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Poor Relations by Honore de Balzac

Part 16 out of 16

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will be in London."

"We know London," said Remonencq. "M. Magus is as powerful there as at

"Good-day, madame; I shall sift these matters to the bottom," said
Fraisier--"unless you continue to do as I tell you" he added.

"You little pickpocket!--"

"Take care! I shall be a justice of the peace before long." And with
threats understood to the full upon either side, they separated.

"Thank you, Remonencq!" said La Cibot; "it is very pleasant to a poor
widow to find a champion."

Towards ten o'clock that evening, Gaudissart sent for Topinard. The
manager was standing with his back to the fire, in a Napoleonic
attitude--a trick which he had learned since be began to command his
army of actors, dancers, /figurants/, musicians, and stage carpenters.
He grasped his left-hand brace with his right hand, always thrust into
his waistcoat; he head was flung far back, his eyes gazed out into

"Ah! I say, Topinard, have you independent means?"

"No, sir."

"Are you on the lookout to better yourself somewhere else?"

"No, sir--" said Topinard, with a ghastly countenance.

"Why, hang it all, your wife takes the first row of boxes out of
respect to my predecessor, who came to grief; I gave you the job of
cleaning the lamps in the wings in the daytime, and you put out the
scores. And that is not all, either. You get twenty sous for acting
monsters and managing devils when a hell is required. There is not a
super that does not covet your post, and there are those that are
jealous of you, my friend; you have enemies in the theatre."

"Enemies!" repeated Topinard.

"And you have three children; the oldest takes children's parts at
fifty centimes--"


"You want to meddle in other people's business, and put your finger
into a will case.--Why, you wretched man, you would be crushed like an
egg-shell! My patron is His Excellency, Monseigneur le Comte Popinot,
a clever man and a man of high character, whom the King in his wisdom
has summoned back to the privy council. This statesman, this great
politician, has married his eldest son to a daughter of M. le
President de Marville, one of the foremost men among the high courts
of justice; one of the leading lights of the law-courts. Do you know
the law-courts? Very good. Well, he is cousin and heir to M. Pons, to
our old conductor whose funeral you attended this morning. I do not
blame you for going to pay the last respects to him, poor man. . . .
But if you meddle in M. Schmucke's affairs, you will lose your place.
I wish very well to M. Schmucke, but he is in a delicate position with
regard to the heirs--and as the German is almost nothing to me, and
the President and Count Popinot are a great deal, I recommend you to
leave the worthy German to get out of his difficulties by himself.
There is a special Providence that watches over Germans, and the part
of deputy guardian-angel would not suit you at all. Do you see? Stay
as you are--you cannot do better."

"Very good, monsieur le directeur," said Topinard, much distressed.
And in this way Schmucke lost the protector sent to him by fate, the
one creature that shed a tear for Pons, the poor super for whose
return he looked on the morrow.

Next morning poor Schmucke awoke to a sense of his great and heavy
loss. He looked round the empty rooms. Yesterday and the day before
yesterday the preparations for the funeral had made a stir and bustle
which distracted his eyes; but the silence which follows the day, when
the friend, father, son, or loved wife has been laid in the grave--the
dull, cold silence of the morrow is terrible, is glacial. Some
irresistible force drew him to Pons' chamber, but the sight of it was
more than the poor man could bear; he shrank away and sat down in the
dining-room, where Mme. Sauvage was busy making breakfast ready.

Schmucke drew his chair to the table, but he could eat nothing. A
sudden, somewhat sharp ringing of the door-bell rang through the
house, and Mme. Cantinet and Mme. Sauvage allowed three black-coated
personages to pass. First came Vitel, the justice of the peace, with
his highly respectable clerk; third was Fraisier, neither sweeter nor
milder for the disappointing discovery of a valid will canceling the
formidable instrument so audaciously stolen by him.

"We have come to affix seals on the property," the justice of the
peace said gently, addressing Schmucke. But the remark was Greek to
Schmucke; he gazed in dismay at his three visitors.

"We have come at the request of M. Fraisier, legal representative of
M. Camusot de Marville, heir of the late Pons--" added the clerk.

"The collection is here in this great room, and in the bedroom of the
deceased," remarked Fraisier.

"Very well, let us go into the next room.--Pardon us, sir; do not let
us interrupt with your breakfast."

The invasion struck an icy chill of terror into poor Schmucke.
Fraisier's venomous glances seemed to possess some magnetic influence
over his victims, like the power of a spider over a fly.

"M. Schmucke understood how to turn a will, made in the presence of a
notary, to his own advantage," he said, "and he surely must have
expected some opposition from the family. A family does not allow
itself to be plundered by a stranger without some protest; and we
shall see, sir, which carries the day--fraud and corruption or the
rightful heirs. . . . We have a right as next of kin to affix seals,
and seals shall be affixed. I mean to see that the precaution is taken
with the utmost strictness."

"Ach, mein Gott! how haf I offended against Hefn?" cried the innocent

"There is a good deal of talk about you in the house," said La
Sauvage. "While you were asleep, a little whipper-snapper in a black
suit came here, a puppy that said he was M. Hannequin's head-clerk,
and must see you at all costs; but as you were asleep and tired out
with the funeral yesterday, I told him that M. Villemot, Tabareau's
head-clerk, was acting for you, and if it was a matter of business, I
said, he might speak to M. Villemot. 'Ah, so much the better!' the
youngster said. 'I shall come to an understanding with him. We will
deposit the will at the Tribunal, after showing it to the President.'
So at that, I told him to ask M. Villemot to come here as soon as he
could.--Be easy, my dear sir, there are those that will take care of
you. They shall not shear the fleece off your back. You will have some
one that has beak and claws. M. Villemot will give them a piece of his
mind. I have put myself in a passion once already with that abominable
hussy, La Cibot, a porter's wife that sets up to judge her lodgers,
forsooth, and insists that you have filched the money from the heirs;
you locked M. Pons up, she says, and worked upon him till he was
stark, staring mad. She got as good as she gave, though, the wretched
woman. 'You are a thief and a bad lot,' I told her; 'you will get into
the police-courts for all the things that you have stolen from the
gentlemen,' and she shut up."

The clerk came out to speak to Schmucke.

"Would you wish to be present, sir, when the seals are affixed in the
next room?"

"Go on, go on," said Schmucke; "I shall pe allowed to die in beace, I

"Oh, under any circumstances a man has a right to die," the clerk
answered, laughing; "most of our business relates to wills. But, in my
experience, the universal legatee very seldom follows the testator to
the tomb."

"I am going," said Schmucke. Blow after blow had given him an
intolerable pain at the heart.

"Oh! here comes M. Villemot!" exclaimed La Sauvage.

"Mennesir Fillemod," said poor Schmucke, "rebresent me."

"I hurried here at once," said Villemot. "I have come to tell you that
the will is completely in order; it will certainly be confirmed by the
court, and you will be put in possession. You will have a fine

"/I?/ Ein fein vordune?" cried Schmucke, despairingly. That he of all
men should be suspected of caring for the money!

"And meantime what is the justice of the peace doing here with his wax
candles and his bits of tape?" asked La Sauvage.

"Oh, he is affixing seals. . . . Come, M. Schmucke, you have a right
to be present."

"No--go in yourself."

"But where is the use of the seals if M. Schmucke is in his own house
and everything belongs to him?" asked La Sauvage, doing justice in
feminine fashion, and interpreting the Code according to their fancy,
like one and all of her sex.

"M. Schmucke is not in possession, madame; he is in M. Pons' house.
Everything will be his, no doubt; but the legatee cannot take
possession without an authorization--an order from the Tribunal. And
if the next-of-kin set aside by the testator should dispute the order,
a lawsuit is the result. And as nobody knows what may happen,
everything is sealed up, and the notaries representing either side
proceed to draw up an inventory during the delay prescribed by the
law. . . . And there you are!"

Schmucke, hearing such talk for the first time in his life, was
completely bewildered by it; his head sank down upon the back of his
chair--he could not support it, it had grown so heavy.

Villemot meanwhile went off to chat with the justice of the peace and
his clerk, assisting with professional coolness to affix the seals--a
ceremony which always involves some buffoonery and plentiful comments
on the objects thus secured, unless, indeed, one of the family happens
to be present. At length the party sealed up the chamber and returned
to the dining-room, whither the clerk betook himself. Schmucke watched
the mechanical operation which consists in setting the justice's seal
at either end of a bit of tape stretched across the opening of a
folding-door; or, in the case of a cupboard or ordinary door, from
edge to edge above the door-handle.

"Now for this room," said Fraisier, pointing to Schmucke's bedroom,
which opened into the dining-room.

"But that is M. Schmucke's own room," remonstrated La Sauvage,
springing in front of the door.

"We found the lease among the papers," Fraisier said ruthlessly;
"there was no mention of M. Schmucke in it; it is taken out in M.
Pons' name only. The whole place, and every room in it, is a part of
the estate. And besides"--flinging open the door--"look here, monsieur
le juge de la paix, it is full of pictures."

"So it is," answered the justice of the peace, and Fraisier thereupon
gained his point.

"Wait a bit, gentlemen," said Villemot. "Do you know that you are
turning the universal legatee out of doors, and as yet his right has
not been called in question?"

"Yes, it has," said Fraisier; "we are opposing the transfer of the

"And upon what grounds?"

"You shall know that by and by, my boy," Fraisier replied,
banteringly. "At this moment, if the legatee withdraws everything that
he declares to be his, we shall raise no objections, but the room
itself will be sealed. And M. Schmucke may lodge where he pleases."

"No," said Villemot; "M. Schmucke is going to stay in his room."

"And how?"

"I shall demand an immediate special inquiry," continued Villemot,
"and prove that we pay half the rent. You shall not turn us out. Take
away the pictures, decide on the ownership of the various articles,
but here my client stops--'my boy.'"

"I shall go out!" the old musician suddenly said. He had recovered
energy during the odious dispute.

"You had better," said Fraisier. "Your course will save expense to
you, for your contention would not be made good. The lease is

"The lease! the lease!" cried Villemot, "it is a question of good

"That could only be proved in a criminal case, by calling witnesses.
--Do you mean to plunge into experts' fees and verifications, and
orders to show cause why judgment should not be given, and law
proceedings generally?"

"No, no!" cried Schmucke in dismay. "I shall turn out; I am used to

In practice Schmucke was a philosopher, an unconscious cynic, so
greatly had he simplified his life. Two pairs of shoes, a pair of
boots, a couple of suits of clothes, a dozen shirts, a dozen bandana
handkerchiefs, four waistcoats, a superb pipe given to him by Pons,
with an embroidered tobacco-pouch--these were all his belongings.
Overwrought by a fever of indignation, he went into his room and piled
his clothes upon a chair.

"All dese are mine," he said, with simplicity worthy of Cincinnatus.
"Der biano is also mine."

Fraisier turned to La Sauvage. "Madame, get help," he said; "take that
piano out and put it on the landing."

"You are too rough into the bargain," said Villemot, addressing
Fraisier. "The justice of the peace gives orders here; he is supreme."

"There are valuables in the room," put in the clerk.

"And besides," added the justice of the peace, "M. Schmucke is going
out of his own free will."

"Did any one ever see such a client!" Villemot cried indignantly,
turning upon Schmucke. "You are as limp as a rag--"

"Vat dos it matter vere von dies?" Schmucke said as he went out. "Dese
men haf tiger faces. . . . I shall send somebody to vetch mein bits of

"Where are you going, sir?"

"Vere it shall blease Gott," returned Pons' universal legatee with
supreme indifference.

"Send me word," said Villemot.

Fraisier turned to the head-clerk. "Go after him," he whispered.

Mme. Cantinet was left in charge, with a provision of fifty francs
paid out of the money that they found. The justice of the peace looked
out; there Schmucke stood in the courtyard looking up at the windows
for the last time.

"You have found a man of butter," remarked the justice.

"Yes," said Fraisier, "yes. The thing is as good as done. You need not
hesitate to marry your granddaughter to Poulain; he will be
head-surgeon at the Quinze-Vingts." (The Asylum founded by St. Louis
for three hundred blind people.)

"We shall see.--Good-day, M. Fraisier," said the justice of the peace
with a friendly air.

"There is a man with a head on his shoulders," remarked the justice's
clerk. "The dog will go a long way."

By this time it was eleven o'clock. The old German went like an
automaton down the road along which Pons and he had so often walked
together. Wherever he went he saw Pons, he almost thought that Pons
was by his side; and so he reached the theatre just as his friend
Topinard was coming out of it after a morning spent in cleaning the
lamps and meditating on the manager's tyranny.

"Oh, shoost der ding for me!" cried Schmucke, stopping his
acquaintance. "Dopinart! you haf a lodging someveres, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"A home off your own?"

"Yes, sir."

"Are you villing to take me for ein poarder? Oh! I shall pay ver'
vell; I haf nine hundert vrancs of inkomm, und--I haf not ver' long
ter lif. . . . I shall gif no drouble vatefer. . . . I can eat
onydings--I only vant to shmoke mein bipe. Und--you are der only von
dat haf shed a tear for Bons, mit me; und so, I lof you."

"I should be very glad, sir; but, to begin with, M. Gaudissart has
given me a proper wigging--"


"That is one way of saying that he combed my hair for me."

"/Combed your hair?/"

"He gave me a scolding for meddling in your affairs. . . . So we must
be very careful if you come to me. But I doubt whether you will stay
when you have seen the place; you do not know how we poor devils

"I should rader der boor home of a goot-hearted mann dot haf mourned
Bons, dan der Duileries mit men dot haf ein tiger face. . . . I haf
chust left tigers in Bons' house; dey vill eat up everydings--"

"Come with me, sir, and you shall see. But--well, anyhow, there is a
garret. Let us see what Mme. Topinard says."

Schmucke followed like a sheep, while Topinard led the way into one of
the squalid districts which might be called the cancers of Paris--a
spot known as the Cite Bordin. It is a slum out of the Rue de Bondy, a
double row of houses run up by the speculative builder, under the
shadow of the huge mass of the Porte Saint-Martin theatre. The
pavement at the higher end lies below the level of the Rue de Bondy;
at the lower it falls away towards the Rue des Mathurins du Temple.
Follow its course and you find that it terminates in another slum
running at right angles to the first--the Cite Bordin is, in fact, a
T-shaped blind alley. Its two streets thus arranged contain some
thirty houses, six or seven stories high; and every story, and every
room in every story, is a workshop and a warehouse for goods of every
sort and description, for this wart upon the face of Paris is a
miniature Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Cabinet-work and brasswork,
theatrical costumes, blown glass, painted porcelain--all the various
fancy goods known as /l'article Paris/ are made here. Dirty and
productive like commerce, always full of traffic--foot-passengers,
vans, and drays--the Cite Bourdin is an unsavory-looking neighborhood,
with a seething population in keeping with the squalid surroundings.
It is a not unintelligent artisan population, though the whole power
of the intellect is absorbed by the day's manual labor. Topinard, like
every other inhabitant of the Cite Bourdin, lived in it for the sake
of comparatively low rent, the cause of its existence and prosperity.
His sixth floor lodging, in the second house to the left, looked out
upon the belt of green garden, still in existence, at the back of
three or four large mansions in the Rue de Bondy.

Topinard's apartment consisted of a kitchen and two bedrooms. The
first was a nursery with two little deal bedsteads and a cradle in it,
the second was the bedroom, and the kitchen did duty as a dining-room.
Above, reached by a short ladder, known among builders as a
"trap-ladder," there was a kind of garret, six feet high, with a
sash-window let into the roof. This room, given as a servants' bedroom,
raised the Topinards' establishment from mere "rooms" to the dignity of
a tenement, and the rent to a corresponding sum of four hundred francs.
An arched lobby, lighted from the kitchen by a small round window, did
duty as an ante-chamber, and filled the space between the bedroom, the
kitchen, and house doors--three doors in all. The rooms were paved
with bricks, and hung with a hideous wall-paper at threepence apiece;
the chimneypieces that adorned them were of the kind called
/capucines/--a shelf set on a couple of brackets painted to resemble
wood. Here in these three rooms dwelt five human beings, three of them
children. Any one, therefore, can imagine how the walls were covered
with scores and scratches so far as an infant arm can reach.

Rich people can scarcely realize the extreme simplicity of a poor
man's kitchen. A Dutch oven, a kettle, a gridiron, a saucepan, two or
three dumpy cooking-pots, and a frying-pan--that was all. All the
crockery in the place, white and brown earthenware together, was not
worth more than twelve francs. Dinner was served on the kitchen table,
which, with a couple of chairs and a couple of stools, completed the
furniture. The stock of fuel was kept under the stove with a
funnel-shaped chimney, and in a corner stood the wash-tub in which the
family linen lay, often steeping over-night in soapsuds. The nursery
ceiling was covered with clothes-lines, the walls were variegated with
theatrical placards and wood-cuts from newspapers or advertisements.
Evidently the eldest boy, the owner of the school-books stacked in a
corner, was left in charge while his parents were absent at the
theatre. In many a French workingman's family, so soon as a child
reaches the age of six or seven, it plays the part of mother to
younger sisters and brothers.

From this bare outline, it may be imagined that the Topinards, to use
the hackneyed formula, were "poor but honest." Topinard himself was
verging on forty; Mme. Topinard, once leader of a chorus--mistress,
too, it was said, of Gaudissart's predecessor, was certainly thirty
years old. Lolotte had been a fine woman in her day; but the
misfortunes of the previous management had told upon her to such an
extent, that it had seemed to her to be both advisable and necessary
to contract a stage-marriage with Topinard. She did not doubt but
that, as soon as they could muster the sum of a hundred and fifty
francs, her Topinard would perform his vows agreeably to the civil
law, were it only to legitimize the three children, whom he worshiped.
Meantime, Mme. Topinard sewed for the theatre wardrobe in the morning;
and with prodigious effort, the brave couple made nine hundred francs
per annum between them.

"One more flight!" Topinard had twice repeated since they reached the
third floor. Schmucke, engulfed in his sorrow, did not so much as know
whether he was going up or coming down.

In another minute Topinard had opened the door; but before he appeared
in his white workman's blouse Mme. Topinard's voice rang from the

"There, there! children, be quiet! here comes papa!"

But the children, no doubt, did as they pleased with papa, for the
oldest member of the family, sitting astride a broomstick, continued
to command a charge of cavalry (a reminiscence of the
Cirque-Olympique), the second blew a tin trumpet, while the third did
its best to keep up with the main body of the army. Their mother was
at work on a theatrical costume.

"Be quiet! or I shall slap you!" shouted Topinard in a formidable
voice; then in an aside for Schmucke's benefit--"Always have to say
that!--Here, little one," he continued, addressing his Lolotte, "this
is M. Schmucke, poor M. Pons' friend. He does not know where to go,
and he would like to live with us. I told him that we were not very
spick-and-span up here, that we lived on the sixth floor, and had only
the garret to offer him; but it was no use, he would come--"

Schmucke had taken the chair which the woman brought him, and the
children, stricken with sudden shyness, had gathered together to give
the stranger that mute, earnest, so soon-finished scrutiny
characteristic of childhood. For a child, like a dog, is wont to judge
by instinct rather than reason. Schmucke looked up; his eyes rested on
that charming little picture; he saw the performer on the tin trumpet,
a little five-year-old maiden with wonderful golden hair.

"She looks like ein liddle German girl," said Schmucke, holding out
his arms to the child.

"Monsieur will not be very comfortable here," said Mme. Topinard. "I
would propose that he should have our room at once, but I am obliged
to have the children near me."

She opened the door as she spoke, and bade Schmucke come in. Such
splendor as their abode possessed was all concentrated here. Blue
cotton curtains with a white fringe hung from the mahogany bedstead,
and adorned the window; the chest of drawers, bureau, and chairs,
though all made of mahogany, were neatly kept. The clock and
candlesticks on the chimneypiece were evidently the gift of the
bankrupt manager, whose portrait, a truly frightful performance of
Pierre Grassou's, looked down upon the chest of drawers. The children
tried to peep in at the forbidden glories.

"Monsieur might be comfortable in here," said their mother.

"No, no," Schmucke replied. "Eh! I haf not ver' long to lif, I only
vant a corner to die in."

The door was closed, and the three went up to the garret. "Dis is der
ding for me," Schmucke cried at once. "Pefore I lifd mid Bons, I vas
nefer better lodged."

"Very well. A truckle-bed, a couple of mattresses, a bolster, a
pillow, a couple of chairs, and a table--that is all that you need to
buy. That will not ruin you--it may cost a hundred and fifty francs,
with the crockeryware and strip of carpet for the bedside."

Everything was settled--save the money, which was not forthcoming.
Schmucke saw that his new friends were very poor, and recollecting
that the theatre was only a few steps away, it naturally occurred to
him to apply to the manager for his salary. He went at once, and found
Gaudissart in his office. Gaudissart received him in the somewhat
stiffly polite manner which he reserved for professionals. Schmucke's
demand for a month's salary took him by surprise, but on inquiry he
found that it was due.

"Oh, confound it, my good man, a German can always count, even if he
has tears in his eyes. . . . I thought that you would have taken the
thousand francs that I sent you into account, as a final year's
salary, and that we were quits."

"We haf receifed nodings," said Schmucke; "und gif I komm to you, it
ees because I am in der shtreet, und haf not ein benny. How did you
send us der bonus?"

"By your portress."

"By Montame Zipod!" exclaimed Schmucke. "She killed Bons, she robbed
him, she sold him--she tried to purn his vill--she is a pad creature,
a monster!"

"But, my good man, how come you to be out in the street without a roof
over your head or a penny in your pocket, when you are the sole heir?
That does not necessarily follow, as the saying is."

"They haf put me out at der door. I am a voreigner, I know nodings of
die laws."

"Poor man!" thought Gaudissart, foreseeing the probable end of the
unequal contest.--"Listen," he began, "do you know what you ought to
do in this business?"

"I haf ein mann of pizness!"

"Very good, come to terms at once with the next-of-kin; make them pay
you a lump sum of money down and an annuity, and you can live in

"I ask noding more."

"Very well. Let me arrange it for you," said Gaudissart. Fraisier had
told him the whole story only yesterday, and he thought that he saw
his way to making interest out of the case with the young Vicomtesse
Popinot and her mother. He would finish a dirty piece of work, and
some day he would be a privy councillor, at least; or so he told

"I gif you full powers."

"Well. Let me see. Now, to begin with," said Gaudissart, Napoleon of
the boulevard theatres, "to begin with, here are a hundred crowns--"
(he took fifteen louis from his purse and handed them to Schmucke).

"That is yours, on account of six months' salary. If you leave the
theatre, you can repay me the money. Now for your budget. What are
your yearly expenses? How much do you want to be comfortable? Come,
now, scheme out a life for a Sardanapalus--"

"I only need two suits of clothes, von for der vinter, von for der

"Three hundred francs," said Gaudissart.

"Shoes. Vour bairs."

"Sixty francs."


"A dozen pairs--thirty-six francs."

"Half a tozzen shirts."

"Six calico shirts, twenty-four francs; as many linen shirts,
forty-eight francs; let us say seventy-two. That makes four hundred
and sixty-eight francs altogether.--Say five hundred, including
cravats and pocket-handkerchiefs; a hundred francs for the laundress
--six hundred. And now, how much for your board--three francs a day?"

"No, it ees too much."

"After all, you want hats; that brings it to fifteen hundred. Five
hundred more for rent; that makes two thousand. If I can get two
thousand francs per annum for you, are you willing? . . . Good

"Und mein tobacco."

"Two thousand four hundred, then. . . . Oh! Papa Schmucke, do you call
that tobacco? Very well, the tobacco shall be given in.--So that is
two thousand four hundred francs per annum."

"Dat ees not all! I should like som monny."

"Pin-money!--Just so. Oh, these Germans! And calls himself an
innocent, the old Robert Macaire!" thought Gaudissart. Aloud he said,
"How much do you want? But this must be the last."

"It ees to bay a zacred debt."

"A debt!" said Gaudissart to himself. What a shark it is! He is worse
than an eldest son. He will invent a bill or two next! We must cut
this short. This Fraisier cannot take large views.--What debt is this,
my good man? Speak out."

"Dere vas but von mann dot haf mourned Bons mit me. . . . He haf a
tear liddle girl mit wunderschones haar; it vas as if I saw mein boor
Deutschland dot I should nefer haf left. . . . Baris is no blace for
die Germans; dey laugh at dem" (with a little nod as he spoke, and the
air of a man who knows something of life in this world below).

"He is off his head," Gaudissart said to himself. And a sudden pang of
pity for this poor innocent before him brought a tear to the manager's

"Ah! you understand, mennesir le directeur! Ver' goot. Dat mann mit
die liddle taughter is Dobinard, vat tidies der orchestra and lights
die lamps. Bons vas fery fond of him, und helped him. He vas der
only von dat accombanied mein only friend to die church und to die
grafe. . . . I vant dree tausend vrancs for him, und dree tausend for
die liddle von--"

"Poor fellow!" said Gaudissart to himself.

Rough, self-made man though he was, he felt touched by this nobleness
of nature, by a gratitude for a mere trifle, as the world views it;
though for the eyes of this divine innocence the trifle, like
Bossuet's cup of water, was worth more than the victories of great
captains. Beneath all Gaudissart's vanity, beneath the fierce desire
to succeed in life at all costs, to rise to the social level of his
old friend Popinot, there lay a warm heart and a kindly nature.
Wherefore he canceled his too hasty judgments and went over to
Schmucke's side.

"You shall have it all! But I will do better still, my dear Schmucke.
Topinard is a good sort--"

"Yes. I haf chust peen to see him in his boor home, vere he ees happy
mit his children--"

"I will give him the cashier's place. Old Baudrand is going to leave."

"Ah! Gott pless you!" cried Schmucke.

"Very well, my good, kind fellow, meet me at Berthier's office about
four o'clock this afternoon. Everything shall be ready, and you shall
be secured from want for the rest of your days. You shall draw your
six thousand francs, and you shall have the same salary with Garangeot
that you used to have with Pons."

"No," Schmucke answered. "I shall not lif. . . . I haf no heart for
anydings; I feel that I am attacked--"

"Poor lamb!" Gaudissart muttered to himself as the German took his
leave. "But, after all, one lives on mutton; and, as the sublime
Beranger says, 'Poor sheep! you were made to be shorn,'" and he
hummed the political squib by way of giving vent to his feelings. Then
he rang for the office-boy.

"Call my carriage," he said.

"Rue de Hanovre," he told the coachman.

The man of ambitions by this time had reappeared; he saw the way to
the Council of State lying straight before him.

And Schmucke? He was busy buying flowers and cakes for Topinard's
children, and went home almost joyously.

"I am gifing die bresents . . ." he said, and he smiled. It was the
first smile for three months, but any one who had seen Schmucke's face
would have shuddered to see it there.

"But dere is ein condition--"

"It is too kind of you, sir," said the mother.

"De liddle girl shall gif me a kiss and put die flowers in her hair,
like die liddle German maidens--"

"Olga, child, do just as the gentleman wishes," said the mother,
assuming an air of discipline.

"Do not scold mein liddle German girl," implored Schmucke. It seemed
to him that the little one was his dear Germany. Topinard came in.

"Three porters are bringing up the whole bag of tricks," he said.

"Oh! Here are two hundred vrancs to bay for eferydings . . ." said
Schmucke. "But, mein friend, your Montame Dobinard is ver' nice; you
shall marry her, is it not so? I shall gif you tausend crowns, and die
liddle vone shall haf tausend crowns for her toury, and you shall
infest it in her name. . . . Und you are not to pe ein zuper any more
--you are to pe de cashier at de teatre--"

"/I/?--instead of old Baudrand?"


"Who told you so?"

"Mennesir Gautissart!"

"Oh! it is enough to send one wild with joy! . . . Eh! I say, Rosalie,
what a rumpus there will be at the theatre! But it is not possible--"

"Our benefactor must not live in a garret--"

"Pshaw! for die few tays dat I haf to lif it ees fery komfortable,"
said Schmucke. "Goot-pye; I am going to der zemetery, to see vat dey
haf don mit Bons, und to order som flowers for his grafe."

Mme. Camusot de Marville was consumed by the liveliest apprehensions.
At a council held with Fraisier, Berthier, and Godeschal, the two
last-named authorities gave it as their opinion that it was hopeless
to dispute a will drawn up by two notaries in the presence of two
witnesses, so precisely was the instrument worded by Leopold
Hannequin. Honest Godeschal said that even if Schmucke's own legal
adviser should succeed in deceiving him, he would find out the truth
at last, if it were only from some officious barrister, the gentlemen
of the robe being wont to perform such acts of generosity and
disinterestedness by way of self-advertisement. And the two officials
took their leave of the Presidente with a parting caution against
Fraisier, concerning whom they had naturally made inquiries.

At that very moment Fraisier, straight from the affixing of the seals
in the Rue de Normandie, was waiting for an interview with Mme. de
Marville. Berthier and Godeschal had suggested that he should be shown
into the study; the whole affair was too dirty for the President to
look into (to use their own expression), and they wished to give Mme.
de Marville their opinion in Fraisier's absence.

"Well, madame, where are these gentlemen?" asked Fraisier, admitted to

"They are gone. They advise me to give up," said Mme. de Marville.

"Give up!" repeated Fraisier, suppressed fury in his voice. "Give up!
. . . Listen to this, madame:--

"'At the request of' . . . and so forth (I will omit the
formalities) . . . 'Whereas there has been deposited in the hands
of M. le President of the Court of First Instance, a will drawn up
by Maitres Leopold Hannequin and Alexandre Crottat, notaries of
Paris, and in the presence of two witnesses, the Sieurs Brunner
and Schwab, aliens domiciled at Paris, and by the said will the
Sieur Pons, deceased, has bequeathed his property to one Sieur
Schmucke, a German, to the prejudice of his natural heirs:

"'Whereas the applicant undertakes to prove that the said will
was obtained under undue influence and by unlawful means; and
persons of credit are prepared to show that it was the testator's
intention to leave his fortune to Mlle. Cecile, daughter of the
aforesaid Sieur de Marville, and the applicant can show that the
said will was extorted from the testator's weakness, he being
unaccountable for his actions at the time:

"'Whereas as the Sieur Schmucke, to obtain a will in his favor,
sequestrated the testator, and prevented the family from
approaching the deceased during his last illness; and his
subsequent notorious ingratitude was of a nature to scandalize the
house and residents in the quarter who chanced to witness it when
attending the funeral of the porter at the testator's place of

"'Whereas as still more serious charges, of which applicant is
collecting proofs, will be formally made before their worships the

"'I, the undersigned Registrar of the Court, etc., etc., on
behalf of the aforesaid, etc., have summoned the Sieur Schmucke,
pleading, etc., to appear before their worships the judges of the
first chamber of the Tribunal, and to be present when application
is made that the will received by Maitres Hannequin and Crottat,
being evidently obtained by undue influence, shall be regarded as
null and void in law; and I, the undersigned, on behalf of the
aforesaid, etc., have likewise given notice of protest, should the
Sieur Schmucke as universal legatee make application for an order
to be put into possession of the estate, seeing that the applicant
opposes such order, and makes objection by his application bearing
date of to-day, of which a copy has been duly deposited with the
Sieur Schmucke, costs being charged to . . . etc., etc.'

"I know the man, Mme. le Presidente. He will come to terms as soon as
he reads this little love-letter. He will take our terms. Are you
going to give the thousand crowns per annum?"

"Certainly. I only wish I were paying the first installment now."

"It will be done in three days. The summons will come down upon him
while he is stupefied with grief, for the poor soul regrets Pons and
is taking the death to heart."

"Can the application be withdrawn?" inquired the lady.

"Certainly, madame. You can withdraw it at any time."

"Very well, monsieur, let it be so . . . go on! Yes, the purchase of
land that you have arranged for me is worth the trouble; and, besides,
I have managed Vitel's business--he is to retire, and you must pay
Vitel's sixty thousand francs out of Pons' property. So, you see, you
must succeed."

"Have you Vitel's resignation?"

"Yes, monsieur. M. Vitel has put himself in M. de Marville's hands."

"Very good, madame. I have already saved you sixty thousand francs
which I expected to give to that vile creature Mme. Cibot. But I still
require the tobacconist's license for the woman Sauvage, and an
appointment to the vacant place of head-physician at the Quinze-Vingts
for my friend Poulain."

"Agreed--it is all arranged."

"Very well. There is no more to be said. Every one is for you in this
business, even Gaudissart, the manager of the theatre. I went to look
him up yesterday, and he undertook to crush the workman who seemed
likely to give us trouble."

"Oh, I know M. Gaudissart is devoted to the Popinots."

Fraisier went out. Unluckily, he missed Gaudissart, and the fatal
summons was served forthwith.

If all covetous minds will sympathize with the Presidente, all honest
folk will turn in abhorrence from her joy when Gaudissart came twenty
minutes later to report his conversation with poor Schmucke. She gave
her full approval; she was obliged beyond all expression for the
thoughtful way in which the manager relieved her of any remaining
scruples by observations which seemed to her to be very sensible and

"I thought as I came, Mme. la Presidente, that the poor devil would
not know what to do with the money. 'Tis a patriarchally simple
nature. He is a child, he is a German, he ought to be stuffed and put
in a glass case like a waxen image. Which is to say that, in my
opinion, he is quite puzzled enough already with his income of two
thousand five hundred francs, and here you are provoking him into

"It is very generous of him to wish to enrich the poor fellow who
regrets the loss of our cousin," pronounced the Presidente. "For my
own part, I am sorry for the little squabble that estranged M. Pons
and me. If he had come back again, all would have been forgiven. If
you only knew how my husband misses him! M. de Marville received no
notice of the death, and was in despair; family claims are sacred for
him, he would have gone to the service and the interment, and I myself
would have been at the mass--"

"Very well, fair lady," said Gaudissart. "Be so good as to have the
documents drawn up, and at four o'clock I will bring this German to
you. Please remember me to your charming daughter the Vicomtesse, and
ask her to tell my illustrious friend the great statesman, her good
and excellent father-in-law, how deeply I am devoted to him and his,
and ask him to continue his valued favors. I owe my life to his uncle
the judge, and my success in life to him; and I should wish to be
bound to both you and your daughter by the high esteem which links us
with persons of rank and influence. I wish to leave the theatre and
become a serious person."

"As you are already, monsieur!" said the Presidente.

"Adorable!" returned Gaudissart, kissing the lady's shriveled fingers.

At four o'clock that afternoon several people were gathered together
at Berthier's office; Fraisier, arch-concocter of the whole scheme,
Tabareau, appearing on behalf of Schmucke, and Schmucke himself.
Gaudissart had come with him. Fraisier had been careful to spread out
the money on Berthier's desk, and so dazzled was Schmucke by the sight
of the six thousand-franc bank-notes for which he had asked, and six
hundred francs for the first quarter's allowance, that he paid no heed
whatsoever to the reading of the document. Poor man, he was scarcely
in full possession of his faculties, shaken as they had already been
by so many shocks. Gaudissart had snatched him up on his return from
the cemetery, where he had been talking with Pons, promising to join
him soon--very soon. So Schmucke did not listen to the preamble in
which it was set forth that Maitre Tabareau, bailiff, was acting as
his proxy, and that the Presidente, in the interests of her daughter,
was taking legal proceedings against him. Altogether, in that preamble
the German played a sorry part, but he put his name to the document,
and thereby admitted the truth of Fraisier's abominable allegations;
and so joyous was he over receiving the money for the Topinards, so
glad to bestow wealth according to his little ideas upon the one
creature who loved Pons, that he heard not a word of lawsuit nor

But in the middle of the reading a clerk came into the private office
to speak to his employer. "There is a man here, sir, who wishes to
speak to M. Schmucke," said he.

The notary looked at Fraisier, and, taking his cue from him, shrugged
his shoulders.

"Never disturb us when we are signing documents. Just ask his name--is
it a man or a gentleman? Is he a creditor?"

The clerk went and returned. "He insists that he must speak to M.

"His name?"

"His name is Topinard, he says."

"I will go out to him. Sign without disturbing yourself," said
Gaudissart, addressing Schmucke. "Make an end of it; I will find out
what he wants with us."

Gaudissart understood Fraisier; both scented danger.

"Why are you here?" Gaudissart began. "So you have no mind to be
cashier at the theatre? Discretion is a cashier's first


"Just mind your own business; you will never be anything if you meddle
in other people's affairs."

"Sir, I cannot eat bread if every mouthful of it is to stick in my
throat. . . . Monsieur Schmucke!--M. Schmucke!" he shouted aloud.

Schmucke came out at the sound of Topinard's voice. He had just
signed. He held the money in his hand.

"Thees ees for die liddle German maiden und for you," he said.

"Oh! my dear M. Schmucke, you have given away your wealth to inhuman
wretches, to people who are trying to take away your good name. I took
this paper to a good man, an attorney who knows this Fraisier, and he
says that you ought to punish such wickedness; you ought to let them
summon you and leave them to get out of it.--Read this," and
Schmucke's imprudent friend held out the summons delivered in the Cite

Standing in the notary's gateway, Schmucke read the document, saw the
imputations made against him, and, all ignorant as he was of the
amenities of the law, the blow was deadly. The little grain of sand
stopped his heart's beating. Topinard caught him in his arms, hailed a
passing cab, and put the poor German into it. He was suffering from
congestion of the brain; his eyes were dim, his head was throbbing,
but he had enough strength left to put the money into Topinard's

Schmucke rallied from the first attack, but he never recovered
consciousness, and refused to eat. Ten days afterwards he died without
a complaint; to the last he had not spoken a word. Mme. Topinard
nursed him, and Topinard laid him by Pons' side. It was an obscure
funeral; Topinard was the only mourner who followed the son of Germany
to his last resting-place.

Fraisier, now a justice of the peace, is very intimate with the
President's family, and much valued by the Presidente. She could not
think of allowing him to marry "that girl of Tabareau's," and promised
infinitely better things for the clever man to whom she considers she
owes not merely the pasture-land and the English cottage at Marville,
but also the President's seat in the Chamber of Deputies, for M. le
President was returned at the general election in 1846.

Every one, no doubt, wishes to know what became of the heroine of a
story only too veracious in its details; a chronicle which, taken with
its twin sister the preceding volume, /La Cousine Bette/, proves that
Character is a great social force. You, O amateurs, connoisseurs, and
dealers, will guess at once that Pons' collection is now in question.
Wherefore it will suffice if we are present during a conversation that
took place only a few days ago in Count Popinot's house. He was
showing his splendid collection to some visitors.

"M. le Comte, you possess treasures indeed," remarked a distinguished

"Oh! as to pictures, nobody can hope to rival an obscure collector,
one Elie Magus, a Jew, an old monomaniac, the prince of
picture-lovers," the Count replied modestly. "And when I say nobody,
I do not speak of Paris only, but of all Europe. When the old Croesus
dies, France ought to spare seven or eight millions of francs to buy
the gallery. For curiosities, my collection is good enough to be
talked about--"

"But how, busy as you are, and with a fortune so honestly earned in
the first instance in business--"

"In the drug business," broke in Popinot; "you ask how I can continue
to interest myself in things that are a drug in the market--"

"No," returned the foreign visitor, "no, but how do you find time to
collect? The curiosities do not come to find you."

"My father-in-law owned the nucleus of the collection," said the young
Vicomtess; "he loved the arts and beautiful work, but most of his
treasures came to him through me."

"Through you, madame?--So young! and yet have you such vices as this?"
asked a Russian prince.

Russians are by nature imitative; imitative indeed to such an extent
that the diseases of civilization break out among them in epidemics.
The bric-a-brac mania had appeared in an acute form in St. Petersburg,
and the Russians caused such a rise of prices in the "art line," as
Remonencq would say, that collection became impossible. The prince who
spoke had come to Paris solely to buy bric-a-brac.

"The treasures came to me, prince, on the death of a cousin. He was
very fond of me," added the Vicomtesse Popinot, "and he had spent some
forty odd years since 1805 in picking up these masterpieces
everywhere, but more especially in Italy--"

"And what was his name?" inquired the English lord.

"Pons," said President Camusot.

"A charming man he was," piped the Presidente in her thin, flute
tones, "very clever, very eccentric, and yet very good-hearted. This
fan that you admire once belonged to Mme. de Pompadour; he gave it to
me one morning with a pretty speech which you must permit me not to
repeat," and she glanced at her daughter.

"Mme. la Vicomtesse, tell us the pretty speech," begged the Russian

"The speech was as pretty as the fan," returned the Vicomtesse, who
brought out the stereotyped remark on all occasions. "He told my
mother that it was quite time that it should pass from the hands of
vice into those of virtue."

The English lord looked at Mme. Camusot de Marville with an air of
doubt not a little gratifying to so withered a woman.

"He used to dine at our house two or three times a week," she said;
"he was so fond of us! We could appreciate him, and artists like the
society of those who relish their wit. My husband was, besides, his
one surviving relative. So when, quite unexpectedly, M. de Marville
came into the property, M. le Comte preferred to take over the whole
collection to save it from a sale by auction; and we ourselves much
preferred to dispose of it in that way, for it would have been so
painful to us to see the beautiful things, in which our dear cousin
was so much interested, all scattered abroad. Elie Magus valued them,
and in that way I became possessed of the cottage that your uncle
built, and I hope you will do us the honor of coming to see us there."

Gaudissart's theatre passed into other hands a year ago, but M.
Topinard is still the cashier. M. Topinard, however, has grown gloomy
and misanthropic; he says little. People think that he has something
on his conscience. Wags at the theatre suggest that his gloom dates
from his marriage with Lolotte. Honest Topinard starts whenever he
hears Fraisier's name mentioned. Some people may think it strange that
the one nature worthy of Pons and Schmucke should be found on the
third floor beneath the stage of a boulevard theatre.

Mme. Remonencq, much impressed with Mme. Fontaine's prediction,
declines to retire to the country. She is still living in her splendid
shop on the Boulevard de la Madeleine, but she is a widow now for the
second time. Remonencq, in fact, by the terms of the marriage
contract, settled the property upon the survivor, and left a little
glass of vitriol about for his wife to drink by mistake; but his wife,
with the very best intentions, put the glass elsewhere, and Remonencq
swallowed the draught himself. The rascal's appropriate end vindicates
Providence, as well as the chronicler of manners, who is sometimes
accused of neglect on this head, perhaps because Providence has been
so overworked by playwrights of late.

Pardon the transcriber's errors.


The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

Baudoyer, Isidore
The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

Berthier (Parisian notary)
Cousin Betty

Berthier, Madame
The Muse of the Department

Bixiou, Jean-Jacques
The Purse
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Government Clerks
Modeste Mignon
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Firm of Nucingen
The Muse of the Department
Cousin Betty
The Member for Arcis
A Man of Business
Gaudissart II.
The Unconscious Humorists

A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Cousin Betty

Brisetout, Heloise
Cousin Betty
The Middle Classes

A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Muse of the Department
Cesar Birotteau
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

Camusot de Marville
Jealousies of a Country Town
The Commission in Lunacy
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Camusot de Marville, Madame
The Vendetta
Cesar Birotteau
Jealousies of a Country Town
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Cardot (Parisian notary)
The Muse of the Department
A Man of Business
Jealousies of a Country Town
Pierre Grassou
The Middle Classes

Cousin Betty

Crevel, Celestin
Cesar Birotteau
Cousin Betty

Crottat, Alexandre
Cesar Birotteau
Colonel Chabert
A Start in Life
A Woman of Thirty

The Atheist's Mass
Lost Illusions
The Thirteen
The Government Clerks
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Seamy Side of History
Modeste Mignon
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Cousin Betty

Fontaine, Madame
The Unconscious Humorists

Gaudissart, Felix
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Cesar Birotteau
Gaudissart the Great

Godeschal, Francois-Claude-Marie
Colonel Chabert
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Start in Life
The Commission in Lunacy
The Middle Classes

Godeschal, Marie
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Start in Life
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Gouraud, General, Baron

Graff, Wolfgang
Cousin Betty

Granville, Vicomte de (later Comte)
The Gondreville Mystery
A Second Home
Farewell (Adieu)
Cesar Birotteau
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
A Daughter of Eve

Grassou, Pierre
Pierre Grassou
A Bachelor's Establishment
Cousin Betty
The Middle Classes

Hannequin, Leopold
Albert Savarus
Cousin Betty

Haudry (doctor)
Cesar Birotteau
The Thirteen
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Seamy Side of History

Lebrun (physician)
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Magus, Elie
The Vendetta
A Marriage Settlement
A Bachelor's Establishment
Pierre Grassou

Matifat (wealthy druggist)
Cesar Birotteau
A Bachelor's Establishment
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Firm of Nucingen

Minard, Prudence
The Middle Classes

Pillerault, Claude-Joseph
Cesar Birotteau

Popinot, Anselme
Cesar Birotteau
Gaudissart the Great
Cousin Betty

Popinot, Madame Anselme
Cesar Birotteau
A Prince of Bohemia
Cousin Betty

Popinot, Vicomte
Cousin Betty

Rivet, Achille
Cousin Betty

Schmucke, Wilhelm
A Daughter of Eve
Ursule Mirouet
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Stevens, Dinah
A Marriage Settlement

Modeste Mignon
The Member for Arcis
Cousin Betty
The Unconscious Humorists

Cesar Birotteau

The Member for Arcis
The Middle Classes

Vinet, Olivier
The Member for Arcis
The Middle Classes

Vivet, Madeleine
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

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