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The Lesser Bourgeoisie by Honore de Balzac

Part 9 out of 10

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without knowing it, the first to observe the famous comet of 1811; but
I should have taken care not to say a word about it if it had not been
for Monsieur Flauguergues, who announced it. Like all my pupils,
Phellion knows my aversion to stars, and he knew very well the worst
trick he could play me would be to saddle one on my back; and that
deputation that came to play the farce of congratulating me was mighty
lucky not to find me at home, for if they had, I can assure those
gentlemen of the Academy, they would have had a hot reception."

Everybody present thought the old mathematician's monomania quite
delightful, except la Peyrade, who now, in perceiving Felix Phellion's
part in the affair, regretted deeply having caused the explanation.

"And yet, Monsieur Picot," said Minard, "if Felix Phellion is only
guilty of attributing his discovery to you, it seems to me that his
indiscreet behavior has resulted in a certain compensation to you: the
cross of the Legion of honor, a pension, and the glory attached to
your name are not to be despised."

"The cross and the pension I take," said the old man, emptying his
glass, which, to Brigitte's terror, he set down upon the table with a
force that threatened to smash it. "The government has owed them to me
these twenty years; not for the discovery of stars,--things that I
have always despised,--but for my famous 'Treatise on Differential
Logarithms' (Kepler thought proper to call them monologarithms), which
is a sequel to the tables of Napier; also for my 'Postulatum' of
Euclid, of which I was the first to discover the solution; but above
all, for my 'Theory of Perpetual Motion,'--four volumes in quarto with
plates; Paris, 1825. You see, therefore, monsieur, that to give me
glory is bringing water to the Seine. I had so little need of Monsieur
Felix Phellion to make me a position in the scientific world that I
turned him out of my house long ago."

"Then it isn't the first star," said Colleville, flippantly, "that he
dared to put upon you?"

"He did worse than that," roared the old man; "he ruined my
reputation, he tarnished my name. My 'Theory of Perpetual Motion,' the
printing of which cost me every penny I owned, though it ought to have
been printed gratis at the Royal Printing-office, was calculated to
make my fortune and render me immortal. Well, that miserable Felix
prevented it. From time to time, pretending to bring messages from my
editor, he would say, the young sycophant, 'Papa Picot, your book is
selling finely; here's five hundred francs--two hundred francs--and
once it was two thousand--which your publisher charged me to give
you.' This thing went on for years, and my publisher, who had the
baseness to enter into the plot, would say to me, when I went to the
shop: 'Yes, yes, it doesn't do badly, it BUBBLES, that book; we shall
soon be at the end of this edition.' I, who didn't suggest anything, I
pocketed my money, and thought to myself: 'My book is liked, little by
little its ideas are making their way; I may now expect, from day to
day, that some great capitalist will come to me and propose to apply
my system--'"

"--of 'Absorption of Liquids'?" asked Colleville, who had been
steadily filling the old fellow's glass.

"No, monsieur, my 'Theory of Perpetual Motion,' 4 vols. in quarto with
plates. But no! days, weeks went by and nobody came; so, thinking that
my publisher did not put all the energy he should into the matter, I
tried to sell the second edition to another man. It was that,
monsieur, that enabled me to discover the whole plot, on which, as I
said before, I turned that serpent out of my house. In six years only
nine copies had been sold! Kept quiet in false security I had done
nothing for the propagation of my book, which had been left to take
care of itself; and thus it was that I, victim of black and wicked
jealousy, was shamefully despoiled of the value of my labors."

"But," said Minard, making himself the mouthpiece of the thoughts of
the company, "may we not see in that act a manner as ingenious as it
was delicate to--"

"To give me alms! is that what you mean?" interrupted the old man,
with a roar that made Mademoiselle Minard jump in her chair; "to
humiliate me, dishonor me--me, his old professor! Am I in need of
charity? Has Picot (Nepomucene), to whom his wife brought a dowry of
one hundred thousand francs, ever stretched out his palm to any one?
But in these days nothing is respected. Old fellows, as they call us,
our religion and our good faith is taken advantage of so that these
youths may say to the public: 'Old drivellers, don't you see now they
are good for nothing? It needs US, the young generation, US, the
moderns, US, Young France, to bring them up on a bottle.' Young
greenhorn! let me see YOU try to feed ME! Old drivellers know more in
their little finger than you in your whole brain, and you'll never be
worth us, paltry little intriguer that you are! However, I know my day
of vengeance will come; that young Phellion can't help ending badly;
what he did to-day, reading a statement to the Academy, under my name,
was forgery, forgery! and the law will send him to the galleys for

"True," said Colleville, "forgery of a public star."

Brigitte, who quaked for her glasses, and whose nerves were
exacerbated by the monstrous consumption of cakes and wine, now gave
the signal to return to the salon. Besides, she had heard the door-
bell ring several times, announcing the arrival of guests for the
evening. The question then was how to transplant the professor, and
Colleville politely offered him his arm.

"No, monsieur," he said, "you must allow me to stay where I am. I am
not dressed for a party, and besides, a strong light hurts my eyes.
Moreover, I don't choose to give myself as a spectacle; it will be
best that my interview with Felix Phellion should take place between
'four-eyes,' as they say."

"Well, let him alone, then," said Brigitte to Colleville.

No one insisted,--the old man having, unconsciously, pretty nigh
discrowned himself in the opinion of the company. But before leaving,
the careful housewife removed everything that was at all fragile from
his reach; then, by way of a slight attention, she said:--

"Shall I send you some coffee?"

"I'll take it, madame," responded pere Picot, "and some cognac with

"Oh! parbleu! he takes everything," said Brigitte to the male
domestic, and she told the latter to keep an eye on the old madman.

When Brigitte returned to the salon she found that the Abbe Gondrin
had become the centre of a great circle formed by nearly the whole
company, and as she approached, she heard him say:--

"I thank Heaven for bestowing upon me such a pleasure. I have never
felt an emotion like that aroused by the scene we have just witnessed;
even the rather burlesque form of this confidence, which was certainly
very artless, for it was quite involuntary, only adds to the honor of
the surprising generosity it revealed. Placed as I am by my ministry
in the way of knowing of many charities, and often either the witness
or intermediary of good actions, I think I never in my life have met
with a more touching or a more ingenious devotion. To keep the left
hand ignorant of what the right hand does is a great step in
Christianity; but to go so far as to rob one's self of one's own fame
to benefit another under such conditions is the gospel applied in its
highest precepts; it is being more than a Sister of Charity; it is
doing the work of an apostle of beneficence. How I should like to know
that noble young man, and shake him by the hand."

With her arm slipped through that of her godmother, Celeste was
standing very near the priest, her ears intent upon his words, her arm
pressing tighter and tighter that of Madame Thuillier, as the abbe
analyzed the generous action of Felix Phellion, until at last she
whispered under her breath:--

"You hear, godmother, you hear!"

To destroy the inevitable effect which this hearty praise would surely
have on Celeste, Thuillier hastened to say:--

"Unfortunately, Monsieur l'abbe, the young man of whom you speak so
warmly is not altogether unknown to you. I have had occasion to tell
you about him, and to regret that it was not possible to follow out
certain plans which we once entertained for him; I allude to the very
compromising independence he affects in his religious opinions."

"Ah! is that the young man?" said the abbe; "you surprise me much; I
must say such an idea would never have crossed my mind."

"You will see him presently, Monsieur l'abbe," said la Peyrade,
joining in the conversation, "and if you question him on certain
grounds you will have no difficulty in discovering the ravages that a
love of science can commit in the most gifted souls."

"I am afraid I shall not see him," said the abbe, "as my black gown
would be out of place in the midst of the more earthly gaiety that
will soon fill this salon. But I know, Monsieur de la Peyrade, that
you are a man of sincerely pious convictions, and as, without any
doubt, you feel as much interest in the young man's welfare as I do
myself, I shall say to you in parting: Do not be uneasy about him;
sooner or later, such choice souls come back to us, and if the return
of these prodigals should be long delayed I should not fear, on seeing
them go to God, that His infinite mercy would fail them."

So saying, the abbe looked about to find his hat, and proceeded to
slip quietly away.

Suddenly a fearful uproar was heard. Rushing into the dining-room,
whence came a sound of furniture overturned and glasses breaking,
Brigitte found Colleville occupied in adjusting his cravat and looking
himself over to be sure that his coat, cruelly pulled awry, bore no
signs of being actually torn.

"What is the matter?" cried Brigitte.

"It is that old idiot," replied Colleville, "who is in a fury. I came
to take my coffee with him, just to keep him company, and he took a
joke amiss, and collared me, and knocked over two chairs and a tray of
glasses because Josephine didn't get out of his way in time."

"It is all because you've been teasing him," said Brigitte, crossly;
"why couldn't you stay in the salon instead of coming here to play
your jokes, as you call them? You think you are still in the orchestra
of the Opera-Comique."

This sharp rebuke delivered, Brigitte, like the resolute woman that
she was, saw that she absolutely must get rid of the ferocious old man
who threatened her household with flames and blood. Accordingly, she
approached pere Picot, who was tranquilly engaged in burning brandy in
his saucer.

"Monsieur," she said, at the top of her lungs, as if she were speaking
to a deaf person (evidently thinking that a blind one ought to be
treated in the same manner), "I have come to tell you something that
may annoy you. Monsieur and Madame Phellion have just arrived, and
they inform me that their son, Monsieur Felix, is not coming. He has a
cold and a sore-throat."

"Then he got it this afternoon reading that lecture," cried the
professor, joyfully. "That's justice!--Madame, where do you get your

"Why, at my grocer's," replied Brigitte, taken aback by the question.

"Well, madame, I ought to tell you that in a house where one can drink
such excellent champagne, which reminds me of that we used to quaff at
the table of Monsieur de Fontanes, grand-master of the University, it
is shameful to keep such brandy. I tell you, with the frankness I put
into everything, that it is good only to wash your horses' feet, and
if I had not the resource of burning it--"

"He is the devil in person," thought Brigitte; "not a word of excuse
about all that glass, but he must needs fall foul of my brandy too!--
Monsieur," she resumed, in the same raised diapason, "as Monsieur
Felix is not coming, don't you think your family will be uneasy at
your absence?"

"Family? I haven't any, madame, owing to the fact that they want to
make me out a lunatic. But I have a housekeeper, Madame Lambert, and I
dare say she will be surprised not to see me home by this time. I
think I had better go now; if I stay later, the scene might be more
violent. But I must own that in this strange quarter I am not sure if
I can find my way."

"Then take a carriage."

"Carriage here, carriage there, indeed! my spiteful relations wouldn't
lose the chance of calling me a spendthrift."

"I have an important message to send into your quarter," said
Brigitte, seeing she must resolve to make the sacrifice, "and I have
just told my porter to take a cab and attend to it. If you would like
to take advantage of that convenience--"

"I accept it, madame," said the old professor, rising; "and, if it
comes to the worst, I hope you will testify before the judge that I
was niggardly about a cab."

"Henri," said Brigitte to the man-servant, "take monsieur down to the
porter and tell him to do the errand I told him about just now, and to
take monsieur to his own door, and be very careful of him."

"Careful of him!" echoed the old man. "Do you take me for a trunk,
madame, or a bit of cracked china?"

Seeing that she had got her man fairly to the door, Brigitte allowed
herself to turn upon him.

"What I say, monsieur, is for your good. You must allow me to observe
that you have not an agreeable nature."

"Careful of him! careful of him!" repeated the old man. "Don't you
know, madame, that by the use of such words you may get people put
into lunatic asylums? However, I will not reply rudely to the polite
hospitality I have received,--all the more because, I think, I have
put Monsieur Felix, who missed me intentionally, in his right place."

"Go, go, go, you old brute!" cried Brigitte, slamming the door behind

Before returning to the salon she was obliged to drink a whole
glassful of water, the restraint she had been forced to put upon
herself in order to get rid of this troublesome guest having, to use
her own expression, "put her all about."



The next morning Minard paid a visit to Phellion in his study. The
great citizen and his son Felix were at that moment engaged in a
conversation which seemed to have some unusual interest for them.

"My dear Felix," cried the mayor of the eleventh arrondissement,
offering his hand warmly to the young professor, "it is you who bring
me here this morning; I have come to offer you my congratulations."

"What has occurred?" asked Phellion. "Have the Thuilliers--"

"It has nothing to do with the Thuilliers," interrupted the mayor.
"But," he added, looking hard at Felix, "can that sly fellow have
concealed the thing even from you?"

"I do not think," said Phellion, "that ever, in his life, has my son
concealed a thing from me."

"Then you know about the sublime astronomical discovery which he
communicated to the Academy of Sciences yesterday?"

"Your kindness for me, Monsieur le maire," said Felix, hastily, "has
led you astray; I was only the reader of the communication."

"Oh! let me alone!" said Minard; "reader, indeed! I know all about

"But see," said Felix, offering Minard the "Constitutionnel," "here's
the paper; not only does it announce that Monsieur Picot is the maker
of the discovery, but it mentions the rewards which, without losing a
moment, the government has bestowed upon him."

"Felix is right," said Phellion; "that journal is to be trusted. On
this occasion I think the government has acted very properly."

"But, my dear commander, I repeat to you that the truth of the affair
has got wind, and your son is shown to be a most admirable fellow. To
put his own discovery to the credit of his old professor so as to
obtain for him the recognition and favor of the authorities--upon my
word, in all antiquity I don't know a finer trait!"

"Felix!" said Phellion, beginning to show some emotion, "these immense
labors to which you have devoted so much time of late, these continual
visits to the Observatory--"

"But, father," interrupted Felix, "Monsieur Minard has been

"Misinformed!" cried Minard, "when I know the whole affair from
Monsieur Picot himself!"

At this argument, stated in a way to leave no possible doubt, the
truth began to dawn upon Phellion.

"Felix, my son!" he said, rising to embrace him.

But he was obliged to sit down again; his legs refused to bear his
weight; he turned pale; and that nature, ordinarily so impassible,
seemed about to give way under the shock of this happiness.

"My God!" said Felix, terrified, "he is ill; ring the bell, I entreat
you, Monsieur Minard."

And he ran to the old man, loosened his cravat and unfastened the
collar of his shirt, striking him in the palms of his hands. But the
sudden faintness was but momentary; almost immediately himself again,
Phellion gathered his son to his heart, and holding him long in his
embrace, he said, in a voice broken by the tears that came to put an
end to this shock of joy:--

"Felix, my noble son! so great in heart, so great in mind!"

The bell had been rung by Minard with magisterial force, and with such
an accent that the whole household was alarmed, and came running in.

"It is nothing, it is nothing," said Phellion to the servants, sending
them away. But almost at the same moment, seeing his wife, who now
entered the room, he resumed his habitual solemnity.

"Madame Phellion," he said, pointing to Felix, "how many years is it
since you brought that young man into the world?"

Madame Phellion, bewildered by the question, hesitated a moment, and
then said:--

"Twenty-five years next January."

"Have you not thought, until now, that God had amply granted your
maternal desires by making this child of your womb an honest man, a
pious son, and by gifting him for mathematics, that Science of
sciences, with an aptitude sufficiently remarkable?"

"I have," said Madame Phellion, understanding less and less what her
husband was coming to.

"Well," continued Phellion, "you owe to God an additional
thanksgiving, for He has granted that you be the mother of a man of
genius; his toil, which lately we rebuked, and which made us fear for
the reason of our child, was the way--the rough and jagged way--by
which men come to fame."

"Ah ca!" cried Madame Phellion, "can't you stop coming yourself to an
explanation of what you mean, and get there?"

"Your son," said Minard, cautious this time in measuring the joy he
was about to bestow, fearing another fainting-fit of happiness, "has
just made a very important scientific discovery."

"Is it true?" said Madame Phellion, going up to Felix, and taking him
by both hands as she looked at him lovingly.

"When I say important," continued Minard, "I am only sparing your
maternal emotions; it is, in truth, a sublime, a dazzling discovery.
He is only twenty-five years old, but his name, from henceforth, is

"And this is the man," said Madame Phellion, half beside herself, and
kissing Felix with effusion, "to whom that la Peyrade is preferred!"

"No, not preferred, madame," said Minard, "for the Thuilliers are not
the dupes of that adventurer. But he has made himself necessary to
them. Thuillier fancies that without la Peyrade he could not be
elected; the election is still doubtful, and they are sacrificing
everything to it."

"But isn't it odious," cried Madame Phellion, "to consider such
interests before the happiness of their child!"

"Ah!" said Minard, "but Celeste is not their child, only their adopted

"Brigitte's, if you like," said Madame Phellion; "but as for

"My good wife," said Phellion, "no censoriousness. The good God has
just sent us a great consolation; and, indeed, though certainly far
advanced, this marriage, about which I regret to say Felix does not
behave with all the philosophy I could desire, may still not take

Seeing that Felix shook his head with a look of incredulity, Minard
hastened to say:--

"Yes, yes, the commander is quite right. Last night there was a hitch
about signing the contract, and it was not signed. You were not there,
by the bye, and your absence was much remarked upon."

"We were invited," said Phellion, "and up to the last moment we
hesitated whether to go or not. But, as you will readily see, our
position was a false one; besides, Felix--and I see now it must have
been in consequence of his lecture at the Academy--was completely worn
out with fatigue and emotion. To present ourselves without him would
have seemed very singular; therefore we decided that it would be
wisest and best to absent ourselves."

The presence of the man whom he had just declared immortal did not
deter Minard, when the occasion was thus made for him, from plunging
eagerly into one of the most precious joys of bourgeois existence,
namely, the retailing of gossip.

"Just imagine!" he began; "last night at the Thuilliers' the most
extraordinary things took place, one after another."

First he related the curious episode of pere Picot. Then he told of
the hearty approbation given to Felix's conduct by the Abbe Gondrin,
and the desire the young preacher had expressed to meet him.

"I'll go and see him," said Felix; "do you know where he lives?"

"Rue de la Madeleine, No. 8," replied Minard. "But the great event of
the evening was the spectacle of that fine company assembled to listen
to the marriage-contract, and waiting in expectation a whole hour for
the notary, who--never came!"

"Then the contract is not signed?" said Felix, eagerly.

"Not even read, my friend. Suddenly some one came in and told Brigitte
that the notary had started for Brussels."

"Ah! no doubt," said Phellion, naively; "some very important

"Most important," replied Minard; "a little bankruptcy of five hundred
thousand francs which the gentleman leaves behind him."

"But who is this public officer," demanded Phellion, "so recreant, in
this scandalous manner, to the sacred duties of his calling?"

"Parbleu! your neighbor in the rue Saint-Jacques, the notary Dupuis."

"What!" said Madame Phellion, "that pious man? Why, he is churchwarden
of the parish!"

"Eh! madame, those are the very ones," said Minard, "to run off--there
are many precedents for that."

"But," said Phellion, "such news cast suddenly among the company must
have fallen like a thunderbolt."

"Especially," said Minard, "as it was brought in the most unexpected
and singular manner."

"Tell us all about it," said Madame Phellion, with animation.

"Well, it seems," continued Minard, "that this canting swindler had
charge of the savings of a number of servants, and that Monsieur de la
Peyrade--because, you see, they are all of a clique, these pious
people--was in the habit of recruiting clients for him in that walk of

"I always said so!" interrupted Madame Phellion. "I knew that
Provencal was no good at all."

"It seems," continued the mayor, "that he had placed in Dupuis's hands
all the savings of an old housekeeper, pious herself, amounting to a
pretty little sum. Faith! I think myself it was worth some trouble.
How much do you suppose it was? Twenty-five thousand francs, if you
please! This housekeeper, whose name is Madame Lambert--"

"Madame Lambert!" cried Felix; "why, that's Monsieur Picot's
housekeeper; close cap, pale, thin face, speaks always with her eyes
lowered, shows no hair?"

"That's she," said Minard,--"a regular hypocrite!"

"Twenty-five thousand francs of savings!" said Felix. "I don't wonder
that poor pere Picot is always out of money."

"And that someone had to meddle with the sale of his book," said
Minard, slyly. "However that may be, you can imagine that the woman
was in a fine state of mind on hearing of the flight of the notary.
Off she went to la Peyrade's lodgings; there she was told he was
dining at the Thuilliers'; to the Thuilliers' she came, after running
about the streets--for they didn't give her quite the right address--
till ten o'clock; but she got there while the company were still
sitting round waiting for the notary, and gaping at each other, no one
knowing what to say and do, for neither Brigitte nor Thuillier have
faculty enough to get out of such a scrape with credit; and we all
missed the voice of Madame de Godollo and the talent of Madame

"Oh! you are too polite, Monsieur le maire," said Madame Phellion,

"Well, as I said," continued Minard, "at ten o'clock Madame Lambert
reached the antechamber of Monsieur the general-councillor, and there
she asked, in great excitement, to see la Peyrade."

"That was natural," said Phellion; "he being the intermediary of the
investment, this woman had a right to question him."

"You should just have seen that Tartuffe!" continued Minard. "He had
no sooner gone out than he returned, bringing the news. As everybody
was longing to get away, there followed a general helter-skelter. And
then what does our man do? He goes back to Madame Lambert, who was
crying that she was ruined! she was lost!--which might very well be
true, but it might also be only a scene arranged between them in
presence of the company, whom the woman's outcries detained in the
antechamber. 'Don't be anxious, my good woman,' said la Peyrade; 'the
investment was made at your request, consequently, I owe you nothing;
BUT it is enough that the money passed through my hands to make my
conscience tell me I am responsible. If the notary's assets are not
enough to pay you I will do so.'"

"Yes," said Phellion, "that was my idea as you told it; the
intermediary is or ought to be responsible. I should not have
hesitated to do as Monsieur de la Peyrade did, and I do not think that
after such conduct as that he ought to be taxed with Jesuitism."

"Yes, you would have done so," said Minard, "and so should I, but we
shouldn't have done it with a brass band; we should have paid our
money quietly, like gentlemen. But this electoral manager, how is he
going to pay it? Out of the 'dot'?"

At this moment the little page entered the room and gave a letter to
Felix Phellion. It came from pere Picot, and was written at his
dictation by Madame Lambert, for which reason we will not reproduce
the orthography. The writing of Madame Lambert was of those that can
never be forgotten when once seen. Recognizing it instantly, Felix
hastened to say:--

"A letter from the professor"; then, before breaking the seal, he
added, "Will you permit me, Monsieur le maire."

"He'll rate you finely," said Minard, laughing. "I never saw anything
so comical as his wrath last night."

Felix, as he read the letter, smiled to himself. When he had finished
it, he passed it to his father, saying:--

"Read it aloud if you like."

Whereupon, with his solemn voice and manner, Phellion read as

My dear Felix,--I have just received your note; it came in the
nick of time, for I was, as they say, in a fury with you. You tell
me that you were guilty of that abuse of confidence (about which I
intended to write you a piece of my mind) in order to give a
knock-down blow to my relations by proving that a man capable of
making such complicated calculations as your discovery required
was not a man to put in a lunatic asylum or drag before a
judiciary council. That argument pleases me, and it makes such a
good answer to the infamous proceedings of my relations that I
praise you for having had the idea. But you sold it to me, that
argument, pretty dear when you put me in company with a star, for
you know very well THAT propinquity wouldn't please me at all. It
is not at my age, and after solving the great problem of perpetual
motion, that a man could take up with such rubbish as that,--good
only for boys and greenhorns like you; and that is what I have
taken the liberty this morning to go and tell the minister of
public instruction, by whom I must say I was received with the
most perfect urbanity. I asked him to see whether, as he had made
a mistake and sent them to the wrong address, he could not take
back his cross and his pension,--though to be sure, as I told him,
I deserved them for other things.

"The government," he replied, "is not in the habit of making
mistakes; what it does is always properly done, and it never
annuls an ordinance signed by the hand of his Majesty. Your great
labors have deserved the two favors the King has granted you; it
is a long-standing debt, which I am happy to pay off in his name."

"But Felix?" I said; "because after all for a young man it is not
such a bad discovery."

"Monsieur Felix Phellion," replied the minister, "will receive in
the course of the day his appointment to the rank of Chevalier of
the Legion of honor; I will have it signed this morning by the
king. Moreover, there is a vacant place at the Academy of
Sciences, and if you are not a candidate for it--"

"I, in the Academy!" I interrupted, with the frankness of speech
you know I always use; "I execrate academies; they are stiflers,
extinguishers, assemblages of sloths, idlers, shops with big signs
and nothing to sell inside--"

"Well, then," said the minister, smiling, "I think that at the
next election Monsieur Felix Phellion will have every chance, and
among those chances I count the influence of the government which
is secured to him."

There, my poor boy, is all that I have been able to do to reward
your good intentions and to prove to you that I am no longer
angry. I think the relations are going to pull a long face. Come
and talk about it to-day at four o'clock,--for I don't dine after
bedtime, as I saw some people doing last night in a house where I
had occasion to mention your talents in a manner that was very
advantageous to you. Madame Lambert, who does better with a
saucepan than with pen and ink, shall distinguish herself, though
it is Friday, and she never lets me off a fast day. But she has
promised us a fish dinner worthy of an archbishop, with a fine
half-bottle of champagne (doubled if need be) to wash it down.

Your old professor and friend,
Picot (Nepomucene),
Chevalier of the Legion of honor.

P.S.--Do you think you could obtain from your respectable mother a
little flask of that old and excellent cognac you once gave me?
Not a drop remains, and yesterday I was forced to drink some stuff
only fit to bathe horses' feet, as I did not hesitate to say to
the beautiful Hebe who served it to me.

"Of course he shall have some," said Madame Phellion; "not a flask,
but a gallon."

"And I," said Minard, "who pique myself on mine, which didn't come
from Brigitte's grocer either, I'll send him several bottles; but
don't tell him who sent them, Monsieur le chevalier, for you never can
tell how that singular being will take things."

"Wife," said Phellion, suddenly, "get me my black coat and a white

"Where are you going?" asked Madame Phellion. "To the minister, to
thank him?"

"Bring me, I say, those articles of habiliment. I have an important
visit to make; and Monsieur le maire will, I know, excuse me."

"I myself must be off," said Minard. "I, too, have important business,
though it isn't about a star."

Questioned in vain by Felix and his wife, Phellion completed his
attire with a pair of white gloves, sent for a carriage, and, at the
end of half an hour, entered the presence of Brigitte, whom he found
presiding over the careful putting away of the china, glass, and
silver which had performed their several functions the night before.
Leaving these housekeeping details, she received her visitor.

"Well, papa Phellion," she said, when they were both seated in the
salon, "you broke your word yesterday; you were luckier than the rest.
Do you know what a trick that notary played us?"

"I know all," said Phellion; "and it is the check thus unexpectedly
given to the execution of your plans that I shall take for the text of
an important conversation which I desire to have with you. Sometimes
Providence would seem to take pleasure in counteracting our best-laid
schemes; sometimes, also, by means of the obstacles it raises in our
path, it seems to intend to indicate that we are bearing too far to
the right or to the left, and should pause to reflect upon our way."

"Providence!" said Brigitte the strong-minded,--"Providence has
something else to do than to look after us."

"That is one opinion," said Phellion; "but I myself am accustomed to
see its decrees in the little as well as the great things of life; and
certainly, if it had allowed the fulfilment of your engagements with
Monsieur de la Peyrade to be even partially begun yesterday, you would
not have seen me here to-day."

"Then," said Brigitte, "do you think that by default of a notary the
marriage will not take place? They do say that for want of a monk the
abbey won't come to a standstill."

"Dear lady," said the great citizen, "you will do me the justice to
feel that neither I, nor my wife, have ever attempted to influence
your decision; we have allowed our young people to love each other
without much consideration as to where that attachment would lead--"

"It led to upsetting their minds," said Brigitte; "that's what love
is, and that's why I deprived myself of it."

"What you say is, indeed, true of my unfortunate son," resumed
Phellion; "for, notwithstanding the noble distractions he has
endeavored to give to his sorrow, he is to-day so miserably overcome
by it that this morning, in spite of the glorious success he has just
obtained, he was speaking to me of undertaking a voyage of
circumnavigation around the globe,--a rash enterprise which would
detain him from his native land at least three years, if, indeed, he
escaped the dangers of so prolonged a journey."

"Well," said Brigitte, "it isn't a bad idea; he'll return consoled,
having discovered three or four more new stars."

"His present discovery suffices," said Phellion, with double his
ordinary gravity, "and it is under the auspices of that triumph, which
has placed his name at so great a height in the scientific world, that
I have the assurance to say to you, point-blank: Mademoiselle, I have
come to ask you, on behalf of my son, who loves as he is beloved, for
the hand in marriage of Mademoiselle Celeste Colleville."

"But, my dear man," replied Brigitte, "it is too late; remember that
we are DIAMETRICALLY engaged to la Peyrade."

"It is never, they say, too late to do well, and yesterday it would
have been in my judgment too early. My son, having to offer an
equivalent for a fortune, could not say to you until to-day: 'Though
Celeste, by your generosity has a "dot" which mine is far from
equalling, yet I have the honor to be a member of the Royal order of
the Legion of honor, and shortly, according to appearance, I shall be
a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, one of the five branches of
the Institute.'"

"Certainly," said Brigitte; "Felix is getting to be a very pretty
match, but we have passed our word to la Peyrade; the banns are
published at the mayor's office, and unless something extraordinary
happens the contract will be signed. La Peyrade is very busy about
Thuillier's election, which he has now got into good shape; we have
capital engaged with him in the affair of this newspaper; and it would
be impossible to go back on our promise, even if we wished to do so."

"So," said Phellion, "in one of the rare occasions of life when reason
and inclination blend together, you think you must be guided solely by
the question of material interests. Celeste, as we know, has no
inclination for Monsieur de la Peyrade. Brought up with Felix--"

"Brought up with Felix!" interrupted Brigitte. "She was given a period
of time to choose between Monsieur de la Peyrade and your son,--that's
how we coerce her, if you please,--and she would not take Monsieur
Felix, whose atheism is too well known."

"You are mistaken, mademoiselle, my son is not an atheist; for
Voltaire himself doubted if there could be atheists; and no later than
yesterday, in this house, an ecclesiastic, as admirable for his
talents as for his virtues, after making a magnificent eulogy of my
son, expressed the desire to know him."

"Parbleu! yes, to convert him," said Brigitte. "But as for this
marriage, I am sorry to tell you that the mustard is made too late for
the dinner; Thuillier will never renounce his la Peyrade."

"Mademoiselle," said Phellion, rising, "I feel no humiliation for the
useless step I have this day taken; I do not even ask you to keep it
secret, for I shall myself mention it to our friends and

"Tell it to whom you like, my good man," replied Brigitte,
acrimoniously. "Because your son has discovered a star,--if, indeed,
he did discover it, and not that old fool the government decorated--do
you expect him to marry a daughter of the King of the French?"

"Enough," said Phellion, "we will say no more. I might answer that,
without depreciating the Thuilliers, the Orleans family seems to me
more distinguished; but I do not like to introduce acerbity into the
conversation, and therefore, begging you to receive the assurance of
my humble respects, I retire."

So saying, he made his exit majestically, and left Brigitte with the
arrow of his comparison, discharged after the manner of the Parthian
"in extremis," sticking in her mind, and she herself in a temper all
the more savage because already, the evening before, Madame Thuillier,
after the guests were gone, had the incredible audacity to say
something in favor of Felix. Needless to relate that the poor helot
was roughly put down and told to mind her own business. But this
attempt at a will of her own in her sister-in-law had already put the
old maid in a vile humor, and Phellion, coming to reopen the subject,
exasperated her. Josephine, the cook, and the "male domestic,"
received the after-clap of the scene which had just taken place.
Brigitte found that in her absence everything had been done wrong, and
putting her own hand to the work, she hoisted herself on a chair, at
the risk of her neck, to reach the upper shelves of the closet, where
her choicest china, for gala days, was carefully kept under lock and

This day, which for Brigitte began so ill, was, beyond all gainsaying,
one of the stormiest and most portentous of this narrative.



As an exact historian, we must go back and begin the day at six in the
morning, when we can see Madame Thuillier going to the Madeleine to
hear the mass that the Abbe Gondrin was in the habit of saying at that
hour, and afterwards approaching the holy table,--a viaticum which
pious souls never fail to give themselves when it is in their minds to
accomplish some great resolution.

About mid-day the abbe received a visit in his own home from Madame
Thuillier and Celeste. The poor child wanted a little development of
the words by which the priest had given security, the evening before,
in Brigitte's salon, for the eternal welfare of Felix Phellion. It
seemed strange to the mind of this girl-theologian that, without
practising religion, a soul could be received into grace by the divine
justice; for surely the anathema is clear: Out of the Church there is
no salvation.

"My dear child," said the Abbe Gondrin, "learn to understand that
saying which seems to you so inexplicable. It is more a saying of
thanksgiving for those who have the happiness to live within the pale
of our holy mother the Church than a malediction upon those who have
the misfortune to live apart from her. God sees to the depths of all
hearts; He knows His elect; and so great is the treasure of His
goodness that to none is it given to limit its riches and its
munificence. Who shall dare to say to God: Thou wilt be generous and
munificent so far and no farther. Jesus Christ forgave the woman in
adultery, and on the cross He promised heaven to a thief, in order to
prove to us that He deals with men, not according to human sentiments,
but according to HIS wisdom and HIS mercy. He who thinks himself a
Christian may be in the eyes of God an idolator; and another who is
thought a pagan may, by his feelings and his actions be, without his
own knowledge, a Christian. Our holy religion has this that is divine
about it; all grandeur, all heroism are but the practice of its
precepts. I was saying yesterday to Monsieur de la Peyrade that pure
souls must be, in course of time, its inevitable conquest. It is all-
important to give them their just credit; that is a confidence which
returns great dividends; and, besides, charity commands it."

"Ah! my God!" cried Celeste, "to learn that too late! I, who could
have chosen between Felix and Monsieur de la Peyrade, and did not dare
to follow the ideas of my heart! Oh! Monsieur l'abbe, couldn't you
speak to my mother? Your advice is always listened to."

"Impossible, my dear child," replied the vicar. "If I had the
direction of Madame Colleville's conscience I might perhaps say a
word, but we are so often accused of meddling imprudently in family
matters! Be sure that my intervention here, without authority or
right, would do you more harm than good. It is for you and for those
who love you," he added, giving a look to Madame Thuillier, "to see if
these arrangements, already so far advanced, could be changed in the
direction of your wishes."

It was written that the poor child was to drink to the dregs the cup
she had herself prepared by her intolerance. As the abbe finished
speaking, his housekeeper came in to ask if he would receive Monsieur
Felix Phellion. Thus, like the Charter of 1830, Madame de Godollo's
officious falsehood was turned into truth.

"Go this way," he said hastily, showing his two penitents out by a
private corridor.

Life has such strange encounters that it does sometimes happen that
the same form of proceeding must be used by courtesans and by the men
of God.

"Monsieur l'abbe," said Felix to the young vicar as soon as they met,
"I have heard of the kind manner in which you were so very good as to
speak of me in Monsieur Thuillier's salon last night, and I should
have hastened to express my gratitude if another interest had not
drawn me to you."

The Abbe Gondrin passed hastily over the compliments, eager to know in
what way he could be useful to his fellow-man.

"With an intention that I wish to think kindly," replied Felix, "you
were spoken to yesterday about the state of my soul. Those who read it
so fluently know more than I do about my inner being, for, during the
last few days I have felt strange, inexplicable feelings within me.
Never have I doubted God, but, in contact with that infinitude where
he has permitted my thought to follow the traces of his work I seem to
have gathered a sense of him less vague, more immediate; and this has
led me to ask myself whether an honest and upright life is the only
homage which his omnipotence expects of me. Nevertheless, there are
numberless objections rising in my mind against the worship of which
you are the minister; while sensible of the beauty of its external
form in many of its precepts and practices, I find myself deterred by
my reason. I shall have paid dearly, perhaps by the happiness of my
whole life, for the slowness and want of vigor which I have shown in
seeking the solution of my doubts. I have now decided to search to the
bottom of them. No one so well as you, Monsieur l'abbe, can help me to
solve them. I have come with confidence to lay them before you, to ask
you to listen to me, to answer me, and to tell me by what studies I
can pursue the search for light. It is a cruelly afflicted soul that
appeals to you. Is not that a good ground for the seed of your word?"

The Abbe Gondrin eagerly protested the joy with which, notwithstanding
his own insufficiency, he would undertake to reply to the scruples of
conscience in the young savant. After asking him for a place in his
friendship, and telling him to come at certain hours for conversation,
he asked him to read, as a first step, the "Thoughts" of Pascal. A
natural affinity, on the side of science, would, he believed, be
established between the spirit of Pascal and that of the young

While this scene was passing, a scene to which the greatness of the
interests in question and the moral and intellectual elevation of the
personages concerned in it gave a character of grandeur which, like
all reposeful, tranquil aspects, is easier far to comprehend than to
reproduce, another scene, of sharp and bitter discord, that chronic
malady of bourgeois households, where the pettiness of minds and
passions gives open way to it, was taking place in the Thuillier home.

Mounted upon her chair, her hair in disorder and her face and fingers
dirty, Brigitte, duster in hand, was cleaning the shelves of the
closet, where she was replacing her library of plates, dishes, and
sauce-boats, when Flavie came in and accosted her.

"Brigitte," she said, "when you have finished what you are about you
had better come down to our apartment, or else I'll send Celeste to
you; she seems to me to be inclined to make trouble."

"In what way?" asked Brigitte, continuing to dust.

"I think she and Madame Thuillier went to see the Abbe Gondrin this
morning, and she has been attacking me about Felix Phellion, and talks
of him as if he were a god; from that to refusing to marry la Peyrade
is but a step."

"Those cursed skull-caps!" said Brigitte; "they meddle in everything!
I didn't want to invite him, but you would insist."

"Yes," said Flavie, "it was proper."

"Proper! I despise proprieties!" cried the old maid. "He's a maker of
speeches; he said nothing last night that wasn't objectionable. Send
Celeste to me; I'll settle her."

At this instant a servant announced to Brigitte the arrival of a clerk
from the office of the new notary chosen, in default of Dupuis, to
draw up the contract. Without considering her disorderly appearance,
Brigitte ordered him to be shown in, but she made him the
condescension of descending from her perch instead of talking from the
height of it.

"Monsieur Thuillier," said the clerk, "came to our office this morning
to explain to the master the clauses of the contract he has been so
good as to entrust to us. But before writing down the stipulations, we
are in the habit of obtaining from the lips of each donor a direct
expression of his or her intentions. In accordance with this rule,
Monsieur Thuillier told us that he gives to the bride the reversion,
at his death, of the house he inhabits, which I presume to be this

"Yes," said Brigitte, "that is the understanding. As for me, I give
three hundred thousand francs a year in the Three-per-cents, capital
and interest; but the bride is married under the dotal system."

"That is so," said the clerk, consulting his notes. "Mademoiselle
Brigitte, three thousand francs a year. Now, there is Madame Celeste
Thuillier, wife of Louis-Jerome Thuillier, who gives six thousand in
the Three-per-cents, capital and interest, and six thousand more at
her death."

"All that is just as if the notary had written it down," said
Brigitte; "but if it is your custom you can see my sister-in-law; they
will show you the way."

So saying, the old maid ordered the "male domestic" to take the clerk
to Madame Thuillier.

A moment later the clerk returned, saying there was certainly some
misunderstanding, and that Madame Thuillier declared she had no
intention of making any agreement in favor of the marriage.

"That's a pretty thing!" cried Brigitte. "Come with me, monsieur."

Then, like a hurricane, she rushed into Madame Thuillier's chamber;
the latter was pale and trembling.

"What's this you have told monsieur?--that you give nothing to
Celeste's 'dot'?"

"Yes," said the slave, declaring insurrection, although in a shaking
voice; "my intention is to do nothing."

"Your intention," said Brigitte, scarlet with anger, "is something

"That is my intention," was all the rebel replied.

"At least you will give your reasons?"

"The marriage does not please me."

"Ha! and since when?"

"It is not necessary that monsieur should listen to our discussion,"
said Madame Thuillier; "it will not appear in the contract."

"No wonder you are ashamed of it," said Brigitte; "the appearance you
are making is not very flattering to you--Monsieur," she continued,
addressing the clerk, "it is easier, is it not, to mark out passages
in a contract than to add them?"

The clerk made an affirmative sign.

"Then put in what you were told to write; later, if madame persists,
the clause can be stricken out."

The clerk bowed and left the room.

When the two sisters-in-law were alone together, Brigitte began.

"Ah ca!" she cried, "have you lost your head? What is this crotchet
you've taken into it?"

"It is not a crotchet; it is a fixed idea."

"Which you got from the Abbe Gondrin; you dare not deny that you went
to see him with Celeste."

"It is true that Celeste and I saw our director this morning, but I
did not open my lips to him about what I intended to do."

"So, then, it is in your own empty head that this notion sprouted?"

"Yes. As I told you yesterday, I think Celeste can be more suitably
married, and my intention is not to rob myself for a marriage of which
I disapprove."

"YOU disapprove! Upon my word! are we all to take madame's advice?"

"I know well," replied Madame Thuillier, "that I count for nothing in
this house. So far as I am concerned, I have long accepted my
position; but, when the matter concerns the happiness of a child I
regard as my own--"

"Parbleu!" cried Brigitte, "you never knew how to have one; for,
certainly, Thuillier--"

"Sister," said Madame Thuillier, with dignity, "I took the sacrament
this morning, and there are some things I cannot listen to."

"There's a canting hypocrite for you!" cried Brigitte; "playing the
saint, and bringing trouble into families! And you think to succeed,
do you? Wait till Thuillier comes home, and he'll shake this out of

By calling in the marital authority in support of her own, Brigitte
showed weakness before the unexpected resistance thus made to her
inveterate tyranny. Madame Thuillier's calm words, which became every
moment more resolute, baffled her completely, and she found no
resource but insolence.

"A drone!" she cried; "a helpless good-for-nothing! who can't even
pick up her own handkerchief! that thing wants to be mistress of this

"I wish so little to be its mistress," said Madame Thuillier, "that
last night I allowed you to silence me after the first words I said in
behalf of Celeste. But I am mistress of my own property, and as I
believe that Celeste will be wretched in this marriage, I keep it to
use as may seem best to me."

"Your property, indeed!" said Brigitte, with a sneer.

"Yes, that which I received from my father and my mother, and which I
brought as my 'dot' to Monsieur Thuillier."

"And pray who invested it, this property, and made it give you twelve
thousand francs a year?"

"I have never asked you for any account of it," said Madame Thuillier,
gently. "If it had been lost in the uses you made of it, you would
never have heard a single word from me; but it has prospered, and it
is just that I should have the benefit. It is not for myself that I
reserve it."

"Perhaps not; if this is the course you take, it is not at all sure
that you and I will go out of the same door long."

"Do you mean that Monsieur Thuillier will send me away? He must have
reasons for doing that, and, thank God! I have been a wife above

"Viper! hypocrite! heartless creature!" cried Brigitte, coming to an
end of her arguments.

"Sister," said Madame Thuillier, "you are in my apartment--"

"Am I, you imbecile?" cried the old maid, in a paroxysm of anger. "If
I didn't restrain myself--"

And she made a gesture both insulting and threatening.

Madame Thuillier rose to leave the room.

"No! you shall not go out," cried Brigitte, pushing her down into her
chair; "and till Thuillier comes home and decides what he will do with
you you'll stay locked up here."

Just as Brigitte, her face on fire, returned to the room where she had
left Madame Colleville, her brother came in. He was radiant.

"My dear," he said to the Megaera, not observing her fury, "everything
is going on finely; the conspiracy of silence is broken; two papers,
the 'National' and a Carlist journal, have copied articles from us,
and there's a little attack in a ministerial paper."

"Well, all is not going on finely here," said Brigitte, "and if it
continues, I shall leave the barrack."

"Whom are you angry with now?" asked Thuillier.

"With your insolent wife, who has made me a scene; I am trembling all

"Celeste make you a scene!" said Thuillier; "then it is the very first
time in her life."

"There's a beginning to everything, and if you don't bring her to

"But what was it about--this scene?"

"About madame's not choosing that la Peyrade should marry her
goddaughter; and out of spite, to prevent the marriage, she refused to
give anything in the contract."

"Come, be calm," said Thuillier, not disturbed himself, the admission
of the "Echo" into the polemic making another Pangloss of him. "I'll
settle all that."

"You, Flavie," said Brigitte, when Thuillier had departed to his wife,
"you will do me the pleasure to go down to your own apartment, and
tell Mademoiselle Celeste that I don't choose to see her now, because
if she made me any irritating answer I might box her ears. You'll tell
her that I don't like conspiracies; that she was left at liberty to
choose Monsieur Phellion junior if she wanted him, and she did not
want him; that the matter is now all arranged, and that if she does
not wish to see her 'dot' reduced to what you are able to give her,
which isn't as much as a bank-messenger could carry in his waistcoat

"But, my dear Brigitte," interrupted Flavie, turning upon her at this
impertinence, "you may dispense with reminding us in this harsh way of
our poverty; for, after all, we have never asked you for anything, and
we pay our rent punctually; and as for the 'dot,' Monsieur Felix
Phellion is quite ready to take Celeste with no more than a bank-
messenger could carry in his BAG."

And she emphasized the last word by her way of pronouncing it.

"Ha! so you too are going to meddle in this, are you?" cried Brigitte.
"Very good; go and fetch him, your Felix. I know, my little woman,
that this marriage has never suited you; it IS disagreeable to be
nothing more than a mother to your son-in-law."

Flavie had recovered the coolness she had lost for an instant, and
without replying to this speech she merely shrugged her shoulders.

At this moment Thuillier returned; his air of beatitude had deserted

"My dear Brigitte," he said to his sister, "you have a most excellent
heart, but at times you are so violent--"

"Ho!" said the old maid, "am I to be arraigned on this side too?"

"I certainly do not blame you for the cause of the trouble, and I have
just rebuked Celeste for her assumption; but there are proper forms
that must be kept."

"Forms! what are you talking about? What forms have I neglected?"

"But, my dear friend, to raise your hand against your sister!"

"I, raise my hand against that imbecile? What nonsense you talk!"

"And besides," continued Thuillier, "a woman of Celeste's age can't be
kept in prison."

"Your wife!--have I put her in prison?"

"You can't deny it, for I found the door of her room double-locked."

"Parbleu! all this because in my anger at the infamous things she was
spitting at me I may have turned the key of the door without intending

"Come, come," said Thuillier, "these are not proper actions for people
of our class."

"Oh! so it is I who am to blame, is it? Well, my lad, some day you'll
remember this, and we shall see how your household will get along when
I have stopped taking care of it."

"You'll always take care of it," said Thuillier. "Housekeeping is your
very life; you will be the first to get over this affair."

"We'll see about that," said Brigitte; "after twenty years of
devotion, to be treated like the lowest of the low!"

And rushing to the door, which she slammed after her with violence,
she went away.

Thuillier was not disturbed by this exit.

"Were you there, Flavie," he asked, "when the scene took place?"

"No, it happened in Celeste's room. What did she do to her?"

"What I said,--raised her hand to her and locked her in like a child.
Celeste may certainly be rather dull-minded, but there are limits that
must not be passed."

"She is not always pleasant, that good Brigitte," said Flavie; "she
and I have just had a little set-to."

"Oh, well," said Thuillier, "it will all pass off. I want to tell you,
my dear Flavie, what fine success we have had this morning. The
'National' quotes two whole paragraphs of an article in which there
were several sentences of mine."

Thuillier was again interrupted in the tale of his great political and
literary success,--this time by the entrance of Josephine the cook.

"Can monsieur tell me where to find the key of the great trunk?" she

"What do you want with it?" asked Thuillier.

"Mademoiselle told me to take it to her room."

"What for?"

"Mademoiselle must be going to make a journey. She is getting her
linen out of the drawers, and her gowns are on the bed."

"Another piece of nonsense!" said Thuillier. "Flavie, go and see what
she has in her head."

"Not I," said Madame Colleville; "go yourself. In her present state of
exasperation she might beat me."

"And my stupid wife, who must needs raise a fuss about the contract!"
cried Thuillier. "She really must have said something pretty sharp to
turn Brigitte off her hinges like this."

"Monsieur has not told me where to find the key," persisted Josephine.

"I don't know anything about it," said Thuillier, crossly; "go and
look for it, or else tell her it is lost."

"Oh, yes!" said Josephine, "it is likely I'd dare to go and tell her

Just then the outer door-bell rang.

"No doubt that's la Peyrade," said Thuillier, in a tone of

The Provencal appeared a moment later.

"Faith, my dear friend," cried Thuillier, "it is high time you came;
the house is in revolution, all about you, and it needs your silvery
tongue to bring it back to peace and quietness."

Then he related to his assistant editor the circumstances of the civil
war which had broken out.

La Peyrade turned to Madame Colleville.

"I think," he said, "that under the circumstances in which we now
stand there is no impropriety in my asking for an interview of a few
moments with Mademoiselle Colleville."

In this the Provencal showed his usual shrewd ability; he saw that in
the mission of pacification thus given to him Celeste Colleville was
the key of the situation.

"I will send for her, and we will leave you alone together," said

"My dear Thuillier," said la Peyrade, "you must, without any violence,
let Mademoiselle Celeste know that her consent must be given without
further delay; make her think that this was the purpose for which you
have sent for her; then leave us; I will do the rest."

The man-servant was sent down to the entresol with orders to tell
Celeste that her godfather wished to speak to her. As soon as she
appeared, Thuillier said, to carry out the programme which had been
dictated to him:--

"My dear, your mother has told us things that astonish us. Can it be
true that with your contract almost signed, you have not yet decided
to accept the marriage we have arranged for you?"

"Godfather," said Celeste, rather surprised at this abrupt summons, "I
think I did not say that to mamma."

"Did you not just now," said Flavie, "praise Monsieur Felix Phellion
to me in the most extravagant manner?"

"I spoke of Monsieur Phellion as all the world is speaking of him."

"Come, come," said Thuillier, with authority, "let us have no
equivocation; do you refuse, yes or no, to marry Monsieur de la

"Dear, good friend," said la Peyrade, intervening, "your way of
putting the question is rather too abrupt, and, in my presence,
especially, it seems to me out of place. In my position as the most
interested person, will you allow me to have an interview with
mademoiselle, which, indeed, has now become necessary? This favor I am
sure will not be refused by Madame Colleville. Under present
circumstances, there can surely be nothing in my request to alarm her
maternal prudence."

"I would certainly yield to it," said Flavie, "if I did not fear that
these discussions might seem to open a question which is irrevocably

"But, my dear madame, I have the strongest desire that Mademoiselle
Celeste shall remain, until the very last moment, the mistress of her
own choice. I beg you, therefore, to grant my request."

"So be it!" said Madame Colleville; "you think yourself very clever,
but if you let that girl twist you round her finger, so much the worse
for you. Come, Thuillier, since we are 'de trop' here."

As soon as the pair were alone together, la Peyrade drew up a chair
for Celeste, and took one himself, saying:--

"You will, I venture to believe, do me the justice to say that until
to-day I have never annoyed you with the expression of my sentiments.
I was aware of the inclinations of your heart, and also of the
warnings of your conscience. I hoped, after a time, to make myself
acceptable as a refuge from those two currents of feeling; but, at the
point which we have now reached, I think it is not either indiscreet
or impatient to ask you to let me know plainly what course you have
decided upon."

"Monsieur," replied Celeste, "as you speak to me so kindly and
frankly, I will tell you, what indeed you know already, that, brought
up as I was with Monsieur Felix Phellion, knowing him far longer than
I have known you, the idea of marrying alarmed me less in regard to
him than it would in regard to others."

"At one time, I believe," remarked la Peyrade, "you were permitted to
choose him if you wished."

"Yes, but at that time difficulties grew up between us on religious

"And to-day those difficulties have disappeared?"

"Nearly," replied Celeste. "I am accustomed to submit to the judgment
of those who are wiser than myself, monsieur, and you heard yesterday
the manner in which the Abbe Gondrin spoke of Monsieur Phellion."

"God forbid," said la Peyrade, "that I should seek to invalidate the
judgment of so excellent a man; but I venture to say to you,
mademoiselle, that there are great differences among the clergy; some
are thought too stern, some far too indulgent; moreover, the Abbe
Gondrin is more of a preacher than a casuist."

"But, Monsieur Felix," said Celeste, eagerly, "seems to wish to fulfil
Monsieur l'abbe's hopes of him, for I know that he went to see him
this morning."

"Ah!" said la Peyrade, with a touch of irony, "so he really decided to
go to Pere Anselme! But, admitting that on the religious side Monsieur
Phellion may now become all that you expect of him, have you
reflected, mademoiselle, on the great event which has just taken place
in his life?"

"Undoubtedly; and that is not a reason to think less of him."

"No, but it is a reason why he should think more of himself. For the
modesty which was once the chief charm of his nature, he is likely to
substitute great assumption, and you must remember, mademoiselle, that
he who has discovered one world will want to discover two; you will
have the whole firmament for rival; in short, could you ever be happy
with a man so entirely devoted to science?"

"You plead your cause with such adroitness," said Celeste, smiling,
"that I think you might be as a lawyer more disquieting than an

"Mademoiselle," said la Peyrade, "let us speak seriously; there is
another and far more serious aspect to the situation. Do you know
that, at this moment, in this house, and without, I am sure, desiring
it, you are the cause of most distressing and regrettable scenes?"

"I, monsieur!" said Celeste, in a tone of surprise that was mingled
with fear.

"Yes, concerning your godmother. Through the extreme affection that
she has for you she seems to have become another woman; for the first
time in her life she has shown a mind of her own. With an energy of
will which comes at times to those who have never expended any, she
declares that she will not make her proposed liberal gift to you in
the contract; and I need not tell you who is the person aimed at in
this unexpected refusal."

"But, monsieur, I entreat you to believe that I knew nothing of this
idea of my godmother."

"I know that," said la Peyrade, "and the matter itself would be of
small importance if Mademoiselle Brigitte had not taken this attitude
of your godmother, whom she has always found supple to her will, as a
personal insult to herself. Very painful explanations, approaching at
last to violence, have taken place. Thuillier, placed between the
hammer and the anvil, has been unable to stop the affair; on the
contrary, he has, without intending it, made matters worse, till they
have now arrived at such a point that Mademoiselle Brigitte is packing
her trunks to leave the house."

"Monsieur! what are you telling me?" cried Celeste, horrified.

"The truth; and the servants will confirm it to you--for I feel that
my revelations are scarcely believable."

"But it is impossible! impossible!" said the poor child, whose
agitation increased with every word of the adroit Provencal. "I cannot
be the cause of such dreadful harm."

"That is, you did not intend to be, for the harm is done; and I pray
Heaven it may not be irremediable."

"But what am I to do, good God!" cried Celeste, wringing her hands.

"I should answer, without hesitation, sacrifice yourself,
mademoiselle, if it were not that I should then be forced to play the
painful part of victimizer."

"Monsieur," said Celeste, "you interpret ill the resistance that I
have made, though, in fact, I have scarcely expressed it. I have
certainly had a preference, but I have never considered myself in the
light of a victim; and whatever it is necessary to do to restore peace
in this house to which I have brought trouble, I shall do it without
repugnance, and even willingly."

"That would be for me," said la Peyrade, humbly, "more than I could
dare ask for myself; but, for the result which we both seek, I must
tell you frankly that something more is needed. Madame Thuillier has
not changed her nature to instantly change back again on the mere
assurance by others of your compliance. It is necessary that she
should hear from your own lips that you accede to my suit, and that
you do so with eagerness,--assumed, indeed, but sufficiently well
assumed to induce her to believe in it."

"So be it," said Celeste. "I shall know how to seem smiling and happy.
My godmother, monsieur, has been a mother to me; and for such a
mother, what is there that I would not endure?"

The position was such, and Celeste betrayed so artlessly the depth
and, at the same time, the absolute determination of her sacrifice,
that with any heart at all la Peyrade would have loathed the part he
was playing; but Celeste, to him, was a means of ascent, and provided
the ladder can hold you and hoist you, who would ever ask if it cared
to or not? It was therefore decided that Celeste should go to her
godmother and convince her of the mistake she had made in supposing an
objection to la Peyrade which Celeste had never intended to make.
Madame Thuillier's opposition overcome, all was once more easy. La
Peyrade took upon himself the duty of making peace between the two
sisters-in-law, and we can well imagine that he was not at a loss for
fine phrases with which to assure the artless girl of the devotion and
love which would take from her all regret for the moral compulsion she
had now undergone.

When Celeste went to her godmother she found her by no means as
difficult to convince as she had expected. To go to the point of
rebellion which Madame Thuillier had actually reached, the poor woman,
who was acting against her instincts and against her nature, had
needed a tension of will that, in her, was almost superhuman. No
sooner had she received the false confidences of her goddaughter than
the reaction set in; the strength failed her to continue in the path
she had taken. She was therefore easily the dupe of the comedy which
Celeste's tender heart was made to play for la Peyrade's benefit.

The tempest calmed on this side, the barrister found no difficulty in
making Brigitte understand that in quelling the rebellion against her
authority she had gone a little farther than was proper. This
authority being no longer in danger, Brigitte ceased to be incensed
with the sister-in-law she had been on the point of beating, and the
quarrel was settled with a few kind words and a kiss, poor Celeste
paying the costs of war.

After dinner, which was only a family meal, the notary, to whose
office they were to go on the following day to sign the contract (it
being impossible to give a second edition of the abortive party), made
his appearance. He came, he said, to submit the contract to the
parties interested before engrossing it. This attention was not
surprising in a man who was just entering into business relations with
so important a person as the municipal councillor, whom it was his
interest to firmly secure for a client.

La Peyrade was far too shrewd to make any objections to the terms of
the contract, which was now read. A few changes requested by Brigitte,
which gave the new notary a high idea of the old maid's business
capacity, showed la Peyrade plainly that more precautions were being
taken against him than were altogether becoming; but he was anxious
not to raise difficulties, and he knew that the meshes of a contract
are never so close that a determined and clever man cannot get through
them. The appointment was then made for the signing of the contract
the next day, at two o'clock, in the notary's office, the family only
being present.

During the rest of the evening, taking advantage of Celeste's pledge
to seem smiling and happy, la Peyrade played, as it were, upon the
poor child, forced her, by a specious exhibition of gratitude and
love, to respond to him on a key that was far, indeed, from the true
state of a heart now wholly filled by Felix. Flavie, seeing the manner
in which la Peyrade put forth his seductions, was reminded of the
pains he had formerly taken to fascinate herself. "The monster!" she
said, beneath her breath. But she was forced to bear the torture with
a good grace; la Peyrade was evidently approved by all, and in the
course of the evening a circumstance came to light, showing a past
service done by him to the house of Thuillier, which brought his
influence and his credit to the highest point.

Minard was announced.

"My dear friends," he said, "I have come to make a little revelation
which will greatly surprise you, and will, I think, prove a lesson to
all of us when a question arises as to receiving foreigners in our

"What is it?" cried Brigitte, with curiosity.

"That Hungarian woman you were so delighted with, that Madame Torna,
Comtesse de Godollo--"

"Well?" exclaimed the old maid.

"Well," continued Minard, "she was no better than she should be; you
were petting in your house for two months the most impudent of kept

"Who told you that tale?" asked Brigitte, not willing to admit that
she had fallen into such a snare.

"Oh, it isn't a tale," said the mayor, eagerly. "I know the thing
myself, 'de visu.'"

"Dear me! do you frequent such women?" said Brigitte, resuming the
offensive. "That's a pretty thing! what would Zelie say if she knew

"In the discharge of my duties," said Minard, stiffly, provoked at
this reception of his news, "I have seen YOUR FRIEND, Madame de
Godollo, in company with others of her class."

"How do you know it was she if you only saw her?" demanded Brigitte.

The wily Provencal was not the man to lose an occasion that fell to
him ready-made.

"Monsieur le maire is not mistaken," he said, with decision.

"Tiens! so you know her, too," said Brigitte; "and you let us consort
with such vermin?"

"No," said la Peyrade, "on the contrary. Without scandal, without
saying a word to any one, I removed her from your house. You remember
how suddenly the woman left it? It was I who compelled her to do so;
having discovered what she was, I gave her two days to leave the
premises; threatening her, in case she hesitated, to tell you all."

"My dear Theodose," said Thuillier, pressing his hand, "you acted with
as much prudence as decision. This is one more obligation that we owe
to you."

"You see, mademoiselle," said la Peyrade, addressing Celeste, "the
strange protectress whom a friend of yours selected."

"Thank God," said Madame Thuillier. "Felix Phellion is above such vile

"Ah ca! papa Minard, we'll keep quiet about all this; silence is the
word. Will you take a cup of tea?"

"Willingly," replied Minard.

"Celeste," said the old maid, "ring for Henri, and tell him to put the
large kettle on the fire."

Though the visit to the notary was not to be made till two in the
afternoon, Brigitte began early in the morning of the next day what
Thuillier called her RAMPAGE, a popular term which expresses that
turbulent, nagging, irritating activity which La Fontaine has
described so well in his fable of "The Old Woman and her Servants."
Brigitte declared that if you didn't take time by the forelock no one
would be ready. She prevented Thuillier from going to his office,
insisting that if he once got off she never should see him again; she
plagued Josephine, the cook, about hurrying the breakfast, and in
spite of what had happened the day before she scarcely restrained
herself from nagging at Madame Thuillier, who did not enter, as she
thought she should have done, into her favorite maxim, "Better be
early than late."

Presently down she went to the Collevilles' to make the same
disturbance; and there she put her veto on the costume, far too
elegant, which Flavie meditated wearing, and told Celeste the hat and
gown she wished her to appear in. As for Colleville, who could not, he
declared, stay away all the morning from his official duties, she
compelled him to put on his dress-suit before he went out, made him
set his watch by hers, and warned him that if he was late no one would
wait for him.

The amusing part of it was that Brigitte herself, after driving every
one at the point of the bayonet, came very near being late herself.
Under pretext of aiding others, independently of minding her own
business, which, for worlds, she would never have spared herself, she
had put her fingers and eyes into so many things that they ended by
overwhelming her. However, she ascribed the delay in which she was
almost caught to the hairdresser, whom she had sent for to make, on
this extraordinary occasion, what she called her "part." That artist
having, unadvisedly, dressed her hair in the fashion, he was
compelled, after she had looked at herself in the glass, to do his
work over again, and conform to the usual style of his client, which
consisted chiefly in never being "done" at all, a method that gave her
head a general air of what is vulgarly called "a cross cat."

About half-past one o'clock la Peyrade, Thuillier, Colleville, Madame
Thuillier, and Celeste were assembled in the salon. Flavie joined them
soon after, fastening her bracelets as she came along to avoid a
rebuff, and having the satisfaction of knowing that she was ready
before Brigitte. As for the latter, already furious at finding herself
late, she had another cause for exasperation. The event of the day
seemed to require a corset, a refinement which she usually discarded.
The unfortunate maid, whose duty it was to lace her and to discover
the exact point to which she was willing to be drawn in, alone knew
the terrors and storms of a corset day.

"I'd rather," said the girl, "lace the obelisk; I know it would lend
itself to being laced better than she does; and, anyhow, it couldn't
be bad-tongued."

While the party in the salon were amusing themselves, under their
breaths, at the "flagrante delicto" of unpunctuality in which Queen
Elizabeth was caught, the porter entered, and gave to Thuillier a
sealed package, addressed to "Monsieur Thuillier, director of the
'Echo de la Bievre.' IN HASTE."

Thuillier opened the envelope, and found within a copy of a
ministerial journal which had hitherto shown itself discourteous to
the new paper by refusing the EXCHANGE which all periodicals usually
make very willingly with one another.

Puzzled by the fact of this missive being sent to his own house and
not to the office of the "Echo," Thuillier hastily opened the sheet,
and read, with what emotion the reader may conceive, the following
article, commended to his notice by a circle in red ink:--

An obscure organ was about to expire in its native shade when an
ambitious person of recent date bethought himself of galvanizing
it. His object was to make it a foothold by which to climb from
municipal functions to the coveted position of deputy. Happily
this object, having come to the surface, will end in failure.
Electors will certainly not be inveigled by so wily a manner of
advancing self-interests; and when the proper time arrives, if
ridicule has not already done justice on this absurd candidacy, we
shall ourselves prove to the pretender that to aspire to the
distinguished honor of representing the nation something more is
required than the money to buy a paper and pay an underling to put
into good French the horrible diction of his articles and
pamphlets. We confine ourselves to-day to this limited notice, but
our readers may be sure that we shall keep them informed about
this electoral comedy, if indeed the parties concerned have the
melancholy courage to go on with it.

Thuillier read twice over this sudden declaration of war, which was
far from leaving him calm and impassible; then, taking la Peyrade
aside, he said to him:--

"Read that; it is serious."

"Well?" said la Peyrade, after reading the article.

"Well? how well?" exclaimed Thuillier.

"I mean, what do you find so serious in that?"

"What do I find so serious?" repeated Thuillier. "I don't think
anything could be more insulting to me."

"You can't doubt," said la Peyrade, "that the virtuous Cerizet is at
the bottom of it; he has thrown this firecracker between your legs by
way of revenge."

"Cerizet, or anybody else who wrote that diatribe is an insolent
fellow," cried Thuillier, getting angry, "and the matter shall not
rest there."

"For my part," said la Peyrade, "I advise you to make no reply. You
are not named; though, of course, the attack is aimed at you. But you
ought to let our adversary commit himself farther; when the right
moment comes, we'll rap him over the knuckles."

"No!" said Thuillier, "I won't stay quiet one minute under such an

"The devil!" said the barrister; "what a sensitive epidermis! Do
reflect, my dear fellow, that you have made yourself a candidate and a
journalist, and therefore you really must harden yourself better than

"My good friend, it is a principle of mine not to let anybody step on
my toes. Besides, they say themselves they are going on with this
thing. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to cut short such

"But do consider," said la Peyrade. "Certainly in journalism, as in
candidacy, a hot temper has its uses; a man makes himself respected,
and stops attacks--"

"Just so," said Thuillier, "'principiis obsta.' Not to-day, because we
haven't the time, but to-morrow I shall carry that paper into court."

"Into court!" echoed la Peyrade; "you surely wouldn't go to law in
such a matter as this? In the first place, there is nothing to proceed
upon; you are not named nor the paper either, and, besides, it is a
pitiable business, going to law; you'll look like a boy who has been
fighting, and got the worst of it, and runs to complain to his mamma.
Now if you had said that you meant to make Fleury intervene in the
matter, I could understand that--though the affair is rather personal
to you, and it might be difficult to make it seem--"

"Ah ca!" said Thuillier, "do you suppose I am going to commit myself
with a Cerizet or any other newspaper bully? I pique myself, my dear
fellow, on possessing civic courage, which does not give in to
prejudices, and which, instead of taking justice into its own hands,
has recourse to the means of defence that are provided by law.
Besides, with the legal authority the Court of Cassation now has over
duelling, I have no desire to put myself in the way of being
expatriated, or spending two or three years in prison."

"Well," said la Peyrade, "we'll talk it over later; here's your
sister, and she would think everything lost if this little matter
reached her ears."

When Brigitte appeared Colleville shouted "Full!" and proceeded to
sing the chorus of "La Parisienne."

"Heavens! Colleville, how vulgar you are!" cried the tardy one,
hastening to cast a stone in the other's garden to avoid the throwing
of one into hers. "Well, are you all ready?" she added, arranging her
mantle before a mirror. "What o'clock is it? it won't do to get there
before the time, like provincials."

"Ten minutes to two," said Colleville; "I go by the Tuileries."

"Well, then we are just right," said Brigitte; "it will take about
that time to get to the rue Caumartin. Josephine," she cried, going to
the door of the salon, "we'll dine at six, therefore be sure you put
the turkey to roast at the right time, and mind you don't burn it, as
you did the other day. Bless me! who's that?" and with a hasty motion
she shut the door, which she had been holding open. "What a nuisance!
I hope Henri will have the sense to tell him we are out."

Not at all; Henri came in to say that an old gentleman, with a very
genteel air, had asked to be received on urgent business.

"Why didn't you say we were all out?"

"That's what I should have done if mademoiselle had not opened the
door of the salon so that the gentleman could see the whole family

"Oh, yes!" said Brigitte, "you are never in the wrong, are you?"

"What am I to say to him?" asked the man.

"Say," replied Thuillier, "that I am very sorry not to be able to
receive him, but I am expected at a notary's office about a marriage
contract; but that if he could return two hours hence--"

"I have told him all that," said Henri, "and he answered that that
contract was precisely what he had come about, and that his business
concerned you more than himself."

"You had better go and see him, Thuillier, and get rid of him in
double-quick," said Brigitte; "that's shorter than talking to Henri,
who is always an orator."

If la Peyrade had been consulted he might not have joined in that
advice, for he had had more than one specimen of the spokes some
occult influence was putting into the wheels of his marriage, and the
present visit seemed to him ominous.

"Show him into my study," said Thuillier, following his sister's
advice; and, opening the door which led from the salon to the study,
he went to receive his importunate visitor.

Brigitte immediately applied her eye to the keyhole.

"Goodness!" she exclaimed, "there's my imbecile of a Thuillier
offering him a chair! and away in a corner, too, where I can't hear a
word they say!"

La Peyrade was walking about the room with an inward agitation covered
by an appearance of great indifference. He even went up to the three
women, and made a few lover-like speeches to Celeste, who received
them with a smiling, happy air in keeping with the role she was
playing. As for Colleville, he was killing the time by composing an
anagram on the six words of "le journal 'l'Echo de la Bievre,'" for
which he had found the following version, little reassuring (as far as
it went) for the prospects of that newspaper: "O d'Echo, jarni! la
bevue reell"--but as the final "e" was lacking to complete the last
word, the work was not altogether as satisfactory as it should have

"He's taking snuff!" said Brigitte, her eye still glued to the
keyhole; "his gold snuff-box beats Minard's--though, perhaps, it is
only silver-gilt," she added, reflectively. "He's doing the talking,
and Thuillier is sitting there listening to him like a buzzard. I
shall go in and tell them they can't keep ladies waiting that way."

But just as she put her hand on the lock she heard Thuillier's visitor
raise his voice, and that made her look through the keyhole again.

"He is standing up; he's going," she said with satisfaction.

But a moment later she saw she had made a mistake; the little old man
had only left his chair to walk up and down the room and continue the
conversation with greater freedom.

"My gracious! I shall certainly go in," she said, "and tell Thuillier
we are going without him, and he can follow us."

So saying, the old maid gave two little sharp and very imperious raps
on the door, after which she resolutely entered the study.

La Peyrade, goaded by anxiety, had the bad taste to look through the
keyhole himself at what was happening. Instantly he thought he
recognized the small old man he had seen under the name of "the
commander" on that memorable morning when he had waited for Madame de
Godollo. Then he saw Thuillier addressing his sister with impatience
and with gestures of authority altogether out of his usual habits of
deference and submission.

"It seems," said Brigitte, re-entering the salon, "that Thuillier
finds some great interest in that creature's talk, for he ordered me
bluntly to leave them, though the little old fellow did say, rather
civilly, that they would soon be through. But Jerome added: 'MIND, you
are to wait for me.' Really, since he has taken to making newspapers I
don't know him; he has set up an air as if he were leading the world
with his wand."

"I am very much afraid he is being entangled by some adventurer," said
la Peyrade. "I am pretty sure I saw that old man at Madame de
Godollo's the day I went to warn her off the premises; he must be of
the same stripe."

"Why didn't you tell me?" cried Brigitte. "I'd have asked him for news
of the countess, and let him see we knew what we knew of his

Just then the sound of moving chairs was heard, and Brigitte darted
back to the keyhole.

"Yes," she said, "he is really going, and Thuillier is bowing him out

As Thuillier did not immediately return, Colleville had time to go to
the window and exclaim at seeing the little old gentleman driving away
in an elegant coupe, of which the reader has already heard.

"The deuce!" cried Colleville; "what an ornate livery! If he is an
adventurer he is a number one."

At last Thuillier re-entered the room, his face full of care, his
manner extremely grave.

"My dear la Peyrade," he said, "you did not tell us that another
proposal of marriage had been seriously considered by you."

"Yes, I did; I told you that a very rich heiress had been offered to
me, but that my inclinations were here, and that I had not given any
encouragement to the affair; consequently, of course, there was no
serious engagement."

"Well, I think you do wrong to treat that proposal so lightly."

"What! do you mean to say, in presence of these ladies, that you blame
me for remaining faithful to my first desires and our old engagement?"

"My friend, the conversation that I have just had has been a most
instructive one to me; and when you know what I know, with other
details personal to yourself, which will be confided to you, I think
that you will enter into my ideas. One thing is certain; we shall not
go to the notary to-day; and as for you, the best thing that you can
do is to go, without delay, to Monsieur du Portail."

"That name again! it pursues me like a remorse," exclaimed la Peyrade.

"Yes; go at once; he is awaiting you. It is an indispensable
preliminary before we can go any farther. When you have seen that
excellent man and heard what he has to say to you--well, THEN if you
persist in claiming Celeste's hand, we might perhaps carry out our
plans. Until then we shall take no steps in the matter."

"But, my poor Thuillier," said Brigitte, "you have let yourself be
gammoned by a rascal; that man belongs to the Godollo set."

"Madame de Godollo," replied Thuillier, "is not at all what you
suppose her to be, and the best thing this house can do is never to
say one word about her, either good or evil. As for la Peyrade, as
this is not the first time he has been requested to go and see
Monsieur du Portail, I am surprised that he hesitates to do so."

"Ah ca!" said Brigitte, "that little old man has completely befooled

"I tell you that that little old man is all that he appears to be. He
wears seven crosses, he drives in a splendid equipage, and he has told
me things that have overwhelmed me with astonishment."

"Well, perhaps he's a fortune-teller like Madame Fontaine, who managed
once upon a time to upset me when Madame Minard and I, just to amuse
ourselves, went to consult her."

"Well, if he is not a sorcerer he certainly has a very long arm," said
Thuillier, "and I think a man would suffer for it if he didn't respect
his advice. As for you, Brigitte, he saw you only for a minute, but he
told me your whole character; he said you were a masterful woman, born
to command."

"The fact is," said Brigitte, licking her chops at this compliment,
like a cat drinking cream, "he has a very well-bred air, that little
old fellow. You take my advice, my dear," she said, turning to la
Peyrade; "if such a very big-wig as that wants you to do so, go and
see this du Portail, whoever he is. That, it seems to me, won't bind
you to anything."

"You are right, Brigitte," said Colleville; "as for me, I'd follow up
all the Portails, or PortERS, or PortENTS for the matter of that, if
they asked me to."

The scene was beginning to resemble that in the "Barber of Seville,"
where everybody tells Basil to go to bed, for he certainly has a
fever. La Peyrade, thus prodded, picked up his hat in some ill-humor,
and went where his destiny called him,--"quo sua fata vocabant."



On reaching the rue Honore-Chevalier la Peyrade felt a doubt; the
dilapidated appearance of the house to which he was summoned made him
think he had mistaken the number. It seemed to him that a person of
Monsieur du Portail's evident importance could not inhabit such a
place. It was therefore with some hesitation that he accosted Sieur
Perrache, the porter. But no sooner had he entered the antechamber of
the apartment pointed out to him than the excellent deportment of
Bruneau, the old valet, and the extremely comfortable appearance of
the furniture and other appointments made him see that he was probably
in the right place. Introduced at once, as soon as he had given his
name, into the study of the master of the house, his surprise was
great when he found himself in presence of the commander, so called,
the friend of Madame de Godollo, and the little old man he had seen
half an hour earlier with Thuillier.

"At last!" said du Portail, rising, and offering la Peyrade a chair,
"at last we meet, my refractory friend; it has taken a good deal to
bring you here."

"May I know, monsieur," said la Peyrade, haughtily, not taking the
chair which was offered to him, "what interest you have in meddling
with my affairs? I do not know you, and I may add that the place where
I once saw you did not create an unconquerable desire in me to make
your acquaintance."

"Where have you seen me?" asked du Portail.

"In the apartment of a strumpet who called herself Madame de Godollo."

"Where monsieur, consequently, went himself," said the little old man,
"and for a purpose much less disinterested than mine."

"I have not come here," said la Peyrade, "to bandy words with any one.
I have the right, monsieur, to a full explanation as to the meaning of
your proceedings towards me. I therefore request you not to delay them
by a facetiousness to which, I assure you, I am not in the humor to

"Then, my dear fellow," said du Portail, "sit down, for I am not in
the humor to twist my neck by talking up at you."

The words were reasonable, and they were said in a tone that showed

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