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Title: Cousin Pons
Author: Balzac, Honoré de
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Cousin Pons" ***

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COUSIN PONS


By Honore De Balzac



Translated by Ellen Marriage



COUSIN PONS


Towards three o\x92clock in the afternoon of one October day in the year
1844, a man of sixty or thereabouts, whom anybody might have credited
with more than his actual age, was walking along the Boulevard des
Italiens with his head bent down, as if he were tracking some one. There
was a smug expression about the mouth--he looked like a merchant who
has just done a good stroke of business, or a bachelor emerging from
a boudoir in the best of humors with himself; and in Paris this is
the highest degree of self-satisfaction ever registered by a human
countenance.

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

A saying recorded of Hyacinthe, an actor celebrated for his repartees,
will explain the archaeological value of the old gentleman, and the
smile repeated like an echo by all eyes. Somebody once asked Hyacinthe
where the hats were made that set the house in a roar as soon as he
appeared. \x93I don\x92t have them made,\x94 he said; \x93I keep them!\x94 So also
among the million actors who make up the great troupe of Paris, there
are unconscious Hyacinthes who \x93keep\x94 all the absurd freaks of vanished
fashions upon their backs; and the apparition of some bygone decade will
startle you into laughter as you walk the streets in bitterness of soul
over the treason of one who was your friend in the past.

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

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

At the sight of the spencer, men of forty or fifty mentally invested
the wearer with top-boots, pistachio-colored kerseymere small clothes
adorned with a knot of ribbon; and beheld themselves in the costumes of
their youth. Elderly ladies thought of former conquests; but the younger
men were asking each other why the aged Alcibiades had cut off the
skirts of his overcoat. The rest of the costume was so much in keeping
with the spencer, that you would not have hesitated to call the wearer
\x93an Empire man,\x94 just as you call a certain kind of furniture \x93Empire
furniture;\x94 yet the newcomer only symbolized the Empire for those who
had known that great and magnificent epoch at any rate _de visu_, for a
certain accuracy of memory was needed for the full appreciation of the
costume, and even now the Empire is so far away that not every one of us
can picture it in its Gallo-Grecian reality.

The stranger\x92s hat, for instance, tipped to the back of his head so as
to leave almost the whole forehead bare, recalled a certain jaunty air,
with which civilians and officials attempted to swagger it with military
men; but the hat itself was a shocking specimen of the fifteen-franc
variety. Constant friction with a pair of enormous ears had left their
marks which no brush could efface from the underside of the brim; the
silk tissue (as usual) fitted badly over the cardboard foundation, and
hung in wrinkles here and there; and some skin-disease (apparently) had
attacked the nap in spite of the hand which rubbed it down of a morning.

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

And yet, though the man\x92s ugliness was something almost ludicrous, it
aroused not the slightest inclination to laugh. The exceeding melancholy
which found an outlet in the poor man\x92s faded eyes reached the mocker
himself and froze the gibes on his lips; for all at once the thought
arose that this was a human creature to whom Nature had forbidden any
expression of love or tenderness, since such expression could only be
painful or ridiculous to the woman he loved. In the presence of such
misfortune a Frenchman is silent; to him it seems the most cruel of all
afflictions--to be unable to please!

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

A shawl-waistcoat, likewise of black cloth, was supplemented by a white
under-waistcoat, and yet again beneath this gleamed the edge of a red
knitted under-jacket, to put you in mind of Garat\x92s five waistcoats.
A huge white muslin stock with a conspicuous bow, invented by some
exquisite to charm \x93the charming sex\x94 in 1809, projected so far above
the wearer\x92s chin that the lower part of his face was lost, as it were,
in a muslin abyss. A silk watch-guard, plaited to resemble the keepsakes
made of hair, meandered down the shirt front and secured his watch from
the improbable theft. The greenish coat, though older by some three
years than the breeches, was remarkably neat; the black velvet collar
and shining metal buttons, recently renewed, told of carefulness which
descended even to trifles.

The particular manner of fixing the hat on the occiput, the triple
waistcoat, the vast cravat engulfing the chin, the gaiters, the metal
buttons on the greenish coat,--all these reminiscences of Imperial
fashions were blended with a sort of afterwaft and lingering perfume of
the coquetry of the Incroyable--with an indescribable finical something
in the folds of the garments, a certain air of stiffness and correctness
in the demeanor that smacked of the school of David, that recalled
Jacob\x92s spindle-legged furniture.

At first sight, moreover, you set him down either for the gentleman by
birth fallen a victim to some degrading habit, or for the man of small
independent means whose expenses are calculated to such a nicety that
the breakage of a windowpane, a rent in a coat, or a visit from the
philanthropic pest who asks you for subscriptions to a charity, absorbs
the whole of a month\x92s little surplus of pocket-money. If you had seen
him that afternoon, you would have wondered how that grotesque face came
to be lighted up with a smile; usually, surely, it must have worn
the dispirited, passive look of the obscure toiler condemned to labor
without ceasing for the barest necessaries of life. Yet when you
noticed that the odd-looking old man was carrying some object (evidently
precious) in his right hand with a mother\x92s care; concealing it under
the skirts of his coat to keep it from collisions in the crowd, and
still more, when you remarked that important air always assumed by an
idler when intrusted with a commission, you would have suspected him of
recovering some piece of lost property, some modern equivalent of the
marquise\x92s poodle; you would have recognized the assiduous gallantry of
the \x93man of the Empire\x94 returning in triumph from his mission to some
charming woman of sixty, reluctant as yet to dispense with the daily
visit of her elderly _attentif_.

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

In spite of the rashly assumed spencer, you would scarcely have thought,
after a glance at the contours of the man\x92s bony frame, that this was an
artist--that conventional type which is privileged, in something of the
same way as a Paris gamin, to represent riotous living to the bourgeois
and philistine mind, the most _mirific_ joviality, in short (to use the
old Rabelaisian word newly taken into use). Yet this elderly person had
once taken the medal and the traveling scholarship; he had composed
the first cantata crowned by the Institut at the time of the
re-establishment of the Academie de Rome; he was M. Sylvain Pons, in
fact--M. Sylvain Pons, whose name appears on the covers of well-known
sentimental songs trilled by our mothers, to say nothing of a couple
of operas, played in 1815 and 1816, and divers unpublished scores. The
worthy soul was now ending his days as the conductor of an orchestra
in a boulevard theatre, and a music master in several young ladies\x92
boarding-schools, a post for which his face particularly recommended
him. He was entirely dependent upon his earnings. Running about to give
private lessons at his age!--Think of it. How many a mystery lies in
that unromantic situation!

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

In the first place, no deliberate effort of schoolmaster or
administrator can replace the miracles of chance which produce great
men: of all the mysteries of generation, this most defies the ambitious
modern scientific investigator. In the second--the ancient Egyptians
(we are told) invented incubator-stoves for hatching eggs; what would be
thought of Egyptians who should neglect to fill the beaks of the callow
fledglings? Yet this is precisely what France is doing. She does
her utmost to produce artists by the artificial heat of competitive
examination; but, the sculptor, painter, engraver, or musician once
turned out by this mechanical process, she no more troubles herself
about them and their fate than the dandy cares for yesterday\x92s flower in
his buttonhole. And so it happens that the really great man is a Greuze,
a Watteau, a Felicien David, a Pagnesi, a Gericault, a Decamps, an
Auber, a David d\x92Angers, an Eugene Delacroix, or a Meissonier--artists
who take but little heed of _grande prix_, and spring up in the open
field under the rays of that invisible sun called Vocation.

To resume. The Government sent Sylvain Pons to Rome to make a great
musician of himself; and in Rome Sylvain Pons acquired a taste for
the antique and works of art. He became an admirable judge of those
masterpieces of the brain and hand which are summed up by the useful
neologism \x93bric-a-brac;\x94 and when the child of Euterpe returned to
Paris somewhere about the year 1810, it was in the character of a rabid
collector, loaded with pictures, statuettes, frames, wood-carving,
ivories, enamels, porcelains, and the like. He had sunk the greater
part of his patrimony, not so much in the purchases themselves as on the
expenses of transit; and every penny inherited from his mother had
been spent in the course of a three-years\x92 travel in Italy after the
residence in Rome came to an end. He had seen Venice, Milan, Florence,
Bologna, and Naples leisurely, as he wished to see them, as a dreamer of
dreams, and a philosopher; careless of the future, for an artist looks
to his talent for support as the _fille de joie_ counts upon her beauty.

All through those splendid years of travel Pons was as happy as was
possible to a man with a great soul, a sensitive nature, and a face so
ugly that any \x93success with the fair\x94 (to use the stereotyped formula of
1809) was out of the question; the realities of life always fell short
of the ideals which Pons created for himself; the world without was
not in tune with the soul within, but Pons had made up his mind to the
dissonance. Doubtless the sense of beauty that he had kept pure and
living in his inmost soul was the spring from which the delicate,
graceful, and ingenious music flowed and won him reputation between 1810
and 1814.

Every reputation founded upon the fashion or the fancy of the hour, or
upon the short-lived follies of Paris, produces its Pons. No place in
the world is so inexorable in great things; no city of the globe so
disdainfully indulgent in small. Pons\x92 notes were drowned before long in
floods of German harmony and the music of Rossini; and if in 1824 he
was known as an agreeable musician, a composer of various drawing-room
melodies, judge if he was likely to be famous in 183l! In 1844, the year
in which the single drama of this obscure life began, Sylvain Pons was
of no more value than an antediluvian semiquaver; dealers in music had
never heard of his name, though he was still composing, on scanty pay,
for his own orchestra or for neighboring theatres.

And yet, the worthy man did justice to the great masters of our day; a
masterpiece finely rendered brought tears to his eyes; but his religion
never bordered on mania, as in the case of Hoffmann\x92s Kreislers; he kept
his enthusiasm to himself; his delight, like the paradise reached by
opium or hashish, lay within his own soul.

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

Pons was of the opinion of Chenavard, the print-collector, who laid it
down as an axiom--that you only fully enjoy the pleasure of looking at
your Ruysdael, Hobbema, Holbein, Raphael, Murillo, Greuze, Sebastian del
Piombo, Giorgione, Albrecht Durer, or what not, when you have paid less
than sixty francs for your picture. Pons never gave more than a hundred
francs for any purchase. If he laid out as much as fifty francs, he was
careful to assure himself beforehand that the object was worth three
thousand. The most beautiful thing in the world, if it cost three
hundred francs, did not exist for Pons. Rare had been his bargains; but
he possessed the three qualifications for success--a stag\x92s legs, an
idler\x92s disregard of time, and the patience of a Jew.

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

The late lamented Dusommerard tried his best to gain Pons\x92 confidence,
but the prince of bric-a-brac died before he could gain an entrance to
the Pons museum, the one private collection which could compare with
the famous Sauvageot museum. Pons and M. Sauvageot indeed resembled each
other in more ways than one. M. Sauvageot, like Pons, was a musician;
he was likewise a comparatively poor man, and he had collected his
bric-a-brac in much the same way, with the same love of art, the same
hatred of rich capitalists with well-known names who collect for the
sake of running up prices as cleverly as possible. There was yet another
point of resemblance between the pair; Pons, like his rival competitor
and antagonist, felt in his heart an insatiable craving after specimens
of the craftsman\x92s skill and miracles of workmanship; he loved them as
a man might love a fair mistress; an auction in the salerooms in the
Rue des Jeuneurs, with its accompaniments of hammer strokes and brokers\x92
men, was a crime of _lese-bric-a-brac_ in Pons\x92 eyes. Pons\x92 museum was
for his own delight at every hour; for the soul created to know and
feel all the beauty of a masterpiece has this in common with the
lover--to-day\x92s joy is as great as the joy of yesterday; possession
never palls; and a masterpiece, happily, never grows old. So the object
that he held in his hand with such fatherly care could only be a \x93find,\x94
 carried off with what affection amateurs alone know!

After the first outlines of this biographical sketch, every one will
cry at once, \x93Why! this is the happiest man on earth, in spite of
his ugliness!\x94 And, in truth, no spleen, no dullness can resist the
counter-irritant supplied by a \x93craze,\x94 the intellectual moxa of a
hobby. You who can no longer drink of \x93the cup of pleasure,\x94 as it has
been called through all ages, try to collect something, no matter what
(people have been known to collect placards), so shall you receive the
small change for the gold ingot of happiness. Have you a hobby? You have
transferred pleasure to the plane of ideas. And yet, you need not
envy the worthy Pons; such envy, like all kindred sentiments, would be
founded upon a misapprehension.

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

Now, in the time of the Empire, celebrities were more sought after than
at present, perhaps because there were so few of them, perhaps because
they made little or no political pretension. In those days, besides,
you could set up for a poet, a musician, or a painter, with so little
expense. Pons, being regarded as the probable rival of Nicolo, Paer, and
Berton, used to receive so many invitations, that he was forced to keep
a list of engagements, much as barristers note down the cases for which
they are retained. And Pons behaved like an artist. He presented his
amphitryons with copies of his songs, he \x93obliged\x94 at the pianoforte,
he brought them orders for boxes at the Feydeau, his own theatre, he
organized concerts, he was not above taking the fiddle himself sometimes
in a relation\x92s house, and getting up a little impromptu dance. In those
days, all the handsome men in France were away at the wars exchanging
sabre-cuts with the handsome men of the Coalition. Pons was said to
be, not ugly, but \x93peculiar-looking,\x94 after the grand rule laid down by
Moliere in Eliante\x92s famous couplets; but if he sometimes heard himself
described as a \x93charming man\x94 (after he had done some fair lady a
service), his good fortune went no further than words.

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

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

But to return to Pons. A stomach thus educated is sure to react upon the
owner\x92s moral fibre; the demoralization of the man varies directly with
his progress in culinary sapience. Voluptuousness, lurking in every
secret recess of the heart, lays down the law therein. Honor and
resolution are battered in breach. The tyranny of the palate has never
been described; as a necessity of life it escapes the criticism of
literature; yet no one imagines how many have been ruined by the table.
The luxury of the table is indeed, in this sense, the courtesan\x92s one
competitor in Paris, besides representing in a manner the credit side in
another account, where she figures as the expenditure.

With Pons\x92 decline and fall as an artist came his simultaneous
transformation from invited guest to parasite and hanger-on; he could
not bring himself to quit dinners so excellently served for the Spartan
broth of a two-franc ordinary. Alas! alas! a shudder ran through him at
the mere thought of the great sacrifices which independence required him
to make. He felt that he was capable of sinking to even lower depths
for the sake of good living, if there were no other way of enjoying the
first and best of everything, of guzzling (vulgar but expressive word)
nice little dishes carefully prepared. Pons lived like a bird, pilfering
his meal, flying away when he had taken his fill, singing a few notes by
way of return; he took a certain pleasure in the thought that he lived
at the expense of society, which asked of him--what but the trifling
toll of grimaces? Like all confirmed bachelors, who hold their lodgings
in horror, and live as much as possible in other people\x92s houses, Pons
was accustomed to the formulas and facial contortions which do duty for
feeling in the world; he used compliments as small change; and as far as
others were concerned, he was satisfied with the labels they bore, and
never plunged a too-curious hand into the sack.

This not intolerable phase lasted for another ten years. Such years!
Pons\x92 life was closing with a rainy autumn. All through those years he
contrived to dine without expense by making himself necessary in the
houses which he frequented. He took the first step in the downward path
by undertaking a host of small commissions; many and many a time Pons
ran on errands instead of the porter or the servant; many a purchase he
made for his entertainers. He became a kind of harmless, well-meaning
spy, sent by one family into another; but he gained no credit with those
for whom he trudged about, and so often sacrificed self-respect.

\x93Pons is a bachelor,\x94 said they; \x93he is at a loss to know what to do
with his time; he is only too glad to trot about for us.--What else
would he do?\x94

Very soon the cold which old age spreads about itself began to set in;
the communicable cold which sensibly lowers the social temperature,
especially if the old man is ugly and poor. Old and ugly and poor--is
not this to be thrice old? Pons\x92 winter had begun, the winter which
brings the reddened nose, and frost-nipped cheeks, and the numbed
fingers, numb in how many ways!

Invitations very seldom came for Pons now. So far from seeking the
society of the parasite, every family accepted him much as they accepted
the taxes; they valued nothing that Pons could do for them; real
services from Pons counted for nought. The family circles in which the
worthy artist revolved had no respect for art or letters; they went down
on their knees to practical results; they valued nothing but the fortune
or social position acquired since the year 1830. The bourgeoisie is
afraid of intellect and genius, but Pons\x92 spirit and manner were not
haughty enough to overawe his relations, and naturally he had come at
last to be accounted less than nothing with them, though he was not
altogether despised.

He had suffered acutely among them, but, like all timid creatures, he
kept silence as to his pain; and so by degrees schooled himself to hide
his feelings, and learned to take sanctuary in his inmost self.
Many superficial persons interpret this conduct by the short word
\x93selfishness;\x94 and, indeed, the resemblance between the egoist and the
solitary human creature is strong enough to seem to justify the harsher
verdict; and this is especially true in Paris, where nobody observes
others closely, where all things pass swift as waves, and last as little
as a Ministry.

So Cousin Pons was accused of selfishness (behind his back); and if the
world accuses any one, it usually finds him guilty and condemns him into
the bargain. Pons bowed to the decision. Do any of us know how such a
timid creature is cast down by an unjust judgment? Who will ever paint
all that the timid suffer? This state of things, now growing daily
worse, explains the sad expression on the poor old musician\x92s face;
he lived by capitulations of which he was ashamed. Every time we sin
against self-respect at the bidding of the ruling passion, we rivet
its hold upon us; the more that passion requires of us, the stronger
it grows, every sacrifice increasing, as it were, the value of a
satisfaction for which so much has been given up, till the negative
sum-total of renouncements looms very large in a man\x92s imagination.
Pons, for instance, after enduring the insolently patronizing looks of
some bourgeois, incased in buckram of stupidity, sipped his glass of
port or finished his quail with breadcrumbs, and relished something of
the savor of revenge, besides. \x93It is not too dear at the price!\x94 he
said to himself.

After all, in the eyes of the moralist, there were extenuating
circumstances in Pons\x92 case. Man only lives, in fact, by some personal
satisfaction. The passionless, perfectly righteous man is not human; he
is a monster, an angel wanting wings. The angel of Christian mythology
has nothing but a head. On earth, the righteous person is the
sufficiently tiresome Grandison, for whom the very Venus of the
Crosswords is sexless.

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

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

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

But for La Fontaine\x92s fable, _Les Deux Amis_, this sketch should have
borne the title of _The Two Friends_; but to take the name of this
divine story would surely be a deed of violence, a profanation from
which every true man of letters would shrink. The title ought to be
borne alone and for ever by the fabulist\x92s masterpiece, the revelation
of his soul, and the record of his dreams; those three words were set
once and for ever by the poet at the head of a page which is his by
a sacred right of ownership; for it is a shrine before which all
generations, all over the world, will kneel so long as the art of
printing shall endure.

Pons\x92 friend gave lessons on the pianoforte. They met and struck up
an acquaintance in 1834, one prize day at a boarding-school; and so
congenial were their ways of thinking and living, that Pons used to say
that he had found his friend too late for his happiness. Never, perhaps,
did two souls, so much alike, find each other in the great ocean of
humanity which flowed forth, in disobedience to the will of God, from
its source in the Garden of Eden. Before very long the two musicians
could not live without each other. Confidences were exchanged, and in
a week\x92s time they were like brothers. Schmucke (for that was his name)
had not believed that such a man as Pons existed, nor had Pons imagined
that a Schmucke was possible. Here already you have a sufficient
description of the good couple; but it is not every mind that takes
kindly to the concise synthetic method, and a certain amount of
demonstration is necessary if the credulous are to accept the
conclusion.

This pianist, like all other pianists, was a German. A German, like the
eminent Liszt and the great Mendelssohn, and Steibelt, and Dussek, and
Meyer, and Mozart, and Doelher, and Thalberg, and Dreschok, and Hiller,
and Leopold Hertz, Woertz, Karr, Wolff, Pixis, and Clara Wieck--and
all Germans, generally speaking. Schmucke was a great musical composer
doomed to remain a music master, so utterly did his character lack the
audacity which a musical genius needs if he is to push his way to the
front. A German\x92s naivete does not invariably last him through his life;
in some cases it fails after a certain age; and even as a cultivator
of the soil brings water from afar by means of irrigation channels, so,
from the springs of his youth, does the Teuton draw the simplicity which
disarms suspicion--the perennial supplies with which he fertilizes his
labors in every field of science, art, or commerce. A crafty Frenchman
here and there will turn a Parisian tradesman\x92s stupidity to good
account in the same way. But Schmucke had kept his child\x92s simplicity
much as Pons continued to wear his relics of the Empire--all
unsuspectingly. The true and noble-hearted German was at once the
theatre and the audience, making music within himself for himself
alone. In this city of Paris he lived as a nightingale lives among the
thickets; and for twenty years he sang on, mateless, till he met with a
second self in Pons. [See _Une Fille d\x92Eve_.]

Both Pons and Schmucke were abundantly given, both by heart and
disposition, to the peculiarly German sentimentality which shows itself
alike in childlike ways--in a passion for flowers, in that form of
nature-worship which prompts a German to plant his garden-beds with big
glass globes for the sake of seeing miniature pictures of the view which
he can behold about him of a natural size; in the inquiring turn of mind
that sets a learned Teuton trudging three hundred miles in his gaiters
in search of a fact which smiles up in his face from a wayside spring,
or lurks laughing under the jessamine leaves in the back-yard; or (to
take a final instance) in the German craving to endow every least detail
in creation with a spiritual significance, a craving which produces
sometimes Hoffmann\x92s tipsiness in type, sometimes the folios with which
Germany hedges the simplest questions round about, lest haply any fool
should fall into her intellectual excavations; and, indeed, if you
fathom these abysses, you find nothing but a German at the bottom.

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

Schmucke was as absent-minded as Pons was wide-awake. Pons was a
collector, Schmucke a dreamer of dreams; Schmucke was a student of
beauty seen by the soul, Pons a preserver of material beauty. Pons would
catch sight of a china cup and buy it in the time that Schmucke took to
blow his nose, wondering the while within himself whether the musical
phrase that was ringing in his brain--the _motif_ from Rossini or
Bellini or Beethoven or Mozart--had its origin or its counterpart in the
world of human thought and emotion. Schmucke\x92s economies were controlled
by an absent mind, Pons was a spendthrift through passion, and for both
the result was the same--they had not a penny on Saint Sylvester\x92s day.

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

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

If any one imagines that the pair could not escape ridicule in Paris,
where nothing is respected, he cannot know that city. When Schmucke
and Pons united their riches and poverty, they hit upon the economical
expedient of lodging together, each paying half the rent of the very
unequally divided second-floor of a house in the Rue de Normandie in the
Marais. And as it often happened that they left home together and walked
side by side along their beat of boulevard, the idlers of the quarter
dubbed them \x93the pair of nutcrackers,\x94 a nickname which makes any
portrait of Schmucke quite superfluous, for he was to Pons as the famous
statue of the Nurse of Niobe in the Vatican is to the Tribune Venus.

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

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

Since the old men began housekeeping together, the day\x92s routine was
very nearly the same for them both. They worked together in harness
in the fraternal fashion of the Paris cab-horse; rising every morning,
summer and winter, at seven o\x92clock, and setting out after breakfast
to give music lessons in the boarding-schools, in which, upon occasion,
they would take lessons for each other. Towards noon Pons repaired to
his theatre, if there was a rehearsal on hand; but all his spare moments
were spent in sauntering on the boulevards. Night found both of them in
the orchestra at the theatre, for Pons had found a place for Schmucke,
and upon this wise.

At the time of their first meeting, Pons had just received that
marshal\x92s baton of the unknown musical composer--an appointment as
conductor of an orchestra. It had come to him unasked, by a favor of
Count Popinot, a bourgeois hero of July, at that time a member of the
Government. Count Popinot had the license of a theatre in his gift,
and Count Popinot had also an old acquaintance of the kind that the
successful man blushes to meet. As he rolls through the streets of Paris
in his carriage, it is not pleasant to see his boyhood\x92s chum down at
heel, with a coat of many improbable colors and trousers innocent of
straps, and a head full of soaring speculations on too grand a scale to
tempt shy, easily scared capital. Moreover, this friend of his youth,
Gaudissart by name, had done not a little in the past towards founding
the fortunes of the great house of Popinot. Popinot, now a Count and a
peer of France, after twice holding a portfolio had no wish to shake off
\x93the Illustrious Gaudissart.\x94 Quite otherwise. The pomps and vanities
of the Court of the Citizen-King had not spoiled the sometime druggist\x92s
kind heart; he wished to put his ex-commercial traveler in the way of
renewing his wardrobe and replenishing his purse. So when Gaudissart,
always an enthusiastic admirer of the fair sex, applied for the license
of a bankrupt theatre, Popinot granted it on condition that Pons (a
parasite of the Hotel Popinot) should be engaged as conductor of the
orchestra; and at the same time, the Count was careful to send certain
elderly amateurs of beauty to the theatre, so that the new manager might
be strongly supported financially by wealthy admirers of feminine charms
revealed by the costume of the ballet.

Gaudissart and Company, who, be it said, made their fortune, hit
upon the grand idea of operas for the people, and carried it out in a
boulevard theatre in 1834. A tolerable conductor, who could adapt or
even compose a little music upon occasion, was a necessity for ballets
and pantomimes; but the last management had so long been bankrupt, that
they could not afford to keep a transposer and copyist. Pons therefore
introduced Schmucke to the company as copier of music, a humble calling
which requires no small musical knowledge; and Schmucke, acting on
Pons\x92 advice, came to an understanding with the _chef-de-service_ at the
Opera-Comique, so saving himself the clerical drudgery.

The partnership between Pons and Schmucke produced one brilliant result.
Schmucke being a German, harmony was his strong point; he looked over
the instrumentation of Pons\x92 compositions, and Pons provided the airs.
Here and there an amateur among the audience admired the new pieces of
music which served as accompaniment to two or three great successes, but
they attributed the improvement vaguely to \x93progress.\x94 No one cared to
know the composer\x92s name; like occupants of the _baignoires_, lost
to view of the house, to gain a view of the stage, Pons and Schmucke
eclipsed themselves by their success. In Paris (especially since the
Revolution of July) no one can hope to succeed unless he will push his
way _quibuscumque viis_ and with all his might through a formidable host
of competitors; but for this feat a man needs thews and sinews, and our
two friends, be it remembered, had that affection of the heart which
cripples all ambitious effort.

Pons, as a rule, only went to his theatre towards eight o\x92clock, when
the piece in favor came on, and overtures and accompaniments needed the
strict ruling of the baton; most minor theatres are lax in such matters,
and Pons felt the more at ease because he himself had been by no means
grasping in all his dealings with the management; and Schmucke, if
need be, could take his place. Time went by, and Schmucke became an
institution in the orchestra; the Illustrious Gaudissart said nothing,
but he was well aware of the value of Pons\x92 collaborator. He was obliged
to include a pianoforte in the orchestra (following the example of the
leading theatres); the instrument was placed beside the conductor\x92s
chair, and Schmucke played without increase of salary--a volunteer
supernumerary. As Schmucke\x92s character, his utter lack of ambition
or pretence became known, the orchestra recognized him as one of
themselves; and as time went on, he was intrusted with the often needed
miscellaneous musical instruments which form no part of the regular
band of a boulevard theatre. For a very small addition to his stipend,
Schmucke played the viola d\x92amore, hautboy, violoncello, and harp, as
well as the piano, the castanets for the _cachucha_, the bells, saxhorn,
and the like. If the Germans cannot draw harmony from the mighty
instruments of Liberty, yet to play all instruments of music comes to
them by nature.

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

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

Pons very occasionally put in an appearance in the _foyer_; but all that
Schmucke knew of the theatre was the underground passage from the street
door to the orchestra. Sometimes, however, during an interval, the
good German would venture to make a survey of the house and ask a few
questions of the first flute, a young fellow from Strasbourg, who
came of a German family at Kehl. Gradually under the flute\x92s tuition
Schmucke\x92s childlike imagination acquired a certain amount of knowledge
of the world; he could believe in the existence of that fabulous
creature the _lorette_, the possibility of \x93marriages at the Thirteenth
Arrondissement,\x94 the vagaries of the leading lady, and the contraband
traffic carried on by box-openers. In his eyes the more harmless forms
of vice were the lowest depths of Babylonish iniquity; he did not
believe the stories, he smiled at them for grotesque inventions. The
ingenious reader can see that Pons and Schmucke were exploited, to use
a word much in fashion; but what they lost in money they gained in
consideration and kindly treatment.

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

\x93Ah!\x94 said the manager afterwards, when he told his partner of the
interview, \x93if we could only find actors up to that sample.\x94

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

\x93Gif only he vas ony fatter vor it!\x94 he many a time cried.

And Schmucke would dream of curing his friend of his degrading vice,
for a true friend\x92s instinct in all that belongs to the inner life is
unerring as a dog\x92s sense of smell; a friend knows by intuition the
trouble in his friend\x92s soul, and guesses at the cause and ponders it in
his heart.

Pons, who always wore a diamond ring on the little finger of his right
hand, an ornament permitted in the time of the Empire, but ridiculous
to-day--Pons, who belonged to the \x93troubadour time,\x94 the sentimental
periods of the first Empire, was too much a child of his age, too much
of a Frenchman to wear the expression of divine serenity which softened
Schmucke\x92s hideous ugliness. From Pons\x92 melancholy looks Schmucke knew
that the profession of parasite was growing daily more difficult and
painful. And, in fact, in that month of October 1844, the number of
houses at which Pons dined was naturally much restricted; reduced to
move round and round the family circle, he had used the word family in
far too wide a sense, as will shortly be seen.

M. Camusot, the rich silk mercer of the Rue des Bourdonnais, had married
Pons\x92 first cousin, Mlle. Pons, only child and heiress of one of the
well-known firm of Pons Brothers, court embroiderers. Pons\x92 own father
and mother retired from a firm founded before the Revolution of 1789,
leaving their capital in the business until Mlle. Pons\x92 father sold
it in 1815 to M. Rivet. M. Camusot had since lost his wife and married
again, and retired from business some ten years, and now in 1844 he was
a member of the Board of Trade, a deputy, and what not. But the Camusot
clan were friendly; and Pons, good man, still considered that he was
some kind of cousin to the children of the second marriage, who were not
relations, or even connected with him in any way.

The second Mme. Camusot being a Mlle. Cardot, Pons introduced himself as
a relative into the tolerably numerous Cardot family, a second bourgeois
tribe which, taken with its connections, formed quite as strong a clan
as the Camusots; for Cardot the notary (brother of the second Mme.
Camusot) had married a Mlle. Chiffreville; and the well-known family of
Chiffreville, the leading firm of manufacturing chemists, was closely
connected with the whole drug trade, of which M. Anselme Popinot was for
many years the undisputed head, until the Revolution of July plunged him
into the very centre of the dynastic movement, as everybody knows.
So Pons, in the wake of the Camusots and Cardots, reached the
Chiffrevilles, and thence the Popinots, always in the character of a
cousin\x92s cousin.

The above concise statement of Pons\x92 relations with his entertainers
explains how it came to pass that an old musician was received in 1844
as one of the family in the houses of four distinguished persons--to
wit, M. le Comte Popinot, peer of France, and twice in office; M.
Cardot, retired notary, mayor and deputy of an arrondissement in Paris;
M. Camusot senior, a member of the Board of Trade and the Municipal
Chamber and a peerage; and lastly, M. Camusot de Marville, Camusot\x92s son
by his first marriage, and Pons\x92 one genuine relation, albeit even he
was a first cousin once removed.

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

Cardot the retired notary had married his daughter to his successor,
whose name was Berthier; and Pons, transferred as part of the
connection, acquired a right to dine with the Berthiers \x93in the presence
of a notary,\x94 as he put it.

This was the bourgeois empyrean which Pons called his \x93family,\x94 that
upper world in which he so painfully reserved his right to a knife and
fork.

Of all these houses, some ten in all, the one in which Pons ought to
have met with the kindest reception should by rights have been his own
cousin\x92s; and, indeed, he paid most attention to President Camusot\x92s
family. But, alas! Mme. Camusot de Marville, daughter of the Sieur
Thirion, usher of the cabinet to Louis XVIII. and Charles X., had never
taken very kindly to her husband\x92s first cousin, once removed. Pons had
tried to soften this formidable relative; he wasted his time; for in
spite of the pianoforte lessons which he gave gratuitously to Mlle.
Camusot, a young woman with hair somewhat inclined to red, it was
impossible to make a musician of her.

And now, at this very moment, as he walked with that precious object in
his hand, Pons was bound for the President\x92s house, where he always felt
as if he were at the Tuileries itself, so heavily did the solemn green
curtains, the carmelite-brown hangings, thick piled carpets, heavy
furniture, and general atmosphere of magisterial severity oppress his
soul. Strange as it may seem, he felt more at home in the Hotel Popinot,
Rue Basse-du-Rempart, probably because it was full of works of art; for
the master of the house, since he entered public life, had acquired a
mania for collecting beautiful things, by way of contrast no doubt, for
a politician is obliged to pay for secret services of the ugliest kind.

President de Marville lived in the Rue de Hanovre, in a house which his
wife had bought ten years previously, on the death of her parents, for
the Sieur and Dame Thirion left their daughter about a hundred and fifty
thousand francs, the savings of a lifetime. With its north aspect,
the house looks gloomy enough seen from the street, but the back looks
towards the south over the courtyard, with a rather pretty garden beyond
it. As the President occupied the whole of the first floor, once the
abode of a great financier of the time of Louis XIV., and the second
was let to a wealthy old lady, the house wore a look of dignified repose
befitting a magistrate\x92s residence. President Camusot had invested all
that he inherited from his mother, together with the savings of twenty
years, in the purchase of the splendid Marville estate; a chateau (as
fine a relic of the past as you will find to-day in Normandy) standing
in a hundred acres of park land, and a fine dependent farm, nominally
bringing in twelve thousand francs per annum, though, as it cost the
President at least a thousand crowns to keep up a state almost princely
in our days, his yearly revenue, \x93all told,\x94 as the saying is, was a
bare nine thousand francs. With this and his salary, the President\x92s
income amounted to about twenty thousand francs; but though to all
appearance a wealthy man, especially as one-half of his father\x92s
property would one day revert to him as the only child of the first
marriage, he was obliged to live in Paris as befitted his official
position, and M. and Mme. de Marville spent almost the whole of their
incomes. Indeed, before the year 1834 they felt pinched.

This family schedule sufficiently explains why Mlle. de Marville, aged
three-and-twenty, was still unwed, in spite of a hundred thousand francs
of dowry and tempting prospects, frequently, skilfully, but so far
vainly, held out. For the past five years Pons had listened to Mme. la
Presidente\x92s lamentations as she beheld one young lawyer after another
led to the altar, while all the newly appointed judges at the Tribunal
were fathers of families already; and she, all this time, had displayed
Mlle. de Marville\x92s brilliant expectations before the undazzled eyes of
young Vicomte Popinot, eldest son of the great man of the drug trade,
he of whom it was said by the envious tongues of the neighborhood of the
Rue des Lombards, that the Revolution of July had been brought about at
least as much for his particular benefit as for the sake of the Orleans
branch.

Arrived at the corner of the Rue de Choiseul and the Rue de Hanovre,
Pons suffered from the inexplicable emotions which torment clear
consciences; for a panic terror such as the worst of scoundrels might
feel at sight of a policeman, an agony caused solely by a doubt as
to Mme. de Marville\x92s probable reception of him. That grain of sand,
grating continually on the fibres of his heart, so far from losing its
angles, grew more and more jagged, and the family in the Rue de Hanovre
always sharpened the edges. Indeed, their unceremonious treatment and
Pons\x92 depreciation in value among them had affected the servants; and
while they did not exactly fail in respect, they looked on the poor
relation as a kind of beggar.

Pons\x92 arch-enemy in the house was the ladies\x92-maid, a thin and wizened
spinster, Madeleine Vivet by name. This Madeleine, in spite of, nay,
perhaps on the strength of, a pimpled complexion and a viper-like length
of spine, had made up her mind that some day she would be Mme. Pons.
But in vain she dangled twenty thousand francs of savings before the
old bachelor\x92s eyes; Pons had declined happiness accompanied by so many
pimples. From that time forth the Dido of the ante-chamber, who fain had
called her master and mistress \x93cousin,\x94 wreaked her spite in petty ways
upon the poor musician. She heard him on the stairs, and cried audibly,
\x93Oh! here comes the sponger!\x94 She stinted him of wine when she waited at
dinner in the footman\x92s absence; she filled the water-glass to the brim,
to give him the difficult task of lifting it without spilling a drop;
or she would pass the old man over altogether, till the mistress of the
house would remind her (and in what a tone!--it brought the color to the
poor cousin\x92s face); or she would spill the gravy over his clothes. In
short, she waged petty war after the manner of a petty nature, knowing
that she could annoy an unfortunate superior with impunity.

Madeleine Vivet was Mme. de Marville\x92s maid and housekeeper. She had
lived with M. and Mme. Camusot de Marville since their marriage; she had
shared the early struggles in the provinces when M. Camusot was a judge
at Alencon; she had helped them to exist when M. Camusot, President
of the Tribunal of Mantes, came to Paris, in 1828, to be an examining
magistrate. She was, therefore, too much one of the family not to wish,
for reasons of her own, to revenge herself upon them. Beneath her desire
to pay a trick upon her haughty and ambitious mistress, and to call her
master her cousin, there surely lurked a long-stifled hatred, built up
like an avalanche, upon the pebble of some past grievance.

\x93Here comes your M. Pons, madame, still wearing that spencer of his!\x94
 Madeleine came to tell the Presidente. \x93He really might tell me how he
manages to make it look the same for five-and-twenty years together.\x94

Mme. Camusot de Marville, hearing a man\x92s footstep in the little
drawing-room between the large drawing-room and her bedroom, looked at
her daughter and shrugged her shoulders.

\x93You always make these announcements so cleverly that you leave me no
time to think, Madeleine.\x94

\x93Jean is out, madame, I was all alone; M. Pons rang the bell, I opened
the door; and as he is almost one of the family, I could not prevent him
from coming after me. There he is, taking off his spencer.\x94

\x93Poor little puss!\x94 said the Presidente, addressing her daughter, \x93we
are caught. We shall have to dine at home now.--Let us see,\x94 she added,
seeing that the \x93dear puss\x94 wore a piteous face; \x93must we get rid of him
for good?\x94

\x93Oh! poor man!\x94 cried Mlle. Camusot, \x93deprive him of one of his
dinners?\x94

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

\x93Very well, let him come in!\x94 said Mme. Camusot, looking at Madeleine
with another shrug.

\x93You are here so early, cousin, that you have come in upon us just as
mother was about to dress,\x94 said Cecile Camusot in a coaxing tone. But
Cousin Pons had caught sight of the Presidente\x92s shrug, and felt so
cruelly hurt that he could not find a compliment, and contented himself
with the profound remark, \x93You are always charming, my little cousin.\x94

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

\x93You will not take it amiss, I think, if I have come a little earlier
than usual, dear cousin; I have brought something for you; you once did
me the pleasure of asking me for it.\x94

Poor Pons! Every time he addressed the President, the President\x92s wife,
or Cecile as \x93cousin,\x94 he gave them excruciating annoyance. As he spoke,
he draw a long, narrow cherry-wood box, marvelously carved, from his
coat-pocket.

\x93Oh, did I?--I had forgotten,\x94 the lady answered drily.

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

\x93But it is very kind of you, cousin,\x94 she added. \x93How much to I owe you
for this little trifle?\x94

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

\x93I thought that you would permit me to offer it you----\x94 he faltered
out.

\x93What?\x94 said Mme. Camusot. \x93Oh! but there need be no ceremony between
us; we know each other well enough to wash our linen among ourselves. I
know very well that you are not rich enough to give more than you get.
And to go no further, it is quite enough that you should have spent a
good deal of time in running among the dealers--\x94

\x93If you were asked to pay the full price of the fan, my dear cousin, you
would not care to have it,\x94 answered poor Pons, hurt and insulted; \x93it
is one of Watteau\x92s masterpieces, painted on both sides; but you may be
quite easy, cousin, I did not give one-hundredth part of its value as a
work of art.\x94

To tell a rich man that he is poor! you might as well tell the
Archbishop of Granada that his homilies show signs of senility. Mme. la
Presidente, proud of her husband\x92s position, of the estate of Marville,
and her invitations to court balls, was keenly susceptible on this
point; and what was worse, the remark came from a poverty-stricken
musician to whom she had been charitable.

\x93Then the people of whom you buy things of this kind are very stupid,
are they?\x94 she asked quickly.

\x93Stupid dealers are unknown in Paris,\x94 Pons answered almost drily.

\x93Then you must be very clever,\x94 put in Cecile by way of calming the
dispute.

\x93Clever enough to know a Lancret, a Watteau, a Pater, or Greuze when
I see it, little cousin; but anxious, most of all, to please your dear
mamma.\x94

Mme. de Marville, ignorant and vain, was unwilling to appear to receive
the slightest trifle from the parasite; and here her ignorance served
her admirably, she did not even know the name of Watteau. And, on
the other hand, if anything can measure the extent of the collector\x92s
passion, which, in truth, is one of the most deeply seated of all
passions, rivaling the very vanity of the author--if anything can give
an idea of the lengths to which a collector will go, it is the audacity
which Pons displayed on this occasion, as he held his own against his
lady cousin for the first time in twenty years. He was amazed at his own
boldness. He made Cecile see the beauties of the delicate carving on the
sticks of this wonder, and as he talked to her his face grew serene
and gentle again. But without some sketch of the Presidente, it is
impossible fully to understand the perturbation of heart from which Pons
suffered.

Mme. de Marville had been short and fair, plump and fresh; at forty-six
she was as short as ever, but she looked dried up. An arched forehead
and thin lips, that had been softly colored once, lent a soured look to
a face naturally disdainful, and now grown hard and unpleasant with a
long course of absolute domestic rule. Time had deepened her fair hair
to a harsh chestnut hue; the pride of office, intensified by suppressed
envy, looked out of eyes that had lost none of their brightness nor
their satirical expression. As a matter of fact, Mme. Camusot de
Marville felt almost poor in the society of self-made wealthy bourgeois
with whom Pons dined. She could not forgive the rich retail druggist,
ex-president of the Commercial Court, for his successive elevations as
deputy, member of the Government, count and peer of France. She could
not forgive her father-in-law for putting himself forward instead of his
eldest son as deputy of his arrondissement after Popinot\x92s promotion to
the peerage. After eighteen years of services in Paris, she was still
waiting for the post of Councillor of the Court of Cassation for her
husband. It was Camusot\x92s own incompetence, well known at the Law
Courts, which excluded him from the Council. The Home Secretary of 1844
even regretted Camusot\x92s nomination to the presidency of the Court
of Indictments in 1834, though, thanks to his past experience as an
examining magistrate, he made himself useful in drafting decrees.

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

The Presidente had no idea of the value of the gift. She was puzzled by
her cousin\x92s sudden access of audacity.

\x93Then, where did you find this?\x94 inquired Cecile, as she looked closely
at the trinket.

\x93In the Rue de Lappe. A dealer in second-hand furniture there had just
brought it back with him from a chateau that is being pulled down near
Dreux, Aulnay. Mme. de Pompadour used to spend part of her time there
before she built Menars. Some of the most splendid wood-carving ever
known has been saved from destruction; Lienard (our most famous living
wood-carver) had kept a couple of oval frames for models, as the _ne
plus ultra_ of the art, so fine it is.--There were treasures in that
place. My man found the fan in the drawer of an inlaid what-not, which
I should certainly have bought if I were collecting things of the
kind, but it is quite out of the question--a single piece of Riesener\x92s
furniture is worth three or four thousand francs! People here in
Paris are just beginning to find out that the famous French and
German marquetry workers of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth
centuries composed perfect pictures in wood. It is a collector\x92s
business to be ahead of the fashion. Why, in five years\x92 time, the
Frankenthal ware, which I have been collecting these twenty years, will
fetch twice the price of Sevres _pata tendre_.\x94

\x93What is Frankenthal ware?\x94 asked Cecile.

\x93That is the name of the porcelain made by the Elector of the
Palatinate; it dates further back than our manufactory at Sevres; just
as the famous gardens at Heidelberg, laid waste by Turenne, had the bad
luck to exist before the garden of Versailles. Sevres copied Frankenthal
to a large extent.--In justice to the Germans, it must be said that they
have done admirable work in Saxony and in the Palatinate.\x94

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

\x93And how do you know the Frankenthal ware when you see it?\x94

\x93Eh! by the mark!\x94 cried Pons with enthusiasm. \x93There is a mark on every
one of those exquisite masterpieces. Frankenthal ware is marked with a
C and T (for Charles Theodore) interlaced and crowned. On old Dresden
china there are two crossed swords and the number of the order in gilt
figures. Vincennes bears a hunting-horn; Vienna, a V closed and barred.
You can tell Berlin by the two bars, Mayence by the wheel, and Sevres by
the two crossed L\x92s. The queen\x92s porcelain is marked A for Antoinette,
with a royal crown above it. In the eighteenth century, all the
crowned heads of Europe had rival porcelain factories, and workmen were
kidnaped. Watteau designed services for the Dresden factory; they fetch
frantic prices at the present day. One has to know what one is about
with them too, for they are turning out imitations now at Dresden.
Wonderful things they used to make; they will never make the like
again--\x94

\x93Oh! pshaw!\x94

\x93No, cousin. Some inlaid work and some kinds of porcelain will never be
made again, just as there will never be another Raphael, nor Titian,
nor Rembrandt, nor Van Eyck, nor Cranach.... Well, now! there are the
Chinese; they are very ingenious, very clever; they make modern copies
of their \x91grand mandarin\x92 porcelain, as it is called. But a pair of
vases of genuine \x91grand mandarin\x92 vases of the largest size, are worth,
six, eight, and ten thousand francs, while you can buy the modern
replicas for a couple of hundred!\x94

\x93You are joking.\x94

\x93You are astonished at the prices, but that is nothing, cousin. A dinner
service of Sevres _pate tendre_ (and _pate tendre_ is not porcelain)--a
complete dinner service of Sevres _pate tendre_ for twelve persons
is not merely worth a hundred thousand francs, but that is the price
charged on the invoice. Such a dinner-service cost fifteen thousand
francs at Sevres in 1750; I have seen the original invoices.\x94

\x93But let us go back to this fan,\x94 said Cecile. Evidently in her opinion
the trinket was an old-fashioned thing.

\x93You can understand that as soon as your dear mamma did me the honor of
asking for a fan, I went round of all the curiosity shops in Paris, but
I found nothing fine enough. I wanted nothing less than a masterpiece
for the dear Presidente, and thought of giving her one that once
belonged to Marie Antoinette, the most beautiful of all celebrated
fans. But yesterday I was dazzled by this divine _chef-d\x92oeuvre_, which
certainly must have been ordered by Louis XV. himself. Do you ask how I
came to look for fans in the Rue de Lappe, among an Auvergnat\x92s stock of
brass and iron and ormolu furniture? Well, I myself believe that there
is an intelligence in works of art; they know art-lovers, they call to
them--\x91Cht-tt!\x92\x94

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

\x93I know all those sharpers,\x94 continued Pons, \x93so I asked him, \x91Anything
fresh to-day, Daddy Monistrol?\x92--(for he always lets me look over his
lots before the big buyers come)--and at that he began to tell me how
Lienard, that did such beautiful work for the Government in the Chapelle
de Dreux, had been at the Aulnay sale and rescued the carved panels out
of the clutches of the Paris dealers, while their heads were running
on china and inlaid furniture.--\x91I did not do much myself,\x92 he went on,
\x91but I may make my traveling expenses out of _this_,\x92 and he showed me
a what-not; a marvel! Boucher\x92s designs executed in marquetry, and with
such art!--One could have gone down on one\x92s knees before it.--\x91Look,
sir,\x92 he said, \x91I have just found this fan in a little drawer; it was
locked, I had to force it open. You might tell me where I can sell
it\x92--and with that he brings out this little carved cherry-wood
box.--\x91See,\x92 says he, \x91it is the kind of Pompadour that looks like
decorated Gothic.\x92--\x91Yes,\x92 I told him, \x91the box is pretty; the box might
suit me; but as for the fan, Monistrol, I have no Mme. Pons to give the
old trinket to, and they make very pretty new ones nowadays; you can buy
miracles of painting on vellum cheaply enough. There are two thousand
painters in Paris, you know.\x92--And I opened out the fan carelessly,
keeping down my admiration, looked indifferently at those two exquisite
little pictures, touched off with an ease fit to send you into raptures.
I held Mme. de Pompadour\x92s fan in my hand! Watteau had done his utmost
for this.--\x91What do you want for the what-not?\x92--\x91Oh! a thousand
francs; I have had a bid already.\x92--I offered him a price for the fan
corresponding with the probable expenses of the journey. We looked each
other in the eyes, and I saw that I had my man. I put the fan back into
the box lest my Auvergnat should begin to look at it, and went into
ecstasies over the box; indeed, it is a jewel.--\x91If I take it,\x92 said I,
\x91it is for the sake of the box; the box tempts me. As for the what-not,
you will get more than a thousand francs for that. Just see how the
brass is wrought; it is a model. There is business in it.... It has
never been copied; it is a unique specimen, made solely for Mme. de
Pompadour\x92--and so on, till my man, all on fire for his what-not,
forgets the fan, and lets me have it for a mere trifle, because I have
pointed out the beauties of his piece of Riesener\x92s furniture. So here
it is; but it needs a great deal of experience to make such a bargain
as that. It is a duel, eye to eye; and who has such eyes as a Jew or an
Auvergnat?\x94

The old artist\x92s wonderful pantomime, his vivid, eager way of telling
the story of the triumph of his shrewdness over the dealer\x92s ignorance,
would have made a subject for a Dutch painter; but it was all thrown
away upon the audience. Mother and daughter exchanged cold, contemptuous
glances.--\x93What an oddity!\x94 they seemed to say.

\x93So it amuses you?\x94 remarked Mme. de Marville. The question sent a cold
chill through Pons; he felt a strong desire to slap the Presidente.

\x93Why, my dear cousin, that is the way to hunt down a work of art. You
are face to face with antagonists that dispute the game with you. It
is craft against craft! A work of art in the hands of a Norman, an
Auvergnat, or a Jew, is like a princess guarded by magicians in a fairy
tale.\x94

\x93And how can you tell that this is by Wat--what do you call him?\x94

\x93Watteau, cousin. One of the greatest eighteenth century painters
in France. Look! do you not see that it is his work?\x94 (pointing to a
pastoral scene, court-shepherd swains and shepherdesses dancing in
a ring). \x93The movement! the life in it! the coloring! There it
is--see!--painted with a stroke of the brush, as a writing-master makes
a flourish with a pen. Not a trace of effort here! And, turn it over,
look!--a ball in a drawing-room. Summer and Winter! And what ornaments!
and how well preserved it is! The hinge-pin is gold, you see, and on
cleaning it, I found a tiny ruby at either side.\x94

\x93If it is so, cousin, I could not think of accepting such a valuable
present from you. It would be better to lay up the money for yourself,\x94
 said Mme. de Marville; but all the same, she asked no better than to
keep the splendid fan.

\x93It is time that it should pass from the service of Vice into the hands
of Virtue,\x94 said the good soul, recovering his assurance. \x93It has taken
a century to work the miracle. No princess at Court, you may be sure,
will have anything to compare with it; for, unfortunately, men will do
more for a Pompadour than for a virtuous queen, such is human nature.\x94

\x93Very well,\x94 Mme. de Marville said, laughing, \x93I will accept your
present.--Cecile, my angel, go to Madeleine and see that dinner is
worthy of your cousin.\x94

Mme. de Marville wished to make matters even. Her request, made aloud,
in defiance of all rules of good taste, sounded so much like an attempt
to repay at once the balance due to the poor cousin, that Pons flushed
red, like a girl found out in fault. The grain of sand was a little too
large; for some moments he could only let it work in his heart. Cecile,
a red-haired young woman, with a touch of pedantic affectation, combined
her father\x92s ponderous manner with a trace of her mother\x92s hardness. She
went and left poor Pons face to face with the terrible Presidente.

\x93How nice she is, my little Lili!\x94 said the mother. She still called her
Cecile by this baby name.

\x93Charming!\x94 said Pons, twirling his thumbs.

\x93I _cannot_ understand these times in which we live,\x94 broke out the
Presidente. \x93What is the good of having a President of the Court of
Appeal in Paris and a Commander of the Legion of Honor for your father,
and for a grandfather the richest wholesale silk merchant in Paris, a
deputy, and a millionaire that will be a peer of France some of these
days?\x94

The President\x92s zeal for the new Government had, in fact, recently
been rewarded with a commander\x92s ribbon--thanks to his friendship with
Popinot, said the envious. Popinot himself, modest though he was, had,
as has been seen, accepted the title of count, \x93for his son\x92s sake,\x94 he
told his numerous friends.

\x93Men look for nothing but money nowadays,\x94 said Cousin Pons. \x93No one
thinks anything of you unless you are rich, and--\x94

\x93What would it have been if Heaven had spared my poor little Charles!--\x94
 cried the lady.

\x93Oh, with two children you would be poor,\x94 returned the cousin. \x93It
practically means the division of the property. But you need not trouble
yourself, cousin; Cecile is sure to marry sooner or later. She is the
most accomplished girl I know.\x94

To such depths had Pons fallen by adapting himself to the company of
his entertainers! In their houses he echoed their ideas, and said the
obvious thing, after the manner of a chorus in a Greek play. He did not
dare to give free play to the artist\x92s originality, which had overflowed
in bright repartee when he was young; he had effaced himself, till he
had almost lost his individuality; and if the real Pons appeared, as he
had done a moment ago, he was immediately repressed.

\x93But I myself was married with only twenty thousand francs for my
portion--\x94

\x93In 1819, cousin. And it was _you_, a woman with a head on your
shoulders, and the royal protection of Louis XVIII.\x94

\x93Be still, my child is a perfect angel. She is clever, she has a warm
heart, she will have a hundred thousand francs on her wedding day, to
say nothing of the most brilliant expectations; and yet she stays on our
hands,\x94 and so on and so on. For twenty minutes, Mme. de Marville talked
on about herself and her Cecile, pitying herself after the manner of
mothers in bondage to marriageable daughters.

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

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

\x93Cecile is in her twenty-third year. If it should fall out so
unfortunately that she is not married before she is five or
six-and-twenty, it will be extremely hard to marry her at all. When a
girl reaches that age, people want to know why she has been so long on
hand. We are a good deal talked about in our set. We have come to the
end of all the ordinary excuses--\x91She is so young.--She is so fond of
her father and mother that she doesn\x92t like to leave them.--She is so
happy at home.--She is hard to please, she would like a good name--\x92 We
are beginning to look silly; I feel that distinctly. And besides, Cecile
is tired of waiting, poor child, she suffers--\x94

\x93In what way?\x94 Pons was noodle enough to ask.

\x93Why, because it is humiliating to her to see all her girl friends
married before her,\x94 replied the mother, with a duenna\x92s air.

\x93But, cousin, has anything happened since the last time that I had the
pleasure of dining here? Why do you think of men of eight-and-forty?\x94
 Pons inquired humbly.

\x93This has happened,\x94 returned the Presidente. \x93We were to have had an
interview with a Court Councillor; his son is thirty years old and
very well-to-do, and M. de Marville would have obtained a post in
the audit-office for him and paid the money. The young man is a
supernumerary there at present. And now they tell us that he has taken
it into his head to rush off to Italy in the train of a duchess from the
Bal Mabille.... It is nothing but a refusal in disguise. The fact is,
the young man\x92s mother is dead; he has an income of thirty thousand
francs, and more to come at his father\x92s death, and they don\x92t care
about the match for him. You have just come in in the middle of all
this, dear cousin, so you must excuse our bad temper.\x94

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

  \x93DEAR MAMMA,--If we pretend that this note comes to you from papa
  at the Palais, and that he wants us both to dine with his friend
  because proposals have been renewed--then the cousin will go, and
  we can carry out our plan of going to the Popinots.\x94

\x93Who brought the master\x92s note?\x94 the Presidente asked quickly.

\x93A lad from the Salle du Palais,\x94 the withered waiting woman
unblushingly answered, and her mistress knew at once that Madeleine had
woven the plot with Cecile, now at the end of her patience.

\x93Tell him that we will both be there at half-past five.\x94

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

\x93Dinner is ordered, dear cousin; you must dine without us; my husband
has just sent word from the court that the question of the marriage has
been reopened, and we are to dine with the Councillor. We need not stand
on ceremony at all. Do just as if you were at home. I have no secrets
from you; I am perfectly open with you, as you see. I am sure you would
not wish to break off the little darling\x92s marriage.\x94

\x93_I_, cousin? On the contrary, I should like to find some one for her;
but in my circle--\x94

\x93Oh, that is not at all likely,\x94 said the Presidente, cutting him short
insolently. \x93Then you will stay, will you not? Cecile will keep you
company while I dress.

\x93Oh! I can dine somewhere else, cousin.\x94

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

\x93But why should you? Dinner is ready; you may just as well have it; if
you do not, the servants will eat it.\x94

At that atrocious speech Pons started up as if he had received a shock
from a galvanic battery, bowed stiffly to the lady, and went to find his
spencer. Now, it so happened that the door of Cecile\x92s bedroom, beyond
the little drawing-room, stood open, and looking into the mirror, he
caught sight of the girl shaking with laughter as she gesticulated and
made signs to her mother. The old artist understood beyond a doubt that
he had been the victim of some cowardly hoax. Pons went slowly down the
stairs; he could not keep back the tears. He understood that he had been
turned out of the house, but why and wherefore he did not know.

\x93I am growing too old,\x94 he told himself. \x93The world has a horror of
old age and poverty--two ugly things. After this I will not go anywhere
unless I am asked.\x94

Heroic resolve!

Downstairs the great gate was shut, as it usually is in houses occupied
by the proprietor; the kitchen stood exactly opposite the porter\x92s
lodge, and the door was open. Pons was obliged to listen while Madeleine
told the servants the whole story amid the laughter of the servants. She
had not expected him to leave so soon. The footman loudly applauded a
joke at the expense of a visitor who was always coming to the house and
never gave you more than three francs at the year\x92s end.

\x93Yes,\x94 put in the cook; \x93but if he cuts up rough and does not come back,
there will be three francs the less for some of us on New Year\x92s day.\x94

\x93Eh! How is he to know?\x94 retorted the footman.

\x93Pooh!\x94 said Madeleine, \x93a little sooner or a little later--what
difference does it make? The people at the other houses where he dines
are so tired of him that they are going to turn him out.\x94

\x93The gate, if you please!\x94

Madeleine had scarcely uttered the words when they heard the old
musician\x92s call to the porter. It sounded like a cry of pain. There was
a sudden silence in the kitchen.

\x93He heard!\x94 the footman said.

\x93Well, and if he did, so much the worser, or rather so much the better,\x94
 retorted Madeleine. \x93He is an arrant skinflint.\x94

Poor Pons had lost none of the talk in the kitchen; he heard it all,
even to the last word. He made his way home along the boulevards, in
the same state, physical and mental, as an old woman after a desperate
struggle with burglars. As he went he talked to himself in quick
spasmodic jerks; his honor had been wounded, and the pain of it drove
him on as a gust of wind whirls away a straw. He found himself at last
in the Boulevard du Temple; how he had come thither he could not tell.
It was five o\x92clock, and, strange to say, he had completely lost his
appetite.

But if the reader is to understand the revolution which Pons\x92 unexpected
return at that hour was to work in the Rue de Normandie, the promised
biography of Mme. Cibot must be given in this place.

Any one passing along the Rue de Normandie might be pardoned for
thinking that he was in some small provincial town. Grass runs to
seed in the street, everybody knows everybody else, and the sight of a
stranger is an event. The houses date back to the reign of Henry IV.,
when there was a scheme afoot for a quarter in which every street was to
be named after a French province, and all should converge in a handsome
square to which La France should stand godmother. The Quartier de
l\x92Europe was a revival of the same idea; history repeats itself
everywhere in the world, and even in the world of speculation.

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

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

Cibot, small and stunted, with a complexion almost olive-colored by
reason of sitting day in day out in Turk-fashion on a table level with
the barred window, made about twelve or fourteen francs a week. He
worked still, though he was fifty-eight years old, but fifty-eight is
the porter\x92s golden age; he is used to his lodge, he and his room
fit each other like the shell and the oyster, and \x93he is known in the
neighborhood.\x94

Mme. Cibot, sometime opener of oysters at the _Cadran Bleu_, after all
the adventures which come unsought to the belle of an oyster-bar, left
her post for love of Cibot at the age of twenty-eight. The beauty of
a woman of the people is short-lived, especially if she is planted
espalier fashion at a restaurant door. Her features are hardened
by puffs of hot air from the kitchen; the color of the heeltaps of
customers\x92 bottles, finished in the company of the waiters, gradually
filters into her complexion--no beauty is full blown so soon as the
beauty of an oyster-opener. Luckily for Mme. Cibot, lawful wedlock and
a portress\x92 life were offered to her just in time; while she still
preserved a comeliness of a masculine order slandered by rivals of the
Rue de Normandie, who called her \x93a great blowsy thing,\x94 Mme. Cibot
might have sat as a model to Rubens. Those flesh tints reminded you of
the appetizing sheen on a pat of Isigny butter; but plump as she was, no
woman went about her work with more agility. Mme. Cibot had attained the
time of life when women of her stamp are obliged to shave--which is as
much as to say that she had reached the age of forty-eight. A porter\x92s
wife with a moustache is one of the best possible guarantees of
respectability and security that a landlord can have. If Delacroix
could have seen Mme. Cibot leaning proudly on her broom handle, he would
assuredly have painted her as Bellona.

Strange as it may seem, the circumstances of the Cibots, man and wife
(in the style of an indictment), were one day to affect the lives of the
two friends; wherefore the chronicler, as in duty bound, must give some
particulars as to the Cibots\x92 lodge.

The house brought in about eight thousand francs for there were three
complete sets of apartments--back and front, on the side nearest the Rue
de Normandie, as well as the three floors in the older mansion between
the courtyard and the garden, and a shop kept by a marine store-dealer
named Remonencq, which fronted on the street. During the past few months
this Remonencq had begun to deal in old curiosities, and knew the
value of Pons\x92 collection so well that he took off his hat whenever the
musician came in or went out.

A sou in the livre on eight thousand francs therefore brought in about
four hundred francs to the Cibots. They had no rent to pay and no
expenses for firing; Cibot\x92s earnings amounted on an average to seven or
eight hundred francs, add tips at New Year, and the pair had altogether
in income of sixteen hundred francs, every penny of which they spent,
for the Cibots lived and fared better than working people usually do.
\x93One can only live once,\x94 La Cibot used to say. She was born during the
Revolution, you see, and had never learned her Catechism.

The husband of this portress with the unblenching tawny eyes was an
object of envy to the whole fraternity, for La Cibot had not forgotten
the knowledge of cookery picked up at the _Cadran Bleu_. So it had come
to pass that the Cibots had passed the prime of life, and saw themselves
on the threshold of old age without a hundred francs put by for the
future. Well clad and well fed, they enjoyed among the neighbors, it is
true, the respect due to twenty-six years of strict honesty; for if
they had nothing of their own, they \x93hadn\x92t nothing belonging to nobody
else,\x94 according to La Cibot, who was a prodigal of negatives. \x93There
wasn\x92t never such a love of a man,\x94 she would say to her husband. Do you
ask why? You might as well ask the reason of her indifference in matters
of religion.

Both of them were proud of a life lived in open day, of the esteem in
which they were held for six or seven streets round about, and of the
autocratic rule permitted to them by the proprietor (\x93perprietor,\x94 they
called him); but in private they groaned because they had no money lying
at interest. Cibot complained of pains in his hands and legs, and his
wife would lament that her poor, dear Cibot should be forced to work
at his age; and, indeed, the day is not far distant when a porter after
thirty years of such a life will cry shame upon the injustice of the
Government and clamor for the ribbon of the Legion of Honor. Every
time that the gossip of the quarter brought news of such and such a
servant-maid, left an annuity of three or four hundred francs after
eight or ten years of service, the porters\x92 lodges would resound with
complaints, which may give some idea of the consuming jealousies in the
lowest walks of life in Paris.

\x93Oh, indeed! It will never happen to the like of us to have our names
mentioned in a will! We have no luck, but we do more than servants,
for all that. We fill a place of trust; we give receipts, we are on the
lookout for squalls, and yet we are treated like dogs, neither more nor
less, and that\x92s the truth!\x94

\x93Some find fortune and some miss fortune,\x94 said Cibot, coming in with a
coat.

\x93If I had left Cibot here in his lodge and taken a place as cook, we
should have our thirty thousand francs out at interest,\x94 cried Mme.
Cibot, standing chatting with a neighbor, her hands on her prominent
hips. \x93But I didn\x92t understand how to get on in life; housed inside of a
snug lodge and firing found and want for nothing, but that is all.\x94

In 1836, when the friends took up their abode on the second floor, they
brought about a sort of revolution in the Cibot household. It befell
on this wise. Schmucke, like his friend Pons, usually arranged that the
porter or the porter\x92s wife should undertake the cares of housekeeping;
and being both of one mind on this point when they came to live in the
Rue de Normandie, Mme. Cibot became their housekeeper at the rate of
twenty-five francs per month--twelve francs fifty centimes for each
of them. Before the year was out, the emeritus portress reigned in the
establishment of the two old bachelors, as she reigned everywhere in
the house belonging to M. Pillerault, great uncle of Mme. le Comtesse
Popinot. Their business was her business; she called them \x93my
gentlemen.\x94 And at last, finding the pair of nutcrackers as mild as
lambs, easy to live with, and by no means suspicious--perfect children,
in fact--her heart, the heart of a woman of the people, prompted her
to protect, adore, and serve them with such thorough devotion, that she
read them a lecture now and again, and saved them from the impositions
which swell the cost of living in Paris. For twenty-five francs a month,
the two old bachelors inadvertently acquired a mother.

As they became aware of Mme. Cibot\x92s full value, they gave her outspoken
praises, and thanks, and little presents which strengthened the bonds
of the domestic alliance. Mme. Cibot a thousand times preferred
appreciation to money payments; it is a well-known fact that the sense
that one is appreciated makes up for a deficiency in wages. And Cibot
did all that he could for his wife\x92s two gentlemen, and ran errands and
did repairs at half-price for them.

The second year brought a new element into the friendship between the
lodge and the second floor, and Schmucke concluded a bargain which
satisfied his indolence and desire for a life without cares. For thirty
sous per day, or forty-five francs per month, Mme. Cibot undertook
to provide Schmucke with breakfast and dinner; and Pons, finding his
friend\x92s breakfast very much to his mind, concluded a separate treaty
for that meal only at the rate of eighteen francs. This arrangement,
which added nearly ninety francs every month to the takings of the
porter and his wife, made two inviolable beings of the lodgers; they
became angels, cherubs, divinities. It is very doubtful whether the King
of the French, who is supposed to understand economy, is as well served
as the pair of nutcrackers used to be in those days.

For them the milk issued pure from the can; they enjoyed a free perusal
of all the morning papers taken by other lodgers, later risers, who
were told, if need be, that the newspapers had not come yet. Mme. Cibot,
moreover, kept their clothes, their rooms, and the landing as clean as
a Flemish interior. As for Schmucke, he enjoyed unhoped-for happiness;
Mme. Cibot had made life easy for him; he paid her about six francs
a month, and she took charge of his linen, washing, and mending.
Altogether, his expenses amounted to sixty-six francs per month (for
he spent fifteen francs on tobacco), and sixty-six francs multiplied by
twelve produces the sum total of seven hundred and ninety-two francs.
Add two hundred and twenty francs for rent, rates, and taxes, and you
have a thousand and twelve francs. Cibot was Schmucke\x92s tailor; his
clothes cost him on average a hundred and fifty francs, which further
swells the total to the sum of twelve hundred. On twelve hundred francs
per annum this profound philosopher lived. How many people in Europe,
whose one thought it is to come to Paris and live there, will be
agreeably surprised to learn that you may exist in comfort upon an
income of twelve hundred francs in the Rue de Normandie in the Marais,
under the wing of a Mme. Cibot.

Mme. Cibot, to resume the story, was amazed beyond expression to see
Pons, good man, return at five o\x92clock in the evening. Such a thing had
never happened before; and not only so, but \x93her gentleman\x94 had given
her no greeting--had not so much as seen her!

\x93Well, well, Cibot,\x94 said she to her spouse, \x93M. Pons has come in for a
million, or gone out of his mind!\x94

\x93That is how it looks to me,\x94 said Cibot, dropping the coat-sleeve in
which he was making a \x93dart,\x94 in tailor\x92s language.

The savory odor of a stew pervaded the whole courtyard, as Pons returned
mechanically home. Mme. Cibot was dishing up Schmucke\x92s dinner, which
consisted of scraps of boiled beef from a little cook-shop not above
doing a little trade of this kind. These morsels were fricasseed in
brown butter, with thin slices of onion, until the meat and vegetables
had absorbed the gravy and this true porter\x92s dish was browned to the
right degree. With that fricassee, prepared with loving care for Cibot
and Schmucke, and accompanied by a bottle of beer and a piece of cheese,
the old German music-master was quite content. Not King Solomon in all
his glory, be sure, could dine better than Schmucke. A dish of boiled
beef fricasseed with onions, scraps of _saute_ chicken, or beef and
parsley, or venison, or fish served with a sauce of La Cibot\x92s own
invention (a sauce with which a mother might unsuspectingly eat her
child),--such was Schmucke\x92s ordinary, varying with the quantity and
quality of the remnants of food supplied by boulevard restaurants to
the cook-shop in the Rue Boucherat. Schmucke took everything that \x93goot
Montame Zipod\x94 gave him, and was content, and so from day to day \x93goot
Montame Zipod\x94 cut down the cost of his dinner, until it could be served
for twenty sous.

\x93It won\x92t be long afore I find out what is the matter with him, poor
dear,\x94 said Mme. Cibot to her husband, \x93for here is M. Schmucke\x92s dinner
all ready for him.\x94

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

\x93Vat is de matter mit you, mein goot friend?\x94 asked the German, scared
by the expression of Pons\x92 face.

\x93I will tell you all about it; but I have come home to have dinner with
you--\x94

\x93Tinner! tinner!\x94 cried Schmucke in ecstasy; \x93but it is impossible!\x94 the
old German added, as he thought of his friend\x92s gastronomical tastes;
and at that very moment he caught sight of Mme. Cibot listening to the
conversation, as she had a right to do as his lawful housewife. Struck
with one of those happy inspirations which only enlighten a friend\x92s
heart, he marched up to the portress and drew her out to the stairhead.

\x93Montame Zipod,\x94 he said, \x93der goot Pons is fond of goot dings; shoost
go rount to der _Catran Pleu_ und order a dainty liddle tinner, mit
anjovies und maggaroni. Ein tinner for Lugullus, in vact.\x94

\x93What is that?\x94 inquired La Cibot.

\x93Oh! ah!\x94 returned Schmucke, \x93it is veal _a la pourcheoise_\x94
 (_bourgeoise_, he meant), \x93a nice fisch, ein pottle off Porteaux, und
nice dings, der fery best dey haf, like groquettes of rice und shmoked
pacon! Bay for it, und say nodings; I vill gif you back de monny
to-morrow morning.\x94

Back went Schmucke, radiant and rubbing his hands; but his expression
slowly changed to a look of bewildered astonishment as he heard Pons\x92
story of the troubles that had but just now overwhelmed him in a moment.
He tried to comfort Pons by giving him a sketch of the world from his
own point of view. Paris, in his opinion, was a perpetual hurly-burly,
the men and women in it were whirled away by a tempestuous waltz; it
was no use expecting anything of the world, which only looked at the
outsides of things, \x93und not at der inderior.\x94 For the hundredth time he
related how that the only three pupils for whom he had really cared, for
whom he was ready to die, the three who had been fond of him, and even
allowed him a little pension of nine hundred francs, each contributing
three hundred to the amount--his favorite pupils had quite forgotten
to come to see him; and so swift was the current of Parisian life which
swept them away, that if he called at their houses, he had not succeeded
in seeing them once in three years--(it is a fact, however, that
Schmucke had always thought fit to call on these great ladies at ten
o\x92clock in the morning!)--still, his pension was paid quarterly through
the medium of solicitors.

\x93Und yet, dey are hearts of gold,\x94 he concluded. \x93Dey are my liddle
Saint Cecilias, sharming vimmen, Montame de Bordentuere, Montame de
Fantenesse, und Montame du Dilet. Gif I see dem at all, it is at die
Jambs Elusees, und dey do not see me... yet dey are ver\x92 fond of me, und
I might go to dine mit dem, und dey vould be ver\x92 bleased to see me; und
I might go to deir country-houses, but I vould much rader be mit mine
friend Bons, because I kann see him venefer I like, und efery tay.\x94

Pons took Schmucke\x92s hand and grasped it between his own. All that was
passing in his inmost soul was communicated in that tight pressure. And
so for awhile the friends sat like two lovers, meeting at last after a
long absence.

\x93Tine here, efery tay!\x94 broke out Schmucke, inwardly blessing Mme.
de Marville for her hardness of heart. \x93Look here! Ve shall go a
prick-a-pracking togeders, und der teufel shall nefer show his tail
here.\x94

\x93Ve shall go prick-a-pracking togeders!\x94 for the full comprehension of
those truly heroic words, it must be confessed that Schmucke\x92s ignorance
of bric-a-brac was something of the densest. It required all the
strength of his friendship to keep him from doing heedless damage in the
sitting-room and study which did duty as a museum for Pons. Schmucke,
wholly absorbed in music, a composer for love of his art, took about as
much interest in his friend\x92s little trifles as a fish might take in a
flower-show at the Luxembourg, supposing that it had received a ticket
of admission. A certain awe which he certainly felt for the marvels was
simply a reflection of the respect which Pons showed his treasures when
he dusted them. To Pons\x92 exclamations of admiration, he was wont to
reply with a \x93Yes, it is ver\x92 bretty,\x94 as a mother answers baby-gestures
with meaningless baby-talk. Seven times since the friends had lived
together, Pons had exchanged a good clock for a better one, till at last
he possessed a timepiece in Boule\x92s first and best manner, for Boule had
two manners, as Raphael had three. In the first he combined ebony and
copper; in the second--contrary to his convictions--he sacrificed to
tortoise-shell inlaid work. In spite of Pons\x92 learned dissertations,
Schmucke never could see the slightest difference between the
magnificent clock in Boule\x92s first manner and its six predecessors; but,
for Pons\x92 sake, Schmucke was even more careful among the \x93chimcracks\x94
 than Pons himself. So it should not be surprising that Schmucke\x92s
sublime words comforted Pons in his despair; for \x93Ve shall go
prick-a-pracking togeders,\x94 meant, being interpreted, \x93I will put money
into bric-a-brac, if you will only dine here.\x94

\x93Dinner is ready,\x94 Mme. Cibot announced, with astonishing
self-possession.

It is not difficult to imagine Pons\x92 surprise when he saw and relished
the dinner due to Schmucke\x92s friendship. Sensations of this kind, that
came so rarely in a lifetime, are never the outcome of the constant,
close relationship by which friend daily says to friend, \x93You are a
second self to me\x94; for this, too, becomes a matter of use and wont.
It is only by contact with the barbarism of the world without that
the happiness of that intimate life is revealed to us as a sudden glad
surprise. It is the outer world which renews the bond between friend and
friend, lover and lover, all their lives long, wherever two great souls
are knit together by friendship or by love.

Pons brushed away two big tears, Schmucke himself wiped his eyes; and
though nothing was said, the two were closer friends than before. Little
friendly nods and glances exchanged across the table were like balm to
Pons, soothing the pain caused by the sand dropped in his heart by the
President\x92s wife. As for Schmucke, he rubbed his hands till they were
sore; for a new idea had occurred to him, one of those great discoveries
which cause a German no surprise, unless they sprout up suddenly in
a Teuton brain frost-bound by the awe and reverence due to sovereign
princes.

\x93Mine goot Bons?\x94 began Schmucke.

\x93I can guess what you mean; you would like us both to dine together
here, every day--\x94

\x93Gif only I vas rich enof to lif like dis efery tay--\x94 began the good
German in a melancholy voice. But here Mme. Cibot appeared upon the
scene. Pons had given her an order for the theatre from time to time,
and stood in consequence almost as high in her esteem and affection as
her boarder Schmucke.

\x93Lord love you,\x94 said she, \x93for three francs and wine extra I can give
you both such a dinner every day that you will be ready to lick the
plates as clean as if they were washed.\x94

\x93It is a fact,\x94 Schmucke remarked, \x93dat die dinners dat Montame Zipod
cooks for me are better as de messes dey eat at der royal dable!\x94 In his
eagerness, Schmucke, usually so full of respect for the powers that
be, so far forgot himself as to imitate the irreverent newspapers which
scoffed at the \x93fixed-price\x94 dinners of Royalty.

\x93Really?\x94 said Pons. \x93Very well, I will try to-morrow.\x94

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

\x93Vat happiness!\x94 cried he.

Mme. Cibot was quite touched. \x93Monsieur is going to dine here every
day!\x94 she cried proudly.

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

\x93Cibot! run to the _Cafe Turc_ for two small cups of coffee, and tell
the man at the stove that it is for me.\x94

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

\x93I will go to-night and see what Ma\x92am Fontaine says,\x94 she thought.
(Madame Fontaine told fortunes on the cards for all the servants in the
quarter of the Marais.) \x93Since these two gentlemen came here, we have
put two thousand francs in the savings bank. Two thousand francs in
eight years! What luck! Would it be better to make no profit out of M.
Pons\x92 dinner and keep him here at home? Ma\x92am Fontaine\x92s hen will tell
me that.\x94

Three years ago Mme. Cibot had begun to cherish a hope that her name
might be mentioned in \x93her gentlemen\x92s\x94 wills; she had redoubled her
zeal since that covetous thought tardily sprouted up in the midst of
that so honest moustache. Pons hitherto had dined abroad, eluding her
desire to have both of \x93her gentlemen\x94 entirely under her management;
his \x93troubadour\x94 collector\x92s life had scared away certain vague ideas
which hovered in La Cibot\x92s brain; but now her shadowy projects assumed
the formidable shape of a definite plan, dating from that memorable
dinner. Fifteen minutes later she reappeared in the dining-room with
two cups of excellent coffee, flanked by a couple of tiny glasses of
_kirschwasser_.

\x93Long lif Montame Zipod!\x94 cried Schmucke; \x93she haf guessed right!\x94

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

Schmucke could not leave his friend in the condition to which he had
been brought by the Camusots--mistresses and servants. He knew Pons so
well; he feared lest some cruel, sad thought should seize on him at his
conductor\x92s desk, and undo all the good done by his welcome home to the
nest.

And Schmucke brought his friend back on his arm through the streets at
midnight. A lover could not be more careful of his lady. He pointed out
the edges of the curbstones, he was on the lookout whenever they stepped
on or off the pavement, ready with a warning if there was a gutter
to cross. Schmucke could have wished that the streets were paved with
cotton-down; he would have had a blue sky overhead, and Pons should hear
the music which all the angels in heaven were making for him. He had won
the lost province in his friend\x92s heart!

For nearly three months Pons and Schmucke dined together every day. Pons
was obliged to retrench at once; for dinner at forty-five francs a month
and wine at thirty-five meant precisely eighty francs less to spend on
bric-a-brac. And very soon, in spite of all that Schmucke could do, in
spite of his little German jokes, Pons fell to regretting the delicate
dishes, the liqueurs, the good coffee, the table talk, the insincere
politeness, the guests, and the gossip, and the houses where he used to
dine. On the wrong side of sixty a man cannot break himself of a habit
of thirty-six years\x92 growth. Wine at a hundred and thirty francs per
hogshead is scarcely a generous liquid in a _gourmet\x92s_ glass; every
time that Pons raised it to his lips he thought, with infinite regret,
of the exquisite wines in his entertainers\x92 cellars.

In short, at the end of three months, the cruel pangs which had gone
near to break Pons\x92 sensitive heart had died away; he forgot everything
but the charms of society; and languished for them like some elderly
slave of a petticoat compelled to leave the mistress who too repeatedly
deceives him. In vain he tried to hide his profound and consuming
melancholy; it was too plain that he was suffering from one of the
mysterious complaints which the mind brings upon the body.

A single symptom will throw light upon this case of nostalgia (as it
were) produced by breaking away from an old habit; in itself it is
trifling, one of the myriad nothings which are as rings in a coat of
chain-mail enveloping the soul in a network of iron. One of the keenest
pleasures of Pons\x92 old life, one of the joys of the dinner-table
parasite at all times, was the \x93surprise,\x94 the thrill produced by the
extra dainty dish added triumphantly to the bill of fare by the mistress
of a bourgeois house, to give a festal air to the dinner. Pons\x92 stomach
hankered after that gastronomical satisfaction. Mme. Cibot, in the pride
of her heart, enumerated every dish beforehand; a salt and savor once
periodically recurrent, had vanished utterly from daily life. Dinner
proceeded without _le plat couvert_, as our grandsires called it. This
lay beyond the bounds of Schmucke\x92s powers of comprehension.

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

Pons thought wistfully of certain creams--surely the poetry of
cookery!--of certain white sauces, masterpieces of the art; of truffled
chickens, fit to melt your heart; and above these, and more than all
these, of the famous Rhine carp, only known at Paris, served with what
condiments! There were days when Pons, thinking upon Count Popinot\x92s
cook, would sigh aloud, \x93Ah, Sophie!\x94 Any passer-by hearing the
exclamation might have thought that the old man referred to a lost
mistress; but his fancy dwelt upon something rarer, on a fat Rhine carp
with a sauce, thin in the sauce-boat, creamy upon the palate, a sauce
that deserved the Montyon prize! The conductor of the orchestra, living
on memories of past dinners, grew visibly leaner; he was pining away, a
victim to gastric nostalgia.

By the beginning of the fourth month (towards the end of January, 1845),
Pons\x92 condition attracted attention at the theatre. The flute, a young
man named Wilhelm, like almost all Germans; and Schwab, to distinguish
him from all other Wilhelms, if not from all other Schwabs, judged it
expedient to open Schmucke\x92s eyes to his friend\x92s state of health. It
was a first performance of a piece in which Schmucke\x92s instruments were
all required.

\x93The old gentleman is failing,\x94 said the flute; \x93there is something
wrong somewhere; his eyes are heavy, and he doesn\x92t beat time as he used
to do,\x94 added Wilhelm Schwab, indicating Pons as he gloomily took his
place.

\x93Dat is alvays de vay, gif a man is sixty years old,\x94 answered Schmucke.

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

\x93Everybody in the theatre is anxious about him,\x94 continued the flute;
\x93and, as the _premiere danseuse_, Mlle. Brisetout, says, \x91he makes
hardly any noise now when he blows his nose.\x92\x94

And, indeed, a peal like a blast of a horn used to resound through
the old musician\x92s bandana handkerchief whenever he raised it to that
lengthy and cavernous feature. The President\x92s wife had more frequently
found fault with him on that score than on any other.

\x93I vould gif a goot teal to amuse him,\x94 said Schmucke, \x93he gets so
dull.\x94

\x93M. Pons always seems so much above the like of us poor devils, that,
upon my word, I didn\x92t dare to ask him to my wedding,\x94 said Wilhelm
Schwab. \x93I am going to be married--\x94

\x93How?\x94 demanded Schmucke.

\x93Oh! quite properly,\x94 returned Wilhelm Schwab, taking Schmucke\x92s quaint
inquiry for a gibe, of which that perfect Christian was quite incapable.

\x93Come, gentlemen, take your places!\x94 called Pons, looking round at his
little army, as the stage manager\x92s bell rang for the overture.

The piece was a dramatized fairy tale, a pantomime called _The Devil\x92s
Betrothed_, which ran for two hundred nights. In the interval, after the
first act, Wilhelm Schwab and Schmucke were left alone in the orchestra,
with a house at a temperature of thirty-two degrees Reaumur.

\x93Tell me your hishdory,\x94 said Schmucke.

\x93Look there! Do you see that young man in the box yonder?... Do you
recognize him?\x94

\x93Nefer a pit--\x94

\x93Ah! That is because he is wearing yellow gloves and shines with all
the radiance of riches, but that is my friend Fritz Brunner out of
Frankfort-on-the-Main.\x94

\x93Dat used to komm to see du blav und sit peside you in der orghestra?\x94

\x93The same. You would not believe he could look so different, would you?\x94

The hero of the promised story was a German of that particular type
in which the sombre irony of Goethe\x92s Mephistopheles is blended with
a homely cheerfulness found in the romances of August Lafontaine
of pacific memory; but the predominating element in the compound of
artlessness and guile, of shopkeeper\x92s shrewdness, and the studied
carelessness of a member of the Jockey Club, was that form of disgust
which set a pistol in the hands of a young Werther, bored to death less
by Charlotte than by German princes. It was a thoroughly German face,
full of cunning, full of simplicity, stupidity, and courage; the
knowledge which brings weariness, the worldly wisdom which the veriest
child\x92s trick leaves at fault, the abuse of beer and tobacco,--all these
were there to be seen in it, and to heighten the contrast of opposed
qualities, there was a wild diabolical gleam in the fine blue eyes with
the jaded expression.

Dressed with all the elegance of a city man, Fritz Brunner sat in full
view of the house displaying a bald crown of the tint beloved by Titian,
and a few stray fiery red hairs on either side of it; a remnant spared
by debauchery and want, that the prodigal might have a right to spend
money with the hairdresser when he should come into his fortune. A face,
once fair and fresh as the traditional portrait of Jesus Christ, had
grown harder since the advent of a red moustache; a tawny beard lent
it an almost sinister look. The bright blue eyes had lost something of
their clearness in the struggle with distress. The countless courses by
which a man sells himself and his honor in Paris had left their traces
upon his eyelids and carved lines about the eyes, into which a mother
once looked with a mother\x92s rapture to find a copy of her own fashioned
by God\x92s hand.

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

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

Gideon Brunner, father of the aforesaid Fritz, was one of the famous
innkeepers of Frankfort, a tribe who make law-authorized incisions in
travelers\x92 purses with the connivance of the local bankers. An innkeeper
and an honest Calvinist to boot, he had married a converted Jewess and
laid the foundations of his prosperity with the money she brought him.

When the Jewess died, leaving a son Fritz, twelve years of age, under
the joint guardianship of his father and maternal uncle, a furrier at
Leipsic, head of the firm of Virlaz and Company, Brunner senior was
compelled by his brother-in-law (who was by no means as soft as his
peltry) to invest little Fritz\x92s money, a goodly quantity of current
coin of the realm, with the house of Al-Sartchild. Not a penny of it
was he allowed to touch. So, by way of revenge for the Israelite\x92s
pertinacity, Brunner senior married again. It was impossible, he said,
to keep his huge hotel single-handed; it needed a woman\x92s eye and hand.
Gideon Brunner\x92s second wife was an innkeeper\x92s daughter, a very pearl,
as he thought; but he had had no experience of only daughters spoiled by
father and mother.

The second Mme. Brunner behaved as German girls may be expected to
behave when they are frivolous and wayward. She squandered her fortune,
she avenged the first Mme. Brunner by making her husband as miserable
a man as you could find in the compass of the free city of
Frankfort-on-the-Main, where the millionaires, it is said, are about to
pass a law compelling womankind to cherish and obey them alone. She was
partial to all the varieties of vinegar commonly called Rhine wine in
Germany; she was fond of _articles Paris_, of horses and dress; indeed,
the one expensive taste which she had not was a liking for women. She
took a dislike to little Fritz, and would perhaps have driven him mad if
that young offspring of Calvinism and Judaism had not had Frankfort for
his cradle and the firm of Virlaz at Leipsic for his guardian. Uncle
Virlaz, however, deep in his furs, confined his guardianship to the
safe-keeping of Fritz\x92s silver marks, and left the boy to the tender
mercies of this stepmother.

That hyena in woman\x92s form was the more exasperated against the pretty
child, the lovely Jewess\x92 son, because she herself could have no
children in spite of efforts worthy of a locomotive engine. A diabolical
impulse prompted her to plunge her young stepson, at twenty-one years of
age, into dissipations contrary to all German habits. The wicked German
hoped that English horses, Rhine vinegar, and Goethe\x92s Marguerites would
ruin the Jewess\x92 child and shorten his days; for when Fritz came of age,
Uncle Virlaz had handed over a very pretty fortune to his nephew. But
while roulette at Baden and elsewhere, and boon companions (Wilhelm
Schwab among them) devoured the substance accumulated by Uncle Virlaz,
the prodigal son himself remained by the will of Providence to point a
moral to younger brothers in the free city of Frankfort; parents held
him up as a warning and an awful example to their offspring to scare
them into steady attendance in their cast-iron counting houses, lined
with silver marks.

But so far from perishing in the flower of his age, Fritz Brunner had
the pleasure of laying his stepmother in one of those charming little
German cemeteries, in which the Teuton indulges his unbridled passion
for horticulture under the specious pretext of honoring his dead. And as
the second Mme. Brunner expired while the authors of her being were yet
alive, Brunner senior was obliged to bear the loss of the sums of which
his wife had drained his coffers, to say nothing of other ills, which
had told upon a Herculean constitution, till at the age of sixty-seven
the innkeeper had wizened and shrunk as if the famous Borgia\x92s poison
had undermined his system. For ten whole years he had supported his
wife, and now he inherited nothing! The innkeeper was a second ruin of
Heidelberg, repaired continually, it is true, by travelers\x92 hotel bills,
much as the remains of the castle of Heidelberg itself are repaired
to sustain the enthusiasm of the tourists who flock to see so fine and
well-preserved a relic of antiquity.

At Frankfort the disappointment caused as much talk as a failure. People
pointed out Brunner, saying, \x93See what a man may come to with a bad wife
that leaves him nothing and a son brought up in the French fashion.\x94

In Italy and Germany the French nation is the root of all evil, the
target for all bullets. \x93But the god pursuing his way----\x94 (For the
rest, see Lefranc de Pompignan\x92s Ode.)

The wrath of the proprietor of the Grand Hotel de Hollande fell
on others besides the travelers, whose bills were swelled with his
resentment. When his son was utterly ruined, Gideon, regarding him as
the indirect cause of all his misfortunes, refused him bread and salt,
fire, lodging, and tobacco--the force of the paternal malediction in
a German and an innkeeper could no farther go. Whereupon the local
authorities, making no allowance for the father\x92s misdeeds, regarded him
as one of the most ill-used persons in Frankfort-on-the-Main, came to
his assistance, fastened a quarrel on Fritz (_une querelle d\x92Allemand_),
and expelled him from the territory of the free city. Justice in
Frankfort is no whit wiser nor more humane than elsewhere, albeit the
city is the seat of the German Diet. It is not often that a magistrate
traces back the stream of wrongdoing and misfortune to the holder of the
urn from which the first beginnings trickled forth. If Brunner forgot
his son, his son\x92s friends speedily followed the old innkeeper\x92s
example.

Ah! if the journalists, the dandies, and some few fair Parisians among
the audience wondered how that German with the tragical countenance had
cropped up on a first night to occupy a side box all to himself when
fashionable Paris filled the house,--if these could have seen the
history played out upon the stage before the prompter\x92s box, they would
have found it far more interesting than the transformation scenes of
_The Devil\x92s Betrothed_, though indeed it was the two hundred thousandth
representation of a sublime allegory performed aforetime in Mesopotamia
three thousand years before Christ was born.

Fritz betook himself on foot to Strasbourg, and there found what the
prodigal son of the Bible failed to find--to wit, a friend. And herein
is revealed the superiority of Alsace, where so many generous hearts
beat to show Germany the beauty of a combination of Gallic wit and
Teutonic solidity. Wilhelm Schwab, but lately left in possession of a
hundred thousand francs by the death of both parents, opened his arms,
his heart, his house, his purse to Fritz. As for describing Fritz\x92s
feelings, when dusty, down on his luck, and almost like a leper, he
crossed the Rhine and found a real twenty-franc piece held out by the
hand of a real friend,--that moment transcends the powers of the prose
writer; Pindar alone could give it forth to humanity in Greek that
should rekindle the dying warmth of friendship in the world.

Put the names of Fritz and Wilheim beside those of Damon and Pythias,
Castor and Pollux, Orestes and Pylades, Dubreuil and Pmejah, Schmucke
and Pons, and all the names that we imagine for the two friends of
Monomotapa, for La Fontaine (man of genius though he was) has made of
them two disembodied spirits--they lack reality. The two new names may
join the illustrious company, and with so much the more reason, since
that Wilhelm who had helped to drink Fritz\x92s inheritance now proceeded,
with Fritz\x92s assistance, to devour his own substance; smoking, needless
to say, every known variety of tobacco.

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

Every morning they would say, \x93We really must stop this, and make up our
minds and do something or other with the money that is left.\x94

\x93Pooh!\x94 Fritz would retort, \x93just one more day, and to-morrow\x94... ah!
to-morrow.

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

When the two friends had reached their last thousand-franc note, they
took places in the mail-coach, styled Royal, and departed for Paris,
where they installed themselves in the attics of the Hotel du Rhin, in
the Rue du Mail, the property of one Graff, formerly Gideon Brunner\x92s
head-waiter. Fritz found a situation as clerk in the Kellers\x92 bank (on
Graff\x92s recommendation), with a salary of six hundred francs. And a
place as book-keeper was likewise found for Wilhelm, in the business of
Graff the fashionable tailor, brother of Graff of the Hotel du Rhin, who
found the scantily-paid employment for the pair of prodigals, for the
sake of old times, and his apprenticeship at the Hotel de Hollande.
These two incidents--the recognition of a ruined man by a well-to-do
friend, and a German innkeeper interesting himself in two penniless
fellow-countrymen--give, no doubt, an air of improbability to the story,
but truth is so much the more like fiction, since modern writers of
fiction have been at such untold pains to imitate truth.

It was not long before Fritz, a clerk with six hundred francs, and
Wilhelm, a book-keeper with precisely the same salary, discovered the
difficulties of existence in a city so full of temptations. In 1837, the
second year of their abode, Wilhelm, who possessed a pretty talent for
the flute, entered Pons\x92 orchestra, to earn a little occasional butter
to put on his dry bread. As to Fritz, his only way to an increase of
income lay through the display of the capacity for business inherited
by a descendant of the Virlaz family. Yet, in spite of his assiduity, in
spite of abilities which possibly may have stood in his way, his salary
only reached the sum of two thousand francs in 1843. Penury, that divine
stepmother, did for the two men all that their mothers had not been able
to do for them; Poverty taught them thrift and worldly wisdom; Poverty
gave them her grand rough education, the lessons which she drives
with hard knocks into the heads of great men, who seldom know a happy
childhood. Fritz and Wilhelm, being but ordinary men, learned as little
as they possibly could in her school; they dodged the blows, shrank
from her hard breast and bony arms, and never discovered the good fairy
lurking within, ready to yield to the caresses of genius. One thing,
however, they learned thoroughly--they discovered the value of money,
and vowed to clip the wings of riches if ever a second fortune should
come to their door.

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

\x93Well, Papa Schmucke, the rest is soon explained. Old Brunner is dead.
He left four millions! He made an immense amount of money out of Baden
railways, though neither his son nor M. Graff, with whom we lodge, had
any idea that the old man was one of the original shareholders. I am
playing the flute here for the last time this evening; I would have left
some days ago, but this was a first performance, and I did not want to
spoil my part.\x94

\x93Goot, mine friend,\x94 said Schmucke. \x93But who is die prite?\x94

\x93She is Mlle. Graff, the daughter of our host, the landlord of the Hotel
du Rhin. I have loved Mlle. Emilie these seven years; she has read so
many immoral novels, that she refused all offers for me, without knowing
what might come of it. She will be a very wealthy young lady; her
uncles, the tailors in the Rue de Richelieu, will leave her all their
money. Fritz is giving me the money we squandered at Strasbourg five
times over! He is putting a million francs in a banking house, M. Graff
the tailor is adding another five hundred thousand francs, and Mlle.
Emilie\x92s father not only allows me to incorporate her portion--two
hundred and fifty thousand francs--with the capital, but he himself will
be a shareholder with as much again. So the firm of Brunner, Schwab and
Company will start with two millions five hundred thousand francs. Fritz
has just bought fifteen hundred thousand francs\x92 worth of shares in
the Bank of France to guarantee our account with them. That is not all
Fritz\x92s fortune. He has his father\x92s house property, supposed to be
worth another million, and he has let the Grand Hotel de Hollande
already to a cousin of the Graffs.\x94

\x93You look sad ven you look at your friend,\x94 remarked Schmucke, who had
listened with great interest. \x93Kann you pe chealous of him?\x94

\x93I am jealous for Fritz\x92s happiness,\x94 said Wilhelm. \x93Does that face look
as if it belonged to a happy man? I am afraid of Paris; I should like
to see him do as I am doing. The old tempter may awake again. Of our two
heads, his carries the less ballast. His dress, and the opera-glass and
the rest of it make me anxious. He keeps looking at the lorettes in
the house. Oh! if you only knew how hard it is to marry Fritz. He has a
horror of \x91going a-courting,\x92 as you say; you would have to give him a
drop into a family, just as in England they give a man a drop into the
next world.\x94

During the uproar that usually marks the end of a first night, the flute
delivered his invitation to the conductor. Pons accepted gleefully; and,
for the first time in three months, Schmucke saw a smile on his friend\x92s
face. They went back to the Rue de Normandie in perfect silence; that
sudden flash of joy had thrown a light on the extent of the
disease which was consuming Pons. Oh, that a man so truly noble, so
disinterested, so great in feeling, should have such a weakness!... This
was the thought that struck the stoic Schmucke dumb with amazement. He
grew woefully sad, for he began to see that there was no help for it; he
must even renounce the pleasure of seeing \x93his goot Bons\x94 opposite him
at the dinner-table, for the sake of Pons\x92 welfare; and he did not
know whether he could give him up; the mere thought of it drove him
distracted.

Meantime, Pons\x92 proud silence and withdrawal to the Mons Aventinus
of the Rue de Normandie had, as might be expected, impressed the
Presidente, not that she troubled herself much about her parasite, now
that she was freed from him. She thought, with her charming daughter,
that Cousin Pons had seen through her little \x93Lili\x92s\x94 joke. But it was
otherwise with her husband the President.

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

Like most men who are ruled by their wives, the President asserted
his independence in trifles, in which his wife was very careful not
to thwart him. For a month he was satisfied with the Presidente\x92s
commonplace explanations of Pons\x92 disappearance; but at last it
struck him as singular that the old musician, a friend of forty years\x92
standing, should first make them so valuable a present as a fan that
belonged to Mme. de Pompadour, and then immediately discontinue his
visits. Count Popinot had pronounced the trinket a masterpiece; when its
owner went to Court, the fan had been passed from hand to hand, and her
vanity was not a little gratified by the compliments it received; others
had dwelt on the beauties of the ten ivory sticks, each one covered with
delicate carving, the like of which had never been seen. A Russian
lady (Russian ladies are apt to forget that they are not in Russia)
had offered her six thousand francs for the marvel one day at Count
Popinot\x92s house, and smiled to see it in such hands. Truth to tell, it
was a fan for a Duchess.

\x93It cannot be denied that poor Cousin Pons understands rubbish of that
sort--\x94 said Cecile, the day after the bid.

\x93Rubbish!\x94 cried her parent. \x93Why, Government is just about to buy
the late M. le Conseiller Dusommerard\x92s collection for three hundred
thousand francs; and the State and the Municipality of Paris between
them are spending nearly a million francs over the purchase and repair
of the Hotel de Cluny to house the \x91rubbish,\x92 as you call it.--Such
\x91rubbish,\x92 dear child,\x94 he resumed, \x93is frequently all that remains of
vanished civilizations. An Etruscan jar, and a necklace, which sometimes
fetch forty and fifty thousand francs, is \x91rubbish\x92 which reveals the
perfection of art at the time of the siege of Troy, proving that the
Etruscans were Trojan refugees in Italy.\x94

This was the President\x92s cumbrous way of joking; the short, fat man was
heavily ironical with his wife and daughter.

\x93The combination of various kinds of knowledge required to understand
such \x91rubbish,\x92 Cecile,\x94 he resumed, \x93is a science in itself, called
archaeology. Archaeology comprehends architecture, sculpture, painting,
goldsmiths\x92 work, ceramics, cabinetmaking (a purely modern art), lace,
tapestry--in short, human handiwork of every sort and description.\x94

\x93Then Cousin Pons is learned?\x94 said Cecile.

\x93Ah! by the by, why is he never to be seen nowadays?\x94 asked the
President. He spoke with the air of a man in whom thousands of forgotten
and dormant impressions have suddenly begun to stir, and shaping
themselves into one idea, reach consciousness with a ricochet, as
sportsmen say.

\x93He must have taken offence at nothing at all,\x94 answered his wife. \x93I
dare say I was not as fully sensible as I might have been of the value
of the fan that he gave me. I am ignorant enough, as you know, of--\x94

\x93_You!_ One of Servin\x92s best pupils, and you don\x92t know Watteau?\x94 cried
the President.

\x93I know Gerard and David and Gros and Griodet, and M. de Forbin and M.
Turpin de Crisse--\x94

\x93You ought--\x94

\x93Ought what, sir?\x94 demanded the lady, gazing at her husband with the air
of a Queen of Sheba.

\x93To know a Watteau when you see it, my dear. Watteau is very much in
fashion,\x94 answered the President with meekness, that told plainly how
much he owed to his wife.

This conversation took place a few days before that night of first
performance of _The Devil\x92s Betrothed_, when the whole orchestra
noticed how ill Pons was looking. But by that time all the circle of
dinner-givers who were used to seeing Pons\x92 face at their tables, and
to send him on errands, had begun to ask each other for news of him, and
uneasiness increased when it was reported by some who had seen him that
he was always in his place at the theatre. Pons had been very careful to
avoid his old acquaintances whenever he met them in the streets; but one
day it so fell out that he met Count Popinot, the ex-cabinet minister,
face to face in the bric-a-brac dealer\x92s shop in the new Boulevard
Beaumarchais. The dealer was none other than that Monistrol of whom Pons
had spoken to the Presidente, one of the famous and audacious vendors
whose cunning enthusiasm leads them to set more and more value daily on
their wares; for curiosities, they tell you, are growing so scarce that
they are hardly to be found at all nowadays.

\x93Ah, my dear Pons, how comes it that we never see you now? We miss
you very much, and Mme. Popinot does not know what to think of your
desertion.\x94

\x93M. le Comte,\x94 said the good man, \x93I was made to feel in the house of a
relative that at my age one is not wanted in the world. I have never had
much consideration shown me, but at any rate I had not been insulted.
I have never asked anything of any man,\x94 he broke out with an artist\x92s
pride. \x93I have often made myself useful in return for hospitality. But
I have made a mistake, it seems; I am indefinitely beholden to those who
honor me by allowing me to sit at table with them; my friends, and
my relatives.... Well and good; I have sent in my resignation as
smellfeast. At home I find daily something which no other house has
offered me--a real friend.\x94

The old artist\x92s power had not failed him; with tone and gesture he put
such bitterness into the words, that the peer of France was struck by
them. He drew Pons aside.

\x93Come, now, my old friend, what is it? What has hurt you? Could you not
tell me in confidence? You will permit me to say that at my house surely
you have always met with consideration--\x94

\x93You are the one exception,\x94 said the artist. \x93And besides, you are a
great lord and a statesman, you have so many things to think about. That
would excuse anything, if there were need for it.\x94

The diplomatic skill that Popinot had acquired in the management of men
and affairs was brought to bear upon Pons, till at length the story of
his misfortunes in the President\x92s house was drawn from him.

Popinot took up the victim\x92s cause so warmly that he told the story
to Mme. Popinot as soon as he went home, and that excellent and
noble-natured woman spoke to the Presidente on the subject at the first
opportunity. As Popinot himself likewise said a word or two to the
President, there was a general explanation in the family of Camusot de
Marville.

Camusot was not exactly master in his own house; but this time his
remonstrance was so well founded in law and in fact, that his wife
and daughter were forced to acknowledge the truth. They both humbled
themselves and threw the blame on the servants. The servants, first
bidden, and then chidden, only obtained pardon by a full confession,
which made it clear to the President\x92s mind that Pons had done rightly
to stop away. The President displayed himself before the servants in all
his masculine and magisterial dignity, after the manner of men who are
ruled by their wives. He informed his household that they should be
dismissed forthwith, and forfeit any advantages which their long term
of service in his house might have brought them, unless from that time
forward his cousin and all those who did him the honor of coming to
his house were treated as he himself was. At which speech Madeleine was
moved to smile.

\x93You have only one chance of salvation as it is,\x94 continued the
President. \x93Go to my cousin, make your excuses to him, and tell him that
you will lose your situations unless he forgives you, for I shall turn
you all away if he does not.\x94

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

\x93At last, my dear cousin,\x94 said the President after the ordinary
greetings; \x93at last I have discovered the cause of your retreat. Your
behavior increases, if that were possible, my esteem for you. I have but
one word to say in that connection. My servants have all been dismissed.
My wife and daughter are in despair; they want to see you to have an
explanation. In all this, my cousin, there is one innocent person, and
he is an old judge; you will not punish me, will you, for the escapade
of a thoughtless child who wished to dine with the Popinots? especially
when I come to beg for peace, admitting that all the wrong has been on
our side?... An old friendship of thirty-six years, even suppose that
there had been a misunderstanding, has still some claims. Come, sign a
treaty of peace by dining with us to-night--\x94

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

\x93Very well. To-morrow.\x94

\x93Mme. la Comtesse Popinot has done me the honor of asking me, cousin.
She was so kind as to write--\x94

\x93The day after to-morrow then.\x94

\x93M. Brunner, a German, my first flute\x92s future partner, returns the
compliment paid him to-day by the young couple--\x94

\x93You are such pleasant company that it is not surprising that people
dispute for the honor of seeing you. Very well, next Sunday? Within a
week, as we say at the courts?\x94

\x93On Sunday we are to dine with M. Graff, the flute\x92s father-in-law.\x94

\x93Very well, on Saturday. Between now and then you will have time to
reassure a little girl who has shed tears already over her fault. God
asks no more than repentance; you will not be more severe than the
Eternal father with poor little Cecile?--\x94

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

An hour later the President\x92s servants arrived in a troop on poor Pons\x92
second floor. They behaved after the manner of their kind; they cringed
and fawned; they wept. Madeleine took M. Pons aside and flung herself
resolutely at his feet.

\x93It is all my fault; and monsieur knows quite well that I love him,\x94
 here she burst into tears. \x93It was vengeance boiling in my veins;
monsieur ought to throw all the blame of the unhappy affair on that. We
are all to lose our pensions.... Monsieur, I was mad, and I would not
have the rest suffer for my fault.... I can see now well enough that
fate did not make me for monsieur. I have come to my senses, I aimed too
high, but I love you still, monsieur. These ten years I have thought of
nothing but the happiness of making you happy and looking after things
here. What a lot!... Oh! if monsieur but knew how much I love him! But
monsieur must have seen it through all my mischief-making. If I were to
die to-morrow, what would they find?--A will in your favor, monsieur....
Yes, monsieur, in my trunk under my best things.\x94

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

It was unspeakably pleasant to Pons to find all his old enjoyments
restored to him without any loss of self-respect. The world had come to
Pons, he had risen in the esteem of his circle; but Schmucke looked so
downcast and dubious when he heard the story of the triumph, that Pons
felt hurt. When, however, the kind-hearted German saw the sudden change
wrought in Pons\x92 face, he ended by rejoicing with his friend, and made
a sacrifice of the happiness that he had known during those four months
that he had had Pons all to himself. Mental suffering has this immense
advantage over physical ills--when the cause is removed it ceases
at once. Pons was not like the same man that morning. The old man,
depressed and visibly failing, had given place to the serenely contented
Pons, who entered the Presidente\x92s house that October afternoon with the
Marquise de Pompadour\x92s fan in his pocket. Schmucke, on the other hand,
pondered deeply over this phenomenon, and could not understand it; your
true stoic never can understand the courtier that dwells in a Frenchman.
Pons was a born Frenchman of the Empire; a mixture of eighteenth century
gallantry and that devotion to womankind so often celebrated in songs of
the type of _Partant pour la Syrie_.

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

Meantime the two friends went out to dinner together, perhaps for
the first time in their lives. For Schmucke it was a return to the
Fatherland; for Johann Graff of the Hotel du Rhin and his daughter
Emilie, Wolfgang Graff the tailor and his wife, Fritz Brunner and
Wilhelm Schwab, were Germans, and Pons and the notary were the only
Frenchmen present at the banquet. The Graffs of the tailor\x92s business
owned a splendid house in the Rue de Richelieu, between the Rue
Neuve-des-Petits-Champs and the Rue Villedo; they had brought up their
niece, for Emilie\x92s father, not without reason, had feared contact
with the very mixed society of an inn for his daughter. The good tailor
Graffs, who loved Emilie as if she had been their own daughter, were
giving up the ground floor of their great house to the young couple, and
here the bank of Brunner, Schwab and Company was to be established. The
arrangements for the marriage had been made about a month ago; some time
must elapse before Fritz Brunner, author of all this felicity, could
settle his deceased father\x92s affairs, and the famous firm of tailors
had taken advantage of the delay to redecorate the first floor and to
furnish it very handsomely for the bride and bridegroom. The offices of
the bank had been fitted into the wing which united a handsome business
house with the hotel at the back, between courtyard and garden.

On the way from the Rue de Normandie to the Rue de Richelieu, Pons drew
from the abstracted Schmucke the details of the story of the modern
prodigal son, for whom Death had killed the fatted innkeeper. Pons, but
newly reconciled with his nearest relatives, was immediately smitten
with a desire to make a match between Fritz Brunner and Cecile de
Marville. Chance ordained that the notary was none other than Berthier,
old Cardot\x92s son-in-law and successor, the sometime second clerk with
whom Pons had been wont to dine.

\x93Ah! M. Berthier, you here!\x94 he said, holding out a hand to his host of
former days.

\x93We have not had the pleasure of seeing you at dinner lately; how is
it?\x94 returned the notary. \x93My wife has been anxious about you. We saw
you at the first performance of _The Devil\x92s Betrothed_, and our anxiety
became curiosity?\x94

\x93Old folk are sensitive,\x94 replied the worthy musician; \x93they make the
mistake of being a century behind the times, but how can it be helped?
It is quite enough to represent one century--they cannot entirely belong
to the century which sees them die.\x94

\x93Ah!\x94 said the notary, with a shrewd look, \x93one cannot run two centuries
at once.\x94

\x93By the by,\x94 continued Pons, drawing the young lawyer into a corner,
\x93why do you not find some one for my cousin Cecile de Marville--\x94

\x93Ah! why--?\x94 answered Berthier. \x93In this century, when luxury has
filtered down to our very porters\x92 lodges, a young fellow hesitates
before uniting his lot with the daughter of a President of the Court of
Appeal in Paris if she brings him only a hundred thousand francs. In the
rank of life in which Mlle. de Marville\x92s husband would take, the wife
was never yet known that did not cost her husband three thousand francs
a year; the interest on a hundred thousand francs would scarcely
find her in pin-money. A bachelor with an income of fifteen or twenty
thousand francs can live on an entre-sol; he is not expected to cut
any figure; he need not keep more than one servant, and all his surplus
income he can spend on his amusements; he puts himself in the hands of
a good tailor, and need not trouble any further about keeping up
appearances. Far-sighted mothers make much of him; he is one of the
kings of fashion in Paris.

\x93But a wife changes everything. A wife means a properly furnished
house,\x94 continued the lawyer; \x93she wants the carriage for herself; if
she goes to the play, she wants a box, while the bachelor has only a
stall to pay for; in short, a wife represents the whole of the income
which the bachelor used to spend on himself. Suppose that husband and
wife have thirty thousand francs a year between them--practically, the
sometime bachelor is a poor devil who thinks twice before he drives out
to Chantilly. Bring children on the scene--he is pinched for money at
once.

\x93Now, as M. and Mme. de Marville are scarcely turned fifty, Cecile\x92s
expectations are bills that will not fall due for fifteen or twenty
years to come; and no young fellow cares to keep them so long in
his portfolio. The young featherheads who are dancing the polka with
lorettes at the Jardin Mabille, are so cankered with self-interest, that
they don\x92t stand in need of us to explain both sides of the problem to
them. Between ourselves, I may say that Mlle. de Marville scarcely sets
hearts throbbing so fast but that their owners can perfectly keep their
heads, and they are full of these anti-matrimonial reflections. If any
eligible young man, in full possession of his senses and an income
of twenty thousand francs, happens to be sketching out a programme of
marriage that will satisfy his ambitions, Mlle. de Marville does not
altogether answer the description--\x94

\x93And why not?\x94 asked the bewildered musician.

\x93Oh!--\x94 said the notary, \x93well--a young man nowadays may be as ugly as
you and I, my dear Pons, but he is almost sure to have the impertinence
to want six hundred thousand francs, a girl of good family, with wit and
good looks and good breeding--flawless perfection in short.\x94

\x93Then it will not be easy to marry her?\x94

\x93She will not be married so long as M. and Mme. de Marville cannot make
up their minds to settle Marville on her when she marries; if they had
chosen, she might have been the Vicomtesse Popinot by now. But here
comes M. Brunner.--We are about to read the deed of partnership and the
marriage contract.\x94

Greetings and introductions over, the relations made Pons promise to
sign the contract. He listened to the reading of the documents, and
towards half-past five the party went into the dining-room. The dinner
was magnificent, as a city merchant\x92s dinner can be, when he allows
himself a respite from money-making. Graff of the Hotel du Rhin was
acquainted with the first provision dealers in Paris; never had Pons nor
Schmucke fared so sumptuously. The dishes were a rapture to think of!
Italian paste, delicate of flavor, unknown to the public; smelts fried
as never smelts were fried before; fish from Lake Leman, with a real
Genevese sauce, and a cream for plum-pudding which would have astonished
the London doctor who is said to have invented it. It was nearly ten
o\x92clock before they rose from table. The amount of wine, German and
French, consumed at that dinner would amaze the contemporary dandy;
nobody knows the amount of liquor that a German can imbibe and yet keep
calm and quiet; to have even an idea of the quantity, you must dine in
Germany and watch bottle succeed to bottle, like wave rippling after
wave along the sunny shores of the Mediterranean, and disappear as if
the Teuton possessed the absorbing power of sponges or sea sand. Perfect
harmony prevails meanwhile; there is none of the racket that there would
be over the liquor in France; the talk is as sober as a money-lender\x92s
extempore speech; countenances flush, like the faces of the brides in
frescoes by Cornelius or Schnorr (imperceptibly, that is to say), and
reminiscences are poured out slowly while the smoke puffs from the
pipes.

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

\x93What do you say to this programme for your friend Brunner?\x94 cried
Pons in confidential tones. \x93A charming and sensible young lady of
twenty-four, belonging to a family of the highest distinction. The
father holds a very high position as a judge; there will be a hundred
thousand francs paid down and a million to come.\x94

\x93Wait!\x94 answered Schwab; \x93I will speak to Fritz this instant.\x94

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

Pons was not exactly intoxicated; his head was a little heavy, but his
thoughts, on the contrary, seemed all the lighter; he watched Fritz
Brunner\x92s face through the rainbow mist of fumes of wine, and tried
to read auguries favorable to his family. Before very long Schwab
introduced his friend and partner to M. Pons; Fritz Brunner expressed
his thanks for the trouble which Pons had been so good as to take.

In the conversation which followed, the two old bachelors Schmucke and
Pons extolled the estate of matrimony, going so far as to say, without
any malicious intent, \x93that marriage was the end of man.\x94 Tea and ices,
punches and cakes, were served in the future home of the betrothed
couple. The wine had begun to tell upon the honest merchants, and the
general hilarity reached its height when it was announced that Schwab\x92s
partner thought of following his example.

At two o\x92clock that morning, Schmucke and Pons walked home along the
boulevards, philosophizing _a perte de raison_ as they went on the
harmony pervading the arrangements of this our world below.

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

\x93Ah!\x94 said Pons to himself, as he turned the corner of the Rue de
Choiseul, \x93they will lie under immense obligations to their parasite.\x94

Any man less absorbed in his contentment, any man of the world, any
distrustful nature would have watched the President\x92s wife and daughter
very narrowly on this first return to the house. But the poor musician
was a child, he had all the simplicity of an artist, believing in
goodness as he believed in beauty; so he was delighted when Cecile and
her mother made much of him. After all the vaudevilles, tragedies, and
comedies which had been played under the worthy man\x92s eyes for twelve
long years, he could not detect the insincerity and grimaces of social
comedy, no doubt because he had seen too much of it. Any one who goes
into society in Paris, and knows the type of woman, dried up, body and
soul, by a burning thirst for social position, and a fierce desire to
be thought virtuous, any one familiar with the sham piety and the
domineering character of a woman whose word is law in her own house, may
imagine the lurking hatred she bore this husband\x92s cousin whom she had
wronged.

All the demonstrative friendliness of mother and daughter was lined with
a formidable longing for revenge, evidently postponed. For the first
time in Amelie de Marville\x92s life she had been put in the wrong, and
that in the sight of the husband over whom she tyrannized; and not only
so--she was obliged to be amiable to the author of her defeat! You can
scarcely find a match for this position save in the hypocritical
dramas which are sometimes kept up for years in the sacred college of
cardinals, or in chapters of certain religious orders.

At three o\x92clock, when the President came back from the law-courts, Pons
had scarcely made an end of the marvelous history of his acquaintance,
M. Frederic Brunner. Cecile had gone straight to the point. She wanted
to know how Frederic Brunner was dressed, how he looked, his height and
figure, the color of his hair and eyes; and when she had conjectured a
distinguished air for Frederic, she admired his generosity of character.

\x93Think of his giving five hundred thousand francs to his companion
in misfortune! Oh! mamma, I shall have a carriage and a box at the
Italiens----\x94 Cecile grew almost pretty as she thought that all her
mother\x92s ambitions for her were about to be realized, that the hopes
which had almost left her were to come to something after all.

As for the Presidente, all that she said was, \x93My dear little girl, you
may perhaps be married within the fortnight.\x94

All mothers with daughters of three-and-twenty address them as \x93little
girl.\x94

\x93Still,\x94 added the President, \x93in any case, we must have time to make
inquiries; never will I give my daughter to just anybody--\x94

\x93As to inquiries,\x94 said Pons, \x93Berthier is drawing up the deeds. As to
the young man himself, my dear cousin, you remember what you told me?
Well, he is quite forty years old; he is bald. He wishes to find in
family life a haven after a storm; I did not dissuade him; every man has
his tastes--\x94

\x93One reason the more for a personal interview,\x94 returned the President.
\x93I am not going to give my daughter to a valetudinarian.\x94

\x93Very good, cousin, you shall see my suitor in five days if you like;
for, with your views, a single interview would be enough\x94--(Cecile
and her mother signified their rapture)--\x93Frederic is decidedly a
distinguished amateur; he begged me to allow him to see my little
collection at his leisure. You have never seen my pictures and
curiosities; come and see them,\x94 he continued, looking at his relatives.
\x93You can come simply as two ladies, brought by my friend Schmucke, and
make M. Brunner\x92s acquaintance without betraying yourselves. Frederic
need not in the least know who you are.\x94

\x93Admirable!\x94 cried the President.

The attention they paid to the once scorned parasite may be left to
the imagination! Poor Pons that day became the Presidente\x92s cousin.
The happy mother drowned her dislike in floods of joy; her looks, her
smiles, her words sent the old man into ecstasies over the good that he
had done, over the future that he saw by glimpses. Was he not sure
to find dinners such as yesterday\x92s banquet over the signing of the
contract, multiplied indefinitely by three, in the houses of Brunner,
Schwab, and Graff? He saw before him a land of plenty--a _vie de
cocagne_, a miraculous succession of _plats couverts_, of delicate
surprise dishes, of exquisite wines.

\x93If Cousin Pons brings this through,\x94 said the President, addressing
his wife after Pons had departed, \x93we ought to settle an income upon him
equal to his salary at the theatre.\x94

\x93Certainly,\x94 said the lady; and Cecile was informed that if the proposed
suitor found favor in her eyes, she must undertake to induce the old
musician to accept a munificence in such bad taste.

Next day the President went to Berthier. He was anxious to make sure of
M. Frederic Brunner\x92s financial position. Berthier, forewarned by Mme.
de Marville, had asked his new client Schwab to come. Schwab the banker
was dazzled by the prospect of such a match for his friend (everybody
knows how deeply a German venerates social distinctions, so much so,
that in Germany a wife takes her husband\x92s (official) title, and is
the Frau General, the Frau Rath, and so forth)--Schwab therefore was as
accommodating as a collector who imagines that he is cheating a dealer.

\x93In the first place,\x94 said Cecile\x92s father, \x93as I shall make over my
estate of Marville to my daughter, I should wish the contract to be
drawn up on the dotal system. In that case, M. Brunner would invest a
million francs in land to increase the estate, and by settling the land
on his wife he would secure her and his children from any share in the
liabilities of the bank.\x94

Berthier stroked his chin. \x93He is coming on well, is M. le President,\x94
 thought he.

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

\x93There is a farm and pasture land worth twelve hundred thousand francs
in the market at this moment,\x94 remarked the President.

\x93If we take up shares in the Bank of France to the amount of a million
francs, that will be quite enough to guarantee our account,\x94 said
Schwab. \x93Fritz does not want to invest more than two million francs in
business; he will do as you wish, I am sure, M. le President.\x94

The President\x92s wife and daughter were almost wild with joy when he
brought home this news. Never, surely, did so rich a capture swim so
complacently into the nets of matrimony.

\x93You will be Mme. Brunner de Marville,\x94 said the parent, addressing his
child; \x93I will obtain permission for your husband to add the name to
his, and afterwards he can take out letters of naturalization. If I
should be a peer of France some day, he will succeed me!\x94

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

Pons and Schmucke, on their side, cleaned, swept, and dusted Pons\x92
museum rooms and furniture with the agility of sailors cleaning down
a man-of-war. There was not a speck of dust on the carved wood; not an
inch of brass but it glistened. The glasses over the pastels obscured
nothing of the work of Latour, Greuze, and Liotard (illustrious painter
of _The Chocolate Girl_), miracles of an art, alas! so fugitive. The
inimitable lustre of Florentine bronze took all the varying hues of
the light; the painted glass glowed with color. Every line shone
out brilliantly, every object threw in its phrase in a harmony of
masterpieces arranged by two musicians--both of whom alike had attained
to be poets.

With a tact which avoided the difficulties of a late appearance on the
scene of action, the women were the first to arrive; they wished to be
on their own ground. Pons introduced his friend Schmucke, who seemed
to his fair visitors to be an idiot; their heads were so full of the
eligible gentleman with the four millions of francs, that they paid but
little attention to the worthy Pons\x92 dissertations upon matters of which
they were completely ignorant.

They looked with indifferent eyes at Petitot\x92s enamels, spaced over
crimson velvet, set in three frames of marvelous workmanship. Flowers by
Van Huysum, David, and Heim; butterflies painted by Abraham Mignon;
Van Eycks, undoubted Cranachs and Albrecht Durers; the Giorgione, the
Sebastian del Piombo; Backhuijzen, Hobbema, Gericault, the rarities of
painting--none of these things so much as aroused their curiosity; they
were waiting for the sun to arise and shine upon these treasures. Still,
they were surprised by the beauty of some of the Etruscan trinkets and
the solid value of the snuff-boxes, and out of politeness they went into
ecstasies over some Florentine bronzes which they held in their hands
when Mme. Cibot announced M. Brunner! They did not turn; they took
advantage of a superb Venetian mirror framed in huge masses of carved
ebony to scan this phoenix of eligible young men.

Frederic, forewarned by Wilhelm, had made the most of the little hair
that remained to him. He wore a neat pair of trousers, a soft shade of
some dark color, a silk waistcoat of superlative elegance and the very
newest cut, a shirt with open-work, its linen hand-woven by a Friesland
woman, and a blue-and-white cravat. His watch chain, like the head of
his cane, came from Messrs. Florent and Chanor; and the coat, cut by old
Graff himself, was of the very finest cloth. The Suede gloves proclaimed
the man who had run through his mother\x92s fortune. You could have seen
the banker\x92s neat little brougham and pair of horses mirrored in the
surface of his speckless varnished boots, even if two pairs of sharp
ears had not already caught the sound of wheels outside in the Rue de
Normandie.

When the prodigal of twenty years is a kind of chrysalis from which
a banker emerges at the age of forty, the said banker is usually
an observer of human nature; and so much the more shrewd if, as in
Brunner\x92s case, he understands how to turn his German simplicity to good
account. He had assumed for the occasion the abstracted air of a man who
is hesitating between family life and the dissipations of bachelorhood.
This expression in a Frenchified German seemed to Cecile to be in the
highest degree romantic; the descendant of the Virlaz was a second
Werther in her eyes--where is the girl who will not allow herself to
weave a little novel about her marriage? Cecile thought herself the
happiest of women when Brunner, looking round at the magnificent works
of art so patiently collected during forty years, waxed enthusiastic,
and Pons, to his no small satisfaction, found an appreciative admirer of
his treasures for the first time in his life.

\x93He is poetical,\x94 the young lady said to herself; \x93he sees millions in
the things. A poet is a man that cannot count and leaves his wife to
look after his money--an easy man to manage and amuse with trifles.\x94

Every pane in the two windows was a square of Swiss painted glass; the
least of them was worth a thousand francs; and Pons possessed sixteen
of these unrivaled works of art for which amateurs seek so eagerly
nowadays. In 1815 the panes could be bought for six or ten francs
apiece. The value of the glorious collection of pictures, flawless great
works, authentic, untouched since they left the master\x92s hands, could
only be proved in the fiery furnace of a saleroom. Not a picture but
was set in a costly frame; there were frames of every kind--Venetians,
carved with heavy ornaments, like English plate of the present day;
Romans, distinguishable among the others for a certain dash that artists
call _flafla_; Spanish wreaths in bold relief; Flemings and Germans with
quaint figures, tortoise-shell frames inlaid with copper and brass and
mother-of-pearl and ivory; frames of ebony and boxwood in the styles of
Louis Treize, Louis Quatorze, Louis Quinze, and Louis Seize--in short,
it was a unique collection of the finest models. Pons, luckier than
the art museums of Dresden and Vienna, possessed a frame by the famous
Brustoloni--the Michael Angelo of wood-carvers.

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

The private view lasted for three hours. Brunner offered his arm when
Cecile went downstairs. As they descended slowly and discreetly, Cecile,
still talking fine art, wondered that M. Brunner should admire her
cousin\x92s gimcracks so much.

\x93Do you really think that these things that we have just seen are worth
a great deal of money?\x94

\x93Mademoiselle, if your cousin would sell his collection, I would give
eight hundred thousand francs for it this evening, and I should not make
a bad bargain. The pictures alone would fetch more than that at a public
sale.\x94

\x93Since you say so, I believe it,\x94 returned she; \x93the things took up so
much of your attention that it must be so.\x94

\x93On! mademoiselle!\x94 protested Brunner. \x93For all answer to your reproach,
I will ask your mother\x92s permission to call, so that I may have the
pleasure of seeing you again.\x94

\x93How clever she is, that \x91little girl\x92 of mine!\x94 thought the Presidente,
following closely upon her daughter\x92s heels. Aloud she said, \x93With the
greatest pleasure, monsieur. I hope that you will come at dinner-time
with our Cousin Pons. The President will be delighted to make your
acquaintance.--Thank you, cousin.\x94

The lady squeezed Pons\x92 arm with deep meaning; she could not have said
more if she had used the consecrated formula, \x93Let us swear an eternal
friendship.\x94 The glance which accompanied that \x93Thank you, cousin,\x94 was
a caress.

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

\x93Then you see no obstacle?\x94 said Pons.

\x93Oh!\x94 said Brunner, \x93she is an insignificant little thing, and the
mother is a trifle prim.--We shall see.\x94

\x93A handsome fortune one of these days.... More than a million--\x94

\x93Good-bye till Monday!\x94 interrupted the millionaire. \x93If you should
care to sell your collection of pictures, I would give you five or six
hundred thousand francs--\x94

\x93Ah!\x94 said Pons; he had no idea that he was so rich. \x93But they are my
great pleasure in life, and I could not bring myself to part with them.
I could only sell my collection to be delivered after my death.\x94

\x93Very well. We shall see.\x94

\x93Here we have two affairs afoot!\x94 said Pons; he was thinking only of the
marriage.

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

That evening Mme. de Marville went to ask advice of her father-in-law,
and found the whole Popinot family at the Camusots\x92 house. It was only
natural that a mother who had failed to capture an eldest son should be
tempted to take her little revenge; so Mme. de Marville threw out hints
of the splendid marriage that her Cecile was about to make.--\x93Whom can
Cecile be going to marry?\x94 was the question upon all lips. And Cecile\x92s
mother, without suspecting that she was betraying her secret, let
fall words and whispered confidences, afterwards supplemented by Mme.
Berthier, till gossip circulating in the bourgeois empyrean where
Pons accomplished his gastronomical evolutions took something like the
following form:

\x93Cecile de Marville is engaged to be married to a young German, a banker
from philanthropic motives, for he has four millions; he is like a hero
in a novel, a perfect Werther, charming and kind-hearted. He has sown
his wild oats, and he is distractedly in love with Cecile; it is a case
of love at first sight; and so much the more certain, since Cecile had
all Pons\x92 paintings of Madonnas for rivals,\x94 and so forth and so forth.

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

\x93A marriage is not an accomplished fact,\x94 she told Mme. Chiffreville,
\x93until you have been in the mayor\x92s office and the church. We have only
come as far as a personal interview; so I count upon your friendship to
say nothing of our hopes.\x94

\x93You are very fortunate, madame; marriages are so difficult to arrange
in these days.\x94

\x93What can one do? It was chance; but marriages are often made in that
way.\x94

\x93Ah! well. So you are going to marry Cecile?\x94 said Mme. Cardot.

\x93Yes,\x94 said Cecile\x92s mother, fully understanding the meaning of the
\x93so.\x94 \x93We were very particular, or Cecile would have been established
before this. But now we have found everything we wish: money, good
temper, good character, and good looks; and my sweet little girl
certainly deserves nothing less. M. Brunner is a charming young man,
most distinguished; he is fond of luxury, he knows life; he is wild
about Cecile, he loves her sincerely; and in spite of his three or four
millions, Cecile is going to accept him.--We had not looked so high for
her; still, store is no sore.\x94

\x93It was not so much the fortune as the affection inspired by my daughter
which decided us,\x94 the Presidente told Mme. Lebas. \x93M. Brunner is in
such a hurry that he wants the marriage to take place with the least
possible delay.\x94

\x93Is he a foreigner?\x94

\x93Yes, madame; but I am very fortunate, I confess. No, I shall not have
a son-in-law, but a son. M. Brunner\x92s delicacy has quite won our hearts.
No one would imagine how anxious he was to marry under the dotal system.
It is a great security for families. He is going to invest twelve
hundred thousand francs in grazing land, which will be added to Marville
some day.\x94

More variations followed on the morrow. For instance--M. Brunner was a
great lord, doing everything in lordly fashion; he did not haggle. If
M. de Marville could obtain letters of naturalization, qualifying M.
Brunner for an office under Government (and the Home Secretary surely
could strain a point for M. de Marville), his son-in-law would be a peer
of France. Nobody knew how much money M. Brunner possessed; \x93he had the
finest horses and the smartest carriages in Paris!\x94 and so on and so on.

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

Immediately after the interview in Pons\x92 museum, M. de Marville, at his
wife\x92s instance, begged the Home Secretary, his chief, and the attorney
for the crown to dine with him on the occasion of the introduction of
this phoenix of a son-in-law.

The three great personages accepted the invitation, albeit it was given
on short notice; they all saw the part that they were to play in the
family politics, and readily came to the father\x92s support. In France we
are usually pretty ready to assist the mother of marriageable daughters
to hook an eligible son-in-law. The Count and Countess Popinot likewise
lent their presence to complete the splendor of the occasion, although
they thought the invitation in questionable taste.

There were eleven in all. Cecile\x92s grandfather, old Camusot, came, of
course, with his wife to a family reunion purposely arranged to elicit a
proposal from M. Brunner.

The Camusot de Marvilles had given out that the guest of the evening
was one of the richest capitalists in Germany, a man of taste (he was in
love with \x93the little girl\x94), a future rival of the Nucingens, Kellers,
du Tillets, and their like.

\x93It is our day,\x94 said the Presidente with elaborate simplicity, when she
had named her guests one by one for the German whom she already regarded
as her son-in-law. \x93We have only a few intimate friends--first, my
husband\x92s father, who, as you know, is sure to be raised to the peerage;
M. le Comte and Mme. la Comtesse Popinot, whose son was not thought rich
enough for Cecile; the Home Secretary; our First President; our attorney
for the crown; our personal friends, in short.--We shall be obliged to
dine rather late to-night, because the Chamber is sitting, and people
cannot get away before six.\x94

Brunner looked significantly at Pons, and Pons rubbed his hands as if to
say, \x93Our friends, you see! _My_ friends!\x94

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

\x93Ah! are you learning German?\x94 asked Brunner, flushing red.

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

\x93Oh! how naughty you are!\x94 she cried; \x93it is too bad of you, monsieur,
to explore my hiding-places like this. I want to read Goethe in the
original,\x94 she added; \x93I have been learning German for two years.\x94

\x93Then the grammar must be very difficult to learn, for scarcely ten
pages have been cut--\x94 Brunner remarked with much candor.

Cecile, abashed, turned away to hide her blushes. A German cannot resist
a display of this kind; Brunner caught Cecile\x92s hand, made her turn, and
watched her confusion under his gaze, after the manner of the heroes of
the novels of Auguste Lafontaine of chaste memory.

\x93You are adorable,\x94 said he.

Cecile\x92s petulant gesture replied, \x93So are you--who could help liking
you?\x94

\x93It is all right, mamma,\x94 she whispered to her parent, who came up at
that moment with Pons.

The sight of a family party on these occasions is not to be described.
Everybody was well satisfied to see a mother put her hand on an eligible
son-in-law. Compliments, double-barreled and double-charged, were paid
to Brunner (who pretended to understand nothing); to Cecile, on whom
nothing was lost; and to the Presidente, who fished for them. Pons heard
the blood singing in his ears, the light of all the blazing gas-jets of
the theatre footlights seemed to be dazzling his eyes, when Cecile, in
a low voice and with the most ingenious circumspection, spoke of her
father\x92s plan of the annuity of twelve hundred francs. The old artist
positively declined the offer, bringing forward the value of his fortune
in furniture, only now made known to him by Brunner.

The Home Secretary, the First President, the attorney for the crown, the
Popinots, and those who had other engagements, all went; and before long
no one was left except M. Camusot senior, and Cardot the old notary, and
his assistant and son-in-law Berthier. Pons, worthy soul, looking round
and seeing no one but the family, blundered out a speech of thanks to
the President and his wife for the proposal which Cecile had just made
to him. So it is with those who are guided by their feelings; they
act upon impulse. Brunner, hearing of an annuity offered in this way,
thought that it had very much the look of a commission paid to Pons; he
made an Israelite\x92s return upon himself, his attitude told of more than
cool calculation.

Meanwhile Pons was saying to his astonished relations, \x93My collection or
its value will, in any case, go to your family, whether I come to terms
with our friend Brunner or keep it.\x94 The Camusots were amazed to hear
that Pons was so rich.

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

\x93I was telling mademoiselle,\x94 said he, \x93that M. Pons\x92 pictures were
worth that sum to _me_; but the prices of works of art have risen so
much of late, that no one can tell how much the collection might sell
for at public auction. The sixty pictures might fetch a million francs;
several that I saw the other day were worth fifty thousand apiece.\x94

\x93It is a fine thing to be your heir!\x94 remarked old Cardot, looking at
Pons.

\x93My heir is my Cousin Cecile here,\x94 answered Pons, insisting on the
relationship. There was a flutter of admiration at this.

\x93She will be a very rich heiress,\x94 laughed old Cardot, as he took his
departure.

Camusot senior, the President and his wife, Cecile, Brunner, Berthier,
and Pons were now left together; for it was assumed that the formal
demand for Cecile\x92s hand was about to be made. No sooner was Cardot
gone, indeed, than Brunner began with an inquiry which augured well.

\x93I think I understood,\x94 he said, turning to Mme. de Marville, \x93that
mademoiselle is your only daughter.\x94

\x93Certainly,\x94 the lady said proudly.

\x93Nobody will make any difficulties,\x94 Pons, good soul, put in by way of
encouraging Brunner to bring out his proposal.

But Brunner grew thoughtful, and an ominous silence brought on a
coolness of the strangest kind. The Presidente might have admitted that
her \x93little girl\x94 was subject to epileptic fits. The President, thinking
that Cecile ought not to be present, signed to her to go. She went.
Still Brunner said nothing. They all began to look at one another. The
situation was growing awkward.

Camusot senior, a man of experience, took the German to Mme. de
Marville\x92s room, ostensibly to show him Pons\x92 fan. He saw that some
difficulty had arisen, and signed to the rest to leave him alone with
Cecile\x92s suitor-designate.

\x93Here is the masterpiece,\x94 said Camusot, opening out the fan.

Brunner took it in his hand and looked at it. \x93It is worth five thousand
francs,\x94 he said after a moment.

\x93Did you not come here, sir, to ask for my granddaughter?\x94 inquired the
future peer of France.

\x93Yes, sir,\x94 said Brunner; \x93and I beg you to believe that no possible
marriage could be more flattering to my vanity. I shall never find any
one more charming nor more amiable, nor a young lady who answers to my
ideas like Mlle. Cecile; but--\x94

\x93Oh, no _buts_!\x94 old Camusot broke in; \x93or let us have the translation
of your \x91buts\x92 at once, my dear sir.\x94

\x93I am very glad, sir, that the matter has gone no further on either
side,\x94 Brunner answered gravely. \x93I had no idea that Mlle. Cecile was an
only daughter. Anybody else would consider this an advantage; but to me,
believe me, it is an insurmountable obstacle to--\x94

\x93What, sir!\x94 cried Camusot, amazed beyond measure. \x93Do you find a
positive drawback in an immense advantage? Your conduct is really
extraordinary; I should very much like to hear the explanation of it.\x94

\x93I came here this evening, sir,\x94 returned the German phlegmatically,
\x93intending to ask M. le President for his daughter\x92s hand. It was my
desire to give Mlle. Cecile a brilliant future by offering her so much
of my fortune as she would consent to accept. But an only daughter is
a child whose will is law to indulgent parents, who has never been
contradicted. I have had the opportunity of observing this in many
families, where parents worship divinities of this kind. And
your granddaughter is not only the idol of the house, but Mme. la
Presidente... you know what I mean. I have seen my father\x92s house turned
into a hell, sir, from this very cause. My stepmother, the source of
all my misfortunes, an only daughter, idolized by her parents, the most
charming betrothed imaginable, after marriage became a fiend incarnate.
I do not doubt that Mlle. Cecile is an exception to the rule; but I am
not a young man, I am forty years old, and the difference between our
ages entails difficulties which would put it out of my power to make
the young lady happy, when Mme. la Presidente always carried out her
daughter\x92s every wish and listened to her as if Mademoiselle was an
oracle. What right have I to expect Mlle. Cecile to change her habits
and ideas? Instead of a father and mother who indulge her every whim,
she would find an egotistic man of forty; if she should resist, the man
of forty would have the worst of it. So, as an honest man--I withdraw.
If there should be any need to explain my visit here, I desire to be
entirely sacrificed--\x94

\x93If these are your motives, sir,\x94 said the future peer of France,
\x93however singular they may be, they are plausible--\x94

\x93Do not call my sincerity in question, sir,\x94 Brunner interrupted
quickly. \x93If you know of a penniless girl, one of a large family, well
brought up but without fortune, as happens very often in France; and if
her character offers me security, I will marry her.\x94

A pause followed; Frederic Brunner left Cecile\x92s grandfather and
politely took leave of his host and hostess. When he was gone, Cecile
appeared, a living commentary upon her Werther\x92s leave-taking; she was
ghastly pale. She had hidden in her mother\x92s wardrobe and overheard the
whole conversation.

\x93Refused!...\x94 she said in a low voice for her mother\x92s ear.

\x93And why?\x94 asked the Presidente, fixing her eyes upon her embarrassed
father-in-law.

\x93Upon the fine pretext that an only daughter is a spoilt child,\x94 replied
that gentleman. \x93And he is not altogether wrong there,\x94 he added,
seizing an opportunity of putting the blame on the daughter-in-law, who
had worried him not a little for twenty years.

\x93It will kill my child!\x94 cried the Presidente, \x93and it is your doing!\x94
 she exclaimed, addressing Pons, as she supported her fainting daughter,
for Cecile thought well to make good her mother\x92s words by sinking into
her arms. The President and his wife carried Cecile to an easy-chair,
where she swooned outright. The grandfather rang for the servants.

\x93It is a plot of his weaving; I see it all now,\x94 said the infuriated
mother.

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

\x93Yes!\x94 said the lady, her eyes like two springs of green bile, \x93this
gentleman wished to repay a harmless joke by an insult. Who will believe
that that German was right in his mind? He is either an accomplice in
a wicked scheme of revenge, or he is crazy. I hope, M. Pons, that in
future you will spare us the annoyance of seeing you in the house where
you have tried to bring shame and dishonor.\x94

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

\x93Well! Are you still here, monster of ingratitude?\x94 cried she, turning
round on Pons, who was twirling his thumbs.--\x93Your master and I are
never at home, remember, if this gentleman calls,\x94 she continued,
turning to the servants.--\x93Jean, go for the doctor; and bring hartshorn,
Madeleine.\x94

In the Presidente\x92s eyes, the reason given by Brunner was simply an
excuse, there was something else behind; but, at the same time, the fact
that the marriage was broken off was only the more certain. A woman\x92s
mind works swiftly in great crises, and Mme. de Marville had hit at once
upon the one method of repairing the check. She chose to look upon it as
a scheme of revenge. This notion of ascribing a fiendish scheme to
Pons satisfied family honor. Faithful to her dislike of the cousin, she
treated a feminine suspicion as a fact. Women, generally speaking, hold
a creed peculiar to themselves, a code of their own; to them anything
which serves their interests or their passions is true. The Presidente
went a good deal further. In the course of the evening she talked
the President into her belief, and next morning found the magistrate
convinced of his cousin\x92s culpability.

Every one, no doubt, will condemn the lady\x92s horrible conduct; but what
mother in Mme. Camusot\x92s position will not do the same? Put the choice
between her own daughter and an alien, she will prefer to sacrifice the
honor of the latter. There are many ways of doing this, but the end in
view is the same.

The old musician fled down the staircase in haste; but he went slowly
along the boulevards to his theatre, he turned in mechanically at the
door, and mechanically he took his place and conducted the orchestra. In
the interval he gave such random answers to Schmucke\x92s questions, that
his old friend dissembled his fear that Pons\x92 mind had given way. To
so childlike a nature, the recent scene took the proportions of a
catastrophe. He had meant to make every one happy, and he had aroused
a terrible slumbering feeling of hate; everything had been turned
topsy-turvy. He had at last seen mortal hate in the Presidente\x92s eyes,
tones, and gesture.

On the morrow, Mme. Camusot de Marville made a great resolution;
the President likewise sanctioned the step now forced upon them by
circumstances. It was determined that the estate of Marville should be
settled upon Cecile at the time of her marriage, as well as the house in
the Rue de Hanovre and a hundred thousand francs. In the course of the
morning, the Presidente went to call upon the Comtesse Popinot; for she
saw plainly that nothing but a settled marriage could enable them
to recover after such a check. To the Comtesse Popinot she told the
shocking story of Pons\x92 revenge, Pons\x92 hideous hoax. It all seemed
probable enough when it came out that the marriage had been broken off
simply on the pretext that Cecile was an only daughter. The Presidente
next dwelt artfully upon the advantage of adding \x93de Marville\x94 to the
name of Popinot; and the immense dowry. At the present price fetched by
land in Normandy, at two per cent, the property represented nine hundred
thousand francs, and the house in the Rue de Hanovre about two hundred
and fifty thousand. No reasonable family could refuse such an alliance.
The Comte and Comtesse Popinot accepted; and as they were now touched by
the honor of the family which they were about to enter, they promised to
help explain away yesterday evening\x92s mishap.

And now in the house of the elder Camusot, before the very persons who
had heard Mme. de Marville singing Frederic Brunner\x92s praises but a
few days ago, that lady, to whom nobody ventured to speak on the topic,
plunged courageously into explanations.

\x93Really, nowadays\x94 (she said), \x93one could not be too careful if a
marriage was in question, especially if one had to do with foreigners.\x94

\x93And why, madame?\x94

\x93What has happened to you?\x94 asked Mme. Chiffreville.

\x93Do you not know about our adventure with that Brunner, who had the
audacity to aspire to marry Cecile? His father was a German that kept a
wine-shop, and his uncle is a dealer in rabbit-skins!\x94

\x93Is it possible? So clear-sighted as you are!...\x94 murmured a lady.

\x93These adventurers are so cunning. But we found out everything through
Berthier. His friend is a beggar that plays the flute. He is friendly
with a person who lets furnished lodgings in the Rue du Mail and some
tailor or other.... We found out that he had led a most disreputable
life, and no amount of fortune would be enough for a scamp that has run
through his mother\x92s property.\x94

\x93Why, Mlle. de Marville would have been wretched!\x94 said Mme. Berthier.

\x93How did he come to your house?\x94 asked old Mme. Lebas.

\x93It was M. Pons. Out of revenge, he introduced this fine gentleman
to us, to make us ridiculous.... This Brunner (it is the same name
as Fontaine in French)--this Brunner, that was made out to be such a
grandee, has poor enough health, he is bald, and his teeth are bad. The
first sight of him was enough for me; I distrusted him from the first.\x94

\x93But how about the great fortune that you spoke of?\x94 a young married
woman asked shyly.

\x93The fortune was not nearly so large as they said. These tailors and the
landlord and he all scraped the money together among them, and put all
their savings into this bank that they are starting. What is a bank for
those that begin in these days? Simply a license to ruin themselves.
A banker\x92s wife may lie down at night a millionaire and wake up in the
morning with nothing but her settlement. At first word, at the very
first sight of him, we made up our minds about this gentleman--he is not
one of us. You can tell by his gloves, by his waistcoat, that he is
a working man, the son of a man that kept a pot-house somewhere in
Germany; he has not the instincts of a gentleman; he drinks beer, and
he smokes--smokes? ah! madame, _twenty-five pipes a day!_... What would
have become of poor Lili? ... It makes me shudder even now to think of
it. God has indeed preserved us! And besides, Cecile never liked him....
Who would have expected such a trick from a relative, an old friend of
the house that had dined with us twice a week for twenty years? We have
loaded him with benefits, and he played his game so well, that he said
Cecile was his heir before the Keeper of the Seals and the Attorney
General and the Home Secretary!... That Brunner and M. Pons had their
story ready, and each of them said that the other was worth millions!...
No, I do assure you, all of you would have been taken in by an artist\x92s
hoax like that.\x94

In a few weeks\x92 time, the united forces of the Camusot and Popinot
families gained an easy victory in the world, for nobody undertook
to defend the unfortunate Pons, that parasite, that curmudgeon, that
skinflint, that smooth-faced humbug, on whom everybody heaped scorn; he
was a viper cherished in the bosom of the family, he had not his match
for spite, he was a dangerous mountebank whom nobody ought to mention.



About a month after the perfidious Werther\x92s withdrawal, poor Pons left
his bed for the first time after an attack of nervous fever, and walked
along the sunny side of the street leaning on Schmucke\x92s arm. Nobody in
the Boulevard du Temple laughed at the \x93pair of nutcrackers,\x94 for one of
the old men looked so shattered, and the other so touchingly careful
of his invalid friend. By the time that they reached the Boulevard
Poissonniere, a little color came back to Pons\x92 face; he was breathing
the air of the boulevards, he felt the vitalizing power of the
atmosphere of the crowded street, the life-giving property of the air
that is noticeable in quarters where human life abounds; in the filthy
Roman Ghetto, for instance, with its swarming Jewish population, where
malaria is unknown. Perhaps, too, the sight of the streets, the great
spectacle of Paris, the daily pleasure of his life, did the invalid
good. They walked on side by side, though Pons now and again left his
friend to look at the shop windows. Opposite the Theatre des Varietes he
saw Count Popinot, and went up to him very respectfully, for of all men
Pons esteemed and venerated the ex-Minister.

The peer of France answered him severely:

\x93I am at a loss to understand, sir, how you can have no more tact than
to speak to a near connection of a family whom you tried to brand with
shame and ridicule by a trick which no one but an artist could devise.
Understand this, sir, that from to-day we must be complete strangers
to each other. Mme. la Comtesse Popinot, like every one else, feels
indignant at your behavior to the Marvilles.\x94

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

\x93Vat is it, mine boor friend?\x94 exclaimed Schmucke, seeing how white Pons
had grown.

\x93It is a fresh stab in the heart,\x94 Pons replied, leaning heavily on
Schmucke\x92s arm. \x93I think that no one, save God in heaven, can have any
right to do good, and that is why all those who meddle in His work are
so cruelly punished.\x94

The old artist\x92s sarcasm was uttered with a supreme effort; he was
trying, excellent creature, to quiet the dismay visible in Schmucke\x92s
face.

\x93So I dink,\x94 Schmucke replied simply.

Pons could not understand it. Neither the Camusots nor the Popinots had
sent him notice of Cecile\x92s wedding.

On the Boulevard des Italiens Pons saw M. Cardot coming towards them.
Warned by Count Popinot\x92s allocution, Pons was very careful not to
accost the old acquaintance with whom he had dined once a fortnight for
the last year; he lifted his hat, but the other, mayor and deputy
of Paris, threw him an indignant glance and went by. Pons turned to
Schmucke.

\x93Do go and ask him what it is that they all have against me,\x94 he said to
the friend who knew all the details of the catastrophe that Pons could
tell him.

\x93Mennseir,\x94 Schmucke began diplomatically, \x93mine friend Bons is chust
recofering from an illness; you haf no doubt fail to rekognize him?\x94

\x93Not in the least.\x94

\x93But mit vat kann you rebroach him?\x94

\x93You have a monster of ingratitude for a friend, sir; if he is still
alive, it is because nothing kills ill weeds. People do well to mistrust
artists; they are as mischievous and spiteful as monkeys. This friend
of yours tried to dishonor his own family, and to blight a young girl\x92s
character, in revenge for a harmless joke. I wish to have nothing to do
with him; I shall do my best to forget that I have known him, or that
such a man exists. All the members of his family and my own share the
wish, sir, so do all the persons who once did the said Pons the honor of
receiving him.\x94

\x93Boot, mennseir, you are a reasonaple mann; gif you vill bermit me, I
shall exblain die affair--\x94

\x93You are quite at liberty to remain his friend, sir, if you are minded
that way,\x94 returned Cardot, \x93but you need go no further; for I must give
you warning that in my opinion those who try to excuse or defend his
conduct are just as much to blame.\x94

\x93To chustify it?\x94

\x93Yes, for his conduct can neither be justified nor qualified.\x94 And with
that word, the deputy for the Seine went his way; he would not hear
another syllable.

\x93I have two powers in the State against me,\x94 smiled poor Pons, when
Schmucke had repeated these savage speeches.

\x93Eferpody is against us,\x94 Schmucke answered dolorously. \x93Let us go avay
pefore we shall meed oder fools.\x94

Never before in the course of a truly ovine life had Schmucke uttered
such words as these. Never before had his almost divine meekness been
ruffled. He had smiled childlike on all the mischances that befell him,
but he could not look and see his sublime Pons maltreated; his Pons, his
unknown Aristides, the genius resigned to his lot, the nature that knew
no bitterness, the treasury of kindness, the heart of gold!...
Alceste\x92s indignation filled Schmucke\x92s soul--he was moved to call Pons\x92
amphitryons \x93fools.\x94 For his pacific nature that impulse equaled the
wrath of Roland.

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

In the Boulevard Poissonniere, Pons caught sight of that very M.
Cardot\x92s daughter, who, young as she was, had learned to be charitable
to others through trouble of her own. Her husband knew a secret by which
he kept her in bondage. She was the only one among Pons\x92 hostesses
whom he called by her Christian name; he addressed Mme. Berthier as
\x93Felicie,\x94 and he thought that she understood him. The gentle creature
seemed to be distressed by the sight of Cousin Pons, as he was called
(though he was in no way related to the family of the second wife of a
cousin by marriage). There was no help for it, however; Felicie Berthier
stopped to speak to the invalid.

\x93I did not think you were cruel, cousin,\x94 she said; \x93but if even a
quarter of all that I hear of you is true, you are very false.... Oh!
do not justify yourself,\x94 she added quickly, seeing Pons\x92 significant
gesture, \x93it is useless, for two reasons. In the first place, I have no
right to accuse or judge or condemn anybody, for I myself know so well
how much may be said for those who seem to be most guilty; secondly,
your explanation would do no good. M. Berthier drew up the marriage
contract for Mlle. de Marville and the Vicomte Popinot; he is so
exasperated, that if he knew that I had so much as spoken one word to
you, one word for the last time, he would scold me. Everybody is against
you.\x94

\x93So it seems indeed, madame,\x94 Pons said, his voice shaking as he lifted
his hat respectfully.

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

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

Pons was never to take a walk again. From one illness he fell into
another. He was of a sanguine-bilious temperament, the bile passed into
his blood, and a violent liver attack was the result. He had never known
a day\x92s illness in his life till a month ago; he had never consulted a
doctor; so La Cibot, with almost motherly care and intentions at first
of the very best, called in \x93the doctor of the quarter.\x94

In every quarter of Paris there is a doctor whose name and address are
only known to the working classes, to the little tradespeople and the
porters, and in consequence he is called \x93the doctor of the quarter.\x94
 He undertakes confinement cases, he lets blood, he is in the medical
profession pretty much what the \x93general servant\x94 of the advertising
column is in the scale of domestic service. He must perforce be kind
to the poor, and tolerably expert by reason of much practice, and he
is generally popular. Dr. Poulain, called in by Mme. Cibot, gave an
inattentive ear to the old musician\x92s complainings. Pons groaned out
that his skin itched; he had scratched himself all night long, till he
could scarcely feel. The look of his eyes, with the yellow circles about
them, corroborated the symptoms.

\x93Had you some violent shock a couple of days ago?\x94 the doctor asked the
patient.

\x93Yes, alas!\x94

\x93You have the same complaint that this gentleman was threatened with,\x94
 said Dr. Poulain, looking at Schmucke as he spoke; \x93it is an attack
of jaundice, but you will soon get over it,\x94 he added, as he wrote a
prescription.

But in spite of that comfortable phrase, the doctor\x92s eyes had told
another tale as he looked professionally at the patient; and the
death-sentence, though hidden under stereotyped compassion, can always
be read by those who wish to know the truth. Mme. Cibot gave a spy\x92s
glance at the doctor, and read his thought; his bedside manner did not
deceive her; she followed him out of the room.

\x93Do you think he will get over it?\x94 asked Mme. Cibot, at the stairhead.

\x93My dear Mme. Cibot, your lodger is a dead man; not because of the bile
in the system, but because his vitality is low. Still, with great care,
your patient may pull through. Somebody ought to take him away for a
change--\x94

\x93How is he to go?\x94 asked Mme. Cibot. \x93He has nothing to live upon but
his salary; his friend has just a little money from some great ladies,
very charitable ladies, in return for his services, it seems. They are
two children. I have looked after them for nine years.\x94

\x93I spend my life watching people die, not of their disease, but of
another bad and incurable complaint--the want of money,\x94 said the
doctor. \x93How often it happens that so far from taking a fee, I am
obliged to leave a five-franc piece on the mantel-shelf when I go--\x94

\x93Poor, dear M. Poulain!\x94 cried Mme. Cibot. \x93Ah, if you hadn\x92t only
the hundred thousand livres a year, what some stingy folks has in
the quarter (regular devils from hell they are), you would be like
Providence on earth.\x94

Dr. Poulain had made the little practice, by which he made a bare
subsistence, chiefly by winning the esteem of the porters\x92 lodges in his
district. So he raised his eyes to heaven and thanked Mme. Cibot with a
solemn face worthy of Tartuffe.

\x93Then you think that with careful nursing our dear patient will get
better, my dear M. Poulain?\x94

\x93Yes, if this shock has not been too much for him.\x94

\x93Poor man! who can have vexed him? There isn\x92t nobody like him on earth
except his friend M. Schmucke. I will find out what is the matter, and
I will undertake to give them that upset my gentleman a hauling over the
coals--\x94

\x93Look here, my dear Mme. Cibot,\x94 said the doctor as they stood in
the gateway, \x93one of the principal symptoms of his complaint is great
irritability; and as it is hardly to be supposed that he can afford a
nurse, the task of nursing him will fall to you. So--\x94

\x93Are you talking of Mouchieu Ponsh?\x94 asked the marine store-dealer. He
was sitting smoking on the curb-post in the gateway, and now he rose to
join in the conversation.

\x93Yes, Daddy Remonencq.\x94

\x93All right,\x94 said Remonencq, \x93ash to moneysh, he ish better off than
Mouchieu Monishtrol and the big men in the curioshity line. I know
enough in the art line to tell you thish--the dear man has treasursh!\x94
 he spoke with a broad Auvergne dialect.

\x93Look here, I thought you were laughing at me the other day when my
gentlemen were out and I showed you the old rubbish upstairs,\x94 said Mme.
Cibot.

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

In the time of the Empire, when men paid considerable attention to their
hair, one of the first coiffeurs of the day came out of a house where
he had just been dressing a pretty woman\x92s head. This artist in question
enjoyed the custom of all the lower floor inmates of the house;
and among these, there flourished an elderly bachelor guarded by a
housekeeper who detested her master\x92s next-of-kin. The _ci-devant_ young
man, falling seriously ill, the most famous of doctors of the day (they
were not as yet styled the \x93princes of science\x94) had been called in to
consult upon his case; and it so chanced that the learned gentlemen were
taking leave of one another in the gateway just as the hairdresser came
out. They were talking as doctors usually talk among themselves when
the farce of a consultation is over. \x93He is a dead man,\x94 quoth Dr.
Haudry.--\x93He had not a month to live,\x94 added Desplein, \x93unless a miracle
takes place.\x94--These were the words overheard by the hairdresser.

Like all hairdressers, he kept up a good understanding with his
customers\x92 servants. Prodigious greed sent the man upstairs again;
he mounted to the _ci-devant_ young man\x92s apartment, and promised the
servant-mistress a tolerably handsome commission to persuade her master
to sink a large portion of his money in an annuity. The dying bachelor,
fifty-six by count of years, and twice as old as his age by reason of
amorous campaigns, owned, among other property, a splendid house in
the Rue de Richelieu, worth at that time about two hundred and fifty
thousand francs. It was this house that the hairdresser coveted; and
on agreement to pay an annuity of thirty thousand francs so long as the
bachelor lived, it passed into his hands. This happened in 1806. And
in this year 1846 the hairdresser is still paying that annuity. He has
retired from business, he is seventy years old; the _ci-devant_ young
man is in his dotage; and as he has married his Mme. Evrard, he may last
for a long while yet. As the hairdresser gave the woman thirty thousand
francs, his bit of real estate has cost him, first and last, more than
a million, and the house at this day is worth eight or nine hundred
thousand francs.

Like the hairdresser, Remonencq the Auvergnat had overheard Brunner\x92s
parting remark in the gateway on the day of Cecile\x92s first interview
with that phoenix of eligible men. Remonencq at once longed to gain a
sight of Pons\x92 museum; and as he lived on good terms with his neighbors
the Cibots, it was not very long before the opportunity came one day
when the friends were out. The sight of such treasures dazzled him; he
saw a \x93good haul,\x94 in dealers\x92 phrase, which being interpreted means a
chance to steal a fortune. He had been meditating this for five or six
days.

\x93I am sho far from joking,\x94 he said, in reply to Mme. Cibot\x92s remark,
\x93that we will talk the thing over; and if the good shentleman will take
an annuity, of fifty thousand francsh, I will shtand a hamper of wine,
if--\x94

\x93Fifty thousand francs!\x94 interrupted the doctor; \x93what are you
thinking about? Why, if the good man is so well off as that, with me in
attendance, and Mme. Cibot to nurse him, he may get better--for liver
complaint is a disease that attacks strong constitutions.\x94

\x93Fifty, did I shay? Why, a shentleman here, on your very doorshtep,
offered him sheven hundred thoushand francsh, shimply for the pictursh,
_fouchtra_!\x94

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

\x93Oh, come! we must not pay any attention to such idle tales,\x94 said the
doctor, well pleased, however, to find that his patient could afford to
pay for his visits.

\x93If my dear Mme. Cibot, here, would let me come and bring an ekshpert
(shinsh the shentleman upshtairs ish in bed), I will shertainly find the
money in a couple of hoursh, even if sheven hundred thousand francsh ish
in queshtion--\x94

\x93All right, my friend,\x94 said the doctor. \x93Now, Mme. Cibot, be careful
never to contradict the invalid. You must be prepared to be very patient
with him, for he will find everything irritating and wearisome, even
your services; nothing will please him; you must expect grumbling--\x94

\x93He will be uncommonly hard to please,\x94 said La Cibot.

\x93Look here, mind what I tell you,\x94 the doctor said in a tone of
authority, \x93M. Pons\x92 life is in the hands of those that nurse him; I
shall come perhaps twice a day. I shall take him first on my round.\x94

The doctor\x92s profound indifference to the fate of a poor patient had
suddenly given place to a most tender solicitude when he saw that
the speculator was serious, and that there was a possible fortune in
question.

\x93He will be nursed like a king,\x94 said Madame Cibot, forcing up
enthusiasm. She waited till the doctor turned the corner into the Rue
Charlot; then she fell to talking again with the dealer in old iron.
Remonencq had finished smoking his pipe, and stood in the doorway of his
shop, leaning against the frame; he had purposely taken this position;
he meant the portress to come to him.

The shop had once been a cafe. Nothing had been changed there since the
Auvergnat discovered it and took over the lease; you could still read
\x93Cafe de Normandie\x94 on the strip left above the windows in all
modern shops. Remonencq had found somebody, probably a housepainter\x92s
apprentice, who did the work for nothing, to paint another inscription
in the remaining space below--\x93REMONENCQ,\x94 it ran, \x93DEALER IN MARINE
STORES, FURNITURE BOUGHT\x94--painted in small black letters. All the
mirrors, tables, seats, shelves, and fittings of the Cafe de Normandie
had been sold, as might have been expected, before Remonencq took
possession of the shop as it stood, paying a yearly rent of six hundred
francs for the place, with a back shop, a kitchen, and a single room
above, where the head-waiter used to sleep, for the house belonging to
the Cafe de Normandie was let separately. Of the former splendor of
the cafe, nothing now remained save the plain light green paper on the
walls, and the strong iron bolts and bars of the shop-front.

When Remonencq came hither in 1831, after the Revolution of July, he
began by displaying a selection of broken doorbells, cracked plates,
old iron, and the obsolete scales and weights abolished by a Government
which alone fails to carry out its own regulations, for pence and half
pence of the time of Louis XVI. are still in circulation. After a time
this Auvergnat, a match for five ordinary Auvergnats, bought up old
saucepans and kettles, old picture-frames, old copper, and chipped
china. Gradually, as the shop was emptied and filled, the quality of the
stock-in-trade improved, like Nicolet\x92s farces. Remonencq persisted in
an unfailing and prodigiously profitable martingale, a \x93system\x94 which
any philosophical idler may study as he watches the increasing value of
the stock kept by this intelligent class of trader. Picture-frames and
copper succeed to tin-ware, argand lamps, and damaged crockery; china
marks the next transition; and after no long tarriance in the \x93omnium
gatherum\x94 stage, the shop becomes a museum. Some day or other the
dusty windows are cleaned, the interior is restored, the Auvergnat
relinquishes velveteen and jackets for a great-coat, and there he sits
like a dragon guarding his treasure, surrounded by masterpieces! He is a
cunning connoisseur by this time; he has increased his capital tenfold;
he is not to be cheated; he knows the tricks of the trade. The monster
among his treasures looks like some old hag among a score of young girls
that she offers to the public. Beauty and miracles of art are alike
indifferent to him; subtle and dense as he is, he has a keen eye to
profits, he talks roughly to those who know less than he does; he has
learned to act a part, he pretends to love his pictures, or again he
lets you know the price he himself gave for the things, he offers to let
you see the memoranda of the sale. He is a Proteus; in one hour he can
be Jocrisse, Janot, _Queue-rouge_, Mondor, Hapagon, or Nicodeme.

The third year found armor, and old pictures, and some tolerably fine
clocks in Remonencq\x92s shop. He sent for his sister, and La Remonencq
came on foot all the way from Auvergne to take charge of the shop while
her brother was away. A big and very ugly woman, dressed like a Japanese
idol, a half-idiotic creature with a vague, staring gaze she would not
bate a centime of the prices fixed by her brother. In the intervals
of business she did the work of the house, and solved the apparently
insoluble problem--how to live on \x93the mists of the Seine.\x94 The
Remonencqs\x92 diet consisted of bread and herrings, with the outside
leaves of lettuce or vegetable refuse selected from the heaps deposited
in the kennel before the doors of eating-houses. The two between them
did not spend more than fivepence a day on food (bread included), and La
Remonencq earned the money by sewing or spinning.

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

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

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

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

In personal appearance Remonencq was short and thin; his little
eyes were set in his head in porcine fashion; a Jew\x92s slyness and
concentrated greed looked out of those dull blue circles, though in his
case the false humility that masks the Hebrew\x92s unfathomed contempt for
the Gentile was lacking.

The relations between the Cibots and the Remonencqs were those of
benefactors and recipients. Mme. Cibot, convinced that the Auvergnats
were wretchedly poor, used to let them have the remainder of \x93her
gentlemen\x92s\x94 dinners at ridiculous prices. The Remonencqs would buy
a pound of broken bread, crusts and crumbs, for a farthing, a
porringer-full of cold potatoes for something less, and other scraps in
proportion. Remonencq shrewdly allowed them to believe that he was
not in business on his own account, he worked for Monistrol, the rich
shopkeepers preyed upon him, he said, and the Cibots felt sincerely
sorry for Remonencq. The velveteen jacket, waistcoat, and trousers,
particularly affected by Auvergnats, were covered with patches of
Cibot\x92s making, and not a penny had the little tailor charged for
repairs which kept the three garments together after eleven years of
wear.

Thus we see that all Jews are not in Israel.

\x93You are not laughing at me, Remonencq, are you?\x94 asked the portress.
\x93Is it possible that M. Pons has such a fortune, living as he does?
There is not a hundred francs in the place--\x94

\x93Amateursh are all like that,\x94 Remonencq remarked sententiously.

\x93Then do you think that my gentleman has worth of seven hundred thousand
francs, eh?--\x94

\x93In pictures alone,\x94 continued Remonencq (it is needless, for the
sake of clearness in the story, to give any further specimens of his
frightful dialect). \x93If he would take fifty thousand francs for one up
there that I know of, I would find the money if I had to hang myself.
Do you remember those little frames full of enameled copper on crimson
velvet, hanging among the portraits?... Well, those are Petitot\x92s
enamels; and there is a cabinet minister as used to be a druggist that
will give three thousand francs apiece for them.\x94

La Cibot\x92s eyes opened wide. \x93There are thirty of them in the pair of
frames!\x94 she said.

\x93Very well, you can judge for yourself how much he is worth.\x94

Mme. Cibot\x92s head was swimming; she wheeled round. In a moment came the
thought that she would have a legacy, _she_ would sleep sound on old
Pons\x92 will, like the other servant-mistresses whose annuities had
aroused such envy in the Marais. Her thoughts flew to some commune in
the neighborhood of Paris; she saw herself strutting proudly about her
house in the country, looking after her garden and poultry yard, ending
her days, served like a queen, along with her poor dear Cibot, who
deserved such good fortune, like all angelic creatures whom nobody knows
nor appreciates.

Her abrupt, unthinking movement told Remonencq that success was sure.
In the _chineur\x92s_ way of business--the _chineur_, be it explained, goes
about the country picking up bargains at the expense of the ignorant--in
the _chineur\x92s_ way of business, the one real difficulty is the problem
of gaining an entrance to a house. No one can imagine the Scapin\x92s
roguery, the tricks of a Sganarelle, the wiles of a Dorine by which the
_chineur_ contrives to make a footing for himself. These comedies are
as good as a play, and founded indeed on the old stock theme of the
dishonesty of servants. For thirty francs in money or goods, servants,
and especially country servants, will sometimes conclude a bargain on
which the _chineur_ makes a profit of a thousand or two thousand francs.
If we could but know the history of such and such a service of Sevres
porcelain, _pate tendre_, we should find that all the intellect, all the
diplomatic subtlety displayed at Munster, Nimeguen, Utrecht, Ryswick,
and Vienna was surpassed by the _chineur_. His is the more frank comedy;
his methods of action fathom depths of personal interest quite as
profound as any that plenipotentiaries can explore in their difficult
search for any means of breaking up the best cemented alliances.

\x93I have set La Cibot nicely on fire,\x94 Remonencq told his sister, when
she came to take up her position again on the ramshackle chair. \x93And
now,\x94 he continued, \x93I shall go to consult the only man that knows, our
Jew, a good sort of Jew that did not ask more than fifteen per cent of
us for his money.\x94

Remonencq had read La Cibot\x92s heart. To will is to act with women of her
stamp. Let them see the end in view; they will stick at nothing to gain
it, and pass from scrupulous honesty to the last degree of scoundrelism
in the twinkling of an eye. Honesty, like most dispositions of mind, is
divided into two classes--negative and positive. La Cibot\x92s honesty was
of the negative order; she and her like are honest until they see their
way clear to gain money belonging to somebody else. Positive honesty,
the honesty of the bank collector, can wade knee-deep through
temptations.

A torrent of evil thoughts invaded La Cibot\x92s heart and brain so soon
as Remonencq\x92s diabolical suggestion opened the flood-gates of
self-interest. La Cibot climbed, or, to be more accurate, fled up the
stairs, opened the door on the landing, and showed a face disguised in
false solicitude in the doorway of the room where Pons and Schmucke
were bemoaning themselves. As soon as she came in, Schmucke made her a
warning sign; for, true friend and sublime German that he was, he too
had read the doctor\x92s eyes, and he was afraid that Mme. Cibot might
repeat the verdict. Mme. Cibot answered by a shake of the head
indicative of deep woe.

\x93Well, my dear monsieur,\x94 asked she, \x93how are you feeling?\x94 She sat down
on the foot of the bed, hands on hips, and fixed her eyes lovingly upon
the patient; but what a glitter of metal there was in them, a terrible,
tiger-like gleam if any one had watched her.

\x93I feel very ill,\x94 answered poor Pons. \x93I have not the slightest
appetite left.--Oh! the world, the world!\x94 he groaned, squeezing
Schmucke\x92s hand. Schmucke was sitting by his bedside, and doubtless the
sick man was talking of the causes of his illness.--\x93I should have done
far better to follow your advice, my good Schmucke, and dined here every
day, and given up going into this society, that has fallen on me with
all its weight, like a tumbril cart crushing an egg! And why?\x94

\x93Come, come, don\x92t complain, M. Pons,\x94 said La Cibot; \x93the doctor told
me just how it is--\x94

Schmucke tugged at her gown.--\x93And you will pull through,\x94 she
continued, \x93only we must take great care of you. Be easy, you have a
good friend beside you, and without boasting, a woman as will nurse you
like a mother nurses her first child. I nursed Cibot round once when
Dr. Poulain had given him over; he had the shroud up to his eyes, as the
saying is, and they gave him up for dead. Well, well, you have not come
to that yet, God be thanked, ill though you may be. Count on me; I would
pull you through all by myself, I would! Keep still, don\x92t you fidget
like that.\x94

She pulled the coverlet over the patient\x92s hands as she spoke.

\x93There, sonny! M. Schmucke and I will sit up with you of nights. A
prince won\x92t be no better nursed... and besides, you needn\x92t refuse
yourself nothing that\x92s necessary, you can afford it.--I have just been
talking things over with Cibot, for what would he do without me, poor
dear?--Well, and I talked him round; we are both so fond of you, that he
will let me stop up with you of a night. And that is a good deal to ask
of a man like him, for he is as fond of me as ever he was the day we
were married. I don\x92t know how it is. It is the lodge, you see; we are
always there together! Don\x92t you throw off the things like that!\x94 she
cried, making a dash for the bedhead to draw the coverlet over Pons\x92
chest. \x93If you are not good, and don\x92t do just as Dr. Poulain says--and
Dr. Poulain is the image of Providence on earth--I will have no more to
do with you. You must do as I tell you--\x94

\x93Yes, Montame Zipod, he vill do vat you dell him,\x94 put in Schmucke; \x93he
vants to lif for his boor friend Schmucke\x92s sake, I\x92ll pe pound.\x94

\x93And of all things, don\x92t fidget yourself,\x94 continued La Cibot, \x93for
your illness makes you quite bad enough without your making it worse for
want of patience. God sends us our troubles, my dear good gentlemen; He
punishes us for our sins. Haven\x92t you nothing to reproach yourself with?
some poor little bit of a fault or other?\x94

The invalid shook his head.

\x93Oh! go on! You were young once, you had your fling, there is some
love-child of yours somewhere--cold, and starving, and homeless.... What
monsters men are! Their love doesn\x92t last only for a day, and then in
a jiffy they forget, they don\x92t so much as think of the child at the
breast for months.... Poor women!\x94

\x93But no one has ever loved me except Schmucke and my mother,\x94 poor Pons
broke in sadly.

\x93Oh! come, you aren\x92t no saint! You were young in your time, and a
fine-looking young fellow you must have been at twenty. I should have
fallen in love with you myself, so nice as you are--\x94

\x93I always was as ugly as a toad,\x94 Pons put in desperately.

\x93You say that because you are modest; nobody can\x92t say that you aren\x92t
modest.\x94

\x93My dear Mme. Cibot, _no_, I tell you. I always was ugly, and I never
was loved in my life.\x94

\x93You, indeed!\x94 cried the portress. \x93You want to make me believe at this
time of day that you are as innocent as a young maid at your time of
life. Tell that to your granny! A musician at a theatre too! Why, if a
woman told me that, I wouldn\x92t believe her.\x94

\x93Montame Zipod, you irritate him!\x94 cried Schmucke, seeing that Pons was
writhing under the bedclothes.

\x93You hold your tongue too! You are a pair of old libertines. If you
were ugly, it don\x92t make no difference; there was never so ugly a
saucepan-lid but it found a pot to match, as the saying is. There is
Cibot, he got one of the handsomest oyster-women in Paris to fall in
love with him, and you are infinitely better looking than him! You are
a nice pair, you are! Come, now, you have sown your wild oats, and God
will punish you for deserting your children, like Abraham--\x94

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

\x93Do lie quiet; if you have, it won\x92t prevent you from living as long as
Methuselah.\x94

\x93Then, pray let me be quiet!\x94 groaned Pons. \x93I have never known what it
is to be loved. I have had no child; I am alone in the world.\x94

\x93Really, eh?\x94 returned the portress. \x93You are so kind, and that is what
women like, you see--it draws them--and it looked to me impossible that
when you were in your prime--\x94

\x93Take her away,\x94 Pons whispered to Schmucke; \x93she sets my nerves on
edge.\x94

\x93Then there\x92s M. Schmucke, he has children. You old bachelors are not
all like that--\x94

\x93_I!_\x94 cried Schmucke, springing to his feet, \x93vy!--\x94

\x93Come, then, you have none to come after you either, eh? You both sprung
up out of the earth like mushrooms--\x94

\x93Look here, komm mit me,\x94 said Schmucke. The good German manfully took
Mme. Cibot by the waist and carried her off into the next room, in spite
of her exclamations.

\x93At your age, you would not take advantage of a defenceless woman!\x94
 cried La Cibot, struggling in his arms.

\x93Don\x92t make a noise!\x94

\x93You too, the better one of the two!\x94 returned La Cibot. \x93Ah! it is my
fault for talking about love to two old men who have never had nothing
to do with women. I have roused your passions,\x94 cried she, as Schmucke\x92s
eyes glittered with wrath. \x93Help! help! police!\x94

\x93You are a stoopid!\x94 said the German. \x93Look here, vat tid de toctor
say?\x94

\x93You are a ruffian to treat me so,\x94 wept La Cibot, now released,--\x93me
that would go through fire and water for you both! Ah! well, well, they
say that that is the way with men--and true it is! There is my poor
Cibot, _he_ would not be rough with me like this.... And I treated you
like my children, for I have none of my own; and yesterday, yes, only
yesterday I said to Cibot, \x91God knew well what He was doing, dear,\x92
I said, \x91when He refused us children, for I have two children there
upstairs.\x92 By the holy crucifix and the soul of my mother, that was what
I said to him--\x94

\x93Eh! but vat did der doctor say?\x94 Schmucke demanded furiously, stamping
on the floor for the first time in his life.

\x93Well,\x94 said Mme. Cibot, drawing Schmucke into the dining-room, \x93he just
said this--that our dear, darling love lying ill there would die if he
wasn\x92t carefully nursed; but I am here, in spite of all your brutality,
for brutal you were, you that I thought so gentle. And you are one
of that sort! Ah! now, you would not abuse a woman at your age, great
blackguard--\x94

\x93Placard? I? Vill you not oonderstand that I lof nopody but Bons?\x94

\x93Well and good, you will let me alone, won\x92t you?\x94 said she, smiling at
Schmucke. \x93You had better; for if Cibot knew that anybody had attempted
his honor, he would break every bone in his skin.\x94

\x93Take crate care of him, dear Montame Zipod,\x94 answered Schmucke, and he
tried to take the portress\x92 hand.

\x93Oh! look here now, _again_.\x94

\x93Chust listen to me. You shall haf all dot I haf, gif ve safe him.\x94

\x93Very well; I will go round to the chemist\x92s to get the things that are
wanted; this illness is going to cost a lot, you see, sir, and what will
you do?\x94

\x93I shall vork; Bons shall be nursed like ein brince.\x94

\x93So he shall, M. Schmucke; and look here, don\x92t you trouble about
nothing. Cibot and I, between us, have saved a couple of thousand
francs; they are yours; I have been spending money on you this long
time, I have.\x94

\x93Goot voman!\x94 cried Schmucke, brushing the tears from his eyes. \x93Vat ein
heart!\x94

\x93Wipe your tears; they do me honor; this is my reward,\x94 said La Cibot,
melodramatically. \x93There isn\x92t no more disinterested creature on earth
than me; but don\x92t you go into the room with tears in your eyes, or M.
Pons will be thinking himself worse than he is.\x94

Schmucke was touched by this delicate feeling. He took La Cibot\x92s hand
and gave it a final squeeze.

\x93Spare me!\x94 cried the ex-oysterseller, leering at Schmucke.

\x93Bons,\x94 the good German said when he returned \x93Montame Zipod is an
anchel; \x91tis an anchel dat brattles, but an anchel all der same.\x94

\x93Do you think so? I have grown suspicious in the past month,\x94 said the
invalid, shaking his head. \x93After all I have been through, one comes to
believe in nothing but God and my friend--\x94

\x93Get bedder, and ve vill lif like kings, all tree of us,\x94 exclaimed
Schmucke.



\x93Cibot!\x94 panted the portress as she entered the lodge. \x93Oh, my dear, our
fortune is made. My two gentlemen haven\x92t nobody to come after them, no
natural children, no nothing, in short! Oh, I shall go round to Ma\x92am
Fontaine\x92s and get her to tell my fortune on the cards, then we shall
know how much we are going to have--\x94

\x93Wife,\x94 said the little tailor, \x93it\x92s ill counting on dead men\x92s shoes.\x94

\x93Oh, I say, are _you_ going to worry me?\x94 asked she, giving her spouse a
playful tap. \x93I know what I know! Dr. Poulain has given up M. Pons. And
we are going to be rich! My name will be down in the will.... I\x92ll see
to that. Draw your needle in and out, and look after the lodge; you will
not do it for long now. We will retire, and go into the country, out
at Batignolles. A nice house and a fine garden; you will amuse yourself
with gardening, and I shall keep a servant!\x94

\x93Well, neighbor, and how are things going on upstairs?\x94 The words were
spoken with the thick Auvergnat accent, and Remonencq put his head in at
the door. \x93Do you know what the collection is worth?\x94

\x93No, no, not yet. One can\x92t go at that rate, my good man. I have begun,
myself, by finding out more important things--\x94

\x93More important!\x94 exclaimed Remonencq; \x93why, what things can be more
important?\x94

\x93Come, let me do the steering, ragamuffin,\x94 said La Cibot
authoritatively.

\x93But thirty per cent on seven hundred thousand francs,\x94 persisted the
dealer in old iron; \x93you could be your own mistress for the rest of your
days on that.\x94

\x93Be easy, Daddy Remonencq; when we want to know the value of the things
that the old man has got together, then we will see.\x94

La Cibot went for the medicine ordered by Dr. Poulain, and put off her
consultation with Mme. Fontaine until the morrow; the oracle\x92s faculties
would be fresher and clearer in the morning, she thought; and she would
go early, before everybody else came, for there was often a crowd at
Mme. Fontaine\x92s.

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

The belief of the occult science is far more widely spread than
scholars, lawyers, doctors, magistrates, and philosophers imagine. The
instincts of the people are ineradicable. One among those instincts, so
foolishly styled \x93superstition,\x94 runs in the blood of the populace, and
tinges no less the intellects of better educated folk. More than one
French statesman has been known to consult the fortune-teller\x92s cards.
For sceptical minds, astrology, in French, so oddly termed _astrologie
judiciare_, is nothing more than a cunning device for making a profit
out of one of the strongest of all the instincts of human nature--to
wit, curiosity. The sceptical mind consequently denies that there is any
connection between human destiny and the prognostications obtained by
the seven or eight principal methods known to astrology; and the
occult sciences, like many natural phenomena, are passed over by the
freethinker or the materialist philosopher, _id est_, by those who
believe in nothing but visible and tangible facts, in the results given
by the chemist\x92s retort and the scales of modern physical science.
The occult sciences still exist; they are at work, but they make no
progress, for the greatest intellects of two centuries have abandoned
the field.

If you only look at the practical side of divination, it seems absurd
to imagine that events in a man\x92s past life and secrets known only to
himself can be represented on the spur of the moment by a pack of cards
which he shuffles and cuts for the fortune-teller to lay out in piles
according to certain mysterious rules; but then the steam-engine was
condemned as absurd, aerial navigation is still said to be absurd, so
in their time were the inventions of gunpowder, printing, spectacles,
engraving, and that latest discovery of all--the daguerreotype. If any
man had come to Napoleon to tell him that a building or a figure is at
all times and in all places represented by an image in the atmosphere,
that every existing object has a spectral intangible double which may
become visible, the Emperor would have sent his informant to Charenton
for a lunatic, just as Richelieu before his day sent that Norman martyr,
Salomon de Caux, to the Bicetre for announcing his immense triumph, the
idea of navigation by steam. Yet Daguerre\x92s discovery amounts to nothing
more nor less than this.

And if for some clairvoyant eyes God has written each man\x92s destiny over
his whole outward and visible form, if a man\x92s body is the record of his
fate, why should not the hand in a manner epitomize the body?--since the
hand represents the deed of man, and by his deeds he is known.

Herein lies the theory of palmistry. Does not Society imitate God? At
the sight of a soldier we can predict that he will fight; of a lawyer,
that he will talk; of a shoemaker, that he shall make shoes or boots; of
a worker of the soil, that he shall dig the ground and dung it; and is
it a more wonderful thing that such an one with the \x93seer\x92s\x94 gift should
foretell the events of a man\x92s life from his hand?

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

The mysteries of the witches\x92 Sabbath, so wonderfully painted in the
sixteenth century, are no mysteries for us. The Egyptian ancestors of
that mysterious people of Indian origin, the gypsies of the present day,
simply used to drug their clients with hashish, a practice that
fully accounts for broomstick rides and flights up the chimney, the
real-seeming visions, so to speak, of old crones transformed into young
damsels, the frantic dances, the exquisite music, and all the fantastic
tales of devil-worship.

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

Once admit that certain beings have the power of discerning the future
in its germ-form of the Cause, as the great inventor sees a glimpse of
the industry latent in his invention, or a science in something that
happens every day unnoticed by ordinary eyes--once allow this, and there
is nothing to cause an outcry in such phenomena, no violent exception
to nature\x92s laws, but the operation of a recognized faculty; possibly a
kind of mental somnambulism, as it were. If, therefore, the hypothesis
upon which the various ways of divining the future are based seem
absurd, the facts remain. Remark that it is not really more wonderful
that the seer should foretell the chief events of the future than that
he should read the past. Past and future, on the sceptic\x92s system,
equally lie beyond the limits of knowledge. If the past has left traces
behind it, it is not improbable that future events have, as it were,
their roots in the present.

If a fortune-teller gives you minute details of past facts known only
to yourself, why should he not foresee the events to be produced by
existing causes? The world of ideas is cut out, so to speak, on the
pattern of the physical world; the same phenomena should be discernible
in both, allowing for the difference of the medium. As, for instance,
a corporeal body actually projects an image upon the atmosphere--a
spectral double detected and recorded by the daguerreotype; so also
ideas, having a real and effective existence, leave an impression, as it
were, upon the atmosphere of the spiritual world; they likewise produce
effects, and exist spectrally (to coin a word to express phenomena for
which no words exist), and certain human beings are endowed with the
faculty of discerning these \x93forms\x94 or traces of ideas.

As for the material means employed to assist the seer--the objects
arranged by the hands of the consultant that the accidents of his life
may be revealed to him,--this is the least inexplicable part of the
process. Everything in the material world is part of a series of causes
and effects. Nothing happens without a cause, every cause is a part of a
whole, and consequently the whole leaves its impression on the
slightest accident. Rabelais, the greatest mind among moderns, resuming
Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Aristophanes, and Dante, pronounced three
centuries ago that \x93man is a microcosm\x94--a little world. Three hundred
years later, the great seer Swedenborg declared that \x93the world was
a man.\x94 The prophet and the precursor of incredulity meet thus in the
greatest of all formulas.

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

For seven centuries astrology and divination have exercised an influence
not only (as at present) over the uneducated, but over the greatest
minds, over kings and queens and wealthy people. Animal magnetism, one
of the great sciences of antiquity, had its origin in occult philosophy;
chemistry is the outcome of alchemy; phrenology and neurology are no
less the fruit of similar studies. The first illustrious workers in
these, to all appearance, untouched fields, made one mistake, the
mistake of all inventors; that is to say, they erected an absolute
system on a basis of isolated facts for which modern analysis as yet
cannot account. The Catholic Church, the law of the land, and modern
philosophy, in agreement for once, combined to prescribe, persecute, and
ridicule the mysteries of the Cabala as well as the adepts; the result
is a lamentable interregnum of a century in occult philosophy. But the
uneducated classes, and not a few cultivated people (women especially),
continue to pay a tribute to the mysterious power of those who can raise
the veil of the future; they go to buy hope, strength, and courage of
the fortune-teller; in other words, to ask of him all that religion
alone can give. So the art is still practised in spite of a certain
amount of risk. The eighteenth century encyclopaedists procured
tolerance for the sorcerer; he is no longer amenable to a court of law,
unless, indeed, he lends himself to fraudulent practices, and frightens
his \x93clients\x94 to extort money from them, in which case he may be
prosecuted on a charge of obtaining money under false pretences.
Unluckily, the exercise of the sublime art is only too often used as a
method of obtaining money under false pretences, and for the following
reasons.

The seer\x92s wonderful gifts are usually bestowed upon those who are
described by the epithets rough and uneducated. The rough and uneducated
are the chosen vessels into which God pours the elixirs at which we
marvel. From among the rough and uneducated, prophets arise--an Apostle
Peter, or St. Peter the Hermit. Wherever mental power is imprisoned,
and remains intact and entire for want of an outlet in conversation,
in politics, in literature, in the imaginings of the scholar, in the
efforts of the statesman, in the conceptions of the inventor, or the
soldier\x92s toils of war; the fire within is apt to flash out in gleams
of marvelously vivid light, like the sparks hidden in an unpolished
diamond. Let the occasion come, and the spirit within kindles and glows,
finds wings to traverse space, and the god-like power of beholding
all things. The coal of yesterday under the play of some mysterious
influence becomes a radiant diamond. Better educated people, many-sided
and highly polished, continually giving out all that is in them, can
never exhibit this supreme power, save by one of the miracles which God
sometimes vouchsafes to work. For this reason the soothsayer is almost
always a beggar, whose mind is virgin soil, a creature coarse to all
appearance, a pebble borne along the torrent of misery and left in the
ruts of life, where it spends nothing of itself save in mere physical
suffering.

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

Asia, indeed, through all time, has been the home of the heroes of
occult science. Persons of this kind, recovering their normal state,
are usually just as they were before. They fulfil, in some sort, the
chemical and physical functions of bodies which conduct electricity;
at times inert metal, at other times a channel filled with a mysterious
current. In their normal condition they are given to practices which
bring them before the magistrate, yea, verily, like the notorious
Balthazar, even unto the criminal court, and so to the hulks. You could
hardly find a better proof of the immense influence of fortune-telling
upon the working classes than the fact that poor Pons\x92 life and death
hung upon the prediction that Mme. Fontaine was to make from the cards.

Although a certain amount of repetition is inevitable in a canvas so
considerable and so full of detail as a complete picture of French
society in the nineteenth century, it is needless to repeat the
description of Mme. Fontaine\x92s den, already given in _Les Comediens
sans le savoir_; suffice it to say that Mme. Cibot used to go to
Mme. Fontaine\x92s house in the Rue Vieille-du-Temple as regularly as
frequenters of the Cafe Anglais drop in at that restaurant for lunch.
Mme. Cibot, being a very old customer, often introduced young persons
and old gossips consumed with curiosity to the wise woman.

The old servant who acted as provost marshal flung open the door of
the sanctuary with no further ceremony than the remark, \x93It\x92s Mme.
Cibot.--Come in, there\x92s nobody here.\x94

\x93Well, child, what can bring you here so early of a morning?\x94 asked
the sorceress, as Mme. Fontaine might well be called, for she was
seventy-eight years old, and looked like one of the Parcae.

\x93Something has given me a turn,\x94 said La Cibot; \x93I want the _grand jeu_;
it is a question of my fortune.\x94 Therewith she explained her position,
and wished to know if her sordid hopes were likely to be realized.

\x93Do you know what the _grand jeu_ means?\x94 asked Mme. Fontaine, with much
solemnity.

\x93No, I haven\x92t never seen the trick, I am not rich enough.--A hundred
francs! It\x92s not as if it cost so much! Where was the money to come
from? But now I can\x92t help myself, I must have it.\x94

\x93I don\x92t do it often, child,\x94 returned Mme. Fontaine; \x93I only do it for
rich people on great occasions, and they pay me twenty-five louis for
doing it; it tires me, you see, it wears me out. The \x91Spirit\x92 rives my
inside, here. It is like going to the \x91Sabbath,\x92 as they used to say.\x94

\x93But when I tell you that it means my whole future, my dear good Ma\x92am
Fontaine--\x94

\x93Well, as it is you that have come to consult me so often, I will submit
myself to the Spirit!\x94 replied Mme. Fontaine, with a look of genuine
terror on her face.

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

\x93Astaroth! here, my son!\x94 she said, and the creature looked up
intelligently at her as she rapped him on the back with a long
knitting-needle.--\x93And you, Mademoiselle Cleopatre!--attention!\x94 she
continued, tapping the ancient fowl on the beak.

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

\x93Here I am!\x94

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

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

\x93You will succeed, although nothing in the affair will fall out as you
expect. You will have many steps to take, but you will reap the fruits
of your labors. You will behave very badly; it will be with you as it is
with all those who sit by a sick-bed and covet part of the inheritance.
Great people will help you in this work of wrongdoing. Afterwards in the
death agony you will repent. Two escaped convicts, a short man with red
hair and an old man with a bald head, will murder you for the sake of
the money you will be supposed to have in the village whither you will
retire with your second husband. Now, my daughter, it is still open to
you to choose your course.\x94

The excitement which seemed to glow within, lighting up the bony hollows
about the eyes, was suddenly extinguished. As soon as the horoscope was
pronounced, Mme. Fontaine\x92s face wore a dazed expression; she looked
exactly like a sleep-walker aroused from sleep, gazed about her with
an astonished air, recognized Mme. Cibot, and seemed surprised by her
terrified face.

\x93Well, child,\x94 she said, in a totally different voice, \x93are you
satisfied?\x94

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

\x93Ah! you would have the _grand jeu_; I have treated you as an old
acquaintance. I only want a hundred francs--\x94

\x93Cibot,--going to die?\x94 gasped the portress.

\x93So I have been telling you very dreadful things, have I?\x94 asked Mme.
Fontaine, with an extremely ingenuous air.

\x93Why, yes!\x94 said La Cibot, taking a hundred francs from her pocket and
laying them down on the edge of the table. \x93Going to be murdered, think
of it--\x94

\x93Ah! there it is! You would have the _grand jeu_; but don\x92t take on so,
all the folk that are murdered on the cards don\x92t die.\x94

\x93But is it possible, Ma\x92am Fontaine?\x94

\x93Oh, _I_ know nothing about it, my pretty dear! You would rap at the
door of the future; I pull the cord, and it came.\x94

\x93_It_, what?\x94 asked Mme. Cibot.

\x93Well, then, the Spirit!\x94 cried the sorceress impatiently.

\x93Good-bye, Ma\x92am Fontaine,\x94 exclaimed the portress. \x93I did not know
what the _grand jeu_ was like. You have given me a good fright, that you
have.\x94

\x93The mistress will not put herself in that state twice in a month,\x94 said
the servant, as she went with La Cibot to the landing. \x93She would do
herself to death if she did, it tires her so. She will eat cutlets now
and sleep for three hours afterwards.\x94

Out in the street La Cibot took counsel of herself as she went
along, and, after the manner of all who ask for advice of any sort or
description, she took the favorable part of the prediction and rejected
the rest. The next day found her confirmed in her resolutions--she would
set all in train to become rich by securing a part of Pons\x92 collection.
Nor for some time had she any other thought than the combination of
various plans to this end. The faculty of self-concentration seen in
rough, uneducated persons, explained on a previous page, the reserve
power accumulated in those whose mental energies are unworn by the daily
wear and tear of social life, and brought into action so soon as that
terrible weapon the \x93fixed idea\x94 is brought into play,--all this was
pre-eminently manifested in La Cibot. Even as the \x93fixed idea\x94 works
miracles of evasion, and brings forth prodigies of sentiment, so greed
transformed the portress till she became as formidable as a Nucingen
at bay, as subtle beneath her seeming stupidity as the irresistible La
Palferine.

About seven o\x92clock one morning, a few days afterwards, she saw
Remonencq taking down his shutters. She went across to him.

\x93How could one find out how much the things yonder in my gentlemen\x92s
rooms are worth?\x94 she asked in a wheedling tone.

\x93Oh! that is quite easy,\x94 replied the owner of the old curiosity shop.
\x93If you will play fair and above board with me, I will tell you of
somebody, a very honest man, who will know the value of the pictures to
a farthing--\x94

\x93Who?\x94

\x93M. Magus, a Jew. He only does business to amuse himself now.\x94

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

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

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

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

You may be quite sure that the old Jew had sound reasons for buying
house property, contrary to the Hebrew law and custom. He had ended, as
most of us end, with a hobby that bordered on a craze. He was as miserly
as his friend, the late lamented Gobseck; but he had been caught by the
snare of the eyes, by the beauty of the pictures in which he dealt. As
his taste grew more and more fastidious, it became one of the passions
which princes alone can indulge when they are wealthy and art-lovers. As
the second King of Prussia found nothing that so kindled enthusiasm as
the spectacle of a grenadier over six feet high, and gave extravagant
sums for a new specimen to add to his living museum of a regiment, so
the retired picture-dealer was roused to passion-pitch only by some
canvas in perfect preservation, untouched since the master laid down
the brush; and what was more, it must be a picture of the painter\x92s best
time. No great sales, therefore, took place but Elie Magus was there;
every mart knew him; he traveled all over Europe. The ice-cold,
money-worshiping soul in him kindled at the sight of a perfect work
of art, precisely as a libertine, weary of fair women, is roused from
apathy by the sight of a beautiful girl, and sets out afresh upon the
quest of flawless loveliness. A Don Juan among fair works of art, a
worshiper of the Ideal, Elie Magus had discovered joys that transcend
the pleasure of a miser gloating over his gold--he lived in a seraglio
of great paintings.

His masterpieces were housed as became the children of princes; the
whole first floor of the great old mansion was given up to them.
The rooms had been restored under Elie Magus\x92 orders, and with what
magnificence!

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

The whole of the ground floor was given up to the picture trade (for the
Jew still dealt in works of art). Here he stored his canvases, here also
packing-cases were stowed on their arrival from other countries; and
still there was room for a vast studio, where Moret, most skilful of
restorers of pictures, a craftsman whom the Musee ought to employ, was
almost always at work for Magus. The rest of the rooms on the ground
floor were given up to Magus\x92 daughter, the child of his old age, a
Jewess as beautiful as a Jewess can be when the Semitic type reappears
in its purity and nobility in a daughter of Israel. Noemi was guarded by
two servants, fanatical Jewesses, to say nothing of an advanced-guard,
a Polish Jew, Abramko by name, once involved in a fabulous manner
in political troubles, from which Elie Magus saved him as a business
speculation. Abramko, porter of the silent, grim, deserted mansion,
divided his office and his lodge with three remarkably ferocious
animals--an English bull-dog, a Newfoundland dog, and another of the
Pyrenean breed.

Behold the profound observations of human nature upon which Elie Magus
based his feeling of security, for secure he felt; he left home without
misgivings, slept with both ears shut, and feared no attempt upon his
daughter (his chief treasure), his pictures, or his money. In the first
place, Abramko\x92s salary was increased every year by two hundred francs
so long as his master should live; and Magus, moreover, was training
Abramko as a money-lender in a small way. Abramko never admitted anybody
until he had surveyed them through a formidable grated opening. He was
a Hercules for strength, he worshiped Elie Magus, as Sancho Panza
worshiped Don Quixote. All day long the dogs were shut up without food;
at nightfall Abramko let them loose; and by a cunning device the old Jew
kept each animal at his post in the courtyard or the garden by hanging
a piece of meat just out of reach on the top of a pole. The animals
guarded the house, and sheer hunger guarded the dogs. No odor that
reached their nostrils could tempt them from the neighborhood of that
piece of meat; they would not have left their places at the foot of the
poles for the most engaging female of the canine species. If a stranger
by any chance intruded, the dogs suspected him of ulterior designs upon
their rations, which were only taken down in the morning by Abramko
himself when he awoke. The advantages of this fiendish scheme are
patent. The animals never barked, Magus\x92 ingenuity had made savages of
them; they were treacherous as Mohicans. And now for the result.

One night burglars, emboldened by the silence, decided too hastily that
it would be easy enough to \x93clean out\x94 the old Jew\x92s strong box. One of
their number told off to advance to the assault scrambled up the garden
wall and prepared to descend. This the bull-dog allowed him to do. The
animal, knowing perfectly well what was coming, waited for the burglar
to reach the ground; but when that gentleman directed a kick at him, the
bull-dog flew at the visitor\x92s shins, and, making but one bite of it,
snapped the ankle-bone clean in two. The thief had the courage to tear
him away, and returned, walking upon the bare bone of the mutilated
stump till he reached the rest of the gang, when he fell fainting, and
they carried him off. The _Police News_, of course, did not fail to
report this delightful night incident, but no one believed in it.

Magus at this time was seventy-five years old, and there was no reason
why he should not live to a hundred. Rich man though he was, he lived
like the Remonencqs. His necessary expenses, including the money he
lavished on his daughter, did not exceed three thousand francs. No
life could be more regular; the old man rose as soon as it was light,
breakfasted on bread rubbed with a clove of garlic, and ate no more food
until dinner-time. Dinner, a meal frugal enough for a convent, he took
at home. All the forenoons he spent among his treasures, walking up
and down the gallery where they hung in their glory. He would dust
everything himself, furniture and pictures; he never wearied of
admiring. Then he would go downstairs to his daughter, drink deep of
a father\x92s happiness, and start out upon his walks through Paris, to
attend sales or visit exhibitions and the like.

If Elie Magus found a great work of art under the right conditions, the
discovery put new life into the man; here was a bit of sharp practice, a
bargain to make, a battle of Marengo to win. He would pile ruse on ruse
to buy the new sultana as cheaply as possible. Magus had a map of Europe
on which all great pictures were marked; his co-religionists in every
city spied out business for him, and received a commission on the
purchase. And then, what rewards for all his pains! The two lost
Raphaels so earnestly sought after by Raphael lovers are both in his
collection. Elie Magus owns the original portrait of _Giorgione\x92s
Mistress_, the woman for whom the painter died; the so-called originals
are merely copies of the famous picture, which is worth five hundred
thousand francs, according to its owner\x92s estimation. This Jew possesses
Titian\x92s masterpiece, an _Entombment_ painted for Charles V., sent by
the great man to the great Emperor with a holograph letter, now fastened
down upon the lower part of the canvas. And Magus has yet another
Titian, the original sketch from which all the portraits of Philip II.
were painted. His remaining ninety-seven pictures are all of the same
rank and distinction. Wherefore Magus laughs at our national collection,
raked by the sunlight which destroys the fairest paintings, pouring in
through panes of glass that act as lenses. Picture galleries can only be
lighted from above; Magus opens and closes his shutters himself; he is
as careful of his pictures as of his daughter, his second idol. And well
the old picture-fancier knows the laws of the lives of pictures. To hear
him talk, a great picture has a life of its own; it is changeable,
it takes its beauty from the color of the light. Magus talks of his
paintings as Dutch fanciers used to talk of their tulips; he will come
home on purpose to see some one picture in the hour of its glory, when
the light is bright and clean.

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

Paris of all the cities of the world holds most of such men as Magus,
strange beings with a strange religion in their heart of hearts.
The London \x93eccentric\x94 always finds that worship, like life, brings
weariness and satiety in the end; the Parisian monomaniac lives
cheerfully in concubinage with his crotchet to the last.

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

This was the expert to whom Remonencq with much mystery conducted La
Cibot. Remonencq always asked advice of Elie Magus when he met him
in the streets; and more than once Magus had lent him money through
Abramko, knowing Remonencq\x92s honesty. The Chaussee des Minimes is close
to the Rue de Normandie, and the two fellow-conspirators reached the
house in ten minutes.

\x93You will see the richest dealer in curiosities, the greatest
connoisseur in Paris,\x94 Remonencq had said. And Mme. Cibot, therefore,
was struck dumb with amazement to be confronted with a little old man in
a great-coat too shabby for Cibot to mend, standing watching a painter
at work upon an old picture in the chilly room on the vast ground floor.
The old man\x92s eyes, full of cold feline malignance, were turned upon
her, and La Cibot shivered.

\x93What do you want, Remonencq?\x94 asked this person.

\x93It is a question of valuing some pictures; there is nobody but you in
Paris who can tell a poor tinker-fellow like me how much he may give
when he has not thousands to spend, like you.\x94

\x93Where is it?\x94

\x93Here is the portress of the house where the gentleman lives; she does
for him, and I have arranged with her--\x94

\x93Who is the owner?\x94

\x93M. Pons!\x94 put in La Cibot.

\x93Don\x92t know the name,\x94 said Magus, with an innocent air, bringing down
his foot very gently upon his artist\x92s toes.

Moret the painter, knowing the value of Pons\x92 collection, had looked up
suddenly at the name. It was a move too hazardous to try with any one
but Remonencq and La Cibot, but the Jew had taken the woman\x92s measure
at sight, and his eye was as accurate as a jeweler\x92s scales. It was
impossible that either of the couple should know how often Magus and old
Pons had matched their claws. And, in truth, both rabid amateurs were
jealous of each other. The old Jew had never hoped for a sight of
a seraglio so carefully guarded; it seemed to him that his head was
swimming. Pons\x92 collection was the one private collection in Paris which
could vie with his own. Pons\x92 idea had occurred to Magus twenty years
later; but as a dealer-amateur the door of Pons\x92 museum had been
closed to him, as for Dusommerard. Pons and Magus had at heart the same
jealousy. Neither of them cared about the kind of celebrity dear to the
ordinary collector. And now for Elie Magus came his chance to see the
poor musician\x92s treasures! An amateur of beauty hiding in a boudoir or a
stolen glance at a mistress concealed from him by his friend might feel
as Elie Magus felt at that moment.

La Cibot was impressed by Remonencq\x92s respect for this singular person;
real power, moreover, even when it cannot be explained, is always felt;
the portress was supple and obedient, she dropped the autocratic tone
which she was wont to use in her lodge and with the tenants, accepted
Magus\x92 conditions, and agreed to admit him into Pons\x92 museum that very
day.

So the enemy was to be brought into the citadel, and a stab dealt to
Pons\x92 very heart. For ten years Pons had carried his keys about with
him; he had forbidden La Cibot to allow any one, no matter whom, to
cross his threshold; and La Cibot had so far shared Schmucke\x92s opinions
of _bric-a-brac_, that she had obeyed him. The good Schmucke, by
speaking of the splendors as \x93chimcracks,\x94 and deploring his friend\x92s
mania, had taught La Cibot to despise the old rubbish, and so secured
Pons\x92 museum from invasion for many a long year.

When Pons took to his bed, Schmucke filled his place at the theatre and
gave lessons for him at his boarding-schools. He did his utmost to do
the work of two; but Pons\x92 sorrows weighing heavily upon his mind, the
task took all his strength. He only saw his friend in the morning, and
again at dinnertime. His pupils and the people at the theatre, seeing
the poor German look so unhappy, used to ask for news of Pons; and so
great was his grief, that the indifferent would make the grimaces
of sensibility which Parisians are wont to reserve for the greatest
calamities. The very springs of life had been attacked, the good German
was suffering from Pons\x92 pain as well as from his own. When he gave a
music lesson, he spent half the time in talking of Pons, interrupting
himself to wonder whether his friend felt better to-day, and the little
school-girls listening heard lengthy explanations of Pons\x92 symptoms.
He would rush over to the Rue de Normandie in the interval between two
lessons for the sake of a quarter of an hour with Pons.

When at last he saw that their common stock was almost exhausted, when
Mme. Cibot (who had done her best to swell the expenses of the illness)
came to him and frightened him; then the old music-master felt that he
had courage of which he never thought himself capable--courage that rose
above his anguish. For the first time in his life he set himself to earn
money; money was needed at home. One of the school-girl pupils, really
touched by their troubles, asked Schmucke how he could leave his friend
alone. \x93Montemoiselle,\x94 he answered, with the sublime smile of those who
think no evil, \x93ve haf Montame Zipod, ein dreasure, montemoiselle, ein
bearl! Bons is nursed like ein brince.\x94

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

La Cibot\x92s visit to Elie Magus was paid (as might be expected) while
Schmucke breakfasted. She came in again just as the German was bidding
his friend good-bye; for since she learned that Pons possessed a
fortune, she never left the old bachelor; she brooded over him and his
treasures like a hen. From the depths of a comfortable easy-chair at
the foot of the bed she poured forth for Pons\x92 delectation the gossip
in which women of her class excel. With Machiavelian skill, she had
contrived to make Pons think that she was indispensable to him; she
coaxed and she wheedled, always uneasy, always on the alert. Mme.
Fontaine\x92s prophecy had frightened La Cibot; she vowed to herself that
she would gain her ends by kindness. She would sleep secure on M. Pons\x92
legacy, but her rascality should keep within the limits of the law. For
ten years she had not suspected the value of Pons\x92 collection; she had
a clear record behind her of ten years of devotion, honesty, and
disinterestedness; it was a magnificent investment, and now she proposed
to realize. In one day, Remonencq\x92s hint of money had hatched the
serpent\x92s egg, the craving for riches that had lain dormant within her
for twenty years. Since she had cherished that craving, it had grown in
force with the ferment of all the evil that lurks in the corners of the
heart. How she acted upon the counsels whispered by the serpent will
presently be seen.

\x93Well?\x94 she asked of Schmucke, \x93has this cherub of ours had plenty to
drink? Is he better?\x94

\x93He is not doing fery vell, tear Montame Zipod, not fery vell,\x94 said
poor Schmucke, brushing away the tears from his eyes.

\x93Pooh! you make too much of it, my dear M. Schmucke; we must take things
as we find them; Cibot might be at death\x92s door, and I should not take
it to heart as you do. Come! the cherub has a good constitution. And he
has been steady, it seems, you see; you have no idea what an age sober
people live. He is very ill, it is true, but with all the care I take of
him, I shall bring him round. Be easy, look after your affairs, I will
keep him company and see that he drinks his pints of barley water.\x94

\x93Gif you vere not here, I should die of anxiety--\x94 said Schmucke,
squeezing his kind housekeeper\x92s hand in both his own to express his
confidence in her.

La Cibot wiped her eyes as she went back to the invalid\x92s room.

\x93What is the matter, Mme. Cibot?\x94 asked Pons.

\x93It is M. Schmucke that has upset me; he is crying as if you were dead,\x94
 said she. \x93If you are not well, you are not so bad yet that nobody need
cry over you; but it has given me such a turn! Oh dear! oh dear! how
silly it is of me to get so fond of people, and to think more of you
than of Cibot! For, after all, you aren\x92t nothing to me, you are only
my brother by Adam\x92s side; and yet, whenever you are in the question,
it puts me in such a taking, upon my word it does! I would cut off my
hand--my left hand, of course--to see you coming and going, eating your
meals, and screwing bargains out of dealers as usual. If I had had
a child of my own, I think I should have loved it as I love you, eh!
There, take a drink, dearie; come now, empty the glass. Drink it off,
monsieur, I tell you! The first thing Dr. Poulain said was, \x91If M. Pons
has no mind to go to Pere Lachaise, he ought to drink as many buckets
full of water in a day as an Auvergnat will sell.\x92 So, come now,
drink--\x94

\x93But I do drink, Cibot, my good woman; I drink and drink till I am
deluged--\x94

\x93That is right,\x94 said the portress, as she took away the empty glass.
\x93That is the way to get better. Dr. Poulain had another patient ill of
your complaint; but he had nobody to look after him, his children left
him to himself, and he died because he didn\x92t drink enough--so you must
drink, honey, you see--he died and they buried him two months ago. And
if you were to die, you know, you would drag down old M. Schmucke with
you, sir. He is like a child. Ah! he loves you, he does, the dear lamb
of a man; no woman never loved a man like that! He doesn\x92t care for meat
nor drink; he has grown as thin as you are in the last fortnight, and
you are nothing but skin and bones.--It makes me jealous to see it,
for I am very fond of you; but not to that degree; I haven\x92t lost my
appetite, quite the other way; always going up and down stairs, till my
legs are so tired that I drop down of an evening like a lump of lead.
Here am I neglecting my poor Cibot for you; Mlle. Remonencq cooks his
victuals for him, and he goes on about it and says that nothing is
right! At that I tell him that one ought to put up with something for
the sake of other people, and that you are so ill that I cannot leave
you. In the first place, you can\x92t afford a nurse. And before I would
have a nurse here!--I have done for you these ten years; they want wine
and sugar, and foot-warmers, and all sorts of comforts. And they rob
their patients unless the patients leave them something in their wills.
Have a nurse in here to-day, and to-morrow we should find a picture or
something or other gone--\x94

\x93Oh! Mme. Cibot!\x94 cried Pons, quite beside himself, \x93do not leave me! No
one must touch anything--\x94

\x93I am here,\x94 said La Cibot; \x93so long as I have the strength I shall be
here.--Be easy. There was Dr. Poulain wanting to get a nurse for you;
perhaps he has his eye on your treasures. I just snubbed him, I did.
\x91The gentleman won\x92t have any one but me,\x92 I told him. \x91He is used to
me, and I am used to him.\x92 So he said no more. A nurse, indeed! They are
all thieves; I hate that sort of woman, I do. Here is a tale that will
show you how sly they are. There was once an old gentleman--it was Dr.
Poulain himself, mind you, who told me this--well, a Mme. Sabatier, a
woman of thirty-six that used to sell slippers at the Palais Royal--you
remember the Galerie at the Palais that they pulled down?\x94

Pons nodded.

\x93Well, at that time she had not done very well; her husband used to
drink, and died of spontaneous imbustion; but she had been a fine woman
in her time, truth to tell, not that it did her any good, though she
had friends among the lawyers. So, being hard up, she became a monthly
nurse, and lived in the Rue Barre-du-Bec. Well, she went out to nurse
an old gentleman that had a disease of the lurinary guts (saving your
presence); they used to tap him like an artesian well, and he needed
such care that she used to sleep on a truckle-bed in the same room with
him. You would hardly believe such a thing!--\x91Men respect nothing,\x92
you\x92ll tell me, \x91so selfish as they are.\x92 Well, she used to talk with
him, you understand; she never left him, she amused him, she told him
stories, she drew him on to talk (just as we are chatting away together
now, you and I, eh?), and she found out that his nephews--the old
gentleman had nephews--that his nephews were wretches; they had worried
him, and final end of it, they had brought on this illness. Well, my
dear sir, she saved his life, he married her, and they have a fine
child; Ma\x92am Bordevin, the butcher\x92s wife in the Rue Charlot, a relative
of hers, stood godmother. There is luck for you!

\x93As for me, I am married; and if I have no children, I don\x92t mind saying
that it is Cibot\x92s fault; he is too fond of me, but if I cared--never
mind. What would have become of me and my Cibot if we had had a family,
when we have not a penny to bless ourselves with after thirty years\x92 of
faithful service? I have not a farthing belonging to nobody else, that
is what comforts me. I have never wronged nobody.--Look here, suppose
now (there is no harm in supposing when you will be out and about again
in six weeks\x92 time, and sauntering along the boulevard); well, suppose
that you had put me down in your will; very good, I shouldn\x92t never rest
till I had found your heirs and given the money back. Such is my horror
of anything that is not earned by the sweat of my brow.

\x93You will say to me, \x91Why, Mme. Cibot, why should you worry yourself
like that? You have fairly earned the money; you looked after your two
gentlemen as if they had been your children; you saved them a thousand
francs a year--\x92 (for there are plenty, sir, you know, that would have
had their ten thousand francs put out to interest by now if they had
been in my place)--\x91so if the worthy gentleman leaves you a trifle of an
annuity, it is only right.\x92--Suppose they told me that. Well, now; I am
not thinking of myself.--I cannot think how some women can do a kindness
thinking of themselves all the time. It is not doing good, sir, is it? I
do not go to church myself, I haven\x92t the time; but my conscience tells
me what is right.... Don\x92t you fidget like that, my lamb!--Don\x92t scratch
yourself!... Dear me, how yellow you grow! So yellow you are--quite
brown. How funny it is that one can come to look like a lemon in three
weeks!... Honesty is all that poor folk have, and one must surely have
something! Suppose that you were just at death\x92s door, I should be
the first to tell you that you ought to leave all that you have to M.
Schmucke. It is your duty, for he is all the family you have. He loves
you, he does, as a dog loves his master.\x94

\x93Ah! yes,\x94 said Pons; \x93nobody else has ever loved me all my life long--\x94

\x93Ah! that is not kind of you, sir,\x94 said Mme. Cibot; \x93then I do not love
you, I suppose?\x94

\x93I do not say so, my dear Mme. Cibot.\x94

\x93Good. You take me for a servant, do you, a common servant, as if
I hadn\x92t no heart! Goodness me! for eleven years you do for two old
bachelors, you think of nothing but their comfort. I have turned half a
score of greengrocers\x92 shops upside down for you, I have talked people
round to get you good Brie cheese; I have gone down as far as the market
for fresh butter for you; I have taken such care of things that nothing
of yours hasn\x92t been chipped nor broken in all these ten years; I have
just treated you like my own children; and then to hear a \x91My dear Mme.
Cibot,\x92 that shows that there is not a bit of feeling for you in the
heart of an old gentleman that you have cared for like a king\x92s son!
for the little King of Rome was not so well looked after. He died in
his prime; there is proof for you.... Come, sir, you are unjust! You are
ungrateful! It is because I am only a poor portress. Goodness me! are
_you_ one of those that think we are dogs?--\x94

\x93But, my dear Mme. Cibot--\x94

\x93Indeed, you that know so much, tell me why we porters are treated like
this, and are supposed to have no feelings; people look down on us in
these days when they talk of Equality!--As for me, am I not as good
as another woman, I that was one of the finest women in Paris, and was
called _La belle Ecaillere_, and received declarations seven or eight
times a day? And even now if I liked--Look here, sir, you know that
little scrubby marine store-dealer downstairs? Very well, he would marry
me any day, if I were a widow that is, with his eyes shut; he has had
them looking wide open in my direction so often; he is always saying,
\x91Oh! what fine arms you have, Ma\x92am Cibot!--I dreamed last night that
it was bread and I was butter, and I was spread on the top.\x92 Look, sir,
there is an arm!\x94

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

\x93For every oyster the knife opened, the arm has opened a heart! Well,
it belongs to Cibot, and I did wrong when I neglected him, poor dear, HE
would throw himself over a precipice at a word from me; while you, sir,
that call me \x91My dear Mme. Cibot\x92 when I do impossible things for you--\x94

\x93Do just listen to me,\x94 broke in the patient; \x93I cannot call you my
mother, nor my wife--\x94

\x93No, never in all my born days will I take again to anybody--\x94

\x93Do let me speak!\x94 continued Pons. \x93Let me see; I put M. Schmucke
first--\x94

\x93M. Schmucke! there is a heart for you,\x94 cried La Cibot. \x93Ah! he loves
me, but then he is poor. It is money that deadens the heart; and you
are rich! Oh, well, take a nurse, you will see what a life she will lead
you; she will torment you, you will be like a cockchafer on a string.
The doctor will say that you must have plenty to drink, and she will do
nothing but feed you. She will bring you to your grave and rob you. You
do not deserve to have a Mme. Cibot!--there! When Dr. Poulain comes, ask
him for a nurse.\x94

\x93Oh fiddlestickend!\x94 the patient cried angrily. \x93_Will_ you listen to
me? When I spoke of my friend Schmucke, I was not thinking of women. I
know quite well that no one cares for me so sincerely as you do, you and
Schmucke--\x94

\x93Have the goodness not to irritate yourself in this way!\x94 exclaimed
La Cibot, plunging down upon Pons and covering him by force with the
bedclothes.

\x93How should I not love you?\x94 said poor Pons.

\x93You love me, really?... There, there, forgive me, sir!\x94 she said,
crying and wiping her eyes. \x93Ah, yes, of course, you love me, as you
love a servant, that is the way!--a servant to whom you throw an annuity
of six hundred francs like a crust you fling into a dog\x92s kennel--\x94

\x93Oh! Mme. Cibot,\x94 cried Pons, \x93for what do you take me? You do not know
me.\x94

\x93Ah! you will care even more than that for me,\x94 she said, meeting Pons\x92
eyes. \x93You will love your kind old Cibot like a mother, will you not?
A mother, that is it! I am your mother; you are both of you my
children.... Ah, if I only knew them that caused you this sorrow, I
would do that which would bring me into the police-courts, and even to
prison; I would tear their eyes out! Such people deserve to die at the
Barriere Saint-Jacques, and that is too good for such scoundrels. ... So
kind, so good as you are (for you have a heart of gold), you were sent
into the world to make some woman happy!... Yes, you would have her
happy, as anybody can see; you were cut out for that. In the very
beginning, when I saw how you were with M. Schmucke, I said to myself,
\x91M. Pons has missed the life he was meant for; he was made to be a good
husband.\x92 Come, now, you like women.\x94

\x93Ah, yes,\x94 said Pons, \x93and no woman has been mine.\x94

\x93Really?\x94 exclaimed La Cibot, with a provocative air as she came nearer
and took Pons\x92 hand in hers. \x93Do you not know what it is to love a woman
that will do anything for her lover? Is it possible? If I were in your
place, I should not wish to leave this world for another until I had
known the greatest happiness on earth!... Poor dear! If I was now what I
was once, I would leave Cibot for you! upon my word, I would! Why, with
a nose shaped like that--for you have a fine nose--how did you manage
it, poor cherub?... You will tell me that \x91not every woman knows a man
when she sees him\x92; and a pity it is that they marry so at random as
they do, it makes you sorry to see it.--Now, for my own part, I
should have thought that you had had mistresses by the dozen--dancers,
actresses, and duchesses, for you went out so much. ... When you
went out, I used to say to Cibot, \x91Look! there is M. Pons going
a-gallivanting,\x92 on my word, I did, I was so sure that women ran after
you. Heaven made you for love.... Why, my dear sir, I found that out
the first day that you dined at home, and you were so touched with
M. Schmucke\x92s pleasure. And next day M. Schmucke kept saying to me,
\x91Montame Zipod, he haf tined hier,\x92 with the tears in his eyes, till I
cried along with him like a fool, as I am. And how sad he looked when
you took to gadding abroad again and dining out! Poor man, you never saw
any one so disconsolate! Ah! you are quite right to leave everything to
him. Dear worthy man, why he is as good as a family to you, he is!
Do not forget him; for if you do, God will not receive you into his
Paradise, for those that have been ungrateful to their friends and left
them no _rentes_ will not go to heaven.\x94

In vain Pons tried to put in a word; La Cibot talked as the wind blows.
Means of arresting steam-engines have been invented, but it would tax
a mechanician\x92s genius to discover any plan for stopping a portress\x92
tongue.

\x93I know what you mean,\x94 continued she. \x93But it does not kill you, my
dear gentleman, to make a will when you are out of health; and in your
place I might not leave that poor dear alone, for fear that something
might happen; he is like God Almighty\x92s lamb, he knows nothing about
nothing, and I should not like him to be at the mercy of those sharks
of lawyers and a wretched pack of relations. Let us see now, has one
of them come here to see you in twenty years? And would you leave your
property to _them_? Do you know, they say that all these things here are
worth something.\x94

\x93Why, yes,\x94 said Pons.

\x93Remonencq, who deals in pictures, and knows that you are an amateur,
says that he would be quite ready to pay you an annuity of thirty
thousand francs so long as you live, to have the pictures afterwards.
... There is a change! If I were you, I should take it. Why, I thought
he said it for a joke when he told me that. You ought to let M. Schmucke
know the value of all those things, for he is a man that could be
cheated like a child. He has not the slightest idea of the value of
these fine things that you have! He so little suspects it, that he would
give them away for a morsel of bread if he did not keep them all his
life for love of you, always supposing that he lives after you, for he
will die of your death. But _I_ am here; I will take his part against
anybody and everybody!... I and Cibot will defend him.\x94

\x93Dear Mme. Cibot!\x94 said Pons, \x93what would have become of me if it
had not been for you and Schmucke?\x94 He felt touched by this horrible
prattle; the feeling in it seemed to be ingenuous, as it usually is in
the speech of the people.

\x93Ah! we really are your only friends on earth, that is very true, that
is. But two good hearts are worth all the families in the world.--Don\x92t
talk of families to me! A family, as the old actor said of the tongue,
is the best and the worst of all things.... Where are those relations of
yours now? Have you any? I have never seen them--\x94

\x93They have brought me to lie here,\x94 said Pons, with intense bitterness.

\x93So you have relations!...\x94 cried La Cibot, springing up as if her
easy-chair had been heated red-hot. \x93Oh, well, they are a nice lot, are
your relations! What! these three weeks--for this is the twentieth day,
to-day, that you have been ill and like to die--in these three weeks
they have not come once to ask for news of you? That\x92s a trifle too
strong, that is!... Why, in your place, I would leave all I had to the
Foundling Hospital sooner than give them one farthing!\x94

\x93Well, my dear Mme. Cibot, I meant to leave all that I had to a cousin
once removed, the daughter of my first cousin, President Camusot, you
know, who came here one morning nearly two months ago.\x94

\x93Oh! a little stout man who sent his servants to beg your pardon--for
his wife\x92s blunder?--The housemaid came asking me questions about you,
an affected old creature she is, my fingers itched to give her velvet
tippet a dusting with my broom handle! A servant wearing a velvet
tippet! did anybody ever see the like? No, upon my word, the world is
turned upside down; what is the use of making a Revolution? Dine twice a
day if you can afford it, you scamps of rich folk! But laws are no good,
I tell you, and nothing will be safe if Louis-Philippe does not keep
people in their places; for, after all, if we are all equal, eh, sir?
a housemaid didn\x92t ought to have a velvet tippet, while I, Mme. Cibot,
haven\x92t one, after thirty years of honest work.--There is a pretty thing
for you! People ought to be able to tell who you are. A housemaid is
a housemaid, just as I myself am a portress. Why do they have silk
epaulettes in the army? Let everybody keep their place. Look here, do
you want me to tell you what all this comes to? Very well, France is
going to the dogs.... If the Emperor had been here, things would have
been very different, wouldn\x92t they, sir?... So I said to Cibot, I said,
\x91See here, Cibot, a house where the servants wear velvet tippets belongs
to people that have no heart in them--\x92\x94

\x93No heart in them, that is just it,\x94 repeated Pons. And with that he
began to tell Mme. Cibot about his troubles and mortifications, she
pouring out abuse of the relations the while and showing exceeding
tenderness on every fresh sentence in the sad history. She fairly wept
at last.

To understand the sudden intimacy between the old musician and Mme.
Cibot, you have only to imagine the position of an old bachelor lying on
his bed of pain, seriously ill for the first time in his life. Pons felt
that he was alone in the world; the days that he spent by himself were
all the longer because he was struggling with the indefinable nausea of
a liver complaint which blackens the brightest life. Cut off from all
his many interests, the sufferer falls a victim to a kind of nostalgia;
he regrets the many sights to be seen for nothing in Paris. The
isolation, the darkened days, the suffering that affects the mind and
spirits even more than the body, the emptiness of the life,--all these
things tend to induce him to cling to the human being who waits on him
as a drowned man clings to a plank; and this especially if the
bachelor patient\x92s character is as weak as his nature is sensitive and
incredulous.

Pons was charmed to hear La Cibot\x92s tittle-tattle. Schmucke, Mme. Cibot,
and Dr. Poulain meant all humanity to him now, when his sickroom became
the universe. If invalid\x92s thoughts, as a rule, never travel beyond in
the little space over which his eyes can wander; if their selfishness,
in its narrow sphere, subordinates all creatures and all things to
itself, you can imagine the lengths to which an old bachelor may go.
Before three weeks were out he had even gone so far as to regret, once
and again, that he had not married Madeleine Vivet! Mme. Cibot, too, had
made immense progress in his esteem in those three weeks; without her
he felt that he should have been utterly lost; for as for Schmucke, the
poor invalid looked upon him as a second Pons. La Cibot\x92s prodigious
art consisted in expressing Pons\x92 own ideas, and this she did quite
unconsciously.

\x93Ah! here comes the doctor!\x94 she exclaimed, as the bell rang, and away
she went, knowing very well that Remonencq had come with the Jew.

\x93Make no noise, gentlemen,\x94 said she, \x93he must not know anything. He is
all on the fidget when his precious treasures are concerned.\x94

\x93A walk round will be enough,\x94 said the Hebrew, armed with a
magnifying-glass and a lorgnette.

The greater part of Pons\x92 collection was installed in a great
old-fashioned salon such as French architects used to build for the old
_noblesse_; a room twenty-five feet broad, some thirty feet in length,
and thirteen in height. Pons\x92 pictures to the number of sixty-seven hung
upon the white-and-gold paneled walls; time, however, had reddened the
gold and softened the white to an ivory tint, so that the whole was
toned down, and the general effect subordinated to the effect of the
pictures. Fourteen statues stood on pedestals set in the corners of the
room, or among the pictures, or on brackets inlaid by Boule; sideboards
of carved ebony, royally rich, surrounded the walls to elbow height, all
the shelves filled with curiosities; in the middle of the room stood
a row of carved credence-tables, covered with rare miracles of
handicraft--with ivories and bronzes, wood-carvings and enamels, jewelry
and porcelain.

As soon as Elie Magus entered the sanctuary, he went straight to the
four masterpieces; he saw at a glance that these were the gems of Pons\x92
collection, and masters lacking in his own. For Elie Magus these were
the naturalist\x92s _desiderata_ for which men undertake long voyages from
east to west, through deserts and tropical countries, across southern
savannahs, through virgin forests.

The first was a painting by Sebastian del Piombo, the second a Fra
Bartolommeo della Porta, the third a Hobbema landscape, and the fourth
and last a Durer--a portrait of a woman. Four diamonds indeed! In the
history of art, Sebastian del Piombo is like a shining point in which
three schools meet, each bringing its pre-eminent qualities. A Venetian
painter, he came to Rome to learn the manner of Raphael under the
direction of Michael Angelo, who would fain oppose Raphael on his own
ground by pitting one of his own lieutenants against the reigning king
of art. And so it came to pass that in Del Piombo\x92s indolent genius
Venetian color was blended with Florentine composition and a something
of Raphael\x92s manner in the few pictures which he deigned to paint, and
the sketches were made for him, it is said, by Michael Angelo himself.

If you would see the perfection to which the painter attained (armed
as he was with triple power), go to the Louvre and look at the Baccio
Bandinelli portrait; you might place it beside Titian\x92s _Man with a
Glove_, or by that other _Portrait of an Old Man_ in which Raphael\x92s
consummate skill blends with Correggio\x92s art; or, again, compare it
with Leonardo da Vinci\x92s _Charles VIII._, and the picture would scarcely
lose. The four pearls are equal; there is the same lustre and sheen, the
same rounded completeness, the same brilliancy. Art can go no further
than this. Art has risen above Nature, since Nature only gives her
creatures a few brief years of life.

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

Fra Bartolommeo was represented by a _Holy Family_, which many
connoisseurs might have taken for a Raphael. The Hobbema would have
fetched sixty thousand francs at a public sale; and as for the Durer, it
was equal to the famous _Holzschuer_ portrait at Nuremberg for which the
kings of Bavaria, Holland, and Prussia have vainly offered two hundred
thousand francs again and again. Was it the portrait of the wife or
the daughter of Holzschuer, Albrecht Durer\x92s personal friend?--The
hypothesis seems to be a certainty, for the attitude of the figure in
Pons\x92 picture suggests that it is meant for a pendant, the position of
the coat-of-arms is the same as in the Nuremberg portrait; and, finally,
the _oetatis suoe XLI._ accords perfectly with the age inscribed on
the picture religiously kept by the Holzschuers of Nuremberg, and but
recently engraved.

The tears stood in Elie Magus\x92 eyes as he looked from one masterpiece to
another. He turned round to La Cibot, \x93I will give you a commission of
two thousand francs on each of the pictures if you can arrange that I
shall have them for forty thousand francs,\x94 he said. La Cibot was amazed
at this good fortune dropped from the sky. Admiration, or, to be more
accurate, delirious joy, had wrought such havoc in the Jew\x92s brain, that
it had actually unsettled his habitual greed, and he fell headlong into
enthusiasm, as you see.

\x93And I?----\x94 put in Remonencq, who knew nothing about pictures.

\x93Everything here is equally good,\x94 the Jew said cunningly, lowering his
voice for Remonencq\x92s ears; \x93take ten pictures just as they come and on
the same conditions. Your fortune will be made.\x94

Again the three thieves looked each other in the face, each one of them
overcome with the keenest of all joys--sated greed. All of a sudden
the sick man\x92s voice rang through the room; the tones vibrated like the
strokes of a bell:

\x93Who is there?\x94 called Pons.

\x93Monsieur! just go back to bed!\x94 exclaimed La Cibot, springing upon
Pons and dragging him by main force. \x93What next! Have you a mind to kill
yourself?--Very well, then, it is not Dr. Poulain, it is Remonencq, good
soul, so anxious that he has come to ask after you!--Everybody is so
fond of you that the whole house is in a flutter. So what is there to
fear?\x94

\x93It seems to me that there are several of you,\x94 said Pons.

\x93Several? that is good! What next! Are you dreaming!--You will go off
your head before you have done, upon my word!--Here, look!\x94--and La
Cibot flung open the door, signed to Magus to go, and beckoned to
Remonencq.

\x93Well, my dear sir,\x94 said the Auvergnat, now supplied with something to
say, \x93I just came to ask after you, for the whole house is alarmed about
you.--Nobody likes Death to set foot in a house!--And lastly, Daddy
Monistrol, whom you know very well, told me to tell you that if you
wanted money he was at your service----\x94

\x93He sent you here to take a look round at my knick-knacks!\x94 returned the
old collector from his bed; and the sour tones of his voice were full of
suspicion.

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

\x93Your collection is fine enough to attract the attention of _chineurs_,\x94
 Remonencq answered astutely. \x93I am not much in the art line myself; but
you are supposed to be such a great connoisseur, sir, that with my eyes
shut--supposing, for instance, that you should need money some time or
other, for nothing costs so much as these confounded illnesses; there
was my sister now, when she would have got better again just as well
without. Doctors are rascals that take advantage of your condition to--\x94

\x93Thank you, good-day, good-day,\x94 broke in Pons, eying the marine
store-dealer uneasily.

\x93I will go to the door with him, for fear he should touch something,\x94 La
Cibot whispered to her patient.

\x93Yes, yes,\x94 answered the invalid, thanking her by a glance.

La Cibot shut the bedroom door behind her, and Pons\x92 suspicions awoke
again at once.

She found Magus standing motionless before the four pictures. His
immobility, his admiration, can only be understood by other souls open
to ideal beauty, to the ineffable joy of beholding art made
perfect; such as these can stand for whole hours before the
_Antiope_--Correggio\x92s masterpiece--before Leonardo\x92s _Gioconda_,
Titian\x92s _Mistress_, Andrea del Sarto\x92s _Holy Family_, Domenichino\x92s
_Children Among the Flowers_, Raphael\x92s little cameo, or his _Portrait
of an Old Man_--Art\x92s greatest masterpieces.

\x93Be quick and go, and make no noise,\x94 said La Cibot.

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

\x93Make it _four_ thousand francs for each picture,\x94 said she, \x93or I do
nothing.\x94

\x93I am so poor!...\x94 began Magus. \x93I want the pictures simply for their
own sake, simply and solely for the love of art, my dear lady.\x94

\x93I can understand that love, sonny, you are so dried up. But if you do
not promise me sixteen thousand francs now, before Remonencq here, I
shall want twenty to-morrow.\x94

\x93Sixteen; I promise,\x94 returned the Jew, frightened by the woman\x92s
rapacity.

La Cibot turned to Remonencq.

\x93What oath can a Jew swear?\x94 she inquired.

\x93You may trust him,\x94 replied the marine store-dealer. \x93He is as honest
as I am.\x94

\x93Very well; and you?\x94 asked she, \x93if I get him to sell them to you, what
will you give me?\x94

\x93Half-share of profits,\x94 Remonencq answered briskly.

\x93I would rather have a lump sum,\x94 returned La Cibot; \x93I am not in
business myself.\x94

\x93You understand business uncommonly well!\x94 put in Elie Magus, smiling;
\x93a famous saleswoman you would make!\x94

\x93I want her to take me into partnership, me and my goods,\x94 said the
Auvergnat, as he took La Cibot\x92s plump arm and gave it playful taps like
hammer-strokes. \x93I don\x92t ask her to bring anything into the firm but her
good looks! You are making a mistake when your stick to your Turk of
a Cibot and his needle. Is a little bit of a porter the man to make a
woman rich--a fine woman like you? Ah, what a figure you would make in
a shop on the boulevard, all among the curiosities, gossiping with
amateurs and twisting them round your fingers! Just you leave your lodge
as soon as you have lined your purse here, and you shall see what will
become of us both.\x94

\x93Lined my purse!\x94 cried Cibot. \x93I am incapable of taking the worth of a
single pin; you mind that, Remonencq! I am known in the neighborhood for
an honest woman, I am.\x94

La Cibot\x92s eyes flashed fire.

\x93There, never mind,\x94 said Elie Magus; \x93this Auvergnat seems to be too
fond of you to mean to insult you.\x94

\x93How she would draw on the customers!\x94 cried the Auvergnat.

Mme. Cibot softened at this.

\x93Be fair, sonnies,\x94 quoth she, \x93and judge for yourselves how I am
placed. These ten years past I have been wearing my life out for these
two old bachelors yonder, and neither or them has given me anything but
words. Remonencq will tell you that I feed them by contract, and lose
twenty or thirty sous a day; all my savings have gone that way, by the
soul of my mother (the only author of my days that I ever knew), this
is as true as that I live, and that this is the light of day, and may my
coffee poison me if I lie about a farthing. Well, there is one up there
that will die soon, eh? and he the richer of the two that I have treated
like my own children. Would you believe it, my dear sir, I have told him
over and over again for days past that he is at death\x92s door (for Dr.
Poulain has given him up), he could not say less about putting my name
down in his will. We shall only get our due by taking it, upon my word,
as an honest woman, for as for trusting to the next-of-kin!--No fear!
There! look you here, words don\x92t stink; it is a bad world!\x94

\x93That is true,\x94 Elie Magus answered cunningly, \x93that is true; and it
is just the like of us that are among the best,\x94 he added, looking at
Remonencq.

\x93Just let me be,\x94 returned La Cibot; \x93I am not speaking of you.
\x91Pressing company is always accepted,\x92 as the old actor said. I swear to
you that the two gentlemen already owe me nearly three thousand francs;
the little I have is gone by now in medicine and things on their
account; and now suppose they refuse to recognize my advances? I am so
stupidly honest that I did not dare to say nothing to them about it.
Now, you that are in business, my dear sir, do you advise me to got to a
lawyer?\x94

\x93A lawyer?\x94 cried Remonencq; \x93you know more about it than all the
lawyers put together--\x94

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

\x93Oh, goodness me!\x94 exclaimed La Cibot; \x93it seems to me that monsieur has
just taken a ticket for the ground floor.\x94

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

\x93No slippers! In your shirt! That is the way to kill yourself! Why do
you suspect me?--If this is to be the way of it, I wish you good-day,
sir. Here have I served you these ten years, I have spent money on you
till my savings are all gone, to spare trouble to that poor M. Schmucke,
crying like a child on the stairs--and _this_ is my reward! You have
been spying on me. God has punished you! It serves you right! Here I
am straining myself to carry you, running the risk of doing myself a
mischief that I shall feel all my days. Oh dear, oh dear! and the door
left open too--\x94

\x93You were talking with some one. Who was it?\x94

\x93Here are notions!\x94 cried La Cibot. \x93What next! Am I your bond-slave?
Am I to give account of myself to you? Do you know that if you bother me
like this, I shall clear out! You shall take a nurse.\x94

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

\x93It is my illness!\x94 he pleaded piteously.

\x93It is as you please,\x94 La Cibot answered roughly.

She went. Pons, confused, remorseful, admiring his nurse\x92s scalding
devotion, reproached himself for his behavior. The fall on the paved
floor of the dining-room had shaken and bruised him, and aggravated his
illness, but Pons was scarcely conscious of his physical sufferings.

La Cibot met Schmucke on the staircase.

\x93Come here, sir,\x94 she said. \x93There is bad news, that there is! M. Pons
is going off his head! Just think of it! he got up with nothing on,
he came after me--and down he came full-length. Ask him why--he knows
nothing about it. He is in a bad way. I did nothing to provoke such
violence, unless, perhaps, I waked up ideas by talking to him of his
early amours. Who knows men? Old libertines that they are. I ought
not to have shown him my arms when his eyes were glittering like
_carbuckles_.\x94

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

\x93I have given myself a wrench that I shall feel all my days,\x94 added she,
making as though she were in great pain. (Her arms did, as a matter of
fact, ache a little, and the muscular fatigue suggested an idea, which
she proceeded to turn to profit.) \x93So stupid I am. When I saw him lying
there on the floor, I just took him up in my arms as if he had been a
child, and carried him back to bed, I did. And I strained myself, I can
feel it now. Ah! how it hurts!--I am going downstairs. Look after our
patient. I will send Cibot for Dr. Poulain. I had rather die outright
than be crippled.\x94

La Cibot crawled downstairs, clinging to the banisters, and writhing and
groaning so piteously that the tenants, in alarm, came out upon their
landings. Schmucke supported the suffering creature, and told the story
of La Cibot\x92s devotion, the tears running down his cheeks as he spoke.
Before very long the whole house, the whole neighborhood indeed, had
heard of Mme. Cibot\x92s heroism; she had given herself a dangerous strain,
it was said, with lifting one of the \x93nutcrackers.\x94

Schmucke meanwhile went to Pons\x92 bedside with the tale. Their factotum
was in a frightful state. \x93What shall we do without her?\x94 they said,
as they looked at each other; but Pons was so plainly the worse for his
escapade, that Schmucke did not dare to scold him.

\x93Gonfounded pric-a-prac! I would sooner purn dem dan loose mein friend!\x94
 he cried, when Pons told him of the cause of the accident. \x93To suspect
Montame Zipod, dot lend us her safings! It is not goot; but it is der
illness--\x94

\x93Ah! what an illness! I am not the same man, I can feel it,\x94 said Pons.
\x93My dear Schmucke, if only you did not suffer through me!\x94

\x93Scold me,\x94 Schmucke answered, \x93und leaf Montame Zipod in beace.\x94

As for Mme. Cibot, she soon recovered in Dr. Poulain\x92s hands; and her
restoration, bordering on the miraculous, shed additional lustre on
her name and fame in the Marais. Pons attributed the success to the
excellent constitution of the patient, who resumed her ministrations
seven days later to the great satisfaction of her two gentlemen.
Her influence in their household and her tyranny was increased
a hundred-fold by the accident. In the course of a week, the two
nutcrackers ran into debt; Mme. Cibot paid the outstanding amounts, and
took the opportunity to obtain from Schmucke (how easily!) a receipt for
two thousand francs, which she had lent, she said, to the friends.

\x93Oh, what a doctor M. Poulain is!\x94 cried La Cibot, for Pons\x92 benefit.
\x93He will bring you through, my dear sir, for he pulled me out of my
coffin! Cibot, poor man, thought I was dead.... Well, Dr. Poulain will
have told you that while I was in bed I thought of nothing but you. \x91God
above,\x92 said I, \x91take me, and let my dear Mr. Pons live--\x92\x94

\x93Poor dear Mme. Cibot, you all but crippled yourself for me.\x94

\x93Ah! but for Dr. Poulain I should have been put to bed with a shovel by
now, as we shall all be one day. Well, what must be, must, as the old
actor said. One must take things philosophically. How did you get on
without me?\x94

\x93Schmucke nursed me,\x94 said the invalid; \x93but our poor money-box and our
lessons have suffered. I do not know how he managed.\x94

\x93Calm yourself, Bons,\x94 exclaimed Schmucke; \x93ve haf in Zipod ein
panker--\x94

\x93Do not speak of it, my lamb. You are our children, both of you,\x94 cried
La Cibot. \x93Our savings will be well invested; you are safer than the
Bank. So long as we have a morsel of bread, half of it is yours. It is
not worth mentioning--\x94

\x93Boor Montame Zipod!\x94 said Schmucke, and he went.

Pons said nothing.

\x93Would you believe it, my cherub?\x94 said La Cibot, as the sick man tossed
uneasily, \x93in my agony--for it was a near squeak for me--the thing that
worried me most was the thought that I must leave you alone, with no one
to look after you, and my poor Cibot without a farthing.... My savings
are such a trifle, that I only mention them in connection with my death
and Cibot, an angel that he is! No. He nursed me as if I had been a
queen, he did, and cried like a calf over me!... But I counted on you,
upon my word. I said to him, \x91There, Cibot! my gentlemen will not let
you starve--\x92\x94

Pons made no reply to this thrust _ad testamentum_; but as the portress
waited for him to say something--\x93I shall recommend you to M. Schmucke,\x94
 he said at last.

\x93Ah!\x94 cried La Cibot, \x93whatever you do will be right; I trust in you and
your heart. Let us never talk of this again; you make me feel ashamed,
my cherub. Think of getting better, you will outlive us all yet.\x94

Profound uneasiness filled Mme. Cibot\x92s mind. She cast about for some
way of making the sick man understand that she expected a legacy. That
evening, when Schmucke was eating his dinner as usual by Pons\x92 bedside,
she went out, hoping to find Dr. Poulain at home.

Dr. Poulain lived in the Rue d\x92Orleans in a small ground floor
establishment, consisting of a lobby, a sitting-room, and two bedrooms.
A closet, opening into the lobby and the bedroom, had been turned into
a study for the doctor. The kitchen, the servant\x92s bedroom, and a small
cellar were situated in a wing of the house, a huge pile built in the
time of the Empire, on the site of an old mansion of which the garden
still remained, though it had been divided among the three ground floor
tenants.

Nothing had been changed in the doctor\x92s house since it was built.
Paint and paper and ceilings were all redolent of the Empire. The grimy
deposits of forty years lay thick on walls and ceilings, on paper and
paint and mirrors and gilding. And yet, this little establishment, in
the depths of the Marais, paid a rent of a thousand francs.

Mme. Poulain, the doctor\x92s mother, aged sixty-seven, was ending her days
in the second bedroom. She worked for a breeches-maker, stitching men\x92s
leggings, breeches, belts, and braces, anything, in fact, that is made
in a way of business which has somewhat fallen off of late years. Her
whole time was spent in keeping her son\x92s house and superintending
the one servant; she never went abroad, and took the air in the little
garden entered through the glass door of the sitting-room. Twenty years
previously, when her husband died, she sold his business to his best
workman, who gave his master\x92s widow work enough to earn a daily wage
of thirty sous. She had made every sacrifice to educate her son. At all
costs, he should occupy a higher station than his father before him;
and now she was proud of her Aesculapius, she believed in him, and
sacrificed everything to him as before. She was happy to take care of
him, to work and put by a little money, and dream of nothing but his
welfare, and love him with an intelligent love of which every mother is
not capable. For instance, Mme. Poulain remembered that she had been a
working girl. She would not injure her son\x92s prospects; he should not be
ashamed by his mother (for the good woman\x92s grammar was something of
the same kind as Mme. Cibot\x92s); and for this reason she kept in the
background, and went to her room of her own accord if any distinguished
patient came to consult the doctor, or if some old schoolfellow or
fellow-student chanced to call. Dr. Poulain had never had occasion to
blush for the mother whom he revered; and this sublime love of hers more
than atoned for a defective education.

The breeches-maker\x92s business sold for about twenty thousand francs, and
the widow invested the money in the Funds in 1820. The income of eleven
hundred francs per annum derived from this source was, at one time, her
whole fortune. For many a year the neighbors used to see the doctor\x92s
linen hanging out to dry upon a clothes-line in the garden, and the
servant and Mme. Poulain thriftily washed everything at home; a piece of
domestic economy which did not a little to injure the doctor\x92s practice,
for it was thought that if he was so poor, it must be through his own
fault. Her eleven hundred francs scarcely did more than pay the rent.
During those early days, Mme. Poulain, good, stout, little old woman,
was the breadwinner, and the poor household lived upon her earnings.
After twelve years of perseverance upon a rough and stony road, Dr.
Poulain at last was making an income of three thousand francs, and Mme.
Poulain had an income of about five thousand francs at her disposal.
Five thousand francs for those who know Paris means a bare subsistence.

The sitting-room, where patients waited for an interview, was shabbily
furnished. There was the inevitable mahogany sofa covered with
yellow-flowered Utrecht velvet, four easy-chairs, a tea-table, a
console, and half-a-dozen chairs, all the property of the deceased
breeches-maker, and chosen by him. A lyre-shaped clock between two
Egyptian candlesticks still preserved its glass shade intact. You
asked yourself how the yellow chintz window-curtains, covered with red
flowers, had contrived to hang together for so long; for evidently they
had come from the Jouy factory, and Oberkampf received the Emperor\x92s
congratulations upon similar hideous productions of the cotton industry
in 1809.

The doctor\x92s consulting-room was fitted up in the same style,
with household stuff from the paternal chamber. It looked stiff,
poverty-stricken, and bare. What patient could put faith in the skill of
any unknown doctor who could not even furnish his house? And this in a
time when advertising is all-powerful; when we gild the gas-lamps in
the Place de la Concorde to console the poor man for his poverty by
reminding him that he is rich as a citizen.

The ante-chamber did duty as a dining-room. The servant sat at her
sewing there whenever she was not busy in the kitchen or keeping the
doctor\x92s mother company. From the dingy short curtains in the windows
you would have guessed at the shabby thrift behind them without setting
foot in the dreary place. What could those wall-cupboards contain but
stale scraps of food, chipped earthenware, corks used over and over
again indefinitely, soiled table-linen, odds and ends that could descend
but one step lower into the dust-heap, and all the squalid necessities
of a pinched household in Paris?

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

A humdrum monotonous life tells in the end upon the most adventurous
spirit. A man fashions himself to his lot, he accepts a commonplace
existence; and Dr. Poulain, after ten years of his practice, continued
his labors of Sisyphus without the despair that made early days so
bitter. And yet--like every soul in Paris--he cherished a dream.
Remonencq was happy in his dream; La Cibot had a dream of her own; and
Dr. Poulain, too, dreamed. Some day he would be called in to attend
a rich and influential patient, would effect a positive cure, and the
patient would procure a post for him; he would be head surgeon to a
hospital, medical officer of a prison or police-court, or doctor to the
boulevard theatres. He had come by his present appointment as doctor
to the Mairie in this very way. La Cibot had called him in when the
landlord of the house in the Rue de Normandie fell ill; he had treated
the case with complete success; M. Pillerault, the patient, took
an interest in the young doctor, called to thank him, and saw his
carefully-hidden poverty. Count Popinot, the cabinet minister, had
married M. Pillerault\x92s grand-niece, and greatly respected her uncle; of
him, therefore, M. Pillerault had asked for the post, which Poulain had
now held for two years. That appointment and its meagre salary came just
in time to prevent a desperate step; Poulain was thinking of emigration;
and for a Frenchman, it is a kind of death to leave France.

Dr. Poulain went, you may be sure, to thank Count Popinot; but as Count
Popinot\x92s family physician was the celebrated Horace Bianchon, it was
pretty clear that his chances of gaining a footing in that house were
something of the slenderest. The poor doctor had fondly hoped for the
patronage of a powerful cabinet minister, one of the twelve or fifteen
cards which a cunning hand has been shuffling for sixteen years on the
green baize of the council table, and now he dropped back again into his
Marais, his old groping life among the poor and the small tradespeople,
with the privilege of issuing certificates of death for a yearly stipend
of twelve hundred francs.

Dr. Poulain had distinguished himself to some extent as a house-student;
he was a prudent practitioner, and not without experience. His deaths
caused no scandal; he had plenty of opportunities of studying all kinds
of complaints _in anima vili_. Judge, therefore, of the spleen that
he nourished! The expression of his countenance, lengthy and not
too cheerful to begin with, at times was positively appalling. Set a
Tartuffe\x92s all-devouring eyes, and the sour humor of an Alceste in
a sallow-parchment visage, and try to imagine for yourself the gait,
bearing, and expression of a man who thought himself as good a doctor as
the illustrious Bianchon, and felt that he was held down in his narrow
lot by an iron hand. He could not help comparing his receipts (ten
francs a day if he was fortunate) with Bianchon\x92s five or six hundred.

Are the hatreds and jealousies of democracy incomprehensible after this?
Ambitious and continually thwarted, he could not reproach himself.
He had once already tried his fortune by inventing a purgative pill,
something like Morrison\x92s, and intrusted the business operations to an
old hospital chum, a house-student who afterwards took a retail drug
business; but, unluckily, the druggist, smitten with the charms of a
ballet-dancer of the Ambigu-Comique, found himself at length in the
bankruptcy court; and as the patent had been taken out in his name,
his partner was literally without a remedy, and the important discovery
enriched the purchaser of the business. The sometime house-student set
sail for Mexico, that land of gold, taking poor Poulain\x92s little savings
with him; and, to add insult to injury, the opera-dancer treated him as
an extortioner when he applied to her for his money.

Not a single rich patient had come to him since he had the luck to cure
old M. Pillerault. Poulain made his rounds on foot, scouring the Marais
like a lean cat, and obtained from two to forty sous out of a score
of visits. The paying patient was a phenomenon about as rare as that
anomalous fowl known as a \x93white blackbird\x94 in all sublunary regions.

The briefless barrister, the doctor without a patient, are pre-eminently
the two types of a decorous despair peculiar to this city of Paris;
it is mute, dull despair in human form, dressed in a black coat and
trousers with shining seams that recall the zinc on an attic roof, a
glistening satin waistcoat, a hat preserved like a relic, a pair of old
gloves, and a cotton shirt. The man is the incarnation of a melancholy
poem, sombre as the secrets of the Conciergerie. Other kinds of poverty,
the poverty of the artist--actor, painter, musician, or poet--are
relieved and lightened by the artist\x92s joviality, the reckless gaiety
of the Bohemian border country--the first stage of the journey to the
Thebaid of genius. But these two black-coated professions that go afoot
through the street are brought continually in contact with disease and
dishonor; they see nothing of human nature but its sores; in the
forlorn first stages and beginnings of their career they eye competitors
suspiciously and defiantly; concentrated dislike and ambition flashes
out in glances like the breaking forth of hidden flames. Let two
schoolfellows meet after twenty years, the rich man will avoid the poor;
he does not recognize him, he is afraid even to glance into the gulf
which Fate has set between him and the friend of other years. The one
has been borne through life on the mettlesome steed called Fortune, or
wafted on the golden clouds of success; the other has been making his
way in underground Paris through the sewers, and bears the marks of his
career upon him. How many a chum of old days turned aside at the sight
of the doctor\x92s greatcoat and waistcoat!

With this explanation, it should be easy to understand how Dr. Poulain
came to lend himself so readily to the farce of La Cibot\x92s illness and
recovery. Greed of every kind, ambition of every nature, is not easy to
hide. The doctor examined his patient, found that every organ was sound
and healthy, admired the regularity of her pulse and the perfect ease of
her movements; and as she continued to moan aloud, he saw that for some
reason she found it convenient to lie at Death\x92s door. The speedy cure
of a serious imaginary disease was sure to cause a sensation in the
neighborhood; the doctor would be talked about. He made up his mind at
once. He talked of rupture, and of taking it in time, and thought even
worse of the case than La Cibot herself. The portress was plied with
various remedies, and finally underwent a sham operation, crowned with
complete success. Poulain repaired to the Arsenal Library, looked out a
grotesque case in some of Desplein\x92s records of extraordinary cures, and
fitted the details to Mme. Cibot, modestly attributing the success of
the treatment to the great surgeon, in whose steps (he said) he walked.
Such is the impudence of beginners in Paris. Everything is made to serve
as a ladder by which to climb upon the scene; and as everything, even
the rungs of a ladder, will wear out in time, the new members of every
profession are at a loss to find the right sort of wood of which to make
steps for themselves.

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



Mme. Cibot, entering in her usual unceremonious fashion, found the
doctor and his mother at table, before a bowl of lamb\x92s lettuce, the
cheapest of all salad-stuffs. The dessert consisted of a thin wedge of
Brie cheese flanked by a plate of specked foreign apples and a dish
of mixed dry fruits, known as _quatre-mendiants_, in which the raisin
stalks were abundantly conspicuous.

\x93You can stay, mother,\x94 said the doctor, laying a hand on Mme. Poulain\x92s
arm; \x93this is Mme. Cibot, of whom I have told you.\x94

\x93My respects to you, madame, and my duty to you, sir,\x94 said La Cibot,
taking the chair which the doctor offered. \x93Ah! is this your mother,
sir? She is very happy to have a son who has such talent; he saved my
life, madame, brought me back from the depths.\x94

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

\x93I have just come to tell you, that, between ourselves, poor M. Pons is
doing very badly, sir, and I have something to say to you about him--\x94

\x93Let us go into the sitting-room,\x94 interrupted the doctor, and with a
significant gesture he indicated the servant.

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

\x93You understand, my dear sir,\x94 she concluded, \x93that I really ought to
know how far I can depend on M. Pons\x92 intentions, supposing that he
should not die; not that I want him to die, for looking after those two
innocents is my life, madame, you see; still, when one of them is gone
I shall look after the other. For my own part, I was built by Nature to
rival mothers. Without nobody to care for, nobody to take for a child, I
don\x92t know what I should do.... So if M. Poulain only would, he might do
me a service for which I should be very grateful; and that is, to say a
word to M. Pons for me. Goodness me! an annuity of a thousand francs,
is that too much, I ask you?... To. M. Schmucke it would be so much
gained.--Our dear patient said that he should recommend me to the
German, poor man; it is his idea, no doubt, that M. Schmucke should
be his heir. But what is a man that cannot put two ideas together in
French? And besides, he would be quite capable of going back to Germany,
he will be in such despair over his friend\x92s death--\x94

The doctor grew grave. \x93My dear Mme. Cibot,\x94 he said, \x93this sort of
thing does not in the least concern a doctor. I should not be allowed to
exercise my profession if it was known that I interfered in the matter
of my patients\x92 testamentary dispositions. The law forbids a doctor to
receive a legacy from a patient--\x94

\x93A stupid law! What is to hinder me from dividing my legacy with you?\x94
 La Cibot said immediately.

\x93I will go further,\x94 said the doctor; \x93my professional conscience will
not permit me to speak to M. Pons of his death. In the first place, he
is not so dangerously ill that there is any need to speak of it, and in
the second, such talk coming from me might give a shock to the system
that would do him real harm, and then his illness might terminate
fatally--\x94

\x93_I_ don\x92t put on gloves to tell him to get his affairs in order,\x94 cried
Mme. Cibot, \x93and he is none the worse for that. He is used to it. There
is nothing to fear.\x94

\x93Not a word more about it, my dear Mme. Cibot! These things are not
within a doctor\x92s province; it is a notary\x92s business--\x94

\x93But, my dear M. Poulain, suppose that M. Pons of his own accord should
ask you how he is, and whether he had better make his arrangements;
then, would you refuse to tell him that if you want to get better it is
an excellent plan to set everything in order? Then you might just slip
in a little word for me--\x94

\x93Oh, if _he_ talks of making his will, I certainly shall not dissuade
him,\x94 said the doctor.

\x93Very well, that is settled. I came to thank you for your care of me,\x94
 she added, as she slipped a folded paper containing three gold coins
into the doctor\x92s hands. \x93It is all I can do at the moment. Ah! my dear
M. Poulain, if I were rich, you should be rich, you that are the image
of Providence on earth.--Madame, you have an angel for a son.\x94

La Cibot rose to her feet, Mme. Poulain bowed amiably, and the doctor
went to the door with the visitor. Just then a sudden, lurid gleam of
light flashed across the mind of this Lady Macbeth of the streets. She
saw clearly that the doctor was her accomplice--he had taken the fee for
the sham illness.

\x93M. Poulain,\x94 she began, \x93how can you refuse to say a word or two to
save me from want, when you helped me in the affair of my accident?\x94

The doctor felt that the devil had him by the hair, as the saying is; he
felt, too, that the hair was being twisted round the pitiless red claw.
Startled and afraid lest he should sell his honesty for such a trifle,
he answered the diabolical suggestion by another no less diabolical.

\x93Listen, my dear Mme. Cibot,\x94 he said, as he drew her into his
consulting-room. \x93I will now pay a debt of gratitude that I owe you for
my appointment to the mairie--\x94

\x93We go shares?\x94 she asked briskly.

\x93In what?\x94

\x93In the legacy.\x94

\x93You do not know me,\x94 said Dr. Poulain, drawing himself up like Valerius
Publicola. \x93Let us have no more of that. I have a friend, an old
schoolfellow of mine, a very intelligent young fellow; and we are so
much the more intimate, because, our lives have fallen out very much in
the same way. He was studying law while I was a house-student, he was
engrossing deeds in Maitre Couture\x92s office. His father was a shoemaker,
and mine was a breeches-maker; he has not found anyone to take much
interest in his career, nor has he any capital; for, after all, capital
is only to be had from sympathizers. He could only afford to buy
a provincial connection--at Mantes--and so little do provincials
understand the Parisian intellect, that they set all sorts of intrigues
on foot against him.\x94

\x93The wretches!\x94 cried La Cibot.

\x93Yes,\x94 said the doctor. \x93They combined against him to such purpose, that
they forced him to sell his connection by misrepresenting something that
he had done; the attorney for the crown interfered, he belonged to the
place, and sided with his fellow-townsmen. My friend\x92s name is Fraisier.
He is lodged as I am, and he is even leaner and more threadbare. He took
refuge in our arrondissement, and is reduced to appear for clients in
the police-court or before the magistrate. He lives in the Rue de la
Perle close by. Go to No. 9, third floor, and you will see his name on
the door on the landing, painted in gilt letters on a small square
of red leather. Fraisier makes a special point of disputes among the
porters, workmen, and poor folk in the arrondissement, and his charges
are low. He is an honest man; for I need not tell you that if he had
been a scamp, he would be keeping his carriage by now. I will call and
see my friend Fraisier this evening. Go to him early to-morrow; he knows
M. Louchard, the bailiff; M. Tabareau, the clerk of the court; and the
justice of the peace, M. Vitel; and M. Trognon, the notary. He is even
now looked upon as one of the best men of business in the Quarter. If
he takes charge of your interests, if you can secure him as M. Pons\x92
adviser, you will have a second self in him, you see. But do not make
dishonorable proposals to him, as you did just now to me; he has a
head on his shoulders, you will understand each other. And as for
acknowledging his services, I will be your intermediary--\x94

Mme. Cibot looked askance at the doctor.

\x93Is that the lawyer who helped Mme. Florimond the haberdasher in the Rue
Vieille-du-Temple out of a fix in that matter of her friend\x92s legacy?\x94

\x93The very same.\x94

\x93Wasn\x92t it a shame that she did not marry him after he had gained two
thousand francs a year for her?\x94 exclaimed La Cibot. \x93And she thought to
clear off scores by making him a present of a dozen shirts and a couple
of dozen pocket-handkerchiefs; an outfit, in short.\x94

\x93My dear Mme. Cibot, that outfit cost a thousand francs, and Fraisier
was just setting up for himself in the Quarter, and wanted the things
very badly. And what was more, she paid the bill without asking any
questions. That affair brought him clients, and now he is very busy; but
in my line a practice brings--\x94

\x93It is only the righteous that suffer here below,\x94 said La Cibot. \x93Well,
M. Poulain, good-day and thank you.\x94

And herewith begins the tragedy, or, if you like to have it so,
a terrible comedy--the death of an old bachelor delivered over by
circumstances too strong for him to the rapacity and greed that gathered
about his bed. And other forces came to the support of rapacity and
greed; there was the picture collector\x92s mania, that most intense of all
passions; there was the cupidity of the Sieur Fraisier, whom you shall
presently behold in his den, a sight to make you shudder; and lastly,
there was the Auvergnat thirsting for money, ready for anything--even
for a crime--that should bring him the capital he wanted. The first part
of the story serves in some sort as a prelude to this comedy in which
all the actors who have hitherto occupied the stage will reappear.

The degradation of a word is one of those curious freaks of manners
upon which whole volumes of explanation might be written. Write to an
attorney and address him as \x93Lawyer So-and-so,\x94 and you insult him as
surely as you would insult a wholesale colonial produce merchant by
addressing your letter to \x93Mr. So-and-so, Grocer.\x94 There are plenty
of men of the world who ought to be aware, since the knowledge of such
subtle distinctions is their province, that you cannot insult a French
writer more cruelly than by calling him _un homme de lettres_--a
literary man. The word _monsieur_ is a capital example of the life and
death of words. Abbreviated from monseigneur, once so considerable a
title, and even now, in the form of _sire_, reserved for emperors and
kings, it is bestowed indifferently upon all and sundry; while the
twin-word _messire_, which is nothing but its double and equivalent, if
by any chance it slips into a certificate of burial, produces an outcry
in the Republican papers.

Magistrates, councillors, jurisconsults, judges, barristers, officers
for the crown, bailiffs, attorneys, clerks of the court, procurators,
solicitors, and agents of various kinds, represent or misrepresent
Justice. The \x93lawyer\x94 and the bailiff\x92s men (commonly called \x93the
brokers\x94) are the two lowest rungs of the ladder. Now, the bailiff\x92s man
is an outsider, an adventitious minister of justice, appearing to
see that judgment is executed; he is, in fact, a kind of inferior
executioner employed by the county court. But the word \x93lawyer\x94
 (homme de loi) is a depreciatory term applied to the legal profession.
Consuming professional jealousy finds similar disparaging epithets
for fellow-travelers in every walk of life, and every calling has its
special insult. The scorn flung into the words _homme de loi, homme
de lettres_, is wanting in the plural form, which may be used without
offence; but in Paris every profession, learned or unlearned, has its
_omega_, the individual who brings it down to the level of the lowest
class; and the written law has its connecting link with the custom
right of the streets. There are districts where the pettifogging man of
business, known as Lawyer So-and-So, is still to be found. M. Fraisier
was to the member of the Incorporated Law Society as the money-lender
of the Halles, offering small loans for a short period at an exorbitant
interest, is to the great capitalist.

Working people, strange to say are as shy of officials as of fashionable
restaurants, they take advice from irregular sources as they turn into
a little wineshop to drink. Each rank in life finds its own level, and
there abides. None but a chosen few care to climb the heights, few can
feel at ease in the presence of their betters, or take their place among
them, like a Beaumarchais letting fall the watch of the great lord who
tried to humiliate him. And if there are few who can even rise to
a higher social level, those among them who can throw off their
swaddling-clothes are rare and great exceptions.



At six o\x92clock the next morning Mme. Cibot stood in the Rue de la Perle;
she was making a survey of the abode of her future adviser, Lawyer
Fraisier. The house was one of the old-fashioned kind formerly inhabited
by small tradespeople and citizens with small means. A cabinetmaker\x92s
shop occupied almost the whole of the ground floor, as well as the
little yard behind, which was covered with his workshops and warehouses;
the small remaining space being taken up by the porter\x92s lodge and the
passage entry in the middle. The staircase walls were half rotten with
damp and covered with saltpetre to such a degree that the house seemed
to be stricken with leprosy.

Mme. Cibot went straight to the porter\x92s lodge, and there encountered
one of the fraternity, a shoemaker, his wife, and two small children,
all housed in a room ten feet square, lighted from the yard at the back.
La Cibot mentioned her profession, named herself, and spoke of her house
in the Rue de Normandie, and the two women were on cordial terms at
once. After a quarter of an hour spent in gossip while the shoemaker\x92s
wife made breakfast ready for her husband and the children, Mme. Cibot
turned the conversation to the subject of the lodgers, and spoke of the
lawyer.

\x93I have come to see him on business,\x94 she said. \x93One of his friends, Dr.
Poulain, recommended me to him. Do you know Dr. Poulain?\x94

\x93I should think I do,\x94 said the lady of the Rue de la Perle. \x93He saved
my little girl\x92s life when she had the croup.\x94

\x93He saved my life, too, madame. What sort of a man is this M. Fraisier?\x94

\x93He is the sort of man, my dear lady, out of whom it is very difficult
to get the postage-money at the end of the month.\x94

To a person of La Cibot\x92s intelligence this was enough.

\x93One may be poor and honest,\x94 observed she.

\x93I am sure I hope so,\x94 returned Fraisier\x92s portress. \x93We are not
rolling in coppers, let alone gold or silver; but we have not a farthing
belonging to anybody else.\x94

This sort of talk sounded familiar to La Cibot.

\x93In short, one can trust him, child, eh?\x94

\x93Lord! when M. Fraisier means well by any one, there is not his like, so
I have heard Mme. Florimond say.\x94

\x93And why didn\x92t she marry him when she owed her fortune to him?\x94 La
Cibot asked quickly. \x93It is something for a little haberdasher, kept by
an old man, to be a barrister\x92s wife--\x94

\x93Why?--\x94 asked the portress, bringing Mme. Cibot out into the passage.
\x93Why?--You are going to see him, are you not, madame?--Very well, when
you are in his office you will know why.\x94

From the state of the staircase, lighted by sash-windows on the side of
the yard, it was pretty evident that the inmates of the house, with the
exception of the landlord and M. Fraisier himself, were all workmen.
There were traces of various crafts in the deposit of mud upon the
steps--brass-filings, broken buttons, scraps of gauze, and esparto grass
lay scattered about. The walls of the upper stories were covered with
apprentices\x92 ribald scrawls and caricatures. The portress\x92 last remark
had roused La Cibot\x92s curiosity; she decided, not unnaturally, that she
would consult Dr. Poulain\x92s friend; but as for employing him, that must
depend upon her impressions.

\x93I sometimes wonder how Mme. Sauvage can stop in his service,\x94 said the
portress, by way of comment; she was following in Mme. Cibot\x92s wake. \x93I
will come up with you, madame\x94 she added; \x93I am taking the milk and the
newspaper up to my landlord.\x94

Arrived on the second floor above the entresol, La Cibot beheld a door
of the most villainous description. The doubtful red paint was coated
for seven or eight inches round the keyhole with a filthy glaze, a grimy
deposit from which the modern house-decorator endeavors to protect the
doors of more elegant apartments by glass \x93finger-plates.\x94 A grating,
almost stopped up with some compound similar to the deposit with which
a restaurant-keeper gives an air of cellar-bound antiquity to a merely
middle-aged bottle, only served to heighten the general resemblance to
a prison door; a resemblance further heightened by the trefoil-shaped
iron-work, the formidable hinges, the clumsy nail-heads. A miser, or a
pamphleteer at strife with the world at large, must surely have invented
these fortifications. A leaden sink, which received the waste water
of the household, contributed its quota to the fetid atmosphere of the
staircase, and the ceiling was covered with fantastic arabesques traced
by candle-smoke--such arabesques! On pulling a greasy acorn tassel
attached to the bell-rope, a little bell jangled feebly somewhere
within, complaining of the fissure in its metal sides.

Every detail was in keeping with the general dismal effect. La Cibot
heard a heavy footstep, and the asthmatic wheezing of a virago within,
and Mme. Sauvage presently showed herself. Adrien Brauwer might have
painted just such a hag for his picture of _Witches starting for the
Sabbath_; a stout, unwholesome slattern, five feet six inches in height,
with a grenadier countenance and a beard which far surpassed La
Cibot\x92s own; she wore a cheap, hideously ugly cotton gown, a bandana
handkerchief knotted over hair which she still continued to put in curl
papers (using for that purpose the printed circulars which her master
received), and a huge pair of gold earrings like cart-wheels in her
ears. This female Cerberus carried a battered skillet in one hand,
and opening the door, set free an imprisoned odor of scorched milk--a
nauseous and penetrating smell, that lost itself at once, however, among
the fumes outside.

\x93What can I do for you, missus?\x94 demanded Mme. Sauvage, and with a
truculent air she looked La Cibot over; evidently she was of the opinion
that the visitor was too well dressed, and her eyes looked the more
murderous because they were naturally bloodshot.

\x93I have come to see M. Fraisier; his friend, Dr. Poulain, sent me.\x94

\x93Oh! come in, missus,\x94 said La Sauvage, grown very amiable of a sudden,
which proves that she was prepared for this morning visit.

With a sweeping courtesy, the stalwart woman flung open the door of
a private office, which looked upon the street, and discovered the
ex-attorney of Mantes.

The room was a complete picture of a third-rate solicitor\x92s office; with
the stained wooden cases, the letter-files so old that they had grown
beards (in ecclesiastical language), the red tape dangling limp and
dejected, the pasteboard boxes covered with traces of the gambols of
mice, the dirty floor, the ceiling tawny with smoke. A frugal allowance
of wood was smouldering on a couple of fire-dogs on the hearth. And on
the chimney-piece above stood a foggy mirror and a modern clock with
an inlaid wooden case; Fraisier had picked it up at an execution sale,
together with the tawdry imitation rococo candlesticks, with the zinc
beneath showing through the lacquer in several places.

M. Fraisier was small, thin, and unwholesome looking; his red face,
covered with an eruption, told of tainted blood; and he had, moreover, a
trick of continually scratching his right arm. A wig pushed to the back
of his head displayed a brick-colored cranium of ominous conformation.
This person rose from a cane-seated armchair, in which he sat on a green
leather cushion, assumed an agreeable expression, and brought forward a
chair.

\x93Mme. Cibot, I believe?\x94 queried he, in dulcet tones.

\x93Yes, sir,\x94 answered the portress. She had lost her habitual assurance.

Something in the tones of a voice which strongly resembled the sounds of
the little door-bell, something in a glance even sharper than the sharp
green eyes of her future legal adviser, scared Mme. Cibot. Fraisier\x92s
presence so pervaded the room, that any one might have thought there
was pestilence in the air; and in a flash Mme. Cibot understood why Mme.
Florimond had not become Mme. Fraisier.

\x93Poulain told me about you, my dear madame,\x94 said the lawyer, in the
unnatural fashion commonly described by the words \x93mincing tones\x94; tones
sharp, thin, and grating as verjuice, in spite of all his efforts.

Arrived at this point, he tried to draw the skirts of his dressing-gown
over a pair of angular knees encased in threadbare felt. The robe was
an ancient printed cotton garment, lined with wadding which took the
liberty of protruding itself through various slits in it here and there;
the weight of this lining had pulled the skirts aside, disclosing a
dingy-hued flannel waistcoat beneath. With something of a coxcomb\x92s
manner, Fraisier fastened this refractory article of dress, tightening
the girdle to define his reedy figure; then with a blow of the tongs,
he effected a reconciliation between two burning brands that had long
avoided one another, like brothers after a family quarrel. A sudden
bright idea struck him, and he rose from his chair.

\x93Mme. Sauvage!\x94 called he.

\x93Well?\x94

\x93I am not at home to anybody!\x94

\x93Eh! bless your life, there\x92s no need to say that!\x94

\x93She is my old nurse,\x94 the lawyer said in some confusion.

\x93And she has not recovered her figure yet,\x94 remarked the heroine of the
Halles.

Fraisier laughed, and drew the bolt lest his housekeeper should
interrupt Mme. Cibot\x92s confidences.

\x93Well, madame, explain your business,\x94 said he, making another effort
to drape himself in the dressing-gown. \x93Any one recommended to me by
the only friend I have in the world may count upon me--I may
say--absolutely.\x94

For half an hour Mme. Cibot talked, and the man of law made no
interruption of any sort; his face wore the expression of curious
interest with which a young soldier listens to a pensioner of \x93The Old
Guard.\x94 Fraisier\x92s silence and acquiescence, the rapt attention with
which he appeared to listen to a torrent of gossip similar to the
samples previously given, dispelled some of the prejudices inspired in
La Cibot\x92s mind by his squalid surroundings. The little lawyer with the
black-speckled green eyes was in reality making a study of his client.
When at length she came to a stand and looked to him to speak, he was
seized with a fit of the complaint known as a \x93churchyard cough,\x94 and
had recourse to an earthenware basin half full of herb tea, which he
drained.

\x93But for Poulain, my dear madame, I should have been dead before this,\x94
 said Fraisier, by way of answer to the portress\x92 look of motherly
compassion; \x93but he will bring me round, he says--\x94

As all the client\x92s confidences appeared to have slipped from the memory
of her legal adviser, she began to cast about for a way of taking leave
of a man so apparently near death.

\x93In an affair of this kind, madame,\x94 continued the attorney from Mantes,
suddenly returning to business, \x93there are two things which it is
most important to know. In the first place, whether the property is
sufficient to be worth troubling about; and in the second, who the
next-of-kin may be; for if the property is the booty, the next-of-kin is
the enemy.\x94

La Cibot immediately began to talk of Remonencq and Elie Magus, and
said that the shrewd couple valued the pictures at six hundred thousand
francs.

\x93Would they take them themselves at that price?\x94 inquired the lawyer.
\x93You see, madame, that men of business are shy of pictures. A picture
may mean a piece of canvas worth a couple of francs or a painting worth
two hundred thousand. Now, paintings worth two hundred thousand francs
are usually well known; and what errors in judgment people make in
estimating even the most famous pictures of all! There was once a great
capitalist whose collection was admired, visited, and engraved--actually
engraved! He was supposed to have spent millions of francs on it. He
died, as men must, and--well, his _genuine_ pictures did not fetch
more than two hundred thousand francs! You must let me see these
gentlemen.--Now for the next-of-kin,\x94 and Fraisier again relapsed into
his attitude of listener.

When President Camusot\x92s name came up, he nodded with a grimace which
riveted Mme. Cibot\x92s attention. She tried to read the forehead and the
villainous face, and found what is called in business a \x93wooden head.\x94

\x93Yes, my dear sir,\x94 repeated La Cibot. \x93Yes, my M. Pons is own cousin
to President Camusot de Marville; he tells me that ten times a day. M.
Camusot the silk mercer was married twice--\x94

\x93He that has just been nominated for a peer of France?--\x94

\x93And his first wife was a Mlle. Pons, M. Pons\x92 first cousin.\x94

\x93Then they are first cousins once removed--\x94

\x93They are \x91not cousins.\x92 They have quarreled.\x94

It may be remembered that before M. Camusot de Marville came to Paris,
he was President of the Tribunal of Mantes for five years; and not only
was his name still remembered there, but he had kept up a correspondence
with Mantes. Camusot\x92s immediate successor, the judge with whom he had
been most intimate during his term of office, was still President of the
Tribunal, and consequently knew all about Fraisier.

\x93Do you know, madame,\x94 Fraisier said, when at last the red sluices of
La Cibot\x92s torrent tongue were closed, \x93do you know that your principal
enemy will be a man who can send you to the scaffold?\x94

The portress started on her chair, making a sudden spring like a
jack-in-the-box.

\x93Calm yourself, dear madame,\x94 continued Fraisier. \x93You may not have
known the name of the President of the Chamber of Indictments at the
Court of Appeal in Paris; but you ought to have known that M. Pons must
have an heir-at-law. M. le President de Marville is your invalid\x92s sole
heir; but as he is a collateral in the third degree, M. Pons is entitled
by law to leave his fortune as he pleases. You are not aware either
that, six weeks ago at least, M. le President\x92s daughter married the
eldest son of M. le Comte Popinot, peer of France, once Minister of
Agriculture, and President of the Board of Trade, one of the most
influential politicians of the day. President de Marville is even more
formidable through this marriage than in his own quality of head of the
Court of Assize.\x94

At that word La Cibot shuddered.

\x93Yes, and it is he who sends you there,\x94 continued Fraisier. \x93Ah! my
dear madame, you little know what a red robe means! It is bad enough
to have a plain black gown against you! You see me here, ruined, bald,
broken in health--all because, unwittingly, I crossed a mere attorney
for the crown in the provinces. I was forced to sell my connection at a
loss, and very lucky I was to come off with the loss of my money. If
I had tried to stand out, my professional position would have gone as
well.

\x93One thing more you do not know,\x94 he continued, \x93and this it is. If you
had only to do with President Camusot himself, it would be nothing; but
he has a wife, mind you!--and if you ever find yourself face to face
with that wife, you will shake in your shoes as if you were on the first
step of the scaffold, your hair will stand on end. The Presidente is so
vindictive that she would spend ten years over setting a trap to kill
you. She sets that husband of hers spinning like a top. Through her a
charming young fellow committed suicide at the Conciergerie. A count was
accused of forgery--she made his character as white as snow. She all
but drove a person of the highest quality from the Court of Charles X.
Finally, she displaced the Attorney-General, M. de Granville--\x94

\x93That lived in the Rue Vieille-du-Temple, at the corner of the Rue
Saint-Francois?\x94

\x93The very same. They say that she means to make her husband Home
Secretary, and I do not know that she will not gain her end.--If she
were to take it into her head to send us both to the Criminal Court
first and the hulks afterwards--I should apply for a passport and set
sail for America, though I am as innocent as a new-born babe. So well I
know what justice means. Now, see here, my dear Mme. Cibot; to marry
her only daughter to young Vicomte Popinot (heir to M. Pillerault, your
landlord, it is said)--to make that match, she stripped herself of her
whole fortune, so much so that the President and his wife have nothing
at this moment except his official salary. Can you suppose, my dear
madame, that under the circumstances Mme. la Presidente will let M.
Pons\x92 property go out of the family without a word?--Why, I would sooner
face guns loaded with grape-shot than have such a woman for my enemy--\x94

\x93But they have quarreled,\x94 put in La Cibot.

\x93What has that got to do with it?\x94 asked Fraisier. \x93It is one reason
the more for fearing her. To kill a relative of whom you are tired,
is something; but to inherit his property afterwards--that is a real
pleasure!\x94

\x93But the old gentleman has a horror of his relatives. He says over and
over again that these people--M. Cardot, M. Berthier, and the rest of
them (I can\x92t remember their names)--have crushed him as a tumbril cart
crushes an egg--\x94

\x93Have you a mind to be crushed too?\x94

\x93Oh dear! oh dear!\x94 cried La Cibot. \x93Ah! Ma\x92am Fontaine was right when
she said that I should meet with difficulties: still, she said that I
should succeed--\x94

\x93Listen, my dear Mme. Cibot.--As for making some thirty thousand
francs out of this business--that is possible; but for the whole of
the property, it is useless to think of it. We talked over your case
yesterday evening, Dr. Poulain and I--\x94

La Cibot started again.

\x93Well, what is the matter?\x94

\x93But if you knew about the affair, why did you let me chatter away like
a magpie?\x94

\x93Mme. Cibot, I knew all about your business, but I knew nothing of Mme.
Cibot. So many clients, so many characters--\x94

Mme. Cibot gave her legal adviser a queer look at this; all her
suspicions gleamed in her eyes. Fraisier saw this.

\x93I resume,\x94 he continued. \x93So, our friend Poulain was once called in
by you to attend old M. Pillerault, the Countess Popinot\x92s great-uncle;
that is one of your claims to my devotion. Poulain goes to see your
landlord (mark this!) once a fortnight; he learned all these particulars
from him. M. Pillerault was present at his grand-nephew\x92s wedding--for
he is an uncle with money to leave; he has an income of fifteen thousand
francs, though he has lived like a hermit for the last five-and-twenty
years, and scarcely spends a thousand crowns--well, _he_ told Poulain
all about this marriage. It seems that your old musician was precisely
the cause of the row; he tried to disgrace his own family by way of
revenge.--If you only hear one bell, you only hear one sound.--Your
invalid says that he meant no harm, but everybody thinks him a monster
of--\x94

\x93And it would not astonish me if he was!\x94 cried La Cibot. \x93Just imagine
it!--For these ten years past I have been money out of pocket for him,
spending my savings on him, and he knows it, and yet he will not let me
lie down to sleep on a legacy!--No, sir! he will _not_. He is obstinate,
a regular mule he is.--I have talked to him these ten days, and the
cross-grained cur won\x92t stir no more than a sign-post. He shuts his
teeth and looks at me like--The most that he would say was that he would
recommend me to M. Schmucke.\x94

\x93Then he means to make his will in favor of this Schmucke?\x94

\x93Everything will go to him--\x94

\x93Listen, my dear Mme. Cibot, if I am to arrive at any definite
conclusions and think of a plan, I must know M. Schmucke. I must see the
property and have some talk with this Jew of whom you speak; and then,
let me direct you--\x94

\x93We shall see, M. Fraisier.\x94

\x93What is this? \x91We shall see?\x92\x94 repeated Fraisier, speaking in the voice
natural to him, as he gave La Cibot a viperous glance. \x93Am I your legal
adviser or am I not, I say? Let us know exactly where we stand.\x94

La Cibot felt that he read her thoughts. A cold chill ran down her back.

\x93I have told you all I know,\x94 she said. She saw that she was at the
tiger\x92s mercy.

\x93We attorneys are accustomed to treachery. Just think carefully over
your position; it is superb.--If you follow my advice point by point,
you will have thirty or forty thousand francs. But there is a reverse
side to this beautiful medal. How if the Presidente comes to hear that
M. Pons\x92 property is worth a million of francs, and that you mean to
have a bit out of it?--for there is always somebody ready to take that
kind of errand--\x94 he added parenthetically.

This remark, and the little pause that came before and after it, sent
another shudder through La Cibot. She thought at once that Fraisier
himself would probably undertake that office.

\x93And then, my dear client, in ten minutes old Pillerault is asked to
dismiss you, and then on a couple of hours\x92 notice--\x94

\x93What does that matter to me?\x94 said La Cibot, rising to her feet like a
Bellona; \x93I shall stay with the gentlemen as their housekeeper.\x94

\x93And then, a trap will be set for you, and some fine morning you
and your husband will wake up in a prison cell, to be tried for your
lives--\x94

\x93_I?_\x94 cried La Cibot, \x93I that have not a farthing that doesn\x92t belong
to me?... _I!_... _I!_\x94

For five minutes she held forth, and Fraisier watched the great artist
before him as she executed a concerto of self-praise. He was quite
untouched, and even amused by the performance. His keen glances pricked
La Cibot like stilettos; he chuckled inwardly, till his shrunken wig was
shaking with laughter. He was a Robespierre at an age when the Sylla of
France was make couplets.

\x93And how? and why? And on what pretext?\x94 demanded she, when she had come
to an end.

\x93You wish to know how you may come to the guillotine?\x94

La Cibot turned pale as death at the words; the words fell like a knife
upon her neck. She stared wildly at Fraisier.

\x93Listen to me, my dear child,\x94 began Fraisier, suppressing his inward
satisfaction at his client\x92s discomfiture.

\x93I would sooner leave things as they are--\x94 murmured La Cibot, and she
rose to go.

\x93Stay,\x94 Fraisier said imperiously. \x93You ought to know the risks that you
are running; I am bound to give you the benefit of my lights.--You are
dismissed by M. Pillerault, we will say; there is no doubt about that,
is there? You enter the service of these two gentlemen. Very good!
That is a declaration of war against the Presidente. You mean to do
everything you can to gain possession of the property, and to get a
slice of it at any rate--

\x93Oh, I am not blaming you,\x94 Fraisier continued, in answer to a gesture
from his client. \x93It is not my place to do so. This is a battle, and
you will be led on further than you think for. One grows full of one\x92s
ideas, one hits hard--\x94

Another gesture of denial. This time La Cibot tossed her head.

\x93There, there, old lady,\x94 said Fraisier, with odious familiarity, \x93you
will go a very long way!--\x94

\x93You take me for a thief, I suppose?\x94

\x93Come, now, mamma, you hold a receipt in M. Schmucke\x92s hand which did
not cost you much.--Ah! you are in the confessional, my lady! Don\x92t
deceive your confessor, especially when the confessor has the power of
reading your thoughts.\x94

La Cibot was dismayed by the man\x92s perspicacity; now she knew why he had
listened to her so intently.

\x93Very good,\x94 continued he, \x93you can admit at once that the Presidente
will not allow you to pass her in the race for the property.--You
will be watched and spied upon.--You get your name into M. Pons\x92 will;
nothing could be better. But some fine day the law steps in, arsenic
is found in a glass, and you and your husband are arrested, tried, and
condemned for attempting the life of the Sieur Pons, so as to come by
your legacy. I once defended a poor woman at Versailles; she was in
reality as innocent as you would be in such a case. Things were as I
have told you, and all that I could do was to save her life. The unhappy
creature was sentenced to twenty years\x92 penal servitude. She is working
out her time now at St. Lazare.\x94

Mme. Cibot\x92s terror grew to the highest pitch. She grew paler and paler,
staring at the little, thin man with the green eyes, as some wretched
Moor, accused of adhering to her own religion, might gaze at the
inquisitor who doomed her to the stake.

\x93Then, do you tell me, that if I leave you to act, and put my interests
in your hands, I shall get something without fear?\x94

\x93I guarantee you thirty thousand francs,\x94 said Fraisier, speaking like a
man sure of the fact.

\x93After all, you know how fond I am of dear Dr. Poulain,\x94 she began again
in her most coaxing tones; \x93he told me to come to you, worthy man,
and he did not send me here to be told that I shall be guillotined for
poisoning some one.\x94

The thought of the guillotine so moved her that she burst into tears,
her nerves were shaken, terror clutched at her heart, she lost her head.
Fraisier gloated over his triumph. When he saw his client hesitate, he
thought that he had lost his chance; he had set himself to frighten
and quell La Cibot till she was completely in his power, bound hand and
foot. She had walked into his study as a fly walks into a spider\x92s web;
there she was doomed to remain, entangled in the toils of the little
lawyer who meant to feed upon her. Out of this bit of business, indeed,
Fraisier meant to gain the living of old days; comfort, competence,
and consideration. He and his friend Dr. Poulain had spent the whole
previous evening in a microscopic examination of the case; they had made
mature deliberations. The doctor described Schmucke for his friend\x92s
benefit, and the alert pair had plumbed all hypotheses and scrutinized
all risks and resources, till Fraisier, exultant, cried aloud, \x93Both
our fortunes lie in this!\x94 He had gone so far as to promise Poulain a
hospital, and as for himself, he meant to be justice of the peace of an
arrondissement.

To be a justice of the peace! For this man with his abundant capacity,
for this doctor of law without a pair of socks to his name, the dream
was a hippogriff so restive, that he thought of it as a deputy-advocate
thinks of the silk gown, as an Italian priest thinks of the tiara. It
was indeed a wild dream!

M. Vitel, the justice of the peace before whom Fraisier pleaded, was
a man of sixty-nine, in failing health; he talked of retiring on a
pension; and Fraisier used to talk with Poulain of succeeding him, much
as Poulain talked of saving the life of some rich heiress and marrying
her afterwards. No one knows how greedily every post in the gift of
authority is sought after in Paris. Every one wants to live in Paris. If
a stamp or tobacco license falls in, a hundred women rise up as one and
stir all their friends to obtain it. Any vacancy in the ranks of the
twenty-four collectors of taxes sends a flood of ambitious folk surging
in upon the Chamber of Deputies. Decisions are made in committee, all
appointments are made by the Government. Now the salary of a justice
of the peace, the lowest stipendiary magistrate in Paris, is about six
thousand francs. The post of registrar to the court is worth a hundred
thousand francs. Few places are more coveted in the administration.
Fraisier, as a justice of the peace, with the head physician of a
hospital for his friend, would make a rich marriage himself and a good
match for Dr. Poulain. Each would lend a hand to each.

Night set its leaden seal upon the plans made by the sometime attorney
of Mantes, and a formidable scheme sprouted up, a flourishing scheme,
fertile in harvests of gain and intrigue. La Cibot was the hinge upon
which the whole matter turned; and for this reason, any rebellion on the
part of the instrument must be at once put down; such action on her part
was quite unexpected; but Fraisier had put forth all the strength of
his rancorous nature, and the audacious portress lay trampled under his
feet.

\x93Come, reassure yourself, my dear madame,\x94 he remarked, holding out
his hand. The touch of the cold, serpent-like skin made a terrible
impression upon the portress. It brought about something like a physical
reaction, which checked her emotion; Mme. Fontaine\x92s toad, Astaroth,
seemed to her to be less deadly than this poison-sac that wore a sandy
wig and spoke in tones like the creaking of a hinge.

\x93Do not imagine that I am frightening you to no purpose,\x94 Fraisier
continued. (La Cibot\x92s feeling of repulsion had not escaped him.) \x93The
affairs which made Mme. la Presidente\x92s dreadful reputation are so well
known at the law-courts, that you can make inquiries there if you like.
The great person who was all but sent into a lunatic asylum was the
Marquis d\x92Espard. The Marquis d\x92Esgrignon was saved from the hulks. The
handsome young man with wealth and a great future before him, who was
to have married a daughter of one of the first families of France, and
hanged himself in a cell of the Conciergerie, was the celebrated Lucien
de Rubempre; the affair made a great deal of noise in Paris at the time.
That was a question of a will. His mistress, the notorious Esther, died
and left him several millions, and they accused the young fellow of
poisoning her. He was not even in Paris at the time of her death, nor
did he so much as know the woman had left the money to him!--One cannot
well be more innocent than that! Well, after M. Camusot examined him, he
hanged himself in his cell. Law, like medicine, has its victims. In the
first case, one man suffers for the many, and in the second, he dies for
science,\x94 he added, and an ugly smile stole over his lips. \x93Well, I know
the risks myself, you see; poor and obscure little attorney as I am, the
law has been the ruin of me. My experience was dearly bought--it is all
at your service.\x94

\x93Thank you, no,\x94 said La Cibot; \x93I will have nothing to do with it,
upon my word!... I shall have nourished ingratitude, that is all! I want
nothing but my due; I have thirty years of honesty behind me, sir. M.
Pons says that he will recommend me to his friend Schmucke; well and
good, I shall end my days in peace with the German, good man.\x94

Fraisier had overshot his mark. He had discouraged La Cibot. Now he was
obliged to remove these unpleasant impressions.

\x93Do not let us give up,\x94 he said; \x93just go away quietly home. Come, now,
we will steer the affair to a good end.\x94

\x93But what about my _rentes_, what am I to do to get them, and--\x94

\x93And feel no remorse?\x94 he interrupted quickly. \x93Eh! it is precisely for
that that men of business were invented; unless you keep within the law,
you get nothing. You know nothing of law; I know a good deal. I will see
that you keep on the right side of it, and you can hold your own in all
men\x92s sight. As for your conscience, that is your own affair.\x94

\x93Very well, tell me how to do it,\x94 returned La Cibot, curious and
delighted.

\x93I do not know how yet. I have not looked at the strong points of the
case yet; I have been busy with the obstacles. But the first thing to be
done is to urge him to make a will; you cannot go wrong over that; and
find out, first of all, how Pons means to leave his fortune; for if you
were his heir--\x94

\x93No, no; he does not like me. Ah! if I had but known the value of his
gimcracks, and if I had known what I know now about his amours, I should
be easy in my mind this day--\x94

\x93Keep on, in fact,\x94 broke in Fraisier. \x93Dying folk have queer fancies,
my dear madame; they disappoint hopes many a time. Let him make his
will, and then we shall see. And of all things, the property must be
valued. So I must see this Remonencq and the Jew; they will be very
useful to us. Put entire confidence in me, I am at your disposal. When a
client is a friend to me, I am his friend through thick and thin. Friend
or enemy, that is my character.\x94

\x93Very well,\x94 said La Cibot, \x93I am yours entirely; and as for fees, M.
Poulain--\x94

\x93Let us say nothing about that,\x94 said Fraisier. \x93Think how you can keep
Poulain at the bedside; he is one of the most upright and conscientious
men I know; and, you see, we want some one there whom we can trust.
Poulain would do better than I; I have lost my character.\x94

\x93You look as if you had,\x94 said La Cibot; \x93but, for my own part, I should
trust you.\x94

\x93And you would do well. Come to see me whenever anything happens,
and--there!--you are an intelligent woman; all will go well.\x94

\x93Good-day, M. Fraisier. I hope you will recover your health. Your
servant, sir.\x94

Fraisier went to the door with his client. But this time it was he, and
not La Cibot, who was struck with an idea on the threshold.

\x93If you could persuade M. Pons to call me in, it would be a great step.\x94

\x93I will try,\x94 said La Cibot.

Fraisier drew her back into his sanctum. \x93Look here, old lady, I know
M. Trognon, the notary of the quarter, very well. If M. Pons has not a
notary, mention M. Trognon to him. Make him take M. Trognon--\x94

\x93Right,\x94 returned La Cibot.

And as she came out again she heard the rustle of a dress and the sound
of a stealthy, heavy footstep.

Out in the street and by herself, Mme. Cibot to some extent recovered
her liberty of mind as she walked. Though the influence of the
conversation was still upon her, and she had always stood in dread of
scaffolds, justice, and judges, she took a very natural resolution which
was to bring about a conflict of strategy between her and her formidable
legal adviser.

\x93What do I want with other folk?\x94 said she to herself. \x93Let us make a
round sum, and afterwards I will take all that they offer me to push
their interests;\x94 and this thought, as will shortly be seen, hastened
the poor old musician\x92s end.



\x93Well, dear M. Schmucke, and how is our dear, adored patient?\x94 asked La
Cibot, as she came into the room.

\x93Fery pad; Bons haf peen vandering all der night.\x94

\x93Then, what did he say?\x94

\x93Chust nonsense. He vould dot I haf all his fortune, on kondition dot I
sell nodings.--Den he cried! Boor mann! It made me ver\x92 sad.\x94

\x93Never mind, honey,\x94 returned the portress. \x93I have kept you waiting for
your breakfast; it is nine o\x92clock and past; but don\x92t scold me. I have
business on hand, you see, business of yours. Here are we without any
money, and I have been out to get some.\x94

\x93Vere?\x94 asked Schmucke.

\x93Of my uncle.\x94

\x93Onkel?\x94

\x93Up the spout.\x94

\x93Shpout?\x94

\x93Oh! the dear man! how simple he is? No, you are a saint, a love, an
archbishop of innocence, a man that ought to be stuffed, as the old
actor said. What! you have lived in Paris for twenty-nine years; you
saw the Revolution of July, you did, and you have never so much as heard
tell of a pawnbroker--a man that lends you money on your things?--I have
been pawning our silver spoons and forks, eight of them, thread pattern.
Pooh, Cibot can eat his victuals with German silver; it is quite the
fashion now, they say. It is not worth while to say anything to our
angel there; it would upset him and make him yellower than before, and
he is quite cross enough as it is. Let us get him round again first, and
afterwards we shall see. What must be must; and we must take things as
we find them, eh?\x94

\x93Goot voman! nople heart!\x94 cried poor Schmucke, with a great tenderness
in his face. He took La Cibot\x92s hand and clasped it to his breast. When
he looked up, there were tears in his eyes.

\x93There, that will do, Papa Schmucke; how funny you are! This is too
bad. I am an old daughter of the people--my heart is in my hand. I have
something _here_, you see, like you have, hearts of gold that you are,\x94
 she added, slapping her chest.

\x93Baba Schmucke!\x94 continued the musician. \x93No. To know de tepths of
sorrow, to cry mit tears of blood, to mount up in der hefn--dat is mein
lot! I shall not lif after Bons--\x94

\x93Gracious! I am sure you won\x92t, you are killing yourself.--Listen, pet!\x94

\x93Bet?\x94

\x93Very well, my sonny--\x94

\x93Zonny?\x94

\x93My lamb, then, if you like it better.\x94

\x93It is not more clear.\x94

\x93Oh, well, let _me_ take care of you and tell you what to do; for if you
go on like this, I shall have both of you laid up on my hands, you see.
To my little way of thinking, we must do the work between us. You cannot
go about Paris to give lessons for it tires you, and then you are not
fit to do anything afterwards, and somebody must sit up of a night with
M. Pons, now that he is getting worse and worse. I will run round to-day
to all your pupils and tell them that you are ill; is it not so? And
then you can spend the nights with our lamb, and sleep of a morning from
five o\x92clock till, let us say, two in the afternoon. I myself will take
the day, the most tiring part, for there is your breakfast and dinner to
get ready, and the bed to make, and the things to change, and the doses
of medicine to give. I could not hold out for another ten days at this
rate. What would become of you if I were to fall ill? And you yourself,
it makes one shudder to see you; just look at yourself, after sitting up
with him last night!\x94

She drew Schmucke to the glass, and Schmucke thought that there was a
great change.

\x93So, if you are of my mind, I\x92ll have your breakfast ready in a jiffy.
Then you will look after our poor dear again till two o\x92clock. Let me
have a list of your people, and I will soon arrange it. You will be
free for a fortnight. You can go to bed when I come in, and sleep till
night.\x94

So prudent did the proposition seem, that Schmucke then and there agreed
to it.

\x93Not a word to M. Pons; he would think it was all over with him, you
know, if we were to tell him in this way that his engagement at the
theatre and his lessons are put off. He would be thinking that he
should not find his pupils again, poor gentleman--stuff and nonsense! M.
Poulain says that we shall save our Benjamin if we keep him as quiet as
possible.\x94

\x93Ach! fery goot! Pring up der preakfast; I shall make der bett, and gif
you die attresses!--You are right; it vould pe too much for me.\x94

An hour later La Cibot, in her Sunday clothes, departed in great state,
to the no small astonishment of the Remonencqs; she promised herself
that she would support the character of confidential servant of the pair
of nutcrackers, in the boarding-schools and private families in which
they gave music-lessons.

It is needless to repeat all the gossip in which La Cibot indulged
on her round. The members of every family, the head-mistress of every
boarding-school, were treated to a variation upon the theme of
Pons\x92 illness. A single scene, which took place in the Illustrious
Gaudissart\x92s private room, will give a sufficient idea of the rest. La
Cibot met with unheard-of difficulties, but she succeeded in penetrating
at last to the presence. Kings and cabinet ministers are less difficult
of access than the manager of a theatre in Paris; nor is it hard to
understand why such prodigious barriers are raised between them and
ordinary mortals: a king has only to defend himself from ambition; the
manager of a theatre has reason to dread the wounded vanity of actors
and authors.

La Cibot, however, struck up an acquaintance with the portress, and
traversed all distances in a brief space. There is a sort of freemasonry
among the porter tribe, and, indeed, among the members of every
profession; for each calling has its shibboleth, as well as its
insulting epithet and the mark with which it brands its followers.

\x93Ah! madame, you are the portress here,\x94 began La Cibot. \x93I myself am a
portress, in a small way, in a house in the Rue de Normandie. M. Pons,
your conductor, lodges with us. Oh, how glad I should be to have your
place, and see the actors and dancers and authors go past. It is the
marshal\x92s baton in our profession, as the old actor said.\x94

\x93And how is M. Pons going on, good man?\x94 inquired the portress.

\x93He is not going on at all; he has not left his bed these two months. He
will only leave the house feet foremost, that is certain.\x94

\x93He will be missed.\x94

\x93Yes. I have come with a message to the manager from him. Just try to
get me a word with him, dear.\x94

\x93A lady from M. Pons to see you, sir!\x94 After this fashion did the youth
attached to the service of the manager\x92s office announce La Cibot, whom
the portress below had particularly recommended to his care.

Gaudissart had just come in for a rehearsal. Chance so ordered it that
no one wished to speak with him; actors and authors were alike late.
Delighted to have news of his conductor, he made a Napoleonic gesture,
and La Cibot was admitted.

The sometime commercial traveler, now the head of a popular theatre,
regarded his sleeping partners in the light of a legitimate wife;
they were not informed of all his doings. The flourishing state of
his finances had reacted upon his person. Grown big and stout and
high-colored with good cheer and prosperity, Gaudissart made no disguise
of his transformation into a Mondor.

\x93We are turning into a city-father,\x94 he once said, trying to be the
first to laugh.

\x93You are only in the Turcaret stage yet, though,\x94 retorted Bixiou, who
often replaced Gaudissart in the company of the leading lady of the
ballet, the celebrated Heloise Brisetout.

The former Illustrious Gaudissart, in fact, was exploiting the theatre
simply and solely for his own particular benefit, and with brutal
disregard of other interests. He first insinuated himself as a
collaborator in various ballets, plays, and vaudevilles; then he
waited till the author wanted money and bought up the other half of
the copyright. These after-pieces and vaudevilles, always added to
successful plays, brought him in a daily harvest of gold coins. He
trafficked by proxy in tickets, allotting a certain number to himself,
as the manager\x92s share, till he took in this way a tithe of the
receipts. And Gaudissart had other methods of making money besides these
official contributions. He sold boxes, he took presents from indifferent
actresses burning to go upon the stage to fill small speaking parts,
or simply to appear as queens, or pages, and the like; he swelled his
nominal third share of the profits to such purpose that the sleeping
partners scarcely received one-tenth instead of the remaining two-thirds
of the net receipts. Even so, however, the tenth paid them a dividend of
fifteen per cent on their capital. On the strength of that fifteen per
cent Gaudissart talked of his intelligence, honesty, and zeal, and the
good fortune of his partners. When Count Popinot, showing an interest in
the concern, asked Matifat, or General Gouraud (Matifat\x92s son-in-law),
or Crevel, whether they were satisfied with Gaudissart, Gouraud, now a
peer of France, answered, \x93They say he robs us; but he is such a clever,
good-natured fellow, that we are quite satisfied.\x94

\x93This is like La Fontaine\x92s fable,\x94 smiled the ex-cabinet minister.

Gaudissart found investments for his capital in other ventures. He
thought well of Schwab, Brunner, and the Graffs; that firm was promoting
railways, he became a shareholder in the lines. His shrewdness was
carefully hidden beneath the frank carelessness of a man of pleasure;
he seemed to be interested in nothing but amusements and dress, yet he
thought everything over, and his wide experience of business gained as a
commercial traveler stood him in good stead.

A self-made man, he did not take himself seriously. He gave suppers
and banquets to celebrities in rooms sumptuously furnished by the house
decorator. Showy by nature, with a taste for doing things handsomely,
he affected an easy-going air, and seemed so much the less formidable
because he had kept the slang of \x93the road\x94 (to use his own expression),
with a few green-room phrases superadded. Now, artists in the theatrical
profession are wont to express themselves with some vigor; Gaudissart
borrowed sufficient racy green-room talk to blend with his commercial
traveler\x92s lively jocularity, and passed for a wit. He was thinking at
that moment of selling his license and \x93going into another line,\x94 as he
said. He thought of being chairman of a railway company, of becoming a
responsible person and an administrator, and finally of marrying Mlle.
Minard, daughter of the richest mayor in Paris. He might hope to get
into the Chamber through \x93his line,\x94 and, with Popinot\x92s influence, to
take office under the Government.

\x93Whom have I the honor of addressing?\x94 inquired Gaudissart, looking
magisterially at La Cibot.

\x93I am M. Pons\x92 confidential servant, sir.\x94

\x93Well, and how is the dear fellow?\x94

\x93Ill, sir--very ill.\x94

\x93The devil he is! I am sorry to hear it--I must come and see him; he is
such a man as you don\x92t often find.\x94

\x93Ah yes! sir, he is a cherub, he is. I have always wondered how he came
to be in a theatre.\x94

\x93Why, madame, the theatre is a house of correction for morals,\x94 said
Gaudissart. \x93Poor Pons!--Upon my word, one ought to cultivate the
species to keep up the stock. \x91Tis a pattern man, and has talent too.
When will he be able to take his orchestra again, do you think? A
theatre, unfortunately, is like a stage coach: empty or full, it
starts at the same time. Here at six o\x92clock every evening, up goes the
curtain; and if we are never sorry for ourselves, it won\x92t make good
music. Let us see now--how is he?\x94

La Cibot pulled out her pocket-handkerchief and held it to her eyes.

\x93It is a terrible thing to say, my dear sir,\x94 said she; \x93but I am afraid
we shall lose him, though we are as careful of him as of the apple of
our eyes. And, at the same time, I came to say that you must not count
on M. Schmucke, worthy man, for he is going to sit up with him at night.
One cannot help doing as if there was hope still left, and trying one\x92s
best to snatch the dear, good soul from death. But the doctor has given
him up----\x94

\x93What is the matter with him?\x94

\x93He is dying of grief, jaundice, and liver complaint, with a lot of
family affairs to complicate matters.\x94

\x93And a doctor as well,\x94 said Gaudissart. \x93He ought to have had Lebrun,
our doctor; it would have cost him nothing.\x94

\x93M. Pons\x92 doctor is a Providence on earth. But what can a doctor do, no
matter how clever he is, with such complications?\x94

\x93I wanted the good pair of nutcrackers badly for the accompaniment of my
new fairy piece.\x94

\x93Is there anything that I can do for them?\x94 asked La Cibot, and her
expression would have done credit to a Jocrisse.

Gaudissart burst out laughing.

\x93I am their housekeeper, sir, and do many things for my gentlemen--\x94
 She did not finish her speech, for in the middle of Gaudissart\x92s roar of
laughter a woman\x92s voice exclaimed, \x93If you are laughing, old man, one
may come in,\x94 and the leading lady of the ballet rushed into the
room and flung herself upon the only sofa. The newcomer was Heloise
Brisetout, with a splendid _algerienne_, such as scarves used to be
called, about her shoulders.

\x93Who is amusing you? Is it this lady? What post does she want?\x94 asked
this nymph, giving the manager such a glance as artist gives artist, a
glance that would make a subject for a picture.

Heloise, a young woman of exceedingly literary tastes, was on intimate
terms with great and famous artists in Bohemia. Elegant, accomplished,
and graceful, she was more intelligent than dancers usually are. As she
put her question, she sniffed at a scent-bottle full of some aromatic
perfume.

\x93One fine woman is as good as another, madame; and if I don\x92t sniff the
pestilence out of a scent-bottle, nor daub brickdust on my cheeks--\x94

\x93That would be a sinful waste, child, when Nature put it on for you to
begin with,\x94 said Heloise, with a side glance at her manager.

\x93I am an honest woman--\x94

\x93So much the worse for you. It is not every one by a long chalk that
can find some one to keep them, and kept I am, and in slap-up style,
madame.\x94

\x93So much the worse! What do you mean? Oh, you may toss your head and
go about in scarves, you will never have as many declarations as I have
had, missus. You will never match the _Belle Ecaillere of the Cadran
Bleu_.\x94

Heloise Brisetout rose at once to her feet, stood at attention, and made
a military salute, like a soldier who meets his general.

\x93What?\x94 asked Gaudissart, \x93are you really _La Belle Ecaillere_ of whom
my father used to talk?\x94

\x93In that case the cachucha and the polka were after your time; and
madame has passed her fiftieth year,\x94 remarked Heloise, and striking an
attitude, she declaimed, \x93\x91Cinna, let us be friends.\x92\x94

\x93Come, Heloise, the lady is not up to this; let her alone.\x94

\x93Madame is perhaps the New Heloise,\x94 suggested La Cibot, with sly
innocence.

\x93Not bad, old lady!\x94 cried Gaudissart.

\x93It is a venerable joke,\x94 said the dancer, \x93a grizzled pun; find us
another old lady--or take a cigarette.\x94

\x93I beg your pardon, madame, I feel too unhappy to answer you; my two
gentlemen are very ill; and to buy nourishment for them and to spare
them trouble, I have pawned everything down to my husband\x92s clothes that
I pledged this morning. Here is the ticket!\x94

\x93Oh! here, the affair is becoming tragic,\x94 cried the fair Heloise. \x93What
is it all about?\x94

\x93Madame drops down upon us like--\x94

\x93Like a dancer,\x94 said Heloise; \x93let me prompt you,--missus!\x94

\x93Come, I am busy,\x94 said Gaudissart. \x93The joke has gone far enough.
Heloise, this is M. Pons\x92 confidential servant; she had come to tell me
that I must not count upon him; our poor conductor is not expected to
live. I don\x92t know what to do.\x94

\x93Oh! poor man; why, he must have a benefit.\x94

\x93It would ruin him,\x94 said Gaudissart. \x93He might find next day that he
owed five hundred francs to charitable institutions, and they refuse to
admit that there are any sufferers in Paris except their own. No, look
here, my good woman, since you are going in for the Montyon prize----\x94

He broke off, rang the bell, and the youth before mentioned suddenly
appeared.

\x93Tell the cashier to send me up a thousand-franc note.--Sit down,
madame.\x94

\x93Ah! poor woman, look, she is crying!\x94 exclaimed Heloise. \x93How stupid!
There, there, mother, we will go to see him; don\x92t cry.--I say, now,\x94
 she continued, taking the manager into a corner, \x93you want to make me
take the leading part in the ballet in _Ariane_, you Turk. You are going
to be married, and you know how I can make you miserable--\x94

\x93Heloise, my heart is copper-bottomed like a man-of-war.\x94

\x93I shall bring your children on the scene! I will borrow some
somewhere.\x94

\x93I have owned up about the attachment.\x94

\x93Do be nice, and give Pons\x92 post to Garangeot; he has talent, poor
fellow, and he has not a penny; and I promise peace.\x94

\x93But wait till Pons is dead, in case the good man may come back again.\x94

\x93Oh, as to that, no, sir,\x94 said La Cibot. \x93He began to wander in
his mind last night, and now he is delirious. It will soon be over,
unfortunately.\x94

\x93At any rate, take Garangeot as a stop-gap!\x94 pleaded Heloise. \x93He has
the whole press on his side--\x94

Just at that moment the cashier came in with a note for a thousand
francs in his hand.

\x93Give it to madame here,\x94 said Gaudissart. \x93Good-day, my good woman;
take good care of the dear man, and tell him that I am coming to see him
to-morrow, or sometime--as soon as I can, in short.\x94

\x93A drowning man,\x94 said Heloise.

\x93Ah, sir, hearts like yours are only found in a theatre. May God bless
you!\x94

\x93To what account shall I post this item?\x94 asked the cashier.

\x93I will countersign the order. Post it to the bonus account.\x94

Before La Cibot went out, she made Mlle. Brisetout a fine courtesy, and
heard Gaudissart remark to his mistress:

\x93Can Garangeot do the dance-music for the _Mohicans_ in twelve days? If
he helps me out of my predicament, he shall have Pons\x92 place.\x94

La Cibot had cut off the incomes of the two friends, she had left them
without means of subsistence if Pons should chance to recover, and was
better rewarded for all this mischief than for any good that she had
done. In a few days\x92 time her treacherous trick would bring about the
desired result--Elie Magus would have his coveted pictures. But if
this first spoliation was to be effected, La Cibot must throw dust
in Fraisier\x92s eyes, and lull the suspicions of that terrible
fellow-conspirator of her own seeking; and Elie Magus and Remonencq must
be bound over to secrecy.

As for Remonencq, he had gradually come to feel such a passion as
uneducated people can conceive when they come to Paris from the depths
of the country, bringing with them all the fixed ideas bred of the
solitary country life; all the ignorance of a primitive nature, all the
brute appetites that become so many fixed ideas. Mme. Cibot\x92s masculine
beauty, her vivacity, her market-woman\x92s wit, had all been remarked by
the marine store-dealer. He thought at first of taking La Cibot from her
husband, bigamy among the lower classes in Paris being much more common
than is generally supposed; but greed was like a slip-knot drawn more
and more tightly about his heart, till reason at length was stifled.
When Remonencq computed that the commission paid by himself and Elie
Magus amounted to about forty thousand francs, he determined to have
La Cibot for his legitimate spouse, and his thoughts turned from
a misdemeanor to a crime. A romantic purely speculative dream,
persistently followed through a tobacco-smoker\x92s long musings as he
lounged in the doorway, had brought him to the point of wishing that the
little tailor were dead. At a stroke he beheld his capital trebled; and
then he thought of La Cibot. What a good saleswoman she would be! What a
handsome figure she would make in a magnificent shop on the boulevards!
The twofold covetousness turned Remonencq\x92s head. In fancy he took a
shop that he knew of on the Boulevard de la Madeleine, he stocked it
with Pons\x92 treasures, and then--after dreaming his dream in sheets of
gold, after seeing millions in the blue spiral wreaths that rose from
his pipe, he awoke to find himself face to face with the little tailor.
Cibot was sweeping the yard, the doorstep, and the pavement just as
his neighbor was taking down the shutters and displaying his wares; for
since Pons fell ill, La Cibot\x92s work had fallen to her husband.

The Auvergnat began to look upon the little, swarthy, stunted,
copper-colored tailor as the one obstacle in his way, and pondered how
to be rid of him. Meanwhile this growing passion made La Cibot very
proud, for she had reached an age when a woman begins to understand that
she may grow old.

So early one morning, she meditatively watched Remonencq as he arranged
his odds and ends for sale. She wondered how far his love could go. He
came across to her.

\x93Well,\x94 he said, \x93are things going as you wish?\x94

\x93It is you who makes me uneasy,\x94 said La Cibot. \x93I shall be talked
about; the neighbors will see you making sheep\x92s eyes at me.\x94

She left the doorway and dived into the Auvergnat\x92s back shop.

\x93What a notion!\x94 said Remonencq.

\x93Come here, I have something to say to you,\x94 said La Cibot. \x93M. Pons\x92
heirs are about to make a stir; they are capable of giving us a lot of
trouble. God knows what might come of it if they send the lawyers here
to poke their noses into the affair like hunting-dogs. I cannot get M.
Schmucke to sell a few pictures unless you like me well enough to keep
the secret--such a secret!--With your head on the block, you must not
say where the pictures come from, nor who it was that sold them. When M.
Pons is once dead and buried, you understand, nobody will know how many
pictures there ought to be; if there are fifty-three pictures instead of
sixty-seven, nobody will be any the wiser. Besides, if M. Pons sold them
himself while he was alive, nobody can find fault.\x94

\x93No,\x94 agreed Remonencq, \x93it is all one to me, but M. Elie Magus will
want receipts in due form.\x94

\x93And you shall have your receipt too, bless your life! Do you suppose
that _I_ should write them?--No, M. Schmucke will do that. But tell your
Jew that he must keep the secret as closely as you do,\x94 she continued.

\x93We will be as mute as fishes. That is our business. I myself can read,
but I cannot write, and that is why I want a capable wife that has had
education like you. I have thought of nothing but earning my bread all
my days, and now I wish I had some little Remonencqs. Do leave that
Cibot of yours.\x94

\x93Why, here comes your Jew,\x94 said the portress; \x93we can arrange the whole
business.\x94

Elie Magus came every third day very early in the morning to know when
he could buy his pictures. \x93Well, my dear lady,\x94 said he, \x93how are we
getting on?\x94

\x93Has nobody been to speak to you about M. Pons and his gimcracks?\x94 asked
La Cibot.

\x93I received a letter from a lawyer,\x94 said Elie Magus, \x93a rascal that
seems to me to be trying to work for himself; I don\x92t like people of
that sort, so I took no notice of his letter. Three days afterwards he
came to see me, and left his card. I told my porter that I am never at
home when he calls.\x94

\x93You are a love of a Jew,\x94 said La Cibot. Little did she know Elie
Magus\x92 prudence. \x93Well, sonnies, in a few days\x92 time I will bring M.
Schmucke to the point of selling you seven or eight pictures, ten at
most. But on two conditions.--Absolute secrecy in the first place.
M. Schmucke will send for you, sir, is not that so? And M. Remonencq
suggested that you might be a purchaser, eh?--And, come what may, I will
not meddle in it for nothing. You are giving forty-six thousand francs
for four pictures, are you not?\x94

\x93So be it,\x94 groaned the Jew.

\x93Very good. This is the second condition. You will give me _forty-three_
thousand francs, and pay three thousand only to M. Schmucke; Remonencq
will buy four for two thousand francs, and hand over the surplus to
me.--But at the same time, you see my dear M. Magus, I am going to help
you and Remonencq to a splendid bit of business--on condition that the
profits are shared among the three of us. I will introduce you to that
lawyer, as he, no doubt, will come here. You shall make a valuation of
M. Pons\x92 things at the prices which you can give for them, so that M.
Fraisier may know how much the property is worth. But--not until after
our sale, you understand!\x94

\x93I understand,\x94 said the Jew, \x93but it takes time to look at the things
and value them.\x94

\x93You shall have half a day. But, there, that is my affair. Talk it over
between yourselves, my boys, and for that matter the business will be
settled by the day after to-morrow. I will go round to speak to this
Fraisier; for Dr. Poulain tells him everything that goes on in the
house, and it is a great bother to keep that scarecrow quiet.\x94

La Cibot met Fraisier halfway between the Rue de la Perle and the Rue
de Normandie; so impatient was he to know the \x93elements of the case\x94 (to
use his own expression), that he was coming to see her.

\x93I say! I was going to you,\x94 said she.

Fraisier grumbled because Elie Magus had refused to see him. But La
Cibot extinguished the spark of distrust that gleamed in the lawyer\x92s
eyes by informing him that Elie Magus had returned from a journey,
and that she would arrange for an interview in Pons\x92 rooms and for the
valuation of the property; for the day after to-morrow at latest.

\x93Deal frankly with me,\x94 returned Fraisier. \x93It is more than probable
that I shall act for M. Pons\x92 next-of-kin. In that case, I shall be even
better able to serve you.\x94

The words were spoken so drily that La Cibot quaked. This starving limb
of the law was sure to manoeuvre on his side as she herself was doing.
She resolved forthwith to hurry on the sale of the pictures.

La Cibot was right. The doctor and lawyer had clubbed together to buy
a new suit of clothes in which Fraisier could decently present himself
before Mme. la Presidente Camusot de Marville. Indeed, if the clothes
had been ready, the interview would have taken place sooner, for the
fate of the couple hung upon its issues. Fraisier left Mme. Cibot, and
went to try on his new clothes. He found them waiting for him, went
home, adjusted his new wig, and towards ten o\x92clock that morning set out
in a carriage from a livery stable for the Rue de Hanovre, hoping for an
audience. In his white tie, yellow gloves, and new wig, redolent of _eau
de Portugal_, he looked something like a poisonous essence kept in a
cut-glass bottle, seeming but the more deadly because everything about
it is daintily neat, from the stopper covered with white kid to the
label and the thread. His peremptory manner, the eruption on his
blotched countenance, the green eyes, and a malignant something about
him,--all these things struck the beholder with the same sense of
surprise as storm-clouds in a blue sky. If in his private office, as
he showed himself to La Cibot, he was the common knife that a murderer
catches up for his crime,--now, at the Presidente\x92s door, he was the
daintily-wrought dagger which a woman sets among the ornaments on her
what-not.

A great change had taken place in the Rue de Hanovre. The Count and
Countess Popinot and the young people would not allow the President and
his wife to leave the house that they had settled upon their daughter to
pay rent elsewhere. M. and Mme. la Presidente, therefore, were installed
on the second floor, now left at liberty, for the elderly lady had made
up her mind to end her days in the country.

Mme. Camusot took Madeleine Vivet, with her cook and her man-servant,
to the second floor, and would have been as much pinched for money as in
the early days, if the house had not been rent free, and the President\x92s
salary increased to ten thousand francs. This _aurea mediocritas_ was
but little satisfactory to Mme. de Marville. Even now she wished for
means more in accordance with her ambitions; for when she handed over
their fortune to their daughter, she spoiled her husband\x92s prospects.
Now Amelie had set her heart upon seeing her husband in the Chamber of
Deputies; she was not one of those women who find it easy to give up
their way; and she by no means despaired of returning her husband for
the arrondissement in which Marville is situated. So for the past two
months she had teased her father-in-law, M. le Baron Camusot (for the
new peer of France had been advanced to that rank), and done her utmost
to extort an advance of a hundred thousand francs of the inheritance
which one day would be theirs. She wanted, she said, to buy a small
estate worth about two thousand francs per annum set like a wedge
within the Marville lands. There she and her husband would be near their
children and in their own house, while the addition would round out the
Marville property. With that the Presidente laid stress upon the recent
sacrifices which she and her husband had been compelled to make in order
to marry Cecile to Viscount Popinot, and asked the old man how he could
bar his eldest son\x92s way to the highest honors of the magistracy, when
such honors were only to be had by those who made themselves a strong
position in parliament. Her husband would know how to take up such a
position, he would make himself feared by those in office, and so on and
so on.

\x93They do nothing for you unless you tighten a halter round their necks
to loosen their tongues,\x94 said she. \x93They are ungrateful. What do they
not owe to Camusot! Camusot brought the House of Orleans to the throne
by enforcing the ordinances of July.\x94

M. Camusot senior answered that he had gone out of his depth in railway
speculations. He quite admitted that it was necessary to come to the
rescue, but put off the day until shares should rise, as they were
expected to do.

This half-promise, extracted some few days before Fraisier\x92s visit,
had plunged the Presidente into depths of affliction. It was doubtful
whether the ex-proprietor of Marville was eligible for re-election
without the land qualification.

Fraisier found no difficulty in obtaining speech of Madeleine Vivet;
such viper natures own their kinship at once.

\x93I should like to see Mme. la Presidente for a few moments,
mademoiselle,\x94 Fraisier said in bland accents; \x93I have come on a matter
of business which touches her fortune; it is a question of a legacy,
be sure to mention that. I have not the honor of being known to Mme. la
Presidente, so my name is of no consequence. I am not in the habit of
leaving my chambers, but I know the respect that is due to a President\x92s
wife, and I took the trouble of coming myself to save all possible
delay.\x94

The matter thus broached, when repeated and amplified by the
waiting-maid, naturally brought a favorable answer. It was a decisive
moment for the double ambition hidden in Fraisier\x92s mind. Bold as a
petty provincial attorney, sharp, rough-spoken, and curt as he was, he
felt as captains feel before the decisive battle of a campaign. As he
went into the little drawing-room where Amelie was waiting for him, he
felt a slight perspiration breaking out upon his forehead and down
his back. Every sudorific hitherto employed had failed to produce this
result upon a skin which horrible diseases had left impervious. \x93Even
if I fail to make my fortune,\x94 said he to himself, \x93I shall recover.
Poulain said that if I could only perspire I should recover.\x94

The Presidente came forward in her morning gown.

\x93Madame--\x94 said Fraisier, stopping short to bow with the humility by
which officials recognize the superior rank of the person whom they
address.

\x93Take a seat, monsieur,\x94 said the Presidente. She saw at a glance that
this was a man of law.

\x93Mme. la Presidente, if I take the liberty of calling your attention to
a matter which concerns M. le President, it is because I am sure that M.
de Marville, occupying, as he does, a high position, would leave
matters to take their natural course, and so lose seven or eight hundred
thousand francs, a sum which ladies (who, in my opinion, have a
far better understanding of private business than the best of
magistrates)--a sum which ladies, I repeat, would by no means despise--\x94

\x93You spoke of a legacy,\x94 interrupted the lady, dazzled by the wealth,
and anxious to hide her surprise. Amelie de Marville, like an impatient
novel-reader, wanted the end of the story.

\x93Yes, madame, a legacy that you are like to lose; yes, to lose
altogether; but I can, that is, I _could_, recover it for you, if--\x94

\x93Speak out, monsieur.\x94 Mme. de Marville spoke frigidly, scanning
Fraisier as she spoke with a sagacious eye.

\x93Madame, your eminent capacity is known to me; I was once at Mantes. M.
Leboeuf, President of the Tribunal, is acquainted with M. de Marville,
and can answer inquiries about me--\x94

The Presidente\x92s shrug was so ruthlessly significant, that Fraisier was
compelled to make short work of his parenthetic discourse.

\x93So distinguished a woman will at once understand why I speak of myself
in the first place. It is the shortest way to the property.\x94

To this acute observation the lady replied by a gesture. Fraisier took
the sign for a permission to continue.

\x93I was an attorney, madame, at Mantes. My connection was all the fortune
that I was likely to have. I took over M. Levroux\x92s practice. You knew
him, no doubt?\x94

The Presidente inclined her head.

\x93With borrowed capital and some ten thousand francs of my own, I went
to Mantes. I had been with Desroches, one of the cleverest attorneys in
Paris, I had been his head-clerk for six years. I was so unlucky as to
make an enemy of the attorney for the crown at Mantes, Monsieur--\x94

\x93Olivier Vinet.\x94

\x93Son of the Attorney-General, yes, madame. He was paying his court to a
little person--\x94

\x93Whom?\x94

\x93Mme. Vatinelle.\x94

\x93Oh! Mme. Vatinelle. She was very pretty and very--er--when I was
there--\x94

\x93She was not unkind to me: _inde iroe_,\x94 Fraisier continued. \x93I was
industrious; I wanted to repay my friends and to marry; I wanted work;
I went in search of it; and before long I had more on my hands than
anybody else. Bah! I had every soul in Mantes against me--attorneys,
notaries, and even the bailiffs. They tried to fasten a quarrel on me.
In our ruthless profession, as you know, madame, if you wish to ruin a
man, it is soon done. I was concerned for both parties in a case, and
they found it out. It was a trifle irregular; but it is sometimes done
in Paris, attorneys in certain cases hand the rhubarb and take the
senna. They do things differently at Mantes. I had done M. Bouyonnet
this little service before; but, egged on by his colleagues and the
attorney for the crown, he betrayed me.--I am keeping back nothing, you
see.--There was a great hue and cry about it. I was a scoundrel; they
made me out blacker than Marat; forced me to sell out; ruined me. And I
am in Paris now. I have tried to get together a practice; but my health
is so bad, that I have only two quiet hours out of the twenty-four.

\x93At this moment I have but one ambition, and a very small one. Some
day,\x94 he continued, \x93you will be the wife of the Keeper of the Seals, or
of the Home Secretary, it may be; but I, poor and sickly as I am, desire
nothing but a post in which I can live in peace for the rest of my life,
a place without any opening in which to vegetate. I should like to be a
justice of the peace in Paris. It would be a mere trifle for you and M.
le President to gain the appointment for me; for the present Keeper of
the Seals must be anxious to keep on good terms with you...

\x93And that is not all, madame,\x94 added Fraisier. Seeing that Mme. de
Marville was about to speak, he cut her short with a gesture. \x93I have a
friend, the doctor in attendance on the old man who ought to leave his
property to M. le President. (We are coming to the point, you see.) The
doctor\x92s co-operation is indispensable, and the doctor is precisely in
my position: he has abilities, he is unlucky. I learned through him how
far your interests were imperiled; for even as I speak, all may be over,
and the will disinheriting M. le President may have been made. This
doctor wishes to be head-surgeon of a hospital or of a Government
school. He must have a position in Paris equal to mine.... Pardon me
if I have enlarged on a matter so delicate; but we must have no
misunderstandings in this business. The doctor is, besides, much
respected and learned; he saved the life of the Comtesse Popinot\x92s
great-uncle, M. Pillerault.

\x93Now, if you are so good as to promise these two posts--the appointment
of justice of the peace and the sinecure for my friend--I will undertake
to bring you the property, _almost_ intact.--Almost intact, I say, for
the co-operation of the legatee and several other persons is absolutely
indispensable, and some obligations will be incurred. You will not
redeem your promises until I have fulfilled mine.\x94

The Presidente had folded her arms, and for the last minute or two sat
like a person compelled to listen to a sermon. Now she unfolded her
arms, and looked at Fraisier as she said, \x93Monsieur, all that you
say concerning your interests has the merit of clearness; but my own
interests in the matter are by no means so clear--\x94

\x93A word or two will explain everything, madame. M. le President is M.
Pons\x92 first cousin once removed, and his sole heir. M. Pons is very ill;
he is about to make his will, if it is not already made, in favor of
a German, a friend of his named Schmucke; and he has more than seven
hundred thousand francs to leave. I hope to have an accurate valuation
made in two or three days--\x94

\x93If this is so,\x94 said the Presidente, \x93I made a great mistake in
quarreling with him and throwing the blame----\x94 she thought aloud,
amazed by the possibility of such a sum.

\x93No, madame. If there had been no rupture, he would be as blithe as a
lark at this moment, and might outlive you and M. le President and me.
... The ways of Providence are mysterious, let us not seek to fathom
them,\x94 he added to palliate to some extent the hideous idea. \x93It cannot
be helped. We men of business look at the practical aspects of things.
Now you see clearly, madame, that M. de Marville in his public position
would do nothing, and could do nothing, as things are. He has broken
off all relations with his cousin. You see nothing now of Pons; you have
forbidden him the house; you had excellent reasons, no doubt, for doing
as you did, but the old man is ill, and he is leaving his property to
the only friend left to him. A President of the Court of Appeal in Paris
could say nothing under such circumstances if the will was made out in
due form. But between ourselves, madame, when one has a right to expect
seven or eight hundred thousand francs--or a million, it may be (how
should I know?)--it is very unpleasant to have it slip through one\x92s
fingers, especially if one happens to be the heir-at-law.... But, on the
other hand, to prevent this, one is obliged to stoop to dirty work;
work so difficult, so ticklish, bringing you cheek by jowl with such low
people, servants and subordinates; and into such close contact with them
too, that no barrister, no attorney in Paris could take up such a case.

\x93What you want is a briefless barrister like me,\x94 said he, \x93a man who
should have real and solid ability, who has learned to be devoted, and
yet, being in a precarious position, is brought temporarily to a level
with such people. In my arrondissement I undertake business for small
tradespeople and working folk. Yes, madame, you see the straits to which
I have been brought by the enmity of an attorney for the crown, now
a deputy-public prosecutor in Paris, who could not forgive me my
superiority.--I know you, madame, I know that your influence means a
solid certainty; and in such a service rendered to you, I saw the end of
my troubles and success for my friend Dr. Poulain.\x94

The lady sat pensive during a moment of unspeakable torture
for Fraisier. Vinet, an orator of the Centre, attorney-general
(_procureur-general_) for the past sixteen years, nominated half-a-score
of times for the chancellorship, the father, moreover, of the attorney
for the crown at Mantes who had been appointed to a post in Paris
within the last year--Vinet was an enemy and a rival for the malignant
Presidente. The haughty attorney-general did not hide his contempt for
President Camusot. This fact Fraisier did not know, and could not know.

\x93Have you nothing on your conscience but the fact that you were
concerned for both parties?\x94 asked she, looking steadily at Fraisier.

\x93Mme. la Presidente can see M. Leboeuf; M. Leboeuf was favorable to me.\x94

\x93Do you feel sure that M. Leboeuf will give M. de Marville and M. le
Comte Popinot a good account of you?\x94

\x93I will answer for it, especially now that M. Olivier Vinet has left
Mantes; for between ourselves, good M. Leboeuf was afraid of that
crabbed little official. If you will permit me, Madame La Presidente, I
will go to Mantes and see M. Leboeuf. No time will be lost, for I cannot
be certain of the precise value of the property for two or three days.
I do not wish that you should know all the ins and outs of this affair;
you ought not to know them, Mme. la Presidente, but is not the reward
that I expect for my complete devotion a pledge of my success?\x94

\x93Very well. If M. Leboeuf will speak in your favor, and if the property
is worth as much as you think (I doubt it myself), you shall have both
appointments, _if_ you succeed, mind you--\x94

\x93I will answer for it, madame. Only, you must be so good as to have your
notary and your attorney here when I shall need them; you must give me
a power of attorney to act for M. le President, and tell those
gentlemen to follow my instructions, and to do nothing on their own
responsibility.\x94

\x93The responsibility rests with you,\x94 the Presidente answered solemnly,
\x93so you ought to have full powers.--But is M. Pons very ill?\x94 she asked,
smiling.

\x93Upon my word, madame, he might pull through, especially with so
conscientious a doctor as Poulain in attendance; for this friend of
mine, madame, is simply an unconscious spy directed by me in your
interests. Left to himself, he would save the old man\x92s life; but there
is some one else by the sickbed, a portress, who would push him into the
grave for thirty thousand francs. Not that she would kill him outright;
she will not give him arsenic, she is not so merciful; she will do
worse, she will kill him by inches; she will worry him to death day by
day. If the poor old man were kept quiet and left in peace; if he were
taken into the country and cared for and made much of by friends, he
would get well again; but he is harassed by a sort of Mme. Evrard. When
the woman was young she was one of thirty _Belles Ecailleres_, famous in
Paris, she is a rough, greedy, gossiping woman; she torments him to make
a will and to leave her something handsome, and the end of it will be
induration of the liver, calculi are possibly forming at this moment,
and he has not enough strength to bear an operation. The doctor, noble
soul, is in a horrible predicament. He really ought to send the woman
away--\x94

\x93Why, then, this vixen is a monster!\x94 cried the lady in thin flute-like
tones.

Fraisier smiled inwardly at the likeness between himself and the
terrible Presidente; he knew all about those suave modulations of a
naturally sharp voice. He thought of another president, the hero of an
anecdote related by Louis XI., stamped by that monarch\x92s final praise.
Blessed with a wife after the pattern of Socrates\x92 spouse, and ungifted
with the sage\x92s philosophy, he mingled salt with the corn in the mangers
and forbad the grooms to give water to the horses. As his wife rode
along the Seine towards their country-house, the animals bolted into the
river with the lady, and the magistrate returned thanks to Providence
for ridding him of his wife \x93in so natural a manner.\x94 At this present
moment Mme. de Marville thanked Heaven for placing at Pons\x92 bedside a
woman so likely to get him \x93decently\x94 out of the way.

Aloud she said, \x93I would not take a million at the price of a single
scruple.--Your friend ought to speak to M. Pons and have the woman sent
away.\x94

\x93In the first place, madame, Messrs. Schmucke and Pons think the woman
an angel; they would send my friend away. And secondly, the doctor lies
under an obligation to this horrid oyster-woman; she called him in to
attend M. Pillerault. When he tells her to be as gentle as possible with
the patient, he simply shows the creature how to make matters worse.\x94

\x93What does your friend think of _my_ cousin\x92s condition?\x94

This man\x92s clear, business-like way of putting the facts of the case
frightened Mme. de Marville; she felt that his keen gaze read the
thoughts of a heart as greedy as La Cibot\x92s own.

\x93In six weeks the property will change hands.\x94

The Presidente dropped her eyes.

\x93Poor man!\x94 she sighed, vainly striving after a dolorous expression.

\x93Have you any message, madame, for M. Leboeuf? I am taking the train to
Mantes.\x94

\x93Yes. Wait a moment, and I will write to ask him to dine with us
to-morrow. I want to see him, so that he may act in concert to repair
the injustice to which you have fallen a victim.\x94

The Presidente left the room. Fraisier saw himself a justice of the
peace. He felt transformed at the thought; he grew stouter; his lungs
were filled with the breath of success, the breeze of prosperity. He
dipped into the mysterious reservoirs of volition for fresh and strong
doses of the divine essence. To reach success, he felt, as Remonencq
half felt, that he was ready for anything, for crime itself, provided
that no proofs of it remained. He had faced the Presidente boldly; he
had transmuted conjecture into reality; he had made assertions right
and left, all to the end that she might authorize him to protect her
interests and win her influence. As he stood there, he represented the
infinite misery of two lives, and the no less boundless desires of two
men. He spurned the squalid horrors of the Rue de la Perle. He saw the
glitter of a thousand crowns in fees from La Cibot, and five thousand
francs from the Presidente. This meant an abode such as befitted his
future prospects. Finally, he was repaying Dr. Poulain.

There are hard, ill-natured beings, goaded by distress or disease into
active malignity, that yet entertain diametrically opposed sentiments
with a like degree of vehemence. If Richelieu was a good hater, he
was no less a good friend. Fraisier, in his gratitude, would have let
himself be cut in two for Poulain.

So absorbed was he in these visions of a comfortable and prosperous
life, that he did not see the Presidente come in with the letter in her
hand, and she, looking at him, thought him less ugly now than at first.
He was about to be useful to her, and as soon as a tool belongs to us we
look upon it with other eyes.

\x93M. Fraisier,\x94 said she, \x93you have convinced me of your intelligence,
and I think that you can speak frankly.\x94

Fraisier replied by an eloquent gesture.

\x93Very well,\x94 continued the lady, \x93I must ask you to give a candid reply
to this question: Are we, either of us, M. de Marville or I, likely to
be compromised, directly or indirectly, by your action in this matter?\x94

\x93I would not have come to you, madame, if I thought that some day I
should have to reproach myself for bringing so much as a splash of mud
upon you, for in your position a speck the size of a pin\x92s head is seen
by all the world. You forget, madame, that I must satisfy you if I am
to be a justice of the peace in Paris. I have received one lesson at the
outset of my life; it was so sharp that I do not care to lay myself open
to a second thrashing. To sum it up in a last word, madame, I will not
take a step in which you are indirectly involved without previously
consulting you--\x94

\x93Very good. Here is the letter. And now I shall expect to be informed of
the exact value of the estate.\x94

\x93There is the whole matter,\x94 said Fraisier shrewdly, making his bow
to the Presidente with as much graciousness as his countenance could
exhibit.

\x93What a providence!\x94 thought Mme. Camusot de Marville. \x93So I am to be
rich! Camusot will be sure of his election if we let loose this Fraisier
upon the Bolbec constituency. What a tool!\x94

\x93What a providence!\x94 Fraisier said to himself as he descended the
staircase; \x93and what a sharp woman Mme. Camusot is! I should want a
woman in these circumstances. Now to work!\x94

And he departed for Mantes to gain the good graces of a man he scarcely
knew; but he counted upon Mme. Vatinelle, to whom, unfortunately, he
owed all his troubles--and some troubles are of a kind that resemble
a protested bill while the defaulter is yet solvent, in that they bear
interest.

Three days afterwards, while Schmucke slept (for in accordance with the
compact he now sat up at night with the patient), La Cibot had a \x93tiff,\x94
 as she was pleased to call it, with Pons. It will not be out of place
to call attention to one particularly distressing symptom of liver
complaint. The sufferer is always more or less inclined to impatience
and fits of anger; an outburst of this kind seems to give relief at the
time, much as a patient while the fever fit is upon him feels that he
has boundless strength; but collapse sets in so soon as the excitement
passes off, and the full extent of mischief sustained by the system
is discernible. This is especially the case when the disease has been
induced by some great shock; and the prostration is so much the more
dangerous because the patient is kept upon a restricted diet. It is
a kind of fever affecting neither the blood nor the brain, but the
humoristic mechanism, fretting the whole system, producing melancholy,
in which the patient hates himself; in such a crisis anything may cause
dangerous irritation.

In spite of all that the doctor could say, La Cibot had no belief in
this wear and tear of the nervous system by the humoristic. She was
a woman of the people, without experience or education; Dr. Poulain\x92s
explanations for her were simply \x93doctor\x92s notions.\x94 Like most of her
class, she thought that sick people must be fed, and nothing short of
Dr. Poulain\x92s direct order prevented her from administering ham, a nice
omelette, or vanilla chocolate upon the sly.

The infatuation of the working classes on this point is very strong.
The reason of their reluctance to enter a hospital is the idea that they
will be starved there. The mortality caused by the food smuggled in by
the wives of patients on visiting-days was at one time so great that the
doctors were obliged to institute a very strict search for contraband
provisions.

If La Cibot was to realize her profits at once, a momentary quarrel must
be worked up in some way. She began by telling Pons about her visit to
the theatre, not omitting her passage at arms with Mlle. Heloise the
dancer.

\x93But why did you go?\x94 the invalid asked for the third time. La Cibot
once launched on a stream of words, he was powerless to stop her.

\x93So, then, when I had given her a piece of my mind, Mademoiselle Heloise
saw who I was and knuckled under, and we were the best of friends.--And
now do you ask me why I went?\x94 she added, repeating Pons\x92 question.

There are certain babblers, babblers of genius are they, who sweep
up interruptions, objections, and observations in this way as they go
along, by way of provision to swell the matter of their conversation, as
if that source were ever in any danger of running dry.

\x93Why I went?\x94 repeated she. \x93I went to get your M. Gaudissart out of
a fix. He wants some music for a ballet, and you are hardly fit to
scribble on sheets of paper and do your work, dearie.--So I understood,
things being so, that a M. Garangeot was to be asked to set the
_Mohicans_ to music--\x94

\x93Garangeot!\x94 roared Pons in fury. \x93_Garangeot!_ a man with no talent; I
would not have him for first violin! He is very clever, he is very good
at musical criticism, but as to composing--I doubt it! And what the
devil put the notion of going to the theatre into your head?\x94

\x93How confoundedly contrairy the man is! Look here, dearie, we mustn\x92t
boil over like milk on the fire! How are you to write music in the state
that you are in? Why, you can\x92t have looked at yourself in the glass!
Will you have the glass and see? You are nothing but skin and bone--you
are as weak as a sparrow, and do you think that you are fit to make your
notes! why, you would not so much as make out mine.... And that reminds
me that I ought to go up to the third floor lodger\x92s that owes us
seventeen francs, for when the chemist has been paid we shall not have
twenty left.--So I had to tell M. Gaudissart (I like that name), a good
sort he seems to be,--a regular Roger Bontemps that would just suit
me.--_He_ will never have liver complaint!--Well, so I had to tell him
how you were.--Lord! you are not well, and he has put some one else in
your place for a bit--\x94

\x93Some one else in my place!\x94 cried Pons in a terrible voice, as he
sat right up in bed. Sick people, generally speaking, and those most
particularly who lie within the sweep of the scythe of Death, cling to
their places with the same passionate energy that the beginner displays
to gain a start in life. To hear that someone had taken his place was
like a foretaste of death to the dying man.

\x93Why, the doctor told me that I was going on as well as possible,\x94
 continued he; \x93he said that I should soon be about again as usual. You
have killed me, ruined me, murdered me!\x94

\x93Tut, tut, tut!\x94 cried La Cibot, \x93there you go! I am killing you, am I?
Mercy on us! these are the pretty things that you are always telling M.
Schmucke when my back is turned. I hear all that you say, that I do! You
are a monster of ingratitude.\x94

\x93But you do not know that if I am only away for another fortnight, they
will tell me that I have had my day, that I am old-fashioned, out of
date, Empire, rococo, when I go back. Garangeot will have made friends
all over the theatre, high and low. He will lower the pitch to suit some
actress that cannot sing, he will lick M. Gaudissart\x92s boots!\x94 cried the
sick man, who clung to life. \x93He has friends that will praise him in
all the newspapers; and when things are like that in such a shop, Mme.
Cibot, they can find holes in anybody\x92s coat. ... What fiend drove you
to do it?\x94

\x93Why! plague take it, M. Schmucke talked it over with me for a week.
What would you have? You see nothing but yourself! You are so selfish
that other people may die if you can only get better.--Why poor M.
Schmucke has been tired out this month past! he is tied by the leg,
he can go nowhere, he cannot give lessons nor take his place at the
theatre. Do you really see nothing? He sits up with you at night, and I
take the nursing in the day. If I were to sit up at night with you, as
I tried to do at first when I thought you were so poor, I should have to
sleep all day. And who would see to the house and look out for squalls!
Illness is illness, it cannot be helped, and here are you--\x94

\x93This was not Schmucke\x92s idea, it is quite impossible--\x94

\x93That means that it was _I_ who took it into my head to do it, does it?
Do you think that we are made of iron? Why, if M. Schmucke had given
seven or eight lessons every day and conducted the orchestra every
evening at the theatre from six o\x92clock till half-past eleven at night,
he would have died in ten days\x92 time. Poor man, he would give his life
for you, and do you want to be the death of him? By the authors of my
days, I have never seen a sick man to match you! Where are your senses?
have you put them in pawn? We are all slaving our lives out for you; we
do all for the best, and you are not satisfied! Do you want to drive us
raging mad? I myself, to begin with, am tired out as it is----\x94

La Cibot rattled on at her ease; Pons was too angry to say a word. He
writhed on his bed, painfully uttering inarticulate sounds; the blow was
killing him. And at this point, as usual, the scolding turned suddenly
to tenderness. The nurse dashed at her patient, grasped him by the head,
made him lie down by main force, and dragged the blankets over him.

\x93How any one can get into such a state!\x94 exclaimed she. \x93After all, it
is your illness, dearie. That is what good M. Poulain says. See now,
keep quiet and be good, my dear little sonny. Everybody that comes near
you worships you, and the doctor himself comes to see you twice a day.
What would he say if he found you in such a way? You put me out of all
patience; you ought not to behave like this. If you have Ma\x92am Cibot
to nurse you, you should treat her better. You shout and you talk!--you
ought not to do it, you know that. Talking irritates you. And why do
you fly into a passion? The wrong is all on your side; you are always
bothering me. Look here, let us have it out! If M. Schmucke and I,
who love you like our life, thought that we were doing right--well, my
cherub, it was right, you may be sure.\x94

\x93Schmucke never could have told you to go to the theatre without
speaking to me about it--\x94

\x93And must I wake him, poor dear, when he is sleeping like one of the
blest, and call him in as a witness?\x94

\x93No, no!\x94 cried Pons. \x93If my kind and loving Schmucke made the
resolution, perhaps I am worse than I thought.\x94 His eyes wandered round
the room, dwelling on the beautiful things in it with a melancholy look
painful to see.

\x93So I must say good-bye to my dear pictures, to all the things that
have come to be like so many friends to me... and to my divine friend
Schmucke?... Oh! can it be true?\x94

La Cibot, acting her heartless comedy, held her handkerchief to her
eyes; and at that mute response the sufferer fell to dark musing--so
sorely stricken was he by the double stab dealt to health and his
interests by the loss of his post and the near prospect of death, that
he had no strength left for anger. He lay, ghastly and wan, like a
consumptive patient after a wrestling bout with the Destroyer.

\x93In M. Schmucke\x92s interests, you see, you would do well to send for M.
Trognon; he is the notary of the quarter and a very good man,\x94 said La
Cibot, seeing that her victim was completely exhausted.

\x93You are always talking about this Trognon--\x94

\x93Oh! he or another, it is all one to me, for anything you will leave
me.\x94

She tossed her head to signify that she despised riches. There was
silence in the room.

A moment later Schmucke came in. He had slept for six hours, hunger
awakened him, and now he stood at Pons\x92 bedside watching his friend
without saying a word, for Mme. Cibot had laid a finger on her lips.

\x93Hush!\x94 she whispered. Then she rose and went up to add under her
breath, \x93He is going off to sleep at last, thank Heaven! He is as
cross as a red donkey!--What can you expect, he is struggling with his
illness----\x94

\x93No, on the contrary, I am very patient,\x94 said the victim in a weary
voice that told of a dreadful exhaustion; \x93but, oh! Schmucke, my dear
friend, she has been to the theatre to turn me out of my place.\x94

There was a pause. Pons was too weak to say more. La Cibot took the
opportunity and tapped her head significantly. \x93Do not contradict him,\x94
 she said to Schmucke; \x93it would kill him.\x94

Pons gazed into Schmucke\x92s honest face. \x93And she says that you sent
her--\x94 he continued.

\x93Yes,\x94 Schmucke affirmed heroically. \x93It had to pe. Hush!--let us safe
your life. It is absurd to vork and train your sdrength gif you haf a
dreasure. Get better; ve vill sell some prick-a-prack und end our tays
kvietly in a corner somveres, mit kind Montame Zipod.\x94

\x93She has perverted you,\x94 moaned Pons.

Mme. Cibot had taken up her station behind the bed to make signals
unobserved. Pons thought that she had left the room. \x93She is murdering
me,\x94 he added.

\x93What is that? I am murdering you, am I?\x94 cried La Cibot, suddenly
appearing, hand on hips and eyes aflame. \x93I am as faithful as a dog, and
this is all I get! God Almighty!--\x94

She burst into tears and dropped down into the great chair, a tragical
movement which wrought a most disastrous revulsion in Pons.

\x93Very good,\x94 she said, rising to her feet. The woman\x92s malignant eyes
looked poison and bullets at the two friends. \x93Very good. Nothing that
I can do is right here, and I am tired of slaving my life out. You shall
take a nurse.\x94

Pons and Schmucke exchanged glances in dismay.

\x93Oh! you may look at each other like actors. I mean it. I shall ask Dr.
Poulain to find a nurse for you. And now we will settle accounts. You
shall pay me back the money that I have spent on you, and that I would
never have asked you for, I that have gone to M. Pillerault to borrow
another five hundred francs of him--\x94

\x93It ees his illness!\x94 cried Schmucke--he sprang to Mme. Cibot and put an
arm round her waist--\x93haf batience.\x94

\x93As for you, you are an angel, I could kiss the ground you tread upon,\x94
 said she. \x93But M. Pons never liked me, he always hated me. Besides, he
thinks perhaps that I want to be mentioned in his will--\x94

\x93Hush! you vill kill him!\x94 cried Schmucke.

\x93Good-bye, sir,\x94 said La Cibot, with a withering look at Pons. \x93You
may keep well for all the harm I wish you. When you can speak to me
pleasantly, when you can believe that what I do is done for the best,
I will come back again. Till then I shall stay in my own room. You were
like my own child to me; did anybody ever see a child revolt against its
mother?... No, no, M. Schmucke, I do not want to hear more. I will bring
you _your_ dinner and wait upon _you_, but you must take a nurse. Ask M.
Poulain about it.\x94

And she went out, slamming the door after her so violently that the
precious, fragile objects in the room trembled. To Pons in his torture,
the rattle of china was like the final blow dealt by the executioner to
a victim broken on the wheel.

An hour later La Cibot called to Schmucke through the door, telling him
that his dinner was waiting for him in the dining-room. She would not
cross the threshold. Poor Schmucke went out to her with a haggard,
tear-stained face.

\x93Mein boor Bons in vandering,\x94 said he; \x93he says dat you are ein pad
voman. It ees his illness,\x94 he added hastily, to soften La Cibot and
excuse his friend.

\x93Oh, I have had enough of his illness! Look here, he is neither father,
nor husband, nor brother, nor child of mine. He has taken a dislike to
me; well and good, that is enough! As for you, you see, I would follow
_you_ to the end of the world; but when a woman gives her life, her
heart, and all her savings, and neglects her husband (for here has Cibot
fallen ill), and then hears that she is a bad woman--it is coming it
rather too strong, it is.\x94

\x93Too shtrong?\x94

\x93Too strong, yes. Never mind idle words. Let us come to the facts. As to
that, you owe me for three months at a hundred and ninety francs--that
is five hundred seventy francs; then there is the rent that I have paid
twice (here are the receipts), six hundred more, including rates and the
sou in the franc for the porter--something under twelve hundred francs
altogether, and with the two thousand francs besides--without interest,
mind you--the total amounts to three thousand one hundred and ninety-two
francs. And remember that you will want at least two thousand francs
before long for the doctor, and the nurse, and the medicine, and
the nurse\x92s board. That was why I borrowed a thousand francs of M.
Pillerault,\x94 and with that she held up Gaudissart\x92s bank-note.

It may readily be conceived that Schmucke listened to this reckoning
with amazement, for he knew about as much of business as a cat knows of
music.

\x93Montame Zipod,\x94 he expostulated, \x93Bons haf lost his head. Bardon him,
and nurse him as before, und pe our profidence; I peg it of you on mine
knees,\x94 and he knelt before La Cibot and kissed the tormentor\x92s hands.

La Cibot raised Schmucke and kissed him on the forehead. \x93Listen, my
lamb,\x94 said she, \x93here is Cibot ill in bed; I have just sent for Dr.
Poulain. So I ought to set my affairs in order. And what is more, Cibot
saw me crying, and flew into such a passion that he will not have me set
foot in here again. It is _he_ who wants the money; it is his, you see.
We women can do nothing when it comes to that. But if you let him have
his money back again--the three thousand two hundred francs--he will be
quiet perhaps. Poor man, it is his all, earned by the sweat of his brow,
the savings of twenty-six years of life together. He must have his money
to-morrow; there is no getting round him.--You do not know Cibot; when
he is angry he would kill a man. Well, I might perhaps get leave of
him to look after you both as before. Be easy. I will just let him say
anything that comes into his head. I will bear it all for love of you,
an angel as you are.\x94

\x93No, I am ein boor man, dot lof his friend and vould gif his life to
save him--\x94

\x93But the money?\x94 broke in La Cibot. \x93My good M. Schmucke, let us suppose
that you pay me nothing; you will want three thousand francs, and where
are they to come from? Upon my word, do you know what I should do in
your place? I should not think twice, I should just sell seven or eight
good-for-nothing pictures and put up some of those instead that are
standing in your closet with their faces to the wall for want of room.
One picture or another, what difference does it make?\x94

\x93Und vy?\x94

\x93He is so cunning. It is his illness, for he is a lamb when he is well.
He is capable of getting up and prying about; and if by any chance he
went into the salon, he is so weak that he could not go beyond the door;
he would see that they are all still there.\x94

\x93Drue!\x94

\x93And when he is quite well, we will tell him about the sale. And if you
wish to confess, throw it all upon me, say that you were obliged to pay
me. Come! I have a broad back--\x94

\x93I cannot tispose of dings dot are not mine,\x94 the good German answered
simply.

\x93Very well. I will summons you, you and M. Pons.\x94

\x93It vould kill him--\x94

\x93Take your choice! Dear me, sell the pictures and tell him about it
afterwards... you can show him the summons--\x94

\x93Ver\x92 goot. Summons us. Dot shall pe mine egscuse. I shall show him der
chudgment.\x94

Mme. Cibot went down to the court, and that very day at seven o\x92clock
she called to Schmucke. Schmucke found himself confronted with M.
Tabareau the bailiff, who called upon him to pay. Schmucke made answer,
trembling from head to foot, and was forthwith summoned together with
Pons, to appear in the county court to hear judgment against him. The
sight of the bailiff and a bit of stamped paper covered with scrawls
produced such an effect upon Schmucke, that he held out no longer.

\x93Sell die bictures,\x94 he said, with tears in his eyes.

Next morning, at six o\x92clock, Elie Magus and Remonencq took down the
paintings of their choice. Two receipts for two thousand five hundred
francs were made out in correct form:--

\x93I, the undersigned, representing M. Pons, acknowledge the receipt
of two thousand five hundred francs from M. Elie Magus for the four
pictures sold to him, the said sum being appropriated to the use of M.
Pons. The first picture, attributed to Durer, is a portrait of a woman;
the second, likewise a portrait, is of the Italian School; the third,
a Dutch landscape by Breughel; and the fourth, a _Holy Family_ by an
unknown master of the Florentine School.\x94

Remonencq\x92s receipt was worded in precisely the same way; a Greuze, a
Claude Lorraine, a Rubens, and a Van Dyck being disguised as pictures of
the French and Flemish schools.

\x93Der monny makes me beleef dot the chimcracks haf som value,\x94 said
Schmucke when the five thousand francs were paid over.

\x93They are worth something,\x94 said Remonencq. \x93I would willingly give you
a hundred thousand francs for the lot.\x94

Remonencq, asked to do a trifling service, hung eight pictures of the
proper size in the same frames, taking them from among the less valuable
pictures in Schmucke\x92s bedroom.

No sooner was Elie Magus in possession of the four great pictures than
he went, taking La Cibot with him, under pretence of settling accounts.
But he pleaded poverty, he found fault with the pictures, they needed
rebacking, he offered La Cibot thirty thousand francs by way of
commission, and finally dazzled her with the sheets of paper on which
the Bank of France engraves the words \x93One thousand francs\x94 in capital
letters. Magus thereupon condemned Remonencq to pay the like sum to La
Cibot, by lending him the money on the security of his four pictures,
which he took with him as a guarantee. So glorious were they, that Magus
could not bring himself to part with them, and next day he bought them
of Remonencq for six thousand francs over and above the original price,
and an invoice was duly made out for the four. Mme. Cibot, the richer
by sixty-eight thousand francs, once more swore her two accomplices to
absolute secrecy. Then she asked the Jew\x92s advice. She wanted to invest
the money in such a way that no one should know of it.

\x93Buy shares in the Orleans Railway,\x94 said he; \x93they are thirty francs
below par, you will double your capital in three years. They will give
you scraps of paper, which you keep safe in a portfolio.\x94

\x93Stay here, M. Magus. I will go and fetch the man of business who acts
for M. Pons\x92 family. He wants to know how much you will give him for the
whole bag of tricks upstairs. I will go for him now.\x94

\x93If only she were a widow!\x94 said Remonencq when she was gone. \x93She would
just suit me; she will have plenty of money now--\x94

\x93Especially if she puts her money into the Orleans Railway; she will
double her capital in two years\x92 time. I have put all my poor little
savings into it,\x94 added the Jew, \x93for my daughter\x92s portion.--Come, let
us take a turn on the boulevard until this lawyer arrives.\x94

\x93Cibot is very bad as it is,\x94 continued Remonencq; \x93if it should please
God to take him to Himself, I should have a famous wife to keep a shop;
I could set up on a large scale--\x94

\x93Good-day, M. Fraisier,\x94 La Cibot began in an ingratiating tone as she
entered her legal adviser\x92s office. \x93Why, what is this that your porter
has been telling me? are you going to move?\x94

\x93Yes, my dear Mme. Cibot. I am taking the first floor above Dr. Poulain,
and trying to borrow two or three thousand francs so as to furnish the
place properly; it is very nice, upon my word, the landlord has just
papered and painted it. I am acting, as I told you, in President de
Marville\x92s interests and yours.... I am not a solicitor now; I mean
to have my name entered on the roll of barristers, and I must be well
lodged. A barrister in Paris cannot have his name on the rolls unless
he has decent furniture and books and the like. I am a doctor of law, I
have kept my terms, and have powerful interest already.... Well, how are
we getting on?\x94

\x93Perhaps you would accept my savings,\x94 said La Cibot. \x93I have put them
in a savings bank. I have not much, only three thousand francs, the
fruits of twenty-five years of stinting and scraping. You might give me
a bill of exchange, as Remonencq says; for I am ignorant myself, I only
know what they tell me.\x94

\x93No. It is against the rules of the guild for a barrister (_avocat_) to
put his name to a bill. I will give you a receipt, bearing interest at
five per cent per annum, on the understanding that if I make an income
of twelve hundred francs for you out of old Pons\x92 estate you will cancel
it.\x94

La Cibot, caught in the trap, uttered not a word.

\x93Silence gives consent,\x94 Fraisier continued. \x93Let me have it to-morrow
morning.\x94

\x93Oh! I am quite willing to pay fees in advance,\x94 said La Cibot; \x93it is
one way of making sure of my money.\x94

Fraisier nodded. \x93How are you getting on?\x94 he repeated. \x93I saw Poulain
yesterday; you are hurrying your invalid along, it seems.... One more
scene such as yesterday\x92s, and gall-stones will form. Be gentle with
him, my dear Mme. Cibot, do not lay up remorse for yourself. Life is not
too long.\x94

\x93Just let me alone with your remorse! Are you going to talk about the
guillotine again? M. Pons is a contrairy old thing. You don\x92t know him.
It is he that bothers me. There is not a more cross-grained man alive;
his relations are in the right of it, he is sly, revengeful, and
contrairy.... M. Magus has come, as I told you, and is waiting to see
you.\x94

\x93Right! I will be there as soon as you. Your income depends upon the
price the collection will fetch. If it brings in eight hundred thousand
francs, you shall have fifteen hundred francs a year. It is a fortune.\x94

\x93Very well. I will tell them to value the things on their consciences.\x94



An hour later, Pons was fast asleep. The doctor had ordered a soothing
draught, which Schmucke administered, all unconscious that La Cibot had
doubled the dose. Fraisier, Remonencq, and Magus, three gallows-birds,
were examining the seventeen hundred different objects which formed the
old musician\x92s collection one by one.

Schmucke had gone to bed. The three kites, drawn by the scent of a
corpse, were masters of the field.

\x93Make no noise,\x94 said La Cibot whenever Magus went into ecstasies or
explained the value of some work of art to Remonencq. The dying man
slept on in the neighboring room, while greed in four different
forms appraised the treasures that he must leave behind, and waited
impatiently for him to die--a sight to wring the heart.

Three hours went by before they had finished the salon.

\x93On an average,\x94 said the grimy old Jew, \x93everything here is worth a
thousand francs.\x94

\x93Seventeen hundred thousand francs!\x94 exclaimed Fraisier in bewilderment.

\x93Not to me,\x94 Magus answered promptly, and his eyes grew dull. \x93I would
not give more than a hundred thousand francs myself for the collection.
You cannot tell how long you may keep a thing on hand. ... There are
masterpieces that wait ten years for a buyer, and meanwhile the purchase
money is doubled by compound interest. Still, I should pay cash.\x94

\x93There is stained glass in the other room, as well as enamels and
miniatures and gold and silver snuff-boxes,\x94 put in Remonencq.

\x93Can they be seen?\x94 inquired Fraisier.

\x93I\x92ll see if he is sound asleep,\x94 replied La Cibot. She made a sign, and
the three birds of prey came in.

\x93There are masterpieces yonder!\x94 said Magus, indicating the salon, every
bristle of his white beard twitching as he spoke. \x93But the riches
are here! And what riches! Kings have nothing more glorious in royal
treasuries.\x94

Remonencq\x92s eyes lighted up till they glowed like carbuncles, at the
sight of the gold snuff-boxes. Fraisier, cool and calm as a serpent, or
some snake-creature with the power of rising erect, stood with his viper
head stretched out, in such an attitude as a painter would choose for
Mephistopheles. The three covetous beings, thirsting for gold as devils
thirst for the dew of heaven, looked simultaneously, as it chanced, at
the owner of all this wealth. Some nightmare troubled Pons; he stirred,
and suddenly, under the influence of those diabolical glances, he opened
his eyes with a shrill cry.

\x93Thieves!... There they are!... Help! Murder! Help!\x94

The nightmare was evidently still upon him, for he sat up in bed,
staring before him with blank, wide-open eyes, and had not the power to
move.

Elie Magus and Remonencq made for the door, but a word glued them to the
spot.

\x93_Magus_ here!... I am betrayed!\x94

Instinctively the sick man had known that his beloved pictures were in
danger, a thought that touched him at least as closely as any dread for
himself, and he awoke. Fraisier meanwhile did not stir.

\x93Mme. Cibot! who is that gentleman?\x94 cried Pons, shivering at the sight.

\x93Goodness me! how could I put him out of the door?\x94 she inquired, with
a wink and gesture for Fraisier\x92s benefit. \x93This gentleman came just a
minute ago, from your family.\x94

Fraisier could not conceal his admiration for La Cibot.

\x93Yes, sir,\x94 he said, \x93I have come on behalf of Mme. la Presidente de
Marville, her husband, and her daughter, to express their regret. They
learned quite by accident that you are ill, and they would like to nurse
you themselves. They want you to go to Marville and get well there. Mme.
la Vicomtesse Popinot, the little Cecile that you love so much, will be
your nurse. She took your part with her mother. She convinced Mme. de
Marville that she had made a mistake.\x94

\x93So my next-of-kin have sent you to me, have they?\x94 Pons exclaimed
indignantly, \x93and sent the best judge and expert in all Paris with you
to show you the way? Oh! a nice commission!\x94 he cried, bursting into
wild laughter. \x93You have come to value my pictures and curiosities, my
snuff-boxes and miniatures!... Make your valuation. You have a man there
who understands everything, and more--he can buy everything, for he is
a millionaire ten times over.... My dear relatives will not have long
to wait,\x94 he added, with bitter irony, \x93they have choked the last breath
out of me.... Ah! Mme. Cibot, you said you were a mother to me, and you
bring dealers into the house, and my competitor and the Camusots, while
I am asleep!... Get out, all of you!--\x94

The unhappy man was beside himself with anger and fear; he rose from the
bed and stood upright, a gaunt, wasted figure.

\x93Take my arm, sir,\x94 said La Cibot, rushing to the rescue, lest Pons
should fall. \x93Pray calm yourself, the gentlemen are gone.\x94

\x93I want to see the salon....\x94 said the death-stricken man. La Cibot made
a sign to the three ravens to take flight. Then she caught up Pons as if
he had been a feather, and put him in bed again, in spite of his cries.
When she saw that he was quite helpless and exhausted, she went to shut
the door on the staircase. The three who had done Pons to death were
still on the landing; La Cibot told them to wait. She heard Fraisier say
to Magus:

\x93Let me have it in writing, and sign it, both of you. Undertake to pay
nine hundred thousand francs in cash for M. Pons\x92 collection, and we
will see about putting you in the way of making a handsome profit.\x94

With that he said something to La Cibot in a voice so low that the
others could not catch it, and went down after the two dealers to the
porter\x92s room.

\x93Have they gone, Mme. Cibot?\x94 asked the unhappy Pons, when she came back
again.

\x93Gone?... who?\x94 asked she.

\x93Those men.\x94

\x93What men? There, now, you have seen men,\x94 said she. \x93You have just
had a raving fit; if it hadn\x92t been for me you would have gone out the
window, and now you are still talking of men in the room. Is it always
to be like this?\x94

\x93What! was there not a gentleman here just now, saying that my relatives
had sent him?\x94

\x93Will you still stand me out?\x94 said she. \x93Upon my word, do you know
where you ought to be sent?--To the asylum at Charenton. You see men--\x94

\x93Elie Magus, Remonencq, and--\x94

\x93Oh! as for Remonencq, you may have seen _him_, for he came up to tell
me that my poor Cibot is so bad that I must clear out of this and come
down. My Cibot comes first, you see. When my husband is ill, I can think
of nobody else. Try to keep quiet and sleep for a couple of hours; I
have sent for Dr. Poulain, and I will come up with him.... Take a drink
and be good--\x94

\x93Then was there no one in the room just now, when I waked?...\x94

\x93No one,\x94 said she. \x93You must have seen M. Remonencq in one of your
looking-glasses.\x94

\x93You are right, Mme. Cibot,\x94 said Pons, meek as a lamb.

\x93Well, now you are sensible again.... Good-bye, my cherub; keep quiet, I
shall be back again in a minute.\x94

When Pons heard the outer door close upon her, he summoned up all his
remaining strength to rise.

\x93They are cheating me,\x94 he muttered to himself, \x93they are robbing me!
Schmucke is a child that would let them tie him up in a sack.\x94

The terrible scene had seemed so real, it could not be a dream, he
thought; a desire to throw light upon the puzzle excited him; he managed
to reach the door, opened it after many efforts, and stood on the
threshold of his salon. There they were--his dear pictures, his statues,
his Florentine bronzes, his porcelain; the sight of them revived him.
The old collector walked in his dressing-gown along the narrow spaces
between the credence-tables and the sideboards that lined the wall; his
feet bare, his head on fire. His first glance of ownership told him that
everything was there; he turned to go back to bed again, when he noticed
that a Greuze portrait looked out of the frame that had held Sebastian
del Piombo\x92s _Templar_. Suspicion flashed across his brain, making
his dark thoughts apparent to him, as a flash of lightning marks the
outlines of the cloud-bars on a stormy sky. He looked round for the
eight capital pictures of the collection; each one of them was replaced
by another. A dark film suddenly overspread his eyes; his strength
failed him; he fell fainting upon the polished floor.

So heavy was the swoon, that for two hours he lay as he fell, till
Schmucke awoke and went to see his friend, and found him lying
unconscious in the salon. With endless pains Schmucke raised the
half-dead body and laid it on the bed; but when he came to question
the death-stricken man, and saw the look in the dull eyes and heard the
vague, inarticulate words, the good German, so far from losing his head,
rose to the very heroism of friendship. Man and child as he was, with
the pressure of despair came the inspiration of a mother\x92s tenderness, a
woman\x92s love. He warmed towels (he found towels!), he wrapped them about
Pons\x92 hands, he laid them over the pit of the stomach; he took the cold,
moist forehead in his hands, he summoned back life with a might of will
worthy of Apollonius of Tyana, laying kisses on his friend\x92s eyelids
like some Mary bending over the dead Christ, in a _pieta_ carved in
bas-relief by some great Italian sculptor. The divine effort, the
outpouring of one life into another, the work of mother and of lover,
was crowned with success. In half an hour the warmth revived Pons; he
became himself again, the hues of life returned to his eyes, suspended
faculties gradually resumed their play under the influence of artificial
heat; Schmucke gave him balm-water with a little wine in it; the spirit
of life spread through the body; intelligence lighted up the forehead so
short a while ago insensible as a stone; and Pons knew that he had been
brought back to life, by what sacred devotion, what might of friendship!

\x93But for you, I should die,\x94 he said, and as he spoke he felt the good
German\x92s tears falling on his face. Schmucke was laughing and crying at
once.

Poor Schmucke! he had waited for those words with a frenzy of hope as
costly as the frenzy of despair; and now his strength utterly failed
him, he collapsed like a rent balloon. It was his turn to fall; he
sank into the easy-chair, clasped his hands, and thanked God in fervent
prayer. For him a miracle had just been wrought. He put no belief in the
efficacy of the prayer of his deeds; the miracle had been wrought by God
in direct answer to his cry. And yet that miracle was a natural effect,
such as medical science often records.

A sick man, surrounded by those who love him, nursed by those who wish
earnestly that he should live, will recover (other things being equal),
when another patient tended by hirelings will die. Doctors decline to
see unconscious magnetism in this phenomenon; for them it is the result
of intelligent nursing, of exact obedience to their orders; but many a
mother knows the virtue of such ardent projection of strong, unceasing
prayer.

\x93My good Schmucke--\x94

\x93Say nodings; I shall hear you mit mein heart... rest, rest!\x94 said
Schmucke, smiling at him.

\x93Poor friend, noble creature, child of God, living in God!... The one
being that has loved me....\x94 The words came out with pauses between
them; there was a new note, a something never heard before, in Pons\x92
voice. All the soul, so soon to take flight, found utterance in the
words that filled Schmucke with happiness almost like a lover\x92s rapture.

\x93Yes, yes. I shall be shtrong as a lion. I shall vork for two!\x94

\x93Listen, my good, my faithful, adorable friend. Let me speak, I have not
much time left. I am a dead man. I cannot recover from these repeated
shocks.\x94

Schmucke was crying like a child.

\x93Just listen,\x94 continued Pons, \x93and cry afterwards. As a Christian, you
must submit. I have been robbed. It is La Cibot\x92s doing.... I ought to
open your eyes before I go; you know nothing of life.... Somebody has
taken away eight of the pictures, and they were worth a great deal of
money.\x94

\x93Vorgif me--I sold dem.\x94

\x93_You_ sold them?\x94

\x93Yes, I,\x94 said poor Schmucke. \x93Dey summoned us to der court--\x94

\x93_Summoned?_.... Who summoned us?\x94

\x93Wait,\x94 said Schmucke. He went for the bit of stamped-paper left by the
bailiff, and gave it to Pons. Pons read the scrawl through with close
attention, then he let the paper drop and lay quite silent for a while.
A close observer of the work of men\x92s hands, unheedful so far of the
workings of the brain, Pons finally counted out the threads of the plot
woven about him by La Cibot. The artist\x92s fire, the intellect that won
the Roman scholarship--all his youth came back to him for a little.

\x93My good Schmucke,\x94 he said at last, \x93you must do as I tell you, and
obey like a soldier. Listen! go downstairs into the lodge and tell that
abominable woman that I should like to see the person sent to me by
my cousin the President; and that unless he comes, I shall leave my
collection to the Musee. Say that a will is in question.\x94

Schmucke went on his errand; but at the first word, La Cibot answered by
a smile.

\x93My good M. Schmucke, our dear invalid has had a delirious fit; he
thought that there were men in the room. On my word, as an honest woman,
no one has come from the family.\x94

Schmucke went back with his answer, which he repeated word for word.

\x93She is cleverer, more astute and cunning and wily, than I thought,\x94
 said Pons with a smile. \x93She lies even in her room. Imagine it! This
morning she brought a Jew here, Elie Magus by name, and Remonencq, and a
third whom I do not know, more terrific than the other two put together.
She meant to make a valuation while I was asleep; I happened to wake,
and saw them all three, estimating the worth of my snuff-boxes. The
stranger said, indeed, that the Camusots had sent him here; I spoke to
him.... That shameless woman stood me out that I was dreaming!... My
good Schmucke, it was not a dream. I heard the man perfectly plainly; he
spoke to me.... The two dealers took fright and made for the door....
I thought that La Cibot would contradict herself--the experiment
failed.... I will lay another snare, and trap the wretched woman....
Poor Schmucke, you think that La Cibot is an angel; and for this month
past she has been killing me by inches to gain her covetous ends. I
would not believe that a woman who served us faithfully for years could
be so wicked. That doubt has been my ruin.... How much did the eight
pictures fetch?\x94

\x93Vife tausend vrancs.\x94

\x93Good heavens! they were worth twenty times as much!\x94 cried Pons; \x93the
gems of the collection! I have not time now to institute proceedings;
and if I did, you would figure in court as the dupe of those rascals.
... A lawsuit would be the death of you. You do not know what justice
means--a court of justice is a sink of iniquity.... At the sight of such
horrors, a soul like yours would give way. And besides, you will have
enough. The pictures cost me forty thousand francs. I have had them for
thirty-six years.... Oh, we have been robbed with surprising dexterity.
I am on the brink of the grave, I care for nothing now but thee--for
thee, the best soul under the sun....

\x93I will not have you plundered; all that I have is yours. So you must
trust nobody, Schmucke, you that have never suspected any one in your
life. I know God watches over you, but He may forget for one moment,
and you will be seized like a vessel among pirates.... La Cibot is a
monster! She is killing me; and you think her an angel! You shall see
what she is. Go and ask her to give you the name of a notary, and I will
show you her with her hand in the bag.\x94

Schmucke listened as if Pons proclaimed an apocalypse. Could so depraved
a creature as La Cibot exist? If Pons was right, it seemed to imply that
there was no God in the world. He went right down again to Mme. Cibot.

\x93Mein boor vriend Bons feel so ill,\x94 he said, \x93dat he vish to make his
vill. Go und pring ein nodary.\x94

This was said in the hearing of several persons, for Cibot\x92s life was
despaired of. Remonencq and his sister, two women from neighboring
porters\x92 lodges, two or three servants, and the lodger from the first
floor on the side next the street, were all standing outside in the
gateway.

\x93Oh! you can just fetch a notary yourself, and have your will made as
you please,\x94 cried La Cibot, with tears in her eyes. \x93My poor Cibot is
dying, and it is no time to leave him. I would give all the Ponses in
the world to save Cibot, that has never given me an ounce of unhappiness
in these thirty years since we were married.\x94

And in she went, leaving Schmucke in confusion.

\x93Is M. Pons really seriously ill, sir?\x94 asked the first-floor lodger,
one Jolivard, a clerk in the registrar\x92s office at the Palais de
Justice.

\x93He nearly died chust now,\x94 said Schmucke, with deep sorrow in his
voice.

\x93M. Trognon lives near by in the Rue Saint-Louis,\x94 said M. Jolivard, \x93he
is the notary of the quarter.\x94

\x93Would you like me to go for him?\x94 asked Remonencq.

\x93I should pe fery glad,\x94 said Schmucke; \x93for gif Montame Zipod cannot pe
mit mine vriend, I shall not vish to leaf him in der shtate he is in--\x94

\x93Mme. Cibot told us that he was going out of his mind,\x94 resumed
Jolivard.

\x93Bons! out off his mind!\x94 cried Schmucke, terror-stricken by the idea.
\x93Nefer vas he so clear in der head... dat is chust der reason vy I am
anxious for him.\x94

The little group of persons listened to the conversation with a very
natural curiosity, which stamped the scene upon their memories. Schmucke
did not know Fraisier, and could not note his satanic countenance and
glittering eyes. But two words whispered by Fraisier in La Cibot\x92s ear
had prompted a daring piece of acting, somewhat beyond La Cibot\x92s range,
it may be, though she played her part throughout in a masterly style. To
make others believe that the dying man was out of his mind--it was
the very corner-stone of the edifice reared by the petty lawyer. The
morning\x92s incident had done Fraisier good service; but for him, La Cibot
in her trouble might have fallen into the snare innocently spread by
Schmucke, when he asked her to send back the person sent by the family.

Remonencq saw Dr. Poulain coming towards them, and asked no better than
to vanish. The fact was that for the last ten days the Auvergnat had
been playing Providence in a manner singularly displeasing to Justice,
which claims the monopoly of that part. He had made up his mind to rid
himself at all costs of the one obstacle in his way to happiness,
and happiness for him meant capital trebled and marriage with the
irresistibly charming portress. He had watched the little tailor
drinking his herb-tea, and a thought struck him. He would convert the
ailment into mortal sickness; his stock of old metals supplied him with
the means.

One morning as he leaned against the door-post, smoking his pipe and
dreaming of that fine shop on the Boulevard de la Madeleine where Mme.
Cibot, gorgeously arrayed, should some day sit enthroned, his eyes
fell upon a copper disc, about the size of a five-franc piece, covered
thickly with verdigris. The economical idea of using Cibot\x92s medicine to
clean the disc immediately occurred to him. He fastened the thing in a
bit of twine, and came over every morning to inquire for tidings of
his friend the tailor, timing his visit during La Cibot\x92s visit to her
gentlemen upstairs. He dropped the disc into the tumbler, allowed it to
steep there while he talked, and drew it out again by the string when he
went away.

The trace of tarnished copper, commonly called verdigris, poisoned
the wholesome draught; a minute dose administered by stealth did
incalculable mischief. Behold the results of this criminal homoeopathy!
On the third day poor Cibot\x92s hair came out, his teeth were loosened in
their sockets, his whole system was deranged by a scarcely perceptible
trace of poison. Dr. Poulain racked his brains. He was enough of a man
of science to see that some destructive agent was at work. He privately
carried off the decoction, analyzed it himself, but found nothing. It so
chanced that Remonencq had taken fright and omitted to dip the disc in
the tumbler that day.

Then Dr. Poulain fell back on himself and science and got out of the
difficulty with a theory. A sedentary life in a damp room; a cramped
position before the barred window--these conditions had vitiated the
blood in the absence of proper exercise, especially as the patient
continually breathed an atmosphere saturated with the fetid exhalations
of the gutter. The Rue de Normandie is one of the old-fashioned streets
that slope towards the middle; the municipal authorities of Paris as yet
have laid on no water supply to flush the central kennel which drains
the houses on either side, and as a result a stream of filthy ooze
meanders among the cobblestones, filters into the soil, and produces
the mud peculiar to the city. La Cibot came and went; but her husband,
a hard-working man, sat day in day out like a fakir on the table in the
window, till his knee-joints were stiffened, the blood stagnated in his
body, and his legs grew so thin and crooked that he almost lost the
use of them. The deep copper tint of the man\x92s complexion naturally
suggested that he had been out of health for a very long time. The
wife\x92s good health and the husband\x92s illness seemed to the doctor to be
satisfactorily accounted for by this theory.

\x93Then what is the matter with my poor Cibot?\x94 asked the portress.

\x93My dear Mme. Cibot, he is dying of the porter\x92s disease,\x94 said the
doctor. \x93Incurable vitiation of the blood is evident from the general
anaemic condition.\x94

No one had anything to gain by a crime so objectless. Dr. Poulain\x92s
first suspicions were effaced by this thought. Who could have any
possible interest in Cibot\x92s death? His wife?--the doctor saw her taste
the herb-tea as she sweetened it. Crimes which escape social vengeance
are many enough, and as a rule they are of this order--to wit, murders
committed without any startling sign of violence, without bloodshed,
bruises, marks of strangling, without any bungling of the business, in
short; if there seems to be no motive for the crime, it most likely goes
unpunished, especially if the death occurs among the poorer classes.
Murder is almost always denounced by its advanced guards, by hatred or
greed well known to those under whose eyes the whole matter has passed.
But in the case of the Cibots, no one save the doctor had any interest
in discovering the actual cause of death. The little copper-faced
tailor\x92s wife adored her husband; he had no money and no enemies; La
Cibot\x92s fortune and the marine-store dealer\x92s motives were alike
hidden in the shade. Poulain knew the portress and her way of thinking
perfectly well; he thought her capable of tormenting Pons, but he
saw that she had neither motive enough nor wit enough for murder; and
besides--every time the doctor came and she gave her husband a draught,
she took a spoonful herself. Poulain himself, the only person who might
have thrown light on the matter, inclined to believe that this was
one of the unaccountable freaks of disease, one of the astonishing
exceptions which make medicine so perilous a profession. And in truth,
the little tailor\x92s unwholesome life and unsanitary surroundings
had unfortunately brought him to such a pass that the trace of
copper-poisoning was like the last straw. Gossips and neighbors took it
upon themselves to explain the sudden death, and no suspicion of blame
lighted upon Remonencq.

\x93Oh! this long time past I have said that M. Cibot was not well,\x94 cried
one.

\x93He worked too hard, he did,\x94 said another; \x93he heated his blood.\x94

\x93He would not listen to me,\x94 put in a neighbor; \x93I advised him to walk
out of a Sunday and keep Saint Monday; two days in the week is not too
much for amusement.\x94

In short, the gossip of the quarter, the tell-tale voice to which
Justice, in the person of the commissary of police, the king of the
poorer classes, lends an attentive ear--gossip explained the little
tailor\x92s demise in a perfectly satisfactory manner. Yet M. Poulain\x92s
pensive air and uneasy eyes embarrassed Remonencq not a little, and at
sight of the doctor he offered eagerly to go in search of M. Trognon,
Fraisier\x92s acquaintance. Fraisier turned to La Cibot to say in a low
voice, \x93I shall come back again as soon as the will is made. In spite
of your sorrow, you must look for squalls.\x94 Then he slipped away like a
shadow and met his friend the doctor.

\x93Ah, Poulain!\x94 he exclaimed, \x93it is all right. We are safe! I will tell
you about it to-night. Look out a post that will suit you, you shall
have it! For my own part, I am a justice of the peace. Tabareau will not
refuse me now for a son-in-law. And as for you, I will undertake that
you shall marry Mlle. Vitel, granddaughter of our justice of the peace.\x94

Fraisier left Poulain reduced to dumb bewilderment by these wild words;
bounced like a ball into the boulevard, hailed an omnibus, and was set
down ten minutes later by the modern coach at the corner of the Rue de
Choiseul. By this time it was nearly four o\x92clock. Fraisier felt quite
sure of a word in private with the Presidente, for officials seldom
leave the Palais de Justice before five o\x92clock.

Mme. de Marville\x92s reception of him assured Fraisier that M. Leboeuf
had kept his promise made to Mme. Vatinelle and spoken favorably of the
sometime attorney at Mantes. Amelie\x92s manner was almost caressing. So
might the Duchesse de Montpensier have treated Jacques Clement. The
petty attorney was a knife to her hand. But when Fraisier produced the
joint-letter signed by Elie Magus and Remonencq offering the sum of
nine hundred thousand francs in cash for Pons\x92 collection, then the
Presidente looked at her man of business and the gleam of the money
flashed from her eyes. That ripple of greed reached the attorney.

\x93M. le President left a message with me,\x94 she said; \x93he hopes that you
will dine with us to-morrow. It will be a family party. M. Godeschal,
Desroches\x92 successor and my attorney, will come to meet you, and
Berthier, our notary, and my daughter and son-in-law. After dinner, you
and I and the notary and attorney will have the little consultation for
which you ask, and I will give you full powers. The two gentlemen
will do as you require and act upon your inspiration; and see that
_everything_ goes well. You shall have a power of attorney from M. de
Marville as soon as you want it.\x94

\x93I shall want it on the day of the decease.\x94

\x93It shall be in readiness.\x94

\x93Mme. la Presidente, if I ask for a power of attorney, and would prefer
that your attorney\x92s name should not appear I wish it less in my own
interest than in yours.... When I give myself, it is without reserve.
And in return, madame, I ask the same fidelity; I ask my patrons (I do
not venture to call you my clients) to put the same confidence in
me. You may think that in acting thus I am trying to fasten upon this
affair--no, no, madame; there may be reprehensible things done; with an
inheritance in view one is dragged on... especially with nine hundred
thousand francs in the balance. Well, now, you could not disavow a man
like Maitre Godeschal, honesty itself, but you can throw all the blame
on the back of a miserable pettifogging lawyer--\x94

Mme. Camusot de Marville looked admiringly at Fraisier.

\x93You ought to go very high,\x94 said she, \x93or sink very low. In your place,
instead of asking to hide myself away as a justice of the peace, I would
aim at the crown attorney\x92s appointment--at, say, Mantes!--and make a
great career for myself.\x94

\x93Let me have my way, madame. The post of justice of the peace is an
ambling pad for M. Vitel; for me it shall be a war-horse.\x94

And in this way the Presidente proceeded to a final confidence.

\x93You seem to be so completely devoted to our interests,\x94 she began,
\x93that I will tell you about the difficulties of our position and our
hopes. The President\x92s great desire, ever since a match was projected
between his daughter and an adventurer who recently started a bank,--the
President\x92s wish, I say, has been to round out the Marville estate with
some grazing land, at that time in the market. We dispossessed ourselves
of fine property, as you know, to settle it upon our daughter; but I
wish very much, my daughter being an only child, to buy all that remains
of the grass land. Part has been sold already. The estate belongs to an
Englishman who is returning to England after a twenty years\x92 residence
in France. He built the most charming cottage in a delightful situation,
between Marville Park and the meadows which once were part of the
Marville lands; he bought up covers, copse, and gardens at fancy prices
to make the grounds about the cottage. The house and its surroundings
make a feature of the landscape, and it lies close to my daughter\x92s park
palings. The whole, land and house, should be bought for seven hundred
thousand francs, for the net revenue is about twenty thousand francs....
But if Mr. Wadman finds out that _we_ think of buying it, he is sure to
add another two or three hundred thousand francs to the price; for he
will lose money if the house counts for nothing, as it usually does when
you buy land in the country--\x94

\x93Why, madame,\x94 Fraisier broke in, \x93in my opinion you can be so sure that
the inheritance is yours that I will offer to act the part of purchaser
for you. I will undertake that you shall have the land at the best
possible price, and have a written engagement made out under private
seal, like a contract to deliver goods.... I will go to the Englishman
in the character of buyer. I understand that sort of thing; it was my
specialty at Mantes. Vatinelle doubled the value of his practice, while
I worked in his name.\x94

\x93Hence your connection with little Madame Vatinelle. He must be very
well off--\x94

\x93But Mme. Vatinelle has expensive tastes.... So be easy, madame--I will
serve you up the Englishman done to a turn--\x94

\x93If you can manage that you will have eternal claims to my gratitude.
Good-day, my dear M. Fraisier. Till to-morrow--\x94

Fraisier went. His parting bow was a degree less cringing than on the
first occasion.

\x93I am to dine to-morrow with President de Marville!\x94 he said to himself.
\x93Come now, I have these folk in my power. Only, to be absolute master,
I ought to be the German\x92s legal adviser in the person of Tabareau, the
justice\x92s clerk. Tabareau will not have me now for his daughter, his
only daughter, but he will give her to me when I am a justice of the
peace. I shall be eligible. Mlle. Tabareau, that tall, consumptive
girl with the red hair, has a house in the Place Royale in right of her
mother. At her father\x92s death she is sure to come in for six thousand
francs, you must not look too hard at the plank.\x94

As he went back to the Rue de Normandie by way of the boulevards, he
dreamed out his golden dream, he gave himself up to the happiness of the
thought that he should never know want again. He would marry his friend
Poulain to Mlle. Vitel, the daughter of the justice of the peace;
together, he and his friend the doctor would reign like kings in the
quarter; he would carry all the elections--municipal, military, or
political. The boulevards seem short if, while you pace afoot, you mount
your ambition on the steed of fancy in this way.

Schmucke meanwhile went back to his friend Pons with the news that Cibot
was dying, and Remonencq gone in search of M. Trognon, the notary. Pons
was struck by the name. It had come up again and again in La Cibot\x92s
interminable talk, and La Cibot always recommended him as honesty
incarnate. And with that a luminous idea occurred to Pons, in whom
mistrust had grown paramount since the morning, an idea which completed
his plan for outwitting La Cibot and unmasking her completely for the
too-credulous Schmucke.

So many unexpected things had happened that day that poor Schmucke was
quite bewildered. Pons took his friend\x92s hand.

\x93There must be a good deal of confusion in the house, Schmucke; if the
porter is at death\x92s door, we are almost free for a minute or two; that
is to say, there will be no spies--for we are watched, you may be sure
of that. Go out, take a cab, go to the theatre, and tell Mlle. Heloise
Brisetout that I should like to see her before I die. Ask her to come
here to-night when she leaves the theatre. Then go to your friends
Brunner and Schwab and beg them to come to-morrow morning at nine
o\x92clock to inquire after me; let them come up as if they were just
passing by and called in to see me.\x94

The old artist felt that he was dying, and this was the scheme that
he forged. He meant Schmucke to be his universal legatee. To protect
Schmucke from any possible legal quibbles, he proposed to dictate his
will to a notary in the presence of witnesses, lest his sanity should be
called in question and the Camusots should attempt upon that pretext
to dispute the will. At the name of Trognon he caught a glimpse of
machinations of some kind; perhaps a flaw purposely inserted, or
premeditated treachery on La Cibot\x92s part. He would prevent this.
Trognon should dictate a holograph will which should be signed and
deposited in a sealed envelope in a drawer. Then Schmucke, hidden in one
of the cabinets in his alcove, should see La Cibot search for the will,
find it, open the envelope, read it through, and seal it again. Next
morning, at nine o\x92clock, he would cancel the will and make a new one in
the presence of two notaries, everything in due form and order. La Cibot
had treated him as a madman and a visionary; he saw what this meant--he
saw the Presidente\x92s hate and greed, her revenge in La Cibot\x92s behavior.
In the sleepless hours and lonely days of the last two months, the poor
man had sifted the events of his past life.

It has been the wont of sculptors, ancient and modern, to set a tutelary
genius with a lighted torch upon either side of a tomb. Those torches
that light up the paths of death throw light for dying eyes upon the
spectacle of a life\x92s mistakes and sins; the carved stone figures
express great ideas, they are symbols of a fact in human experience. The
agony of death has its own wisdom. Not seldom a simple girl, scarcely
more than a child, will grow wise with the experience of a hundred
years, will gain prophetic vision, judge her family, and see clearly
through all pretences, at the near approach of Death. Herein lies
Death\x92s poetry. But, strange and worthy of remark it is, there are two
manners of death.

The poetry of prophecy, the gift of seeing clearly into the future or
the past, only belongs to those whose bodies are stricken, to those
who die by the destruction of the organs of physical life. Consumptive
patients, for instance, or those who die of gangrene like Louis XIV.,
of fever like Pons, of a stomach complaint like Mme. de Mortsauf, or
of wounds received in the full tide of life like soldiers on the
battlefield--all these may possess this supreme lucidity to the full;
their deaths fill us with surprise and wonder. But many, on the other
hand, die of _intelligential_ diseases, as they may be called; of
maladies seated in the brain or in that nervous system which acts as a
kind of purveyor of thought fuel--and these die wholly, body and spirit
are darkened together. The former are spirits deserted by the body,
realizing for us our ideas of the spirits of Scripture; the latter are
bodies untenanted by a spirit.

Too late the virgin nature, the epicure-Cato, the righteous man almost
without sin, was discovering the Presidente\x92s real character--the sac
of gall that did duty for her heart. He knew the world now that he was
about to leave it, and for the past few hours he had risen gaily to his
part, like a joyous artist finding a pretext for caricature and laughter
in everything. The last links that bound him to life, the chains
of admiration, the strong ties that bind the art lover to Art\x92s
masterpieces, had been snapped that morning. When Pons knew that La
Cibot had robbed him, he bade farewell, like a Christian, to the pomps
and vanities of Art, to his collection, to all his old friendships with
the makers of so many fair things. Our forefathers counted the day of
death as a Christian festival, and in something of the same spirit
Pons\x92 thoughts turned to the coming end. In his tender love he tried
to protect Schmucke when he should be low in the grave. It was this
father\x92s thought that led him to fix his choice upon the leading lady
of the ballet. Mlle. Brisetout should help him to baffle surrounding
treachery, and those who in all probability would never forgive his
innocent universal legatee.

Heloise Brisetout was one of the few natures that remain true in a
false position. She was an opera-girl of the school of Josepha and Jenny
Cadine, capable of playing any trick on a paying adorer; yet she was a
good comrade, dreading no power on earth, accustomed as she was to see
the weak side of the strong and to hold her own with the police at the
scarcely idyllic Bal de Mabille and the carnival.

\x93If she asked for my place for Garangeot, she will think that she owes
me a good turn by so much the more,\x94 said Pons to himself.

Thanks to the prevailing confusion in the porter\x92s lodge, Schmucke
succeeded in getting out of the house. He returned with the utmost
speed, fearing to leave Pons too long alone. M. Trognon reached the
house just as Schmucke came in. Albeit Cibot was dying, his wife came
upstairs with the notary, brought him into the bedroom, and withdrew,
leaving Schmucke and Pons with M. Trognon; but she left the door ajar,
and went no further than the next room. Providing herself with a little
hand-glass of curious workmanship, she took up her station in the
doorway, so that she could not only hear but see all that passed at the
supreme moment.

\x93Sir,\x94 said Pons, \x93I am in the full possession of my faculties,
unfortunately for me, for I feel that I am about to die; and doubtless,
by the will of God, I shall be spared nothing of the agony of death.
This is M. Schmucke\x94--(the notary bowed to M. Schmucke)--\x93my one friend
on earth,\x94 continued Pons. \x93I wish to make him my universal legatee.
Now, tell me how to word the will, so that my friend, who is a German
and knows nothing of French law, may succeed to my possessions without
any dispute.\x94

\x93Anything is liable to be disputed, sir,\x94 said the notary; \x93that is the
drawback of human justice. But in the matter of wills, there are wills
so drafted that they cannot be upset--\x94

\x93In what way?\x94 queried Pons.

\x93If a will is made in the presence of a notary, and before witnesses who
can swear that the testator was in the full possession of his faculties;
and if the testator has neither wife nor children, nor father nor
mother--\x94

\x93I have none of these; all my affection is centred upon my dear friend
Schmucke here.\x94

The tears overflowed Schmucke\x92s eyes.

\x93Then, if you have none but distant relatives, the law leaves you free
to dispose of both personalty and real estate as you please, so long as
you bequeath them for no unlawful purpose; for you must have come across
cases of wills disputed on account of the testator\x92s eccentricities. A
will made in the presence of a notary is considered to be authentic;
for the person\x92s identity is established, the notary certifies that the
testator was sane at the time, and there can be no possible dispute over
the signature.--Still, a holograph will, properly and clearly worded, is
quite as safe.\x94

\x93I have decided, for reasons of my own, to make a holograph will at your
dictation, and to deposit it with my friend here. Is this possible?\x94

\x93Quite possible,\x94 said the notary. \x93Will you write? I will begin to
dictate--\x94

\x93Schmucke, bring me my little Boule writing-desk.--Speak low, sir,\x94 he
added; \x93we may be overheard.\x94

\x93Just tell me, first of all, what you intend,\x94 demanded the notary.

Ten minutes later La Cibot saw the notary look over the will, while
Schmucke lighted a taper (Pons watching her reflection all the while in
a mirror). She saw the envelope sealed, saw Pons give it to Schmucke,
and heard him say that it must be put away in a secret drawer in his
bureau. Then the testator asked for the key, tied it to the corner of
his handkerchief, and slipped it under his pillow.

The notary himself, by courtesy, was appointed executor. To him Pons
left a picture of price, such a thing as the law permits a notary to
receive. Trognon went out and came upon Mme. Cibot in the salon.

\x93Well, sir, did M. Pons remember me?\x94

\x93You do not expect a notary to betray secrets confided to him, my dear,\x94
 returned M. Trognon. \x93I can only tell you this--there will be many
disappointments, and some that are anxious after the money will be
foiled. M. Pons has made a good and very sensible will, a patriotic
will, which I highly approve.\x94

La Cibot\x92s curiosity, kindled by such words, reached an unimaginable
pitch. She went downstairs and spent the night at Cibot\x92s bedside,
inwardly resolving that Mlle. Remonencq should take her place towards
two or three in the morning, when she would go up and have a look at the
document.

Mlle. Brisetout\x92s visit towards half-past ten that night seemed natural
enough to La Cibot; but in her terror lest the ballet-girl should
mention Gaudissart\x92s gift of a thousand francs, she went upstairs with
her, lavishing polite speeches and flattery as if Mlle. Heloise had been
a queen.

\x93Ah! my dear, you are much nicer here on your own ground than at the
theatre,\x94 Heloise remarked. \x93I advise you to keep to your employment.\x94

Heloise was splendidly dressed. Bixiou, her lover, had brought her in
his carriage on the way to an evening party at Mariette\x92s. It so
fell out that the first-floor lodger, M. Chapoulot, a retired braid
manufacturer from the Rue Saint-Denis, returning from the Ambigu-Comique
with his wife and daughter, was dazzled by a vision of such a costume
and such a charming woman upon their staircase.

\x93Who is that, Mme. Cibot?\x94 asked Mme. Chapoulot.

\x93A no-better-than-she-should-be, a light-skirts that you may see
half-naked any evening for a couple of francs,\x94 La Cibot answered in an
undertone for Mme. Chapoulot\x92s ear.

\x93Victorine!\x94 called the braid manufacturer\x92s wife, \x93let the lady pass,
child.\x94

The matron\x92s alarm signal was not lost upon Heloise.

\x93Your daughter must be more inflammable than tinder, madame, if you are
afraid that she will catch fire by touching me,\x94 she said.

M. Chapoulot waited on the landing. \x93She is uncommonly handsome off the
stage,\x94 he remarked. Whereupon Mme. Chapoulot pinched him sharply and
drove him indoors.

\x93Here is a second-floor lodger that has a mind to set up for being on
the fourth floor,\x94 said Heloise as she continued to climb.

\x93But mademoiselle is accustomed to going higher and higher.\x94

\x93Well, old boy,\x94 said Heloise, entering the bedroom and catching sight
of the old musician\x92s white, wasted face. \x93Well, old boy, so we are
not very well? Everybody at the theatre is asking after you; but though
one\x92s heart may be in the right place, every one has his own affairs,
you know, and cannot find time to go to see friends. Gaudissart talks of
coming round every day, and every morning the tiresome management gets
hold of him. Still, we are all of us fond of you--\x94

\x93Mme. Cibot,\x94 said the patient, \x93be so kind as to leave us; we want
to talk about the theatre and my post as conductor, with this lady.
Schmucke, will you go to the door with Mme. Cibot?\x94

At a sign from Pons, Schmucke saw Mme. Cibot out at the door, and drew
the bolts.

\x93Ah, that blackguard of a German! Is he spoiled, too?\x94 La Cibot said to
herself as she heard the significant sounds. \x93That is M. Pons\x92 doing;
he taught him those disgusting tricks.... But you shall pay for this, my
dears,\x94 she thought as she went down stairs. \x93Pooh! if that tight-rope
dancer tells him about the thousand francs, I shall say that it is a
farce.\x94

She seated herself by Cibot\x92s pillow. Cibot complained of a burning
sensation in the stomach. Remonencq had called in and given him a
draught while his wife was upstairs.

As soon as Schmucke had dismissed La Cibot, Pons turned to the
ballet-girl.

\x93Dear child, I can trust no one else to find me a notary, an honest man,
and send him here to make my will to-morrow morning at half-past
nine precisely. I want to leave all that I have to Schmucke. If he is
persecuted, poor German that he is, I shall reckon upon the notary;
the notary must defend him. And for that reason I must have a wealthy
notary, highly thought of, a man above the temptations to which
pettifogging lawyers yield. He must succor my poor friend. I cannot
trust Berthier, Cardot\x92s successor. And you know so many people--\x94

\x93Oh! I have the very man for you,\x94 Heloise broke in; \x93there is the
notary that acts for Florine and the Comtesse du Bruel, Leopold
Hannequin, a virtuous man that does not know what a _lorette_ is! He
is a sort of chance-come father--a good soul that will not let you play
ducks and drakes with your earnings; I call him _Le Pere aux Rats_,
because he instils economical notions into the minds of all my friends.
In the first place, my dear fellow, he has a private income of sixty
thousand francs; and he is a notary of the real old sort, a notary while
he walks or sleeps; his children must be little notaries and notaresses.
He is a heavy, pedantic creature, and that\x92s the truth; but on his own
ground, he is not the man to flinch before any power in creation.... No
woman ever got money out of him; he is a fossil pater-familias, his
wife worships him, and does not deceive him, although she is a notary\x92s
wife.--What more do you want? as a notary he has not his match in Paris.
He is in the patriarchal style; not queer and amusing, as Cardot used
to be with Malaga; but he will never decamp like little What\x92s-his-name
that lived with Antonia. So I will send round my man to-morrow morning
at eight o\x92clock.... You may sleep in peace. And I hope, in the first
place, that you will get better, and make charming music for us again;
and yet, after all, you see, life is very dreary--managers chisel
you, and kings mizzle and ministers fizzle and rich fold
economizzle.--Artists have nothing left _here_\x94 (tapping her
breast)--\x93it is a time to die in. Good-bye, old boy.\x94

\x93Heloise, of all things, I ask you to keep my counsel.\x94

\x93It is not a theatre affair,\x94 she said; \x93it is sacred for an artist.\x94

\x93Who is your gentleman, child?\x94

\x93M. Baudoyer, the mayor of your arrondissement, a man as stupid as the
late Crevel; Crevel once financed Gaudissart, you know, and a few days
ago he died and left me nothing, not so much as a pot of pomatum. That
made me say just now that this age of ours is something sickening.\x94

\x93What did he die of?\x94

\x93Of his wife. If he had stayed with me, he would be living now.
Good-bye, dear old boy, I am talking of going off, because I can see
that you will be walking about the boulevards in a week or two, hunting
up pretty little curiosities again. You are not ill; I never saw your
eyes look so bright.\x94 And she went, fully convinced that her protege
Garangeot would conduct the orchestra for good.

Every door stood ajar as she went downstairs. Every lodger, on tip-toe,
watched the lady of the ballet pass on her way out. It was quite an
event in the house.

Fraisier, like the bulldog that sets his teeth and never lets go, was on
the spot. He stood beside La Cibot when Mlle. Brisetout passed under
the gateway and asked for the door to be opened. Knowing that a will
had been made, he had come to see how the land lay, for Maitre Trognon,
notary, had refused to say a syllable--Fraisier\x92s questions were
as fruitless as Mme. Cibot\x92s. Naturally the ballet-girl\x92s visit _in
extremis_ was not lost upon Fraisier; he vowed to himself that he would
turn it to good account.

\x93My dear Mme. Cibot,\x94 he began, \x93now is the critical moment for you.\x94

\x93Ah, yes... my poor Cibot!\x94 said she. \x93When I think that he will not
live to enjoy anything I may get--\x94

\x93It is a question of finding out whether M. Pons has left you anything
at all; whether your name is mentioned or left out, in fact,\x94 he
interrupted. \x93I represent the next-of-kin, and to them you must look
in any case. It is a holograph will, and consequently very easy to
upset.--Do you know where our man has put it?\x94

\x93In a secret drawer in his bureau, and he has the key of it. He tied it
to a corner of his handkerchief, and put it under his pillow. I saw it
all.\x94

\x93Is the will sealed?\x94

\x93Yes, alas!\x94

\x93It is a criminal offence if you carry off a will and suppress it, but
it is only a misdemeanor to look at it; and anyhow, what does it amount
to? A peccadillo, and nobody will see you. Is your man a heavy sleeper?\x94

\x93Yes. But when you tried to see all the things and value them, he ought
to have slept like a top, and yet he woke up. Still, I will see about
it. I will take M. Schmucke\x92s place about four o\x92clock this morning;
and if you care to come, you shall have the will in your hands for ten
minutes.\x94

\x93Good. I will come up about four o\x92clock, and I will knock very
softly--\x94

\x93Mlle Remonencq will take my place with Cibot. She will know, and open
the door; but tap on the window, so as to rouse nobody in the house.\x94

\x93Right,\x94 said Fraisier. \x93You will have a light, will you not. A candle
will do.\x94



At midnight poor Schmucke sat in his easy-chair, watching with a
breaking heart that shrinking of the features that comes with death;
Pons looked so worn out with the day\x92s exertions, that death seemed very
near.

Presently Pons spoke. \x93I have just enough strength, I think, to last
till to-morrow night,\x94 he said philosophically. \x93To-morrow night the
death agony will begin; poor Schmucke! As soon as the notary and your
two friends are gone, go for our good Abbe Duplanty, the curate of
Saint-Francois. Good man, he does not know that I am ill, and I wish to
take the holy sacrament to-morrow at noon.\x94

There was a long pause.

\x93God so willed it that life has not been as I dreamed,\x94 Pons resumed.
\x93I should so have loved wife and children and home.... To be loved by
a very few in some corner--that was my whole ambition! Life is hard
for every one; I have seen people who had all that I wanted so much and
could not have, and yet they were not happy.... Then at the end of
my life, God put untold comfort in my way, when He gave me such a
friend.... And one thing I have not to reproach myself with--that I have
not known your worth nor appreciated you, my good Schmucke.... I have
loved you with my whole heart, with all the strength of love that is in
me.... Do not cry, Schmucke; I shall say no more if you cry and it is so
sweet to me to talk of ourselves to you.... If I had listened to you,
I should not be dying. I should have left the world and broken off my
habits, and then I should not have been wounded to death. And now, I
want to think of no one but you at the last--\x94

\x93You are missdaken--\x94

\x93Do not contradict me--listen, dear friend.... You are as guileless
and simple as a six-year-old child that has never left its mother; one
honors you for it--it seems to me that God Himself must watch over such
as you. But men are so wicked, that I ought to warn you beforehand...
and then you will lose your generous trust, your saint-like belief in
others, the bloom of a purity of soul that only belongs to genius or
to hearts like yours.... In a little while you will see Mme. Cibot, who
left the door ajar and watched us closely while M. Trognon was here--in
a little while you will see her come for the will, as she believes it to
be.... I expect the worthless creature will do her business this morning
when she thinks you are asleep. Now, mind what I say, and carry out my
instructions to the letter.... Are you listening?\x94 asked the dying man.

But Schmucke was overcome with grief, his heart was throbbing painfully,
his head fell back on the chair, he seemed to have lost consciousness.

\x93Yes,\x94 he answered, \x93I can hear, but it is as if you vere doo huntert
baces afay from me.... It seem to me dat I am going town into der grafe
mit you,\x94 said Schmucke, crushed with pain.

He went over to the bed, took one of Pons\x92 hands in both his own, and
within himself put up a fervent prayer.

\x93What is that that you are mumbling in German?\x94

\x93I asked Gott dat He vould take us poth togedders to Himself!\x94 Schmucke
answered simply when he had finished his prayer.

Pons bent over--it was a great effort, for he was suffering intolerable
pain; but he managed to reach Schmucke, and kissed him on the forehead,
pouring out his soul, as it were, in benediction upon a nature that
recalled the lamb that lies at the foot of the Throne of God.

\x93See here, listen, my good Schmucke, you must do as dying people tell
you--\x94

\x93I am lisdening.\x94

\x93The little door in the recess in your bedroom opens into that closet.\x94

\x93Yes, but it is blocked up mit bictures.\x94

\x93Clear them away at once, without making too much noise.\x94

\x93Yes.\x94

\x93Clear a passage on both sides, so that you can pass from your room into
mine.--Now, leave the door ajar.--When La Cibot comes to take your place
(and she is capable of coming an hour earlier than usual), you can go
away to bed as if nothing had happened, and look very tired. Try to
look sleepy. As soon as she settles down into the armchair, go into the
closet, draw aside the muslin curtains over the glass door, and watch
her.... Do you understand?\x94

\x93I oondershtand; you belief dat die pad voman is going to purn der
vill.\x94

\x93I do not know what she will do; but I am sure of this--that you will
not take her for an angel afterwards.--And now play for me; improvise
and make me happy. It will divert your thoughts; your gloomy ideas will
vanish, and for me the dark hours will be filled with your dreams....\x94

Schmucke sat down at the piano. Here he was in his element; and in a few
moments, musical inspiration, quickened by the pain with which he was
quivering and the consequent irritation that followed came upon the
kindly German, and, after his wont, he was caught up and borne above
the world. On one sublime theme after another he executed variations,
putting into them sometimes Chopin\x92s sorrow, Chopin\x92s Raphael-like
perfection; sometimes the stormy Dante\x92s grandeur of Liszt--the
two musicians who most nearly approach Paganini\x92s temperament. When
execution reaches this supreme degree, the executant stands beside the
poet, as it were; he is to the composer as the actor is to the writer of
plays, a divinely inspired interpreter of things divine. But that
night, when Schmucke gave Pons an earnest of diviner symphonies, of that
heavenly music for which Saint Cecile let fall her instruments, he
was at once Beethoven and Paganini, creator and interpreter. It was an
outpouring of music inexhaustible as the nightingale\x92s song--varied
and full of delicate undergrowth as the forest flooded with her trills;
sublime as the sky overhead. Schmucke played as he had never played
before, and the soul of the old musician listening to him rose to
ecstasy such as Raphael once painted in a picture which you may see at
Bologna.

A terrific ringing of the door-bell put an end to these visions. The
first-floor lodgers sent up a servant with a message. Would Schmucke
please stop the racket overhead. Madame, Monsieur, and Mademoiselle
Chapoulot had been wakened, and could not sleep for the noise; they
called his attention to the fact that the day was quite long enough
for rehearsals of theatrical music, and added that people ought not to
\x93strum\x94 all night in a house in the Marais.--It was then three o\x92clock
in the morning. At half-past three, La Cibot appeared, just as Pons had
predicted. He might have actually heard the conference between Fraisier
and the portress: \x93Did I not guess exactly how it would be?\x94 his eyes
seemed to say as he glanced at Schmucke, and, turning a little, he
seemed to be fast asleep.

Schmucke\x92s guileless simplicity was an article of belief with La Cibot
(and be it noted that this faith in simplicity is the great source and
secret of the success of all infantine strategy); La Cibot, therefore,
could not suspect Schmucke of deceit when he came to say to her, with a
face half of distress, half of glad relief:

\x93I haf had a derrible night! a derrible dime of it! I vas opliged to
play to keep him kviet, and the virst-floor lodgers vas komm up to tell
_me_ to be kviet!... It was frightful, for der life of mein friend vas
at shtake. I am so tired mit der blaying all night, dat dis morning I am
all knocked up.\x94

\x93My poor Cibot is very bad, too; one more day like yesterday, and he
will have no strength left.... One can\x92t help it; it is God\x92s will.\x94

\x93You haf a heart so honest, a soul so peautiful, dot gif der Zipod die,
ve shall lif togedder,\x94 said the cunning Schmucke.

The craft of simple, straightforward folk is formidable indeed; they are
exactly like children, setting their unsuspected snares with the perfect
craft of the savage.

\x93Oh, well go and sleep, sonny!\x94 returned La Cibot. \x93Your eyes look
tired, they are as big as my fist. But there! if anything could comfort
me for losing Cibot, it would be the thought of ending my days with
a good man like you. Be easy. I will give Mme. Chapoulot a dressing
down.... To think of a retired haberdasher\x92s wife giving herself such
airs!\x94

Schmucke went to his room and took up his post in the closet.

La Cibot had left the door ajar on the landing; Fraisier came in and
closed it noiselessly as soon as he heard Schmucke shut his bedroom
door. He had brought with him a lighted taper and a bit of very fine
wire to open the seal of the will. La Cibot, meanwhile, looking under
the pillow, found the handkerchief with the key of the bureau knotted to
one corner; and this so much the more easily because Pons purposely left
the end hanging over the bolster, and lay with his face to the wall.

La Cibot went straight to the bureau, opened it cautiously so as to make
as little noise as possible, found the spring of the secret drawer,
and hurried into the salon with the will in her hand. Her flight roused
Pons\x92 curiosity to the highest pitch; and as for Schmucke, he trembled
as if he were the guilty person.

\x93Go back,\x94 said Fraisier, when she handed over the will. \x93He may wake,
and he must find you there.\x94

Fraisier opened the seal with a dexterity which proved that his was
no \x91prentice hand, and read the following curious document, headed \x93My
Will,\x94 with ever-deepening astonishment:

  \x93On this fifteenth day of April, eighteen hundred and forty-five,
  I, being in my sound mind (as this my Will, drawn up in concert
  with M. Trognon, will testify), and feeling that I must shortly
  die of the malady from which I have suffered since the beginning
  of February last, am anxious to dispose of my property, and have
  herein recorded my last wishes:--

  \x93I have always been impressed by the untoward circumstances that
  injure great pictures, and not unfrequently bring about total
  destruction. I have felt sorry for the beautiful paintings
  condemned to travel from land to land, never finding some fixed
  abode whither admirers of great masterpieces may travel to see
  them. And I have always thought that the truly deathless work of a
  great master ought to be national property; put where every one of
  every nation may see it, even as the light, God\x92s masterpiece,
  shines for all His children.

  \x93And as I have spent my life in collecting together and choosing a
  few pictures, some of the greatest masters\x92 most glorious work,
  and as these pictures are as the master left them--genuine
  examples, neither repainted nor retouched,--it has been a painful
  thought to me that the paintings which have been the joy of my
  life, may be sold by public auction, and go, some to England, some
  to Russia, till they are all scattered abroad again as if they had
  never been gathered together. From this wretched fate I have
  determined to save both them and the frames in which they are set,
  all of them the work of skilled craftsmen.

  \x93On these grounds, therefore, I give and bequeath the pictures
  which compose my collection to the King, for the gallery in the
  Louvre, subject to the charge (if the legacy is accepted) of a
  life-annuity of two thousand four hundred francs to my friend
  Wilhelm Schmucke.

  \x93If the King, as usufructuary of the Louvre collection, should
  refuse the legacy with the charge upon it, the said pictures shall
  form a part of the estate which I leave to my friend, Schmucke, on
  condition that he shall deliver the _Monkey\x92s Head_, by Goya, to
  my cousin, President Camusot; a _Flower-piece_, the tulips, by
  Abraham Mignon, to M. Trognon, notary (whom I appoint as my
  executor): and allow Mme. Cibot, who has acted as my housekeeper
  for ten years, the sum of two hundred francs per annum.

  \x93Finally, my friend Schmucke is to give the _Descent from the
  Cross_, Ruben\x92s sketch for his great picture at Antwerp, to adorn
  a chapel in the parish church, in grateful acknowledgment of M.
  Duplanty\x92s kindness to me; for to him I owe it that I can die as a
  Christian and a Catholic.\x94--So ran the will.

\x93This is ruin!\x94 mused Fraisier, \x93the ruin of all my hopes. Ha! I begin
to believe all that the Presidente told me about this old artist and his
cunning.\x94

\x93Well?\x94 La Cibot came back to say.

\x93Your gentleman is a monster. He is leaving everything to the Crown.
Now, you cannot plead against the Crown.... The will cannot be
disputed.... We are robbed, ruined, spoiled, and murdered!\x94

\x93What has he left to me?\x94

\x93Two hundred francs a year.\x94

\x93A pretty come-down!... Why, he is a finished scoundrel.\x94

\x93Go and see,\x94 said Fraisier, \x93and I will put your scoundrel\x92s will back
again in the envelope.\x94

While Mme. Cibot\x92s back was turned, Fraisier nimbly slipped a sheet of
blank paper into the envelope; the will he put in his pocket. He next
proceeded to seal the envelope again so cleverly that he showed the
seal to Mme. Cibot when she returned, and asked her if she could see the
slightest trace of the operation. La Cibot took up the envelope, felt it
over, assured herself that it was not empty, and heaved a deep sigh.
She had entertained hopes that Fraisier himself would have burned the
unlucky document while she was out of the room.

\x93Well, my dear M. Fraisier, what is to be done?\x94

\x93Oh! that is your affair! I am not one of the next-of-kin, myself;
but if I had the slightest claim to any of _that_\x94 (indicating the
collection), \x93I know very well what I should do.\x94

\x93That is just what I want to know,\x94 La Cibot answered, with sufficient
simplicity.

\x93There is a fire in the grate----\x94 he said. Then he rose to go.

\x93After all, no one will know about it, but you and me----\x94 began La
Cibot.

\x93It can never be proved that a will existed,\x94 asserted the man of law.

\x93And you?\x94

\x93I?... If M. Pons dies intestate, you shall have a hundred thousand
francs.\x94

\x93Oh yes, no doubt,\x94 returned she. \x93People promise you heaps of money,
and when they come by their own, and there is talk of paying they
swindle you like--\x94 \x93Like Elie Magus,\x94 she was going to say, but she
stopped herself just in time.

\x93I am going,\x94 said Fraisier; \x93it is not to your interest that I should
be found here; but I shall see you again downstairs.\x94

La Cibot shut the door and returned with the sealed packet in her hand.
She had quite made up her mind to burn it; but as she went towards
the bedroom fireplace, she felt the grasp of a hand on each arm, and
saw--Schmucke on one hand, and Pons himself on the other, leaning
against the partition wall on either side of the door.

La Cibot cried out, and fell face downwards in a fit; real or feigned,
no one ever knew the truth. This sight produced such an impression on
Pons that a deadly faintness came upon him, and Schmucke left the woman
on the floor to help Pons back to bed. The friends trembled in every
limb; they had set themselves a hard task, it was done, but it had been
too much for their strength. When Pons lay in bed again, and Schmucke
had regained strength to some extent, he heard a sound of sobbing. La
Cibot, on her knees, bursting into tears, held out supplicating hands to
them in very expressive pantomime.

\x93It was pure curiosity!\x94 she sobbed, when she saw that Pons and Schmucke
were paying attention to her proceedings. \x93Pure curiosity; a woman\x92s
fault, you know. But I did not know how else to get a sight of your
will, and I brought it back again--\x94

\x93Go!\x94 said Schmucke, standing erect, his tall figure gaining in height
by the full height of his indignation. \x93You are a monster! You dried to
kill mein goot Bons! He is right. You are worse than a monster, you are
a lost soul!\x94

La Cibot saw the look of abhorrence in the frank German\x92s face; she
rose, proud as Tartuffe, gave Schmucke a glance which made him quake,
and went out, carrying off under her dress an exquisite little picture
of Metzu\x92s pointed out by Elie Magus. \x93A diamond,\x94 he had called it.
Fraisier downstairs in the porter\x92s lodge was waiting to hear that La
Cibot had burned the envelope and the sheet of blank paper inside it.
Great was his astonishment when he beheld his fair client\x92s agitation
and dismay.

\x93What has happened?\x94

\x93_This_ has happened, my dear M. Fraisier. Under pretence of giving me
good advice and telling me what to do, you have lost me my annuity and
the gentlemen\x92s confidence....\x94

One of the word-tornadoes in which she excelled was in full progress,
but Fraisier cut her short.

\x93This is idle talk. The facts, the facts! and be quick about it.\x94

\x93Well; it came about in this way,\x94--and she told him of the scene which
she had just come through.

\x93You have lost nothing through me,\x94 was Fraisier\x92s comment. \x93The
gentlemen had their doubts, or they would not have set this trap for
you. They were lying in wait and spying upon you.... You have not told
me everything,\x94 he added, with a tiger\x92s glance at the woman before him.

\x93_I_ hide anything from you!\x94 cried she--\x93after all that we have done
together!\x94 she added with a shudder.

\x93My dear madame, _I_ have done nothing blameworthy,\x94 returned Fraisier.
Evidently he meant to deny his nocturnal visit to Pons\x92 rooms.

Every hair on La Cibot\x92s head seemed to scorch her, while a sense of icy
cold swept over her from head to foot.

\x93_What?_\x94... she faltered in bewilderment.

\x93Here is a criminal charge on the face of it.... You may be accused of
suppressing the will,\x94 Fraisier made answer drily.

La Cibot started.

\x93Don\x92t be alarmed; I am your legal adviser. I only wished to show you
how easy it is, in one way or another, to do as I once explained to you.
Let us see, now; what have you done that this simple German should be
hiding in the room?\x94

\x93Nothing at all, unless it was that scene the other day when I stood M.
Pons out that his eyes dazzled. And ever since, the two gentlemen have
been as different as can be. So you have brought all my troubles upon
me; I might have lost my influence with M. Pons, but I was sure of the
German; just now he was talking of marrying me or of taking me with
him--it is all one.\x94

The excuse was so plausible that Fraisier was fain to be satisfied with
it. \x93You need fear nothing,\x94 he resumed. \x93I gave you my word that you
shall have your money, and I shall keep my word. The whole matter, so
far, was up in the air, but now it is as good as bank-notes.... You
shall have at least twelve hundred francs per annum.... But, my good
lady, you must act intelligently under my orders.\x94

\x93Yes, my dear M. Fraisier,\x94 said La Cibot with cringing servility. She
was completely subdued.

\x93Very good. Good-bye,\x94 and Fraisier went, taking the dangerous document
with him. He reached home in great spirits. The will was a terrible
weapon.

\x93Now,\x94 thought he, \x93I have a hold on Mme. la Presidente de Marville;
she must keep her word with me. If she did not, she would lose the
property.\x94

At daybreak, when Remonencq had taken down his shutters and left his
sister in charge of the shop, he came, after his wont of late, to
inquire for his good friend Cibot. The portress was contemplating the
Metzu, privately wondering how a little bit of painted wood could be
worth such a lot of money.

\x93Aha!\x94 said he, looking over her shoulder, \x93that is the one picture
which M. Elie Magus regretted; with that little bit of a thing, he says,
his happiness would be complete.\x94

\x93What would he give for it?\x94 asked La Cibot.

\x93Why, if you will promise to marry me within a year of widowhood, I
will undertake to get twenty thousand francs for it from Elie Magus;
and unless you marry me you will never get a thousand francs for the
picture.\x94

\x93Why not?\x94

\x93Because you would be obliged to give a receipt for the money, and then
you might have a lawsuit with the heirs-at-law. If you were my wife, I
myself should sell the thing to M. Magus, and in the way of business it
is enough to make an entry in the day-book, and I should note that M.
Schmucke sold it to me. There, leave the panel with me. ... If your
husband were to die you might have a lot of bother over it, but no one
would think it odd that I should have a picture in the shop.... You know
me quite well. Besides, I will give you a receipt if you like.\x94

The covetous portress felt that she had been caught; she agreed to
a proposal which was to bind her for the rest of her life to the
marine-store dealer.

\x93You are right,\x94 said she, as she locked the picture away in a chest;
\x93bring me the bit of writing.\x94

Remonencq beckoned her to the door.

\x93I can see, neighbor, that we shall not save our poor dear Cibot,\x94 he
said lowering his voice. \x93Dr. Poulain gave him up yesterday evening, and
said that he could not last out the day.... It is a great misfortune.
But after all, this was not the place for you.... You ought to be in a
fine curiosity shop on the Boulevard des Capucines. Do you know that I
have made nearly a hundred thousand francs in ten years? And if you will
have as much some day, I will undertake to make a handsome fortune for
you--as my wife. You would be the mistress--my sister should wait on you
and do the work of the house, and--\x94

A heartrending moan from the little tailor cut the tempter short; the
death agony had begun.

\x93Go away,\x94 said La Cibot. \x93You are a monster to talk of such things and
my poor man dying like this--\x94

\x93Ah! it is because I love you,\x94 said Remonencq; \x93I could let everything
else go to have you--\x94

\x93If you loved me, you would say nothing to me just now,\x94 returned she.
And Remonencq departed to his shop, sure of marrying La Cibot.

Towards ten o\x92clock there was a sort of commotion in the street; M.
Cibot was taking the Sacrament. All the friends of the pair, all the
porters and porters\x92 wives in the Rue de Normandie and neighboring
streets, had crowded into the lodge, under the archway, and stood on the
pavement outside. Nobody so much as noticed the arrival of M. Leopold
Hannequin and a brother lawyer. Schwab and Brunner reached Pons\x92 rooms
unseen by Mme. Cibot. The notary, inquiring for Pons, was shown upstairs
by the portress of a neighboring house. Brunner remembered his previous
visit to the museum, and went straight in with his friend Schwab.

Pons formally revoked his previous will and constituted Schmucke his
universal legatee. This accomplished, he thanked Schwab and Brunner, and
earnestly begged M. Leopold Hannequin to protect Schmucke\x92s interests.
The demands made upon him by last night\x92s scene with La Cibot, and this
final settlement of his worldly affairs, left him so faint and exhausted
that Schmucke begged Schwab to go for the Abbe Duplanty; it was Pons\x92
great desire to take the Sacrament, and Schmucke could not bring himself
to leave his friend.

La Cibot, sitting at the foot of her husband\x92s bed, gave not so much as
a thought to Schmucke\x92s breakfast--for that matter had been forbidden to
return; but the morning\x92s events, the sight of Pons\x92 heroic resignation
in the death agony, so oppressed Schmucke\x92s heart that he was not
conscious of hunger. Towards two o\x92clock, however, as nothing had been
seen of the old German, La Cibot sent Remonencq\x92s sister to see whether
Schmucke wanted anything; prompted not so much by interest as by
curiosity. The Abbe Duplanty had just heard the old musician\x92s dying
confession, and the administration of the sacrament of extreme unction
was disturbed by repeated ringing of the door-bell. Pons, in his terror
of robbery, had made Schmucke promise solemnly to admit no one into the
house; so Schmucke did not stir. Again and again Mlle. Remonencq pulled
the cord, and finally went downstairs in alarm to tell La Cibot that
Schmucke would not open the door; Fraisier made a note of this.
Schmucke had never seen any one die in his life; before long he would be
perplexed by the many difficulties which beset those who are left with a
dead body in Paris, this more especially if they are lonely and helpless
and have no one to act for them. Fraisier knew, moreover, that in real
affliction people lose their heads, and therefore immediately after
breakfast he took up his position in the porter\x92s lodge, and sitting
there in perpetual committee with Dr. Poulain, conceived the idea of
directing all Schmucke\x92s actions himself.

To obtain the important result, the doctor and the lawyer took their
measures on this wise:--

The beadle of Saint-Francois, Cantinet by name, at one time a retail
dealer in glassware, lived in the Rue d\x92Orleans, next door to Dr.
Poulain and under the same roof. Mme. Cantinet, who saw to the letting
of the chairs at Saint-Francois, once had fallen ill and Dr. Poulain had
attended her gratuitously; she was, as might be expected, grateful, and
often confided her troubles to him. The \x93nutcrackers,\x94 punctual in
their attendance at Saint-Francois on Sundays and saints\x92-days, were on
friendly terms with the beadle and the lowest ecclesiastical rank and
file, commonly called in Paris _le bas clerge_, to whom the devout
usually give little presents from time to time. Mme. Cantinet therefore
knew Schmucke almost as well as Schmucke knew her. And Mme. Cantinet was
afflicted with two sore troubles which enabled the lawyer to use her as
a blind and involuntary agent. Cantinet junior, a stage-struck youth,
had deserted the paths of the Church and turned his back on the
prospect of one day becoming a beadle, to make his _debut_ among the
supernumeraries of the Cirque-Olympique; he was leading a wild life,
breaking his mother\x92s heart and draining her purse by frequent forced
loans. Cantinet senior, much addicted to spirituous liquors and
idleness, had, in fact, been driven to retire from business by those
two failings. So far from reforming, the incorrigible offender had found
scope in his new occupation for the indulgence of both cravings; he
did nothing, and he drank with drivers of wedding-coaches, with the
undertaker\x92s men at funerals, with poor folk relieved by the vicar, till
his morning\x92s occupation was set forth in rubric on his countenance by
noon.

Mme. Cantinet saw no prospect but want in her old age, and yet she had
brought her husband twelve thousand francs, she said. The tale of her
woes related for the hundredth time suggested an idea to Dr. Poulain.
Once introduce her into the old bachelor\x92s quarters, and it would
be easy by her means to establish Mme. Sauvage there as working
housekeeper. It was quite impossible to present Mme. Sauvage herself,
for the \x93nutcrackers\x94 had grown suspicious of every one. Schmucke\x92s
refusal to admit Mlle. Remonencq had sufficiently opened Fraisier\x92s
eyes. Still, it seemed evident that Pons and Schmucke, being pious
souls, would take any one recommended by the Abbe, with blind
confidence. Mme. Cantinet should bring Mme. Sauvage with her, and to
put in Fraisier\x92s servant was almost tantamount to installing Fraisier
himself.

The Abbe Duplanty, coming downstairs, found the gateway blocked by the
Cibots\x92 friends, all of them bent upon showing their interest in one of
the oldest and most respectable porters in the Marais.

Dr. Poulain raised his hat, and took the Abbe aside.

\x93I am just about to go to poor M. Pons,\x94 he said. \x93There is still a
chance of recovery; but it is a question of inducing him to undergo an
operation. The calculi are perceptible to the touch, they are setting up
an inflammatory condition which will end fatally, but perhaps it is
not too late to remove them. You should really use your influence to
persuade the patient to submit to surgical treatment; I will answer
for his life, provided that no untoward circumstance occurs during the
operation.\x94

\x93I will return as soon as I have taken the sacred ciborium back to the
church,\x94 said the Abbe Duplanty, \x93for M. Schmucke\x92s condition claims the
support of religion.\x94

\x93I have just heard that he is alone,\x94 said Dr. Poulain. \x93The German,
good soul, had a little altercation this morning with Mme. Cibot, who
has acted as housekeeper to them both for the past ten years. They have
quarreled (for the moment only, no doubt), but under the circumstances
they must have some one in to help upstairs. It would be a charity to
look after him.--I say, Cantinet,\x94 continued the doctor, beckoning to
the beadle, \x93just go and ask your wife if she will nurse M. Pons, and
look after M. Schmucke, and take Mme. Cibot\x92s place for a day or two....
Even without the quarrel, Mme. Cibot would still require a substitute.
Mme. Cantinet is honest,\x94 added the doctor, turning to M. Duplanty.

\x93You could not make a better choice,\x94 said the good priest; \x93she is
intrusted with the letting of chairs in the church.\x94

A few minutes later, Dr. Poulain stood by Pons\x92 pillow watching the
progress made by death, and Schmucke\x92s vain efforts to persuade his
friend to consent to the operation. To all the poor German\x92s despairing
entreaties Pons only replied by a shake of the head and occasional
impatient movements; till, after awhile, he summoned up all his
fast-failing strength to say, with a heartrending look:

\x93Do let me die in peace!\x94

Schmucke almost died of sorrow, but he took Pons\x92 hand and softly kissed
it, and held it between his own, as if trying a second time to give his
own vitality to his friend.

Just at this moment the bell rang, and Dr. Poulain, going to the door,
admitted the Abbe Duplanty.

\x93Our poor patient is struggling in the grasp of death,\x94 he said. \x93All
will be over in a few hours. You will send a priest, no doubt, to watch
to-night. But it is time that Mme. Cantinet came, as well as a woman to
do the work, for M. Schmucke is quite unfit to think of anything: I am
afraid for his reason; and there are valuables here which ought to be in
the custody of honest persons.\x94

The Abbe Duplanty, a kindly, upright priest, guileless and unsuspicious,
was struck with the truth of Dr. Poulain\x92s remarks. He had, moreover, a
certain belief in the doctor of the quarter. So on the threshold of the
death-chamber he stopped and beckoned to Schmucke, but Schmucke could
not bring himself to loosen the grasp of the hand that grew tighter and
tighter. Pons seemed to think that he was slipping over the edge of
a precipice and must catch at something to save himself. But, as many
know, the dying are haunted by an hallucination that leads them to
snatch at things about them, like men eager to save their most precious
possessions from a fire. Presently Pons released Schmucke to clutch at
the bed-clothes, dragging them and huddling them about himself with a
hasty, covetous movement significant and painful to see.

\x93What will you do, left alone with your dead friend?\x94 asked M. l\x92Abbe
Duplanty when Schmucke came to the door. \x93You have not Mme. Cibot now--\x94

\x93Ein monster dat haf killed Bons!\x94

\x93But you must have somebody with you,\x94 began Dr. Poulain. \x93Some one must
sit up with the body to-night.\x94

\x93I shall sit up; I shall say die prayers to Gott,\x94 the innocent German
answered.

\x93But you must eat--and who is to cook for you now?\x94 asked the doctor.

\x93Grief haf taken afay mein abbetite,\x94 Schmucke said, simply.

\x93And some one must give notice to the registrar,\x94 said Poulain, \x93and lay
out the body, and order the funeral; and the person who sits up with the
body and the priest will want meals. Can you do all this by yourself? A
man cannot die like a dog in the capital of the civilized world.\x94

Schmucke opened wide eyes of dismay. A brief fit of madness seized him.

\x93But Bons shall not tie!...\x94 he cried aloud. \x93I shall safe him!\x94

\x93You cannot go without sleep much longer, and who will take your place?
Some one must look after M. Pons, and give him drink, and nurse him--\x94

\x93Ah! dat is drue.\x94

\x93Very well,\x94 said the Abbe, \x93I am thinking of sending your Mme.
Cantinet, a good and honest creature--\x94

The practical details of the care of the dead bewildered Schmucke, till
he was fain to die with his friend.

\x93He is a child,\x94 said the doctor, turning to the Abbe Duplanty.

\x93Ein child,\x94 Schmucke repeated mechanically.

\x93There, then,\x94 said the curate; \x93I will speak to Mme. Cantinet, and send
her to you.\x94

\x93Do not trouble yourself,\x94 said the doctor; \x93I am going home, and she
lives in the next house.\x94

The dying seem to struggle with Death as with an invisible assassin;
in the agony at the last, as the final thrust is made, the act of dying
seems to be a conflict, a hand-to-hand fight for life. Pons had reached
the supreme moment. At the sound of his groans and cries, the three
standing in the doorway hurried to the bedside. Then came the last blow,
smiting asunder the bonds between soul and body, striking down to life\x92s
sources; and suddenly Pons regained for a few brief moments the perfect
calm that follows the struggle. He came to himself, and with the
serenity of death in his face he looked round almost smilingly at them.

\x93Ah, doctor, I have had a hard time of it; but you were right, I am
doing better. Thank you, my good Abbe; I was wondering what had become
of Schmucke--\x94

\x93Schmucke has had nothing to eat since yesterday evening, and now it is
four o\x92clock! You have no one with you now and it would be wise to send
for Mme. Cibot.\x94

\x93She is capable of anything!\x94 said Pons, without attempting to conceal
all his abhorrence at the sound of her name. \x93It is true, Schmucke ought
to have some trustworthy person.\x94

\x93M. Duplanty and I have been thinking about you both--\x94

\x93Ah! thank you, I had not thought of that.\x94

\x93--And M. Duplanty suggests that you should have Mme. Cantinet--\x94

\x93Oh! Mme. Cantinet who lets the chairs!\x94 exclaimed Pons. \x93Yes, she is an
excellent creature.\x94

\x93She has no liking for Mme. Cibot,\x94 continued the doctor, \x93and she would
take good care of M. Schmucke--\x94

\x93Send her to me, M. Duplanty... send her and her husband too. I shall be
easy. Nothing will be stolen here.\x94

Schmucke had taken Pons\x92 hand again, and held it joyously in his own.
Pons was almost well again, he thought.

\x93Let us go, Monsieur l\x92Abbe,\x94 said the doctor. \x93I will send Mme.
Cantinet round at once. I see how it is. She perhaps may not find M.
Pons alive.\x94



While the Abbe Duplanty was persuading Pons to engage Mme. Cantinet as
his nurse, Fraisier had sent for her. He had plied the beadle\x92s wife
with sophistical reasoning and subtlety. It was difficult to resist his
corrupting influence. And as for Mme. Cantinet--a lean, sallow woman,
with large teeth and thin lips--her intelligence, as so often happens
with women of the people, had been blunted by a hard life, till she
had come to look upon the slenderest daily wage as prosperity. She soon
consented to take Mme. Sauvage with her as general servant.

Mme. Sauvage had had her instructions already. She had undertaken to
weave a web of iron wire about the two musicians, and to watch them as
a spider watches a fly caught in the toils; and her reward was to be a
tobacconist\x92s license. Fraisier had found a convenient opportunity of
getting rid of his so-called foster-mother, while he posted her as
a detective and policeman to supervise Mme. Cantinet. As there was a
servant\x92s bedroom and a little kitchen included in the apartment,
La Sauvage could sleep on a truckle-bed and cook for the German. Dr.
Poulain came with the two women just as Pons drew his last breath.
Schmucke was sitting beside his friend, all unconscious of the crisis,
holding the hand that slowly grew colder in his grasp. He signed to Mme.
Cantinet to be silent; but Mme. Sauvage\x92s soldierly figure surprised him
so much that he started in spite of himself, a kind of homage to which
the virago was quite accustomed.

\x93M. Duplanty answers for this lady,\x94 whispered Mme. Cantinet by way of
introduction. \x93She once was cook to a bishop; she is honesty itself; she
will do the cooking.\x94

\x93Oh! you may talk out loud,\x94 wheezed the stalwart dame. \x93The poor
gentleman is dead.... He has just gone.\x94

A shrill cry broke from Schmucke. He felt Pons\x92 cold hand stiffening in
his, and sat staring into his friend\x92s eyes; the look in them would have
driven him mad, if Mme. Sauvage, doubtless accustomed to scenes of this
sort, had not come to the bedside with a mirror which she held over the
lips of the dead. When she saw that there was no mist upon the surface,
she briskly snatched Schmucke\x92s hand away.

\x93Just take away your hand, sir; you may not be able to do it in a little
while. You do not know how the bones harden. A corpse grows cold very
quickly. If you do not lay out a body while it is warm, you have to
break the joints later on....\x94

And so it was this terrible woman who closed the poor dead musician\x92s
eyes.

With a business-like dexterity acquired in ten years of experience,
she stripped and straightened the body, laid the arms by the sides,
and covered the face with the bedclothes, exactly as a shopman wraps a
parcel.

\x93A sheet will be wanted to lay him out.--Where is there a sheet?\x94 she
demanded, turning on the terror-stricken Schmucke.

He had watched the religious ritual with its deep reverence for the
creature made for such high destinies in heaven; and now he saw his dead
friend treated simply as a thing in this packing process--saw with the
sharp pain that dissolves the very elements of thought.

\x93Do as you vill----\x94 he answered mechanically. The innocent creature for
the first time in his life had seen a man die, and that man was Pons,
his only friend, the one human being who understood him and loved him.

\x93I will go and ask Mme. Cibot where the sheets are kept,\x94 said La
Sauvage.

\x93A truckle-bed will be wanted for the person to sleep upon,\x94 Mme.
Cantinet came to tell Schmucke.

Schmucke nodded and broke out into weeping. Mme. Cantinet left the
unhappy man in peace; but an hour later she came back to say:

\x93Have you any money, sir, to pay for the things?\x94

The look that Schmucke gave Mme. Cantinet would have disarmed the
fiercest hate; it was the white, blank, peaked face of death that he
turned upon her, as an explanation that met everything.

\x93Dake it all and leaf me to mein prayers and tears,\x94 he said, and knelt.

Mme. Sauvage went to Fraisier with the news of Pons\x92 death. Fraisier
took a cab and went to the Presidente. To-morrow she must give him the
power of attorney to enable him to act for the heirs.

Another hour went by, and Mme. Cantinet came again to Schmucke.

\x93I have been to Mme. Cibot, sir, who knows all about things here,\x94 she
said. \x93I asked her to tell me where everything is kept. But she almost
jawed me to death with her abuse.... Sir, do listen to me....\x94

Schmucke looked up at the woman, and she went on, innocent of any
barbarous intention, for women of her class are accustomed to take the
worst of moral suffering passively, as a matter of course.

\x93We must have linen for the shroud, sir, we must have money to buy
a truckle-bed for the person to sleep upon, and some things for the
kitchen--plates, and dishes, and glasses, for a priest will be coming
to pass the night here, and the person says that there is absolutely
nothing in the kitchen.\x94

\x93And what is more, sir, I must have coal and firing if I am to get the
dinner ready,\x94 echoed La Sauvage, \x93and not a thing can I find. Not that
there is anything so very surprising in that, as La Cibot used to do
everything for you--\x94

Schmucke lay at the feet of the dead; he heard nothing, knew nothing,
saw nothing. Mme. Cantinet pointed to him. \x93My dear woman, you would not
believe me,\x94 she said. \x93Whatever you say, he does not answer.\x94

\x93Very well, child,\x94 said La Sauvage; \x93now I will show you what to do in
a case of this kind.\x94

She looked round the room as a thief looks in search of possible
hiding-places for money; then she went straight to Pons\x92 chest, opened
the first drawer, saw the bag in which Schmucke had put the rest of
the money after the sale of the pictures, and held it up before him. He
nodded mechanically.

\x93Here is money, child,\x94 said La Sauvage, turning to Mme. Cantinet. \x93I
will count it first and take enough to buy everything we want--wine,
provisions, wax-candles, all sorts of things, in fact, for there is
nothing in the house.... Just look in the drawers for a sheet to bury
him in. I certainly was told that the poor gentleman was simple, but
I don\x92t know what he is; he is worse. He is like a new-born child; we
shall have to feed him with a funnel.\x94

The women went about their work, and Schmucke looked on precisely as an
idiot might have done. Broken down with sorrow, wholly absorbed, in a
half-cataleptic state, he could not take his eyes from the face that
seemed to fascinate him, Pons\x92 face refined by the absolute repose of
Death. Schmucke hoped to die; everything was alike indifferent. If the
room had been on fire he would not have stirred.

\x93There are twelve hundred and fifty francs here,\x94 La Sauvage told him.

Schmucke shrugged his shoulders.

But when La Sauvage came near to measure the body by laying the sheet
over it, before cutting out the shroud, a horrible struggle ensued
between her and the poor German. Schmucke was furious. He behaved like
a dog that watches by his dead master\x92s body, and shows his teeth at all
who try to touch it. La Sauvage grew impatient. She grasped him, set him
in the armchair, and held him down with herculean strength.

\x93Go on, child; sew him in his shroud,\x94 she said, turning to Mme.
Cantinet.

As soon as this operation was completed, La Sauvage set Schmucke back in
his place at the foot of the bed.

\x93Do you understand?\x94 said she. \x93The poor dead man lying there must be
done up, there is no help for it.\x94

Schmucke began to cry. The women left him and took possession of the
kitchen, whither they brought all the necessaries in a very short time.
La Sauvage made out a preliminary statement accounting for three hundred
and sixty francs, and then proceeded to prepare a dinner for four
persons. And what a dinner! A fat goose (the cobbler\x92s pheasant) by way
of a substantial roast, an omelette with preserves, a salad, and the
inevitable broth--the quantities of the ingredients for this last being
so excessive that the soup was more like a strong meat-jelly.

At nine o\x92clock the priest, sent by the curate to watch by the dead,
came in with Cantinet, who brought four tall wax candles and some
tapers. In the death-chamber Schmucke was lying with his arms about
the body of his friend, holding him in a tight clasp; nothing but the
authority of religion availed to separate him from his dead. Then
the priest settled himself comfortably in the easy-chair and read his
prayers while Schmucke, kneeling beside the couch, besought God to work
a miracle and unite him to Pons, so that they might be buried in the
same grave; and Mme. Cantinet went on her way to the Temple to buy a
pallet and complete bedding for Mme. Sauvage. The twelve hundred and
fifty francs were regarded as plunder. At eleven o\x92clock Mme. Cantinet
came in to ask if Schmucke would not eat a morsel, but with a gesture he
signified that he wished to be left in peace.

\x93Your supper is ready, M. Pastelot,\x94 she said, addressing the priest,
and they went.

Schmucke, left alone in the room, smiled to himself like a madman free
at last to gratify a desire like the longing of pregnancy. He flung
himself down beside Pons, and yet again he held his friend in a long,
close embrace. At midnight the priest came back and scolded him, and
Schmucke returned to his prayers. At daybreak the priest went, and at
seven o\x92clock in the morning the doctor came to see Schmucke, and spoke
kindly and tried hard to persuade him to eat, but the German refused.

\x93If you do not eat now you will feel very hungry when you come back,\x94
 the doctor told him, \x93for you must go to the mayor\x92s office and take
a witness with you, so that the registrar may issue a certificate of
death.\x94

\x93_I_ must go!\x94 cried Schmucke in frightened tones.

\x93Who else?... You must go, for you were the one person who saw him die.\x94

\x93Mein legs vill nicht carry me,\x94 pleaded Schmucke, imploring the doctor
to come to the rescue.

\x93Take a cab,\x94 the hypocritical doctor blandly suggested. \x93I have given
notice already. Ask some one in the house to go with you. The two women
will look after the place while you are away.\x94

No one imagines how the requirements of the law jar upon a heartfelt
sorrow. The thought of it is enough to make one turn from civilization
and choose rather the customs of the savage. At nine o\x92clock that
morning Mme. Sauvage half-carried Schmucke downstairs, and from the cab
he was obliged to beg Remonencq to come with him to the registrar as
a second witness. Here in Paris, in this land of ours besotted with
Equality, the inequality of conditions is glaringly apparent everywhere
and in everything. The immutable tendency of things peeps out even in
the practical aspects of Death. In well-to-do families, a relative, a
friend, or a man of business spares the mourners these painful details;
but in this, as in the matter of taxation, the whole burden falls
heaviest upon the shoulders of the poor.

\x93Ah! you have good reason to regret him,\x94 said Remonencq in answer to
the poor martyr\x92s moan; \x93he was a very good, a very honest man, and he
has left a fine collection behind him. But being a foreigner, sir, do
you know that you are like to find yourself in a great predicament--for
everybody says that M. Pons left everything to you?\x94

Schmucke was not listening. He was sounding the dark depths of sorrow
that border upon madness. There is such a thing as tetanus of the soul.

\x93And you would do well to find some one--some man of business--to advise
you and act for you,\x94 pursued Remonencq.

\x93Ein mann of pizness!\x94 echoed Schmucke.

\x93You will find that you will want some one to act for you. If I were
you, I should take an experienced man, somebody well known to you in the
quarter, a man you can trust.... I always go to Tabareau myself for my
bits of affairs--he is the bailiff. If you give his clerk power to act
for you, you need not trouble yourself any further.\x94

Remonencq and La Cibot, prompted by Fraisier, had agreed beforehand to
make a suggestion which stuck in Schmucke\x92s memory; for there are times
in our lives when grief, as it were, congeals the mind by arresting
all its functions, and any chance impression made at such moments is
retained by a frost-bound memory. Schmucke heard his companion with such
a fixed, mindless stare, that Remonencq said no more.

\x93If he is always to be idiotic like this,\x94 thought Remonencq, \x93I might
easily buy the whole bag of tricks up yonder for a hundred thousand
francs; if it is really his.... Here we are at the mayor\x92s office, sir.\x94

Remonencq was obliged to take Schmucke out of the cab and to half-carry
him to the registrar\x92s department, where a wedding-party was assembled.
Here they had to wait for their turn, for, by no very uncommon chance,
the clerk had five or six certificates to make out that morning; and
here it was appointed that poor Schmucke should suffer excruciating
anguish.

\x93Monsieur is M. Schmucke?\x94 remarked a person in a suit of black,
reducing Schmucke to stupefaction by the mention of his name. He looked
up with the same blank, unseeing eyes that he had turned upon Remonencq,
who now interposed.

\x93What do you want with him?\x94 he said. \x93Just leave him in peace; you can
plainly see that he is in trouble.\x94

\x93The gentleman has just lost his friend, and proposes, no doubt, to do
honor to his memory, being, as he is, the sole heir. The gentleman, no
doubt, will not haggle over it, he will buy a piece of ground outright
for a grave. And as M. Pons was such a lover of the arts, it would be a
great pity not to put Music, Painting, and Sculpture on his tomb--three
handsome full-length figures, weeping--\x94

Remonencq waved the speaker away, in Auvergnat fashion, but the man
replied with another gesture, which being interpreted means \x93Don\x92t spoil
sport\x94; a piece of commercial free-masonry, as it were, which the dealer
understood.

\x93I represent the firm of Sonet and Company, monumental stone-masons;
Sir Walter Scott would have dubbed me _Young Mortality_,\x94 continued this
person. \x93If you, sir, should decide to intrust your orders to us,
we would spare you the trouble of the journey to purchase the ground
necessary for the interment of a friend lost to the arts--\x94

At this Remonencq nodded assent, and jogged Schmucke\x92s elbow.

\x93Every day we receive orders from families to arrange all formalities,\x94
 continued he of the black coat, thus encouraged by Remonencq. \x93In the
first moment of bereavement, the heir-at-law finds it very difficult to
attend to such matters, and we are accustomed to perform these little
services for our clients. Our charges, sir, are on a fixed scale, so
much per foot, freestone or marble. Family vaults a specialty.--We
undertake everything at the most moderate prices. Our firm executed the
magnificent monument erected to the fair Esther Gobseck and Lucien de
Rubempre, one of the finest ornaments of Pere-Lachaise. We only
employ the best workmen, and I must warn you, sir, against small
contractors--who turn out nothing but trash,\x94 he added, seeing that
another person in a black suit was coming up to say a word for another
firm of marble-workers.

It is often said that \x93death is the end of a journey,\x94 but the aptness
of the simile is realized most fully in Paris. Any arrival, especially
of a person of condition, upon the \x93dark brink,\x94 is hailed in much the
same way as the traveler recently landed is hailed by hotel touts
and pestered with their recommendations. With the exception of a few
philosophically-minded persons, or here and there a family secure
of handing down a name to posterity, nobody thinks beforehand of the
practical aspects of death. Death always comes before he is expected;
and, from a sentiment easy to understand, the heirs usually act as if
the event were impossible. For which reason, almost every one that loses
father or mother, wife or child, is immediately beset by scouts that
profit by the confusion caused by grief to snare others. In former days,
agents for monuments used to live round about the famous cemetery of
Pere-Lachaise, and were gathered together in a single thoroughfare,
which should by rights have been called the Street of Tombs; issuing
thence, they fell upon the relatives of the dead as they came from the
cemetery, or even at the grave-side. But competition and the spirit
of speculation induced them to spread themselves further and further
afield, till descending into Paris itself they reached the very
precincts of the mayor\x92s office. Indeed, the stone-mason\x92s agent has
often been known to invade the house of mourning with a design for the
sepulchre in his hand.

\x93I am in treaty with this gentleman,\x94 said the representative of the
firm of Sonet to another agent who came up.

\x93Pons deceased!...\x94 called the clerk at this moment. \x93Where are the
witnesses?\x94

\x93This way, sir,\x94 said the stone-mason\x92s agent, this time addressing
Remonencq.

Schmucke stayed where he had been placed on the bench, an inert mass.
Remonencq begged the agent to help him, and together they pulled
Schmucke towards the balustrade, behind which the registrar shelters
himself from the mourning public. Remonencq, Schmucke\x92s Providence, was
assisted by Dr. Poulain, who filled in the necessary information as to
Pons\x92 age and birthplace; the German knew but one thing--that Pons was
his friend. So soon as the signatures were affixed, Remonencq and the
doctor (followed by the stone-mason\x92s man), put Schmucke into a cab,
the desperate agent whisking in afterwards, bent upon taking a definite
order.

La Sauvage, on the lookout in the gateway, half-carried Schmucke\x92s
almost unconscious form upstairs. Remonencq and the agent went up with
her.

\x93He will be ill!\x94 exclaimed the agent, anxious to make an end of the
piece of business which, according to him, was in progress.

\x93I should think he will!\x94 returned Mme. Sauvage. \x93He has been crying
for twenty-four hours on end, and he would not take anything. There is
nothing like grief for giving one a sinking in the stomach.\x94

\x93My dear client,\x94 urged the representative of the firm of Sonet, \x93do
take some broth. You have so much to do; some one must go to the Hotel
de Ville to buy the ground in the cemetery on which you mean to erect
a monument to perpetuate the memory of the friend of the arts, and bear
record to your gratitude.\x94

\x93Why, there is no sense in this!\x94 added Mme. Cantinet, coming in with
broth and bread.

\x93If you are as weak as this, you ought to think of finding some one to
act for you,\x94 added Remonencq, \x93for you have a good deal on your hands,
my dear sir. There is the funeral to order. You would not have your
friend buried like a pauper!\x94

\x93Come, come, my dear sir,\x94 put in La Sauvage, seizing a moment when
Schmucke laid his head back in the great chair to pour a spoonful of
soup into his mouth. She fed him as if he had been a child, and almost
in spite of himself.

\x93Now, if you were wise, sir, since you are inclined to give yourself up
quietly to grief, you would find some one to act for you--\x94

\x93As you are thinking of raising a magnificent monument to the memory
of your friend, sir, you have only to leave it all to me; I will
undertake--\x94

\x93What is all this? What is all this?\x94 asked La Sauvage. \x93Has M. Schmucke
ordered something? Who may you be?\x94

\x93I represent the firm of Sonet, my dear madame, the biggest
monumental stone-masons in Paris,\x94 said the person in black, handing a
business-card to the stalwart Sauvage.

\x93Very well, that will do. Some one will go with you when the time comes;
but you must not take advantage of the gentleman\x92s condition now. You
can quite see that he is not himself----\x94

The agent led her out upon the landing.

\x93If you will undertake to get the order for us,\x94 he said confidentially,
\x93I am empowered to offer you forty francs.\x94

Mme. Sauvage grew placable. \x93Very well, let me have your address,\x94 said
she.

Schmucke meantime being left to himself, and feeling the stronger for
the soup and bread that he had been forced to swallow, returned at
once to Pons\x92 rooms, and to his prayers. He had lost himself in the
fathomless depths of sorrow, when a voice sounding in his ears drew
him back from the abyss of grief, and a young man in a suit of black
returned for the eleventh time to the charge, pulling the poor, tortured
victim\x92s coatsleeve until he listened.

\x93Sir!\x94 said he.

\x93Vat ees it now?\x94

\x93Sir! we owe a supreme discovery to Dr. Gannal; we do not dispute
his fame; he has worked miracles of Egypt afresh; but there have been
improvements made upon his system. We have obtained surprising results.
So, if you would like to see your friend again, as he was when he was
alive--\x94

\x93See him again!\x94 cried Schmucke. \x93Shall he speak to me?\x94

\x93Not exactly. Speech is the only thing wanting,\x94 continued the
embalmer\x92s agent. \x93But he will remain as he is after embalming for all
eternity. The operation is over in a few seconds. Just an incision in
the carotid artery and an injection.--But it is high time; if you
wait one single quarter of an hour, sir, you will not have the sweet
satisfaction of preserving the body....\x94

\x93Go to der teufel!... Bons is ein spirit--und dat spirit is in hefn.\x94

\x93That man has no gratitude in his composition,\x94 remarked the youthful
agent of one of the famous Gannal\x92s rivals; \x93he will not embalm his
friend.\x94

The words were spoken under the archway, and addressed to La Cibot, who
had just submitted her beloved to the process.

\x93What would you have, sir!\x94 she said. \x93He is the heir, the universal
legatee. As soon as they get what they want, the dead are nothing to
them.\x94

An hour later, Schmucke saw Mme. Sauvage come into the room, followed by
another man in a suit of black, a workman, to all appearance.

\x93Cantinet has been so obliging as to send this gentleman, sir,\x94 she
said; \x93he is coffin-maker to the parish.\x94

The coffin-maker made his bow with a sympathetic and compassionate air,
but none the less he had a business-like look, and seemed to know that
he was indispensable. He turned an expert\x92s eye upon the dead.

\x93How does the gentleman wish \x91it\x92 to be made? Deal, plain oak, or oak
lead-lined? Oak with a lead lining is the best style. The body is
a stock size,\x94--he felt for the feet, and proceeded to take the
measure--\x93one metre seventy!\x94 he added. \x93You will be thinking of
ordering the funeral service at the church, sir, no doubt?\x94

Schmucke looked at him as a dangerous madman might look before striking
a blow. La Sauvage put in a word.

\x93You ought to find somebody to look after all these things,\x94 she said.

\x93Yes----\x94 the victim murmured at length.

\x93Shall I fetch M. Tabareau?--for you will have a good deal on your hands
before long. M. Tabareau is the most honest man in the quarter, you
see.\x94

\x93Yes. Mennesir Dapareau! Somepody vas speaking of him chust now--\x94 said
Schmucke, completely beaten.

\x93Very well. You can be quiet, sir, and give yourself up to grief, when
you have seen your deputy.\x94

It was nearly two o\x92clock when M. Tabareau\x92s head-clerk, a young man
who aimed at a bailiff\x92s career, modestly presented himself. Youth
has wonderful privileges; no one is alarmed by youth. This young man
Villemot by name, sat down by Schmucke\x92s side and waited his opportunity
to speak. His diffidence touched Schmucke very much.

\x93I am M. Tabareau\x92s head-clerk, sir,\x94 he said; \x93he sent me here to take
charge of your interests, and to superintend the funeral arrangements.
Is this your wish?\x94

\x93You cannot safe my life, I haf not long to lif; but you vill leaf me in
beace!\x94

\x93Oh! you shall not be disturbed,\x94 said Villemot.

\x93Ver\x92 goot. Vat must I do for dat?\x94

\x93Sign this paper appointing M. Tabareau to act for you in all matters
relating to the settlement of the affairs of the deceased.\x94

\x93Goot! gif it to me,\x94 said Schmucke, anxious only to sign it at once.

\x93No, I must read it over to you first.\x94

\x93Read it ofer.\x94

Schmucke paid not the slightest attention to the reading of the power
of attorney, but he set his name to it. The young clerk took Schmucke\x92s
orders for the funeral, the interment, and the burial service;
undertaking that he should not be troubled again in any way, nor asked
for money.

\x93I vould gif all dat I haf to be left in beace,\x94 said the unhappy man.
And once more he knelt beside the dead body of his friend.

Fraisier had triumphed. Villemot and La Sauvage completed the circle
which he had traced about Pons\x92 heir.

There is no sorrow that sleep cannot overcome. Towards the end of
the day La Sauvage, coming in, found Schmucke stretched asleep at the
bed-foot. She carried him off, put him to bed, tucked him in maternally,
and till the morning Schmucke slept.

When he awoke, or rather when the truce was over and he again became
conscious of his sorrows, Pons\x92 coffin lay under the gateway in such a
state as a third-class funeral may claim, and Schmucke, seeking vainly
for his friend, wandered from room to room, across vast spaces, as it
seemed to him, empty of everything save hideous memories. La Sauvage
took him in hand, much as a nurse manages a child; she made him take his
breakfast before starting for the church; and while the poor sufferer
forced himself to eat, she discovered, with lamentations worthy of
Jeremiah, that he had not a black coat in his possession. La Cibot took
entire charge of his wardrobe; since Pons fell ill, his apparel, like
his dinner, had been reduced to the lowest terms--to a couple of coats
and two pairs of trousers.

\x93And you are going just as you are to M. Pons\x92 funeral? It is an
unheard-of thing; the whole quarter will cry shame upon us!\x94

\x93Und how vill you dat I go?\x94

\x93Why, in mourning--\x94

\x93Mourning!\x94

\x93It is the proper thing.\x94

\x93Der bropper ding!... Confound all dis stupid nonsense!\x94 cried poor
Schmucke, driven to the last degree of exasperation which a childlike
soul can reach under stress of sorrow.

\x93Why, the man is a monster of ingratitude!\x94 said La Sauvage, turning
to a personage who just then appeared. At the sight of this functionary
Schmucke shuddered. The newcomer wore a splendid suit of black, black
knee-breeches, black silk stockings, a pair of white cuffs, an extremely
correct white muslin tie, and white gloves. A silver chain with a coin
attached ornamented his person. A typical official, stamped with the
official expression of decorous gloom, an ebony wand in his hand by
way of insignia of office, he stood waiting with a three-cornered hat
adorned with the tricolor cockade under his arm.

\x93I am the master of the ceremonies,\x94 this person remarked in a subdued
voice.

Accustomed daily to superintend funerals, to move among families plunged
in one and the same kind of tribulation, real or feigned, this man, like
the rest of his fraternity, spoke in hushed and soothing tones; he was
decorous, polished, and formal, like an allegorical stone figure of
Death.

Schmucke quivered through every nerve as if he were confronting his
executioner.

\x93Is this gentleman the son, brother, or father of the deceased?\x94
 inquired the official.

\x93I am all dat and more pesides--I am his friend,\x94 said Schmucke through
a torrent of weeping.

\x93Are you his heir?\x94

\x93Heir?...\x94 repeated Schmucke. \x93Noding matters to me more in dis vorld,\x94
 returning to his attitude of hopeless sorrow.

\x93Where are the relatives, the friends?\x94 asked the master of the
ceremonies.

\x93All here!\x94 exclaimed the German, indicating the pictures and rarities.
\x93Not von of dem haf efer gifn bain to mein boor Bons.... Here ees
everydings dot he lofed, after me.\x94

Schmucke had taken his seat again, and looked as vacant as before; he
dried his eyes mechanically. Villemot came up at that moment; he had
ordered the funeral, and the master of the ceremonies, recognizing him,
made an appeal to the newcomer.

\x93Well, sir, it is time to start. The hearse is here; but I have not
often seen such a funeral as this. Where are the relatives and friends?\x94

\x93We have been pressed for time,\x94 replied Villemot. \x93This gentleman was
in such deep grief that he could think of nothing. And there is only one
relative.\x94

The master of the ceremonies looked compassionately at Schmucke; this
expert in sorrow knew real grief when he saw it. He went across to him.

\x93Come, take heart, my dear sir. Think of paying honor to your friend\x92s
memory.\x94

\x93We forgot to send out cards; but I took care to send a special message
to M. le Presidente de Marville, the one relative that I mentioned to
you.--There are no friends.--M. Pons was conductor of an orchestra at a
theatre, but I do not think that any one will come.--This gentleman is
the universal legatee, I believe.\x94

\x93Then he ought to be chief mourner,\x94 said the master of the
ceremonies.--\x93Have you a black coat?\x94 he continued, noticing Schmucke\x92s
costume.

\x93I am all in plack insite!\x94 poor Schmucke replied in heartrending tones;
\x93so plack it is dot I feel death in me.... Gott in hefn is going to haf
pity upon me; He vill send me to mein friend in der grafe, und I dank
Him for it--\x94

He clasped his hands.

\x93I have told our management before now that we ought to have a wardrobe
department and lend the proper mourning costumes on hire,\x94 said the
master of the ceremonies, addressing Villemot; \x93it is a want that
is more and more felt every day, and we have even now introduced
improvements. But as this gentleman is chief mourner, he ought to wear a
cloak, and this one that I have brought with me will cover him from
head to foot; no one need know that he is not in proper mourning
costume.--Will you be so kind as to rise?\x94

Schmucke rose, but he tottered on his feet.

\x93Support him,\x94 said the master of the ceremonies, turning to Villemot;
\x93you are his legal representative.\x94

Villemot held Schmucke\x92s arm while the master of the ceremonies invested
Schmucke with the ample, dismal-looking garment worn by heirs-at-law in
the procession to and from the house and the church. He tied the black
silken cords under the chin, and Schmucke as heir was in \x93full dress.\x94

\x93And now comes a great difficulty,\x94 continued the master of the
ceremonies; \x93we want four bearers for the pall.... If nobody comes to
the funeral, who is to fill the corners? It is half-past ten already,\x94
 he added, looking at his watch; \x93they are waiting for us at the church.\x94

\x93Oh! here comes Fraisier!\x94 Villemot exclaimed, very imprudently; but
there was no one to hear the tacit confession of complicity.

\x93Who is this gentleman?\x94 inquired the master of the ceremonies.

\x93Oh! he comes on behalf of the family.\x94

\x93Whose family?\x94

\x93The disinherited family. He is M. Camusot de Marville\x92s
representative.\x94

\x93Good,\x94 said the master of the ceremonies, with a satisfied air. \x93We
shall have two pall-bearers at any rate--you and he.\x94

And, happy to find two of the places filled up, he took out some
wonderful white buckskin gloves, and politely presented Fraisier and
Villemot with a pair apiece.

\x93If you gentlemen will be so good as to act as pall-bearers--\x94 said he.

Fraisier, in black from head to foot, pretentiously dressed, with his
white tie and official air, was a sight to shudder at; he embodied a
hundred briefs.

\x93Willingly, sir,\x94 said he.

\x93If only two more persons will come, the four corners will be filled
up,\x94 said the master of the ceremonies.

At that very moment the indefatigable representative of the firm of
Sonet came up, and, closely following him, the man who remembered
Pons and thought of paying him a last tribute of respect. This was a
supernumerary at the theatre, the man who put out the scores on the
music-stands for the orchestra. Pons had been wont to give him a
five-franc piece once a month, knowing that he had a wife and family.

\x93Oh, Dobinard (Topinard)!\x94 Schmucke cried out at the sight of him,
\x93_you_ love Bons!\x94

\x93Why, I have come to ask news of M. Pons every morning, sir.\x94

\x93Efery morning! boor Dobinard!\x94 and Schmucke squeezed the man\x92s hand.

\x93But they took me for a relation, no doubt, and did not like my visits
at all. I told them that I belonged to the theatre and came to inquire
after M. Pons; but it was no good. They saw through that dodge, they
said. I asked to see the poor dear man, but they never would let me come
upstairs.\x94

\x93Dat apominable Zipod!\x94 said Schmucke, squeezing Topinard\x92s horny hand
to his heart.

\x93He was the best of men, that good M. Pons. Every month he use to give
me five francs.... He knew that I had three children and a wife. My wife
has gone to the church.\x94

\x93I shall difide mein pread mit you,\x94 cried Schmucke, in his joy at
finding at his side some one who loved Pons.

\x93If this gentleman will take a corner of the pall, we shall have all
four filled up,\x94 said the master of the ceremonies.

There had been no difficulty over persuading the agent for monuments.
He took a corner the more readily when he was shown the handsome pair of
gloves which, according to custom, was to be his property.

\x93A quarter to eleven! We absolutely must go down. They are waiting for
us at the church.\x94

The six persons thus assembled went down the staircase.

The cold-blooded lawyer remained a moment to speak to the two women on
the landing. \x93Stop here, and let nobody come in,\x94 he said, \x93especially
if you wish to remain in charge, Mme. Cantinet. Aha! two francs a day,
you know!\x94

By a coincidence in nowise extraordinary in Paris, two hearses were
waiting at the door, and two coffins standing under the archway; Cibot\x92s
funeral and the solitary state in which Pons was lying was made even
more striking in the street. Schmucke was the only mourner that followed
Pons\x92 coffin; Schmucke, supported by one of the undertaker\x92s men, for he
tottered at every step. From the Rue de Normandie to the Rue d\x92Orleans
and the Church of Saint-Francois the two funerals went between a double
row of curious onlookers for everything (as was said before) makes a
sensation in the quarter. Every one remarked the splendor of the white
funeral car, with a big embroidered P suspended on a hatchment, and the
one solitary mourner behind it; while the cheap bier that came after it
was followed by an immense crowd. Happily, Schmucke was so bewildered by
the throng of idlers and the rows of heads in the windows, that he heard
no remarks and only saw the faces through a mist of tears.

\x93Oh, it is the nutcracker!\x94 said one, \x93the musician, you know--\x94

\x93Who can the pall-bearers be?\x94

\x93Pooh! play-actors.\x94

\x93I say, just look at poor old Cibot\x92s funeral. There is one worker the
less. What a man! he could never get enough of work!\x94

\x93He never went out.\x94

\x93He never kept Saint Monday.\x94

\x93How fond he was of his wife!\x94

\x93Ah! There is an unhappy woman!\x94

Remonencq walked behind his victim\x92s coffin. People condoled with him on
the loss of his neighbor.

The two funerals reached the church. Cantinet and the doorkeeper saw
that no beggars troubled Schmucke. Villemot had given his word that
Pons\x92 heir should be left in peace; he watched over his client, and gave
the requisite sums; and Cibot\x92s humble bier, escorted by sixty or eighty
persons, drew all the crowd after it to the cemetery. At the church door
Pons\x92 funeral possession mustered four mourning-coaches, one for the
priest and three for the relations; but one only was required, for the
representative of the firm of Sonet departed during mass to give notice
to his principal that the funeral was on the way, so that the design
for the monument might be ready for the survivor at the gates of the
cemetery. A single coach sufficed for Fraisier, Villemot, Schmucke, and
Topinard; but the remaining two, instead of returning to the undertaker,
followed in the procession to Pere-Lachaise--a useless procession, not
unfrequently seen; there are always too many coaches when the dead are
unknown beyond their own circle and there is no crowd at the funeral.
Dear, indeed, the dead must have been in their lifetime if relative or
friend will go with them so far as the cemetery in this Paris, where
every one would fain have twenty-five hours in the day. But with the
coachmen it is different; they lose their tips if they do not make the
journey; so, empty or full, the mourning coaches go to the church and
cemetery and return to the house for gratuities. A death is a sort
of drinking-fountain for an unimagined crowd of thirsty mortals. The
attendants at the church, the poor, the undertaker\x92s men, the drivers
and sextons, are creatures like sponges that dip into a hearse and come
out again saturated.

From the church door, where he was beset with a swarm of beggars
(promptly dispersed by the beadle), to Pere-Lachaise, poor Schmucke went
as criminals went in old times from the Palais de Justice to the
Place de Greve. It was his own funeral that he followed, clinging to
Topinard\x92s hand, to the one living creature besides himself who felt a
pang of real regret for Pons\x92 death.

As for Topinard, greatly touched by the honor of the request to act as
pall-bearer, content to drive in a carriage, the possessor of a new pair
of gloves,--it began to dawn upon him that this was to be one of the
great days of his life. Schmucke was driven passively along the road, as
some unlucky calf is driven in a butcher\x92s cart to the slaughter-house.
Fraisier and Villemot sat with their backs to the horses. Now, as those
know whose sad fortune it has been to accompany many of their friends to
their last resting-place, all hypocrisy breaks down in the coach during
the journey (often a very long one) from the church to the eastern
cemetery, to that one of the burying-grounds of Paris in which all
vanities, all kinds of display, are met, so rich is it in sumptuous
monuments. On these occasions those who feel least begin to talk
soonest, and in the end the saddest listen, and their thoughts are
diverted.

\x93M. le President had already started for the Court.\x94 Fraisier told
Villemot, \x93and I did not think it necessary to tear him away from
business; he would have come too late, in any case. He is the
next-of-kin; but as he has been disinherited, and M. Schmucke gets
everything, I thought that if his legal representative were present it
would be enough.\x94

Topinard lent an ear to this.

\x93Who was the queer customer that took the fourth corner?\x94 continued
Fraisier.

\x93He is an agent for a firm of monumental stone-masons. He would like an
order for a tomb, on which he proposes to put three sculptured marble
figures--Music, Painting, and Sculpture shedding tears over the
deceased.\x94

\x93It is an idea,\x94 said Fraisier; \x93the old gentleman certainly deserved
that much; but the monument would cost seven or eight hundred francs.\x94

\x93Oh! quite that!\x94

\x93If M. Schmucke gives the order, it cannot affect the estate. You might
eat up a whole property with such expenses.\x94

\x93There would be a lawsuit, but you would gain it--\x94

\x93Very well,\x94 said Fraisier, \x93then it will be his affair.--It would be a
nice practical joke to play upon the monument-makers,\x94 Fraisier added in
Villemot\x92s ear; \x93for if the will is upset (and I can answer for that),
or if there is no will at all, who would pay them?\x94

Villemot grinned like a monkey, and the pair began to talk
confidentially, lowering their voices; but the man from the theatre,
with his wits and senses sharpened in the world behind the scenes, could
guess at the nature of their discourse; in spite of the rumbling of
the carriage and other hindrances, he began to understand that these
representatives of justice were scheming to plunge poor Schmucke into
difficulties; and when at last he heard the ominous word \x93Clichy,\x94 the
honest and loyal servitor of the stage made up his mind to watch over
Pons\x92 friend.

At the cemetery, where three square yards of ground had been purchased
through the good offices of the firm of Sonet (Villemot having announced
Schmucke\x92s intention of erecting a magnificent monument), the master of
ceremonies led Schmucke through a curious crowd to the grave into which
Pons\x92 coffin was about to be lowered; but here, at the sight of the
square hole, the four men waiting with ropes to lower the bier, and the
clergy saying the last prayer for the dead at the grave-side, something
clutched tightly at the German\x92s heart. He fainted away.

Sonet\x92s agent and M. Sonet himself came to help Topinard to carry
poor Schmucke into the marble-works hard by, where Mme. Sonet and Mme.
Vitelot (Sonet\x92s partner\x92s wife) were eagerly prodigal of efforts to
revive him. Topinard stayed. He had seen Fraisier in conversation with
Sonet\x92s agent, and Fraisier, in his opinion, had gallows-bird written on
his face.

An hour later, towards half-past two o\x92clock, the poor, innocent German
came to himself. Schmucke thought that he had been dreaming for the past
two days; if he could only wake, he should find Pons still alive. So
many wet towels had been laid on his forehead, he had been made to
inhale salts and vinegar to such an extent, that he opened his eyes at
last. Mme. Sonet make him take some meat-soup, for they had put the pot
on the fire at the marble-works.

\x93Our clients do not often take things to heart like this; still, it
happens once in a year or two--\x94

At last Schmucke talked of returning to the Rue de Normandie, and at
this Sonet began at once.

\x93Here is the design, sir,\x94 he said; \x93Vitelot drew it expressly for you,
and sat up last night to do it.... And he has been happily inspired, it
will look fine--\x94

\x93One of the finest in Pere-Lachaise!\x94 said the little Mme. Sonet. \x93But
you really ought to honor the memory of a friend who left you all his
fortune.\x94

The design, supposed to have been drawn on purpose, had, as a matter
of fact, been prepared for de Marsay, the famous cabinet minister.
His widow, however, had given the commission to Stidmann; people were
disgusted with the tawdriness of the project, and it was refused. The
three figures at that period represented the three days of July which
brought the eminent minister to power. Subsequently, Sonet and Vitelot
had turned the Three Glorious Days--\x93_les trois glorieuses_\x94--into the
Army, Finance, and the Family, and sent in the design for the sepulchre
of the late lamented Charles Keller; and here again Stidmann took the
commission. In the eleven years that followed, the sketch had been
modified to suit all kinds of requirements, and now in Vitelot\x92s fresh
tracing they reappeared as Music, Sculpture, and Painting.

\x93It is a mere trifle when you think of the details and cost of setting
it up; for it will take six months,\x94 said Vitelot. \x93Here is the estimate
and the order-form--seven thousand francs, sketch in plaster not
included.\x94

\x93If M. Schmucke would like marble,\x94 put in Sonet (marble being his
special department), \x93it would cost twelve thousand francs, and monsieur
would immortalize himself as well as his friend.\x94

Topinard turned to Vitelot.

\x93I have just heard that they are going to dispute the will,\x94 he
whispered, \x93and the relatives are likely to come by their property.
Go and speak to M. Camusot, for this poor, harmless creature has not a
farthing.\x94

\x93This is the kind of customer that you always bring us,\x94 said Mme.
Vitelot, beginning a quarrel with the agent.

Topinard led Schmucke away, and they returned home on foot to the Rue de
Normandie, for the mourning-coaches had been sent back.

\x93Do not leaf me,\x94 Schmucke said, when Topinard had seen him safe into
Mme. Sauvage\x92s hands, and wanted to go.

\x93It is four o\x92clock, dear M. Schmucke. I must go home to dinner. My wife
is a box-opener--she will not know what has become of me. The theatre
opens at a quarter to six, you know.\x94

\x93Yes, I know... but remember dat I am alone in die earth, dat I haf
no friend. You dat haf shed a tear for Bons enliden me; I am in teep
tarkness, und Bons said dat I vas in der midst of shcoundrels.\x94

\x93I have seen that plainly already; I have just prevented them from
sending you to Clichy.\x94

\x93_Gligy!_\x94 repeated Schmucke; \x93I do not understand.\x94

\x93Poor man! Well, never mind, I will come to you. Good-bye.\x94

\x93Goot-bye; komm again soon,\x94 said Schmucke, dropping half-dead with
weariness.

\x93Good-bye, mosieu,\x94 said Mme. Sauvage, and there was something in her
tone that struck Topinard.

\x93Oh, come, what is the matter now?\x94 he asked, banteringly. \x93You are
attitudinizing like a traitor in a melodrama.\x94

\x93Traitor yourself! Why have you come meddling here? Do you want to have
a hand in the master\x92s affairs, and swindle him, eh?\x94

\x93Swindle him!... Your very humble servant!\x94 Topinard answered with
superb disdain. \x93I am only a poor super at a theatre, but I am something
of an artist, and you may as well know that I never asked anything of
anybody yet! Who asked anything of you? Who owes you anything? eh, old
lady!\x94

\x93You are employed at a theatre, and your name is--?\x94

\x93Topinard, at your service.\x94

\x93Kind regards to all at home,\x94 said La Sauvage, \x93and my compliments to
your missus, if you are married, mister.... That was all I wanted to
know.\x94

\x93Why, what is the matter, dear?\x94 asked Mme. Cantinet, coming out.

\x93This, child--stop here and look after the dinner while I run round to
speak to monsieur.\x94

\x93He is down below, talking with poor Mme. Cibot, that is crying her eyes
out,\x94 said Mme. Cantinet.

La Sauvage dashed down in such headlong haste that the stairs trembled
beneath her tread.

\x93Monsieur!\x94 she called, and drew him aside a few paces to point out
Topinard.

Topinard was just going away, proud at heart to have made some return
already to the man who had done him so many kindnesses. He had saved
Pons\x92 friend from a trap, by a stratagem from that world behind the
scenes in which every one has more or less ready wit. And within himself
he vowed to protect a musician in his orchestra from future snares set
for his simple sincerity.

\x93Do you see that little wretch?\x94 said La Sauvage. \x93He is a kind of
honest man that has a mind to poke his nose into M. Schmucke\x92s affairs.\x94

\x93Who is he?\x94 asked Fraisier.

\x93Oh! he is a nobody.\x94

\x93In business there is no such thing as a nobody.\x94

\x93Oh, he is employed at the theatre,\x94 said she; \x93his name is Topinard.\x94

\x93Good, Mme. Sauvage! Go on like this, and you shall have your
tobacconist\x92s shop.\x94

And Fraisier resumed his conversation with Mme. Cibot.

\x93So I say, my dear client, that you have not played openly and
above-board with me, and that one is not bound in any way to a partner
who cheats.\x94

\x93And how have I cheated you?\x94 asked La Cibot, hands on hips. \x93Do you
think that you will frighten me with your sour looks and your frosty
airs? You look about for bad reasons for breaking your promises, and
you call yourself an honest man! Do you know what you are? You are a
blackguard! Yes! yes! scratch your arm; but just pocket that--\x94

\x93No words, and keep your temper, dearie. Listen to me. You have been
feathering your nest.... I found this catalogue this morning while we
were getting ready for the funeral; it is all in M. Pons\x92 handwriting,
and made out in duplicate. And as it chanced, my eyes fell on this--\x94

And opening the catalogue, he read:

  \x93No. 7. _Magnificent portrait painted on marble, by Sebastian del
  Piombo, in 1546. Sold by a family who had it removed from Terni
  Cathedral. The picture, which represents a Knight-Templar kneeling
  in prayer, used to hang above a tomb of the Rossi family with a
  companion portrait of a Bishop, afterwards purchased by an
  Englishman. The portrait might be attributed to Raphael, but for
  the date. This example is, to my mind, superior to the portrait of
  Baccio Bandinelli in the Musee; the latter is a little hard, while
  the Templar, being painted upon \x91lavagna,\x92 or slate, has preserved
  its freshness of coloring._\x94

\x93When I come to look for No. 7,\x94 continued Fraisier, \x93I find a portrait
of a lady, signed \x91Chardin,\x92 without a number on it! I went through the
pictures with the catalogue while the master of ceremonies was making up
the number of pall-bearers, and found that eight of those indicated
as works of capital importance by M. Pons had disappeared, and
eight paintings of no special merit, and without numbers, were
there instead.... And finally, one was missing altogether, a little
panel-painting by Metzu, described in the catalogue as a masterpiece.\x94

\x93And was _I_ in charge of the pictures?\x94 demanded La Cibot.

\x93No; but you were in a position of trust. You were M. Pons\x92 housekeeper,
you looked after his affairs, and he has been robbed--\x94

\x93Robbed! Let me tell you this, sir: M. Schmucke sold the pictures, by M.
Pons\x92 orders, to meet expenses.\x94

\x93And to whom?\x94

\x93To Messrs. Elie Magus and Remonencq.\x94

\x93For how much?\x94

\x93I am sure I do not remember.\x94

\x93Look here, my dear madame; you have been feathering your nest, and very
snugly. I shall keep an eye upon you; I have you safe. Help me, I will
say nothing! In any case, you know that since you deemed it expedient to
plunder M. le President Camusot, you ought not to expect anything from
_him_.\x94

\x93I was sure that this would all end in smoke, for me,\x94 said La Cibot,
mollified by the words \x93I will say nothing.\x94

Remonencq chimed in at this point.

\x93Here are you finding fault with Mme. Cibot; that is not right!\x94 he
said. \x93The pictures were sold by private treaty between M. Pons, M.
Magus, and me. We waited for three days before we came to terms with the
deceased; he slept on his pictures. We took receipts in proper form; and
if we gave Madame Cibot a few forty-franc pieces, it is the custom of
the trade--we always do so in private houses when we conclude a bargain.
Ah! my dear sir, if you think to cheat a defenceless woman, you will not
make a good bargain! Do you understand, master lawyer?--M. Magus rules
the market, and if you do not come down off the high horse, if you do
not keep your word to Mme. Cibot, I shall wait till the collection is
sold, and you shall see what you will lose if you have M. Magus and
me against you; we can get the dealers in a ring. Instead of realizing
seven or eight hundred thousand francs, you will not so much as make two
hundred thousand.\x94

\x93Good, good, we shall see. We are not going to sell; or if we do, it
will be in London.\x94

\x93We know London,\x94 said Remonencq. \x93M. Magus is as powerful there as at
Paris.\x94

\x93Good-day, madame; I shall sift these matters to the bottom,\x94 said
Fraisier--\x93unless you continue to do as I tell you\x94 he added.

\x93You little pickpocket!--\x94

\x93Take care! I shall be a justice of the peace before long.\x94 And with
threats understood to the full upon either side, they separated.

\x93Thank you, Remonencq!\x94 said La Cibot; \x93it is very pleasant to a poor
widow to find a champion.\x94



Towards ten o\x92clock that evening, Gaudissart sent for Topinard.
The manager was standing with his back to the fire, in a Napoleonic
attitude--a trick which he had learned since be began to command his
army of actors, dancers, _figurants_, musicians, and stage carpenters.
He grasped his left-hand brace with his right hand, always thrust into
his waistcoat; the head was flung far back, his eyes gazed out into
space.

\x93Ah! I say, Topinard, have you independent means?\x94

\x93No, sir.\x94

\x93Are you on the lookout to better yourself somewhere else?\x94

\x93No, sir--\x94 said Topinard, with a ghastly countenance.

\x93Why, hang it all, your wife takes the first row of boxes out of respect
to my predecessor, who came to grief; I gave you the job of cleaning the
lamps in the wings in the daytime, and you put out the scores. And that
is not all, either. You get twenty sous for acting monsters and managing
devils when a hell is required. There is not a super that does not covet
your post, and there are those that are jealous of you, my friend; you
have enemies in the theatre.\x94

\x93Enemies!\x94 repeated Topinard.

\x93And you have three children; the oldest takes children\x92s parts at fifty
centimes--\x94

\x93Sir!--\x94

\x93You want to meddle in other people\x92s business, and put your finger
into a will case.--Why, you wretched man, you would be crushed like an
egg-shell! My patron is His Excellency, Monseigneur le Comte Popinot, a
clever man and a man of high character, whom the King in his wisdom
has summoned back to the privy council. This statesman, this great
politician, has married his eldest son to a daughter of M. le President
de Marville, one of the foremost men among the high courts of justice;
one of the leading lights of the law-courts. Do you know the law-courts?
Very good. Well, he is cousin and heir to M. Pons, to our old conductor
whose funeral you attended this morning. I do not blame you for going
to pay the last respects to him, poor man.... But if you meddle in M.
Schmucke\x92s affairs, you will lose your place. I wish very well to M.
Schmucke, but he is in a delicate position with regard to the heirs--and
as the German is almost nothing to me, and the President and Count
Popinot are a great deal, I recommend you to leave the worthy German to
get out of his difficulties by himself. There is a special Providence
that watches over Germans, and the part of deputy guardian-angel would
not suit you at all. Do you see? Stay as you are--you cannot do better.\x94

\x93Very good, monsieur le directeur,\x94 said Topinard, much distressed. And
in this way Schmucke lost the protector sent to him by fate, the one
creature that shed a tear for Pons, the poor super for whose return he
looked on the morrow.

Next morning poor Schmucke awoke to a sense of his great and heavy loss.
He looked round the empty rooms. Yesterday and the day before yesterday
the preparations for the funeral had made a stir and bustle which
distracted his eyes; but the silence which follows the day, when the
friend, father, son, or loved wife has been laid in the grave--the dull,
cold silence of the morrow is terrible, is glacial. Some irresistible
force drew him to Pons\x92 chamber, but the sight of it was more than the
poor man could bear; he shrank away and sat down in the dining-room,
where Mme. Sauvage was busy making breakfast ready.

Schmucke drew his chair to the table, but he could eat nothing. A
sudden, somewhat sharp ringing of the door-bell rang through the house,
and Mme. Cantinet and Mme. Sauvage allowed three black-coated personages
to pass. First came Vitel, the justice of the peace, with his highly
respectable clerk; third was Fraisier, neither sweeter nor milder for
the disappointing discovery of a valid will canceling the formidable
instrument so audaciously stolen by him.

\x93We have come to affix seals on the property,\x94 the justice of the peace
said gently, addressing Schmucke. But the remark was Greek to Schmucke;
he gazed in dismay at his three visitors.

\x93We have come at the request of M. Fraisier, legal representative of M.
Camusot de Marville, heir of the late Pons--\x94 added the clerk.

\x93The collection is here in this great room, and in the bedroom of the
deceased,\x94 remarked Fraisier.

\x93Very well, let us go into the next room.--Pardon us, sir; do not let us
interrupt with your breakfast.\x94

The invasion struck an icy chill of terror into poor Schmucke.
Fraisier\x92s venomous glances seemed to possess some magnetic influence
over his victims, like the power of a spider over a fly.

\x93M. Schmucke understood how to turn a will, made in the presence of
a notary, to his own advantage,\x94 he said, \x93and he surely must have
expected some opposition from the family. A family does not allow itself
to be plundered by a stranger without some protest; and we shall
see, sir, which carries the day--fraud and corruption or the rightful
heirs.... We have a right as next of kin to affix seals, and seals shall
be affixed. I mean to see that the precaution is taken with the utmost
strictness.\x94

\x93Ach, mein Gott! how haf I offended against Hefn?\x94 cried the innocent
Schmucke.

\x93There is a good deal of talk about you in the house,\x94 said La Sauvage.
\x93While you were asleep, a little whipper-snapper in a black suit came
here, a puppy that said he was M. Hannequin\x92s head-clerk, and must see
you at all costs; but as you were asleep and tired out with the funeral
yesterday, I told him that M. Villemot, Tabareau\x92s head-clerk, was
acting for you, and if it was a matter of business, I said, he might
speak to M. Villemot. \x91Ah, so much the better!\x92 the youngster said. \x91I
shall come to an understanding with him. We will deposit the will at the
Tribunal, after showing it to the President.\x92 So at that, I told him to
ask M. Villemot to come here as soon as he could.--Be easy, my dear sir,
there are those that will take care of you. They shall not shear the
fleece off your back. You will have some one that has beak and claws.
M. Villemot will give them a piece of his mind. I have put myself in a
passion once already with that abominable hussy, La Cibot, a porter\x92s
wife that sets up to judge her lodgers, forsooth, and insists that you
have filched the money from the heirs; you locked M. Pons up, she says,
and worked upon him till he was stark, staring mad. She got as good as
she gave, though, the wretched woman. \x91You are a thief and a bad lot,\x92
I told her; \x91you will get into the police-courts for all the things that
you have stolen from the gentlemen,\x92 and she shut up.\x94

The clerk came out to speak to Schmucke.

\x93Would you wish to be present, sir, when the seals are affixed in the
next room?\x94

\x93Go on, go on,\x94 said Schmucke; \x93I shall pe allowed to die in beace, I
bresume?\x94

\x93Oh, under any circumstances a man has a right to die,\x94 the clerk
answered, laughing; \x93most of our business relates to wills. But, in my
experience, the universal legatee very seldom follows the testator to
the tomb.\x94

\x93I am going,\x94 said Schmucke. Blow after blow had given him an
intolerable pain at the heart.

\x93Oh! here comes M. Villemot!\x94 exclaimed La Sauvage.

\x93Mennesir Fillemod,\x94 said poor Schmucke, \x93rebresent me.\x94

\x93I hurried here at once,\x94 said Villemot. \x93I have come to tell you that
the will is completely in order; it will certainly be confirmed by the
court, and you will be put in possession. You will have a fine fortune.\x94

\x93_I?_ Ein fein vordune?\x94 cried Schmucke, despairingly. That he of all
men should be suspected of caring for the money!

\x93And meantime what is the justice of the peace doing here with his wax
candles and his bits of tape?\x94 asked La Sauvage.

\x93Oh, he is affixing seals.... Come, M. Schmucke, you have a right to be
present.\x94

\x93No--go in yourself.\x94

\x93But where is the use of the seals if M. Schmucke is in his own house
and everything belongs to him?\x94 asked La Sauvage, doing justice in
feminine fashion, and interpreting the Code according to their fancy,
like one and all of her sex.

\x93M. Schmucke is not in possession, madame; he is in M. Pons\x92 house.
Everything will be his, no doubt; but the legatee cannot take possession
without an authorization--an order from the Tribunal. And if the
next-of-kin set aside by the testator should dispute the order, a
lawsuit is the result. And as nobody knows what may happen, everything
is sealed up, and the notaries representing either side proceed to draw
up an inventory during the delay prescribed by the law.... And there you
are!\x94

Schmucke, hearing such talk for the first time in his life, was
completely bewildered by it; his head sank down upon the back of his
chair--he could not support it, it had grown so heavy.

Villemot meanwhile went off to chat with the justice of the peace and
his clerk, assisting with professional coolness to affix the seals--a
ceremony which always involves some buffoonery and plentiful comments on
the objects thus secured, unless, indeed, one of the family happens to
be present. At length the party sealed up the chamber and returned to
the dining-room, whither the clerk betook himself. Schmucke watched the
mechanical operation which consists in setting the justice\x92s seal
at either end of a bit of tape stretched across the opening of a
folding-door; or, in the case of a cupboard or ordinary door, from edge
to edge above the door-handle.

\x93Now for this room,\x94 said Fraisier, pointing to Schmucke\x92s bedroom,
which opened into the dining-room.

\x93But that is M. Schmucke\x92s own room,\x94 remonstrated La Sauvage, springing
in front of the door.

\x93We found the lease among the papers,\x94 Fraisier said ruthlessly; \x93there
was no mention of M. Schmucke in it; it is taken out in M. Pons\x92 name
only. The whole place, and every room in it, is a part of the estate.
And besides\x94--flinging open the door--\x93look here, monsieur le juge de la
paix, it is full of pictures.\x94

\x93So it is,\x94 answered the justice of the peace, and Fraisier thereupon
gained his point.

\x93Wait a bit, gentlemen,\x94 said Villemot. \x93Do you know that you are
turning the universal legatee out of doors, and as yet his right has not
been called in question?\x94

\x93Yes, it has,\x94 said Fraisier; \x93we are opposing the transfer of the
property.\x94

\x93And upon what grounds?\x94

\x93You shall know that by and by, my boy,\x94 Fraisier replied, banteringly.
\x93At this moment, if the legatee withdraws everything that he declares
to be his, we shall raise no objections, but the room itself will be
sealed. And M. Schmucke may lodge where he pleases.\x94

\x93No,\x94 said Villemot; \x93M. Schmucke is going to stay in his room.\x94

\x93And how?\x94

\x93I shall demand an immediate special inquiry,\x94 continued Villemot, \x93and
prove that we pay half the rent. You shall not turn us out. Take away
the pictures, decide on the ownership of the various articles, but here
my client stops--\x91my boy.\x92\x94

\x93I shall go out!\x94 the old musician suddenly said. He had recovered
energy during the odious dispute.

\x93You had better,\x94 said Fraisier. \x93Your course will save expense to you,
for your contention would not be made good. The lease is evidence--\x94

\x93The lease! the lease!\x94 cried Villemot, \x93it is a question of good
faith--\x94

\x93That could only be proved in a criminal case, by calling witnesses.--Do
you mean to plunge into experts\x92 fees and verifications, and orders
to show cause why judgment should not be given, and law proceedings
generally?\x94

\x93No, no!\x94 cried Schmucke in dismay. \x93I shall turn out; I am used to
it--\x94

In practice Schmucke was a philosopher, an unconscious cynic, so greatly
had he simplified his life. Two pairs of shoes, a pair of boots,
a couple of suits of clothes, a dozen shirts, a dozen bandana
handkerchiefs, four waistcoats, a superb pipe given to him by Pons, with
an embroidered tobacco-pouch--these were all his belongings. Overwrought
by a fever of indignation, he went into his room and piled his clothes
upon a chair.

\x93All dese are mine,\x94 he said, with simplicity worthy of Cincinnatus.
\x93Der biano is also mine.\x94

Fraisier turned to La Sauvage. \x93Madame, get help,\x94 he said; \x93take that
piano out and put it on the landing.\x94

\x93You are too rough into the bargain,\x94 said Villemot, addressing
Fraisier. \x93The justice of the peace gives orders here; he is supreme.\x94

\x93There are valuables in the room,\x94 put in the clerk.

\x93And besides,\x94 added the justice of the peace, \x93M. Schmucke is going out
of his own free will.\x94

\x93Did any one ever see such a client!\x94 Villemot cried indignantly,
turning upon Schmucke. \x93You are as limp as a rag--\x94

\x93Vat dos it matter vere von dies?\x94 Schmucke said as he went out. \x93Dese
men haf tiger faces.... I shall send somebody to vetch mein bits of
dings.\x94

\x93Where are you going, sir?\x94

\x93Vere it shall blease Gott,\x94 returned Pons\x92 universal legatee with
supreme indifference.

\x93Send me word,\x94 said Villemot.

Fraisier turned to the head-clerk. \x93Go after him,\x94 he whispered.

Mme. Cantinet was left in charge, with a provision of fifty francs paid
out of the money that they found. The justice of the peace looked out;
there Schmucke stood in the courtyard looking up at the windows for the
last time.

\x93You have found a man of butter,\x94 remarked the justice.

\x93Yes,\x94 said Fraisier, \x93yes. The thing is as good as done. You need not
hesitate to marry your granddaughter to Poulain; he will be head-surgeon
at the Quinze-Vingts.\x94 (The Asylum founded by St. Louis for three
hundred blind people.)

\x93We shall see.--Good-day, M. Fraisier,\x94 said the justice of the peace
with a friendly air.

\x93There is a man with a head on his shoulders,\x94 remarked the justice\x92s
clerk. \x93The dog will go a long way.\x94

By this time it was eleven o\x92clock. The old German went like an
automaton down the road along which Pons and he had so often walked
together. Wherever he went he saw Pons, he almost thought that Pons was
by his side; and so he reached the theatre just as his friend Topinard
was coming out of it after a morning spent in cleaning the lamps and
meditating on the manager\x92s tyranny.

\x93Oh, shoost der ding for me!\x94 cried Schmucke, stopping his acquaintance.
\x93Dopinart! you haf a lodging someveres, eh?\x94

\x93Yes, sir.\x94

\x93A home off your own?\x94

\x93Yes, sir.\x94

\x93Are you villing to take me for ein poarder? Oh! I shall pay ver\x92
vell; I haf nine hundert vrancs of inkomm, und--I haf not ver\x92 long ter
lif.... I shall gif no drouble vatefer.... I can eat onydings--I only
vant to shmoke mein bipe. Und--you are der only von dat haf shed a tear
for Bons, mit me; und so, I lof you.\x94

\x93I should be very glad, sir; but, to begin with, M. Gaudissart has given
me a proper wigging--\x94

\x93_Vigging?_\x94

\x93That is one way of saying that he combed my hair for me.\x94

\x93_Combed your hair?_\x94

\x93He gave me a scolding for meddling in your affairs.... So we must be
very careful if you come to me. But I doubt whether you will stay when
you have seen the place; you do not know how we poor devils live.\x94

\x93I should rader der boor home of a goot-hearted mann dot haf mourned
Bons, dan der Duileries mit men dot haf ein tiger face.... I haf chust
left tigers in Bons\x92 house; dey vill eat up everydings--\x94

\x93Come with me, sir, and you shall see. But--well, anyhow, there is a
garret. Let us see what Mme. Topinard says.\x94

Schmucke followed like a sheep, while Topinard led the way into one of
the squalid districts which might be called the cancers of Paris--a spot
known as the Cite Bordin. It is a slum out of the Rue de Bondy, a double
row of houses run up by the speculative builder, under the shadow of the
huge mass of the Porte Saint-Martin theatre. The pavement at the higher
end lies below the level of the Rue de Bondy; at the lower it falls away
towards the Rue des Mathurins du Temple. Follow its course and you
find that it terminates in another slum running at right angles to the
first--the Cite Bordin is, in fact, a T-shaped blind alley. Its two
streets thus arranged contain some thirty houses, six or seven stories
high; and every story, and every room in every story, is a workshop and
a warehouse for goods of every sort and description, for this wart upon
the face of Paris is a miniature Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Cabinet-work
and brasswork, theatrical costumes, blown glass, painted porcelain--all
the various fancy goods known as _l\x92article Paris_ are made here. Dirty
and productive like commerce, always full of traffic--foot-passengers,
vans, and drays--the Cite Bourdin is an unsavory-looking neighborhood,
with a seething population in keeping with the squalid surroundings. It
is a not unintelligent artisan population, though the whole power of the
intellect is absorbed by the day\x92s manual labor. Topinard, like every
other inhabitant of the Cite Bourdin, lived in it for the sake of
comparatively low rent, the cause of its existence and prosperity. His
sixth floor lodging, in the second house to the left, looked out upon
the belt of green garden, still in existence, at the back of three or
four large mansions in the Rue de Bondy.

Topinard\x92s apartment consisted of a kitchen and two bedrooms. The first
was a nursery with two little deal bedsteads and a cradle in it, the
second was the bedroom, and the kitchen did duty as a dining-room.
Above, reached by a short ladder, known among builders as a
\x93trap-ladder,\x94 there was a kind of garret, six feet high, with a
sash-window let into the roof. This room, given as a servants\x92 bedroom,
raised the Topinards\x92 establishment from mere \x93rooms\x94 to the dignity of
a tenement, and the rent to a corresponding sum of four hundred francs.
An arched lobby, lighted from the kitchen by a small round window, did
duty as an ante-chamber, and filled the space between the bedroom, the
kitchen, and house doors--three doors in all. The rooms were paved with
bricks, and hung with a hideous wall-paper at threepence apiece; the
chimneypieces that adorned them were of the kind called _capucines_--a
shelf set on a couple of brackets painted to resemble wood. Here in
these three rooms dwelt five human beings, three of them children. Any
one, therefore, can imagine how the walls were covered with scores and
scratches so far as an infant arm can reach.

Rich people can scarcely realize the extreme simplicity of a poor man\x92s
kitchen. A Dutch oven, a kettle, a gridiron, a saucepan, two or three
dumpy cooking-pots, and a frying-pan--that was all. All the crockery in
the place, white and brown earthenware together, was not worth more than
twelve francs. Dinner was served on the kitchen table, which, with a
couple of chairs and a couple of stools, completed the furniture. The
stock of fuel was kept under the stove with a funnel-shaped chimney,
and in a corner stood the wash-tub in which the family linen lay, often
steeping over-night in soapsuds. The nursery ceiling was covered with
clothes-lines, the walls were variegated with theatrical placards and
wood-cuts from newspapers or advertisements. Evidently the eldest boy,
the owner of the school-books stacked in a corner, was left in
charge while his parents were absent at the theatre. In many a French
workingman\x92s family, so soon as a child reaches the age of six or seven,
it plays the part of mother to younger sisters and brothers.

From this bare outline, it may be imagined that the Topinards, to use
the hackneyed formula, were \x93poor but honest.\x94 Topinard himself was
verging on forty; Mme. Topinard, once leader of a chorus--mistress, too,
it was said, of Gaudissart\x92s predecessor, was certainly thirty years
old. Lolotte had been a fine woman in her day; but the misfortunes of
the previous management had told upon her to such an extent, that it
had seemed to her to be both advisable and necessary to contract a
stage-marriage with Topinard. She did not doubt but that, as soon as
they could muster the sum of a hundred and fifty francs, her Topinard
would perform his vows agreeably to the civil law, were it only to
legitimize the three children, whom he worshiped. Meantime, Mme.
Topinard sewed for the theatre wardrobe in the morning; and with
prodigious effort, the brave couple made nine hundred francs per annum
between them.

\x93One more flight!\x94 Topinard had twice repeated since they reached the
third floor. Schmucke, engulfed in his sorrow, did not so much as know
whether he was going up or coming down.

In another minute Topinard had opened the door; but before he appeared
in his white workman\x92s blouse Mme. Topinard\x92s voice rang from the
kitchen:

\x93There, there! children, be quiet! here comes papa!\x94

But the children, no doubt, did as they pleased with papa, for the
oldest member of the family, sitting astride a broomstick, continued to
command a charge of cavalry (a reminiscence of the Cirque-Olympique),
the second blew a tin trumpet, while the third did its best to keep up
with the main body of the army. Their mother was at work on a theatrical
costume.

\x93Be quiet! or I shall slap you!\x94 shouted Topinard in a formidable
voice; then in an aside for Schmucke\x92s benefit--\x93Always have to say
that!--Here, little one,\x94 he continued, addressing his Lolotte, \x93this is
M. Schmucke, poor M. Pons\x92 friend. He does not know where to go, and
he would like to live with us. I told him that we were not very
spick-and-span up here, that we lived on the sixth floor, and had only
the garret to offer him; but it was no use, he would come--\x94

Schmucke had taken the chair which the woman brought him, and the
children, stricken with sudden shyness, had gathered together to
give the stranger that mute, earnest, so soon-finished scrutiny
characteristic of childhood. For a child, like a dog, is wont to judge
by instinct rather than reason. Schmucke looked up; his eyes rested on
that charming little picture; he saw the performer on the tin trumpet, a
little five-year-old maiden with wonderful golden hair.

\x93She looks like ein liddle German girl,\x94 said Schmucke, holding out his
arms to the child.

\x93Monsieur will not be very comfortable here,\x94 said Mme. Topinard. \x93I
would propose that he should have our room at once, but I am obliged to
have the children near me.\x94

She opened the door as she spoke, and bade Schmucke come in. Such
splendor as their abode possessed was all concentrated here. Blue
cotton curtains with a white fringe hung from the mahogany bedstead, and
adorned the window; the chest of drawers, bureau, and chairs, though all
made of mahogany, were neatly kept. The clock and candlesticks on the
chimneypiece were evidently the gift of the bankrupt manager, whose
portrait, a truly frightful performance of Pierre Grassou\x92s, looked
down upon the chest of drawers. The children tried to peep in at the
forbidden glories.

\x93Monsieur might be comfortable in here,\x94 said their mother.

\x93No, no,\x94 Schmucke replied. \x93Eh! I haf not ver\x92 long to lif, I only vant
a corner to die in.\x94

The door was closed, and the three went up to the garret. \x93Dis is der
ding for me,\x94 Schmucke cried at once. \x93Pefore I lifd mid Bons, I vas
nefer better lodged.\x94

\x93Very well. A truckle-bed, a couple of mattresses, a bolster, a pillow,
a couple of chairs, and a table--that is all that you need to buy. That
will not ruin you--it may cost a hundred and fifty francs, with the
crockeryware and strip of carpet for the bedside.\x94

Everything was settled--save the money, which was not forthcoming.
Schmucke saw that his new friends were very poor, and recollecting that
the theatre was only a few steps away, it naturally occurred to him
to apply to the manager for his salary. He went at once, and found
Gaudissart in his office. Gaudissart received him in the somewhat
stiffly polite manner which he reserved for professionals. Schmucke\x92s
demand for a month\x92s salary took him by surprise, but on inquiry he
found that it was due.

\x93Oh, confound it, my good man, a German can always count, even if he has
tears in his eyes.... I thought that you would have taken the thousand
francs that I sent you into account, as a final year\x92s salary, and that
we were quits.\x94

\x93We haf receifed nodings,\x94 said Schmucke; \x93und gif I komm to you, it ees
because I am in der shtreet, und haf not ein benny. How did you send us
der bonus?\x94

\x93By your portress.\x94

\x93By Montame Zipod!\x94 exclaimed Schmucke. \x93She killed Bons, she robbed
him, she sold him--she tried to purn his vill--she is a pad creature, a
monster!\x94

\x93But, my good man, how come you to be out in the street without a roof
over your head or a penny in your pocket, when you are the sole heir?
That does not necessarily follow, as the saying is.\x94

\x93They haf put me out at der door. I am a voreigner, I know nodings of
die laws.\x94

\x93Poor man!\x94 thought Gaudissart, foreseeing the probable end of the
unequal contest.--\x93Listen,\x94 he began, \x93do you know what you ought to do
in this business?\x94

\x93I haf ein mann of pizness!\x94

\x93Very good, come to terms at once with the next-of-kin; make them
pay you a lump sum of money down and an annuity, and you can live in
peace--\x94

\x93I ask noding more.\x94

\x93Very well. Let me arrange it for you,\x94 said Gaudissart. Fraisier had
told him the whole story only yesterday, and he thought that he saw his
way to making interest out of the case with the young Vicomtesse Popinot
and her mother. He would finish a dirty piece of work, and some day he
would be a privy councillor, at least; or so he told himself.

\x93I gif you full powers.\x94

\x93Well. Let me see. Now, to begin with,\x94 said Gaudissart, Napoleon of
the boulevard theatres, \x93to begin with, here are a hundred crowns--\x94 (he
took fifteen louis from his purse and handed them to Schmucke).

\x93That is yours, on account of six months\x92 salary. If you leave the
theatre, you can repay me the money. Now for your budget. What are your
yearly expenses? How much do you want to be comfortable? Come, now,
scheme out a life for a Sardanapalus--\x94

\x93I only need two suits of clothes, von for der vinter, von for der
sommer.\x94

\x93Three hundred francs,\x94 said Gaudissart.

\x93Shoes. Vour bairs.\x94

\x93Sixty francs.\x94

\x93Shtockings--\x94

\x93A dozen pairs--thirty-six francs.\x94

\x93Half a tozzen shirts.\x94

\x93Six calico shirts, twenty-four francs; as many linen shirts,
forty-eight francs; let us say seventy-two. That makes four hundred and
sixty-eight francs altogether.--Say five hundred, including cravats and
pocket-handkerchiefs; a hundred francs for the laundress--six hundred.
And now, how much for your board--three francs a day?\x94

\x93No, it ees too much.\x94

\x93After all, you want hats; that brings it to fifteen hundred. Five
hundred more for rent; that makes two thousand. If I can get two
thousand francs per annum for you, are you willing?... Good securities.\x94

\x93Und mein tobacco.\x94

\x93Two thousand four hundred, then.... Oh! Papa Schmucke, do you call
that tobacco? Very well, the tobacco shall be given in.--So that is two
thousand four hundred francs per annum.\x94

\x93Dat ees not all! I should like som monny.\x94

\x93Pin-money!--Just so. Oh, these Germans! And calls himself an innocent,
the old Robert Macaire!\x94 thought Gaudissart. Aloud he said, \x93How much do
you want? But this must be the last.\x94

\x93It ees to bay a zacred debt.\x94

\x93A debt!\x94 said Gaudissart to himself. What a shark it is! He is worse
than an eldest son. He will invent a bill or two next! We must cut this
short. This Fraisier cannot take large views.--What debt is this, my
good man? Speak out.\x94

\x93Dere vas but von mann dot haf mourned Bons mit me.... He haf a tear
liddle girl mit wunderschones haar; it vas as if I saw mein boor
Deutschland dot I should nefer haf left.... Baris is no blace for die
Germans; dey laugh at dem\x94 (with a little nod as he spoke, and the air
of a man who knows something of life in this world below).

\x93He is off his head,\x94 Gaudissart said to himself. And a sudden pang of
pity for this poor innocent before him brought a tear to the manager\x92s
eyes.

\x93Ah! you understand, mennesir le directeur! Ver\x92 goot. Dat mann mit die
liddle taughter is Dobinard, vat tidies der orchestra and lights die
lamps. Bons vas fery fond of him, und helped him. He vas der only von
dat accombanied mein only friend to die church und to die grafe.... I
vant dree tausend vrancs for him, und dree tausend for die liddle von--\x94

\x93Poor fellow!\x94 said Gaudissart to himself.

Rough, self-made man though he was, he felt touched by this nobleness of
nature, by a gratitude for a mere trifle, as the world views it; though
for the eyes of this divine innocence the trifle, like Bossuet\x92s cup of
water, was worth more than the victories of great captains. Beneath all
Gaudissart\x92s vanity, beneath the fierce desire to succeed in life at all
costs, to rise to the social level of his old friend Popinot, there lay
a warm heart and a kindly nature. Wherefore he canceled his too hasty
judgments and went over to Schmucke\x92s side.

\x93You shall have it all! But I will do better still, my dear Schmucke.
Topinard is a good sort--\x94

\x93Yes. I haf chust peen to see him in his boor home, vere he ees happy
mit his children--\x94

\x93I will give him the cashier\x92s place. Old Baudrand is going to leave.\x94

\x93Ah! Gott pless you!\x94 cried Schmucke.

\x93Very well, my good, kind fellow, meet me at Berthier\x92s office about
four o\x92clock this afternoon. Everything shall be ready, and you shall
be secured from want for the rest of your days. You shall draw your six
thousand francs, and you shall have the same salary with Garangeot that
you used to have with Pons.\x94

\x93No,\x94 Schmucke answered. \x93I shall not lif.... I haf no heart for
anydings; I feel that I am attacked--\x94

\x93Poor lamb!\x94 Gaudissart muttered to himself as the German took his
leave. \x93But, after all, one lives on mutton; and, as the sublime
Beranger says, \x91Poor sheep! you were made to be shorn,\x92\x94 and he hummed
the political squib by way of giving vent to his feelings. Then he rang
for the office-boy.

\x93Call my carriage,\x94 he said.

\x93Rue de Hanovre,\x94 he told the coachman.

The man of ambitions by this time had reappeared; he saw the way to the
Council of State lying straight before him.



And Schmucke? He was busy buying flowers and cakes for Topinard\x92s
children, and went home almost joyously.

\x93I am gifing die bresents...\x94 he said, and he smiled. It was the first
smile for three months, but any one who had seen Schmucke\x92s face would
have shuddered to see it there.

\x93But dere is ein condition--\x94

\x93It is too kind of you, sir,\x94 said the mother.

\x93De liddle girl shall gif me a kiss and put die flowers in her hair,
like die liddle German maidens--\x94

\x93Olga, child, do just as the gentleman wishes,\x94 said the mother,
assuming an air of discipline.

\x93Do not scold mein liddle German girl,\x94 implored Schmucke. It seemed to
him that the little one was his dear Germany. Topinard came in.

\x93Three porters are bringing up the whole bag of tricks,\x94 he said.

\x93Oh! Here are two hundred vrancs to bay for eferydings...\x94 said
Schmucke. \x93But, mein friend, your Montame Dobinard is ver\x92 nice; you
shall marry her, is it not so? I shall gif you tausend crowns, and die
liddle vone shall haf tausend crowns for her toury, and you shall infest
it in her name.... Und you are not to pe ein zuper any more--you are to
pe de cashier at de teatre--\x94

\x93_I_?--instead of old Baudrand?\x94

\x93Yes.\x94

\x93Who told you so?\x94

\x93Mennesir Gautissart!\x94

\x93Oh! it is enough to send one wild with joy!... Eh! I say, Rosalie, what
a rumpus there will be at the theatre! But it is not possible--\x94

\x93Our benefactor must not live in a garret--\x94

\x93Pshaw! for die few tays dat I haf to lif it ees fery komfortable,\x94 said
Schmucke. \x93Goot-pye; I am going to der zemetery, to see vat dey haf don
mit Bons, und to order som flowers for his grafe.\x94



Mme. Camusot de Marville was consumed by the liveliest apprehensions.
At a council held with Fraisier, Berthier, and Godeschal, the two
last-named authorities gave it as their opinion that it was hopeless
to dispute a will drawn up by two notaries in the presence of two
witnesses, so precisely was the instrument worded by Leopold Hannequin.
Honest Godeschal said that even if Schmucke\x92s own legal adviser should
succeed in deceiving him, he would find out the truth at last, if it
were only from some officious barrister, the gentlemen of the robe being
wont to perform such acts of generosity and disinterestedness by way
of self-advertisement. And the two officials took their leave of the
Presidente with a parting caution against Fraisier, concerning whom they
had naturally made inquiries.

At that very moment Fraisier, straight from the affixing of the seals
in the Rue de Normandie, was waiting for an interview with Mme. de
Marville. Berthier and Godeschal had suggested that he should be shown
into the study; the whole affair was too dirty for the President to
look into (to use their own expression), and they wished to give Mme. de
Marville their opinion in Fraisier\x92s absence.

\x93Well, madame, where are these gentlemen?\x94 asked Fraisier, admitted to
audience.

\x93They are gone. They advise me to give up,\x94 said Mme. de Marville.

\x93Give up!\x94 repeated Fraisier, suppressed fury in his voice. \x93Give up!
... Listen to this, madame:--

  \x93\x91At the request of\x92... and so forth (I will omit the
  formalities)... \x91Whereas there has been deposited in the hands
  of M. le President of the Court of First Instance, a will drawn up
  by Maitres Leopold Hannequin and Alexandre Crottat, notaries of
  Paris, and in the presence of two witnesses, the Sieurs Brunner
  and Schwab, aliens domiciled at Paris, and by the said will the
  Sieur Pons, deceased, has bequeathed his property to one Sieur
  Schmucke, a German, to the prejudice of his natural heirs:

  \x93\x91Whereas the applicant undertakes to prove that the said will
  was obtained under undue influence and by unlawful means; and
  persons of credit are prepared to show that it was the testator\x92s
  intention to leave his fortune to Mlle. Cecile, daughter of the
  aforesaid Sieur de Marville, and the applicant can show that the
  said will was extorted from the testator\x92s weakness, he being
  unaccountable for his actions at the time:

  \x93\x91Whereas as the Sieur Schmucke, to obtain a will in his favor,
  sequestrated the testator, and prevented the family from
  approaching the deceased during his last illness; and his
  subsequent notorious ingratitude was of a nature to scandalize the
  house and residents in the quarter who chanced to witness it when
  attending the funeral of the porter at the testator\x92s place of
  abode:

  \x93\x91Whereas as still more serious charges, of which applicant is
  collecting proofs, will be formally made before their worships the
  judges:

  \x93\x91I, the undersigned Registrar of the Court, etc., etc., on
  behalf of the aforesaid, etc., have summoned the Sieur Schmucke,
  pleading, etc., to appear before their worships the judges of the
  first chamber of the Tribunal, and to be present when application
  is made that the will received by Maitres Hannequin and Crottat,
  being evidently obtained by undue influence, shall be regarded as
  null and void in law; and I, the undersigned, on behalf of the
  aforesaid, etc., have likewise given notice of protest, should the
  Sieur Schmucke as universal legatee make application for an order
  to be put into possession of the estate, seeing that the applicant
  opposes such order, and makes objection by his application bearing
  date of to-day, of which a copy has been duly deposited with the
  Sieur Schmucke, costs being charged to... etc., etc.\x92

\x93I know the man, Mme. le Presidente. He will come to terms as soon as he
reads this little love-letter. He will take our terms. Are you going to
give the thousand crowns per annum?\x94

\x93Certainly. I only wish I were paying the first installment now.\x94

\x93It will be done in three days. The summons will come down upon him
while he is stupefied with grief, for the poor soul regrets Pons and is
taking the death to heart.\x94

\x93Can the application be withdrawn?\x94 inquired the lady.

\x93Certainly, madame. You can withdraw it at any time.\x94

\x93Very well, monsieur, let it be so... go on! Yes, the purchase of land
that you have arranged for me is worth the trouble; and, besides, I
have managed Vitel\x92s business--he is to retire, and you must pay Vitel\x92s
sixty thousand francs out of Pons\x92 property. So, you see, you must
succeed.\x94

\x93Have you Vitel\x92s resignation?\x94

\x93Yes, monsieur. M. Vitel has put himself in M. de Marville\x92s hands.\x94

\x93Very good, madame. I have already saved you sixty thousand francs which
I expected to give to that vile creature Mme. Cibot. But I still require
the tobacconist\x92s license for the woman Sauvage, and an appointment to
the vacant place of head-physician at the Quinze-Vingts for my friend
Poulain.\x94

\x93Agreed--it is all arranged.\x94

\x93Very well. There is no more to be said. Every one is for you in this
business, even Gaudissart, the manager of the theatre. I went to look
him up yesterday, and he undertook to crush the workman who seemed
likely to give us trouble.\x94

\x93Oh, I know M. Gaudissart is devoted to the Popinots.\x94

Fraisier went out. Unluckily, he missed Gaudissart, and the fatal
summons was served forthwith.

If all covetous minds will sympathize with the Presidente, all honest
folk will turn in abhorrence from her joy when Gaudissart came twenty
minutes later to report his conversation with poor Schmucke. She
gave her full approval; she was obliged beyond all expression for
the thoughtful way in which the manager relieved her of any remaining
scruples by observations which seemed to her to be very sensible and
just.

\x93I thought as I came, Mme. la Presidente, that the poor devil would not
know what to do with the money. \x91Tis a patriarchally simple nature. He
is a child, he is a German, he ought to be stuffed and put in a glass
case like a waxen image. Which is to say that, in my opinion, he is
quite puzzled enough already with his income of two thousand five
hundred francs, and here you are provoking him into extravagance--\x94

\x93It is very generous of him to wish to enrich the poor fellow who
regrets the loss of our cousin,\x94 pronounced the Presidente. \x93For my own
part, I am sorry for the little squabble that estranged M. Pons and me.
If he had come back again, all would have been forgiven. If you only
knew how my husband misses him! M. de Marville received no notice of the
death, and was in despair; family claims are sacred for him, he would
have gone to the service and the interment, and I myself would have been
at the mass--\x94

\x93Very well, fair lady,\x94 said Gaudissart. \x93Be so good as to have the
documents drawn up, and at four o\x92clock I will bring this German to you.
Please remember me to your charming daughter the Vicomtesse, and ask
her to tell my illustrious friend the great statesman, her good and
excellent father-in-law, how deeply I am devoted to him and his, and ask
him to continue his valued favors. I owe my life to his uncle the judge,
and my success in life to him; and I should wish to be bound to both you
and your daughter by the high esteem which links us with persons of rank
and influence. I wish to leave the theatre and become a serious person.\x94

\x93As you are already, monsieur!\x94 said the Presidente.

\x93Adorable!\x94 returned Gaudissart, kissing the lady\x92s shriveled fingers.

At four o\x92clock that afternoon several people were gathered together
at Berthier\x92s office; Fraisier, arch-concocter of the whole scheme,
Tabareau, appearing on behalf of Schmucke, and Schmucke himself.
Gaudissart had come with him. Fraisier had been careful to spread out
the money on Berthier\x92s desk, and so dazzled was Schmucke by the sight
of the six thousand-franc bank-notes for which he had asked, and six
hundred francs for the first quarter\x92s allowance, that he paid no heed
whatsoever to the reading of the document. Poor man, he was scarcely in
full possession of his faculties, shaken as they had already been by
so many shocks. Gaudissart had snatched him up on his return from the
cemetery, where he had been talking with Pons, promising to join him
soon--very soon. So Schmucke did not listen to the preamble in which it
was set forth that Maitre Tabareau, bailiff, was acting as his proxy,
and that the Presidente, in the interests of her daughter, was taking
legal proceedings against him. Altogether, in that preamble the German
played a sorry part, but he put his name to the document, and thereby
admitted the truth of Fraisier\x92s abominable allegations; and so joyous
was he over receiving the money for the Topinards, so glad to bestow
wealth according to his little ideas upon the one creature who loved
Pons, that he heard not a word of lawsuit nor compromise.

But in the middle of the reading a clerk came into the private office to
speak to his employer. \x93There is a man here, sir, who wishes to speak to
M. Schmucke,\x94 said he.

The notary looked at Fraisier, and, taking his cue from him, shrugged
his shoulders.

\x93Never disturb us when we are signing documents. Just ask his name--is
it a man or a gentleman? Is he a creditor?\x94

The clerk went and returned. \x93He insists that he must speak to M.
Schmucke.\x94

\x93His name?\x94

\x93His name is Topinard, he says.\x94

\x93I will go out to him. Sign without disturbing yourself,\x94 said
Gaudissart, addressing Schmucke. \x93Make an end of it; I will find out
what he wants with us.\x94

Gaudissart understood Fraisier; both scented danger.

\x93Why are you here?\x94 Gaudissart began. \x93So you have no mind to be cashier
at the theatre? Discretion is a cashier\x92s first recommendation.\x94

\x93Sir--\x94

\x93Just mind your own business; you will never be anything if you meddle
in other people\x92s affairs.\x94

\x93Sir, I cannot eat bread if every mouthful of it is to stick in my
throat.... Monsieur Schmucke!--M. Schmucke!\x94 he shouted aloud.

Schmucke came out at the sound of Topinard\x92s voice. He had just signed.
He held the money in his hand.

\x93Thees ees for die liddle German maiden und for you,\x94 he said.

\x93Oh! my dear M. Schmucke, you have given away your wealth to inhuman
wretches, to people who are trying to take away your good name. I took
this paper to a good man, an attorney who knows this Fraisier, and he
says that you ought to punish such wickedness; you ought to let them
summon you and leave them to get out of it.--Read this,\x94 and Schmucke\x92s
imprudent friend held out the summons delivered in the Cite Bordin.

Standing in the notary\x92s gateway, Schmucke read the document, saw
the imputations made against him, and, all ignorant as he was of the
amenities of the law, the blow was deadly. The little grain of sand
stopped his heart\x92s beating. Topinard caught him in his arms, hailed
a passing cab, and put the poor German into it. He was suffering from
congestion of the brain; his eyes were dim, his head was throbbing, but
he had enough strength left to put the money into Topinard\x92s hands.

Schmucke rallied from the first attack, but he never recovered
consciousness, and refused to eat. Ten days afterwards he died without
a complaint; to the last he had not spoken a word. Mme. Topinard nursed
him, and Topinard laid him by Pons\x92 side. It was an obscure funeral;
Topinard was the only mourner who followed the son of Germany to his
last resting-place.



Fraisier, now a justice of the peace, is very intimate with the
President\x92s family, and much valued by the Presidente. She could not
think of allowing him to marry \x93that girl of Tabareau\x92s,\x94 and promised
infinitely better things for the clever man to whom she considers she
owes not merely the pasture-land and the English cottage at Marville,
but also the President\x92s seat in the Chamber of Deputies, for M. le
President was returned at the general election in 1846.

Every one, no doubt, wishes to know what became of the heroine of a
story only too veracious in its details; a chronicle which, taken with
its twin sister the preceding volume, _La Cousine Bette_, proves that
Character is a great social force. You, O amateurs, connoisseurs, and
dealers, will guess at once that Pons\x92 collection is now in question.
Wherefore it will suffice if we are present during a conversation that
took place only a few days ago in Count Popinot\x92s house. He was showing
his splendid collection to some visitors.

\x93M. le Comte, you possess treasures indeed,\x94 remarked a distinguished
foreigner.

\x93Oh! as to pictures, nobody can hope to rival an obscure collector, one
Elie Magus, a Jew, an old monomaniac, the prince of picture-lovers,\x94 the
Count replied modestly. \x93And when I say nobody, I do not speak of Paris
only, but of all Europe. When the old Croesus dies, France ought
to spare seven or eight millions of francs to buy the gallery. For
curiosities, my collection is good enough to be talked about--\x94

\x93But how, busy as you are, and with a fortune so honestly earned in the
first instance in business--\x94

\x93In the drug business,\x94 broke in Popinot; \x93you ask how I can continue to
interest myself in things that are a drug in the market--\x94

\x93No,\x94 returned the foreign visitor, \x93no, but how do you find time to
collect? The curiosities do not come to find you.\x94

\x93My father-in-law owned the nucleus of the collection,\x94 said the young
Vicomtess; \x93he loved the arts and beautiful work, but most of his
treasures came to him through me.\x94

\x93Through you, madame?--So young! and yet have you such vices as this?\x94
 asked a Russian prince.

Russians are by nature imitative; imitative indeed to such an extent
that the diseases of civilization break out among them in epidemics. The
bric-a-brac mania had appeared in an acute form in St. Petersburg,
and the Russians caused such a rise of prices in the \x93art line,\x94 as
Remonencq would say, that collection became impossible. The prince who
spoke had come to Paris solely to buy bric-a-brac.

\x93The treasures came to me, prince, on the death of a cousin. He was very
fond of me,\x94 added the Vicomtesse Popinot, \x93and he had spent some forty
odd years since 1805 in picking up these masterpieces everywhere, but
more especially in Italy--\x94

\x93And what was his name?\x94 inquired the English lord.

\x93Pons,\x94 said President Camusot.

\x93A charming man he was,\x94 piped the Presidente in her thin, flute tones,
\x93very clever, very eccentric, and yet very good-hearted. This fan that
you admire once belonged to Mme. de Pompadour; he gave it to me one
morning with a pretty speech which you must permit me not to repeat,\x94
 and she glanced at her daughter.

\x93Mme. la Vicomtesse, tell us the pretty speech,\x94 begged the Russian
prince.

\x93The speech was as pretty as the fan,\x94 returned the Vicomtesse, who
brought out the stereotyped remark on all occasions. \x93He told my mother
that it was quite time that it should pass from the hands of vice into
those of virtue.\x94

The English lord looked at Mme. Camusot de Marville with an air of doubt
not a little gratifying to so withered a woman.

\x93He used to dine at our house two or three times a week,\x94 she said; \x93he
was so fond of us! We could appreciate him, and artists like the
society of those who relish their wit. My husband was, besides, his one
surviving relative. So when, quite unexpectedly, M. de Marville
came into the property, M. le Comte preferred to take over the whole
collection to save it from a sale by auction; and we ourselves much
preferred to dispose of it in that way, for it would have been so
painful to us to see the beautiful things, in which our dear cousin was
so much interested, all scattered abroad. Elie Magus valued them, and in
that way I became possessed of the cottage that your uncle built, and I
hope you will do us the honor of coming to see us there.\x94


Gaudissart\x92s theatre passed into other hands a year ago, but M. Topinard
is still the cashier. M. Topinard, however, has grown gloomy and
misanthropic; he says little. People think that he has something on his
conscience. Wags at the theatre suggest that his gloom dates from
his marriage with Lolotte. Honest Topinard starts whenever he hears
Fraisier\x92s name mentioned. Some people may think it strange that the one
nature worthy of Pons and Schmucke should be found on the third floor
beneath the stage of a boulevard theatre.

Mme. Remonencq, much impressed with Mme. Fontaine\x92s prediction, declines
to retire to the country. She is still living in her splendid shop on
the Boulevard de la Madeleine, but she is a widow now for the second
time. Remonencq, in fact, by the terms of the marriage contract, settled
the property upon the survivor, and left a little glass of vitriol
about for his wife to drink by mistake; but his wife, with the very best
intentions, put the glass elsewhere, and Remonencq swallowed the draught
himself. The rascal\x92s appropriate end vindicates Providence, as well as
the chronicler of manners, who is sometimes accused of neglect on this
head, perhaps because Providence has been so overworked by playwrights
of late.



ADDENDUM

The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

     Baudoyer, Isidore
       The Government Clerks
       The Middle Classes

     Berthier (Parisian notary)
       Cousin Betty

     Berthier, Madame
       The Muse of the Department

     Bixiou, Jean-Jacques
       The Purse
       A Bachelor\x92s Establishment
       The Government Clerks
       Modeste Mignon
       Scenes from a Courtesan\x92s Life
       The Firm of Nucingen
       The Muse of the Department
       Cousin Betty
       The Member for Arcis
       Beatrix
       A Man of Business
       Gaudissart II.
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Braulard
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Cousin Betty

     Brisetout, Heloise
       Cousin Betty
       The Middle Classes

     Camusot
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Bachelor\x92s Establishment
       The Muse of the Department
       Cesar Birotteau
       At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

     Camusot de Marville
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       The Commission in Lunacy
       Scenes from a Courtesan\x92s Life

     Camusot de Marville, Madame
       The Vendetta
       Cesar Birotteau
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       Scenes from a Courtesan\x92s Life

     Cardot (Parisian notary)
       The Muse of the Department
       A Man of Business
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       Pierre Grassou
       The Middle Classes

     Chanor
       Cousin Betty

     Crevel, Celestin
       Cesar Birotteau
       Cousin Betty

     Crottat, Alexandre
       Cesar Birotteau
       Colonel Chabert
       A Start in Life
       A Woman of Thirty

     Desplein
       The Atheist\x92s Mass
       Lost Illusions
       The Thirteen
       The Government Clerks
       Pierrette
       A Bachelor\x92s Establishment
       The Seamy Side of History
       Modeste Mignon
       Scenes from a Courtesan\x92s Life
       Honorine

     Florent
       Cousin Betty

     Fontaine, Madame
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Gaudissart, Felix
       Scenes from a Courtesan\x92s Life
       Cesar Birotteau
       Honorine
       Gaudissart the Great

     Godeschal, Francois-Claude-Marie
       Colonel Chabert
       A Bachelor\x92s Establishment
       A Start in Life
       The Commission in Lunacy
       The Middle Classes

     Godeschal, Marie
       A Bachelor\x92s Establishment
       A Start in Life
       Scenes from a Courtesan\x92s Life

     Gouraud, General, Baron
       Pierrette

     Graff, Wolfgang
       Cousin Betty

     Granville, Vicomte de (later Comte)
       The Gondreville Mystery
       Honorine
       A Second Home
       Farewell (Adieu)
       Cesar Birotteau
       Scenes from a Courtesan\x92s Life
       A Daughter of Eve

     Grassou, Pierre
       Pierre Grassou
       A Bachelor\x92s Establishment
       Cousin Betty
       The Middle Classes

     Hannequin, Leopold
       Albert Savarus
       Beatrix
       Cousin Betty

     Haudry (doctor)
       Cesar Birotteau
       The Thirteen
       A Bachelor\x92s Establishment
       The Seamy Side of History

     Lebrun (physician)
       Scenes from a Courtesan\x92s Life

     Louchard
       Scenes from a Courtesan\x92s Life

     Madeleine
       Scenes from a Courtesan\x92s Life

     Magus, Elie
       The Vendetta
       A Marriage Settlement
       A Bachelor\x92s Establishment
       Pierre Grassou

     Matifat (wealthy druggist)
       Cesar Birotteau
       A Bachelor\x92s Establishment
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       The Firm of Nucingen

     Minard, Prudence
       The Middle Classes

     Pillerault, Claude-Joseph
       Cesar Birotteau

     Popinot, Anselme
       Cesar Birotteau
       Gaudissart the Great
       Cousin Betty

     Popinot, Madame Anselme
       Cesar Birotteau
       A Prince of Bohemia
       Cousin Betty

     Popinot, Vicomte
       Cousin Betty

     Rivet, Achille
       Cousin Betty

     Schmucke, Wilhelm
       A Daughter of Eve
       Ursule Mirouet
       Scenes from a Courtesan\x92s Life

     Stevens, Dinah
       A Marriage Settlement

     Stidmann
       Modeste Mignon
       Beatrix
       The Member for Arcis
       Cousin Betty
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Thouvenin
       Cesar Birotteau

     Vinet
       Pierrette
       The Member for Arcis
       The Middle Classes

     Vinet, Olivier
       The Member for Arcis
       The Middle Classes

     Vivet, Madeleine
       Scenes from a Courtesan\x92s Life





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