own
claims in opposition.

Delighted now with the course of events, Brigitte was the first to say
that the time had come to attend to the marriage, and Thuillier was all
the more ready to agree because, from day to day, he feared he might be
called upon to pay the twenty-five thousand francs to Madame Lambert
for which he had pledged himself. A thorough explanation now took place
between la Peyrade and the old maid. She told him honestly of the
fear she felt as to the maintenance of her sovereign authority when a
_son-in-law_ of his mind and character was established in the household.

“If we,” she ended by saying, “are to oppose each other for the rest
of our days, it would be much better, from the beginning, to make two
households; we shouldn’t be the less friends for that.”

La Peyrade replied that nothing under the sun would induce him to
consent to such a plan; on the contrary, he regarded as amongst his
happiest prospects for the future the security he should feel about the
wise management of the material affairs of the home in such hands
as hers. He should have enough to do in the management of outside
interests, and he could not comprehend, for his part, how she could
suppose he had ever had the thought of interfering in matters that were
absolutely out of his province. In short, he reassured her so completely
that she urged him to take immediate steps for the publication of the
banns and the signature of the marriage contract,--declaring that she
reserved to herself all the preparations relating to Celeste, whose
acceptance of this sudden conclusion she pledged herself to secure.

“My dear child,” she said to Celeste the next morning, “I think you have
given up all idea of being Felix Phellion’s wife. In the first place,
he is more of an atheist than ever, and, besides, you must have noticed
yourself that his mind is quite shaky. You have seen at Madame Minard’s
that Madame Marmus, who married a savant, officer of the Legion of
honor, and member of the Institute. There’s not a more unhappy woman;
her husband has taken her to live behind the Luxembourg, in the rue
Duguay-Trouin, a street that is neither paved nor lighted. When he goes
out, he doesn’t know where he is going; he gets to the Champ de Mars
when he wants to go to the Faubourg Poissoniere; he isn’t even capable
of giving his address to the driver of a street cab; and he is so
absent-minded he couldn’t tell if it were before dinner or after. You
can imagine what sort of time a woman must have with a man whose nose is
always at a telescope snuffing stars.”

“But Felix,” said Celeste, “is not as absent-minded as that.”

“Of course not, because he is younger; but with years his
absent-mindedness and his atheism will both increase. We have therefore
decided that he is not the husband you want, and we all, your mother,
father, Thuillier and myself, have determined that you shall take la
Peyrade, a man of the world, who will make his way, and one who has
done us great services in the past, and who will, moreover, make your
godfather deputy. We are disposed to give you, in consideration of him,
a much larger ‘dot’ than we should give to any other husband. So, my
dear, it is settled; the banns are to be published immediately, and
this day week we sign the contract. There’s to be a great dinner for the
family and intimates, and after that a reception, at which the contract
will be signed and your trousseau and corbeille exhibited. As I take all
that into my own hands I’ll answer for it that everything shall be of
the best kind; especially if you are not babyish, and give in pleasantly
to our ideas.”

“But, aunt Brigitte,” began Celeste, timidly.

“There’s no ‘but,’ in the matter,” said the old maid, imperiously; “it
is all arranged, and will be carried out, unless, mademoiselle, you
pretend to have more wisdom than your elders.”

“I will do as you choose, aunt,” replied Celeste, feeling as if a
thunder-cloud had burst upon her head, and knowing but too well that she
had no power to struggle against the iron will which had just pronounced
her doom.

She went at once to pour her sorrows into Madame Thuillier’s soul; but
when she heard her godmother advising patience and resignation the poor
child felt that from that feeble quarter she could get no help for even
the slightest effort of resistance, and that her sacrifice was virtually
accomplished.

Precipitating herself with a sort of frenzy into the new element of
activity thus introduced into her life, Brigitte took the field in the
making of the trousseau and the purchase of the corbeille. Like many
misers, who on great occasions come out of their habits and their
nature, the old maid now thought nothing too good for her purpose; and
she flung her money about so lavishly that until the day appointed
for the signing of the contract, the jeweller, dressmaker, milliner,
lingere, etc. (all chosen from the best establishments in Paris), seemed
to occupy the house.

“It is like a procession,” said Josephine, the cook, admiringly, to
Francoise, the Minards’ maid; “the bell never stops ringing from morning
till night.”



CHAPTER XII. A STAR

The dinner on the great occasion was ordered from Chabot and Potel, and
not from Chevet, by which act Brigitte intended to prove her initiative
and her emancipation from the late Madame de Godollo. The invited guests
were as follows: three Collevilles, including the bride, la Peyrade the
groom, Dutocq and Fleury, whom he had asked to be his witnesses, the
extremely limited number of his relatives leaving him no choice, Minard
and Rabourdin, chosen as witnesses for Celeste, Madame and Mademoiselle
Minard and Minard junior, two of Thuillier’s colleagues in the
Council-general; the notary Dupuis, charged with the duty of drawing up
the contract, and lastly, the Abbe Gondrin, director of the consciences
of Madame Thuillier and Celeste, who was to give the nuptial blessing.

The latter was the former vicar of Saint-Jacques du Haut-Pas, whose
great refinement of manner and gift of preaching had induced the
archbishop to remove him from the humble parish where his career
had begun to the aristocratic church of the Madeleine. Since Madame
Thuillier and Celeste had again become his parishioners, the young
abbe visited them occasionally, and Thuillier, who had gone to him to
explain, after his own fashion, the suitableness of the choice made for
Celeste in the person of la Peyrade (taking pains as he did so to cast
reflections on the religious opinions of Felix Phellion), had easily
led him to contribute by his persuasive words to the resignation of the
victim.

When the time came to sit down to table three guests were missing,--two
Minards, father and son, and the notary Dupuis. The latter had written a
note to Thuillier in the morning, excusing himself from the dinner, but
saying that at nine o’clock precisely he would bring the contract and
place himself at the orders of Mademoiselle Thuillier. As for Julien
Minard, his mother excused him as being confined to his room with a
sore-throat. The absence of Minard senior remained unexplained, but
Madame Minard insisted that they should sit down to table without him;
which was done, Brigitte ordering that the soup be kept hot for him,
because in the bourgeois code of manners and customs a dinner without
soup is no dinner at all.

The repast was far from gay, and though the fare was better, the
vivacity and the warmth of the conversation was far, indeed, from that
of the famous improvised banquet at the time of the election to the
Council-general. The gaps occasioned by the absence of three guests may
have been one reason; then Flavie was glum; she had had an interview
with la Peyrade in the afternoon which ended in tears; Celeste, even if
she had been content with the choice imposed on her, would scarcely, as
a matter of propriety, have seemed joyful; in fact, she made no effort
to brighten a sad face, and dared not look at her godmother, whose own
countenance gave the impression, if we may so express it, of the long
bleating of a sheep. The poor girl seeing this feared to exchange a look
with her lest she might drive her to tears. Thuillier now felt himself,
on all sides, of such importance that he was pompous and consequential;
while Brigitte, uneasy out of her own world, where she could lord it
over every one without competition, seemed constrained and embarrassed.

Colleville tried by a few jovialities to raise the temperature of the
assemblage; but the coarse salt of his witticisms had an effect, in the
atmosphere in which he produced them, of a loud laugh in a sick-chamber;
and a mute intimation from his wife, Thuillier, and la Peyrade
to _behave himself_ put a stopper on his liveliness and turbulent
expansion. It was somewhat remarkable that the gravest member of the
party, aided by Rabourdin, was the person who finally warmed up the
atmosphere. The Abbe Gondrin, a man of a most refined and cultivated
mind, had, like every pure and well-ordered soul, a fund of gentle
gaiety which he was well able to communicate, and liveliness was
beginning to dawn upon the party when Minard entered the room.

After making his excuses on the ground of important duties, the mayor of
the eleventh arrondissement, who was in the habit of taking the lead in
the conversation wherever he went, said, having swallowed a few hasty
mouthfuls:--

“Messieurs and mesdames, have you heard the great news?”

“No, what is it?” cried several voices at once.

“The Academy of Sciences received, to-day, at its afternoon session, the
announcement of a vast discovery: the heavens possess a new star!”

“Tiens!” said Colleville; “that will help to replace the one that
Beranger thought was lost when he grieved (to that air of ‘Octavie’)
over Chateaubriand’s departure: ‘Chateaubriand, why fly thy land?’”

This quotation, which he sang, exasperated Flavie, and if the custom had
been for wives to sit next to their husbands, the former clarionet
of the Opera-Comique would not have escaped with a mere “Colleville!”
 imperiously calling him to order.

“The point which gives this great astronomical event a special interest
on this occasion,” continued Minard, “is that the author of the
discovery is a denizen of the twelfth arrondissement, which many of you
still inhabit, or have inhabited. But other points are striking in this
great scientific fact. The Academy, on the reading of the communication
which announced it, was so convinced of the existence of this star that
a deputation was appointed to visit the domicile of the modern Galileo
and compliment him in the name of the whole body. And yet this star is
not visible to either the eye or the telescope! It is only by the
power of calculation and induction that its existence and the place it
occupies in the heavens have been proved in the most irrefutable manner:
‘There _must_ be _there_ a hitherto unknown star; I cannot see it, but
I am sure of it,’--that is what this man of science said to the
Academy, whom he instantly convinced by his deductions. And do you know,
messieurs, who is this Christopher Columbus of a new celestial world? An
old man, two-thirds blind, who has scarcely eyes enough to walk in the
street.”

“Wonderful! Marvellous! Admirable!” came from all sides.

“What is the name of this learned man?” asked several voices.

“Monsieur Picot, or, if you prefer it, pere Picot, for that is how they
call him in the rue du Val-de-Grace, where he lives. He is simply an
old professor of mathematics, who has turned out several very fine
pupils,--by the bye, Felix Phellion, whom we all know, studied under
him, and it was he who read, on behalf of his blind old master, the
communication to the Academy this afternoon.”

Hearing that name, and remembering the promise Felix had made her to
lift her to the skies, which, as he said it, she had fancied a sign
of madness, Celeste looked at Madame Thuillier, whose face had taken a
sudden glow of animation, and seemed to say to her, “Courage, my child!
all is not lost.”

“My dear Theodose,” said Thuillier, “Felix is coming here to-night;
you must take him aside and get him to give you a copy of that
communication; it would be a fine stroke of fortune for the ‘Echo’ to be
the first to publish it.”

“Yes,” said Minard, assuming the answer, “that would do good service
to the public, for the affair is going to make a great noise. The
committee, not finding Monsieur Picot at home, went straight to the
Minister of Public Instruction; and the minister flew to the Tuileries
and saw the King; and the ‘Messager’ came out this evening--strange to
say, so early that I could read it in my carriage as I drove along--with
an announcement that Monsieur Picot is named Chevalier of the Legion of
honor, with a pension of eighteen hundred francs from the fund devoted
to the encouragement of science and letters.”

“Well,” said Thuillier, “there’s one cross at least well bestowed.”

“But eighteen hundred francs for the pension seems to me rather paltry,”
 said Dutocq.

“So it does,” said Thuillier, “and all the more because that money comes
from the tax-payers; and, when one sees the taxes, as we do, frittered
away on court favorites--”

“Eighteen hundred francs a year,” interrupted Minard, “is certainly
something, especially for savants, a class of people who are accustomed
to live on very little.”

“I think I have heard,” said la Peyrade, “that this very Monsieur Picot
leads a strange life, and that his family, who at first wanted to shut
him up as a lunatic, are now trying to have guardians appointed over
him. They say he allows a servant-woman who keeps his house to rob him
of all he has. Parbleu! Thuillier, you know her; it is that woman who
came to the office the other day about some money in Dupuis’s hands.”

“Yes, yes, true,” said Thuillier, significantly; “you are right, I do
know her.”

“It is queer,” said Brigitte, seeing a chance to enforce the argument
she had used to Celeste, “that all these learned men are good for
nothing outside of their science; in their homes they have to be treated
like children.”

“That proves,” said the Abbe Gondrin, “the great absorption which their
studies give to their minds, and, at the same time, a simplicity of
nature which is very touching.”

“When they are not as obstinate as mules,” said Brigitte, hastily.
“For myself, monsieur l’abbe, I must say that if I had had any idea
of marriage, a savant wouldn’t have suited me at all. What do they do,
these savants, anyhow? Useless things most of the time. You are all
admiring one who has discovered a star; but as long as we are in this
world what good is that to us? For all the use we make of stars it seems
to me we have got enough of them as it is.”

“Bravo, Brigitte!” said Colleville, getting loose again; “you are right,
my girl, and I think, as you do, that the man who discovers a new dish
deserves better of humanity.”

“Colleville,” said Flavie, “I must say that your style of behavior is in
the worst taste.”

“My dear lady,” said the Abbe Gondrin, addressing Brigitte, “you might
be right if we were formed of matter only; and if, bound to our
body, there were not a soul with instincts and appetites that must be
satisfied. Well, I think that this sense of the infinite which is within
us, and which we all try to satisfy each in our own way, is marvellously
well helped by the labors of astronomy, that reveal to us from time to
time new worlds which the hand of the Creator has put into space. The
infinite in you has taken another course; this passion for the comfort
of those about you, this warm, devoted, ardent affection which you feel
for your brother, are equally the manifestation of aspirations which
have nothing material about them, and which, in seeking their end and
object, never think of asking, ‘What good does that do? what is the use
of this?’ Besides, I must assure you that the stars are not as useless
as you seem to think. Without them how would navigators cross the
sea? They would be puzzled to get you the vanilla with which you have
flavored the delicious cream I am now eating. So, as Monsieur Colleville
has perceived, there is more affinity than you think between a dish and
a star; no one should be despised,--neither an astronomer nor a good
housekeeper--”

The abbe was here interrupted by the noise of a lively altercation in
the antechamber.

“I tell you that I will go in,” said a loud voice.

“No, monsieur, you shall not go in,” said another voice, that of the
man-servant. “The company are at table, I tell you, and nobody has the
right to force himself in.”

Thuillier turned pale; ever since the seizure of his pamphlet, he
fancied all sudden arrivals meant the coming of the police.

Among the various social rules imparted to Brigitte by Madame de
Godollo, the one that most needed repeating was the injunction never, as
mistress of the house, to rise from the table until she gave the
signal for retiring. But present circumstances appeared to warrant the
infraction of the rule.

“I’ll go and see what it is,” she said to Thuillier, whose anxiety she
noticed at once. “What _is_ the matter?” she said to the servant as soon
as she reached the scene of action.

“Here’s a gentleman who wants to come in, and says that no one is ever
dining at eight o’clock at night.”

“But who are you, monsieur?” said Brigitte, addressing an old man very
oddly dressed, whose eyes were protected by a green shade.

“Madame, I am neither a beggar nor a vagabond,” replied the old man, in
stentorian tones; “my name is Picot, professor of mathematics.”

“Rue du Val-de-Grace?” asked Brigitte.

“Yes, madame,--No. 9, next to the print-shop.”

“Come in, monsieur, come in; we shall be only too happy to receive you,”
 cried Thuillier, who, on hearing the name, had hurried out to meet the
savant.

“Hein! you scamp,” said the learned man, turning upon the man-servant,
who had retired, seeing that the matter was being settled amicably, “I
told you I should get in.”

Pere Picot was a tall old man, with an angular, stern face, who, despite
the corrective of a blond wig with heavy curls, and that of the pacific
green shade we have already mentioned, expressed on his large features,
upon which the fury of study had produced a surface of leaden pallor, a
snappish and quarrelsome disposition. Of this he had already given proof
before entering the dining-room, where every one now rose to receive
him.

His costume consisted of a huge frock-coat, something between a paletot
and a dressing-gown, between which an immense waistcoat of iron-gray
cloth, fastened from the throat to the pit of the stomach with two rows
of buttons, hussar fashion, formed a sort of buckler. The trousers,
though October was nearing its close, were made of black lasting,
and gave testimony to long service by the projection of a darn on the
otherwise polished surface covering the knees, the polish being produced
by the rubbing of the hands upon those parts. But, in broad daylight,
the feature of the old savant’s appearance which struck the eye most
vividly was a pair of Patagonian feet, imprisoned in slippers of beaver
cloth, the which, moulded upon the mountainous elevations of gigantic
bunions, made the spectator think, involuntarily, of the back of a
dromedary or an advanced case of elephantiasis.

Once installed in a chair which was hastily brought for him, and the
company having returned to their places at table, the old man suddenly
burst out in thundering tones, amid the silence created by curiosity:--

“Where is he,--that rogue, that scamp? Let him show himself; let him
dare to speak to me!”

“Who is it that offends you, my dear monsieur?” said Thuillier, in
conciliating accents, in which there was a slight tone of patronage.

“A scamp whom I couldn’t find in his own home, and they told me he
was here, in this house. I’m in the apartment, I think, of Monsieur
Thuillier of the Council-general, place de la Madeleine, first story
above the entresol?”

“Precisely,” said Thuillier; “and allow me to add, monsieur, that you
are surrounded with the respect and sympathy of all.”

“And you will doubtless permit me to add,” said Minard, “that the mayor
of the arrondissement adjoining that which you inhabit congratulates
himself on being here in presence of Monsieur Picot,--_the_ Monsieur
Picot, no doubt, who has just immortalized his name by the discovery of
a star!”

“Yes, monsieur,” replied the professor, elevating to a still higher
pitch the stentorian diapason of his voice, “I am Picot (Nepomucene),
but I have not discovered a star; I don’t concern myself with any such
fiddle-faddle; besides, my eyes are very weak; and that insolent young
fellow I have come here to find is making me ridiculous with such talk.
I don’t see him here; he is hiding himself, I know; he dares not look me
in the face.”

“Who is this person who annoys you?” asked several voices at once.

“An unnatural pupil of mine,” replied the old mathematician; “a scamp,
but full of ideas; his name is Felix Phellion.”

The name was received, as may well be imagined, with amazement. Finding
the situation amusing, Colleville and la Peyrade went off into fits of
laughter.

“You laugh, fools!” cried the irate old man, rising. “Yes, come and
laugh within reach of my arm.”

So saying, he brandished a thick stick with a white china handle, which
he used to guide himself, thereby nearly knocking over a candelabrum on
the dinner-table upon Madame Minard’s head.

“You are mistaken, monsieur,” cried Brigitte, springing forward and
seizing his arm. “Monsieur Felix is not here. He will probably come
later to a reception we are about to give; but at present he has not
arrived.”

“They don’t begin early, your receptions,” said the old man; “it is past
eight o’clock. Well, as Monsieur Felix is coming later, you must allow
me to wait for him. I believe you were eating your dinners; don’t let me
disturb you.”

And he went back peaceably to his chair.

“As you permit it, monsieur,” said Brigitte, “we will continue, or, I
should say, finish dinner, for we are now at the dessert. May I offer
you anything,--a glass of champagne and a biscuit?”

“I am very willing, madame,” replied the intruder. “No one ever refuses
champagne, and I am always ready to eat between my meals; but you dine
very late.”

A place was made for him at table between Colleville and Mademoiselle
Minard, and the former made it his business to fill the glass of his new
neighbor, before whom was placed a dish of small cakes.

“Monsieur,” said la Peyrade in a cajoling tone, “you saw how surprised
we were to hear you complain of Monsieur Felix Phellion,--so amiable, so
inoffensive a young man. What has he done to you, that you should feel
so angry with him?”

With his mouth full of cakes, which he was engulfing in quantities
that made Brigitte uneasy, the professor made a sign that he would soon
answer; then, having mistaken his glass and swallowed the contents of
Colleville’s, he replied:--

“You ask what that insolent young man had done to me? A rascally thing;
and not the first, either. He knows that I cannot abide stars, having
very good reason to hate them, as you shall hear: In 1807, being
attached to the Bureau of Longitudes, I was part of the scientific
expedition sent to Spain, under the direction of my friend and
colleague, Jean-Baptiste Biot, to determine the arc of the terrestrial
meridian from Barcelona to the Balearic isles. I was just in the act
of observing a star (perhaps the very one my rascally pupil has
discovered), when suddenly, war having broken out between France
and Spain, the peasants, seeing me perched with a telescope on Monte
Galazzo, took it into their heads that I was making signals to the
enemy. A mob of savages broke my instruments, and talked of stringing me
up. They were just going to do it, when the captain of a vessel took me
prisoner and thrust me into the citadel of Belver, where I spent three
years in the harshest captivity. Since them, as you may well believe, I
loathe the whole celestial system; though I was, without knowing it, the
first to observe the famous comet of 1811; but I should have taken care
not to say a word about it if it had not been for Monsieur Flauguergues,
who announced it. Like all my pupils, Phellion knows my aversion to
stars, and he knew very well the worst trick he could play me would
be to saddle one on my back; and that deputation that came to play the
farce of congratulating me was mighty lucky not to find me at home, for
if they had, I can assure those gentlemen of the Academy, they would
have had a hot reception.”

Everybody present thought the old mathematician’s monomania quite
delightful, except la Peyrade, who now, in perceiving Felix Phellion’s
part in the affair, regretted deeply having caused the explanation.

“And yet, Monsieur Picot,” said Minard, “if Felix Phellion is only
guilty of attributing his discovery to you, it seems to me that his
indiscreet behavior has resulted in a certain compensation to you: the
cross of the Legion of honor, a pension, and the glory attached to your
name are not to be despised.”

“The cross and the pension I take,” said the old man, emptying his
glass, which, to Brigitte’s terror, he set down upon the table with a
force that threatened to smash it. “The government has owed them to me
these twenty years; not for the discovery of stars,--things that I
have always despised,--but for my famous ‘Treatise on Differential
Logarithms’ (Kepler thought proper to call them monologarithms), which
is a sequel to the tables of Napier; also for my ‘Postulatum’ of Euclid,
of which I was the first to discover the solution; but above all, for
my ‘Theory of Perpetual Motion,’--four volumes in quarto with plates;
Paris, 1825. You see, therefore, monsieur, that to give me glory is
bringing water to the Seine. I had so little need of Monsieur Felix
Phellion to make me a position in the scientific world that I turned him
out of my house long ago.”

“Then it isn’t the first star,” said Colleville, flippantly, “that he
dared to put upon you?”

“He did worse than that,” roared the old man; “he ruined my reputation,
he tarnished my name. My ‘Theory of Perpetual Motion,’ the printing of
which cost me every penny I owned, though it ought to have been printed
gratis at the Royal Printing-office, was calculated to make my fortune
and render me immortal. Well, that miserable Felix prevented it. From
time to time, pretending to bring messages from my editor, he would say,
the young sycophant, ‘Papa Picot, your book is selling finely;
here’s five hundred francs--two hundred francs--and once it was two
thousand--which your publisher charged me to give you.’ This thing went
on for years, and my publisher, who had the baseness to enter into the
plot, would say to me, when I went to the shop: ‘Yes, yes, it doesn’t
do badly, it _bubbles_, that book; we shall soon be at the end of this
edition.’ I, who didn’t suggest anything, I pocketed my money, and
thought to myself: ‘My book is liked, little by little its ideas are
making their way; I may now expect, from day to day, that some great
capitalist will come to me and propose to apply my system--’”

“--of ‘Absorption of Liquids’?” asked Colleville, who had been steadily
filling the old fellow’s glass.

“No, monsieur, my ‘Theory of Perpetual Motion,’ 4 vols. in quarto with
plates. But no! days, weeks went by and nobody came; so, thinking that
my publisher did not put all the energy he should into the matter, I
tried to sell the second edition to another man. It was that, monsieur,
that enabled me to discover the whole plot, on which, as I said before,
I turned that serpent out of my house. In six years only nine copies
had been sold! Kept quiet in false security I had done nothing for the
propagation of my book, which had been left to take care of itself; and
thus it was that I, victim of black and wicked jealousy, was shamefully
despoiled of the value of my labors.”

“But,” said Minard, making himself the mouthpiece of the thoughts of
the company, “may we not see in that act a manner as ingenious as it was
delicate to--”

“To give me alms! is that what you mean?” interrupted the old man, with
a roar that made Mademoiselle Minard jump in her chair; “to humiliate
me, dishonor me--me, his old professor! Am I in need of charity? Has
Picot (Nepomucene), to whom his wife brought a dowry of one hundred
thousand francs, ever stretched out his palm to any one? But in these
days nothing is respected. Old fellows, as they call us, our religion
and our good faith is taken advantage of so that these youths may say
to the public: ‘Old drivellers, don’t you see now they are good for
nothing? It needs _us_, the young generation, _us_, the moderns, _us_,
Young France, to bring them up on a bottle.’ Young greenhorn! let me see
_you_ try to feed _me_! Old drivellers know more in their little finger
than you in your whole brain, and you’ll never be worth us, paltry
little intriguer that you are! However, I know my day of vengeance will
come; that young Phellion can’t help ending badly; what he did to-day,
reading a statement to the Academy, under my name, was forgery, forgery!
and the law will send him to the galleys for that.”

“True,” said Colleville, “forgery of a public star.”

Brigitte, who quaked for her glasses, and whose nerves were exacerbated
by the monstrous consumption of cakes and wine, now gave the signal to
return to the salon. Besides, she had heard the door-bell ring several
times, announcing the arrival of guests for the evening. The question
then was how to transplant the professor, and Colleville politely
offered him his arm.

“No, monsieur,” he said, “you must allow me to stay where I am. I am
not dressed for a party, and besides, a strong light hurts my eyes.
Moreover, I don’t choose to give myself as a spectacle; it will be
best that my interview with Felix Phellion should take place between
‘four-eyes,’ as they say.”

“Well, let him alone, then,” said Brigitte to Colleville.

No one insisted,--the old man having, unconsciously, pretty nigh
discrowned himself in the opinion of the company. But before leaving,
the careful housewife removed everything that was at all fragile from
his reach; then, by way of a slight attention, she said:--

“Shall I send you some coffee?”

“I’ll take it, madame,” responded pere Picot, “and some cognac with it.”

“Oh! parbleu! he takes everything,” said Brigitte to the male domestic,
and she told the latter to keep an eye on the old madman.

When Brigitte returned to the salon she found that the Abbe Gondrin had
become the centre of a great circle formed by nearly the whole company,
and as she approached, she heard him say:--

“I thank Heaven for bestowing upon me such a pleasure. I have never felt
an emotion like that aroused by the scene we have just witnessed; even
the rather burlesque form of this confidence, which was certainly very
artless, for it was quite involuntary, only adds to the honor of the
surprising generosity it revealed. Placed as I am by my ministry in
the way of knowing of many charities, and often either the witness or
intermediary of good actions, I think I never in my life have met with
a more touching or a more ingenious devotion. To keep the left hand
ignorant of what the right hand does is a great step in Christianity;
but to go so far as to rob one’s self of one’s own fame to benefit
another under such conditions is the gospel applied in its highest
precepts; it is being more than a Sister of Charity; it is doing the
work of an apostle of beneficence. How I should like to know that noble
young man, and shake him by the hand.”

With her arm slipped through that of her godmother, Celeste was standing
very near the priest, her ears intent upon his words, her arm pressing
tighter and tighter that of Madame Thuillier, as the abbe analyzed the
generous action of Felix Phellion, until at last she whispered under her
breath:--

“You hear, godmother, you hear!”

To destroy the inevitable effect which this hearty praise would surely
have on Celeste, Thuillier hastened to say:--

“Unfortunately, Monsieur l’abbe, the young man of whom you speak so
warmly is not altogether unknown to you. I have had occasion to tell you
about him, and to regret that it was not possible to follow out
certain plans which we once entertained for him; I allude to the very
compromising independence he affects in his religious opinions.”

“Ah! is that the young man?” said the abbe; “you surprise me much; I
must say such an idea would never have crossed my mind.”

“You will see him presently, Monsieur l’abbe,” said la Peyrade, joining
in the conversation, “and if you question him on certain grounds you
will have no difficulty in discovering the ravages that a love of
science can commit in the most gifted souls.”

“I am afraid I shall not see him,” said the abbe, “as my black gown
would be out of place in the midst of the more earthly gaiety that will
soon fill this salon. But I know, Monsieur de la Peyrade, that you are a
man of sincerely pious convictions, and as, without any doubt, you feel
as much interest in the young man’s welfare as I do myself, I shall say
to you in parting: Do not be uneasy about him; sooner or later, such
choice souls come back to us, and if the return of these prodigals
should be long delayed I should not fear, on seeing them go to God, that
His infinite mercy would fail them.”

So saying, the abbe looked about to find his hat, and proceeded to slip
quietly away.

Suddenly a fearful uproar was heard. Rushing into the dining-room,
whence came a sound of furniture overturned and glasses breaking,
Brigitte found Colleville occupied in adjusting his cravat and looking
himself over to be sure that his coat, cruelly pulled awry, bore no
signs of being actually torn.

“What is the matter?” cried Brigitte.

“It is that old idiot,” replied Colleville, “who is in a fury. I came
to take my coffee with him, just to keep him company, and he took a
joke amiss, and collared me, and knocked over two chairs and a tray of
glasses because Josephine didn’t get out of his way in time.”

“It is all because you’ve been teasing him,” said Brigitte, crossly;
“why couldn’t you stay in the salon instead of coming here to play your
jokes, as you call them? You think you are still in the orchestra of the
Opera-Comique.”

This sharp rebuke delivered, Brigitte, like the resolute woman that she
was, saw that she absolutely must get rid of the ferocious old man
who threatened her household with flames and blood. Accordingly, she
approached pere Picot, who was tranquilly engaged in burning brandy in
his saucer.

“Monsieur,” she said, at the top of her lungs, as if she were speaking
to a deaf person (evidently thinking that a blind one ought to be
treated in the same manner), “I have come to tell you something that
may annoy you. Monsieur and Madame Phellion have just arrived, and they
inform me that their son, Monsieur Felix, is not coming. He has a cold
and a sore-throat.”

“Then he got it this afternoon reading that lecture,” cried the
professor, joyfully. “That’s justice!--Madame, where do you get your
brandy?”

“Why, at my grocer’s,” replied Brigitte, taken aback by the question.

“Well, madame, I ought to tell you that in a house where one can drink
such excellent champagne, which reminds me of that we used to quaff at
the table of Monsieur de Fontanes, grand-master of the University, it is
shameful to keep such brandy. I tell you, with the frankness I put into
everything, that it is good only to wash your horses’ feet, and if I had
not the resource of burning it--”

“He is the devil in person,” thought Brigitte; “not a word of excuse
about all that glass, but he must needs fall foul of my brandy
too!--Monsieur,” she resumed, in the same raised diapason, “as Monsieur
Felix is not coming, don’t you think your family will be uneasy at your
absence?”

“Family? I haven’t any, madame, owing to the fact that they want to make
me out a lunatic. But I have a housekeeper, Madame Lambert, and I dare
say she will be surprised not to see me home by this time. I think I had
better go now; if I stay later, the scene might be more violent. But
I must own that in this strange quarter I am not sure if I can find my
way.”

“Then take a carriage.”

“Carriage here, carriage there, indeed! my spiteful relations wouldn’t
lose the chance of calling me a spendthrift.”

“I have an important message to send into your quarter,” said Brigitte,
seeing she must resolve to make the sacrifice, “and I have just told
my porter to take a cab and attend to it. If you would like to take
advantage of that convenience--”

“I accept it, madame,” said the old professor, rising; “and, if it
comes to the worst, I hope you will testify before the judge that I was
niggardly about a cab.”

“Henri,” said Brigitte to the man-servant, “take monsieur down to the
porter and tell him to do the errand I told him about just now, and to
take monsieur to his own door, and be very careful of him.”

“Careful of him!” echoed the old man. “Do you take me for a trunk,
madame, or a bit of cracked china?”

Seeing that she had got her man fairly to the door, Brigitte allowed
herself to turn upon him.

“What I say, monsieur, is for your good. You must allow me to observe
that you have not an agreeable nature.”

“Careful of him! careful of him!” repeated the old man. “Don’t you
know, madame, that by the use of such words you may get people put
into lunatic asylums? However, I will not reply rudely to the polite
hospitality I have received,--all the more because, I think, I have put
Monsieur Felix, who missed me intentionally, in his right place.”

“Go, go, go, you old brute!” cried Brigitte, slamming the door behind
him.

Before returning to the salon she was obliged to drink a whole glassful
of water, the restraint she had been forced to put upon herself in order
to get rid of this troublesome guest having, to use her own expression,
“put her all about.”



CHAPTER XIII. THE MAN WHO THINKS THE STAR TOO BRIGHT

The next morning Minard paid a visit to Phellion in his study. The great
citizen and his son Felix were at that moment engaged in a conversation
which seemed to have some unusual interest for them.

“My dear Felix,” cried the mayor of the eleventh arrondissement,
offering his hand warmly to the young professor, “it is you who bring me
here this morning; I have come to offer you my congratulations.”

“What has occurred?” asked Phellion. “Have the Thuilliers--”

“It has nothing to do with the Thuilliers,” interrupted the mayor.
“But,” he added, looking hard at Felix, “can that sly fellow have
concealed the thing even from you?”

“I do not think,” said Phellion, “that ever, in his life, has my son
concealed a thing from me.”

“Then you know about the sublime astronomical discovery which he
communicated to the Academy of Sciences yesterday?”

“Your kindness for me, Monsieur le maire,” said Felix, hastily, “has led
you astray; I was only the reader of the communication.”

“Oh! let me alone!” said Minard; “reader, indeed! I know all about it.”

“But see,” said Felix, offering Minard the “Constitutionnel,” “here’s
the paper; not only does it announce that Monsieur Picot is the maker
of the discovery, but it mentions the rewards which, without losing a
moment, the government has bestowed upon him.”

“Felix is right,” said Phellion; “that journal is to be trusted. On this
occasion I think the government has acted very properly.”

“But, my dear commander, I repeat to you that the truth of the affair
has got wind, and your son is shown to be a most admirable fellow. To
put his own discovery to the credit of his old professor so as to obtain
for him the recognition and favor of the authorities--upon my word, in
all antiquity I don’t know a finer trait!”

“Felix!” said Phellion, beginning to show some emotion, “these immense
labors to which you have devoted so much time of late, these continual
visits to the Observatory--”

“But, father,” interrupted Felix, “Monsieur Minard has been
misinformed.”

“Misinformed!” cried Minard, “when I know the whole affair from Monsieur
Picot himself!”

At this argument, stated in a way to leave no possible doubt, the truth
began to dawn upon Phellion.

“Felix, my son!” he said, rising to embrace him.

But he was obliged to sit down again; his legs refused to bear his
weight; he turned pale; and that nature, ordinarily so impassible,
seemed about to give way under the shock of this happiness.

“My God!” said Felix, terrified, “he is ill; ring the bell, I entreat
you, Monsieur Minard.”

And he ran to the old man, loosened his cravat and unfastened the collar
of his shirt, striking him in the palms of his hands. But the sudden
faintness was but momentary; almost immediately himself again, Phellion
gathered his son to his heart, and holding him long in his embrace, he
said, in a voice broken by the tears that came to put an end to this
shock of joy:--

“Felix, my noble son! so great in heart, so great in mind!”

The bell had been rung by Minard with magisterial force, and with such
an accent that the whole household was alarmed, and came running in.

“It is nothing, it is nothing,” said Phellion to the servants, sending
them away. But almost at the same moment, seeing his wife, who now
entered the room, he resumed his habitual solemnity.

“Madame Phellion,” he said, pointing to Felix, “how many years is it
since you brought that young man into the world?”

Madame Phellion, bewildered by the question, hesitated a moment, and
then said:--

“Twenty-five years next January.”

“Have you not thought, until now, that God had amply granted your
maternal desires by making this child of your womb an honest man, a
pious son, and by gifting him for mathematics, that Science of sciences,
with an aptitude sufficiently remarkable?”

“I have,” said Madame Phellion, understanding less and less what her
husband was coming to.

“Well,” continued Phellion, “you owe to God an additional thanksgiving,
for He has granted that you be the mother of a man of genius; his toil,
which lately we rebuked, and which made us fear for the reason of our
child, was the way--the rough and jagged way--by which men come to
fame.”

“Ah ca!” cried Madame Phellion, “can’t you stop coming yourself to an
explanation of what you mean, and get there?”

“Your son,” said Minard, cautious this time in measuring the joy he was
about to bestow, fearing another fainting-fit of happiness, “has just
made a very important scientific discovery.”

“Is it true?” said Madame Phellion, going up to Felix, and taking him by
both hands as she looked at him lovingly.

“When I say important,” continued Minard, “I am only sparing your
maternal emotions; it is, in truth, a sublime, a dazzling discovery.
He is only twenty-five years old, but his name, from henceforth, is
immortal.”

“And this is the man,” said Madame Phellion, half beside herself, and
kissing Felix with effusion, “to whom that la Peyrade is preferred!”

“No, not preferred, madame,” said Minard, “for the Thuilliers are not
the dupes of that adventurer. But he has made himself necessary to them.
Thuillier fancies that without la Peyrade he could not be elected; the
election is still doubtful, and they are sacrificing everything to it.”

“But isn’t it odious,” cried Madame Phellion, “to consider such
interests before the happiness of their child!”

“Ah!” said Minard, “but Celeste is not their child, only their adopted
daughter.”

“Brigitte’s, if you like,” said Madame Phellion; “but as for
Thuillier--”

“My good wife,” said Phellion, “no censoriousness. The good God has just
sent us a great consolation; and, indeed, though certainly far advanced,
this marriage, about which I regret to say Felix does not behave with
all the philosophy I could desire, may still not take place.”

Seeing that Felix shook his head with a look of incredulity, Minard
hastened to say:--

“Yes, yes, the commander is quite right. Last night there was a hitch
about signing the contract, and it was not signed. You were not there,
by the bye, and your absence was much remarked upon.”

“We were invited,” said Phellion, “and up to the last moment we
hesitated whether to go or not. But, as you will readily see, our
position was a false one; besides, Felix--and I see now it must have
been in consequence of his lecture at the Academy--was completely worn
out with fatigue and emotion. To present ourselves without him would
have seemed very singular; therefore we decided that it would be wisest
and best to absent ourselves.”

The presence of the man whom he had just declared immortal did not deter
Minard, when the occasion was thus made for him, from plunging eagerly
into one of the most precious joys of bourgeois existence, namely, the
retailing of gossip.

“Just imagine!” he began; “last night at the Thuilliers’ the most
extraordinary things took place, one after another.”

First he related the curious episode of pere Picot. Then he told of the
hearty approbation given to Felix’s conduct by the Abbe Gondrin, and the
desire the young preacher had expressed to meet him.

“I’ll go and see him,” said Felix; “do you know where he lives?”

“Rue de la Madeleine, No. 8,” replied Minard. “But the great event of
the evening was the spectacle of that fine company assembled to listen
to the marriage-contract, and waiting in expectation a whole hour for
the notary, who--never came!”

“Then the contract is not signed?” said Felix, eagerly.

“Not even read, my friend. Suddenly some one came in and told Brigitte
that the notary had started for Brussels.”

“Ah! no doubt,” said Phellion, naively; “some very important business.”

“Most important,” replied Minard; “a little bankruptcy of five hundred
thousand francs which the gentleman leaves behind him.”

“But who is this public officer,” demanded Phellion, “so recreant, in
this scandalous manner, to the sacred duties of his calling?”

“Parbleu! your neighbor in the rue Saint-Jacques, the notary Dupuis.”

“What!” said Madame Phellion, “that pious man? Why, he is churchwarden
of the parish!”

“Eh! madame, those are the very ones,” said Minard, “to run off--there
are many precedents for that.”

“But,” said Phellion, “such news cast suddenly among the company must
have fallen like a thunderbolt.”

“Especially,” said Minard, “as it was brought in the most unexpected and
singular manner.”

“Tell us all about it,” said Madame Phellion, with animation.

“Well, it seems,” continued Minard, “that this canting swindler had
charge of the savings of a number of servants, and that Monsieur de
la Peyrade--because, you see, they are all of a clique, these pious
people--was in the habit of recruiting clients for him in that walk of
life--”

“I always said so!” interrupted Madame Phellion. “I knew that Provencal
was no good at all.”

“It seems,” continued the mayor, “that he had placed in Dupuis’s hands
all the savings of an old housekeeper, pious herself, amounting to a
pretty little sum. Faith! I think myself it was worth some trouble. How
much do you suppose it was? Twenty-five thousand francs, if you please!
This housekeeper, whose name is Madame Lambert--”

“Madame Lambert!” cried Felix; “why, that’s Monsieur Picot’s
housekeeper; close cap, pale, thin face, speaks always with her eyes
lowered, shows no hair?”

“That’s she,” said Minard,--“a regular hypocrite!”

“Twenty-five thousand francs of savings!” said Felix. “I don’t wonder
that poor pere Picot is always out of money.”

“And that someone had to meddle with the sale of his book,” said Minard,
slyly. “However that may be, you can imagine that the woman was in a
fine state of mind on hearing of the flight of the notary. Off she
went to la Peyrade’s lodgings; there she was told he was dining at
the Thuilliers’; to the Thuilliers’ she came, after running about the
streets--for they didn’t give her quite the right address--till ten
o’clock; but she got there while the company were still sitting round
waiting for the notary, and gaping at each other, no one knowing what
to say and do, for neither Brigitte nor Thuillier have faculty enough
to get out of such a scrape with credit; and we all missed the voice of
Madame de Godollo and the talent of Madame Phellion.”

“Oh! you are too polite, Monsieur le maire,” said Madame Phellion,
bridling.

“Well, as I said,” continued Minard, “at ten o’clock Madame Lambert
reached the antechamber of Monsieur the general-councillor, and there
she asked, in great excitement, to see la Peyrade.”

“That was natural,” said Phellion; “he being the intermediary of the
investment, this woman had a right to question him.”

“You should just have seen that Tartuffe!” continued Minard. “He had no
sooner gone out than he returned, bringing the news. As everybody was
longing to get away, there followed a general helter-skelter. And then
what does our man do? He goes back to Madame Lambert, who was crying
that she was ruined! she was lost!--which might very well be true, but
it might also be only a scene arranged between them in presence of the
company, whom the woman’s outcries detained in the antechamber. ‘Don’t
be anxious, my good woman,’ said la Peyrade; ‘the investment was made at
your request, consequently, I owe you nothing; BUT it is enough that
the money passed through my hands to make my conscience tell me I am
responsible. If the notary’s assets are not enough to pay you I will do
so.’”

“Yes,” said Phellion, “that was my idea as you told it; the intermediary
is or ought to be responsible. I should not have hesitated to do as
Monsieur de la Peyrade did, and I do not think that after such conduct
as that he ought to be taxed with Jesuitism.”

“Yes, you would have done so,” said Minard, “and so should I, but we
shouldn’t have done it with a brass band; we should have paid our money
quietly, like gentlemen. But this electoral manager, how is he going to
pay it? Out of the ‘dot’?”

At this moment the little page entered the room and gave a letter
to Felix Phellion. It came from pere Picot, and was written at his
dictation by Madame Lambert, for which reason we will not reproduce the
orthography. The writing of Madame Lambert was of those that can never
be forgotten when once seen. Recognizing it instantly, Felix hastened to
say:--

“A letter from the professor”; then, before breaking the seal, he added,
“Will you permit me, Monsieur le maire.”

“He’ll rate you finely,” said Minard, laughing. “I never saw anything so
comical as his wrath last night.”

Felix, as he read the letter, smiled to himself. When he had finished
it, he passed it to his father, saying:--

“Read it aloud if you like.”

Whereupon, with his solemn voice and manner, Phellion read as follows:--

  My dear Felix,--I have just received your note; it came in the
  nick of time, for I was, as they say, in a fury with you. You tell
  me that you were guilty of that abuse of confidence (about which I
  intended to write you a piece of my mind) in order to give a
  knock-down blow to my relations by proving that a man capable of
  making such complicated calculations as your discovery required
  was not a man to put in a lunatic asylum or drag before a
  judiciary council. That argument pleases me, and it makes such a
  good answer to the infamous proceedings of my relations that I
  praise you for having had the idea. But you sold it to me, that
  argument, pretty dear when you put me in company with a star, for
  you know very well _that_ propinquity wouldn’t please me at all. It
  is not at my age, and after solving the great problem of perpetual
  motion, that a man could take up with such rubbish as that,--good
  only for boys and greenhorns like you; and that is what I have
  taken the liberty this morning to go and tell the minister of
  public instruction, by whom I must say I was received with the
  most perfect urbanity. I asked him to see whether, as he had made
  a mistake and sent them to the wrong address, he could not take
  back his cross and his pension,--though to be sure, as I told him,
  I deserved them for other things.

  “The government,” he replied, “is not in the habit of making
  mistakes; what it does is always properly done, and it never
  annuls an ordinance signed by the hand of his Majesty. Your great
  labors have deserved the two favors the King has granted you; it
  is a long-standing debt, which I am happy to pay off in his name.”

  “But Felix?” I said; “because after all for a young man it is not
  such a bad discovery.”

  “Monsieur Felix Phellion,” replied the minister, “will receive in
  the course of the day his appointment to the rank of Chevalier of
  the Legion of honor; I will have it signed this morning by the
  king. Moreover, there is a vacant place at the Academy of
  Sciences, and if you are not a candidate for it--”

  “I, in the Academy!” I interrupted, with the frankness of speech
  you know I always use; “I execrate academies; they are stiflers,
  extinguishers, assemblages of sloths, idlers, shops with big signs
  and nothing to sell inside--”

  “Well, then,” said the minister, smiling, “I think that at the
  next election Monsieur Felix Phellion will have every chance, and
  among those chances I count the influence of the government which
  is secured to him.”

  There, my poor boy, is all that I have been able to do to reward
  your good intentions and to prove to you that I am no longer
  angry. I think the relations are going to pull a long face. Come
  and talk about it to-day at four o’clock,--for I don’t dine after
  bedtime, as I saw some people doing last night in a house where I
  had occasion to mention your talents in a manner that was very
  advantageous to you. Madame Lambert, who does better with a
  saucepan than with pen and ink, shall distinguish herself, though
  it is Friday, and she never lets me off a fast day. But she has
  promised us a fish dinner worthy of an archbishop, with a fine
  half-bottle of champagne (doubled if need be) to wash it down.


Your old professor and friend,

Picot (Nepomucene),

Chevalier of the Legion of honor.

  P.S.--Do you think you could obtain from your respectable mother a
  little flask of that old and excellent cognac you once gave me?
  Not a drop remains, and yesterday I was forced to drink some stuff
  only fit to bathe horses’ feet, as I did not hesitate to say to
  the beautiful Hebe who served it to me.


“Of course he shall have some,” said Madame Phellion; “not a flask, but
a gallon.”

“And I,” said Minard, “who pique myself on mine, which didn’t come from
Brigitte’s grocer either, I’ll send him several bottles; but don’t tell
him who sent them, Monsieur le chevalier, for you never can tell how
that singular being will take things.”

“Wife,” said Phellion, suddenly, “get me my black coat and a white
cravat.”

“Where are you going?” asked Madame Phellion. “To the minister, to thank
him?”

“Bring me, I say, those articles of habiliment. I have an important
visit to make; and Monsieur le maire will, I know, excuse me.”

“I myself must be off,” said Minard. “I, too, have important business,
though it isn’t about a star.”

Questioned in vain by Felix and his wife, Phellion completed his attire
with a pair of white gloves, sent for a carriage, and, at the end of
half an hour, entered the presence of Brigitte, whom he found presiding
over the careful putting away of the china, glass, and silver which
had performed their several functions the night before. Leaving these
housekeeping details, she received her visitor.

“Well, papa Phellion,” she said, when they were both seated in the
salon, “you broke your word yesterday; you were luckier than the rest.
Do you know what a trick that notary played us?”

“I know all,” said Phellion; “and it is the check thus unexpectedly
given to the execution of your plans that I shall take for the text of
an important conversation which I desire to have with you. Sometimes
Providence would seem to take pleasure in counteracting our best-laid
schemes; sometimes, also, by means of the obstacles it raises in our
path, it seems to intend to indicate that we are bearing too far to the
right or to the left, and should pause to reflect upon our way.”

“Providence!” said Brigitte the strong-minded,--“Providence has
something else to do than to look after us.”

“That is one opinion,” said Phellion; “but I myself am accustomed to
see its decrees in the little as well as the great things of life; and
certainly, if it had allowed the fulfilment of your engagements with
Monsieur de la Peyrade to be even partially begun yesterday, you would
not have seen me here to-day.”

“Then,” said Brigitte, “do you think that by default of a notary the
marriage will not take place? They do say that for want of a monk the
abbey won’t come to a standstill.”

“Dear lady,” said the great citizen, “you will do me the justice to
feel that neither I, nor my wife, have ever attempted to influence your
decision; we have allowed our young people to love each other without
much consideration as to where that attachment would lead--”

“It led to upsetting their minds,” said Brigitte; “that’s what love is,
and that’s why I deprived myself of it.”

“What you say is, indeed, true of my unfortunate son,” resumed Phellion;
“for, notwithstanding the noble distractions he has endeavored to
give to his sorrow, he is to-day so miserably overcome by it that this
morning, in spite of the glorious success he has just obtained, he was
speaking to me of undertaking a voyage of circumnavigation around the
globe,--a rash enterprise which would detain him from his native land at
least three years, if, indeed, he escaped the dangers of so prolonged a
journey.”

“Well,” said Brigitte, “it isn’t a bad idea; he’ll return consoled,
having discovered three or four more new stars.”

“His present discovery suffices,” said Phellion, with double his
ordinary gravity, “and it is under the auspices of that triumph, which
has placed his name at so great a height in the scientific world, that I
have the assurance to say to you, point-blank: Mademoiselle, I have come
to ask you, on behalf of my son, who loves as he is beloved, for the
hand in marriage of Mademoiselle Celeste Colleville.”

“But, my dear man,” replied Brigitte, “it is too late; remember that we
are _diametrically_ engaged to la Peyrade.”

“It is never, they say, too late to do well, and yesterday it would have
been in my judgment too early. My son, having to offer an equivalent for
a fortune, could not say to you until to-day: ‘Though Celeste, by your
generosity has a “dot” which mine is far from equalling, yet I have
the honor to be a member of the Royal order of the Legion of honor,
and shortly, according to appearance, I shall be a member of the Royal
Academy of Sciences, one of the five branches of the Institute.’”

“Certainly,” said Brigitte; “Felix is getting to be a very pretty match,
but we have passed our word to la Peyrade; the banns are published
at the mayor’s office, and unless something extraordinary happens the
contract will be signed. La Peyrade is very busy about Thuillier’s
election, which he has now got into good shape; we have capital engaged
with him in the affair of this newspaper; and it would be impossible to
go back on our promise, even if we wished to do so.”

“So,” said Phellion, “in one of the rare occasions of life when reason
and inclination blend together, you think you must be guided solely
by the question of material interests. Celeste, as we know, has no
inclination for Monsieur de la Peyrade. Brought up with Felix--”

“Brought up with Felix!” interrupted Brigitte. “She was given a period
of time to choose between Monsieur de la Peyrade and your son,--that’s
how we coerce her, if you please,--and she would not take Monsieur
Felix, whose atheism is too well known.”

“You are mistaken, mademoiselle, my son is not an atheist; for Voltaire
himself doubted if there could be atheists; and no later than yesterday,
in this house, an ecclesiastic, as admirable for his talents as for
his virtues, after making a magnificent eulogy of my son, expressed the
desire to know him.”

“Parbleu! yes, to convert him,” said Brigitte. “But as for this
marriage, I am sorry to tell you that the mustard is made too late for
the dinner; Thuillier will never renounce his la Peyrade.”

“Mademoiselle,” said Phellion, rising, “I feel no humiliation for the
useless step I have this day taken; I do not even ask you to keep it
secret, for I shall myself mention it to our friends and acquaintances.”

“Tell it to whom you like, my good man,” replied Brigitte,
acrimoniously. “Because your son has discovered a star,--if, indeed, he
did discover it, and not that old fool the government decorated--do you
expect him to marry a daughter of the King of the French?”

“Enough,” said Phellion, “we will say no more. I might answer that,
without depreciating the Thuilliers, the Orleans family seems to me
more distinguished; but I do not like to introduce acerbity into the
conversation, and therefore, begging you to receive the assurance of my
humble respects, I retire.”

So saying, he made his exit majestically, and left Brigitte with the
arrow of his comparison, discharged after the manner of the Parthian
“in extremis,” sticking in her mind, and she herself in a temper all the
more savage because already, the evening before, Madame Thuillier, after
the guests were gone, had the incredible audacity to say something in
favor of Felix. Needless to relate that the poor helot was roughly put
down and told to mind her own business. But this attempt at a will of
her own in her sister-in-law had already put the old maid in a vile
humor, and Phellion, coming to reopen the subject, exasperated her.
Josephine, the cook, and the “male domestic,” received the after-clap of
the scene which had just taken place. Brigitte found that in her absence
everything had been done wrong, and putting her own hand to the work,
she hoisted herself on a chair, at the risk of her neck, to reach the
upper shelves of the closet, where her choicest china, for gala days,
was carefully kept under lock and key.

This day, which for Brigitte began so ill, was, beyond all gainsaying,
one of the stormiest and most portentous of this narrative.



CHAPTER XIV. A STORMY DAY

As an exact historian, we must go back and begin the day at six in the
morning, when we can see Madame Thuillier going to the Madeleine to hear
the mass that the Abbe Gondrin was in the habit of saying at that hour,
and afterwards approaching the holy table,--a viaticum which pious souls
never fail to give themselves when it is in their minds to accomplish
some great resolution.

About mid-day the abbe received a visit in his own home from Madame
Thuillier and Celeste. The poor child wanted a little development of
the words by which the priest had given security, the evening before, in
Brigitte’s salon, for the eternal welfare of Felix Phellion. It seemed
strange to the mind of this girl-theologian that, without practising
religion, a soul could be received into grace by the divine justice; for
surely the anathema is clear: Out of the Church there is no salvation.

“My dear child,” said the Abbe Gondrin, “learn to understand that saying
which seems to you so inexplicable. It is more a saying of thanksgiving
for those who have the happiness to live within the pale of our holy
mother the Church than a malediction upon those who have the misfortune
to live apart from her. God sees to the depths of all hearts; He knows
His elect; and so great is the treasure of His goodness that to none is
it given to limit its riches and its munificence. Who shall dare to
say to God: Thou wilt be generous and munificent so far and no farther.
Jesus Christ forgave the woman in adultery, and on the cross He promised
heaven to a thief, in order to prove to us that He deals with men, not
according to human sentiments, but according to _his_ wisdom and _his_
mercy. He who thinks himself a Christian may be in the eyes of God an
idolator; and another who is thought a pagan may, by his feelings
and his actions be, without his own knowledge, a Christian. Our holy
religion has this that is divine about it; all grandeur, all heroism are
but the practice of its precepts. I was saying yesterday to Monsieur de
la Peyrade that pure souls must be, in course of time, its inevitable
conquest. It is all-important to give them their just credit; that is a
confidence which returns great dividends; and, besides, charity commands
it.”

“Ah! my God!” cried Celeste, “to learn that too late! I, who could have
chosen between Felix and Monsieur de la Peyrade, and did not dare to
follow the ideas of my heart! Oh! Monsieur l’abbe, couldn’t you speak to
my mother? Your advice is always listened to.”

“Impossible, my dear child,” replied the vicar. “If I had the direction
of Madame Colleville’s conscience I might perhaps say a word, but we are
so often accused of meddling imprudently in family matters! Be sure that
my intervention here, without authority or right, would do you more harm
than good. It is for you and for those who love you,” he added, giving a
look to Madame Thuillier, “to see if these arrangements, already so far
advanced, could be changed in the direction of your wishes.”

It was written that the poor child was to drink to the dregs the cup she
had herself prepared by her intolerance. As the abbe finished speaking,
his housekeeper came in to ask if he would receive Monsieur Felix
Phellion. Thus, like the Charter of 1830, Madame de Godollo’s officious
falsehood was turned into truth.

“Go this way,” he said hastily, showing his two penitents out by a
private corridor.

Life has such strange encounters that it does sometimes happen that the
same form of proceeding must be used by courtesans and by the men of
God.

“Monsieur l’abbe,” said Felix to the young vicar as soon as they met, “I
have heard of the kind manner in which you were so very good as to
speak of me in Monsieur Thuillier’s salon last night, and I should have
hastened to express my gratitude if another interest had not drawn me to
you.”

The Abbe Gondrin passed hastily over the compliments, eager to know in
what way he could be useful to his fellow-man.

“With an intention that I wish to think kindly,” replied Felix, “you
were spoken to yesterday about the state of my soul. Those who read it
so fluently know more than I do about my inner being, for, during the
last few days I have felt strange, inexplicable feelings within me.
Never have I doubted God, but, in contact with that infinitude where he
has permitted my thought to follow the traces of his work I seem to have
gathered a sense of him less vague, more immediate; and this has led
me to ask myself whether an honest and upright life is the only homage
which his omnipotence expects of me. Nevertheless, there are numberless
objections rising in my mind against the worship of which you are the
minister; while sensible of the beauty of its external form in many of
its precepts and practices, I find myself deterred by my reason. I shall
have paid dearly, perhaps by the happiness of my whole life, for the
slowness and want of vigor which I have shown in seeking the solution of
my doubts. I have now decided to search to the bottom of them. No one
so well as you, Monsieur l’abbe, can help me to solve them. I have come
with confidence to lay them before you, to ask you to listen to me, to
answer me, and to tell me by what studies I can pursue the search for
light. It is a cruelly afflicted soul that appeals to you. Is not that a
good ground for the seed of your word?”

The Abbe Gondrin eagerly protested the joy with which, notwithstanding
his own insufficiency, he would undertake to reply to the scruples of
conscience in the young savant. After asking him for a place in his
friendship, and telling him to come at certain hours for conversation,
he asked him to read, as a first step, the “Thoughts” of Pascal.
A natural affinity, on the side of science, would, he believed,
be established between the spirit of Pascal and that of the young
mathematician.

While this scene was passing, a scene to which the greatness of the
interests in question and the moral and intellectual elevation of the
personages concerned in it gave a character of grandeur which, like
all reposeful, tranquil aspects, is easier far to comprehend than to
reproduce, another scene, of sharp and bitter discord, that chronic
malady of bourgeois households, where the pettiness of minds and
passions gives open way to it, was taking place in the Thuillier home.

Mounted upon her chair, her hair in disorder and her face and fingers
dirty, Brigitte, duster in hand, was cleaning the shelves of the closet,
where she was replacing her library of plates, dishes, and sauce-boats,
when Flavie came in and accosted her.

“Brigitte,” she said, “when you have finished what you are about you had
better come down to our apartment, or else I’ll send Celeste to you; she
seems to me to be inclined to make trouble.”

“In what way?” asked Brigitte, continuing to dust.

“I think she and Madame Thuillier went to see the Abbe Gondrin this
morning, and she has been attacking me about Felix Phellion, and talks
of him as if he were a god; from that to refusing to marry la Peyrade is
but a step.”

“Those cursed skull-caps!” said Brigitte; “they meddle in everything! I
didn’t want to invite him, but you would insist.”

“Yes,” said Flavie, “it was proper.”

“Proper! I despise proprieties!” cried the old maid. “He’s a maker of
speeches; he said nothing last night that wasn’t objectionable. Send
Celeste to me; I’ll settle her.”

At this instant a servant announced to Brigitte the arrival of a clerk
from the office of the new notary chosen, in default of Dupuis, to draw
up the contract. Without considering her disorderly appearance, Brigitte
ordered him to be shown in, but she made him the condescension of
descending from her perch instead of talking from the height of it.

“Monsieur Thuillier,” said the clerk, “came to our office this morning
to explain to the master the clauses of the contract he has been so good
as to entrust to us. But before writing down the stipulations, we are in
the habit of obtaining from the lips of each donor a direct expression
of his or her intentions. In accordance with this rule, Monsieur
Thuillier told us that he gives to the bride the reversion, at his
death, of the house he inhabits, which I presume to be this one?”

“Yes,” said Brigitte, “that is the understanding. As for me, I give
three hundred thousand francs a year in the Three-per-cents, capital and
interest; but the bride is married under the dotal system.”

“That is so,” said the clerk, consulting his notes. “Mademoiselle
Brigitte, three thousand francs a year. Now, there is Madame Celeste
Thuillier, wife of Louis-Jerome Thuillier, who gives six thousand in
the Three-per-cents, capital and interest, and six thousand more at her
death.”

“All that is just as if the notary had written it down,” said Brigitte;
“but if it is your custom you can see my sister-in-law; they will show
you the way.”

So saying, the old maid ordered the “male domestic” to take the clerk to
Madame Thuillier.

A moment later the clerk returned, saying there was certainly some
misunderstanding, and that Madame Thuillier declared she had no
intention of making any agreement in favor of the marriage.

“That’s a pretty thing!” cried Brigitte. “Come with me, monsieur.”

Then, like a hurricane, she rushed into Madame Thuillier’s chamber; the
latter was pale and trembling.

“What’s this you have told monsieur?--that you give nothing to Celeste’s
‘dot’?”

“Yes,” said the slave, declaring insurrection, although in a shaking
voice; “my intention is to do nothing.”

“Your intention,” said Brigitte, scarlet with anger, “is something new.”

“That is my intention,” was all the rebel replied.

“At least you will give your reasons?”

“The marriage does not please me.”

“Ha! and since when?”

“It is not necessary that monsieur should listen to our discussion,”
 said Madame Thuillier; “it will not appear in the contract.”

“No wonder you are ashamed of it,” said Brigitte; “the appearance you
are making is not very flattering to you--Monsieur,” she continued,
addressing the clerk, “it is easier, is it not, to mark out passages in
a contract than to add them?”

The clerk made an affirmative sign.

“Then put in what you were told to write; later, if madame persists, the
clause can be stricken out.”

The clerk bowed and left the room.

When the two sisters-in-law were alone together, Brigitte began.

“Ah ca!” she cried, “have you lost your head? What is this crotchet
you’ve taken into it?”

“It is not a crotchet; it is a fixed idea.”

“Which you got from the Abbe Gondrin; you dare not deny that you went to
see him with Celeste.”

“It is true that Celeste and I saw our director this morning, but I did
not open my lips to him about what I intended to do.”

“So, then, it is in your own empty head that this notion sprouted?”

“Yes. As I told you yesterday, I think Celeste can be more suitably
married, and my intention is not to rob myself for a marriage of which I
disapprove.”

“_You_ disapprove! Upon my word! are we all to take madame’s advice?”

“I know well,” replied Madame Thuillier, “that I count for nothing in
this house. So far as I am concerned, I have long accepted my position;
but, when the matter concerns the happiness of a child I regard as my
own--”

“Parbleu!” cried Brigitte, “you never knew how to have one; for,
certainly, Thuillier--”

“Sister,” said Madame Thuillier, with dignity, “I took the sacrament
this morning, and there are some things I cannot listen to.”

“There’s a canting hypocrite for you!” cried Brigitte; “playing the
saint, and bringing trouble into families! And you think to succeed, do
you? Wait till Thuillier comes home, and he’ll shake this out of you.”

By calling in the marital authority in support of her own, Brigitte
showed weakness before the unexpected resistance thus made to her
inveterate tyranny. Madame Thuillier’s calm words, which became every
moment more resolute, baffled her completely, and she found no resource
but insolence.

“A drone!” she cried; “a helpless good-for-nothing! who can’t even pick
up her own handkerchief! that thing wants to be mistress of this house!”

“I wish so little to be its mistress,” said Madame Thuillier, “that last
night I allowed you to silence me after the first words I said in behalf
of Celeste. But I am mistress of my own property, and as I believe that
Celeste will be wretched in this marriage, I keep it to use as may seem
best to me.”

“Your property, indeed!” said Brigitte, with a sneer.

“Yes, that which I received from my father and my mother, and which I
brought as my ‘dot’ to Monsieur Thuillier.”

“And pray who invested it, this property, and made it give you twelve
thousand francs a year?”

“I have never asked you for any account of it,” said Madame Thuillier,
gently. “If it had been lost in the uses you made of it, you would never
have heard a single word from me; but it has prospered, and it is just
that I should have the benefit. It is not for myself that I reserve it.”

“Perhaps not; if this is the course you take, it is not at all sure that
you and I will go out of the same door long.”

“Do you mean that Monsieur Thuillier will send me away? He must have
reasons for doing that, and, thank God! I have been a wife above
reproach.”

“Viper! hypocrite! heartless creature!” cried Brigitte, coming to an end
of her arguments.

“Sister,” said Madame Thuillier, “you are in my apartment--”

“Am I, you imbecile?” cried the old maid, in a paroxysm of anger. “If I
didn’t restrain myself--”

And she made a gesture both insulting and threatening.

Madame Thuillier rose to leave the room.

“No! you shall not go out,” cried Brigitte, pushing her down into her
chair; “and till Thuillier comes home and decides what he will do with
you you’ll stay locked up here.”

Just as Brigitte, her face on fire, returned to the room where she had
left Madame Colleville, her brother came in. He was radiant.

“My dear,” he said to the Megaera, not observing her fury, “everything
is going on finely; the conspiracy of silence is broken; two papers,
the ‘National’ and a Carlist journal, have copied articles from us, and
there’s a little attack in a ministerial paper.”

“Well, all is not going on finely here,” said Brigitte, “and if it
continues, I shall leave the barrack.”

“Whom are you angry with now?” asked Thuillier.

“With your insolent wife, who has made me a scene; I am trembling all
over.”

“Celeste make you a scene!” said Thuillier; “then it is the very first
time in her life.”

“There’s a beginning to everything, and if you don’t bring her to
order--”

“But what was it about--this scene?”

“About madame’s not choosing that la Peyrade should marry her
goddaughter; and out of spite, to prevent the marriage, she refused to
give anything in the contract.”

“Come, be calm,” said Thuillier, not disturbed himself, the admission of
the “Echo” into the polemic making another Pangloss of him. “I’ll settle
all that.”

“You, Flavie,” said Brigitte, when Thuillier had departed to his wife,
“you will do me the pleasure to go down to your own apartment, and tell
Mademoiselle Celeste that I don’t choose to see her now, because if she
made me any irritating answer I might box her ears. You’ll tell her
that I don’t like conspiracies; that she was left at liberty to choose
Monsieur Phellion junior if she wanted him, and she did not want him;
that the matter is now all arranged, and that if she does not wish to
see her ‘dot’ reduced to what you are able to give her, which isn’t as
much as a bank-messenger could carry in his waistcoat pocket--”

“But, my dear Brigitte,” interrupted Flavie, turning upon her at this
impertinence, “you may dispense with reminding us in this harsh way of
our poverty; for, after all, we have never asked you for anything,
and we pay our rent punctually; and as for the ‘dot,’ Monsieur
Felix Phellion is quite ready to take Celeste with no more than a
bank-messenger could carry in his _bag_.”

And she emphasized the last word by her way of pronouncing it.

“Ha! so you too are going to meddle in this, are you?” cried Brigitte.
“Very good; go and fetch him, your Felix. I know, my little woman, that
this marriage has never suited you; it IS disagreeable to be nothing
more than a mother to your son-in-law.”

Flavie had recovered the coolness she had lost for an instant, and
without replying to this speech she merely shrugged her shoulders.

At this moment Thuillier returned; his air of beatitude had deserted
him.

“My dear Brigitte,” he said to his sister, “you have a most excellent
heart, but at times you are so violent--”

“Ho!” said the old maid, “am I to be arraigned on this side too?”

“I certainly do not blame you for the cause of the trouble, and I have
just rebuked Celeste for her assumption; but there are proper forms that
must be kept.”

“Forms! what are you talking about? What forms have I neglected?”

“But, my dear friend, to raise your hand against your sister!”

“I, raise my hand against that imbecile? What nonsense you talk!”

“And besides,” continued Thuillier, “a woman of Celeste’s age can’t be
kept in prison.”

“Your wife!--have I put her in prison?”

“You can’t deny it, for I found the door of her room double-locked.”

“Parbleu! all this because in my anger at the infamous things she was
spitting at me I may have turned the key of the door without intending
it.”

“Come, come,” said Thuillier, “these are not proper actions for people
of our class.”

“Oh! so it is I who am to blame, is it? Well, my lad, some day you’ll
remember this, and we shall see how your household will get along when I
have stopped taking care of it.”

“You’ll always take care of it,” said Thuillier. “Housekeeping is your
very life; you will be the first to get over this affair.”

“We’ll see about that,” said Brigitte; “after twenty years of devotion,
to be treated like the lowest of the low!”

And rushing to the door, which she slammed after her with violence, she
went away.

Thuillier was not disturbed by this exit.

“Were you there, Flavie,” he asked, “when the scene took place?”

“No, it happened in Celeste’s room. What did she do to her?”

“What I said,--raised her hand to her and locked her in like a child.
Celeste may certainly be rather dull-minded, but there are limits that
must not be passed.”

“She is not always pleasant, that good Brigitte,” said Flavie; “she and
I have just had a little set-to.”

“Oh, well,” said Thuillier, “it will all pass off. I want to tell
you, my dear Flavie, what fine success we have had this morning. The
‘National’ quotes two whole paragraphs of an article in which there were
several sentences of mine.”

Thuillier was again interrupted in the tale of his great political and
literary success,--this time by the entrance of Josephine the cook.

“Can monsieur tell me where to find the key of the great trunk?” she
said.

“What do you want with it?” asked Thuillier.

“Mademoiselle told me to take it to her room.”

“What for?”

“Mademoiselle must be going to make a journey. She is getting her linen
out of the drawers, and her gowns are on the bed.”

“Another piece of nonsense!” said Thuillier. “Flavie, go and see what
she has in her head.”

“Not I,” said Madame Colleville; “go yourself. In her present state of
exasperation she might beat me.”

“And my stupid wife, who must needs raise a fuss about the contract!”
 cried Thuillier. “She really must have said something pretty sharp to
turn Brigitte off her hinges like this.”

“Monsieur has not told me where to find the key,” persisted Josephine.

“I don’t know anything about it,” said Thuillier, crossly; “go and look
for it, or else tell her it is lost.”

“Oh, yes!” said Josephine, “it is likely I’d dare to go and tell her
that.”

Just then the outer door-bell rang.

“No doubt that’s la Peyrade,” said Thuillier, in a tone of satisfaction.

The Provencal appeared a moment later.

“Faith, my dear friend,” cried Thuillier, “it is high time you came; the
house is in revolution, all about you, and it needs your silvery tongue
to bring it back to peace and quietness.”

Then he related to his assistant editor the circumstances of the civil
war which had broken out.

La Peyrade turned to Madame Colleville.

“I think,” he said, “that under the circumstances in which we now stand
there is no impropriety in my asking for an interview of a few moments
with Mademoiselle Colleville.”

In this the Provencal showed his usual shrewd ability; he saw that in
the mission of pacification thus given to him Celeste Colleville was the
key of the situation.

“I will send for her, and we will leave you alone together,” said
Flavie.

“My dear Thuillier,” said la Peyrade, “you must, without any violence,
let Mademoiselle Celeste know that her consent must be given without
further delay; make her think that this was the purpose for which you
have sent for her; then leave us; I will do the rest.”

The man-servant was sent down to the entresol with orders to tell
Celeste that her godfather wished to speak to her. As soon as she
appeared, Thuillier said, to carry out the programme which had been
dictated to him:--

“My dear, your mother has told us things that astonish us. Can it be
true that with your contract almost signed, you have not yet decided to
accept the marriage we have arranged for you?”

“Godfather,” said Celeste, rather surprised at this abrupt summons, “I
think I did not say that to mamma.”

“Did you not just now,” said Flavie, “praise Monsieur Felix Phellion to
me in the most extravagant manner?”

“I spoke of Monsieur Phellion as all the world is speaking of him.”

“Come, come,” said Thuillier, with authority, “let us have no
equivocation; do you refuse, yes or no, to marry Monsieur de la
Peyrade?”

“Dear, good friend,” said la Peyrade, intervening, “your way of putting
the question is rather too abrupt, and, in my presence, especially, it
seems to me out of place. In my position as the most interested person,
will you allow me to have an interview with mademoiselle, which, indeed,
has now become necessary? This favor I am sure will not be refused by
Madame Colleville. Under present circumstances, there can surely be
nothing in my request to alarm her maternal prudence.”

“I would certainly yield to it,” said Flavie, “if I did not fear that
these discussions might seem to open a question which is irrevocably
decided.”

“But, my dear madame, I have the strongest desire that Mademoiselle
Celeste shall remain, until the very last moment, the mistress of her
own choice. I beg you, therefore, to grant my request.”

“So be it!” said Madame Colleville; “you think yourself very clever, but
if you let that girl twist you round her finger, so much the worse for
you. Come, Thuillier, since we are ‘de trop’ here.”

As soon as the pair were alone together, la Peyrade drew up a chair for
Celeste, and took one himself, saying:--

“You will, I venture to believe, do me the justice to say that until
to-day I have never annoyed you with the expression of my sentiments. I
was aware of the inclinations of your heart, and also of the warnings of
your conscience. I hoped, after a time, to make myself acceptable as a
refuge from those two currents of feeling; but, at the point which we
have now reached, I think it is not either indiscreet or impatient to
ask you to let me know plainly what course you have decided upon.”

“Monsieur,” replied Celeste, “as you speak to me so kindly and frankly,
I will tell you, what indeed you know already, that, brought up as I was
with Monsieur Felix Phellion, knowing him far longer than I have known
you, the idea of marrying alarmed me less in regard to him than it would
in regard to others.”

“At one time, I believe,” remarked la Peyrade, “you were permitted to
choose him if you wished.”

“Yes, but at that time difficulties grew up between us on religious
ideas.”

“And to-day those difficulties have disappeared?”

“Nearly,” replied Celeste. “I am accustomed to submit to the judgment of
those who are wiser than myself, monsieur, and you heard yesterday the
manner in which the Abbe Gondrin spoke of Monsieur Phellion.”

“God forbid,” said la Peyrade, “that I should seek to invalidate
the judgment of so excellent a man; but I venture to say to you,
mademoiselle, that there are great differences among the clergy; some
are thought too stern, some far too indulgent; moreover, the Abbe
Gondrin is more of a preacher than a casuist.”

“But, Monsieur Felix,” said Celeste, eagerly, “seems to wish to fulfil
Monsieur l’abbe’s hopes of him, for I know that he went to see him this
morning.”

“Ah!” said la Peyrade, with a touch of irony, “so he really decided to
go to Pere Anselme! But, admitting that on the religious side Monsieur
Phellion may now become all that you expect of him, have you reflected,
mademoiselle, on the great event which has just taken place in his
life?”

“Undoubtedly; and that is not a reason to think less of him.”

“No, but it is a reason why he should think more of himself. For the
modesty which was once the chief charm of his nature, he is likely to
substitute great assumption, and you must remember, mademoiselle, that
he who has discovered one world will want to discover two; you will have
the whole firmament for rival; in short, could you ever be happy with a
man so entirely devoted to science?”

“You plead your cause with such adroitness,” said Celeste, smiling,
“that I think you might be as a lawyer more disquieting than an
astronomer.”

“Mademoiselle,” said la Peyrade, “let us speak seriously; there is
another and far more serious aspect to the situation. Do you know that,
at this moment, in this house, and without, I am sure, desiring it, you
are the cause of most distressing and regrettable scenes?”

“I, monsieur!” said Celeste, in a tone of surprise that was mingled with
fear.

“Yes, concerning your godmother. Through the extreme affection that she
has for you she seems to have become another woman; for the first time
in her life she has shown a mind of her own. With an energy of will
which comes at times to those who have never expended any, she declares
that she will not make her proposed liberal gift to you in the contract;
and I need not tell you who is the person aimed at in this unexpected
refusal.”

“But, monsieur, I entreat you to believe that I knew nothing of this
idea of my godmother.”

“I know that,” said la Peyrade, “and the matter itself would be of small
importance if Mademoiselle Brigitte had not taken this attitude of your
godmother, whom she has always found supple to her will, as a personal
insult to herself. Very painful explanations, approaching at last to
violence, have taken place. Thuillier, placed between the hammer and
the anvil, has been unable to stop the affair; on the contrary, he has,
without intending it, made matters worse, till they have now arrived at
such a point that Mademoiselle Brigitte is packing her trunks to leave
the house.”

“Monsieur! what are you telling me?” cried Celeste, horrified.

“The truth; and the servants will confirm it to you--for I feel that my
revelations are scarcely believable.”

“But it is impossible! impossible!” said the poor child, whose agitation
increased with every word of the adroit Provencal. “I cannot be the
cause of such dreadful harm.”

“That is, you did not intend to be, for the harm is done; and I pray
Heaven it may not be irremediable.”

“But what am I to do, good God!” cried Celeste, wringing her hands.

“I should answer, without hesitation, sacrifice yourself, mademoiselle,
if it were not that I should then be forced to play the painful part of
victimizer.”

“Monsieur,” said Celeste, “you interpret ill the resistance that I have
made, though, in fact, I have scarcely expressed it. I have certainly
had a preference, but I have never considered myself in the light of
a victim; and whatever it is necessary to do to restore peace in this
house to which I have brought trouble, I shall do it without repugnance,
and even willingly.”

“That would be for me,” said la Peyrade, humbly, “more than I could dare
ask for myself; but, for the result which we both seek, I must tell you
frankly that something more is needed. Madame Thuillier has not changed
her nature to instantly change back again on the mere assurance by
others of your compliance. It is necessary that she should hear from
your own lips that you accede to my suit, and that you do so with
eagerness,--assumed, indeed, but sufficiently well assumed to induce her
to believe in it.”

“So be it,” said Celeste. “I shall know how to seem smiling and happy.
My godmother, monsieur, has been a mother to me; and for such a mother,
what is there that I would not endure?”

The position was such, and Celeste betrayed so artlessly the depth and,
at the same time, the absolute determination of her sacrifice, that with
any heart at all la Peyrade would have loathed the part he was playing;
but Celeste, to him, was a means of ascent, and provided the ladder can
hold you and hoist you, who would ever ask if it cared to or not? It was
therefore decided that Celeste should go to her godmother and convince
her of the mistake she had made in supposing an objection to la Peyrade
which Celeste had never intended to make. Madame Thuillier’s opposition
overcome, all was once more easy. La Peyrade took upon himself the duty
of making peace between the two sisters-in-law, and we can well imagine
that he was not at a loss for fine phrases with which to assure the
artless girl of the devotion and love which would take from her all
regret for the moral compulsion she had now undergone.

When Celeste went to her godmother she found her by no means as
difficult to convince as she had expected. To go to the point of
rebellion which Madame Thuillier had actually reached, the poor woman,
who was acting against her instincts and against her nature, had needed
a tension of will that, in her, was almost superhuman. No sooner had she
received the false confidences of her goddaughter than the reaction set
in; the strength failed her to continue in the path she had taken. She
was therefore easily the dupe of the comedy which Celeste’s tender heart
was made to play for la Peyrade’s benefit.

The tempest calmed on this side, the barrister found no difficulty in
making Brigitte understand that in quelling the rebellion against her
authority she had gone a little farther than was proper. This authority
being no longer in danger, Brigitte ceased to be incensed with the
sister-in-law she had been on the point of beating, and the quarrel was
settled with a few kind words and a kiss, poor Celeste paying the costs
of war.

After dinner, which was only a family meal, the notary, to whose office
they were to go on the following day to sign the contract (it being
impossible to give a second edition of the abortive party), made his
appearance. He came, he said, to submit the contract to the parties
interested before engrossing it. This attention was not surprising in
a man who was just entering into business relations with so important a
person as the municipal councillor, whom it was his interest to firmly
secure for a client.

La Peyrade was far too shrewd to make any objections to the terms of the
contract, which was now read. A few changes requested by Brigitte, which
gave the new notary a high idea of the old maid’s business capacity,
showed la Peyrade plainly that more precautions were being taken against
him than were altogether becoming; but he was anxious not to raise
difficulties, and he knew that the meshes of a contract are never so
close that a determined and clever man cannot get through them. The
appointment was then made for the signing of the contract the next day,
at two o’clock, in the notary’s office, the family only being present.

During the rest of the evening, taking advantage of Celeste’s pledge
to seem smiling and happy, la Peyrade played, as it were, upon the poor
child, forced her, by a specious exhibition of gratitude and love, to
respond to him on a key that was far, indeed, from the true state of a
heart now wholly filled by Felix. Flavie, seeing the manner in which
la Peyrade put forth his seductions, was reminded of the pains he had
formerly taken to fascinate herself. “The monster!” she said, beneath
her breath. But she was forced to bear the torture with a good grace; la
Peyrade was evidently approved by all, and in the course of the evening
a circumstance came to light, showing a past service done by him to the
house of Thuillier, which brought his influence and his credit to the
highest point.

Minard was announced.

“My dear friends,” he said, “I have come to make a little revelation
which will greatly surprise you, and will, I think, prove a lesson
to all of us when a question arises as to receiving foreigners in our
homes.”

“What is it?” cried Brigitte, with curiosity.

“That Hungarian woman you were so delighted with, that Madame Torna,
Comtesse de Godollo--”

“Well?” exclaimed the old maid.

“Well,” continued Minard, “she was no better than she should be; you
were petting in your house for two months the most impudent of kept
women.”

“Who told you that tale?” asked Brigitte, not willing to admit that she
had fallen into such a snare.

“Oh, it isn’t a tale,” said the mayor, eagerly. “I know the thing
myself, ‘de visu.’”

“Dear me! do you frequent such women?” said Brigitte, resuming the
offensive. “That’s a pretty thing! what would Zelie say if she knew it?”

“In the discharge of my duties,” said Minard, stiffly, provoked at this
reception of his news, “I have seen _your friend_, Madame de Godollo, in
company with others of her class.”

“How do you know it was she if you only saw her?” demanded Brigitte.

The wily Provencal was not the man to lose an occasion that fell to him
ready-made.

“Monsieur le maire is not mistaken,” he said, with decision.

“Tiens! so you know her, too,” said Brigitte; “and you let us consort
with such vermin?”

“No,” said la Peyrade, “on the contrary. Without scandal, without saying
a word to any one, I removed her from your house. You remember how
suddenly the woman left it? It was I who compelled her to do so; having
discovered what she was, I gave her two days to leave the premises;
threatening her, in case she hesitated, to tell you all.”

“My dear Theodose,” said Thuillier, pressing his hand, “you acted with
as much prudence as decision. This is one more obligation that we owe to
you.”

“You see, mademoiselle,” said la Peyrade, addressing Celeste, “the
strange protectress whom a friend of yours selected.”

“Thank God,” said Madame Thuillier. “Felix Phellion is above such vile
things.”

“Ah ca! papa Minard, we’ll keep quiet about all this; silence is the
word. Will you take a cup of tea?”

“Willingly,” replied Minard.

“Celeste,” said the old maid, “ring for Henri, and tell him to put the
large kettle on the fire.”

Though the visit to the notary was not to be made till two in the
afternoon, Brigitte began early in the morning of the next day what
Thuillier called her _rampage_, a popular term which expresses that
turbulent, nagging, irritating activity which La Fontaine has described
so well in his fable of “The Old Woman and her Servants.” Brigitte
declared that if you didn’t take time by the forelock no one would be
ready. She prevented Thuillier from going to his office, insisting
that if he once got off she never should see him again; she plagued
Josephine, the cook, about hurrying the breakfast, and in spite of what
had happened the day before she scarcely restrained herself from nagging
at Madame Thuillier, who did not enter, as she thought she should have
done, into her favorite maxim, “Better be early than late.”

Presently down she went to the Collevilles’ to make the same
disturbance; and there she put her veto on the costume, far too elegant,
which Flavie meditated wearing, and told Celeste the hat and gown she
wished her to appear in. As for Colleville, who could not, he declared,
stay away all the morning from his official duties, she compelled him
to put on his dress-suit before he went out, made him set his watch by
hers, and warned him that if he was late no one would wait for him.

The amusing part of it was that Brigitte herself, after driving every
one at the point of the bayonet, came very near being late herself.
Under pretext of aiding others, independently of minding her own
business, which, for worlds, she would never have spared herself, she
had put her fingers and eyes into so many things that they ended by
overwhelming her. However, she ascribed the delay in which she was
almost caught to the hairdresser, whom she had sent for to make, on this
extraordinary occasion, what she called her “part.” That artist having,
unadvisedly, dressed her hair in the fashion, he was compelled, after
she had looked at herself in the glass, to do his work over again, and
conform to the usual style of his client, which consisted chiefly in
never being “done” at all, a method that gave her head a general air of
what is vulgarly called “a cross cat.”

About half-past one o’clock la Peyrade, Thuillier, Colleville, Madame
Thuillier, and Celeste were assembled in the salon. Flavie joined them
soon after, fastening her bracelets as she came along to avoid a
rebuff, and having the satisfaction of knowing that she was ready before
Brigitte. As for the latter, already furious at finding herself late,
she had another cause for exasperation. The event of the day seemed
to require a corset, a refinement which she usually discarded. The
unfortunate maid, whose duty it was to lace her and to discover the
exact point to which she was willing to be drawn in, alone knew the
terrors and storms of a corset day.

“I’d rather,” said the girl, “lace the obelisk; I know it would lend
itself to being laced better than she does; and, anyhow, it couldn’t be
bad-tongued.”

While the party in the salon were amusing themselves, under their
breaths, at the “flagrante delicto” of unpunctuality in which Queen
Elizabeth was caught, the porter entered, and gave to Thuillier a sealed
package, addressed to “Monsieur Thuillier, director of the ‘Echo de la
Bievre.’ _In haste_.”

Thuillier opened the envelope, and found within a copy of a ministerial
journal which had hitherto shown itself discourteous to the new paper
by refusing the _exchange_ which all periodicals usually make very
willingly with one another.

Puzzled by the fact of this missive being sent to his own house and not
to the office of the “Echo,” Thuillier hastily opened the sheet, and
read, with what emotion the reader may conceive, the following article,
commended to his notice by a circle in red ink:--

  An obscure organ was about to expire in its native shade when an
  ambitious person of recent date bethought himself of galvanizing
  it. His object was to make it a foothold by which to climb from
  municipal functions to the coveted position of deputy. Happily
  this object, having come to the surface, will end in failure.
  Electors will certainly not be inveigled by so wily a manner of
  advancing self-interests; and when the proper time arrives, if
  ridicule has not already done justice on this absurd candidacy, we
  shall ourselves prove to the pretender that to aspire to the
  distinguished honor of representing the nation something more is
  required than the money to buy a paper and pay an underling to put
  into good French the horrible diction of his articles and
  pamphlets. We confine ourselves to-day to this limited notice, but
  our readers may be sure that we shall keep them informed about
  this electoral comedy, if indeed the parties concerned have the
  melancholy courage to go on with it.

Thuillier read twice over this sudden declaration of war, which was far
from leaving him calm and impassible; then, taking la Peyrade aside, he
said to him:--

“Read that; it is serious.”

“Well?” said la Peyrade, after reading the article.

“Well? how well?” exclaimed Thuillier.

“I mean, what do you find so serious in that?”

“What do I find so serious?” repeated Thuillier. “I don’t think anything
could be more insulting to me.”

“You can’t doubt,” said la Peyrade, “that the virtuous Cerizet is at the
bottom of it; he has thrown this firecracker between your legs by way of
revenge.”

“Cerizet, or anybody else who wrote that diatribe is an insolent
fellow,” cried Thuillier, getting angry, “and the matter shall not rest
there.”

“For my part,” said la Peyrade, “I advise you to make no reply. You are
not named; though, of course, the attack is aimed at you. But you ought
to let our adversary commit himself farther; when the right moment
comes, we’ll rap him over the knuckles.”

“No!” said Thuillier, “I won’t stay quiet one minute under such an
insult.”

“The devil!” said the barrister; “what a sensitive epidermis! Do
reflect, my dear fellow, that you have made yourself a candidate and a
journalist, and therefore you really must harden yourself better than
that.”

“My good friend, it is a principle of mine not to let anybody step on
my toes. Besides, they say themselves they are going on with this thing.
Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to cut short such impertinence.”

“But do consider,” said la Peyrade. “Certainly in journalism, as in
candidacy, a hot temper has its uses; a man makes himself respected, and
stops attacks--”

“Just so,” said Thuillier, “‘principiis obsta.’ Not to-day, because we
haven’t the time, but to-morrow I shall carry that paper into court.”

“Into court!” echoed la Peyrade; “you surely wouldn’t go to law in such
a matter as this? In the first place, there is nothing to proceed upon;
you are not named nor the paper either, and, besides, it is a pitiable
business, going to law; you’ll look like a boy who has been fighting,
and got the worst of it, and runs to complain to his mamma. Now if you
had said that you meant to make Fleury intervene in the matter, I could
understand that--though the affair is rather personal to you, and it
might be difficult to make it seem--”

“Ah ca!” said Thuillier, “do you suppose I am going to commit myself
with a Cerizet or any other newspaper bully? I pique myself, my
dear fellow, on possessing civic courage, which does not give in to
prejudices, and which, instead of taking justice into its own hands, has
recourse to the means of defence that are provided by law. Besides, with
the legal authority the Court of Cassation now has over duelling, I have
no desire to put myself in the way of being expatriated, or spending two
or three years in prison.”

“Well,” said la Peyrade, “we’ll talk it over later; here’s your sister,
and she would think everything lost if this little matter reached her
ears.”

When Brigitte appeared Colleville shouted “Full!” and proceeded to sing
the chorus of “La Parisienne.”

“Heavens! Colleville, how vulgar you are!” cried the tardy one,
hastening to cast a stone in the other’s garden to avoid the throwing
of one into hers. “Well, are you all ready?” she added, arranging her
mantle before a mirror. “What o’clock is it? it won’t do to get there
before the time, like provincials.”

“Ten minutes to two,” said Colleville; “I go by the Tuileries.”

“Well, then we are just right,” said Brigitte; “it will take about that
time to get to the rue Caumartin. Josephine,” she cried, going to the
door of the salon, “we’ll dine at six, therefore be sure you put the
turkey to roast at the right time, and mind you don’t burn it, as you
did the other day. Bless me! who’s that?” and with a hasty motion she
shut the door, which she had been holding open. “What a nuisance! I hope
Henri will have the sense to tell him we are out.”

Not at all; Henri came in to say that an old gentleman, with a very
genteel air, had asked to be received on urgent business.

“Why didn’t you say we were all out?”

“That’s what I should have done if mademoiselle had not opened the
door of the salon so that the gentleman could see the whole family
assembled.”

“Oh, yes!” said Brigitte, “you are never in the wrong, are you?”

“What am I to say to him?” asked the man.

“Say,” replied Thuillier, “that I am very sorry not to be able to
receive him, but I am expected at a notary’s office about a marriage
contract; but that if he could return two hours hence--”

“I have told him all that,” said Henri, “and he answered that that
contract was precisely what he had come about, and that his business
concerned you more than himself.”

“You had better go and see him, Thuillier, and get rid of him in
double-quick,” said Brigitte; “that’s shorter than talking to Henri, who
is always an orator.”

If la Peyrade had been consulted he might not have joined in that
advice, for he had had more than one specimen of the spokes some occult
influence was putting into the wheels of his marriage, and the present
visit seemed to him ominous.

“Show him into my study,” said Thuillier, following his sister’s advice;
and, opening the door which led from the salon to the study, he went to
receive his importunate visitor.

Brigitte immediately applied her eye to the keyhole.

“Goodness!” she exclaimed, “there’s my imbecile of a Thuillier offering
him a chair! and away in a corner, too, where I can’t hear a word they
say!”

La Peyrade was walking about the room with an inward agitation covered
by an appearance of great indifference. He even went up to the three
women, and made a few lover-like speeches to Celeste, who received them
with a smiling, happy air in keeping with the role she was playing. As
for Colleville, he was killing the time by composing an anagram on the
six words of “le journal ‘l’Echo de la Bievre,’” for which he had found
the following version, little reassuring (as far as it went) for the
prospects of that newspaper: “O d’Echo, jarni! la bevue reell”--but as
the final “e” was lacking to complete the last word, the work was not
altogether as satisfactory as it should have been.

“He’s taking snuff!” said Brigitte, her eye still glued to the keyhole;
“his gold snuff-box beats Minard’s--though, perhaps, it is only
silver-gilt,” she added, reflectively. “He’s doing the talking, and
Thuillier is sitting there listening to him like a buzzard. I shall go
in and tell them they can’t keep ladies waiting that way.”

But just as she put her hand on the lock she heard Thuillier’s visitor
raise his voice, and that made her look through the keyhole again.

“He is standing up; he’s going,” she said with satisfaction.

But a moment later she saw she had made a mistake; the little old man
had only left his chair to walk up and down the room and continue the
conversation with greater freedom.

“My gracious! I shall certainly go in,” she said, “and tell Thuillier we
are going without him, and he can follow us.”

So saying, the old maid gave two little sharp and very imperious raps on
the door, after which she resolutely entered the study.

La Peyrade, goaded by anxiety, had the bad taste to look through
the keyhole himself at what was happening. Instantly he thought
he recognized the small old man he had seen under the name of “the
commander” on that memorable morning when he had waited for Madame de
Godollo. Then he saw Thuillier addressing his sister with impatience
and with gestures of authority altogether out of his usual habits of
deference and submission.

“It seems,” said Brigitte, re-entering the salon, “that Thuillier finds
some great interest in that creature’s talk, for he ordered me bluntly
to leave them, though the little old fellow did say, rather civilly,
that they would soon be through. But Jerome added: ‘_Mind_, you are to
wait for me.’ Really, since he has taken to making newspapers I don’t
know him; he has set up an air as if he were leading the world with his
wand.”

“I am very much afraid he is being entangled by some adventurer,” said
la Peyrade. “I am pretty sure I saw that old man at Madame de Godollo’s
the day I went to warn her off the premises; he must be of the same
stripe.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” cried Brigitte. “I’d have asked him for news
of the countess, and let him see we knew what we knew of his Hungarian.”

Just then the sound of moving chairs was heard, and Brigitte darted back
to the keyhole.

“Yes,” she said, “he is really going, and Thuillier is bowing him out
respectfully!”

As Thuillier did not immediately return, Colleville had time to go to
the window and exclaim at seeing the little old gentleman driving away
in an elegant coupe, of which the reader has already heard.

“The deuce!” cried Colleville; “what an ornate livery! If he is an
adventurer he is a number one.”

At last Thuillier re-entered the room, his face full of care, his manner
extremely grave.

“My dear la Peyrade,” he said, “you did not tell us that another
proposal of marriage had been seriously considered by you.”

“Yes, I did; I told you that a very rich heiress had been offered to
me, but that my inclinations were here, and that I had not given any
encouragement to the affair; consequently, of course, there was no
serious engagement.”

“Well, I think you do wrong to treat that proposal so lightly.”

“What! do you mean to say, in presence of these ladies, that you blame
me for remaining faithful to my first desires and our old engagement?”

“My friend, the conversation that I have just had has been a most
instructive one to me; and when you know what I know, with other details
personal to yourself, which will be confided to you, I think that you
will enter into my ideas. One thing is certain; we shall not go to the
notary to-day; and as for you, the best thing that you can do is to go,
without delay, to Monsieur du Portail.”

“That name again! it pursues me like a remorse,” exclaimed la Peyrade.

“Yes; go at once; he is awaiting you. It is an indispensable preliminary
before we can go any farther. When you have seen that excellent man and
heard what he has to say to you--well, _then_ if you persist in claiming
Celeste’s hand, we might perhaps carry out our plans. Until then we
shall take no steps in the matter.”

“But, my poor Thuillier,” said Brigitte, “you have let yourself be
gammoned by a rascal; that man belongs to the Godollo set.”

“Madame de Godollo,” replied Thuillier, “is not at all what you suppose
her to be, and the best thing this house can do is never to say one word
about her, either good or evil. As for la Peyrade, as this is not the
first time he has been requested to go and see Monsieur du Portail, I am
surprised that he hesitates to do so.”

“Ah ca!” said Brigitte, “that little old man has completely befooled
you.”

“I tell you that that little old man is all that he appears to be. He
wears seven crosses, he drives in a splendid equipage, and he has told
me things that have overwhelmed me with astonishment.”

“Well, perhaps he’s a fortune-teller like Madame Fontaine, who managed
once upon a time to upset me when Madame Minard and I, just to amuse
ourselves, went to consult her.”

“Well, if he is not a sorcerer he certainly has a very long arm,” said
Thuillier, “and I think a man would suffer for it if he didn’t respect
his advice. As for you, Brigitte, he saw you only for a minute, but he
told me your whole character; he said you were a masterful woman, born
to command.”

“The fact is,” said Brigitte, licking her chops at this compliment,
like a cat drinking cream, “he has a very well-bred air, that little old
fellow. You take my advice, my dear,” she said, turning to la Peyrade;
“if such a very big-wig as that wants you to do so, go and see this
du Portail, whoever he is. That, it seems to me, won’t bind you to
anything.”

“You are right, Brigitte,” said Colleville; “as for me, I’d follow up
all the Portails, or Port_ers_, or Port_ents_ for the matter of that, if
they asked me to.”

The scene was beginning to resemble that in the “Barber of Seville,”
 where everybody tells Basil to go to bed, for he certainly has a fever.
La Peyrade, thus prodded, picked up his hat in some ill-humor, and went
where his destiny called him,--“quo sua fata vocabant.”



CHAPTER XV. AT DU PORTAIL’S

On reaching the rue Honore-Chevalier la Peyrade felt a doubt; the
dilapidated appearance of the house to which he was summoned made him
think he had mistaken the number. It seemed to him that a person of
Monsieur du Portail’s evident importance could not inhabit such a place.
It was therefore with some hesitation that he accosted Sieur Perrache,
the porter. But no sooner had he entered the antechamber of the
apartment pointed out to him than the excellent deportment of Bruneau,
the old valet, and the extremely comfortable appearance of the furniture
and other appointments made him see that he was probably in the right
place. Introduced at once, as soon as he had given his name, into the
study of the master of the house, his surprise was great when he found
himself in presence of the commander, so called, the friend of Madame
de Godollo, and the little old man he had seen half an hour earlier with
Thuillier.

“At last!” said du Portail, rising, and offering la Peyrade a chair, “at
last we meet, my refractory friend; it has taken a good deal to bring
you here.”

“May I know, monsieur,” said la Peyrade, haughtily, not taking the chair
which was offered to him, “what interest you have in meddling with my
affairs? I do not know you, and I may add that the place where I once
saw you did not create an unconquerable desire in me to make your
acquaintance.”

“Where have you seen me?” asked du Portail.

“In the apartment of a strumpet who called herself Madame de Godollo.”

“Where monsieur, consequently, went himself,” said the little old man,
“and for a purpose much less disinterested than mine.”

“I have not come here,” said la Peyrade, “to bandy words with any one.
I have the right, monsieur, to a full explanation as to the meaning of
your proceedings towards me. I therefore request you not to delay them
by a facetiousness to which, I assure you, I am not in the humor to
listen.”

“Then, my dear fellow,” said du Portail, “sit down, for I am not in the
humor to twist my neck by talking up at you.”

The words were reasonable, and they were said in a tone that showed the
old gentleman was not likely to be frightened by grand airs. La Peyrade
therefore deferred to the wishes of his host, but he took care to do so
with the worst grace possible.

“Monsieur Cerizet,” said du Portail, “a man of excellent standing in the
world, and who has the honor to be one of your friends--”

“I have nothing to do with that man now,” said la Peyrade, sharply,
understanding the malicious meaning of the old man’s speech.

“Well, the time has been,” said du Portail, “when you saw him, at least,
occasionally: for instance, when you paid for his dinner at the Rocher
de Cancale. As I was saying, I charged the virtuous Monsieur Cerizet to
sound you as to a marriage--”

“Which I refused,” interrupted la Peyrade, “and which I now refuse
again, more vehemently than ever.”

“That’s the question,” said the old man. “I think, on the contrary, that
you will accept it; and it is to talk over this affair with you that I
have so long desired a meeting.”

“But this crazy girl that you are flinging at my head,” said la Peyrade,
“what is she to you? She can’t be your daughter, or you would put more
decency into your hunt for a husband.”

“This young girl,” replied du Portail, “is the daughter of one of my
friends who died about ten years ago; at his death I took her to live
with me, and have given her all the care her sad condition needed. Her
fortune, which I have greatly increased, added to my own, which I intend
to leave to her, will make her a very rich heiress. I know that you
are no enemy to handsome ‘dots,’ for you have sought them in various
places,--Thuillier’s house, for instance, or, to use your own
expression, that of a strumpet whom you scarcely knew. I have therefore
supposed you would accept at my hands a very rich young woman,
especially as her infirmity is declared by the best physicians to be
curable; whereas you can never cure Monsieur and Mademoiselle Thuillier,
the one of being a fool, the other of being a fury, any more than you
could cure Madame Komorn of being a woman of very medium virtue and
extremely giddy.”

“It may suit me,” replied la Peyrade, “to marry the daughter of a fool
and a fury if I choose her, or I might become the husband of a clever
coquette, if passion seized me, but the Queen of Sheba herself, if
imposed upon me, neither you, monsieur, nor the ablest and most powerful
man living could force me to accept.”

“Precisely; therefore it is to your own good sense and intelligence that
I now address myself; but we have to come face to face with people
in order to speak to them, you know. Now, then, let us look into your
present situation, and don’t get angry if, like a surgeon who wants to
cure his patient, I lay my hand mercilessly on wounds which have long
tormented and harassed you. The first point to state is that the Celeste
Colleville affair is at an end for you.”

“Why so?” demanded la Peyrade.

“Because I have just seen Thuillier and terrified him with the history
of the misfortunes he has incurred, and those he will incur if he
persists in the idea of giving you his goddaughter in marriage. He knows
now that it was I who paralyzed Madame du Bruel’s kind offices in the
matter of the cross; that I had his pamphlet seized; that I sent that
Hungarian woman into his house to handle you all, as she did; and that
my hand is opening fire in the ministerial journals, which will only
increase from bad to worse,--not to speak of other machinations which
will be directed against his candidacy. Therefore you see, my good
friend, that not only have you no longer the credit in Thuillier’s eyes
of being his great helper to that election, but that you actually block
the way to his ambition. That is enough to prove to you that the side by
which you have imposed yourself on that family--who have never sincerely
liked or desired you--is now completely battered down and dismantled.”

“But to have done all that which you claim with such pretension, who are
you?” demanded la Peyrade.

“I shall not say that you are very inquisitive, for I intend to answer
your question later; but for the present let us continue, if you please,
the autopsy of your existence, dead to-day, but which I propose to
resuscitate gloriously. You are twenty-eight years old, and you have
begun a career in which I shall not allow you to make another step. A
few days hence the Council of the order of barristers will assemble and
will censure, more or less severely, your conduct in the matter of
the property you placed with such candor in Thuillier’s hands. Do not
deceive yourself; censure from that quarter (and I mention only your
least danger) is as fatal to a barrister as being actually disbarred.”

“And it is to your kind offices, no doubt,” said la Peyrade, “that I
shall owe that precious result?”

“Yes, I may boast of it,” replied du Portail, “for, in order to tow you
into port it has been necessary to strip you of your rigging; unless
that were done, you would always have tried to navigate under your own
sails the bourgeois shoals that you are now among.”

Seeing that he, undoubtedly, had to do with a strong hand, la Peyrade
thought best to modify his tone; and so, with a more circumspect air, he
said:--

“You will allow me, monsieur, to reserve my acknowledgments until I
receive some fuller explanation.”

“Here you are, then,” continued du Portail, “at twenty-eight years of
age, without a penny, virtually without a profession; with antecedents
that are very--middling; with associates like Monsieur Dutocq and the
courageous Cerizet; owing to Mademoiselle Thuillier ten thousand francs,
and to Madame Lambert twenty-five thousand, which you are no doubt
extremely desirous to return to her; and finally, this marriage, your
last hope, your sheet-anchor, has just become an utter impossibility.
Between ourselves, if I have something reasonable to propose to you, do
you not think that you had much better place yourself at my disposal?”

“I have time enough to prove that your opinion is mistaken,” returned
la Peyrade; “and I shall not form any resolutions so long as the designs
you choose to have upon me are not more fully explained.”

“You were spoken to, at my instigation, about a marriage,” resumed du
Portail. “This marriage, as I think, is closely connected with a past
existence from which a certain hereditary or family duty has devolved
upon you. Do you know what that uncle of yours, to whom you applied
in 1829, was doing in Paris? In your family he was thought to be a
millionaire; and, dying suddenly, you remember, before you got to him,
he did not leave enough for his burial; a pauper’s grave was all that
remained to him.”

“Did you know him?” asked la Peyrade.

“He was my oldest and dearest friend,” replied du Portail.

“If that is so,” said la Peyrade, hastily, “a sum of two thousand
francs, which I received on my arrival in Paris from some unknown
source--”

“Came from me,” replied du Portail. “Unfortunately, engaged at the time
in a rush of important affairs, which you shall hear of later, I could
not immediately follow up the benevolent interest I felt in you for your
uncle’s sake; this explains why I left you in the straw of a garret,
where you came, like a medlar, to that maturity of ruin which brought
you under the hand of a Dutocq and a Cerizet.”

“I am none the less grateful to you, monsieur,” said la Peyrade; “and if
I had known you were that generous protector, whom I was never able to
discover, I should have been the first to seek occasion to meet you and
to thank you.”

“A truce to compliments,” said du Portail; “and, to come at once to the
serious side of our present conference, what should you say if I told
you that this uncle, whose protection and assistance you came to Paris
to obtain, was an agent of that occult power which has always been the
theme of feeble ridicule and the object of silly prejudice?”

“I do not seize your meaning,” said la Peyrade, with uneasy curiosity;
“may I ask you to be more precise?”

“For example, I will suppose,” continued du Portail, “that your uncle,
if still living, were to say to you to-day: ‘You are seeking fortune and
influence, my good nephew; you want to rise above the crowd and to play
your part in all the great events of your time; you want employment
for a keen, active mind, full of resources, and slightly inclined to
intrigue; in short, you long to exert in some upper and elegant sphere
that force of will and subtlety which at present you are wasting in
the silly and useless manipulation of the most barren and tough-skinned
animal on earth, to wit: a bourgeois. Well, then, lower your head, my
fine nephew; enter with me through the little door which I will open to
you; it gives admittance to a great house, often maligned, but better
far than its reputation. That threshold once crossed, you can rise to
the height of your natural genius, whatever its spark may be. Statesmen,
kings even, will admit you to their most secret thoughts; you will be
their occult collaborator, and none of the joys which money and the
highest powers can bestow upon a man will be lacking to you.”

“But, monsieur,” objected la Peyrade, “without venturing to understand
you, I must remark that my uncle died so poor, you tell me, that public
charity buried him.”

“Your uncle,” replied du Portail, “was a man of rare talent, but he had
a certain weak side in his nature which compromised his career. He was
eager for pleasure, a spendthrift, thoughtless for the future; he wanted
also to taste those joys that are meant for the common run of men,
but which for great, exceptional vocations are the worst of snares and
impediments: I mean the joys of family. He had a daughter whom he madly
loved, and it was through her that his terrible enemies opened a breach
in his life, and prepared the horrible catastrophe that ended it.”

“Is that an encouragement to enter this shady path, where, you say, he
might have asked me to follow him?”

“But if I myself,” said du Portail, “should offer to guide you in it,
what then?”

“You, monsieur!” said la Peyrade, in stupefaction.

“Yes, I--I who was your uncle’s pupil at first, and later his protector
and providence; I, whose influence the last half-century has daily
increased; I, who am wealthy; I, to whom all governments, as they fall
one on top of the others like houses of cards, come to ask for safety
and for the power to rebuild their future; I, who am the manager of a
great theatre of puppets (where I have Columbines in the style of Madame
de Godollo); I, who to-morrow, if it were necessary to the success of
one of my vaudevilles or one of my dramas, might present myself to your
eyes as the wearer of the grand cordon of the Legion of honor, of the
Order of the Black Eagle, or that of the Golden Fleece. Do you wish to
know why neither you nor I will die a violent death like your uncle, and
also why, more fortunate than contemporaneous kings, I can transmit my
sceptre to the successor whom I myself may choose? Because, like you,
my young friend, in spite of your Southern appearance, I was cold,
profoundly calculating, never tempted to lose my time on trifles at the
outskirts; because heat, when I was led by force of circumstances to
employ it, never went below the surface. It is more than probable that
you have heard of me; well, for you I will open a window in my cloud;
look at me, observe me well; have I a cloven hoof, or a tail at the end
of my spine? On the contrary, am I not a model of the most inoffensive
of householders in the Saint-Sulpice quarter? In that quarter, where I
have enjoyed, I may say it, universal esteem for the last twenty-five
years, I am called du Portail; but to you, if you will allow me, I shall
now name myself _Corentin_.”

“Corentin!” cried la Peyrade, with terrified astonishment.

“Yes, monsieur; and you see that in telling you that secret I lay my
hand upon you, and enlist you. Corentin! ‘the greatest man of the police
in modern times,’ as the author of an article in the ‘Biographies of
Living Men’ has said of me--as to whom I ought in justice to remark that
he doesn’t know a thing about my life.”

“Monsieur,” said la Peyrade, “I can assure you that I shall keep that
secret; but the place which you offer me near you--in your employ--”

“That frightens you, or, at least, it makes you uneasy,” said Corentin,
quickly. “Before you have even considered the thing the word scares you,
does it? The police! _Police_! you are afraid to encounter the terrible
prejudice that brands it on the brow.”

“Certainly,” said la Peyrade, “it is a necessary institution; but I do
not think that it is always calumniated. If the business of those who
manage it is honorable why do they conceal themselves so carefully?”

“Because all that threatens society, which it is the mission of the
police to repress,” replied Corentin, “is plotted and prepared in
hiding. Do thieves and conspirators put upon their hats, ‘I am Guillot,
the shepherd of this flock’? And when we are after them must we ring a
bell to let them know we are coming?”

“Monsieur,” said la Peyrade, “when a sentiment is universal it ceases
to be a prejudice, it becomes an opinion; and this opinion ought to be a
law to every man who desires to keep his own esteem and that of others.”

“And when you robbed that notary to enrich the Thuilliers for your own
advantage,” said Corentin, “did you keep your own esteem and that of the
Council of barristers? And who knows, monsieur, if in your life there
are not still blacker actions than that? I am a more honorable man than
you, because, outside of my functions, I have not one doubtful act upon
my conscience; and when the opportunity for _good_ has been presented
to me I have done it--always and everywhere. Do you think that the
guardianship of that poor insane girl in my home has been all roses? But
she was the daughter of my old friend, your uncle, and when, feeling
the years creep on me, I propose to you, between sacks of money, to fit
yourself to take my place--”

“What!” cried la Peyrade, “is that girl my uncle’s daughter?”

“Yes; the girl I wish you to marry is the daughter of your uncle
Peyrade,--for he democratized his name,--or, if you like it better,
she was the daughter of Pere Canquoelle, a name he took from the little
estate on which your father lived and starved with eleven children. You
see, in spite of the secrecy your uncle always kept about his family,
that I know all about it. Do you suppose that before selecting you as
your cousin’s husband I had not obtained every possible information
about you? And what I have learned need not make you quite so
supercilious to the police. Besides, as the vulgar saying is, the best
of your nose is made of it. Your uncle belonged to the police, and,
thanks to that, he became the confidant, I might almost say the friend,
of Louis XVIII., who took the greatest pleasure in his companionship.
And you, by nature and by mind, also by the foolish position into which
you have got yourself, in short, by your whole being, have gravitated
steadily to the conclusion I propose to you, namely, that of succeeding
me,--of succeeding Corentin. That is the question between us, Monsieur.
Do you really believe now that I have not a grasp or a ‘seizin,’ as you
call it, upon you, and that you can manage to escape me for any foolish
considerations of bourgeois vanity?”

La Peyrade could not have been at heart so violently opposed to this
proposal as he seemed, for the vigorous language of the great master of
the police and the species of appropriation which he made of his person
brought a smile to the young man’s lips.

Corentin had risen, and was walking up and down the room, speaking,
apparently, to himself.

“The police!” he cried; “one may say of it, as Basile said of calumny to
Batholo, ‘The police, monsieur! you don’t know what you despise!’ And,
after all,” he continued, after a pause, “who are they who despise it?
Imbeciles, who don’t know any better than to insult their protectors.
Suppress the police, and you destroy civilization. Do the police ask
for the respect of such people? No, they want to inspire them with one
sentiment only: fear, that great lever with which to govern mankind,--an
impure race whose odious instincts God, hell, the executioner, and the
gendarmes can scarcely restrain!”

Stopping short before la Peyrade, and looking at him with a disdainful
smile, he continued:--

“So you are one of those ninnies who see in the police nothing more than
a horde of spies and informers? Have you never suspected the statesmen,
the diplomats, the Richelieus it produces? Mercury, monsieur,--Mercury,
the cleverest of the gods of paganism,--what was he but the police
incarnate? It is true that he was also the god of thieves. We are better
than he, for we don’t allow that junction of forces.”

“And yet,” said la Peyrade, “Vautrin, or, I should say, Jacques Collin,
the famous chief of the detective police--”

“Yes, yes! but that’s in the lower ranks,” replied Corentin, resuming
his walk; “there’s always a muddy place somewhere. Still, don’t be
mistaken even in that. Vautrin is a man of genius, but his passions,
like those of your uncle, dragged him down. But go up higher (for there
lies the whole question, namely, the rung of the ladder on which a man
has wits enough to perch). Take the prefect, for instance, that honored
minister, flattered and respected, is he a spy? Well, I, monsieur,
am the prefect of the secret police of diplomacy--of the highest
statesmanship. And you hesitate to mount that throne!--to seem small and
do great things; to live in a cave comfortably arranged like this, and
command the light; to have at your orders an invisible army, always
ready, always devoted, always submissive; to know the _other side_ of
everything; to be duped by no intrigue because you hold the threads of
all within your fingers; to see through all partitions; to penetrate all
secrets, search all hearts, all consciences,--these are the things you
fear! And yet you were not afraid to go and wallow in a Thuillier
bog; you, a thoroughbred, allowed yourself to be harnessed to a
hackney-coach, to the ignoble business of electing that parvenu
bourgeois.”

“A man does what he can,” said la Peyrade.

“Here’s a very remarkable thing,” pursued Corentin, replying to his own
thought; “the French language, more just than public opinion, has given
us our right place, for it has made the word police the synonym of
civilization and the antipodes of savage life, when it said and wrote:
‘l’Etat police,’ from the Greek words state and city. So, I can assure
you, we care little for the prejudice that tries to brand us; none know
men as we do; and to know them brings contempt for their contempt as
well as for their esteem.”

“There is certainly much truth in what you say with such warmth,” said
la Peyrade, finally.

“Much truth!” exclaimed Corentin, going back to his chair, “say, rather,
that it is all true, and nothing but the truth; yet it is not the whole
truth. But enough for to-day, monsieur. To succeed me in my functions,
and to marry your cousin with a ‘dot’ that will not be less than five
hundred thousand francs, that is my offer. I do not ask you for an
answer now. I should have no confidence in a determination not seriously
reflected upon. To-morrow, I shall be at home all the morning. I trust
that my conviction may then have formed yours.”

Dismissing his visitor with a curt little bow, he added: “I do not bid
you adieu, but au revoir, Monsieur de la Peyrade.”

Whereupon Corentin went to a side-table, where he found all that he
needed to prepare a glass of “eau sucree,” which he had certainly
earned, and, without looking at la Peyrade, who left the room rather
stunned, he seemed to have no other interest on his mind than that
prosaic preparation.

Was it, indeed, necessary that the morning after this meeting with
Corentin a visit from Madame Lambert, now become an exacting and
importunate creditor, should come to bear its weight on la Peyrade’s
determination? As the great chief had pointed out to him the night
before, was there not in his nature, in his mind, in his aspirations,
in the mistakes and imprudences of his past life, a sort of irresistible
incline which drew him down toward the strange solution of existence
thus suddenly offered to him?

Fatality, if we may so call it, was lavish of the inducements to which
he was destined to succumb. This day was the 31st of October; the
vacation of the Palais was just over. The 2nd of November was the day
on which the courts reopened, and as Madame Lambert left his room he
received a summons to appear on that day before the Council of his
order.

To Madame Lambert, who pressed him sharply to repay her, under pretence
that she was about to leave Monsieur Picot and return to her native
place, he replied: “Come here the day after to-morrow, at the same hour,
and your money will be ready for you.”

To the summons to give account of his actions to his peers he replied
that he did not recognize the right of the Council to question him
on the facts of his private life. That was an answer of one sort,
certainly. Inevitably it would result in his being stricken from the
roll of the barristers of the Royal courts; but, at least, it had an air
of dignity and protestation which saved, in a measure, his self-love.

Finally, he wrote a letter to Thuillier, in which he said that his
visit to du Portail had resulted in his being obliged to accept another
marriage. He therefore returned to Thuillier his promise, and took back
his own. All this was curtly said, without the slightest expression
of regret for the marriage he renounced. In a postscript he added: “We
shall be obliged to discuss my position on the newspaper,”--indicating
that it might enter into his plans not to retain it.

He was careful to make a copy of this letter, and an hour later, when,
in Corentin’s study, he was questioned as to the result of his night’s
reflections, he gave that great general, for all answer, the matrimonial
resignation he had just despatched.

“That will do,” said Corentin. “But as for your position on the
newspaper, you may perhaps have to keep it for a time. The candidacy
of that fool interferes with the plans of the government, and we must
manage in some way to trip up the heels of the municipal councillor. In
your position as editor-in-chief you may find a chance to do it, and I
think your conscience won’t kick at the mission.”

“No, indeed!” said la Peyrade, “the thought of the humiliations to which
I have been so long subjected will make it a precious joy to lash that
bourgeois brood.”

“Take care!” said Corentin; “you are young, and you must watch against
those revengeful emotions. In our austere profession we love nothing and
we hate nothing. Men are to us mere pawns of wood or ivory, according to
their quality--with which we play our game. We are like the blade
that cuts what is given it to cut, but, careful only to be delicately
sharpened, wishes neither harm nor good to any one. Now let us speak
of your cousin, to whom, I suppose, you have some curiosity to be
presented.”

La Peyrade was not obliged to pretend to eagerness, that which he felt
was genuine.

“Lydie de la Peyrade,” said Corentin, “is nearly thirty, but her
innocence, joined to a gentle form of insanity, has kept her apart from
all those passions, ideas, and impressions which use up life, and has,
if I may say so, embalmed her in a sort of eternal youth. You would not
think her more than twenty. She is fair and slender; her face, which
is very delicate, is especially remarkable for an expression of angelic
sweetness. Deprived of her full reason by a terrible catastrophe, her
monomania has something touching about it. She always carries in her
arms or keeps beside her a bundle of linen which she nurses and cares
for as though it were a sick child; and, excepting Bruneau and myself,
whom she recognizes, she thinks all other men are doctors, whom she
consults about the child, and to whom she listens as oracles. A crisis
which lately happened in her malady has convinced Horace Bianchon, that
prince of science, that if the reality could be substituted for this
long delusion of motherhood, her reason would assert itself. It is
surely a worthy task to bring back light to a soul in which it is
scarcely veiled; and the existing bond of relationship has seemed to
me to point you out as specially designated to effect this cure,
the success of which Bianchon and two other eminent doctors who have
consulted with him declare to be beyond a doubt. Now, I will take you
to Lydie’s presence; remember to play the part of doctor; for the only
thing that makes her lose her customary serenity is not to enter into
her notion of medical consultation.”

After crossing several rooms Corentin was on the point of taking la
Peyrade into that usually occupied by Lydie when employed in cradling
or dandling her imaginary child, when suddenly they were stopped by the
sound of two or three chords struck by the hand of a master on a piano
of the finest sonority.

“What is that?” asked la Peyrade.

“That is Lydie,” replied Corentin, with what might be called an
expression of paternal pride; “she is an admirable musician, and though
she no longer writes down, as in the days when her mind was clear, her
delightful melodies, she often improvises them in a way that moves me
to the soul--the soul of Corentin!” added the old man, smiling. “Is not
that the finest praise I can bestow upon her? But suppose we sit down
here and listen to her. If we go in, the concert will cease and the
medical consultation begin.”

La Peyrade was amazed as he listened to an improvisation in which the
rare union of inspiration and science opened to his impressionable
nature a source of emotions as deep as they were unexpected. Corentin
watched the surprise which from moment to moment the Provencal expressed
by admiring exclamations.

“Hein! how she plays!” said the old man. “Liszt himself hasn’t a firmer
touch.”

To a very quick “scherzo” the performer now added the first notes of an
“adagio.”

“She is going to sing,” said Corentin, recognizing the air.

“Does she sing too?” asked la Peyrade.

“Like Pasta, like Malibran; but hush, listen to her!”

After a few opening bars in “arpeggio” a vibrant voice resounded, the
tones of which appeared to stir the Provencal to the depths of his
being.

“How the music moves you!” said Corentin; “you were undoubtedly made for
each other.”

“My God! the same air! the same voice!”

“Have you already met Lydie somewhere?” asked the great master of the
police.

“I don’t know--I think not,” answered la Peyrade, in a stammering voice;
“in any case, it was long ago--But that air--that voice--I think--”

“Let us go in,” said Corentin.

Opening the door abruptly, he entered, pulling the young man after him.

Sitting with her back to the door, and prevented by the sound of the
piano from hearing what happened behind her, Lydie did not notice their
entrance.

“Now have you any remembrance of her?” said Corentin.

La Peyrade advanced a step, and no sooner had he caught a glimpse of the
girl’s profile than he threw up his hands above his head, striking them
together.

“It is she!” he cried.

Hearing his cry, Lydie turned round, and fixing her attention on
Corentin, she said:--

“How naughty and troublesome you are to come and disturb me; you know
very well I don’t like to be listened to. Ah! but--” she added, catching
sight of la Peyrade’s black coat, “you have brought the doctor; that is
very kind of you; I was just going to ask you to send for him. The baby
has done nothing but cry since morning; I was singing to put her to
sleep, but nothing can do that.”

And she ran to fetch what she called her child from a corner of the
room, where with two chairs laid on their backs and the cushions of the
sofa, she had constructed a sort of cradle.

As she went towards la Peyrade, carrying her precious bundle with one
hand, with the other she was arranging the imaginary cap of her “little
darling,” having no eyes except for the sad creation of her disordered
brain. Step by step, as she advanced, la Peyrade, pale, trembling, and
with staring eyes, retreated backwards, until he struck against a seat,
into which, losing his equilibrium, he fell.

A man of Corentin’s power and experience, and who, moreover, knew to its
slightest detail the horrible drama in which Lydie had lost her reason,
had already, of course, taken in the situation, but it suited his
purpose and his ideas to allow the clear light of evidence to pierce
this darkness.

“Look, doctor,” said Lydie, unfastening the bundle, and putting the pins
in her mouth as she did so, “don’t you see that she is growing thinner
every day?”

La Peyrade could not answer; he kept his handkerchief over his face,
and his breath came so fast from his chest that he was totally unable to
utter a word.

Then, with one of those gestures of feverish impatience, to which her
mental state predisposed her, she exclaimed, hastily:--

“But look at her doctor, look!” taking his arm violently and forcing him
to show his features. “My God!” she cried, when she had looked him in
the face.

Letting fall the linen bundle in her arms, she threw herself hastily
backwards, and her eyes grew haggard. Passing her white hands rapidly
over her forehead and through her hair, tossing it into disorder, she
seemed to be making an effort to obtain from her memory some dormant
recollection. Then, like a frightened mare, which comes to smell an
object that has given it a momentary terror, she approached la Peyrade
slowly, stooping to look into his face, which he kept lowered, while,
in the midst of a silence inexpressible, she examined him steadily for
several seconds. Suddenly a terrible cry escaped her breast; she ran for
refuge into the arms of Corentin, and pressing herself against him with
all her force, she exclaimed:--

“Save me! save me! It is he! the wretch! It is he who did it!”

And, with her finger pointed at la Peyrade, she seemed to nail the
miserable object of her terror to his place.

After this explosion, she muttered a few disconnected words, and her
eyes closed; Corentin felt the relaxing of all the muscles by which she
had held him as in a vice the moment before, and he took her in his arms
and laid her on the sofa, insensible.

“Do not stay here, monsieur,” said Corentin. “Go into my study; I will
come to you presently.”

A few minutes later, after giving Lydie into the care of Katte and
Bruneau, and despatching Perrache for Doctor Bianchon, Corentin rejoined
la Peyrade.

“You see now, monsieur,” he said with solemnity, “that in pursuing
with a sort of passion the idea of this marriage, I was following, in a
sense, the ways of God.”

“Monsieur,” said la Peyrade, with compunction, “I will confess to you--”

“Useless,” said Corentin; “you can tell me nothing that I do not know;
I, on the contrary, have much to tell you. Old Peyrade, your uncle, in
the hope of earning a POT for this daughter whom he idolized, entered
into a dangerous private enterprise, the nature of which I need not
explain. In it he made enemies; enemies who stopped at nothing,--murder,
poison, rape. To paralyze your uncle’s action by attacking him in his
dearest spot, Lydie was, not abducted, but enticed from her home and
taken to a house apparently respectable, where for ten days she was kept
concealed. She was not much alarmed by this detention, being told
that it was done at her father’s wish, and she spent her time with her
music--you remember, monsieur, how she sang?”

“Oh!” exclaimed la Peyrade, covering his face with his hands.

“I told you yesterday that you might perhaps have more upon your
conscience than the Thuillier house. But you were young; you had just
come from your province, with that brutality, that frenzy of Southern
blood in your veins which flings itself upon such an occasion. Besides,
your relationship became known to those who were preparing the ruin of
this new Clarissa Harlowe, and I am willing to believe than an abler and
better man than you might not have escaped the entanglement into
which you fell. Happily, Providence has granted that there is nothing
absolutely irreparable in this horrible history. The same poison,
according to the use that is made of it, may give either death or
health.”

“But, monsieur,” said la Peyrade, “shall I not always be to her an
object of horror?”

“The doctor, monsieur,” said Katte, opening the door.

“How is Mademoiselle Lydie?” asked la Peyrade, eagerly.

“Very calm,” replied Katte. “Just now, when we put her to bed,--though
she did not want to go, saying she felt well,--I took her the bundle of
linen, but she told me to take it away, and asked what I meant her to do
with it.”

“You see,” said Corentin, grasping the Provencal’s hand, “you are the
lance of Achilles.”

And he left the room with Katte to receive Doctor Bianchon.

Left alone, Theodose was a prey to thoughts which may perhaps be
imagined. After a while the door opened, and Bruneau, the old valet,
ushered in Cerizet. Seeing la Peyrade, the latter exclaimed:--

“Ha! ha! I knew it! I knew you would end by seeing du Portail. And the
marriage,--how does that come on?”

“What are you doing here?” asked la Peyrade.

“Something that concerns you; or rather, something that we must do
together. Du Portail, who is too busy to attend to business just now,
has sent me in here to see you, and consult as to the best means of
putting a spoke in Thuillier’s election; it seems that the government is
determined to prevent his winning it. Have you any ideas about it?”

“No,” replied la Peyrade; “and I don’t feel in the mood just now to be
imaginative.”

“Well, here’s the situation,” said Cerizet. “The government has another
candidate, which it doesn’t yet produce, because the ministerial
negotiations with him have been rather difficult. During this time
Thuillier’s chances have been making headway. Minard, on whom they
counted to create a diversion, sits, the stupid fool, in his corner; the
seizure of that pamphlet has given your blockhead of a protege a certain
perfume of popularity. In short, the ministry are afraid he’ll be
elected, and nothing could be more disagreeable to them. Pompous
imbeciles, like Thuillier, are horribly embarrassing in the Opposition;
they are pitchers without handles; you can’t take hold of them
anywhere.”

“Monsieur Cerizet,” said la Peyrade, beginning to assume a protecting
tone, and wishing to discover his late associate’s place in Corentin’s
confidence, “you seem to know a good deal about the secret intentions of
the government; have you found your way to a certain desk in the rue de
Grenelle?”

“No. All that I tell you,” said Cerizet, “I get from du Portail.”

“Ah ca!” said la Peyrade, lowering his voice, “who _is_ du Portail? You
seem to have known him for some time. A man of your force ought to have
discovered the real character of a man who seems to me to be rather
mysterious.”

“My friend,” replied Cerizet, “du Portail is a pretty strong man. He’s
an old slyboots, who has had some post, I fancy, in the administration
of the national domain, or something of that kind, under government; in
which, I think, he must have been employed in the departments suppressed
under the Empire.”

“Yes?” said la Peyrade.

“That’s where I think he made his money,” continued Cerizet; “and being
a shrewd old fellow, and having a natural daughter to marry, he has
concocted this philanthropic tale of her being the daughter of an old
friend named Peyrade; and your name being the same may have given him
the idea of fastening upon you--for, after all, he has to marry her to
somebody.”

“Yes, that’s all very well; but his close relations with the government,
and the interest he takes in elections, how do you explain all that?”

“Naturally enough,” replied Cerizet. “Du Portail is a man who loves
money, and likes to handle it; he has done Rastignac, that great
manipulator of elections, who is, I think, his compatriot, several
signal services as an amateur; Rastignac, in return, gives him
information, obtained through Nucingen, which enables him to gamble at
the Bourse.”

“Did he himself tell you all this?” asked la Peyrade.

“What do you take me for?” returned Cerizet. “With that worthy old
fellow, from whom I have already wormed a promise of thirty thousand
francs, I play the ninny; I flatten myself to nothing. But I’ve made
Bruneau talk, that old valet of his. You can safely ally yourself to
his family, my dear fellow; du Portail is powerfully rich; he’ll get you
made sub-prefect somewhere; and thence to a prefecture and a fortune is
but one step.”

“Thanks for the information,” said la Peyrade; “at least, I shall know
on which foot to hop. But you yourself, how came you to know him?”

“Oh! that’s quite a history; by my help he was able to get back a lot of
diamonds which had been stolen from him.”

At this moment Corentin entered the room.

“All is well,” he said to la Peyrade. “There are signs of returning
reason. Bianchon, to whom I have told all, wishes to confer with
you; therefore, my dear Monsieur Cerizet, we will postpone until
this evening, if you are willing, our little study over the Thuillier
election.”

“Well, so here you have him, at last!” said Cerizet, slapping la
Peyrade’s shoulder.

“Yes,” said Corentin, “and you know what I promised; you may rely on
that.”

Cerizet departed joyful.



CHAPTER XVI. CHECKMATE TO THUILLIER

The day after that evening, when Corentin, la Peyrade, and Cerizet were
to have had their consultation in reference to the attack on Thuillier’s
candidacy, the latter was discussing with his sister Brigitte the letter
in which Theodose declined the hand of Celeste, and his mind seemed
particularly to dwell on the postscript where it was intimated that la
Peyrade might not continue the editor of the “Echo de la Bievre.” At
this moment Henri, the “male domestic,” entered the room to ask if his
master would receive Monsieur Cerizet.

Thuillier’s first impulse was to deny himself to that unwelcome visitor.
Then, thinking better of it, he reflected that if la Peyrade suddenly
left him in the lurch, Cerizet might possibly prove a precious resource.
Consequently, he ordered Henri to show him in. His manner, however, was
extremely cold, and in some sort expectant. As for Cerizet, he presented
himself without the slightest embarrassment and with the air of a man
who had calculated all the consequences of the step he was taking.

“Well, my dear monsieur,” he began, “I suppose by this time you have
been posted as to the Sieur la Peyrade.”

“What may you mean by that?” said Thuillier, stiffly.

“Well, the man,” replied Cerizet, “who, after intriguing to marry your
goddaughter, breaks off the marriage abruptly--as he will, before
long, break that lion’s-share contract he made you sign about his
editorship--can’t be, I should suppose, the object of the same blind
confidence you formerly reposed in him.”

“Ah!” said Thuillier, hastily, “then do you know anything about la
Peyrade’s intention of leaving the newspaper?”

“No,” said the other; “on the terms I now am with him, you can readily
believe we don’t see each other; still less should I receive his
confidences. But I draw the induction from the well-known character of
the person, and you may be sure that when he finds it for his interest
to leave you, he’ll throw you away like an old coat--I’ve passed that
way, and I speak from experience.”

“Then you must have had some difficulties with him before you joined my
paper?” said Thuillier, interrogatively.

“Parbleu!” replied Cerizet; “the affair of this house which he helped
you to buy was mine; I started that hare. He was to put me in relation
with you, and make me the principal tenant of the house. But the
unfortunate affair of that bidding-in gave him a chance to knock me out
of everything and get all the profits for himself.”

“Profits!” exclaimed Thuillier. “I don’t see that he got anything out of
that transaction, except the marriage which he now refuses--”

“But,” interrupted Cerizet, “there’s the ten thousand francs he got
out of you on pretence of the cross which you never received, and the
twenty-five thousand he owes to Madame Lambert, for which you went
security, and which you will soon have to pay like a good fellow.”

“What’s this I hear?” cried Brigitte, up in arms; “twenty-five thousand
francs for which you have given security?”

“Yes, mademoiselle,” interposed Cerizet; “behind that sum which this
woman had lent him there was a mystery, and if I had not laid my hand
on the true explanation, there would certainly have been a very dirty
ending to it. La Peyrade was clever enough not only to whitewash himself
in Monsieur Thuillier’s eyes, but to get him to secure the debt.”

“But,” said Thuillier, “how do you know that I did give security for
that debt, if you have not seen him since then?”

“I know it from the woman herself, who tells the whole story now she is
certain of being paid.”

“Well,” said Brigitte to her brother, “a pretty business you are engaged
in!”

“Mademoiselle,” said Cerizet, “I only meant to warn Monsieur Thuillier a
little. I think myself that you are sure to be paid. Without knowing the
exact particulars of this new marriage, I am certain the family would
never allow him to owe you to such mortifying debts; if necessary, I
should be very glad to intervene.”

“Monsieur,” said Thuillier, stiffly, “thanking you for your officious
intervention, permit me to say that it surprises me a little, for the
manner in which we parted would not have allowed me to hope it.”

“Ah ca!” said Cerizet; “you don’t think I was angry with you for that,
do you? I pitied you, that was all. I saw you under the spell, and I
said to myself: ‘Leave him to learn la Peyrade by experience.’ I knew
very well that the day of justice would dawn for me, and before long,
too. La Peyrade is a man who doesn’t make you wait for his questionable
proceedings.”

“Allow me to say,” remarked Thuillier, “that I do not consider the
rupture of the marriage we had proposed a questionable proceeding. The
matter was arranged, I may say, by mutual consent.”

“And the trick he is going to play you by leaving the paper in the
lurch, and the debt he has saddled you with, what are they?”

“Monsieur Cerizet,” continued Thuillier, still holding himself on
the reserve, “as I have said more than once to la Peyrade, no man is
indispensable; and if the editorship of my paper becomes vacant, I feel
confident that I shall at once meet with persons very eager to offer me
their services.”

“Is it for me you say that?” asked Cerizet. “Well, you haven’t hit the
nail; if you did me the honor to want my services it would be impossible
for me to grant them. I have long been disgusted with journalism. I let
la Peyrade, I hardly know why, persuade me to make this campaign with
you; it didn’t turn out happily, and I have vowed to myself to have no
more to do with newspapers. It was about another matter altogether than
I came to speak to you.”

“Ah!” said Thuillier.

“Yes,” continued Cerizet, “remembering the business-like manner in which
you managed the affair of this house in which you do me the honor to
receive me, I thought I could not do better than to call your attention
to a matter of the same kind which I have just now in hand. But I
shall not do as la Peyrade did,--make a bargain for the hand of
your goddaughter, and profess great friendship and devotion to you
personally. This is purely business, and I expect to make my profit out
of it. Now, as I still desire to become the principal tenant of this
house,--the letting of which must be a care and a disappointment to
mademoiselle, for I saw as I came along that the shops were still
unrented,--I think that this lease to me, if you will make it, might
be reckoned in to my share of the profits. You see, monsieur, that the
object of my visit has nothing to do with the newspaper.”

“What is this new affair?” said Brigitte; “that’s the first thing to
know.”

“It relates to a farm in Beauce, which has just been sold for a song,
and it is placed in my hands to resell, at an advance, but a small one;
you could really buy it, as the saying is, for a bit of bread.”

And Cerizet went on to explain the whole mechanism of the affair, which
we need not relate here, as no one but Brigitte would take any interest
in it. The statement was clear and precise, and it took close hold on
the old maid’s mind. Even Thuillier himself, in spite of his inward
distrust, was obliged to own that the affair had all the appearance of a
good speculation.

“Only,” said Brigitte, “we must first see the farm ourselves.”

This, the reader will remember, was her answer to la Peyrade when he
first proposed the purchase of the house at the Madeleine.

“Nothing is easier than that,” said Cerizet. “I myself want to see it,
and I have been intending to make a little excursion there. If you like,
I’ll be at your door this afternoon with a post-chaise, and to-morrow
morning, very early, we can examine the farm, breakfast at some inn near
by, and be back in time for dinner.”

“A post-chaise!” said Brigitte, “that’s very lordly; why not take the
diligence?”

“Diligences are so uncertain,” replied Cerizet; “you never know at what
time they will get to a place. But you need not think about the expense,
for I should otherwise go alone, and I am only too happy to offer you
two seats in my carriage.”

To misers, small gains are often determining causes in great matters;
after a little resistance “pro forma,” Brigitte ended by accepting the
proposal, and three hours later the trio were on the road to Chartres,
Cerizet having advised Thuillier not to let la Peyrade know of his
absence, lest he might take some unfair advantage of it.

The next day, by five o’clock, the party had returned, and the brother
and sister, who kept their opinions to themselves in presence of
Cerizet, were both agreed that the purchase was a good one. They had
found the soil of the best quality, the buildings in perfect repair,
the cattle looked sound and healthy; in short, this idea of becoming the
mistress of rural property seemed to Brigitte the final consecration of
opulence.

“Minard,” she remarked, “has only a town-house and invested capital,
whereas we shall have all that and a country-place besides; one can’t be
really rich without it.”

Thuillier was not sufficiently under the charm of that dream--the
realization of which was, in any case, quite distant--to forget, even
for a moment, the “Echo de la Bievre” and his candidacy. No sooner had
he reached home than he asked for the morning’s paper.

“It has not come,” said the “male domestic.”

“That’s a fine distribution, when even the owner of the paper is not
served!” cried Thuillier, discontentedly.

Although it was nearly dinner-time, and after his journey he would much
rather have taken a bath than rush to the rue Saint-Dominique, Thuillier
ordered a cab and drove at once to the office of the “Echo.”

There a fresh disappointment met him. The paper “was made,” as they say,
and all the employees had departed, even la Peyrade. As for Coffinet,
who was not to be found at his post of office-boy, nor yet at his other
post of porter, he had gone “of an errand,” his wife said, taking the
key of the closet in which the remaining copies of the paper were locked
up. Impossible, therefore, to procure the number which the unfortunate
proprietor had come so far to fetch.

To describe Thuillier’s indignation would be impossible. He marched up
and down the room, talking aloud to himself, as people do in moments of
excitement.

“I’ll turn them all out!” he cried. And we are forced to omit the rest
of the furious objurgation.

As he ended his anathema a rap was heard on the door.

“Come in!” said Thuillier, in a tone that depicted his wrath and his
frantic impatience.

The door opened, and Minard rushed precipitately into his arms.

“My good, my excellent friend!” cried the mayor of the eleventh
arrondissement, concluding his embrace with a hearty shake of the hand.

“Why! what is it?” said Thuillier, unable to comprehend the warmth of
this demonstration.

“Ah! my dear friend,” continued Minard, “such an admirable proceeding!
really chivalrous! most disinterested! The effect, I assure you, is
quite stupendous in the arrondissement.”

“But what, I say?” cried Thuillier, impatiently.

“The article, the whole action,” continued Minard, “so noble, so
elevated!”

“But what article? what action?” said the proprietor of the “Echo,”
 getting quite beside himself.

“The article of this morning,” said Minard.

“The article of this morning?”

“Ah ca! did you write it when you were asleep; or, like Monsieur
Jourdain doing prose, do you do heroism without knowing it?”

“I! I haven’t written any article!” cried Thuillier. “I have been away
from Paris for a day, and I don’t even know what is in this morning’s
paper; and the office-boy is not here to give me a copy.”

“I have one,” said Minard, pulling the much desired paper from his
pocket. “If the article is not years you have certainly inspired it; in
any case, the deed is done.”

Thuillier hurriedly unfolded the sheet Minard had given him, and
devoured rather than read the following article:--

  Long enough has the proprietor of this regenerated journal
  submitted without complaint and without reply to the cowardly
  insinuations with which a venal press insults all citizens who,
  strong in their convictions, refuse to pass beneath the Caudine
  Forks of power. Long enough has a man, who has already given
  proofs of devotion and abnegation in the important functions of
  the aedility of Paris, allowed these sheets to call him ambitious
  and self-seeking. Monsieur Jerome Thuillier, strong in his
  dignity, has suffered such coarse attacks to pass him with
  contempt. Encouraged by this disdainful silence, the stipendiaries
  of the press have dared to write that this journal, a work of
  conviction and of the most disinterested patriotism, was but the
  stepping-stone of a man, the speculation of a seeker for election.
  Monsieur Jerome Thuillier has held himself impassible before these
  shameful imputations because justice and truth are patient, and he
  bided his time to scotch the reptile. That time has come.

“That deuce of a Peyrade!” said Thuillier, stopping short; “how he does
touch it off!”

“It is magnificent!” cried Minard.

Reading aloud, Thuillier continued:--

  Every one, friends and enemies alike, can bear witness that
  Monsieur Jerome Thuillier has done nothing to seek a candidacy
  which was offered to him spontaneously.

“That’s evident,” said Thuillier, interrupting himself. Then he
resumed:--

  But, since his sentiments are so odiously misrepresented, and his
  intentions so falsely travestied, Monsieur Jerome Thuillier owes
  it to himself, and above all to the great national party of which
  he is the humblest soldier, to give an example which shall
  confound the vile sycophants of power.

“It is fine, the way la Peyrade poses me!” said Thuillier, pausing once
more in his reading. “I see now why he didn’t send me the paper; he
wanted to enjoy my surprise--‘confound the vile sycophants of power!’
how fine that is!”

After which reflection, he continued:--

  Monsieur Thuillier was so far from founding this journal of
  dynastic opposition to support and promote his election that, at
  the very moment when the prospects of that election seem most
  favorable to himself and most disastrous to his rivals, he here
  declares publicly, and in the most formal, absolute, and
  irrevocable manner that he _renounces his candidacy_.

“What?” cried Thuillier, thinking he had read wrong, or had
misunderstood what he read.

“Go on! go on!” said the mayor of the eleventh.

Then, as Thuillier, with a bewildered air, seemed not disposed to
continue his reading, Minard took the paper from his hands and read the
rest of the article himself, beginning where the other had left off:--

  Renounces his candidacy; and he strongly urges the electors to
  transfer to Monsieur Minard, mayor of the eleventh arrondissement
  and his friend and colleague in his municipal functions, all the
  votes with which they seemed about to honor him.

“But this is infamous!” cried Thuillier, recovering his speech; “you
have bought that Jesuit la Peyrade.”

“So,” said Minard, stupefied by Thuillier’s attitude, “the article was
not agreed upon between you?”

“The wretch has profited by my absence to slip it into the paper; I
understand now why he prevented a copy from reaching me to-day.”

“My dear friend,” said Minard, “what you tell me will seem incredible to
the public.”

“I tell you it is treachery; it is an abominable trap. Renounce my
candidacy!--why should I?”

“You understand, my dear friend,” said Minard, “that I am truly sorry
if your confidence has been abused, but I have just issued my circular
manifesto; the die is cast, and luck to the lucky now.”

“Leave me,” said Thuillier; “it is a comedy for which you have paid.”

“Monsieur Thuillier,” said Minard, in a threatening voice, “I advise you
not to repeat those words, unless you are ready to give me satisfaction
for them.”

Happily for Thuillier, who, we may remember, had made his profession
of faith as to civic courage some time before, he was relieved from
answering by Coffinet, who now opened the door of the editorial sanctum,
and announced:--

“Messieurs the electors of the twelfth arrondissement.”

The arrondissement was represented on this occasion by five persons. An
apothecary, chairman of the deputation, proceeded to address Thuillier
in the following terms:--

“We have come, monsieur, after taking cognizance of an article inserted
this morning in the ‘Echo de la Bievre,’ to inquire of you what may be
precisely the origin and bearing of that article; thinking it incredible
that, having solicited our suffrages, you should, on the eve of this
election, and from a most mistaken puritanism, have cast disorder and
disunion into our ranks, and probably have caused the triumph of the
ministerial candidate. A candidate does not belong to himself; he
belongs to the electors who have promised to honor him with their votes.
But,” continued the orator, casting his eye at Minard, “the presence in
these precincts of the candidate whom you have gone out of your way to
recommend to us, indicates that between you and him there is connivance;
and I have no need to ask who is being here deceived.”

“No, messieurs, no,” said Thuillier; “I have not renounced my candidacy.
That article was written and printed without my knowledge or consent.
To-morrow you will see the denial of it in the same paper, and you will
also learn that the infamous person who has betrayed my confidence is no
longer the editor of this journal.”

“Then,” said the orator of the deputation, “in spite of your declaration
to the contrary, you do continue to be the candidate of the Opposition?”

“Yes, messieurs, until death; and I beg you to use your utmost influence
in the quarter to neutralize the effect of this deliberate falsehood
until I am able to officially present the most formal disavowal.”

“Hear! hear!” said the electors.

“And, as for the presence of Monsieur Minard, my competitor, in these
precincts, I have not invited it; and at the moment when you entered
this room, I was engaged in a very sharp and decided explanation with
him.”

“Hear! hear!” said the electors again.

Then, after cordially shaking the hand of the apothecary, Thuillier
conducted the deputation to the outer door of the apartment; after
which, returning to the editorial sanctum, he said:--

“My dear Minard, I withdraw the words which wounded you; but you can see
now what justification I had for my indignation.”

Here Coffinet again opened the door and announced:--

“Messieurs the electors of the eleventh arrondissement.”

The arrondissement was represented this time by seven persons. A
linen-draper, chairman of the delegation, addressed Thuillier in the
following speech:--

“Monsieur, it is with sincere admiration that we have learned this
morning from the columns of your paper, the great civic act by which
you have touched all hearts. You have shown, in thus retiring, a most
unusual disinterestedness, and the esteem of your fellow-citizens--”

“Excuse me,” said Thuillier, interrupting him, “I cannot allow you to
continue; the article about which you are so good as to congratulate me,
was inserted by mistake.”

“What!” said the linen-draper; “then do you not retire? Can you suppose
that in opposition to the candidacy of Monsieur Minard (whose presence
in these precincts seems to me rather singular) you have the slightest
chance of success?”

“Monsieur,” said Thuillier, “have the goodness to request the electors
of your arrondissement to await the issue of to-morrow’s paper, in which
I shall furnish categorical explanations of the most distinct character.
The article to-day is the result of a misunderstanding.”

“It will be a sad pity, monsieur,” said the linen-draper, “if you lose
this occasion to place yourself in the eyes of your fellow-citizens
beside the Washingtons and other great men of antiquity.”

“I say again, _to-morrow_, messieurs,” said Thuillier. “I am none the
less sensible to the honor you do me, and I trust that when you know the
whole truth, I shall not suffer in your esteem.”

“A pretty queer mess this seems to be,” said the voice of an elector.

“Yes,” said another; “it looks as if they meant to bamboozle us.”

“Messieurs, messieurs!” cried the chairman, putting a stop to the
outbreak; “to-morrow--we will wait until to-morrow for the promised
explanations.”

Whereupon, the deputation retired.

It is not likely that Thuillier would have accompanied them beyond the
door of the sanctum, but in any case he was prevented by the sudden
entrance of la Peyrade.

“I have just come from your house, my dear fellow,” said the Provencal;
“they told me I should find you here.”

“You have come, doubtless, for the purpose of explaining to me the
strange article you allowed yourself to insert in my name.”

“Precisely,” said la Peyrade. “The remarkable man whom you know,
and whose powerful influence you have already felt, confided to me
yesterday, in your interests, the plans of the government, and I saw at
once that your defeat was inevitable. I wished therefore to secure to
you an honorable and dignified retreat. There was no time to lose; you
were absent from Paris, and therefore--”

“Very good, monsieur,” said Thuillier; “but you will take notice that
from the present moment you are no longer the editor of this paper.”

“That is what I came to tell you.”

“Perhaps you also came to settle the little account we have together.”

“Messieurs,” said Minard, “I see that this is a business interview; I
shall therefore take leave of you.”

As soon as Minard had left the room, la Peyrade pulled out his
pocket-book.

“Here are ten thousand francs,” he said, “which I will beg you to remit
to Mademoiselle Brigitte; and here, also, is the bond by which you
secured the payment of twenty-five thousand francs to Madame Lambert;
that sum I have now paid in full, and here is the receipt.”

“Very good, monsieur,” said Thuillier.

La Peyrade bowed and went away.

“Serpent!” said Thuillier as he watched him go.

“Cerizet said the right thing,” thought la Peyrade,--“a pompous
imbecile!”

The blow struck at Thuillier’s candidacy was mortal, but Minard did not
profit by it. While the pair were contending for votes, a government
man, an aide-de-camp to the king, arrived with his hands full of tobacco
licenses and other electoral small change, and, like the third thief,
he slipped between the two who were thumping each other, and carried off
the booty.

It is needless to say that Brigitte did not get her farm in Beauce. That
was only a mirage, by help of which Thuillier was enticed out of Paris
long enough for la Peyrade to deal his blow,--a service rendered to the
government on the one hand, but also a precious vengeance for the many
humiliations he had undergone.

Thuillier had certainly some suspicions as to the complicity of Cerizet,
but that worthy managed to justify himself; and by manoeuvring the
sale of the “Echo de la Bievre,” now become a nightmare to the luckless
owner, he ended by appearing as white as snow.

The paper was secretly bought up by Corentin, and the late opposition
sheet became a “canard” sold on Sundays in the wine-shops and concocted
in the dens of the police.



CHAPTER XVII. IN THE EXERCISE OF HIS FUNCTIONS

About two months after the scene in which la Peyrade had been convinced
that through a crime of his past life his future was irrevocably
settled, he (being now married to his victim, who was beginning to have
lucid intervals, though the full return of her reason would not take
place until the occasion indicated by the doctors) was sitting one
morning with the head of the police in the latter’s office. Taking
part in the work of the department, the young man was serving an
apprenticeship under that great master in the difficult and delicate
functions to which he was henceforth riveted. But Corentin found that
his pupil did not bring to this initiation all the ardor and amiability
that he desired. It was plain that in la Peyrade’s soul there was a
sense of forfeiture and degradation; time would get the better of that
impression, but the callus was not yet formed.

Opening a number of sealed envelopes enclosing the reports of his
various agents, Corentin glanced over these documents, seldom as useful
as the public suppose, casting them one after another contemptuously
into a basket, whence they issued in a mass for a burning. But to one of
them the great man evidently gave some particular attention; as he read
it a smile flickered on his lips, and when he had finished, instead of
adding it to the pile in the basket, he gave it to la Peyrade.

“Here,” he said, “here’s something that concerns you; it shows that in
our profession, which just now seems to you unpleasantly serious, we do
occasionally meet with comedies. Read it aloud; it will cheer me up.”

Before la Peyrade began to read, Corentin added:--

“I ought to tell you that the report is from a man called Henri, whom
Madame Komorn introduced as man-servant at the Thuilliers’; you probably
remember him.”

“So!” said la Peyrade, “servants placed in families! is that one of your
methods?”

“Sometimes,” replied Corentin; “in order to know all, we must use all
means. But a great many lies are told about us on that subject. It
is not true that the police, making a system of it, has, at certain
periods, by a general enrolment of lacqueys and lady’s-maids,
established a vast network in private families. Nothing is fixed and
absolute in our manner of proceeding; we act in accordance with the time
and circumstances. I wanted an ear and an influence in the Thuillier
household; accordingly, I let loose the Godollo upon it, and she, in
turn, partly to assist herself, installed there one of our men, an
intelligent fellow, as you will see for yourself. But for all that, if,
at another time, a servant came and offered to sell me the secrets of
his master, I should have him arrested, and let a warning reach the ears
of the family to distrust the other servants. Now go on, and read that
report.”

  Monsieur the Director of the Secret Police,

read la Peyrade aloud,--

  I did not stay long with the little baron; he is a man wholly
  occupied in frivolous pleasures; and there was nothing to be
  gathered there that was worthy of a report to you. I have found
  another place, where I have already witnessed several thing which
  fit into the mission that Madame de Godollo gave me, and
  therefore, thinking them likely to interest you, I hasten to bring
  them to your knowledge. The household in which I am now employed
  is that of an old savant, named Monsieur Picot, who lives on a
  first floor, Place de la Madeleine, in the house and apartment
  formerly occupied by my late masters, the Thuilliers--

“What!” cried la Peyrade, interrupting his reading, “Pere Picot, that
ruined old lunatic, occupying such an apartment as that?”

“Go on, go on!” said Corentin; “life is full of many strange things.
You’ll find the explanation farther along; for our correspondent--it is
the defect of those fellows to waste themselves on details--is only too
fond of dotting his i’s.”

La Peyrade read on:--

  The Thuilliers left this apartment some weeks ago to return to
  their Latin quarter. Mademoiselle Brigitte never really liked our
  sphere; her total want of education made her ill at ease. Just
  because I speak correctly, she was always calling me ‘the orator,’
  and she could not endure Monsieur Pascal, her porter, because,
  being beadle in the church of the Madeleine, he had manners; she
  even found something to say against the dealers in the great
  market behind the church, where, of course, she bought her
  provisions; she complained that they gave themselves _capable_
  airs, merely because they are not so coarse-tongued as those of
  the Halle, and only laughed at her when she tried to beat them
  down. She has leased the whole house to a certain Monsieur Cerizet
  (a very ugly man, with a nose all eaten away) for an annual rent of
  fifty-five thousand francs. This tenant seems to know what he is
  about. He has lately married an actress at one of the minor
  theatres, Mademoiselle Olympe Cardinal, and he was just about to
  occupy himself the first-floor apartment, where he proposed to
  establish his present business, namely, insurance for the “dots”
   of children, when Monsieur Picot, arriving from England with his
  wife, a very rich Englishwoman, saw the apartment and offered such
  a good price that Monsieur Cerizet felt constrained to take it.
  That was the time when, by the help of M. Pascal, the porter, with
  whom I have been careful to maintain good relations, I entered the
  household of Monsieur Picot.

“Monsieur Picot married to a rich Englishwoman!” exclaimed la Peyrade,
interrupting himself again; “but it is incomprehensible.”

“Go on, I tell you,” said Corentin; “you’ll comprehend it presently.”

  The fortune of my new master,

continued la Peyrade,

  is quite a history; and I speak of it to Monsieur le directeur
  because another person in whom Madame de Godollo was interested
  has his marriage closely mixed up in it. That other person is
  Monsieur Felix Phellion, the inventor of a star, who, in despair
  at not being able to marry that demoiselle whom they wanted to
  give to the Sieur la Peyrade whom Madame de Godollo made such a
  fool of--

“Scoundrel!” said the Provencal, in a parenthesis. “Is that how he
speaks of me? He doesn’t know who I am.”

Corentin laughed heartily and exhorted his pupil to read on.

  --who, in despair at not being able to marry that demoiselle . . .
  went to England in order to embark for a journey round the world
  --a lover’s notion! Learning of this departure, Monsieur Picot,
  his former professor, who took great interest in his pupil, went
  after him to prevent that nonsense, which turned out not to be
  difficult. The English are naturally very jealous of discoveries,
  and when they saw Monsieur Phellion coming to embark at the heels
  of their own savants they asked him for his permit from the
  Admiralty; which, not having been provided, he could not produce;
  so then they laughed in his face and would not let him embark at
  all, fearing that he should prove more learned than they.

“He is a fine hand at the ‘entente cordiale,’ your Monsieur Henri,” said
la Peyrade, gaily.

“Yes,” replied Corentin; “you will be struck, in the reports of
nearly all our agents, with this general and perpetual inclination to
calumniate. But what’s to be done? For the trade of spies we can’t have
angels.”

  Left upon the shore, Telemachus and his mentor--

“You see our men are lettered,” commented Corentin.

  --Telemachus and his mentor thought best to return to France, and
  were about to do so when Monsieur Picot received a letter such as
  none but an Englishwoman could write. It told him that the writer
  had read his “Theory of Perpetual Motion,” and had also heard of
  his magnificent discovery of a star; that she regarded him as a
  genius only second to Newton, and that if the hand of her who
  addressed him, joined to eighty thousand pounds sterling--that is,
  two millions--of “dot,” was agreeable to him it was at his
  disposal. The first thought of the good man was to make his pupil
  marry her, but finding that impossible, he told her, before
  accepting on his own account, that he was old and three-quarters
  blind, and had never discovered a star, and did not own a penny.
  The Englishwoman replied that Milton was not young either, and was
  altogether blind; that Monsieur Picot seemed to her to have
  nothing worse than a cataract, for she knew all about it, being
  the daughter of a great oculist, and she would have him operated
  upon; that as for the star, she did not care so very much about
  that; it was the author of the “Theory of Perpetual Motion” who
  was the man of her dreams, and to whom she again offered her hand
  with eighty thousand pounds sterling (two millions) of “dot.”
   Monsieur Picot replied that if his sight were restored and she
  would consent to live in Paris, for he hated England, he would let
  himself be married. The operation was performed and was
  successful, and, at the end of three weeks the newly married pair
  arrived in the capital. These details I obtained from the lady’s
  maid, with whom I am on the warmest terms.

“Oh! the puppy!” said Corentin, laughing.

  The above is therefore hearsay, but what remains to be told to
  Monsieur le directeur are facts of which I can speak “de visu,”
   and to which I am, consequently, in a position to certify. As
  soon as Monsieur and Madame Picot had installed themselves, which
  was done in the most sumptuous and comfortable manner, my master
  gave me a number of invitations to dinner to carry to the
  Thuillier family, the Colleville family, the Minard family, the
  Abbe Gondrin, vicar of the Madeleine, and nearly all the guests
  who were present at another dinner a few months earlier, when he
  had an encounter with Mademoiselle Thuillier, and behaved, I must
  say, in a rather singular manner. All the persons who received
  these invitations were so astonished to learn that the old man
  Picot had married a rich wife and was living in the Thuilliers’
  old apartment that most of them came to inquire of Monsieur
  Pascal, the porter, to see if they were hoaxed. The information
  they obtained being honest and honorable, the whole society
  arrived punctually on time; but Monsieur Picot did not appear.
  The guests were received by Madame Picot, who does not speak
  French and could only say, “My husband is coming soon”; after
  which, not being able to make further conversation, the company
  were dull and ill at ease. At last Monsieur Picot arrived, and all
  present were stupefied on seeing, instead of an old blind man,
  shabbily dressed, a handsome young elderly man, bearing his years
  jauntily, like Monsieur Ferville of the Gymnase, who said with a
  lively air:

  “I beg your pardon, mesdames, for not being here at the moment of
  your arrival; but I was at the Academy of Sciences, awaiting the
  result of an election,--that of Monsieur Felix Phellion, who has
  been elected unanimously less three votes.”

  This news seemed to have a great effect upon the company. So then
  Monsieur Picot resumed:--

  “I must also, mesdames, ask your pardon for the rather improper
  manner in which I behaved a short time ago in the house where we
  are now assembled. My excuse must be my late infirmity, the
  annoyances of a family lawsuit, and of an old housekeeper who
  robbed me and tormented me in a thousand ways, from whom I am
  happily delivered. To-day you see me another man, rejuvenated and
  rich with the blessings bestowed upon me by the amiable woman who
  has given me her hand; and I should be in the happiest frame of
  mind to receive you if the recollection of my young friend, whose
  eminence as a man of science has just been consecrated by the
  Academy, did not cast upon my mind a veil of sadness. All here
  present,” continued Monsieur Picot, raising his voice, which is
  rather loud, “are guilty towards him: I, for ingratitude when he
  gave me the glory of his discovery and the reward of his immortal
  labors; that young lady, whom I see over there with tears in her
  eyes, for having foolishly accused him of atheism; that other
  lady, with the stern face, for having harshly replied to the
  proposals of his noble father, whose white hairs she ought rather
  to have honored; Monsieur Thuillier, for having sacrificed him to
  ambition; Monsieur Colleville, for not performing his part of
  father and choosing for his daughter the worthiest and most
  honorable man; Monsieur Minard, for having tried to foist his son
  into his place. There are but two persons in the room at this
  moment who have done him full justice,--Madame Thuillier and
  Monsieur l’Abbe Gondrin. Well, I shall now ask that man of God
  whether we can help doubting the divine justice when this generous
  young man, the victim of all of us, is, at the present hour, at
  the mercy of waves and tempests, to which for three long years he
  is consigned.”

  “Providence is very powerful, monsieur,” replied the Abbe Gondrin.
  “God will protect Monsieur Felix Phellion wherever he may be, and
  I have the firmest hope that three years hence he will be among
  his friends once more.”

  “But three years!” said Monsieur Picot. “Will it still be time?
  Will Mademoiselle Colleville have waited for him?”

  “Yes, I swear it!” cried the young girl, carried away by an
  impulse she could not control.

  Then she sat down again, quite ashamed, and burst into tears.

  “And you, Mademoiselle Thuillier, and you, Madame Colleville, will
  you permit this young lady to reserve herself for one who is
  worthy of her?”

  “Yes! Yes!” cried everybody; for Monsieur Picot’s voice, which is
  very full and sonorous, seemed to have tears in it and affected
  everybody.

  “Then it is time,” he said, “to forgive Providence.”

  And rushing suddenly to the door, where my ear was glued to the
  keyhole, he very nearly caught me.

  “Announce,” he said to me, in a very loud tone of voice, “Monsieur
  Felix Phellion and his family.”

  And thereupon the door of a side room opened, and five or six
  persons came out, who were led by Monsieur Picot into the salon.

  At the sight of her _lover_, Mademoiselle Colleville was taken ill,
  but the faint lasted only a minute; seeing Monsieur Felix at her
  feet she threw herself into Madame Thuillier’s arms, crying out:--

  “Godmother! you always told me to hope.”

  Mademoiselle Thuillier, who, in spite of her harsh nature and want
  of education, I have always myself thought a remarkable woman, now
  had a fine impulse. As the company were about to go into the
  dining-room,--

  “One moment!” she said.

  Then going up to Monsieur Phellion, senior, she said to him:

  “Monsieur and old friend! I ask you for the hand of Monsieur Felix
  Phellion for our adopted daughter, Mademoiselle Colleville.”

  “Bravo! bravo!” they call cried in chorus.

  “My God!” said Monsieur Phellion, with tears in his eyes; “what
  have I done to deserve such happiness?”

  “You have been an honest man and a Christian without knowing it,”
   replied the Abbe Gondrin.

Here la Peyrade flung down the manuscript.

“You did not finish it,” said Corentin, taking back the paper. “However,
there’s not much more. Monsieur Henri confesses to me that the scene
had _moved him_; he also says that, knowing the interest I had
formerly taken in the marriage, he thought he ought to inform me of
its conclusion; ending with a slightly veiled suggestion of a fee. No,
stay,” resumed Corentin, “here is a detail of some importance:--”

  The English woman seems to have made it known during dinner that,
  having no heirs, her fortune, after the lives of herself and her
  husband, will go to Felix. That will make him powerfully rich one
  of these days.

La Peyrade had risen and was striding about the room with rapid steps.

“Well,” said Corentin, “what is the matter with you?”

“Nothing.”

“That is not true,” said the great detective. “I think you envy the
happiness of that young man. My dear fellow, permit me to tell you that
if such a conclusion were to your taste, you should have acted as he has
done. When I sent you two thousand francs on which to study law, I
did not intend you to succeed me; I expected you to row your galley
laboriously, to have the needful courage for obscure and painful toil;
your day would infallibly have come. But you chose to violate fortune--”

“Monsieur!”

“I mean hasten it, reap it before it ripened. You flung yourself
into journalism; then into business, questionable business; you made
acquaintance with Messieurs Dutocq and Cerizet. Frankly, I think you
fortunate to have entered the port which harbors you to-day. In any
case, you are not sufficiently simple of heart to have really valued the
joys reserved for Felix Phellion. These bourgeois--”

“These bourgeois,” said la Peyrade, quickly,--“I know them now. They
have great absurdities, great vices even, but they have virtues, or,
at the least, estimable qualities; in them lies the vital force of our
corrupt society.”

“_Your_ society!” said Corentin, smiling; “you speak as if you were
still in the ranks. You have another sphere, my dear fellow; and you
must learn to be more content with your lot. Governments pass, societies
perish or dwindle; but we--_we_ dominate all things; the police is
eternal.”



  TRANSLATOR’S NOTE

  Note.--This volume (“Les Petits Bourgeois”) was not published
  until 1854, more than three years after Balzac’s death; although
  he says of it in March, 1844: “I must tell you that my work
  entitled ‘Les Petits Bourgeois,’ owing to difficulties of
  execution, requires still a month’s labor, although the book is
  entirely written.” And again, in October, 1846, he says: “It is to
  such scruples” (care in perfecting his work) “that delays which
  have injured several of my works are due; for instance, ‘Les
  Paysans,’ which has long been nearly finished, and ‘Les Petits
  Bourgeois,’ which has been in type at the printing office for the
  last eighteen months.”



ADDENDUM

The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

     Barbet
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Man of Business
       The Seamy Side of History
       The Middle Classes

     Baudoyer, Isidore
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Pons

     Beaumesnil, Mademoiselle
       The Middle Classes
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       A Second Home

     Bianchon, Horace
       Father Goriot
       The Atheist’s Mass
       Cesar Birotteau
       The Commission in Lunacy
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       The Secrets of a Princess
       The Government Clerks
       Pierrette
       A Study of Woman
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       Honorine
       The Seamy Side of History
       The Magic Skin
       A Second Home
       A Prince of Bohemia
       Letters of Two Brides
       The Muse of the Department
       The Imaginary Mistress
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Betty
       The Country Parson
     In addition, M. Bianchon narrated the following:
       Another Study of Woman
       La Grande Breteche

     Bousquier, Du (or Du Croisier or Du Bourguier)
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       The Middle Classes

     Brisetout, Heloise
       Cousin Betty
       Cousin Pons
       The Middle Classes

     Bruel, Jean Francois du
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       The Government Clerks
       A Start in Life
       A Prince of Bohemia
       The Middle Classes
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Daughter of Eve

     Bruel, Claudine Chaffaroux, Madame du
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       A Prince of Bohemia
       A Distinguished  Provincial at Paris
       Letters of Two Brides
       The Middle Classes

     Bruno
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Middle Classes

     Cardot (Parisian notary)
       The Muse of the Department
       A Man of Business
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       Pierre Grassou
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Pons

     Cerizet
       Lost Illusions
       A Man of Business
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Middle Classes

     Chaffaroux
       Cesar Birotteau
       A Prince of Bohemia
       The Middle Classes

     Claparon, Charles
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       Cesar Birotteau
       Melmoth Reconciled
       The Firm of Nucingen
       A Man of Business
       The Middle Classes

     Cochin, Emile-Louis-Lucien-Emmanuel
       Cesar Birotteau
       The Government Clerks
       The Firm of Nucingen
       The Middle Classes

     Colleville
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Colleville, Flavie Minoret, Madame
       The Government Clerks
       Cousin Betty
       The Middle Classes

     Corentin
       The Chouans
       The Gondreville Mystery
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Middle Classes

     Couture
       Beatrix
       The Firm of Nucingen
       The Middle Classes

     Crochard, Charles
       A Second Home
       The Middle Classes

     Desroches (son)
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       Colonel Chabert
       A Start in Life
       A Woman of Thirty
       The Commission in Lunacy
       The Government Clerks
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Firm of Nucingen
       A Man of Business
       The Middle Classes

     Dutocq
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Fleury
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Galathionne, Prince and Princess (both not in each story)
       The Secrets of a Princess
       The Middle Classes
       Father Goriot
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Daughter of Eve
       Beatrix

     Godard, Joseph
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Godeschal, Francois-Claude-Marie
       Colonel Chabert
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       A Start in Life
       The Commission in Lunacy
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Pons

     Grassou, Pierre
       Pierre Grassou
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       Cousin Betty
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Pons

     Grindot
       Cesar Birotteau
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Start in Life
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       Beatrix
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Betty

     Katt
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Middle Classes

     Keller, Adolphe
       The Middle Classes
       Pierrette
       Cesar Birotteau

     La Peyrade, Charles-Marie-Theodose de
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Middle Classes

     La Peyrade, Madame de
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Middle Classes

     La Roche-Hugon, Martial de
       Domestic Peace
       The Peasantry
       A Daughter of Eve
       The Member for Arcis
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Betty

     Laudigeois
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Lousteau, Etienne
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       A Daughter of Eve
       Beatrix
       The Muse of the Department
       Cousin Betty
       A Prince of Bohemia
       A Man of Business
       The Middle Classes
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Metivier
       Lost Illusions
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Metivier (nephew)
       The Seamy Side of History
       The Middle Classes

     Minard, Auguste-Jean-Francois
       The Government Clerks
       The Firm of Nucingen
       The Middle Classes

     Minard, Madame
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Phellion
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Poiret, the elder
       The Government Clerks
       Father Goriot
       A Start in Life
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Middle Classes

     Poiret, Madame (nee Christine-Michelle Michonneau)
       Father Goriot
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Middle Classes

     Popinot, Jean-Jules
       Cesar Birotteau
       Honorine
       The Commission in Lunacy
       The Seamy Side of History
       The Middle Classes

     Rabourdin, Xavier
       The Government Clerks
       At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
       Cesar Birotteau
       The Middle Classes

     Saillard
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Thuillier
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Thuillier, Marie-Jeanne-Brigitte
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Thuillier, Louis-Jerome
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Tillet, Ferdinand du
       Cesar Birotteau
       The Firm of Nucingen
       The Middle Classes
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       Pierrette
       Melmoth Reconciled
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       The Secrets of a Princess
       A Daughter of Eve
       The Member for Arcis
       Cousin Betty
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Vinet
       Pierrette
       The Member for Arcis
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Pons

     Vinet, Olivier
       The Member for Arcis
       Cousin Pons
       The Middle Classes





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