Part 5 out of 5
studied Fabien. His temperament is somewhat wayward. With special
training he might have become an artist. Lacking that early moulding
into shape, he never will be anything more than a dreamer."
"I should not have expressed it so well, but I have often thought the
"With a temperament like your nephew's," continued M. Charnot, "the best
he can do is to enter upon a career in which the ideal has some part; not
a predominant, but a sufficient part, something between prose and
"Let him be a notary, then."
"No, that's wholly prose; he shall be a librarian."
"Yes, Monsieur Mouillard; there are a few little libraries in Paris,
which are as quiet as groves, and in which places are to be got that are
as snug as nests. I have some influence in official circles, and that
can do no harm, you know."
"We will put our Fabien into one of those nests, where he will be
protected against idleness by the little he will do, and against
revolutions by the little he will be. It's a charming profession;
the very smell of books is improving; merely by breathing it you live
an intellectual life."
"An intellectual life!" exclaimed my uncle with enthusiasm. "Yes, an
"And cataloguing books, Monsieur Mouillard, looking through them,
preserving them as far as possible from worms and readers. Don't you
think that's an enviable lot?"
"Yes, more so than mine has been, or my successor's will be."
"By the way, uncle, you haven't told us who your successor is to be."
"Haven't I, really? Why, you know him; it's your friend Larive."
"Oh! That explains a great deal."
"He is a young man who takes life seriously."
"Very seriously, uncle. Isn't he about to be married?"
"Why, yes; to a rich wife."
"My dear boy, he is picking up all your leavings; he is going to marry
"He was always enterprising! But, uncle, it wasn't with him you were
engaged yesterday evening?"
"Why not, pray?"
"You told Madeleine to admit a gentleman with a decoration."
"He has one."
"Good heavens! What is it?"
"The Nicham Iftikar, if it please you."
[A Tunisian order, which can be obtained for a very moderate sum.]
"It doesn't displease me, uncle, and surprises me still less. Larive
will die with his breast more thickly plastered with decorations than an
Odd Fellow's; he will be a member of all the learned societies in the
department, respected and respectable, the more thoroughly provincial for
having been outrageously Parisian. Mothers will confide their anxieties
to him, and fathers their interests; but when his old acquaintances pass
this way they will take the liberty of smiling in his face."
"What, jealous? Are you jealous of his bit of ribbon?"
"No, uncle, I regret nothing; not even Larive's good fortune."
M. Mouillard fixed his eyes on the cloth, and began again, after a
"I, Fabien, do regret some things. It will be mournful at times, growing
old alone here. Yet, after all, it will be some consolation to me to
think that you others are satisfied with life, to welcome you here for
"You can do better than that," said M. Charnot. "Come and grow old among
us. Your years will be the lighter to bear, Monsieur Mouillard.
Doubtless we must always bear them, and they weigh upon us and bend our
backs. But youth, which carries its own burden so lightly, can always
give us a little help in bearing ours."
I looked to hear my uncle break out with loud objections.
"It is a fine night," he said, simply; "let us go into the garden, and do
you decide whether I can leave roses like mine."
M. Mouillard took us into the garden, pleased with himself, with me, with
Jeanne, with everybody, and with the weather.
It was too dark to see the roses, but we could smell them as we passed.
I had taken Jeanne's arm in mine, and we went on in front, in the cool
dusk, choosing all the little winding paths.
The birds were all asleep. But the grasshoppers, crickets, and all
manner of creeping things hidden in the grass, or in the moss on the
trees, were singing and chattering in their stead.
Behind us, at some distance--in fact, as far off as we could manage--
the gravel crackled beneath the equal tread of the two elders, and in a
murmur we could catch occasional scraps of sentences:
"A granddaughter like Jeanne, Monsieur Charnot . . . ."
"A grandson like Fabien, Monsieur Mouillard . . . ."
A HAPPY FAMILY
PARIS, September 18th.
We are married. We are just back from the church. We have said good-by
to all our friends, not without a quick touch or two of sadness, as
quickly swallowed up in the joy which for the first time in the history
of my heart is surging there at full tide, and widening to a limitless
horizon. In the two hours I have to spare before starting for Italy, I
am writing the last words in this brown diary, which I do not intend to
take with me.
Jeanne, my own Jeanne, is leaning upon me and reading over my shoulder,
which distracts the flow of my recollections.
There were crowds at the church. The papers had put us down among the
fashionable marriages of the week. The Institute, the army, men of
letters, public officials, had come out of respect for M. Charnot;
lawyers of Bourges and Paris had come out of respect for my uncle. But
the happiest, the most radiant, next to ourselves, were the people who
came only for Jeanne's sake and mine; Sylvestre Lampron, painter-in-
ordinary to Mademoiselle Charnot, bringing his pretty sketch as a
wedding-present; M. Flamaran and Sidonie; Jupille, who wept as he used to
"thirty years ago;" and M. and Madame Plumet, who took it in turns to
carry their white-robed infant.
Jeanne and I certainly shook hands with a good many persons, but not with
nearly as many as M. Mouillard. Clean-shaven, his cravat tied with
exquisite care, he spun round in the crowd like a top, always dragging
with him some one who was to introduce him to some one else. "One should
make acquaintances immediately on arrival," he kept saying.
Yes, Uncle Mouillard has just arrived in Paris; he has settled down near
us on the Quai Malaquais, in a pretty set of rooms which Jeanne chose for
him. He thinks them perfect because she thought they would do. The
tastes and interests of old student days have suddenly reawakened within
him, and will not be put to sleep again. He already knows the omnibus
and tramway lines better than I; he talks of Bourges as if it were twenty
years since he left it: "When I used to live in the country, Fabien--"
My father-in-law has found in him a whole-hearted admirer, perhaps even a
future pupil in numismatics. Their friendship makes me think of that--
["You don't mind, Jeanne?"
"Of course not, my dear; the brown diary is for our two selves
--of that of the town mouse and the country mouse. Just now, on their
way back to the house, they had a conversation, by turns pathetic and
jovial, in which their different temperaments met in the same feeling,
but at opposite ends of the scale of its shades.
I caught this fragment of their talk:
"My dear Charnot, can you guess what I'm thinking about?"
"No, I haven't the least idea."
"I think it is very queer."
"What is queer?"
"To see a librarian begin his career with a blot of ink. For you can not
deny that Fabien's marriage and situation, and my return to the capital,
are all due to that. It must have been sympathetic ink--eh?"
"'Felix culpa', as you say, Monsieur Mouillard. There are some blunders
that are lucky; but you can't tell which they are, and that's never any
excuse for committing them."
I could hardly get hold of Lampron for a moment in the crowd he so
dislikes. He was more uncouth and more devoted than ever.
"Well, are you happy?" he said.
"When you're less happy, come and see me."
"We shall always be just as happy as we are now," said Jeanne.
And I think she is right.
"Yes, I am quite happy, Sylvestre, and I owe my happiness to you, to her,
and to others. I have done nothing myself to deserve happiness beyond
letting myself drift on the current of life. Whenever I tried to row a
stroke the boat nearly upset. Everything that others tried to do for me
succeeded. I can't get over it. Just think of it yourself. I owed my
introduction to Jeanne to Monsieur Flamaran, who drove me to call on her
father; his friend; you courted her for me by painting her portrait;
Madame Plumet told her you had done so, and also removed the obstacle in
my path. I met her in Italy, thanks entirely to you; and you clinched
the proposal which had been begun by Flamaran. To crown all, the very
situation I desired has been obtained for me by my father-in-law. What
have I had to do? I have loved, sorrowed, and suffered, nothing more;
and now I tremble at the thought that I owe my happiness to every one I
know except myself."
"Cease to tremble, my friend; don't be surprised at it, and don't alter
your system in the least. Your happiness is your due; what matter how
God chooses to grant it? Suppose it is an income for life paid to you by
your relatives, your friends, the world in general, and the natural order
of things? Well, draw your dividends, and don't bother about where they
Since Lampron said so, and he is a philosopher, I think I had better
follow his advice. If you don't mind, Jeanne, I will cherish no ambition
beyond your love, and refrain from running after any increase in wealth
or reputation which might prove a decrease in happiness. If you agree,
Jeanne, we shall see little of society, and much of our friends; we shall
not open our windows wide enough for Love, who is winged, to fly out of
them. If such is your pleasure, Jeanne, you shall direct the household
of your own sweet will--I should say, of your sweet wisdom; you shall be
queen in all matters of domestic economy, you shall rule our goings-out
and our comings-in, our visits, our travels. I shall leave you to guide
me, as a child, along the joyous path in which I follow your footsteps.
I am looking up at Jeanne. She has not said "No."
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
All that a name is to a street--its honor, its spouse
Distrust first impulse
Hard that one can not live one's life over twice
He always loved to pass for being overwhelmed with work
I don't call that fishing
If trouble awaits us, hope will steal us a happy hour or two
Obstacles are the salt of all our joys
People meeting to "have it out" usually say nothing at first
The very smell of books is improving
There are some blunders that are lucky; but you can't tell
You ask Life for certainties, as if she had any to give you