Part 2 out of 5
relaxed, and the puckers smoothed out at the sight of her; but when,
with inward quakings, she came to speak of a guarantee, she beheld a
sudden and complete change of the tippleographic countenance.
"If I allowed my son to put his hand to the lips of my cash box
whenever he had a mind, he would plunge it deep into the vitals, he
would take all I have!" cried old Sechard. "That is the way with
children; they eat up their parents' purse. What did I do myself, eh?
_I_ never cost my parents a farthing. Your printing office is standing
idle. The rats and the mice do all the printing that is done in
it. . . . You have a pretty face; I am very fond of you; you are a
careful, hard-working woman; but that son of mine!--Do you know what
David is? I'll tell you--he is a scholar that will never do a stroke
of work! If I had reared him, as I was reared myself, without knowing
his letters, and if I had made a 'bear' of him, like his father before
him, he would have money saved and put out to interest by now. . . .
Oh! he is my cross, that fellow is, look you! And, unluckily, he is
all the family I have, for there is never like to be a later edition.
And when he makes you unhappy----"
Eve protested with a vehement gesture of denial.
"Yes, he does," affirmed old Sechard; "you had to find a wet-nurse for
the child. Come, come, I know all about it, you are in the county
court, and the whole town is talking about you. I was only a 'bear,'
_I_ have no book learning, _I_ was not foreman at the Didots', the
first printers in the world; but yet I never set eyes on a bit of
stamped paper. Do you know what I say to myself as I go to and fro
among my vines, looking after them and getting in my vintage, and
doing my bits of business?--I say to myself, 'You are taking a lot of
trouble, poor old chap; working to pile one silver crown on another,
you will leave a fine property behind you, and the bailiffs and the
lawyers will get it all; . . . or else it will go in nonsensical
notions and crotchets.'--Look you here, child; you are the mother of
yonder little lad; it seemed to me as I held him at the font with Mme.
Chardon that I could see his old grandfather's copper nose on his
face; very well, think less of Sechard and more of that little rascal.
I can trust no one but you; you will prevent him from squandering my
property--my poor property."
"But, dear papa Sechard, your son will be a credit to you, you will
see; he will make money and be a rich man one of these days, and wear
the Cross of the Legion of Honor at his buttonhole."
"What is he going to do to get it?"
"You will see. But, meanwhile, would a thousand crowns ruin you? A
thousand crowns would put an end to the proceedings. Well, if you
cannot trust him, lend the money to me; I will pay it back; you could
make it a charge on my portion, on my earnings----"
"Then has some one brought David into a court of law?" cried the
vinedresser, amazed to find that the gossip was really true. "See what
comes of knowing how to write your name! And how about my rent! Oh!
little girl, I must go to Angouleme at once and ask Cachan's advice,
and see that I am straight. You did right well to come over.
Forewarned is forearmed."
After two hours of argument Eve was fain to go, defeated by the
unanswerable dictum, "Women never understand business." She had come
with a faint hope, she went back again almost heartbroken, and reached
home just in time to receive notice of judgment; Sechard must pay
Metivier in full. The appearance of a bailiff at a house door is an
event in a country town, and Doublon had come far too often of late.
The whole neighborhood was talking about the Sechards. Eve dared not
leave her house; she dreaded to hear the whispers as she passed.
"Oh! my brother, my brother!" cried poor Eve, as she hurried into the
passage and up the stairs, "I can never forgive you, unless it
"Alas! it was that, or suicide," said David, who had followed her.
"Let us say no more about it," she said quietly. "The woman who
dragged him down into the depths of Paris has much to answer for; and
your father, my David, is quite inexorable! Let us bear it in
A discreet rapping at the door cut short some word of love on David's
lips. Marion appeared, towing the big, burly Kolb after her across the
"Madame," said Marion, "we have known, Kolb and I, that you and the
master were very much put about; and as we have eleven hundred francs
of savings between us, we thought we could not do better than put them
in the mistress' hands----"
"Die misdress," echoed Kolb fervently.
"Kolb," cried David, "you and I will never part. Pay a thousand francs
on account to Maitre Cachan, and take a receipt for it; we will keep
the rest. And, Kolb, no power on earth must extract a word from you as
to my work, or my absences from home, or the things you may see me
bring back; and if I send you to look for plants for me, you know, no
human being must set eyes on you. They will try to corrupt you, my
good Kolb; they will offer you thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of
francs, to tell----"
"Dey may offer me millions," cried Kolb, "but not ein vort from me
shall dey traw. Haf I not peen in der army, and know my orders?"
"Well, you are warned. March, and ask M. Petit-Claud to go with you as
"Yes," said the Alsacien. "Some tay I hope to be rich enough to dust
der chacket of dat man of law. I don't like his gountenance."
"Kolb is a good man, madame," said Big Marion; "he is as strong as a
Turk, and as meek as a lamb. Just the one that would make a woman
happy. It was his notion, too, to invest our savings this way--
'safings,' as he calls them. Poor man, if he doesn't speak right, he
thinks right, and I understand him all the same. He has a notion of
working for somebody else, so as to save us his keep----"
"Surely we shall be rich, if it is only to repay these good folk,"
said David, looking at his wife.
Eve thought it quite simple; it was no surprise to her to find other
natures on a level with her own. The dullest--nay, the most
indifferent--observer could have seen all the beauty of her nature in
her way of receiving this service.
"You will be rich some day, dear master," said Marion; "your bread is
ready baked. Your father has just bought another farm, he is putting
by money for you; that he is."
And under the circumstances, did not Marion show an exquisite delicacy
of feeling by belittling, as it were, her kindness in this way?
French procedure, like all things human, has its defects;
nevertheless, the sword of justice, being a two-edged weapon, is
excellently adapted alike for attack or defence. Procedure, moreover,
has its amusing side; for when opposed, lawyers arrive at an
understanding, as they well may do, without exchanging a word; through
their manner of conducting their case, a suit becomes a kind of war
waged on the lines laid down by the first Marshal Biron, who, at the
siege of Rouen, it may be remembered, received his son's project for
taking the city in two days with the remark, "You must be in a great
hurry to go and plant cabbages!" Let two commanders-in-chief spare
their troops as much as possible, let them imitate the Austrian
generals who give the men time to eat their soup though they fail to
effect a juncture, and escape reprimand from the Aulic Council; let
them avoid all decisive measures, and they shall carry on a war for
ever. Maitre Cachan, Petit-Claud, and Doublon, did better than the
Austrian generals; they took for their example Quintus Fabius
Cunctator--the Austrian of antiquity.
Petit-Claud, malignant as a mule, was not long in finding out all the
advantages of his position. No sooner had Boniface Cointet guaranteed
his costs than he vowed to lead Cachan a dance, and to dazzle the
paper manufacturer with a brilliant display of genius in the creation
of items to be charged to Metivier. Unluckily for the fame of the
young forensic Figaro, the writer of this history is obliged to pass
over the scene of his exploits in as great a hurry as if he trod on
burning coals; but a single bill of costs, in the shape of the
specimen sent from Paris, will no doubt suffice for the student of
contemporary manners. Let us follow the example set us by the
Bulletins of the Grande Armee, and give a summary of Petit-Claud's
valiant feats and exploits in the province of pure law; they will be
the better appreciated for concise treatment.
David Sechard was summoned before the Tribunal of Commerce at
Angouleme for the 3rd of July, made default, and notice of judgment
was served on the 8th. On the 10th, Doublon obtained an execution
warrant, and attempted to put in an execution on the 12th. On this
Petit-Claud applied for an interpleader summons, and served notice on
Metivier for that day fortnight. Metivier made application for a
hearing without delay, and on the 19th, Sechard's application was
dismissed. Hard upon this followed notice of judgment, authorizing the
issue of an execution warrant on the 22nd, a warrant of arrest on the
23rd, and bailiff's inventory previous to the execution on the 24th.
Metivier, Doublon, Cachan & Company were proceeding at this furious
pace, when Petit-Claud suddenly pulled them up, and stayed execution
by lodging notice of appeal on the Court-Royal. Notice of appeal, duly
reiterated on the 25th of July, drew Metivier off to Poitiers.
"Come!" said Petit-Claud to himself, "there we are likely to stop for
some time to come."
No sooner was the storm passed over to Poitiers, and an attorney
practising in the Court-Royal instructed to defend the case, than
Petit-Claud, a champion facing both ways, made application in Mme.
Sechard's name for the immediate separation of her estate from her
husband's; using "all diligence" (in legal language) to such purpose,
that he obtained an order from the court on the 28th, and inserted
notice at once in the Charente Courier. Now David the lover had
settled ten thousand francs upon his wife in the marriage contract,
making over to her as security the fixtures of the printing office and
the household furniture; and Petit-Claud therefore constituted Mme.
Sechard her husband's creditor for that small amount, drawing up a
statement of her claims on the estate in the presence of a notary on
the 1st of August.
While Petit-Claud was busy securing the household property of his
clients, he gained the day at Poitiers on the point of law on which
the demurrer and appeals were based. He held that, as the court of the
Seine had ordered the plaintiff to pay costs of proceedings in the
Paris commercial court, David was so much the less liable for expenses
of litigation incurred upon Lucien's account. The Court-Royal took
this view of the case, and judgment was entered accordingly. David
Sechard was ordered to pay the amount in dispute in the Angouleme
Court, less the law expenses incurred in Paris; these Metivier must
pay, and each side must bear its own costs in the appeal to the Court-
David Sechard was duly notified of the result on the 17th of August.
On the 18th the judgment took the practical shape of an order to pay
capital, interest, and costs, followed up by notice of an execution
for the morrow. Upon this Petit-Claud intervened and put in a claim
for the furniture as the wife's property duly separated from her
husband's; and what was more, Petit-Claud produced Sechard senior upon
the scene of action. The old vinegrower had become his client on this
wise. He came to Angouleme on the day after Eve's visit, and went to
Maitre Cachan for advice. His son owed him arrears of rent; how could
he come by this rent in the scrimmage in which his son was engaged?
"I am engaged by the other side," pronounced Cachan, "and I cannot
appear for the father when I am suing the son; but go to Petit-Claud,
he is very clever, he may perhaps do even better for you than I should
Cachan and Petit-Claud met at the Court.
"I have sent you Sechard senior," said Cachan; "take the case for me
in exchange." Lawyers do each other services of this kind in country
towns as well as in Paris.
The day after Sechard senior gave Petit-Claud his confidence, the tall
Cointet paid a visit to his confederate.
"Try to give old Sechard a lesson," he said. "He is the kind of man
that will never forgive his son for costing him a thousand francs or
so; the outlay will dry up any generous thoughts in his mind, if he
ever has any."
"Go back to your vines," said Petit-Claud to his new client. "Your son
is not very well off; do not eat him out of house and home. I will
send for you when the time comes."
On behalf of Sechard senior, therefore, Petit-Claud claimed that the
presses, being fixtures, were so much the more to be regarded as tools
and implements of trade, and the less liable to seizure, in that the
house had been a printing office since the reign of Louis XIV. Cachan,
on Metivier's account, waxed indignant at this. In Paris Lucien's
furniture had belonged to Coralie, and here again in Angouleme David's
goods and chattels all belonged to his wife or his father; pretty
things were said in court. Father and son were summoned; such claims
could not be allowed to stand.
"We mean to unmask the frauds intrenched behind bad faith of the most
formidable kind; here is the defence of dishonesty bristling with the
plainest and most innocent articles of the Code, and why?--to avoid
repayment of three thousand francs; obtained how?--from poor
Metivier's cash box! And yet there are those who dare to say a word
against bill-discounters! What times we live in! . . . Now, I put it
to you--what is this but taking your neighbor's money? . . . You will
surely not sanction a claim which would bring immorality to the very
core of justice!"
Cachan's eloquence produced an effect on the court. A divided judgment
was given in favor of Mme. Sechard, the house furniture being held to
be her property; and against Sechard senior, who was ordered to pay
costs--four hundred and thirty-four francs, sixty-five centimes.
"It is kind of old Sechard," laughed the lawyers; "he would have a
finger in the pie, so let him pay!"
Notice of judgment was given on the 26th of August; the presses and
plant could be seized on the 28th. Placards were posted. Application
was made for an order empowering them to sell on the spot.
Announcements of the sale appeared in the papers, and Doublon
flattered himself that the inventory should be verified and the
auction take place on the 2nd of September.
By this time David Sechard owed Metivier five thousand two hundred and
seventy-five francs, twenty-five centimes (to say nothing of
interest), by formal judgment confirmed by appeal, the bill of costs
having been duly taxed. Likewise to Petit-Claud he owed twelve hundred
francs, exclusive of the fees, which were left to David's generosity
with the generous confidence displayed by the hackney coachman who has
driven you so quickly over the road on which you desire to go.
Mme. Sechard owed Petit-Claud something like three hundred and fifty
francs and fees besides; and of old Sechard, besides four hundred and
thirty-four francs, sixty-five centimes, the little attorney demanded
a hundred crowns by way of fee. Altogether, the Sechard family owed
about ten thousand francs. This is what is called "putting fire into
the bed straw."
Apart from the utility of these documents to other nations who thus
may behold the battery of French law in action, the French legislator
ought to know the lengths to which the abuse of procedure may be
carried, always supposing that the said legislator can find time for
reading. Surely some sort of regulation might be devised, some way of
forbidding lawyers to carry on a case until the sum in dispute is more
than eaten up in costs? Is there not something ludicrous in the idea
of submitting a square yard of soil and an estate of thousands of
acres to the same legal formalities? These bare outlines of the
history of the various stages of procedure should open the eyes of
Frenchmen to the meaning of the words "legal formalities, justice, and
costs," little as the immense majority of the nations know about them.
Five thousand pounds' weight of type in the printing office were worth
two thousand francs as old metal; the three presses were valued at six
hundred francs; the rest of the plant would fetch the price of old
iron and firewood. The household furniture would have brought in a
thousand francs at most. The whole personal property of Sechard junior
therefore represented the sum of four thousand francs; and Cachan and
Petit-Claud made claims for seven thousand francs in costs already
incurred, to say nothing of expenses to come, for the blossom gave
promise of fine fruits enough, as the reader will shortly see. Surely
the lawyers of France and Navarre, nay, even of Normandy herself, will
not refuse Petit-Claud his meed of admiration and respect? Surely,
too, kind hearts will give Marion and Kolb a tear of sympathy?
All through the war Kolb sat on a chair in the doorway, acting as
watch-dog, when David had nothing else for him to do. It was Kolb who
received all the notifications, and a clerk of Petit-Claud's kept
watch over Kolb. No sooner were the placards announcing the auction
put up on the premises than Kolb tore them down; he hurried round the
town after the bill-poster, tearing the placards from the walls.
"Ah, scountrels!" he cried, "to dorment so goot a man; and they calls
Marion made half a franc a day by working half time in a paper mill as
a machine tender, and her wages contributed to the support of the
household. Mme. Chardon went back uncomplainingly to her old
occupation, sitting up night after night, and bringing home her wages
at the end of the week. Poor Mme. Chardon! Twice already she had made
a nine days' prayer for those she loved, wondering that God should be
deaf to her petitions, and blind to the light of the candles on His
On the 2nd of September, a letter came from Lucien, the first since
the letter of the winter, which David had kept from his wife's
knowledge--the announcement of the three bills which bore David's
signature. This time Lucien wrote to Eve.
"The third since he left us!" she said. Poor sister, she was afraid to
open the envelope that covered the fatal sheet.
She was feeding the little one when the post came in; they could not
afford a wet-nurse now, and the child was being brought up by hand.
Her state of mind may be imagined, and David's also, when he had been
roused to read the letter, for David had been at work all night, and
only lay down at daybreak.
Lucien to Eve.
"PARIS, August 29th.
"MY DEAR SISTER,--Two days ago, at five o'clock in the morning,
one of God's noblest creatures breathed her last in my arms; she
was the one woman on earth capable of loving me as you and mother
and David love me, giving me besides that unselfish affection,
something that neither mother nor sister can give--the utmost
bliss of love. Poor Coralie, after giving up everything for my
sake, may perhaps have died for me--for me, who at this moment
have not the wherewithal to bury her. She could have solaced my
life; you, and you alone, my dear good angels, can console me for
her death. God has forgiven her, I think, the innocent girl, for
she died like a Christian. Oh, this Paris! Eve, Paris is the glory
and the shame of France. Many illusions I have lost here already,
and I have others yet to lose, when I begin to beg for the little
money needed before I can lay the body of my angel in consecrated
"Your unhappy brother,
"P. S. I must have given you much trouble by my heedlessness; some
day you will know all, and you will forgive me. You must be quite
easy now; a worthy merchant, a M. Camusot, to whom I once caused
cruel pangs, promised to arrange everything, seeing that Coralie
and I were so much distressed."
"The sheet is still moist with his tears," said Eve, looking at the
letter with a heart so full of sympathy that something of the old love
for Lucien shone in her eyes.
"Poor fellow, he must have suffered cruelly if he has been loved as he
says!" exclaimed Eve's husband, happy in his love; and these two
forgot all their own troubles at this cry of a supreme sorrow. Just at
that moment Marion rushed in.
"Madame," she panted, "here they are! Here they are!"
"Who is here?"
"Doublon and his men, bad luck to them! Kolb will not let them come
in; they have come to sell us up."
"No, no, they are not going to sell you up, never fear," cried a voice
in the next room, and Petit-Claud appeared upon the scene. "I have
just lodged notice of appeal. We ought not to sit down under a
judgment that attaches a stigma of bad faith to us. I did not think it
worth while to fight the case here. I let Cachan talk to gain time for
you; I am sure of gaining the day at Poitiers----"
"But how much will it cost to win the day?" asked Mme. Sechard.
"Fees if you win, one thousand francs if we lose our case."
"Oh, dear!" cried poor Eve; "why, the remedy is worse than the
Petit-Claud was not a little confused at this cry of innocence
enlightened by the progress of the flames of litigation. It struck him
too that Eve was a very beautiful woman. In the middle of the
discussion old Sechard arrived, summoned by Petit-Claud. The old man's
presence in the chamber where his little grandson in the cradle lay
smiling at misfortune completed the scene. The young attorney at once
addressed the newcomer with:
"You owe me seven hundred francs for the interpleader, Papa Sechard;
but you can charge the amount to your son in addition to the arrears
The vinedresser felt the sting of the sarcasm conveyed by Petit-
Claud's tone and manner.
"It would have cost you less to give security for the debt at first,"
said Eve, leaving the cradle to greet her father-in-law with a kiss.
David, quite overcome by the sight of the crowd outside the house (for
Kolb's resistance to Doublon's men had collected a knot of people),
could only hold out a hand to his father; he did not say a word.
"And how, pray, do I come to owe you seven hundred francs?" the old
man asked, looking at Petit-Claud.
"Why, in the first place, I am engaged by you. Your rent is in
question; so, as far as I am concerned, you and our debtor are one and
the same person. If your son does not pay my costs in the case, you
must pay them yourself.--But this is nothing. In a few hours David
will be put in prison; will you allow him to go?"
"What does he owe?"
"Something like five or six thousand francs, besides the amounts owing
to you and to his wife."
The speech roused all the old man's suspicions at once. He looked
round the little blue-and-white bedroom at the touching scene before
his eyes--at a beautiful woman weeping over a cradle, at David bowed
down by anxieties, and then again at the lawyer. This was a trap set
for him by that lawyer; perhaps they wanted to work upon his paternal
feelings, to get money out of him? That was what it all meant. He took
alarm. He went over to the cradle and fondled the child, who held out
both little arms to him. No heir to an English peerage could be more
tenderly cared for than this little one in that house of trouble; his
little embroidered cap was lined with pale pink.
"Eh! let David get out of it as best he may. I am thinking of this
child here," cried the old grandfather, "and the child's mother will
approve of that. David that knows so much must know how to pay his
"Now I will just put your meaning into plain language," said Petit-
Claud ironically. "Look here, Papa Sechard, you are jealous of your
son. Hear the truth! you put David into his present position by
selling the business to him for three times its value. You ruined him
to make an extortionate bargain! Yes, don't you shake your head; you
sold the newspaper to the Cointets and pocketed all the proceeds, and
that was as much as the whole business was worth. You bear David a
grudge, not merely because you have plundered him, but because, also,
your own son is a man far above yourself. You profess to be
prodigiously fond of your grandson, to cloak your want of feeling for
your son and his wife, because you ought to pay down money hic et nunc
for them, while you need only show a posthumous affection for your
grandson. You pretend to be fond of the little fellow, lest you should
be taxed with want of feeling for your own flesh and blood. That is
the bottom of it, Papa Sechard."
"Did you fetch me over to hear this?" asked the old man, glowering at
his lawyer, his daughter-in-law, and his son in turn.
"Monsieur!" protested poor Eve, turning to Petit-Claud, "have you
vowed to ruin us? My husband had never uttered a word against his
father." (Here the old man looked cunningly at her.) "David has told
me scores of times that you loved him in your way," she added, looking
at her father-in-law, and understanding his suspicions.
Petit-Claud was only following out the tall Cointet's instructions. He
was widening the breach between the father and son, lest Sechard
senior should extricate David from his intolerable position. "The day
that David Sechard goes to prison shall be the day of your
introduction to Mme. de Senonches," the "tall Cointet" had said no
longer ago than yesterday.
Mme. Sechard, with the quick insight of love, had divined Petit-
Claud's mercenary hostility, even as she had once before felt
instinctively that Cerizet was a traitor. As for David, his
astonishment may be imagined; he could not understand how Petit-Claud
came to know so much of his father's nature and his own history.
Upright and honorable as he was, he did not dream of the relations
between his lawyer and the Cointets; nor, for that matter, did he know
that the Cointets were at work behind Metivier. Meanwhile old Sechard
took his son's silence as an insult, and Petit-Claud, taking advantage
of his client's bewilderment, beat a retreat.
"Good-bye, my dear David; you have had warning, notice of appeal
doesn't invalidate the warrant for arrest. It is the only course left
open to your creditors, and it will not be long before they take it.
So, go away at once----Or, rather, if you will take my advice, go to
the Cointets and see them about it. They have capital. If your
invention is perfected and answers the purpose, go into partnership
with them. After all, they are very good fellows----"
"Your invention?" broke in old Sechard.
"Why, do you suppose that your son is fool enough to let his business
slip away from him without thinking of something else?" exclaimed the
attorney. "He is on the brink of the discovery of a way of making
paper at a cost of three francs per ream, instead of ten, he tells
"One more dodge for taking me in! You are all as thick as thieves in a
fair. If David has found out such a plan, he has no need of me--he is
a millionaire! Good-bye, my dears, and a good-day to you all," and the
old man disappeared down the staircase.
"Find some way of hiding yourself," was Petit-Claud's parting word to
David, and with that he hurried out to exasperate old Sechard still
further. He found the vinegrower growling to himself outside in the
Place du Murier, went with him as far as L'Houmeau, and there left him
with a threat of putting in an execution for the costs due to him
unless they were paid before the week was out.
"I will pay you if you will show me how to disinherit my son without
injuring my daughter-in-law or the boy," said old Sechard, and they
"How well the 'tall Cointet' knows the folk he is dealing with! It is
just as he said; those seven hundred francs will prevent the father
from paying seven thousand," the little lawyer thought within himself
as he climbed the path to Angouleme. "Still, that old slyboots of a
paper-maker must not overreach us; it is time to ask him for something
"Well, David dear, what do you mean to do?" asked Eve, when the lawyer
had followed her father-in-law.
"Marion, put your biggest pot on the fire!" called David; "I have my
At this Eve put on her bonnet and shawl and walking shoes with
"Kolb, my friend, get ready to go out," she said, "and come with me;
if there is any way out of this hell, I must find it."
When Eve had gone out, Marion spoke to David. "Do be sensible, sir,"
she said, "or the mistress will fret herself to death. Make some money
to pay off your debts, and then you can try to find treasure at your
"Don't talk, Marion, said David; "I am going to overcome my last
difficulty, and then I can apply for the patent and the improvement on
the patent at the same time."
This "improvement on the patent" is the curse of the French patentee.
A man may spend ten years of his life in working out some obscure
industrial problem; and when he has invented some piece of machinery,
or made a discovery of some kind, he takes out a patent and imagines
that he has a right to his own invention; then there comes a
competitor; and unless the first inventor has foreseen all possible
contingencies, the second comer makes an "improvement on the patent"
with a screw or a nut, and takes the whole thing out of his hands. The
discovery of a cheap material for paper pulp, therefore, is by no
means the conclusion of the whole matter. David Sechard was anxiously
looking ahead on all sides lest the fortune sought in the teeth of
such difficulties should be snatched out of his hands at the last.
Dutch paper as flax paper is still called, though it is no longer made
in Holland, is slightly sized; but every sheet is sized separately by
hand, and this increases the cost of production. If it were possible
to discover some way of sizing the paper in the pulping-trough, with
some inexpensive glue, like that in use to-day (though even now it is
not quite perfect), there would be no "improvement on the patent" to
fear. For the past month, accordingly, David had been making
experiments in sizing pulp. He had two discoveries before him.
Eve went to see her mother. Fortunately, it so happened that Mme.
Chardon was nursing the deputy-magistrate's wife, who had just given
the Milauds of Nevers an heir presumptive; and Eve, in her distrust of
all attorneys and notaries, took into her head to apply for advice to
the legal guardian of widows and orphans. She wanted to know if she
could relieve David from his embarrassments by taking them upon
herself and selling her claims upon the estate, and besides, she had
some hope of discovering the truth as to Petit-Claud's unaccountable
conduct. The official, struck with Mme. Sechard's beauty, received her
not only with the respect due to a woman but with a sort of courtesy
to which Eve was not accustomed. She saw in the magistrate's face an
expression which, since her marriage, she had seen in no eyes but
Kolb's; and for a beautiful woman like Eve, this expression is the
criterion by which men are judged. When passion, or self-interest, or
age dims that spark of unquestioning fealty that gleams in a young
man's eyes, a woman feels a certain mistrust of him, and begins to
observe him critically. The Cointets, Cerizet, and Petit-Claud--all
the men whom Eve felt instinctively to be her enemies--had turned
hard, indifferent eyes on her; with the deputy-magistrate, therefore,
she felt at ease, although, in spite of his kindly courtesy, he swept
all her hopes away by his first words.
"It is not certain, madame, that the Court-Royal will reverse the
judgment of the court restricting your lien on your husband's
property, for payment of moneys due to you by the terms of your
marriage-contract, to household goods and chattels. Your privilege
ought not to be used to defraud the other creditors. But in any case,
you will be allowed to take your share of the proceeds with the other
creditors, and your father-in-law likewise, as a privileged creditor,
for arrears of rent. When the court has given the order, other points
may be raised as to the 'contribution,' as we call it, when a schedule
of the debts is drawn up, and the creditors are paid a dividend in
proportion to their claims.
"Then M. Petit-Claud is bringing us to bankruptcy," she cried.
"Petit-Claud is carrying out your husband's instructions," said the
magistrate; "he is anxious to gain time, so his attorney says. In my
opinion, you would perhaps do better to waive the appeal and buy in at
the sale the indispensable implements for carrying on the business;
you and your father-in-law together might do this, you to the extent
of your claim through your marriage contract, and he for his arrears
of rent. But that would be bringing the matter to an end too soon
perhaps. The lawyers are making a good thing out of your case."
"But then I should be entirely in M. Sechard's father's hands. I
should owe him the hire of the machinery as well as the house-rent;
and my husband would still be open to further proceedings from M.
Metivier, for M. Metivier would have had almost nothing."
"That is true, madame."
"Very well, then we should be even worse off than we are."
"The arm of the law, madame, is at the creditor's disposal. You have
received three thousand francs, and you must of necessity repay the
"Oh, sir, can you think that we are capable----" Eve suddenly came to
a stop. She saw that her justification might injure her brother.
"Oh! I know quite well that it is an obscure affair, that the debtors
on the one side are honest, scrupulous, and even behaving handsomely;
and the creditor, on the other, is only a cat's-paw----"
Eve, aghast, looked at him with bewildered eyes.
"You can understand," he continued, with a look full of homely
shrewdness, "that we on the bench have plenty of time to think over
all that goes on under our eyes, while the gentlemen in court are
arguing with each other."
Eve went home in despair over her useless effort. That evening at
seven o'clock, Doublon came with the notification of imprisonment for
debt. The proceedings had reached the acute stage.
"After this, I can only go out after nightfall," said David.
Eve and Mme. Chardon burst into tears. To be in hiding was for them a
shameful thing. As for Kolb and Marion, they were more alarmed for
David because they had long since made up their minds that there was
no guile in their master's nature; so frightened were they on his
account, that they came upstairs under pretence of asking whether they
could do anything, and found Eve and Mme. Chardon in tears; the three
whose life had been so straightforward hitherto were overcome by the
thought that David must go into hiding. And how, moreover, could they
hope to escape the invisible spies who henceforth would dog every
least movement of a man, unluckily so absent-minded?
"Gif montame vill vait ein liddle kvarter hour, she can regonnoitre
der enemy's camp," put in Kolb. "You shall see dot I oonderstand mein
pizness; for gif I look like ein German, I am ein drue Vrenchman, and
vat is more, I am ver' conning."
"Oh! madame, do let him go," begged Marion. "He is only thinking of
saving his master; he hasn't another thought in his head. Kolb is not
an Alsacien, he is--eh! well--a regular Newfoundland dog for rescuing
"Go, my good Kolb," said David; "we have still time to do something."
Kolb hurried off to pay a visit to the bailiff; and it so fell out
that David's enemies were in Doublon's office, holding a council as to
the best way of securing him.
The arrest of a debtor is an unheard-of thing in the country, an
abnormal proceeding if ever there was one. Everybody, in the first
place, knows everybody else, and creditor and debtor being bound to
meet each other daily all their lives long, nobody likes to take this
odious course. When a defaulter--to use the provincial term for a
debtor, for they do not mince their words in the provinces when
speaking of this legalized method of helping yourself to another man's
goods--when a defaulter plans a failure on a large scale, he takes
sanctuary in Paris. Paris is a kind of City of Refuge for provincial
bankrupts, an almost impenetrable retreat; the writ of the pursuing
bailiff has no force beyond the limits of his jurisdiction, and there
are other obstacles rendering it almost invalid. Wherefore the Paris
bailiff is empowered to enter the house of a third party to seize the
person of the debtor, while for the bailiff of the provinces the
domicile is absolutely inviolable. The law probably makes this
exception as to Paris, because there it is the rule for two or more
families to live under the same roof; but in the provinces the bailiff
who wishes to make forcible entry must have an order from the Justice
of the Peace; and so wide a discretion is allowed the Justice of the
Peace, that he is practically able to give or withhold assistance to
the bailiffs. To the honor of the Justices, it should be said, that
they dislike the office, and are by no means anxious to assist blind
passions or revenge.
There are, besides, other and no less serious difficulties in the way
of arrest for debt--difficulties which tend to temper the severity of
legislation, and public opinion not infrequently makes a dead letter
of the law. In great cities there are poor or degraded wretches
enough; poverty and vice know no scruples, and consent to play the
spy, but in a little country town, people know each other too well to
earn wages of the bailiff; the meanest creature who should lend
himself to dirty work of this kind would be forced to leave the place.
In the absence of recognized machinery, therefore, the arrest of a
debtor is a problem presenting no small difficulty; it becomes a kind
of strife of ingenuity between the bailiff and the debtor, and matter
for many pleasant stories in the newspapers.
Cointet the elder did not choose to appear in the affair; but the fat
Cointet openly said that he was acting for Metivier, and went to
Doublon, taking Cerizet with him. Cerizet was his foreman now, and had
promised his co-operation in return for a thousand-franc note. Doublon
could reckon upon two of his understrappers, and thus the Cointets had
four bloodhounds already on the victim's track. At the actual time of
arrest, Doublon could furthermore count upon the police force, who are
bound, if required, to assist a bailiff in the performance of his
duty. The two men, Doublon himself, and the visitors were all closeted
together in the private office, beyond the public office, on the
A tolerably wide-paved lobby, a kind of passage-way, led to the public
office. The gilded scutcheons of the court, with the word "Bailiff"
printed thereon in large black letters, hung outside on the house wall
on either side the door. Both office windows gave upon the street, and
were protected by heavy iron bars; but the private office looked into
the garden at the back, wherein Doublon, an adorer of Pomona, grew
espaliers with marked success. Opposite the office door you beheld the
door of the kitchen, and, beyond the kitchen, the staircase that
ascended to the first story. The house was situated in a narrow street
at the back of the new Law Courts, then in process of construction,
and only finished after 1830.--These details are necessary if Kolb's
adventures are to be intelligible to the reader.
It was Kolb's idea to go to the bailiff, to pretend to be willing to
betray his master, and in this way to discover the traps which would
be laid for David. Kolb told the servant who opened the door that he
wanted to speak to M. Doublon on business. The servant was busy
washing up her plates and dishes, and not very well pleased at Kolb's
interruption; she pushed open the door of the outer office, and bade
him wait there till her master was at liberty; then, as he was a
stranger to her, she told the master in the private office that "a
man" wanted to speak to him. Now, "a man" so invariably means "a
peasant," that Doublon said, "Tell him to wait," and Kolb took a seat
close to the door of the private office. There were voices talking
"Ah, by the by, how do you mean to set about it? For, if we can catch
him to-morrow, it will be so much time saved." It was the fat Cointet
"Nothing easier; the gaffer has come fairly by his nickname," said
At the sound of the fat Cointet's voice, Kolb guessed at once that
they were talking about his master, especially as the sense of the
words began to dawn upon him; but, when he recognized Cerizet's tones,
his astonishment grew more and more.
"Und dat fellow haf eaten his pread!" he thought, horror-stricken.
"We must do it in this way, boys," said Doublon. "We will post our
men, at good long intervals, about the Rue de Beaulieu and the Place
du Murier in every direction, so that we can follow the gaffer (I like
that word) without his knowledge. We will not lose sight of him until
he is safe inside the house where he means to lie in hiding (as he
thinks); there we will leave him in peace for awhile; then some fine
day we will come across him before sunrise or sunset."
"But what is he doing now, at this moment? He may be slipping through
our fingers," said the fat Cointet.
"He is in his house," answered Doublon; "if he left it, I should know.
I have one witness posted in the Place du Murier, another at the
corner of the Law Courts, and another thirty paces from the house. If
our man came out, they would whistle; he could not make three paces
from his door but I should know of it at once from the signal."
(Bailiffs speak of their understrappers by the polite title of
Here was better hap than Kolb had expected! He went noiselessly out of
the office, and spoke to the maid in the kitchen.
"Meestair Touplon ees encaged for som time to kom," he said; "I vill
kom back early to-morrow morning."
A sudden idea had struck the Alsacien, and he proceeded to put it into
execution. Kolb had served in a cavalry regiment; he hurried off to
see a livery stable-keeper, an acquaintance of his, picked out a
horse, had it saddled, and rushed back to the Place du Murier. He
found Madame Eve in the lowest depths of despondency.
"What is it, Kolb?" asked David, when the Alsacien's face looked in
upon them, scared but radiant.
"You have scountrels all arount you. De safest way ees to hide de
master. Haf montame thought of hiding the master anywheres?"
When Kolb, honest fellow, had explained the whole history of Cerizet's
treachery, of the circle traced about the house, and of the fat
Cointet's interest in the affair, and given the family some inkling of
the schemes set on foot by the Cointets against the master,--then
David's real position gradually became fatally clear.
"It is the Cointet's doing!" cried poor Eve, aghast at the news; "THEY
are proceeding against you! that accounts for Metivier's
hardness. . . . They are paper-makers--David! they want your secret!"
"But what can we do to escape them?" exclaimed Mme. Chardon.
"If de misdress had some liddle blace vere the master could pe
hidden," said Kolb; "I bromise to take him dere so dot nopody shall
"Wait till nightfall, and go to Basine Clerget," said Eve. "I will go
now and arrange it all with her. In this case, Basine will be like
another self to me."
"Spies will follow you," David said at last, recovering some presence
of mind. "How can we find a way of communicating with Basine if none
of us can go to her?"
"Montame kan go," said Kolb. "Here ees my scheme--I go out mit der
master, ve draws der vischtlers on our drack. Montame kan go to
Montemoiselle Clerchet; nopody vill vollow her. I haf a horse; I take
de master oop behint; und der teufel is in it if they katches us."
"Very well; good-bye, dear," said poor Eve, springing to her husband's
arms; "none of us can go to see you, the risk is too great. We must
say good-bye for the whole time that your imprisonment lasts. We will
write to each other; Basine will post your letters, and I will write
under cover to her."
No sooner did David and Kolb come out of the house than they heard a
sharp whistle, and were followed to the livery stable. Once there,
Kolb took his master up behind him, with a caution to keep tight hold.
"Veestle avay, mind goot vriends! I care not von rap," cried Kolb.
"You vill not datch an old trooper," and the old cavalry man clapped
both spurs to his horse, and was out into the country and the darkness
not merely before the spies could follow, but before they had time to
discover the direction that he took.
Eve meanwhile went out on the tolerably ingenious pretext of asking
advise of Postel, sat awhile enduring the insulting pity that spends
itself in words, left the Postel family, and stole away unseen to
Basine Clerget, told her troubles, and asked for help and shelter.
Basine, for greater safety, had brought Eve into her bedroom, and now
she opened the door of a little closet, lighted only by a skylight in
such a way that prying eyes could not see into it. The two friends
unstopped the flue which opened into the chimney of the stove in the
workroom, where the girls heated their irons. Eve and Basine spread
ragged coverlets over the brick floor to deaden any sound that David
might make, put in a truckle bed, a stove for his experiments, and a
table and a chair. Basine promised to bring food in the night; and as
no one had occasion to enter her room, David might defy his enemies
one and all, or even detectives.
"At last!" Eve said, with her arms about her friend, "at last he is in
Eve went back to Postel to submit a fresh doubt that had occurred to
her, she said. She would like the opinion of such an experienced
member of the Chamber of Commerce; she so managed that he escorted her
home, and listened patiently to his commiseration.
"Would this have happened if you had married me?"--all the little
druggist's remarks were pitched in this key.
Then he went home again to find Mme. Postel jealous of Mme. Sechard,
and furious with her spouse for his polite attention to that beautiful
woman. The apothecary advanced the opinion that little red-haired
women were preferable to tall, dark women, who, like fine horses, were
always in the stable, he said. He gave proofs of his sincerity, no
doubt, for Mme. Postel was very sweet to him next day.
"We may be easy," Eve said to her mother and Marion, whom she found
still "in a taking," in the latter's phrase.
"Oh! they are gone," said Marion, when Eve looked unthinkingly round
One league out of Angouleme on the main road to Paris, Kolb stopped.
"Vere shall we go?"
"To Marsac," said David; "since we are on the way already, I will try
once more to soften my father's heart."
"I would rader mount to der assault of a pattery," said Kolb, "your
resbected fader haf no heart whatefer."
The ex-pressman had no belief in his son; he judged him from the
outside point of view, and waited for results. He had no idea, to
begin with, that he had plundered David, nor did he make allowance for
the very different circumstances under which they had begun life; he
said to himself, "I set him up with a printing-house, just as I found
it myself; and he, knowing a thousand times more than I did, cannot
keep it going." He was mentally incapable of understanding his son; he
laid the blame of failure upon him, and even prided himself, as it
were on his superiority to a far greater intellect than his own, with
the thought, "I am securing his bread for him."
Moralists will never succeed in making us comprehend the full extent
of the influence of sentiment upon self-interest, an influence every
whit as strong as the action of interest upon our sentiments; for
every law of our nature works in two ways, and acts and reacts upon
David, on his side, understood his father, and in his sublime charity
forgave him. Kolb and David reached Marsac at eight o'clock, and
suddenly came in upon the old man as he was finishing his dinner,
which, by force of circumstances, came very near bedtime.
"I see you because there is no help for it," said old Sechard with a
"Und how should you and mein master meet? He soars in der shkies, and
you are always mit your vines! You bay for him, that's vot you are a
"Come, Kolb, off with you. Put up the horse at Mme. Courtois' so as to
save inconvenience here; fathers are always in the right, remember
Kolb went off, growling like a chidden dog, obedient but protesting;
and David proposed to give his father indisputable proof of his
discovery, while reserving his secret. He offered to give him an
interest in the affair in return for money paid down; a sufficient sum
to release him from his present difficulties, with or without a
further amount of capital to be employed in developing the invention.
"And how are you going to prove to me that you can make good paper
that costs nothing out of nothing, eh?" asked the ex-printer, giving
his son a glance, vinous, it may be, but keen, inquisitive, and
covetous; a look like a flash of lightning from a sodden cloud; for
the old "bear," faithful to his traditions, never went to bed without
a nightcap, consisting of a couple of bottles of excellent old wine,
which he "tippled down" of an evening, to use his own expression.
"Nothing simpler," said David; "I have none of the paper about me, for
I came here to be out of Doublon's way; and having come so far, I
thought I might as well come to you at Marsac as borrow of a money-
lender. I have nothing on me but my clothes. Shut me up somewhere on
the premises, so that nobody can come in and see me at work, and----"
"What? you will not let me see you at your work then?" asked the old
man, with an ugly look at his son.
"You have given me to understand plainly, father, that in matters of
business there is no question of father and son----"
"Ah! you distrust the father that gave you life!"
"No; the other father who took away the means of earning a
"Each for himself, you are right!" said the old man. "Very good, I
will put you in the cellar."
"I will go down there with Kolb. You must let me have a large pot for
my pulp," said David; then he continued, without noticing the quick
look his father gave him,--"and you must find artichoke and asparagus
stalks for me, and nettles, and the reeds that you cut by the stream
side, and to-morrow morning I will come out of your cellar with some
"If you can do that," hiccoughed the "bear," "I will let you have,
perhaps--I will see, that is, if I can let you have--pshaw! twenty-
five thousand francs. On condition, mind, that you make as much for me
"Put me to the proof, I am quite willing," cried David. "Kolb! take
the horse and go to Mansle, quick, buy a large hair sieve for me of a
cooper, and some glue of the grocer, and come back again as soon as
"There! drink," said old Sechard, putting down a bottle of wine, a
loaf, and the cold remains of the dinner. "You will need your
strength. I will go and look for your bits of green stuff; green rags
you use for your pulp, and a trifle too green, I am afraid."
Two hours later, towards eleven o'clock that night, David and Kolb
took up their quarters in a little out-house against the cellar wall;
they found the floor paved with runnel tiles, and all the apparatus
used in Angoumois for the manufacture of Cognac brandy.
"Pans and firewood! Why, it is as good as a factory made on purpose!"
"Very well, good-night," said old Sechard; "I shall lock you in, and
let both the dogs loose; nobody will bring you any paper, I am sure.
You show me those sheets to-morrow, and I give you my word I will be
your partner and the business will be straightforward and properly
David and Kolb, locked into the distillery, spent nearly two hours in
macerating the stems, using a couple of logs for mallets. The fire
blazed up, the water boiled. About two o'clock in the morning, Kolb
heard a sound which David was too busy to notice, a kind of deep
breath like a suppressed hiccough. Snatching up one of the two lighted
dips, he looked round the walls, and beheld old Sechard's empurpled
countenance filling up a square opening above a door hitherto hidden
by a pile of empty casks in the cellar itself. The cunning old man had
brought David and Kolb into his underground distillery by the outer
door, through which the casks were rolled when full. The inner door
had been made so that he could roll his puncheons straight from the
cellar into the distillery, instead of taking them round through the
"Aha! thees eies not fair blay, you vant to shvindle your son!" cried
the Alsacien. "Do you kow vot you do ven you trink ein pottle of vine?
You gif goot trink to ein bad scountrel."
"Oh, father!" cried David.
"I came to see if you wanted anything," said old Sechard, half sobered
by this time.
"Und it was for de inderest vot you take in us dot you brought der
liddle ladder!" commented Kolb, as he pushed the casks aside and flung
open the door; and there, in fact, on a short step-ladder, the old man
stood in his shirt.
"Risking your health!" said David.
"I think I must be walking in my sleep," said old Sechard, coming down
in confusion. "Your want of confidence in your father set me dreaming;
I dreamed you were making a pact with the Devil to do impossible
"Der teufel," said Kolb; "dot is your own bassion for de liddle
"Go back to bed again, father," said David; "lock us in if you will,
but you may save yourself the trouble of coming down again. Kolb will
At four o'clock in the morning David came out of the distillery; he
had been careful to leave no sign of his occupation behind him; but he
brought out some thirty sheets of paper that left nothing to be
desired in fineness, whiteness, toughness, and strength, all of them
bearing by way of water-mark the impress of the uneven hairs of the
sieve. The old man took up the samples and put his tongue to them, the
lifelong habit of the pressman, who tests papers in this way. He felt
it between his thumb and finger, crumpled and creased it, put it
through all the trials by which a printer assays the quality of a
sample submitted to him, and when it was found wanting in no respect,
he still would not allow that he was beaten.
"We have yet to know how it takes an impression," he said, to avoid
praising his son.
"Funny man!" exclaimed Kolb.
The old man was cool enough now. He cloaked his feigned hesitation
with paternal dignity.
"I wish to tell you in fairness, father, that even now it seems to me
that paper costs more than it ought to do; I want to solve the problem
of sizing it in the pulping-trough. I have just that one improvement
"Oho! so you are trying to trick me!"
"Well, shall I tell you? I can size the pulp as it is, but so far I
cannot do it evenly, and the surface is as rough as a burr!"
"Very good, size your pulp in the trough, and you shall have my
"Mein master will nefer see de golor of your money," declared Kolb.
"Father," he began, "I have never borne you any grudge for making over
the business to me at such an exorbitant valuation; I have seen the
father through it all. I have said to myself--'The old man has worked
very hard, and he certainly gave me a better bringing up than I had a
right to expect; let him enjoy the fruits of his toil in peace, and in
his own way.--I even gave up my mother's money to you. I began
encumbered with debt, and bore all the burdens that you put upon me
without a murmur. Well, harassed for debts that were not of my making,
with no bread in the house, and my feet held to the flames, I have
found out the secret. I have struggled on patiently till my strength
is exhausted. It is perhaps your duty to help me, but do not give ME a
thought; think of a woman and a little one" (David could not keep back
the tears at this); "think of them, and give them help and protection.
--Kolb and Marion have given me their savings; will you do less?" he
cried at last, seeing that his father was as cold as the impression-
"And that was not enough for you," said the old man, without the
slightest sense of shame; "why, you would waste the wealth of the
Indies! Good-night! I am too ignorant to lend a hand in schemes got up
on purpose to exploit me. A monkey will never gobble down a bear"
(alluding to the workshop nicknames); "I am a vinegrower, I am not a
banker. And what is more, look you, business between father and son
never turns out well. Stay and eat your dinner here; you shan't say
that you came for nothing."
There are some deep-hearted natures that can force their own pain down
into inner depths unsuspected by those dearest to them; and with them,
when anguish forces its way to the surface and is visible, it is only
after a mighty upheaval. David's nature was one of these. Eve had
thoroughly understood the noble character of the man. But now that the
depths had been stirred, David's father took the wave of anguish that
passed over his son's features for a child's trick, an attempt to "get
round" his father, and his bitter grief for mortification over the
failure of the attempt. Father and son parted in anger.
David and Kolb reached Angouleme on the stroke of midnight. They came
back on foot, and steathily, like burglars. Before one o'clock in the
morning David was installed in the impenetrable hiding-place prepared
by his wife in Basine Clerget's house. No one saw him enter it, and
the pity that henceforth should shelter David was the most resourceful
pity of all--the pity of a work-girl.
Kolb bragged that day that he had saved his master on horseback, and
only left him in a carrier's van well on the way to Limoges. A
sufficient provision of raw material had been laid up in Basine's
cellar, and Kolb, Marion, Mme. Sechard, and her mother had no
communication with the house.
Two days after the scene at Marsac, old Sechard came hurrying to
Angouleme and his daughter-in-law. Covetousness had brought him. There
were three clear weeks ahead before the vintage began, and he thought
he would be on the look-out for squalls, to use his own expression. To
this end he took up his quarters in one of the attics which he had
reserved by the terms of the lease, wilfully shutting his eyes to the
bareness and want that made his son's home desolate. If they owed him
rent, they could well afford to keep him. He ate his food from a
tinned iron plate, and made no marvel at it. "I began in the same
way," he told his daughter-in-law, when she apologized for the absence
of silver spoons.
Marion was obliged to run into debt for necessaries for them all. Kolb
was earning a franc for daily wage as a brick-layer's laborer; and at
last poor Eve, who, for the sake of her husband and child, had
sacrificed her last resources to entertain David's father, saw that
she had only ten francs left. She had hoped to the last to soften the
old miser's heart by her affectionate respect, and patience, and
pretty attentions; but old Sechard was obdurate as ever. When she saw
him turn the same cold eyes on her, the same look that the Cointets
had given her, and Petit-Claud and Cerizet, she tried to watch and
guess old Sechard's intentions. Trouble thrown away! Old Sechard,
never sober, never drunk, was inscrutable; intoxication is a double
veil. If the old man's tipsiness was sometimes real, it was quite
often feigned for the purpose of extracting David's secret from his
wife. Sometimes he coaxed, sometimes he frightened his daughter-in-
"I will drink up my property; I WILL BUY AN ANNUITY," he would
threaten when Eve told him that she knew nothing.
The humiliating struggle was wearing her out; she kept silence at
last, lest she should show disrespect to her husband's father.
"But, father," she said one day when driven to extremity, "there is a
very simple way of finding out everything. Pay David's debts; he will
come home, and you can settle it between you."
"Ha! that is what you want to get out of me, is it?" he cried. "It is
as well to know!"
But if Sechard had no belief in his son, he had plenty of faith in the
Cointets. He went to consult them, and the Cointets dazzled him of set
purpose, telling him that his son's experiments might mean millions of
"If David can prove that he has succeeded, I shall not hesitate to go
into partnership with him, and reckon his discovery as half the
capital," the tall Cointet told him.
The suspicious old man learned a good deal over nips of brandy with
the work-people, and something more by questioning Petit-Claud and
feigning stupidity; and at length he felt convinced that the Cointets
were the real movers behind Metivier; they were plotting to ruin
Sechard's printing establishment, and to lure him (Sechard) on to pay
his son's debts by holding out the discovery as a bait. The old man of
the people did not suspect that Petit-Claud was in the plot, nor had
he any idea of the toils woven to ensnare the great secret. A day came
at last when he grew angry and out of patience with the daughter-in-
law who would not so much as tell him where David was hiding; he
determined to force the laboratory door, for he had discovered that
David was wont to make his experiments in the workshop where the
rollers were melted down.
He came downstairs very early one morning and set to work upon the
"Hey! Papa Sechard, what are you doing there?" Marion called out. (She
had risen at daybreak to go to her papermill, and now she sprang
across to the workshop.)
"I am in my own house, am I not?" said the old man, in some confusion.
"Oh, indeed, are you turning thief in your old age? You are not drunk
this time either----I shall go straight to the mistress and tell her."
"Hold your tongue, Marion," said Sechard, drawing two crowns of six
francs each from his pocket. "There----"
"I will hold my tongue, but don't you do it again," said Marion,
shaking her finger at him, "or all Angouleme shall hear of it."
The old man had scarcely gone out, however, when Marion went up to her
"Look, madame," she said, "I have had twelve francs out of your
father-in-law, and here they are----"
"How did you do it?"
"What was he wanting to do but to take a look at the master's pots and
pans and stuff, to find out the secret, forsooth. I knew quite well
that there was nothing in the little place, but I frightened him and
talked as if he were setting about robbing his son, and he gave me
twelve francs to say nothing about it."
Just at that moment Basine came in radiant, and with a letter for her
friend, a letter from David written on magnificent paper, which she
handed over when they were alone.
"MY ADORED EVE,--I am writing to you the first letter on my first
sheet of paper made by the new process. I have solved the problem
of sizing the pulp in the trough at last. A pound of pulp costs
five sous, even supposing that the raw material is grown on good
soil with special culture; three francs' worth of sized pulp will
make a ream of paper, at twelve pounds to the ream. I am quite
sure that I can lessen the weight of books by one-half. The
envelope, the letter, and samples enclosed are all manufactured in
different ways. I kiss you; you shall have wealth now to add to
our happiness, everything else we had before."
"There!" said Eve, handing the samples to her father-in-law, "when the
vintage is over let your son have the money, give him a chance to make
his fortune, and you shall be repaid ten times over; he has succeeded
Old Sechard hurried at once to the Cointets. Every sample was tested
and minutely examined; the prices, from three to ten francs per ream,
were noted on each separate slip; some were sized, others unsized;
some were of almost metallic purity, others soft as Japanese paper; in
color there was every possible shade of white. If old Sechard and the
two Cointets had been Jews examining diamonds, their eyes could not
have glistened more eagerly.
"Your son is on the right track," the fat Cointet said at length.
"Very well, pay his debts," returned old Sechard.
"By all means, if he will take us into partnership," said the tall
"You are extortioners!" cried old Sechard. "You have been suing him
under Metivier's name, and you mean me to buy you off; that is the
long and the short of it. Not such a fool, gentlemen----"
The brothers looked at one another, but they contrived to hide their
surprise at the old miser's shrewdness.
"We are not millionaires," said fat Cointet; "we do not discount bills
for amusement. We should think ourselves well off if we could pay
ready money for our bits of accounts for rags, and we still give bills
to our dealer."
"The experiment ought to be tried first on a much larger scale," the
tall Cointet said coldly; "sometimes you try a thing with a saucepan
and succeed, and fail utterly when you experiment with bulk. You
should help your son out of difficulties."
"Yes; but when my son is at liberty, would he take me as his partner?"
"That is no business of ours," said the fat Cointet. "My good man, do
you suppose that when you have paid some ten thousand francs for your
son, that there is an end of it? It will cost two thousand francs to
take out a patent; there will be journeys to Paris; and before going
to any expense, it would be prudent to do as my brother suggests, and
make a thousand reams or so; to try several whole batches to make
sure. You see, there is nothing you must be so much on your guard
against as an inventor."
"I have a liking for bread ready buttered myself," added the tall
All through that night the old man ruminated over this dilemma--"If I
pay David's debts, he will be set at liberty, and once set at liberty,
he need not share his fortune with me unless he chooses. He knows very
well that I cheated him over the first partnership, and he will not
care to try a second; so it is to my interest to keep him shut up, the
The Cointets knew enough of Sechard senior to see that they should
hunt in couples. All three said to themselves--"Experiments must be
tried before the discovery can take any practical shape. David Sechard
must be set at liberty before those experiments can be made; and David
Sechard, set at liberty, will slip through our fingers."
Everybody involved, moreover, had his own little afterthought.
Petit-Claud, for instance, said, "As soon as I am married, I will slip
my neck out of the Cointets' yoke; but till then I shall hold on."
The tall Cointet thought, "I would rather have David under lock and
key, and then I should be master of the situation."
Old Sechard, too, thought, "If I pay my son's debts, he will repay me
with a 'Thank you!' "
Eve, hard pressed (for the old man threatened now to turn her out of
the house), would neither reveal her husband's hiding-place, nor even
send proposals of a safe-conduct. She could not feel sure of finding
so safe a refuge a second time.
"Set your son at liberty," she told her father-in-law, "and then you
shall know everything."
The four interested persons sat, as it were, with a banquet spread
before them, none of them daring to begin, each one suspicious and
watchful of his neighbor. A few days after David went into hiding,
Petit-Claud went to the mill to see the tall Cointet.
"I have done my best," he said; "David has gone into prison of his own
accord somewhere or other; he is working out some improvement there in
peace. It is no fault of mine if you have not gained your end; are you
going to keep your promise?"
"Yes, if we succeed," said the tall Cointet. "Old Sechard was here
only a day or two ago; he came to ask us some questions as to paper-
making. The old miser has got wind of his son's invention; he wants to
turn it to his own account, so there is some hope of a partnership.
You are with the father and the son----"
"Be the third person in the trinity and give them up," smiled Petit-
"Yes," said Cointet. "When you have David in prison, or bound to us by
a deed of partnership, you shall marry Mlle. de la Haye."
"Is that your ultimatum?"
"My sine qua non," said Cointet, "since we are speaking in foreign
"Then here is mine in plain language," Petit-Claud said drily.
"Ah! let us have it," answered Cointet, with some curiosity.
"You will present me to-morrow to Mme. de Sononches, and do something
definite for me; you will keep your word, in short; or I will clear
off Sechard's debts myself, sell my practice, and go into partnership
with him. I will not be duped. You have spoken out, and I am doing the
same. I have given proof, give me proof of your sincerity. You have
all, and I have nothing. If you won't do fairly by me, I know your
cards, and I shall play for my own hand."
The tall Cointet took his hat and umbrella, his face at the same time
taking its Jesuitical expression, and out he went, bidding Petit-Claud
come with him.
"You shall see, my friend, whether I have prepared your way for you,"
The shrewd paper-manufacturer saw his danger at a glance; and saw,
too, that with a man like Petit-Claud it was better to play above
board. Partly to be prepared for contingencies, partly to satisfy his
conscience, he had dropped a word or two to the point in the ear of
the ex-consul-general, under the pretext of putting Mlle. de la Haye's
financial position before that gentleman.
"I have the man for Francoise," he had said; "for with thirty thousand
francs of dot, a girl must not expect too much nowadays."
"We will talk it over later on," answered Francis du Hautoy, ex-
consul-general. "Mme. de Senonches' positon has altered very much
since Mme. de Bargeton went away; we very likely might marry Francoise
to some elderly country gentleman."
"She would disgrace herself if you did," Cointet returned in his dry
way. "Better marry her to some capable, ambitious young man; you could
help him with your influence, and he would make a good position for
"We shall see," said Francis du Hautoy; "her godmother ought to be
consulted first, in any case."
When M. de Bargeton died, his wife sold the great house in the Rue du
Minage. Mme. de Senonches, finding her own house scarcely large
enough, persuaded M. de Senonches to buy the Hotel de Bargeton, the
cradle of Lucien Chardon's ambitions, the scene of the earliest events
in his career. Zephirine de Senonches had it in mind to succeed to
Mme. de Bargeton; she, too, would be a kind of queen in Angouleme; she
would have "a salon," and be a great lady, in short. There was a
schism in Angouleme, a strife dating from the late M. de Bargeton's
duel with M. de Chandour. Some maintained that Louise de Negrepelisse
was blameless, others believed in Stanislas de Chandour's scandals.
Mme. de Senonches declared for the Bargetons, and began by winning
over that faction. Many frequenters of the Hotel de Bargeton had been
so accustomed for years to their nightly game of cards in the house
that they could not leave it, and Mme. de Senonches turned this fact
to account. She received every evening, and certainly gained all the
ground lost by Amelie de Chandour, who set up for a rival.
Francis du Hautoy, living in the inmost circle of nobility in
Angouleme, went so far as to think of marrying Francoise to old M. de
Severac, Mme. du Brossard having totally failed to capture that
gentleman for her daughter; and when Mme. de Bargeton reappeared as
the prefect's wife, Zephirine's hopes for her dear goddaughter waxed
high, indeed. The Comtesse du Chatelet, so she argued, would be sure
to use her influence for her champion.
Boniface Cointet had Angouleme at his fingers' ends; he saw all the
difficulties at a glance, and resolved to sweep them out of the way by
a bold stroke that only a Tartuffe's brain could invent. The puny
lawyer was not a little amused to find his fellow-conspirator keeping
his word with him; not a word did Petit-Claud utter; he respected the
musings of his companion, and they walked the whole way from the
paper-mill to the Rue du Minage in silence.
"Monsieur and madame are at breakfast"--this announcement met the ill-
timed visitors on the steps.
"Take in our names, all the same," said the tall Cointet; and feeling
sure of his position, he followed immediately behind the servant and
introduced his companion to the elaborately-affected Zephirine, who
was breakfasting in company with M. Francis du Hautoy and Mlle. de la
Haye. M. de Senonches had gone, as usual, for a day's shooting over M.
de Pimentel's land.
"M. Petit-Claud is the young lawyer of whom I spoke to you, madame; he
will go through the trust accounts when your fair ward comes of age."
The ex-diplomatist made a quick scrutiny of Petit-Claud, who, for his
part, was looking furtively at the "fair ward." As for Zephirine, who
heard of the matter for the first time, her surprise was so great that
she dropped her fork.
Mlle. de la Haye, a shrewish young woman with an ill-tempered face, a
waist that could scarcely be called slender, a thin figure, and
colorless, fair hair, in spite of a certain little air that she had,
was by no means easy to marry. The "parentage unknown" on her birth
certificate was the real bar to her entrance into the sphere where her
godmother's affection stove to establish her. Mlle. de la Haye,
ignorant of her real position, was very hard to please; the richest
merchant in L'Houmeau had found no favor in her sight. Cointet saw the
sufficiently significant expression of the young lady's face at the
sight of the little lawyer, and turning, beheld a precisely similar
grimace on Petit-Claud's countenance. Mme. de Senonches and Francis
looked at each other, as if in search of an excuse for getting rid of
the visitors. All this Cointet saw. He asked M. du Hautoy for the
favor of a few minutes' speech with him, and the pair went together
into the drawing-room.
"Fatherly affection is blinding you, sir," he said bluntly. "You will
not find it an easy thing to marry your daughter; and, acting in your
interest throughout, I have put you in a position from which you
cannot draw back; for I am fond of Francoise, she is my ward. Now--
Petit-Claud knows EVERYTHING! His overweening ambition is a guarantee
for our dear child's happiness; for, in the first place, Francoise
will do as she likes with her husband; and, in the second, he wants
your influence. You can ask the new prefect for the post of crown
attorney for him in the court here. M. Milaud is definitely appointed
to Nevers, Petit-Claud will sell his practice, you will have no
difficulty in obtaining a deputy public prosecutor's place for him;
and it will not be long before he becomes attorney for the crown,
president of the court, deputy, what you will."
Francis went back to the dining-room and behaved charmingly to his
daughter's suitor. He gave Mme. de Senonches a look, and brought the
scene to a close with an invitation to dine with them on the morrow;
Petit-Claud must come and discuss the business in hand. He even went
downstairs and as far as the corner with the visitors, telling Petit-
Claud that after Cointet's recommendation, both he and Mme. de
Senonches were disposed to approve all that Mlle. de la Haye's trustee
had arranged for the welfare of that little angel.
"Oh!" cried Petit-Claud, as they came away, "what a plain girl! I have
been taken in----"
"She looks a lady-like girl," returned Cointet, "and besides, if she
were a beauty, would they give her to you? Eh! my dear fellow, thirty
thousand francs and the influence of Mme. de Senonches and the
Comtesse du Chatelet! Many a small landowner would be wonderfully glad
of the chance, and all the more so since M. Francis du Hautoy is never
likely to marry, and all that he has will go to the girl. Your
marriage is as good as settled."
"That is what I am just going to tell you," returned Cointet, and he
gave his companion an account of his recent bold stroke. "M. Milaud is
just about to be appointed attorney for the crown at Nevers, my dear
fellow," he continued; "sell your practice, and in ten years' time you
will be Keeper of the Seals. You are not the kind of a man to draw
back from any service required of you by the Court."
"Very well," said Petit-Claud, his zeal stirred by the prospect of
such a career, "very well, be in the Place du Murier to-morrow at
half-past four; I will see old Sechard in the meantime; we will have a
deed of partnership drawn up, and the father and the son shall be
bound thereby, and delivered to the third person of the trinity--
Cointet, to wit."
To return to Lucien in Paris. On the morrow of the loss announced in
his letter, he obtained a visa for his passport, bought a stout holly
stick, and went to the Rue d'Enfer to take a place in the little
market van, which took him as far as Longjumeau for half a franc. He
was going home to Angouleme. At the end of the first day's tramp he
slept in a cowshed, two leagues from Arpajon. He had come no farther
than Orleans before he was very weary, and almost ready to break down,
but there he found a boatman willing to bring him as far as Tours for
three francs, and food during the journey cost him but forty sous.
Five days of walking brought him from Tours to Poitiers, and left him
with but five francs in his pockets, but he summoned up all his
remaining strength for the journey before him.
He was overtaken by night in the open country, and had made up his
mind to sleep out of doors, when a traveling carriage passed by,
slowly climbing the hillside, and, all unknown to the postilion, the
occupants, and the servant, he managed to slip in among the luggage,
crouching in between two trunks lest he should be shaken off by the
jolting of the carriage--and so he slept.
He awoke with the sun shining into his eyes, and the sound of voices
in his ears. The carriage had come to a standstill. Looking about him,
he knew that he was at Mansle, the little town where he had waited for
Mme. de Bargeton eighteen months before, when his heart was full of
hope and love and joy. A group of post-boys eyed him curiously and
suspiciously, covered with dust as he was, wedged in among the
luggage. Lucien jumped down, but before he could speak two travelers
stepped out of the caleche, and the words died away on his lips; for
there stood the new Prefect of the Charente, Sixte du Chatelet, and
his wife, Louise de Negrepelisse.
"Chance gave us a traveling-companion, if we had but known!" said the
Countess. "Come in with us, monsieur."
Lucien gave the couple a distant bow and a half-humbled half-defiant
glance; then he turned away into a cross-country road in search of
some farmhouse, where he might make a breakfast on milk and bread, and
rest awhile, and think quietly over the future. He still had three
francs left. On and on he walked with the hurrying pace of fever,
noticing as he went, down by the riverside, that the country grew more
and more picturesque. It was near mid-day when he came upon a sheet of
water with willows growing about the margin, and stopped for awhile to
rest his eyes on the cool, thick-growing leaves; and something of the
grace of the fields entered into his soul.
In among the crests of the willows, he caught a glimpse of a mill
near-by on a branch stream, and of the thatched roof of the mill-house
where the house-leeks were growing. For all ornament, the quaint
cottage was covered with jessamine and honeysuckle and climbing hops,
and the garden about it was gay with phloxes and tall, juicy-leaved
plants. Nets lay drying in the sun along a paved causeway raised above
the highest flood level, and secured by massive piles. Ducks were
swimming in the clear mill-pond below the currents of water roaring
over the wheel. As the poet came nearer he heard the clack of the
mill, and saw the good-natured, homely woman of the house knitting on
a garden bench, and keeping an eye upon a little one who was chasing
the hens about.
Lucien came forward. "My good woman," he said, "I am tired out; I have
a fever on me, and I have only three francs; will you undertake to
give me brown bread and milk, and let me sleep in the barn for a week?
I shall have time to write to my people, and they will either come to
fetch me or send me money."
"I am quite willing, always supposing that my husband has no
objection.--Hey! little man!"
The miller came up, gave Lucien a look over, and took his pipe out of
his mouth to remark, "Three francs for a weeks board? You might as
well pay nothing at all."
"Perhaps I shall end as a miller's man," thought the poet, as his eyes
wandered over the lovely country. Then the miller's wife made a bed
ready for him, and Lucien lay down and slept so long that his hostess
"Courtois," she said, next day at noon, "just go in and see whether
that young man is dead or alive; he has been lying there these
The miller was busy spreading out his fishing-nets and lines. "It is
my belief," he said, "that the pretty fellow yonder is some starveling
play-actor without a brass farthing to bless himself with."
"What makes you think that, little man?" asked the mistress of the
"Lord, he is not a prince, nor a lord, nor a member of parliament, nor
a bishop; why are his hands as white as if he did nothing?"
"Then it is very strange that he does not feel hungry and wake up,"
retorted the miller's wife; she had just prepared breakfast for
yesterday's chance guest. "A play-actor, is he?" she continued. "Where
will he be going? It is too early yet for the fair at Angouleme."
But neither the miller nor his wife suspected that (actors, princes,
and bishops apart) there is a kind of being who is both prince and
actor, and invested besides with a magnificent order of priesthood--
that the Poet seems to do nothing, yet reigns over all humanity when
he can paint humanity.
"What can he be?" Courtois asked of his wife.
"Suppose it should be dangerous to take him in?" queried she.
"Pooh! thieves look more alive than that; we should have been robbed
by this time," returned her spouse.
"I am neither a prince nor a thief, nor a bishop nor an actor," Lucien
said wearily; he must have overheard the colloquy through the window,
and now he suddenly appeared. "I am poor, I am tired out, I have come
on foot from Paris. My name is Lucien de Rubempre, and my father was
M. Chardon, who used to have Postel's business in L'Houmeau. My sister
married David Sechard, the printer in the Place du Murier at
"Stop a bit," said the miller, "that printer is the son of the old
skinflint who farms his own land at Marsac, isn't he?"
"The very same," said Lucien.
"He is a queer kind of father, he is!" Courtois continued. "He is
worth two hundred thousand francs and more, without counting his
money-box, and he has sold his son up, they say."
When body and soul have been broken by a prolonged painful struggle,
there comes a crisis when a strong nature braces itself for greater
effort; but those who give way under the strain either die or sink
into unconsciousness like death. That hour of crisis had struck for
Lucien; at the vague rumor of the catastrophe that had befallen David
he seemed almost ready to succumb. "Oh! my sister!" he cried. "Oh,
God! what have I done? Base wretch that I am!"
He dropped down on the wooden bench, looking white and powerless as a
dying man; the miller's wife brought out a bowl of milk and made him
drink, but he begged the miller to help him back to his bed, and asked
to be forgiven for bringing a dying man into their house. He thought
his last hour had come. With the shadow of death, thoughts of religion
crossed a brain so quick to conceive picturesque fancies; he would see
the cure, he would confess and receive the last sacraments. The moan,
uttered in the faint voice by a young man with such a comely face and
figure, went to Mme. Courtois' heart.
"I say, little man, just take the horse and go to Marsac and ask Dr.
Marron to come and see this young man; he is in a very bad way, it
seems to me, and you might bring the cure as well. Perhaps they may
know more about that printer in the Place du Murier than you do, for
Postel married M. Marron's daughter."
Courtois departed. The miller's wife tried to make Lucien take food;
like all country-bred folk, she was full of the idea that sick folk
must be made to eat. He took no notice of her, but gave way to a
violent storm of remorseful grief, a kind of mental process of
counter-irritation, which relieved him.
The Courtois' mill lies a league away from Marsac, the town of the
district, and the half-way between Mansle and Angouleme; so it was not
long before the good miller came back with the doctor and the cure.
Both functionaries had heard rumors coupling Lucien's name with the
name of Mme. de Bargeton; and now when the whole department was
talking of the lady's marriage to the new Prefect and her return to
Angouleme as the Comtesse du Chatelet, both cure and doctor were
consumed with a violent curiosity to know why M. de Bargeton's widow
had not married the young poet with whom she had left Angouleme. And
when they heard, furthermore, that Lucien was at the mill, they were
eager to know whether the poet had come to the rescue of his brother-
in-law. Curiosity and humanity alike prompted them to go at once to
the dying man. Two hours after Courtois set out, Lucien heard the
rattle of old iron over the stony causeway, the country doctor's
ramshackle chaise came up to the door, and out stepped MM. Marron, for
the cure was the doctor's uncle. Lucien's bedside visitors were as
intimate with David's father as country neighbors usually are in a
small vine-growing township. The doctor looked at the dying man, felt
his pulse, and examined his tongue; then he looked at the miller's
wife, and smiled reassuringly.
"Mme. Courtois," said he, "if, as I do not doubt, you have a bottle of
good wine somewhere in the cellar, and a fat eel in your fish-pond,
put them before your patient, it is only exhaustion; there is nothing
the matter with him. Our great man will be on his feet again
"Ah! monsieur," said Lucien, "it is not the body, it is the mind that
ails. These good people have told me tidings that nearly killed me; I
have just heard the bad news of my sister, Mme. Sechard. Mme. Courtois
says that your daughter is married to Postel, monsieur, so you must
know something of David Sechard's affairs; oh, for heaven's sake,
monsieur, tell me what you know!"
"Why, he must be in prison," began the doctor; "his father would not
"IN PRISON!" repeated Lucien, "and why?"
"Because some bills came from Paris; he had overlooked them, no doubt,
for he does not pay much attention to his business, they say," said
"Pray leave me with M. le Cure," said the poet, with a visible change
of countenance. The doctor and the miller and his wife went out of the
room, and Lucien was left alone with the old priest.
"Sir," he said, "I feel that death is near, and I deserve to die. I am
a very miserable wretch; I can only cast myself into the arms of
religion. I, sir, _I_ have brought all these troubles on my sister and
brother, for David Sechard has been a brother to me. I drew those
bills that David could not meet! . . . I have ruined him. In my
terrible misery, I forgot the crime. A millionaire put an end to the
proceedings, and I quite believed that he had met the bills; but
nothing of the kind has been done, it seems." And Lucien told the tale
of his sorrows. The story, as he told it in his feverish excitement,
was worthy of the poet. He besought the cure to go to Angouleme and to
ask for news of Eve and his mother, Mme. Chardon, and to let him know
the truth, and whether it was still possible to repair the evil.
"I shall live till you come back, sir," he added, as the hot tears
fell. "If my mother, and sister, and David do not cast me off, I shall
Lucien's remorse was terrible to see, the tears, the eloquence, the
young white face with the heartbroken, despairing look, the tales of
sorrow upon sorrow till human strength could no more endure, all these
things aroused the cure's pity and interest.
"In the provinces, as in Paris," he said, "you must believe only half
of all that you hear. Do not alarm yourself; a piece of hearsay, three
leagues away from Angouleme, is sure to be far from the truth. Old
Sechard, our neighbor, left Marsac some days ago; very likely he is
busy settling his son's difficulties. I am going to Angouleme; I will
come back and tell you whether you can return home; your confessions
and repentance will help to plead your cause."
The cure did not know that Lucien had repented so many times during
the last eighteen months, that penitence, however impassioned, had
come to be a kind of drama with him, played to perfection, played so
far in all good faith, but none the less a drama. To the cure
succeeded the doctor. He saw that the patient was passing through a
nervous crisis, and the danger was beginning to subside. The doctor-
nephew spoke as comfortably as the cure-uncle, and at length the
patient was persuaded to take nourishment.
Meanwhile the cure, knowing the manners and customs of the
countryside, had gone to Mansle; the coach from Ruffec to Angouleme
was due to pass about that time, and he found a vacant place in it. He
would go to his grand-nephew Postel in L'Houmeau (David's former
rival) and make inquiries of him. From the assiduity with which the
little druggist assisted his venerable relative to alight from the
abominable cage which did duty as a coach between Ruffec and
Angouleme, it was apparent to the meanest understanding that M. and
Mme. Postel founded their hopes of future ease upon the old cure's
"Have you breakfasted? Will you take something? We did not in the
least expect you! This is a pleasant surprise!" Out came questions
innumerable in a breath.
Mme. Postel might have been born to be the wife of an apothecary in
L'Houmeau. She was a common-looking woman, about the same height as
little Postel himself, such good looks as she possessed being entirely
due to youth and health. Her florid auburn hair grew very low upon her
forehead. Her demeanor and language were in keeping with homely
features, a round countenance, the red cheeks of a country damsel, and
eyes that might almost be described as yellow. Everything about her
said plainly enough that she had been married for expectations of
money. After a year of married life, therefore, she ruled the house;
and Postel, only too happy to have discovered the heiress, meekly
submitted to his wife. Mme. Leonie Postel, nee Marron, was nursing her
first child, the darling of the old cure, the doctor, and Postel, a
repulsive infant, with a strong likeness to both parents.
"Well, uncle," said Leonie, "what has brought you to Angouleme, since
you will not take anything, and no sooner come in than you talk of
But when the venerable ecclesiastic brought out the names of David
Sechard and Eve, little Postel grew very red, and Leonie, his wife,
felt it incumbent upon her to give him a jealous glance--the glance
that a wife never fails to give when she is perfectly sure of her
husband, and gives a look into the past by way of a caution for the
"What have yonder folk done to you, uncle, that you should mix
yourself up in their affairs?" inquired Leonie, with very perceptible
"They are in trouble, my girl," said the cure, and he told the Postels
about Lucien at the Courtois' mill.
"Oh! so that is the way he came back from Paris, is it?" exclaimed
Postel. "Yet he had some brains, poor fellow, and he was ambitious,
too. He went out to look for wool, and comes home shorn. But what does
he want here? His sister is frightfully poor; for all these geniuses,
David and Lucien alike, know very little about business. There was
some talk of him at the Tribunal, and, as judge, I was obliged to sign
the warrant of execution. It was a painful duty. I do not know whether
the sister's circumstances are such that Lucien can go to her; but in
any case the little room that he used to occupy here is at liberty,
and I shall be pleased to offer it to him."
"That is right, Postel," said the priest; he bestowed a kiss on the
infant slumbering in Leonie's arms, and, adjusting his cocked hat,
prepared to walk out of the shop.
"You will dine with us, uncle, of course," said Mme. Postel; "if once
you meddle in these people's affairs, it will be some time before you
have done. My husband will drive you back again in his little pony-
Husband and wife stood watching their valued, aged relative on his way
into Angouleme. "He carries himself well for his age, all the same,"
remarked the druggist.
By this time David had been in hiding for eleven days in a house only
two doors away from the druggist's shop, which the worthy ecclesiastic
had just quitted to climb the steep path into Angouleme with the news
of Lucien's present condition.
When the Abbe Marron debouched upon the Place du Murier he found three
men, each one remarkable in his own way, and all of them bearing with
their whole weight upon the present and future of the hapless
voluntary prisoner. There stood old Sechard, the tall Cointet, and his
confederate, the puny limb of the law, three men representing three
phases of greed as widely different as the outward forms of the
speakers. The first had it in his mind to sell his own son; the
second, to betray his client; and the third, while bargaining for both
iniquities, was inwardly resolved to pay for neither. It was nearly
five o'clock. Passers-by on their way home to dinner stopped a moment
to look at the group.
"What the devil can old Sechard and the tall Cointet have to say to
each other?" asked the more curious.
"There was something on foot concerning that miserable wretch that
leaves his wife and child and mother-in-law to starve," suggested
"Talk of sending a boy to Paris to learn his trade!" said a provincial
"M. le Cure, what brings you here, eh?" exclaimed old Sechard,
catching sight of the Abbe as soon as he appeared.
"I have come on account of your family," answered the old man.
"Here is another of my son's notions!" exclaimed old Sechard.
"It would not cost you much to make everybody happy all round," said
the priest, looking at the windows of the printing-house. Mme.
Sechard's beautiful face appeared at that moment between the curtains;
she was hushing her child's cries by tossing him in her arms and
singing to him.
"Are you bringing news of my son?" asked old Sechard, "or what is more
to the purpose--money?"
"No," answered M. Marron, "I am bringing the sister news of her
"Of Lucien?" cried Petit-Claud.
"Yes. He walked all the way from Paris, poor young man. I found him at
the Courtois' house; he was worn out with misery and fatigue. Oh! he
is very much to be pitied."
Petit-Claud took the tall Cointet by the arm, saying aloud, "If we are
going to dine with Mme. de Senonches, it is time to dress." When they
had come away a few paces, he added, for his companion's benefit,
"Catch the cub, and you will soon have the dam; we have David now----"
"I have found you a wife, find me a partner," said the tall Cointet
with a treacherous smile.
"Lucien is an old school-fellow of mine; we used to be chums. I shall
be sure to hear something from him in a week's time. Have the banns
put up, and I will engage to put David in prison. When he is on the
jailer's register I shall have done my part."
"Ah!" exclaimed the tall Cointet under his breath, "we might have the
patent taken out in our name; that would be the thing!"
A shiver ran through the meagre little attorney when he heard those
Meanwhile Eve beheld her father-in-law enter with the Abbe Marron, who
had let fall a word which unfolded the whole tragedy.
"Here is our cure, Mme. Sechard," the old man said, addressing his
daughter-in-law, "and pretty tales about your brother he has to tell
us, no doubt!"
"Oh!" cried poor Eve, cut to the heart; "what can have happened now?"
The cry told so unmistakably of many sorrows, of great dread on so
many grounds, that the Abbe Marron made haste to say, "Reassure
yourself, madame; he is living."
Eve turned to the vinegrower.
"Father," she said, "perhaps you will be good enough to go to my
mother; she must hear all that this gentleman has to tell us of
The old man went in search of Mme. Chardon, and addressed her in this
"Go and have it out with the Abbe Marron; he is a good sort, priest
though he is. Dinner will be late, no doubt. I shall come back again
in an hour," and the old man went out. Insensible as he was to
everything but the clink of money and the glitter of gold, he left
Mme. Chardon without caring to notice the effect of the shock that he
had given her.
Mme. Chardon had changed so greatly during the last eighteen months,
that in that short time she no longer looked like the same woman. The
troubles hanging over both of her children, her abortive hopes for
Lucien, the unexpected deterioration in one in whose powers and
honesty she had for so long believed,--all these things had told
heavily upon her. Mme. Chardon was not only noble by birth, she was
noble by nature; she idolized her children; consequently, during the
last six months she had suffered as never before since her widowhood.
Lucien might have borne the name of Lucien de Rubempre by royal
letters patent; he might have founded the family anew, revived the
title, and borne the arms; he might have made a great name--he had
thrown the chance away; nay, he had fallen into the mire!
For Mme. Chardon the mother was a harder judge than Eve the sister.
When she heard of the bills, she looked upon Lucien as lost. A mother
is often fain to shut her eyes, but she always knows the child that
she held at her breast, the child that has been always with her in the
house; and so when Eve and David discussed Lucien's chances of success
in Paris, and Lucien's mother to all appearance shared Eve's
illusions, in her inmost heart there was a tremor of fear lest David
should be right, for a mother's consciousness bore a witness to the
truth of his words. So well did she know Eve's sensitive nature, that
she could not bring herself to speak of her fears; she was obliged to
choke them down and keep such silence as mothers alone can keep when
they know how to love their children.
And Eve, on her side, had watched her mother, and saw the ravages of
hidden grief with a feeling of dread; her mother was not growing old,
she was failing from day to day. Mother and daughter lived a live of
generous deception, and neither was deceived. The brutal old
vinegrower's speech was the last drop that filled the cup of
affliction to overflowing. The words struck a chill to Mme. Chardon's
"Here is my mother, monsieur," said Eve, and the Abbe, looking up, saw
a white-haired woman with a face as thin and worn as the features of
some aged nun, and yet grown beautiful with the calm and sweet
expression that devout submission gives to the faces of women who walk
by the will of God, as the saying is. Then the Abbe understood the
lives of the mother and daughter, and had no more sympathy left for
Lucien; he shuddered to think of all that the victims had endured.
"Mother," said Eve, drying her eyes as she spoke, "poor Lucien is not
very far away, he is at Marsac."
"And why is he not here?" asked Mme. Chardon.
Then the Abbe told the whole story as Lucien had told it to him--the
misery of the journey, the troubles of the last days in Paris. He
described the poet's agony of mind when he heard of the havoc wrought
at home by his imprudence, and his apprehension as to the reception
awaiting him at Angouleme.
"He has doubts of us; has it come to this?" said Mme. Chardon.
"The unhappy young man has come back to you on foot, enduring the most
terrible hardships by the way; he is prepared to enter the humblest
walks in life--if so he may make reparation."
"Monsieur," Lucien's sister said, "in spite of the wrong he has done
us, I love my brother still, as we love the dead body when the soul
has left it; and even so, I love him more than many sisters love their
brothers. He has made us poor indeed; but let him come to us, he shall
share the last crust of bread, anything indeed that he has left us.