Part 5 out of 7
While the innocent fellow was vowing, by way of consolation, never to
return to Issoudun, Max was preparing a horrible outrage for his
sensitive spirit. When Monsieur Goddet had probed the wound and
discovered that the knife, turned aside by a little pocket-book, had
happily spared Max's life (though making a serious wound), he did as
all doctors, and particularly country surgeons, do; he paved the way
for his own credit by "not answering for the patient's life"; and
then, after dressing the soldier's wound, and stating the verdict of
science to the Rabouilleuse, Jean-Jacques Rouget, Kouski, and the
Vedie, he left the house. The Rabouilleuse came in tears to her dear
Max, while Kouski and the Vedie told the assembled crowd that the
captain was in a fair way to die. The news brought nearly two hundred
persons in groups about the place Saint-Jean and the two Narettes.
"I sha'n't be a month in bed; and I know who struck the blow,"
whispered Max to Flore. "But we'll profit by it to get rid of the
Parisians. I have said I thought I recognized the painter; so pretend
that I am expected to die, and try to have Joseph Bridau arrested. Let
him taste a prison for a couple of days, and I know well enough the
mother will be off in a jiffy for Paris when she gets him out. And
then we needn't fear the priests they talk of setting on the old
When Flore Brazier came downstairs, she found the assembled crowd
quite prepared to take the impression she meant to give them. She went
out with tears in her eyes, and related, sobbing, how the painter,
"who had just the face for that sort of thing," had been angry with
Max the night before about some pictures he had "wormed out" of Pere
"That brigand--for you've only got to look at him to see what he is--
thinks that if Max were dead, his uncle would leave him his fortune;
as if," she cried, "a brother were not more to him than a nephew! Max
is Doctor Rouget's son. The old one told me so before he died!"
"Ah! he meant to do the deed just before he left Issoudun; he chose
his time, for he was going away to-day," said one of the Knights of
"Max hasn't an enemy in Issoudun," said another.
"Besides, Max recognized the painter," said the Rabouilleuse.
"Where's that cursed Parisian? Let us find him!" they all cried.
"Find him?" was the answer, "why, he left Monsieur Hochon's at
A Knight of Idleness ran off at once to Monsieur Mouilleron. The crowd
increased; and the tumult became threatening. Excited groups filled up
the whole of the Grande-Narette. Others stationed themselves before
the church of Saint-Jean. An assemblage gathered at the porte Vilatte,
which is at the farther end of the Petite-Narette. Monsieur Lousteau-
Prangin and Monsieur Mouilleron, the commissary of police, the
lieutenant of gendarmes, and two of his men, had some difficulty in
reaching the place Saint-Jean through two hedges of people, whose
cries and exclamations could and did prejudice them against the
Parisian; who was, it is needless to say, unjustly accused, although,
it is true, circumstances told against him.
After a conference between Max and the magistrates, Monsieur
Mouilleron sent the commissary of police and a sergeant with one
gendarme to examine what, in the language of the ministry of the
interior, is called "the theatre of the crime." Then Messieurs
Mouilleron and Lousteau-Prangin, accompanied by the lieutenant of
gendarmes crossed over to the Hochon house, which was now guarded by
two gendarmes in the garden and two at the front door. The crowd was
still increasing. The whole town was surging in the Grande rue.
Gritte had rushed terrified to her master, crying out: "Monsieur, we
shall be pillaged! the town is in revolt; Monsieur Maxence Gilet has
been assassinated; he is dying! and they say it is Monsieur Joseph who
has done it!"
Monsieur Hochon dressed quickly, and came downstairs; but seeing the
angry populace, he hastily retreated within the house, and bolted the
door. On questioning Gritte, he learned that his guest had left the
house at daybreak, after walking the floor all night in great
agitation, and had not yet come in. Much alarmed, he went to find
Madame Hochon, who was already awakened by the noise, and to whom he
told the frightful news which, true or false, was causing almost a
riot in Issoudun.
"He is innocent, of course," said Madame Hochon.
"Before his innocence can be proved, the crowd may get in here and
pillage us," said Monsieur Hochon, livid with fear, for he had gold in
"Where is Agathe?"
"Ah! so much the better," said Madame Hochon. "I wish she may sleep on
till the matter is cleared up. Such a shock might kill the poor
But Agathe woke up and came down half-dressed; for the evasive answers
of Gritte, whom she questioned, had disturbed both her head and heart.
She found Madame Hochon, looking very pale, with her eyes full of
tears, at one of the windows of the salon beside her husband.
"Courage, my child. God sends us our afflictions," said the old lady.
"Joseph is accused--"
"Of a bad action which he could never have committed," answered Madame
Hearing the words, and seeing the lieutenant of gendarmes, who at this
moment entered the room accompanied by the two gentlemen, Agathe
"There now!" said Monsieur Hochon to his wife and Gritte, "carry off
Madame Bridau; women are only in the way at these times. Take her to
her room and stay there, both of you. Sit down, gentlemen," continued
the old man. "The mistake to which we owe your visit will soon, I
hope, be cleared up."
"Even if it should be a mistake," said Monsieur Mouilleron, "the
excitement of the crowd is so great, and their minds are so
exasperated, that I fear for the safety of the accused. I should like
to get him arrested, and that might satisfy these people."
"Who would ever have believed that Monsieur Maxence Gilet had inspired
so much affection in this town?" asked Lousteau-Prangin.
"One of my men says there's a crowd of twelve hundred more just coming
in from the faubourg de Rome," said the lieutenant of gendarmes, "and
they are threatening death to the assassin."
"Where is your guest?" said Monsieur Mouilleron to Monsieur Hochon.
"He has gone to walk in the country, I believe."
"Call Gritte," said the judge gravely. "I was in hopes he had not left
the house. You are aware that the crime was committed not far from
here, at daybreak."
While Monsieur Hochon went to find Gritte, the three functionaries
looked at each other significantly.
"I never liked that painter's face," said the lieutenant to Monsieur
"My good woman," said the judge to Gritte, when she appeared, "they
say you saw Monsieur Joseph Bridau leave the house this morning?"
"Yes, monsieur," she answered, trembling like a leaf.
"At what hour?"
"Just as I was getting up: he walked about his room all night, and was
dressed when I came downstairs."
"Was it daylight?"
"Did he seem excited?"
"Yes, he was all of a twitter."
"Send one of your men for my clerk," said Lousteau-Prangin to the
lieutenant, "and tell him to bring warrants with him--"
"Good God! don't be in such a hurry," cried Monsieur Hochon. "The
young man's agitation may have been caused by something besides the
premeditation of this crime. He meant to return to Paris to-day, to
attend to a matter in which Gilet and Mademoiselle Brazier had doubted
"Yes, the affair of the pictures," said Monsieur Mouilleron. "Those
pictures caused a very hot quarrel between them yesterday, and it is a
word and a blow with artists, they tell me."
"Who is there in Issoudun who had any object in killing Gilet?" said
Lousteau. "No one,--neither a jealous husband nor anybody else; for
the fellow has never harmed a soul."
"But what was Monsieur Gilet doing in the streets at four in the
morning?" remarked Monsieur Hochon.
"Now, Monsieur Hochon, you must allow us to manage this affair in our
own way," answered Mouilleron; "you don't know all: Gilet recognized
At this instant a clamor was heard from the other end of the town,
growing louder and louder, like the roll of thunder, as it followed
the course of the Grande-Narette.
"Here he is! here he is!--he's arrested!"
These words rose distinctly on the ear above the hoarse roar of the
populace. Poor Joseph, returning quietly past the mill at Landrole
intending to get home in time for breakfast, was spied by the various
groups of people, as soon as he reached the place Misere. Happily for
him, a couple of gendarmes arrived on a run in time to snatch him from
the inhabitants of the faubourg de Rome, who had already pinioned him
by the arms and were threatening him with death.
"Give way! give way!" cried the gendarmes, calling to some of their
comrades to help them, and putting themselves one before and the other
"You see, monsieur," said the one who held the painter, "it concerns
our skin as well as yours at this moment. Innocent or guilty, we must
protect you against the tumult raised by the murder of Captain Gilet.
And the crowd is not satisfied with suspecting you; they declare, hard
as iron, that you are the murderer. Monsieur Gilet is adored by all
the people, who--look at them!--want to take justice into their own
hands. Ah! didn't we see them, in 1830, dusting the jackets of the
tax-gatherers? whose life isn't a bed of roses, anyway!"
Joseph Bridau grew pale as death, and collected all his strength to
"After all," he said, "I am innocent. Go on!"
Poor artist! he was forced to bear his cross. Amid the hooting and
insults and threats from the mob, he made the dreadful transit from
the place Misere to the place Saint-Jean. The gendarmes were obliged
to draw their sabres on the furious mob, which pelted them with
stones. One of the officers was wounded, and Joseph received several
of the missiles on his legs, and shoulders, and hat.
"Here we are!" said one of the gendarmes, as they entered Monsieur
Hochon's hall, "and not without difficulty, lieutenant."
"We must now manage to disperse the crowd; and I see but one way,
gentlemen," said the lieutenant to the magistrates. "We must take
Monsieur Bridau to the Palais accompanied by all of you; I and my
gendarmes will make a circle round you. One can't answer for anything
in presence of a furious crowd of six thousand--"
"You are right," said Monsieur Hochon, who was trembling all the while
for his gold.
"If that's your only way to protect innocence in Issoudun," said
Joseph, "I congratulate you. I came near being stoned--"
"Do you wish your friend's house to be taken by assault and pillaged?"
asked the lieutenant. "Could we beat back with our sabres a crowd of
people who are pushed from behind by an angry populace that knows
nothing of the forms of justice?"
"That will do, gentlemen, let us go; we can come to explanations
later," said Joseph, who had recovered his self-possession.
"Give way, friends!" said the lieutenant to the crowd; "HE is
arrested, and we are taking him to the Palais."
"Respect the law, friends!" said Monsieur Mouilleron.
"Wouldn't you prefer to see him guillotined?" said one of the
gendarmes to an angry group.
"Yes, yes, they shall guillotine him!" shouted one madman.
"They are going to guillotine him!" cried the women.
By the time they reached the end of the Grande-Narette the crowd were
shouting: "They are taking him to the guillotine!" "They found the
knife upon him!" "That's what Parisians are!" "He carries crime on his
Though all Joseph's blood had flown to his head, he walked the
distance from the place Saint-Jean to the Palais with remarkable
calmness and self-possession. Nevertheless, he was very glad to find
himself in the private office of Monsieur Lousteau-Prangin.
"I need hardly tell you, gentlemen, that I am innocent," said Joseph,
addressing Monsieur Mouilleron, Monsieur Lousteau-Prangin, and the
clerk. "I can only beg you to assist me in proving my innocence. I
know nothing of this affair."
When the judge had stated all the suspicious facts which were against
him, ending with Max's declaration, Joseph was astounded.
"But," said he, "it was past five o'clock when I left the house. I
went up the Grande rue, and at half-past five I was standing looking
up at the facade of the parish church of Saint-Cyr. I talked there
with the sexton, who came to ring the angelus, and asked him for
information about the building, which seems to me fantastic and
incomplete. Then I passed through the vegetable-market, where some
women had already assembled. From there, crossing the place Misere, I
went as far as the mill of Landrole by the Pont aux Anes, where I
watched the ducks for five or six minutes, and the miller's men must
have noticed me. I saw the women going to wash; they are probably
still there. They made a little fun of me, and declared that I was not
handsome; I told them it was not all gold that glittered. From there,
I followed the long avenue to Tivoli, where I talked with the
gardener. Pray have these facts verified; and do not even arrest me,
for I give you my word of honor that I will stay quietly in this
office till you are convinced of my innocence."
These sensible words, said without the least hesitation, and with the
ease of a man who is perfectly sure of his facts, made some impression
on the magistrates.
"Yes, we must find all these persons and summon them," said Monsieur
Mouilleron; "but it is more than the affair of a day. Make up your
mind, therefore, in your own interests, to be imprisoned in the
"Provided I can write to my mother, so as to reassure her, poor woman
--oh! you can read the letter," he added.
This request was too just not to be granted, and Joseph wrote the
"Do not be uneasy, dear mother; the mistake of which I am a victim
can easily be rectified; I have already given them the means of
doing so. To-morrow, or perhaps this evening, I shall be at
liberty. I kiss you, and beg you to say to Monsieur and Madame
Hochon how grieved I am at this affair; in which, however, I have
had no hand,--it is the result of some chance which, as yet, I do
When the note reached Madame Bridau, she was suffering from a nervous
attack, and the potions which Monsieur Goddet was trying to make her
swallow were powerless to soothe her. The reading of the letter acted
like balm; after a few quiverings, Agathe subsided into the depression
which always follows such attacks. Later, when Monsieur Goddet
returned to his patient he found her regretting that she had ever
"Well," said Madame Hochon to Monsieur Goddet, "how is Monsieur
"His wound, though serious, is not mortal," replied the doctor. "With
a month's nursing he will be all right. I left him writing to Monsieur
Mouilleron to request him to set your son at liberty, madame," he
added, turning to Agathe. "Oh! Max is a fine fellow. I told him what a
state you were in, and he then remembered a circumstance which goes to
prove that the assassin was not your son; the man wore list shoes,
whereas it is certain that Monsieur Joseph left the house in his
"Ah! God forgive him the harm he has done me--"
The fact was, a man had left a note for Max, after dark, written in
type-letters, which ran as follows:--
"Captain Gilet ought not to let an innocent man suffer. He who
struck the blow promises not to strike again if Monsieur Gilet
will have Monsieur Joseph Bridau set at liberty, without naming
the man who did it."
After reading this letter and burning it, Max wrote to Monsieur
Mouilleron stating the circumstance of the list shoes, as reported by
Monsieur Goddet, begging him to set Joseph at liberty, and to come and
see him that he might explain the matter more at length.
By the time this letter was received, Monsieur Lousteau-Prangin had
verified, by the testimony of the bell-ringer, the market-women and
washerwomen, and the miller's men, the truth of Joseph's explanation.
Max's letter made his innocence only the more certain, and Monsieur
Mouilleron himself escorted him back to the Hochons'. Joseph was
greeted with such overflowing tenderness by his mother that the poor
misunderstood son gave thanks to ill-luck--like the husband to the
thief, in La Fontaine's fable--for a mishap which brought him such
proofs of affection.
"Oh," said Monsieur Mouilleron, with a self-satisfied air, "I knew at
once by the way you looked at the angry crowd that you were innocent;
but whatever I may have thought, any one who knows Issoudun must also
know that the only way to protect you was to make the arrest as we
did. Ah! you carried your head high."
"I was thinking of something else," said the artist simply. "An
officer in the army told me that he was once stopped in Dalmatia under
similar circumstances by an excited populace, in the early morning as
he was returning from a walk. This recollection came into my mind, and
I looked at all those heads with the idea of painting a revolt of the
year 1793. Besides, I kept saying to myself: Blackguard that I am! I
have only got my deserts for coming here to look after an inheritance,
instead of painting in my studio."
"If you will allow me to offer you a piece of advice," said the
procureur du roi, "you will take a carriage to-night, which the
postmaster will lend you, and return to Paris by the diligence from
"That is my advice also," said Monsieur Hochon, who was burning with a
desire for the departure of his guests.
"My most earnest wish is to get away from Issoudun, though I leave my
only friend here," said Agathe, kissing Madame Hochon's hand. "When
shall I see you again?"
"Ah! my dear, never until we meet above. We have suffered enough here
below," she added in a low voice, "for God to take pity upon us."
Shortly after, while Monsieur Mouilleron had gone across the way to
talk with Max, Gritte greatly astonished Monsieur and Madame Hochon,
Agathe, Joseph, and Adolphine by announcing the visit of Monsieur
Rouget. Jean-Jacques came to bid his sister good-by, and to offer her
his caleche for the drive to Bourges.
"Ah! your pictures have been a great evil to us," said Agathe.
"Keep them, my sister," said the old man, who did not even now believe
in their value.
"Neighbor," remarked Monsieur Hochon, "our best friends, our surest
defenders, are our own relations; above all, when they are such as
your sister Agathe, and your nephew Joseph."
"Perhaps so," said old Rouget in his dull way.
"We ought all to think of ending our days in a Christian manner," said
"Ah! Jean-Jacques," said Agathe, "what a day this has been!"
"Will you accept my carriage?" asked Rouget.
"No, brother," answered Madame Bridau, "I thank you, and wish you
health and comfort."
Rouget let his sister and nephew kiss him, and then he went away
without manifesting any feeling himself. Baruch, at a hint from his
grandfather, had been to see the postmaster. At eleven o'clock that
night, the two Parisians, ensconced in a wicker cabriolet drawn by one
horse and ridden by a postilion, quitted Issoudun. Adolphine and
Madame Hochon parted from them with tears in their eyes; they alone
regretted Joseph and Agathe.
"They are gone!" said Francois Hochon, going, with the Rabouilleuse,
into Max's bedroom.
"Well done! the trick succeeded," answered Max, who was now tired and
"But what did you say to old Mouilleron?" asked Francois.
"I told him that I had given my assassin some cause to waylay me; that
he was a dangerous man and likely, if I followed up the affair, to
kill me like a dog before he could be captured. Consequently, I begged
Mouilleron and Prangin to make the most active search ostensibly, but
really to let the assassin go in peace, unless they wished to see me a
"I do hope, Max," said Flore, "that you will be quiet at night for
some time to come."
"At any rate, we are delivered from the Parisians!" cried Max. "The
fellow who stabbed me had no idea what a service he was doing us."
The next day, the departure of the Parisians was celebrated as a
victory of the provinces over Paris by every one in Issoudun, except
the more sober and staid inhabitants, who shared the opinions of
Monsieur and Madame Hochon. A few of Max's friends spoke very harshly
of the Bridaus.
"Do those Parisians fancy we are all idiots," cried one, "and think
they have only got to hold their hats and catch legacies?"
"They came to fleece, but they have got shorn themselves," said
another; "the nephew is not to the uncle's taste."
"And, if you please, they actually consulted a lawyer in Paris--"
"Ah! had they really a plan?"
"Why, of course,--a plan to get possession of old Rouget. But the
Parisians were not clever enough; that lawyer can't crow over us
"That's Paris for you!"
"The Rabouilleuse knew they came to attack her, and she defended
"She did gloriously right!"
To the townspeople at large the Bridaus were Parisians and foreigners;
they preferred Max and Flore.
We can imagine the satisfaction with which, after this campaign,
Joseph and Agathe re-entered their little lodging in the rue Mazarin.
On the journey, the artist recovered his spirits, which had, not
unnaturally, been put to flight by his arrest and twenty-four hours'
confinement; but he could not cheer up his mother. The Court of Peers
was about to begin the trial of the military conspirators, and that
was sufficient to keep Agathe from recovering her peace of mind.
Philippe's conduct, in spite of the clever defender whom Desroches
recommended to him, roused suspicions that were unfavorable to his
character. In view of this, Joseph, as soon as he had put Desroches in
possession of all that was going on at Issoudun, started with
Mistigris for the chateau of the Comte de Serizy, to escape hearing
about the trial of the conspirators, which lasted for twenty days.
It is useless to record facts that may be found in contemporaneous
histories. Whether it were that he played a part previously agreed
upon, or that he was really an informer, Philippe was condemned to
five years' surveillance by the police department, and ordered to
leave Paris the same day for Autun, the town which the director-
general of police selected as the place of his exile for five years.
This punishment resembled the detention of prisoners on parole who
have a town for a prison. Learning that the Comte de Serizy, one of
the peers appointed by the Chamber on the court-martial, was employing
Joseph to decorate his chateau at Presles, Desroches begged the
minister to grant him an audience, and found Monsieur de Serizy most
amiably disposed toward Joseph, with whom he had happened to make
personal acquaintance. Desroches explained the financial condition of
the two brothers, recalling the services of the father, and the
neglect shown to them under the Restoration.
"Such injustice, monseigneur," said the lawyer, "is a lasting cause of
irritation and discontent. You knew the father; give the sons a
chance, at least, of making a fortune--"
And he drew a succinct picture of the situation of the family affairs
at Issoudun, begging the all-powerful vice-president of the Council of
State to take steps to induce the director-general of police to change
Philippe's place of residence from Autun to Issoudun. He also spoke of
Philippe's extreme poverty, and asked a dole of sixty francs a month,
which the minister of war ought, he said, for mere shame's sake, to
grant to a former lieutenant-colonel.
"I will obtain all you ask of me, for I think it just," replied the
Three days later, Desroches, furnished with the necessary authority,
fetched Philippe from the prison of the Court of Peers, and took him
to his own house, rue de Bethizy. Once there, the young barrister read
the miserable vagabond one of those unanswerable lectures in which
lawyers rate things at their actual value; using plain terms to
qualify the conduct, and to analyze and reduce to their simplest
meaning the sentiments and ideas of clients toward whom they feel
enough interest to speak plainly. After humbling the Emperor's staff-
officer by reproaching him with his reckless dissipations, his
mother's misfortunes, and the death of Madame Descoings, he went on to
tell him the state of things at Issoudun, explaining it according to
his lights, and probing both the scheme and the character of Maxence
Gilet and the Rabouilleuse to their depths. Philippe, who was gifted
with a keen comprehension in such directions, listened with much more
interest to this part of Desroches's lecture than to what had gone
"Under these circumstances," continued the lawyer, "you can repair the
injury you have done to your estimable family,--so far at least as it
is reparable; for you cannot restore life to the poor mother you have
all but killed. But you alone can--"
"What can I do?" asked Philippe.
"I have obtained a change of residence for you from Autun to
Philippe's sunken face, which had grown almost sinister in expression
and was furrowed with sufferings and privation, instantly lighted up
with a flash of joy.
"And, as I was saying, you alone can recover the inheritance of old
Rouget's property; half of which may by this time be in the jaws of
the wolf named Gilet," replied Desroches. "You now know all the
particulars, and it is for you to act accordingly. I suggest no plan;
I have no ideas at all as to that; besides, everything will depend on
local circumstances. You have to deal with a strong force; that fellow
is very astute. The way he attempted to get back the pictures your
uncle had given to Joseph, the audacity with which he laid a crime on
your poor brother's shoulders, all go to prove that the adversary is
capable of everything. Therefore, be prudent; and try to behave
properly out of policy, if you can't do so out of decency. Without
telling Joseph, whose artist's pride would be up in arms, I have sent
the pictures to Monsieur Hochon, telling him to give them up to no one
but you. By the way, Maxence Gilet is a brave man."
"So much the better," said Philippe; "I count on his courage for
success; a coward would leave Issoudun."
"Well,--think of your mother who has been so devoted to you, and of
your brother, whom you made your milch cow."
"Ah! did he tell you that nonsense?" cried Philippe.
"Am I not the friend of the family, and don't I know much more about
you than they do?" asked Desroches.
"What do you know?" said Philippe.
"That you betrayed your comrades."
"I!" exclaimed Philippe. "I! a staff-officer of the Emperor! Absurd!
Why, we fooled the Chamber of Peers, the lawyers, the government, and
the whole of the damned concern. The king's people were completely
"That's all very well, if it was so," answered the lawyer. "But, don't
you see, the Bourbons can't be overthrown; all Europe is backing them;
and you ought to try to make your peace with the war department,--you
could do that readily enough if you were rich. To get rich, you and
your brother, you must lay hold of your uncle. If you will take the
trouble to manage an affair which needs great cleverness, patience,
and caution, you have enough work before you to occupy your five
"No, no," cried Philippe, "I must take the bull by the horns at once.
This Maxence may alter the investment of the property and put it in
that woman's name; and then all would be lost."
"Monsieur Hochon is a good adviser, and sees clearly; consult him. You
have your orders from the police; I have taken your place in the
Orleans diligence for half-past seven o'clock this evening. I suppose
your trunk is ready; so, now come and dine."
"I own nothing but what I have got on my back," said Philippe, opening
his horrible blue overcoat; "but I only need three things, which you
must tell Giroudeau, the uncle of Finot, to send me,--my sabre, my
sword, and my pistols."
"You need more than that," said the lawyer, shuddering as he looked at
his client. "You will receive a quarterly stipend which will clothe
"Bless me! are you here, Godeschal?" cried Philippe, recognizing in
Desroches's head-clerk, as they passed out, the brother of Mariette.
"Yes, I have been with Monsieur Desroches for the last two months."
"And he will stay with me, I hope, till he gets a business of his
own," said Desroches.
"How is Mariette?" asked Philippe, moved at his recollections.
"She is getting ready for the opening of the new theatre."
"It would cost her little trouble to get my sentence remitted," said
Philippe. "However, as she chooses!"
After a meagre dinner, given by Desroches who boarded his head-clerk,
the two lawyers put the political convict in the diligence, and wished
him good luck.
On the second of November, All-Souls' day, Philippe Bridau appeared
before the commissary of police at Issoudun, to have the date of his
arrival recorded on his papers; and by that functionary's advice he
went to lodge in the rue l'Avenier. The news of the arrival of an
officer, banished on account of the late military conspiracy, spread
rapidly through the town, and caused all the more excitement when it
was known that this officer was a brother of the painter who had been
falsely accused. Maxence Gilet, by this time entirely recovered from
his wound, had completed the difficult operation of turning all Pere
Rouget's mortgages into money, and putting the proceeds in one sum, on
the "grand-livre." The loan of one hundred and forty thousand francs
obtained by the old man on his landed property had caused a great
sensation,--for everything is known in the provinces. Monsieur Hochon,
in the Bridau interest, was much put about by this disaster, and
questioned old Monsieur Heron, the notary at Bourges, as to the object
"The heirs of old Rouget, if old Rouget changes his mind, ought to
make me a votive offering," cried Monsieur Heron. "If it had not been
for me, the old fellow would have allowed the fifty thousand francs'
income to stand in the name of Maxence Gilet. I told Mademoiselle
Brazier that she ought to look to the will only, and not run the risk
of a suit for spoliation, seeing what numerous proofs these transfers
in every direction would give against them. To gain time, I advised
Maxence and his mistress to keep quiet, and let this sudden change in
the usual business habits of the old man be forgotten."
"Protect the Bridaus, for they have nothing," said Monsieur Hochon,
who in addition to all other reasons, could not forgive Gilet the
terrors he had endured when fearing the pillage of his house.
Maxence Gilet and Flore Brazier, now secure against all attack, were
very merry over the arrival of another of old Rouget's nephews. They
knew they were able, at the first signal of danger, to make the old
man sign a power of attorney under which the money in the Funds could
be transferred either to Max or Flore. If the will leaving Flore the
principal, should be revoked, an income of fifty thousand francs was a
very tolerable crumb of comfort,--more particularly after squeezing
from the real estate that mortgage of a hundred and forty thousand.
The day after his arrival, Philippe called upon his uncle about ten
o'clock in the morning, anxious to present himself in his dilapidated
clothing. When the convalescent of the Hopital du Midi, the prisoner
of the Luxembourg, entered the room, Flore Brazier felt a shiver pass
over her at the repulsive sight. Gilet himself was conscious of that
particular disturbance both of mind and body, by which Nature
sometimes warns us of a latent enmity, or a coming danger. If there
was something indescribably sinister in Philippe's countenance, due to
his recent misfortunes, the effect was heightened by his clothes. His
forlorn blue great-coat was buttoned in military fashion to the
throat, for painful reasons; and yet it showed much that it pretended
to conceal. The bottom edges of the trousers, ragged like those of an
almshouse beggar, were the sign of abject poverty. The boots left wet
splashes on the floor, as the mud oozed from fissures in the soles.
The gray hat, which the colonel held in his hand, was horribly greasy
round the rim. The malacca cane, from which the polish had long
disappeared, must have stood in all the corners of all the cafes in
Paris, and poked its worn-out end into many a corruption. Above the
velvet collar, rubbed and worn till the frame showed through it, rose
a head like that which Frederick Lemaitre makes up for the last act in
"The Life of a Gambler,"--where the exhaustion of a man still in the
prime of life is betrayed by the metallic, brassy skin, discolored as
if with verdigris. Such tints are seen on the faces of debauched
gamblers who spend their nights in play: the eyes are sunken in a
dusky circle, the lids are reddened rather than red, the brow is
menacing from the wreck and ruin it reveals. Philippe's cheeks, which
were sunken and wrinkled, showed signs of the illness from which he
had scarcely recovered. His head was bald, except for a fringe of hair
at the back which ended at the ears. The pure blue of his brilliant
eyes had acquired the cold tones of polished steel.
"Good-morning, uncle," he said, in a hoarse voice. "I am your nephew,
Philippe Bridau,--a specimen of how the Bourbons treat a lieutenant-
colonel, an old soldier of the old army, one who carried the Emperor's
orders at the battle of Montereau. If my coat were to open, I should
be put to shame in presence of Mademoiselle. Well, it is the rule of
the game! We hoped to begin it again; we tried it, and we have failed!
I am to reside in your city by the order of the police, with a full
pay of sixty francs a month. So the inhabitants needn't fear that I
shall raise the price of provisions! I see you are in good and lovely
"Ah! you are my nephew," said Jean-Jacques.
"Invite monsieur le colonel to breakfast with us," said Flore.
"No, I thank you, madame," answered Philippe, "I have breakfasted.
Besides, I would cut off my hand sooner than ask a bit of bread or a
farthing from my uncle, after the treatment my mother and brother
received in this town. It did not seem proper, however, that I should
settle here, in Issoudun, without paying my respects to him from time
to time. You can do what you like," he added, offering the old man his
hand, into which Rouget put his own, which Philippe shook, "--whatever
you like. I shall have nothing to say against it; provided the honor
of the Bridaus is untouched."
Gilet could look at the lieutenant-colonel as much as he pleased, for
Philippe pointedly avoided casting his eyes in his direction. Max,
though the blood boiled in his veins, was too well aware of the
importance of behaving with political prudence--which occasionally
resembles cowardice--to take fire like a young man; he remained,
therefore, perfectly calm and cold.
"It wouldn't be right, monsieur," said Flore, "to live on sixty francs
a month under the nose of an uncle who has forty thousand francs a
year, and who has already behaved so kindly to Captain Gilet, his
natural relation, here present--"
"Yes, Philippe," cried the old man, "you must see that!"
On Flore's presentation, Philippe made a half-timid bow to Max.
"Uncle, I have some pictures to return to you; they are now at
Monsieur Hochon's. Will you be kind enough to come over some day and
Saying these last words in a curt tone, lieutenant-colonel Philippe
Bridau departed. The tone of his visit made, if possible, a deeper
impression on Flore's mind, and also on that of Max, than the shock
they had felt at the first sight of that horrible campaigner. As soon
as Philippe had slammed the door, with the violence of a disinherited
heir, Max and Flore hid behind the window-curtains to watch him as he
crossed the road, to the Hochons'.
"What a vagabond!" exclaimed Flore, questioning Max with a glance of
"Yes; unfortunately there were men like him in the armies of the
Emperor; I sent seven to the shades at Cabrera," answered Gilet.
"I do hope, Max, that you won't pick a quarrel with that fellow," said
"He smelt so of tobacco," complained the old man.
"He was smelling after your money-bags," said Flore, in a peremptory
tone. "My advice is that you don't let him into the house again."
"I'd prefer not to," replied Rouget.
"Monsieur," said Gritte, entering the room where the Hochon family
were all assembled after breakfast, "here is the Monsieur Bridau you
were talking about."
Philippe made his entrance politely, in the midst of a dead silence
caused by general curiosity. Madame Hochon shuddered from head to foot
as she beheld the author of all Agathe's woes and the murderer of good
old Madame Descoings. Adolphine also felt a shock of fear. Baruch and
Francois looked at each other in surprise. Old Hochon kept his self-
possession, and offered a seat to the son of Madame Bridau.
"I have come, monsieur," said Philippe, "to introduce myself to you; I
am forced to consider how I can manage to live here, for five years,
on sixty francs a month."
"It can be done," said the octogenarian.
Philippe talked about things in general, with perfect propriety. He
mentioned the journalist Lousteau, nephew of the old lady, as a "rara
avis," and won her good graces from the moment she heard him say that
the name of Lousteau would become celebrated. He did not hesitate to
admit his faults of conduct. To a friendly admonition which Madame
Hochon addressed to him in a low voice, he replied that he had
reflected deeply while in prison, and could promise that in future he
would live another life.
On a hint from Philippe, Monsieur Hochon went out with him when he
took his leave. When the miser and the soldier reached the boulevard
Baron, a place where no one could overhear them, the colonel turned to
the old man,--
"Monsieur," he said, "if you will be guided by me, we will never speak
together of matters and things, or people either, unless we are
walking in the open country, or in places where we cannot be heard.
Maitre Desroches has fully explained to me the influence of the gossip
of a little town. Therefore I don't wish you to be suspected of
advising me; though Desroches has told me to ask for your advice, and
I beg you not to be chary of giving it. We have a powerful enemy in
our front, and it won't do to neglect any precaution which may help to
defeat him. In the first place, therefore, excuse me if I do not call
upon you again. A little coldness between us will clear you of all
suspicion of influencing my conduct. When I want to consult you, I
will pass along the square at half-past nine, just as you are coming
out after breakfast. If you see me carry my cane on my shoulder, that
will mean that we must meet--accidentally--in some open space which
you will point out to me."
"I see you are a prudent man, bent on success," said old Hochon.
"I shall succeed, monsieur. First of all, give me the names of the
officers of the old army now living in Issoudun, who have not taken
sides with Maxence Gilet; I wish to make their acquaintance."
"Well, there's a captain of the artillery of the Guard, Monsieur
Mignonnet, a man about forty years of age, who was brought up at the
Ecole Polytechnique, and lives in a quiet way. He is a very honorable
man, and openly disapproves of Max, whose conduct he considers
unworthy of a true soldier."
"Good!" remarked the lieutenant-colonel.
"There are not many soldiers here of that stripe," resumed Monsieur
Hochon; "the only other that I know is an old cavalry captain."
"That is my arm," said Philippe. "Was he in the Guard?"
"Yes," replied Monsieur Hochon. "Carpentier was, in 1810, sergeant-
major in the dragoons; then he rose to be sub-lieutenant in the line,
and subsequently captain of cavalry."
"Giroudeau may know him," thought Philippe.
"This Monsieur Carpentier took the place in the mayor's office which
Gilet threw up; he is a friend of Monsieur Mignonnet."
"How can I earn my living here?"
"They are going, I think, to establish a mutual insurance agency in
Issoudun, for the department of the Cher; you might get a place in it,
but the pay won't be more than fifty francs a month at the outside."
"That will be enough."
At the end of a week Philippe had a new suit of clothes,--coat,
waistcoat, and trousers,--of good blue Elbeuf cloth, bought on credit,
to be paid for at so much a month; also new boots, buckskin gloves,
and a hat. Giroudeau sent him some linen, with his weapons and a
letter for Carpentier, who had formerly served under Giroudeau. The
letter secured him Carpentier's good-will, and the latter presented
him to his friend Mignonnet as a man of great merit and the highest
character. Philippe won the admiration of these worthy officers by
confiding to them a few facts about the late conspiracy, which was, as
everybody knows, the last attempt of the old army against the
Bourbons; for the affair of the sergeants at La Rochelle belongs to
another order of ideas.
Warned by the fate of the conspiracy of the 19th of August, 1820, and
of those of Berton and Caron, the soldiers of the old army resigned
themselves, after their failure in 1822, to await events. This last
conspiracy, which grew out of that of the 19th of August, was really a
continuation of the latter, carried on by a better element. Like its
predecessor, it was absolutely unknown to the royal government.
Betrayed once more, the conspirators had the wit to reduce their vast
enterprise to the puny proportions of a barrack plot. This conspiracy,
in which several regiments of cavalry, infantry, and artillery were
concerned, had its centre in the north of France. The strong places
along the frontier were to be captured at a blow. If success had
followed, the treaties of 1815 would have been broken by a federation
with Belgium, which, by a military compact made among the soldiers,
was to withdraw from the Holy Alliance. Two thrones would have been
plunged in a moment into the vortex of this sudden cyclone. Instead of
this formidable scheme--concerted by strong minds and supported by
personages of high rank--being carried out, one small part of it, and
that only, was discovered and brought before the Court of Peers.
Philippe Bridau consented to screen the leaders, who retired the
moment the plot was discovered (either by treachery or accident), and
from their seats in both Chambers lent their co-operation to the
inquiry only to work for the ultimate success of their purpose at the
heart of the government.
To recount this scheme, which, since 1830, the Liberals have openly
confessed in all its ramifications, would trench upon the domain of
history and involve too long a digression. This glimpse of it is
enough to show the double part which Philippe Bridau undertook to
play. The former staff-officer of the Emperor was to lead a movement
in Paris solely for the purpose of masking the real conspiracy and
occupying the mind of the government at its centre, while the great
struggle should burst forth at the north. When the latter miscarried
before discovery, Philippe was ordered to break all links connecting
the two plots, and to allow the secrets of the secondary plot only to
become known. For this purpose, his abject misery, to which his state
of health and his clothing bore witness, was amply sufficient to
undervalue the character of the conspiracy and reduce its proportions
in the eyes of the authorities. The role was well suited to the
precarious position of the unprincipled gambler. Feeling himself
astride of both parties, the crafty Philippe played the saint to the
royal government, all the while retaining the good opinion of the men
in high places who were of the other party,--determined to cast in his
lot at a later day with whichever side he might then find most to his
These revelations as to the vast bearings of the real conspiracy made
Philippe a man of great distinction in the eyes of Carpentier and
Mignonnet, to whom his self-devotion seemed a state-craft worthy of
the palmy days of the Convention. In a short time the tricky
Bonapartist was seen to be on friendly terms with the two officers,
and the consideration they enjoyed in the town was, of course, shared
by him. He soon obtained, through their recommendation, the situation
in the insurance office that old Hochon had suggested, which required
only three hours of his day. Mignonnet and Carpentier put him up at
their club, where his good manners and bearing, in keeping with the
high opinion which the two officers expressed about him, won him a
respect often given to external appearances that are only deceitful.
Philippe, whose conduct was carefully considered and planned, had
indeed made many reflections while in prison as to the inconveniences
of leading a debauched life. He did not need Desroches's lecture to
understand the necessity of conciliating the people at Issoudun by
decent, sober, and respectable conduct. Delighted to attract Max's
ridicule by behaving with the propriety of a Mignonnet, he went
further, and endeavored to lull Gilet's suspicions by deceiving him as
to his real character. He was bent on being taken for a fool by
appearing generous and disinterested; all the while drawing a net
around his adversary, and keeping his eye on his uncle's property. His
mother and brother, on the contrary, who were really disinterested,
generous, and lofty, had been accused of greed because they had acted
with straightforward simplicity. Philippe's covetousness was fully
roused by Monsieur Hochon, who gave him all the details of his uncle's
property. In the first secret conversation which he held with the
octogenarian, they agreed that Philippe must not awaken Max's
suspicions; for the game would be lost if Flore and Max were to carry
off their victim, though no further than Bourges.
Once a week the colonel dined with Mignonnet; another day with
Carpentier; and every Thursday with Monsieur Hochon. At the end of
three weeks he received other invitations for the remaining days, so
that he had little more than his breakfast to provide. He never spoke
of his uncle, nor of the Rabouilleuse, nor of Gilet, unless it were in
connection with his mother and his brother's stay in Issoudun. The
three officers--the only soldiers in the town who were decorated, and
among whom Philippe had the advantage of the rosette, which in the
eyes of all provincials gave him a marked superiority--took a habit of
walking together every day before dinner, keeping, as the saying is,
to themselves. This reserve and tranquillity of demeanor had an
excellent effect on Issoudun. All Max's adherents thought Philippe a
"sabreur,"--an expression applied by soldiers to the commonest sort of
courage in their superior officers, while denying that they possess
the requisite qualities of a commander.
"He is a very honorable man," said Goddet the surgeon, to Max.
"Bah!" replied Gilet, "his behavior before the Court of Peers proves
him to have been either a dupe or a spy; he is, as you say, ninny
enough to have been duped by the great players."
After obtaining his situation, Philippe, who was well informed as to
the gossip of the town, wished to conceal certain circumstances of his
present life as much as possible from the knowledge of the
inhabitants; he therefore went to live in a house at the farther end
of the faubourg Saint-Paterne, to which was attached a large garden.
Here he was able in the utmost secrecy to fence with Carpentier, who
had been a fencing-master in the infantry before entering the cavalry.
Philippe soon recovered his early dexterity, and learned other and new
secrets from Carpentier, which convinced him that he need not fear the
prowess of any adversary. This done, he began openly to practise with
pistols, with Mignonnet and Carpentier, declaring it was for
amusement, but really intending to make Max believe that, in case of a
duel, he should rely on that weapon. Whenever Philippe met Gilet he
waited for him to bow first, and answered the salutation by touching
the brim of his hat cavalierly, as an officer acknowledges the salute
of a private. Maxence Gilet gave no sign of impatience or displeasure;
he never uttered a single word about Bridau at the Cognettes' where he
still gave suppers; although, since Fario's attack, the pranks of the
Order of Idleness were temporarily suspended.
After a while, however, the contempt shown by Lieutenant-colonel
Bridau for the former cavalry captain, Gilet, was a settled fact,
which certain Knights of Idleness, who were less bound to Max than
Francois, Baruch, and three or four others, discussed among
themselves. They were much surprised to see the violent and fiery Max
behave with such discretion. No one in Issoudun, not even Potel or
Renard, dared broach so delicate a subject with him. Potel, somewhat
disturbed by this open misunderstanding between two heroes of the
Imperial Guard, suggested that Max might be laying a net for the
colonel; he asserted that some new scheme might be looked for from the
man who had got rid of the mother and one brother by making use of
Fario's attack upon him, the particulars of which were now no longer a
mystery. Monsieur Hochon had taken care to reveal the truth of Max's
atrocious accusation to the best people of the town. Thus it happened
that in talking over the situation of the lieutenant-colonel in
relation to Max, and in trying to guess what might spring from their
antagonism, the whole town regarded the two men, from the start, as
Philippe, who had carefully investigated all the circumstances of his
brother's arrest and the antecedents of Gilet and the Rabouilleuse,
was finally brought into rather close relations with Fario, who lived
near him. After studying the Spaniard, Philippe thought he might trust
a man of that quality. The two found their hatred so firm a bond of
union, that Fario put himself at Philippe's disposal, and related all
that he knew about the Knights of Idleness. Philippe promised, in case
he succeeded in obtaining over his uncle the power now exercised by
Gilet, to indemnify Fario for his losses; this bait made the Spaniard
his henchman. Maxence was now face to face with a dangerous foe; he
had, as they say in those parts, some one to handle. Roused by much
gossip and various rumors, the town of Issoudun expected a mortal
combat between the two men, who, we must remark, mutually despised
One morning, toward the end of November, Philippe met Monsieur Hochon
about twelve o'clock, in the long avenue of Frapesle, and said to
"I have discovered that your grandsons Baruch and Francois are the
intimate friends of Maxence Gilet. The rascals are mixed up in all the
pranks that are played about this town at night. It was through them
that Maxence knew what was said in your house when my mother and
brother were staying there."
"How did you get proof of such a monstrous thing?"
"I overheard their conversation one night as they were leaving a
drinking-shop. Your grandsons both owe Max more than three thousand
francs. The scoundrel told the lads to try and find out our
intentions; he reminded them that you had once thought of getting
round my uncle by priestcraft, and declared that nobody but you could
guide me; for he thinks, fortunately, that I am nothing more than a
"My grandsons! is it possible?"
"Watch them," said Philippe. "You will see them coming home along the
place Saint-Jean, at two or three o'clock in the morning, as tipsy as
champagne-corks, and in company with Gilet--"
"That's why the scamps keep so sober at home!" cried Monsieur Hochon.
"Fario has told me all about their nocturnal proceedings," resumed
Philippe; "without him, I should never have suspected them. My uncle
is held down under an absolute thraldom, if I may judge by certain
things which the Spaniard has heard Max say to your boys. I suspect
Max and the Rabouilleuse of a scheme to make sure of the fifty
thousand francs' income from the Funds, and then, after pulling that
feather from their pigeon's wing, to run away, I don't know where, and
get married. It is high time to know what is going on under my uncle's
roof, but I don't see how to set about it."
"I will think of it," said the old man.
They separated, for several persons were now approaching.
Never, at any time in his life, did Jean-Jacques suffer as he had done
since the first visit of his nephew Philippe. Flore was terrified by
the presentiment of some evil that threatened Max. Weary of her
master, and fearing that he might live to be very old, since he was
able to bear up under their criminal practices, she formed the very
simple plan of leaving Issoudun and being married to Maxence in Paris,
after obtaining from Jean-Jacques the transfer of the income in the
Funds. The old bachelor, guided, not by any justice to his family, nor
by personal avarice, but solely by his passion, steadily refused to
make the transfer, on the ground that Flore was to be his sole heir.
The unhappy creature knew to what extent Flore loved Max, and he
believed he would be abandoned the moment she was made rich enough to
marry. When Flore, after employing the tenderest cajoleries, was
unable to succeed, she tried rigor; she no longer spoke to her master;
Vedie was sent to wait upon him, and found him in the morning with his
eyes swollen and red with weeping. For a week or more, poor Rouget had
breakfasted alone, and Heaven knows on what food!
The day after Philippe's conversation with Monsieur Hochon, he
determined to pay a second visit to his uncle, whom he found much
changed. Flore stayed beside the old man, speaking tenderly and
looking at him with much affection; she played the comedy so well that
Philippe guessed some immediate danger, merely from the solicitude
thus displayed in his presence. Gilet, whose policy it was to avoid
all collision with Philippe, did not appear. After watching his uncle
and Flore for a time with a discerning eye, the colonel judged that
the time had come to strike his grand blow.
"Adieu, my dear uncle," he said, rising as if to leave the house.
"Oh! don't go yet," cried the old man, who was comforted by Flore's
false tenderness. "Dine with us, Philippe."
"Yes, if you will come and take a walk with me."
"Monsieur is very feeble," interposed Mademoiselle Brazier; "just now
he was unwilling even to go out in the carriage," she added, turning
upon the old man the fixed look with which keepers quell a maniac.
Philippe took Flore by the arm, compelling her to look at him, and
looking at her in return as fixedly as she had just looked at her
"Tell me, mademoiselle," he said, "is it a fact that my uncle is not
free to take a walk with me?"
"Why, yes he is, monsieur," replied Flore, who was unable to make any
"Very well. Come, uncle. Mademoiselle, give him his hat and cane."
"But--he never goes out without me. Do you, monsieur?"
"Yes, Philippe, yes; I always want her--"
"It would be better to take the carriage," said Flore.
"Yes, let us take the carriage," cried the old man, in his anxiety to
make his two tyrants agree.
"Uncle, you will come with me, alone, and on foot, or I shall never
return here; I shall know that the town of Issoudun tells the truth,
when it declares you are under the dominion of Mademoiselle Flore
Brazier. That my uncle should love you, is all very well," he resumed,
holding Flore with a fixed eye; "that you should not love my uncle is
also on the cards; but when it comes to your making him unhappy--halt!
If people want to get hold of an inheritance, they must earn it. Are
you coming, uncle?"
Philippe saw the eyes of the poor imbecile roving from himself to
Flore, in painful hesitation.
"Ha! that's how it is, is it?" resumed the lieutenant-colonel. "Well,
adieu, uncle. Mademoiselle, I kiss your hands."
He turned quickly when he reached the door, and caught Flore in the
act of making a menacing gesture at his uncle.
"Uncle," he said, "if you wish to go with me, I will meet you at your
door in ten minutes: I am now going to see Monsieur Hochon. If you and
I do not take that walk, I shall take upon myself to make some others
So saying, he went away, and crossed the place Saint-Jean to the
Every one can imagine the scenes which the revelations made by
Philippe to Monsieur Hochon had brought about within that family. At
nine o'clock, old Monsieur Heron, the notary, presented himself with a
bundle of papers, and found a fire in the hall which the old miser,
contrary to all his habits, had ordered to be lighted. Madame Hochon,
already dressed at this unusual hour, was sitting in her armchair at
the corner of the fireplace. The two grandsons, warned the night
before by Adolphine that a storm was gathering about their heads, had
been ordered to stay in the house. Summoned now by Gritte, they were
alarmed at the formal preparations of their grandparents, whose
coldness and anger they had been made to feel in the air for the last
"Don't rise for them," said their grandfather to Monsieur Heron; "you
see before you two miscreants, unworthy of pardon."
"Oh, grandpapa!" said Francois.
"Be silent!" said the old man sternly. "I know of your nocturnal life
and your intimacy with Monsieur Maxence Gilet. But you will meet him
no more at Mere Cognette's at one in the morning; for you will not
leave this house, either of you, until you go to your respective
destinations. Ha! it was you who ruined Fario, was it? you, who have
narrowly escaped the police-courts-- Hold your tongue!" he said,
seeing that Baruch was about to speak. "You both owe money to Monsieur
Maxence Gilet; who, for six years, has paid for your debauchery.
Listen, both of you, to my guardianship accounts; after that, I shall
have more to say. You will see, after these papers are read, whether
you can still trifle with me,--still trifle with family laws by
betraying the secrets of this house, and reporting to a Monsieur
Maxence Gilet what is said and what is done here. For three thousand
francs, you became spies; for ten thousand, you would, no doubt,
become assassins. You did almost kill Madame Bridau; for Monsieur
Gilet knew very well it was Fario who stabbed him when he threw the
crime upon my guest, Monsieur Joseph Bridau. If that jail-bird did so
wicked an act, it was because you told him what Madame Bridau meant to
do. You, my grandsons, the spies of such a man! You, house-breakers
and marauders! Don't you know that your worthy leader killed a poor
young woman, in 1806? I will not have assassins and thieves in my
family. Pack your things; you shall go hang elsewhere!"
The two young men turned white and stiff as plaster casts.
"Read on, Monsieur Heron," said Hochon.
The old notary read the guardianship accounts; from which it appeared
that the net fortune of the two Borniche children amounted to seventy
thousand francs, a sum derived from the dowry of their mother: but
Monsieur Hochon had lent his daughter various large sums, and was now,
as creditor, the owner of a part of the property of his Borniche
grandchildren. The portion coming to Baruch amounted to only twenty
"Now you are rich," said the old man, "take your money, and go. I
remain master of my own property and that of Madame Hochon, who in
this matter shares all my intentions, and I shall give it to whom I
choose; namely, our dear Adolphine. Yes, we can marry her if we please
to the son of a peer of France, for she will be an heiress."
"A noble fortune!" said Monsieur Heron.
"Monsieur Maxence Gilet will make up this loss to you," said Madame
"Let my hard-saved money go to a scapegrace like you? no, indeed!"
cried Monsieur Hochon.
"Forgive me!" stammered Baruch.
"'Forgive, and I won't do it again,'" sneered the old man, imitating a
child's voice. "If I were to forgive you, and let you out of this
house, you would go and tell Monsieur Maxence what has happened, and
warn him to be on his guard. No, no, my little men. I shall keep my
eye on you, and I have means of knowing what you do. As you behave, so
shall I behave to you. It will be by a long course of good conduct,
not that of a day or a month, but of years, that I shall judge you. I
am strong on my legs, my eyes are good, my health is sound; I hope to
live long enough to see what road you take. Your first move will be to
Paris, where you will study banking under Messieurs Mongenod and Sons.
Ill-luck to you if you don't walk straight; you will be watched. Your
property is in the hand of Messieurs Mongenod; here is a cheque for
the amount. Now then, release me as guardian, and sign the accounts,
and also this receipt," he added, taking the papers from Monsieur
Heron and handing them to Baruch.
"As for you, Francois Hochon, you owe me money instead of having any
to receive," said the old man, looking at his other grandson.
"Monsieur Heron, read his account; it is all clear--perfectly clear."
The reading was done in the midst of perfect stillness.
"You will have six hundred francs a year, and with that you will go to
Poitiers and study law," said the grandfather, when the notary had
finished. "I had a fine life in prospect for you; but now, you must
earn your living as a lawyer. Ah! my young rascals, you have deceived
me for six years; you now know it has taken me but one hour to get
even with you: I have seven-leagued boots."
Just as old Monsieur Heron was preparing to leave with the signed
papers, Gritte announced Colonel Bridau. Madame Hochon left the room,
taking her grandsons with her, that she might, as old Hochon said,
confess them privately and find out what effect this scene had
produced upon them.
Philippe and the old man stood in the embrasure of a window and spoke
in low tones.
"I have been reflecting on the state of your affairs over there," said
Monsieur Hochon pointing to the Rouget house. "I have just had a talk
with Monsieur Heron. The security for the fifty thousand francs a year
from the property in the Funds cannot be sold unless by the owner
himself or some one with a power of attorney from him. Now, since your
arrival here, your uncle has not signed any such power before any
notary; and, as he has not left Issoudun, he can't have signed one
elsewhere. If he attempts to give a power of attorney here, we shall
know it instantly; if he goes away to give one, we shall also know it,
for it will have to be registered, and that excellent Heron has means
of finding it out. Therefore, if Rouget leaves Issoudun, have him
followed, learn where he goes, and we will find a way to discover what
"The power of attorney has not been given," said Philippe; "they are
trying to get it; but--they--will--not--suc--ceed--" added the
vagabond, whose eye just then caught sight of his uncle on the steps
of the opposite house: he pointed him out to Monsieur Hochon, and
related succinctly the particulars, at once so petty and so important,
of his visit.
"Maxence is afraid of me, but he can't evade me. Mignonnet says that
all the officers of the old army who are in Issoudun give a yearly
banquet on the anniversary of the Emperor's coronation; so Maxence
Gilet and I are sure to meet in a few days."
"If he gets a power of attorney by the morning of the first of
December," said Hochon, "he might take the mail-post for Paris, and
give up the banquet."
"Very good. The first thing is, then, to get possession of my uncle;
I've an eye that cows a fool," said Philippe, giving Monsieur Hochon
an atrocious glance that made the old man tremble.
"If they let him walk with you, Maxence must believe he has found some
means to win the game," remarked the old miser.
"Oh! Fario is on the watch," said Philippe, "and he is not alone. That
Spaniard has discovered one of my old soldiers in the neighborhood of
Vatan, a man I once did some service to. Without any one's suspecting
it, Benjamin Bourdet is under Fario's orders, who has lent him a horse
to get about with."
"If you kill that monster who has corrupted my grandsons, I shall say
you have done a good deed."
"Thanks to me, the town of Issoudun now knows what Monsieur Maxence
Gilet has been doing at night for the last six years," replied
Philippe; "and the cackle, as you call it here, is now started on him.
Morally his day is over."
The moment Philippe left his uncle's house Flore went to Max's room to
tell him every particular of the nephew's bold visit.
"What's to be done?" she asked.
"Before trying the last means,--which will be to fight that big
reprobate," replied Maxence, "--we must play double or quits, and try
our grand stroke. Let the old idiot go with his nephew."
"But that big brute won't mince matters," remonstrated Flore; "he'll
call things by their right names."
"Listen to me," said Maxence in a harsh voice. "Do you think I've not
kept my ears open, and reflected about how we stand? Send to Pere
Cognette for a horse and a char-a-banc, and say we want them
instantly: they must be here in five minutes. Pack all your
belongings, take Vedie, and go to Vatan. Settle yourself there as if
you mean to stay; carry off the twenty thousand francs in gold which
the old fellow has got in his drawer. If I bring him to you in Vatan,
you are to refuse to come back here unless he signs the power of
attorney. As soon as we get it I'll slip off to Paris, while you're
returning to Issoudun. When Jean-Jacques gets back from his walk and
finds you gone, he'll go beside himself, and want to follow you. Well!
when he does, I'll give him a talking to."
While the foregoing plot was progressing, Philippe was walking arm in
arm with his uncle along the boulevard Baron.
"The two great tacticians are coming to close quarters at last,"
thought Monsieur Hochon as he watched the colonel marching off with
his uncle; "I am curious to see the end of the game, and what becomes
of the stake of ninety thousand francs a year."
"My dear uncle," said Philippe, whose phraseology had a flavor of his
affinities in Paris, "you love this girl, and you are devilishly
right. She is damnably handsome! Instead of billing and cooing she
makes you trot like a valet; well, that's all simple enough; but she
wants to see you six feet underground, so that she may marry Max, whom
"I know that, Philippe, but I love her all the same."
"Well, I have sworn by the soul of my mother, who is your own sister,"
continued Philippe, "to make your Rabouilleuse as supple as my glove,
and the same as she was before that scoundrel, who is unworthy to have
served in the Imperial Guard, ever came to quarter himself in your
"Ah! if you could do that!--" said the old man.
"It is very easy," answered Philippe, cutting his uncle short. "I'll
kill Max as I would a dog; but--on one condition," added the old
"What is that?" said Rouget, looking at his nephew in a stupid way.
"Don't sign that power of attorney which they want of you before the
third of December; put them off till then. Your torturers only want it
to enable them to sell the fifty thousand a year you have in the
Funds, so that they may run off to Paris and pay for their wedding
festivities out of your millions."
"I am afraid so," replied Rouget.
"Well, whatever they may say or do to you, put off giving that power
of attorney until next week."
"Yes; but when Flore talks to me she stirs my very soul, till I don't
know what I do. I give you my word, when she looks at me in a certain
way, her blue eyes seem like paradise, and I am no longer master of
myself,--especially when for some days she had been harsh to me."
"Well, whether she is sweet or sour, don't do more than promise to
sign the paper, and let me know the night before you are going to do
it. That will answer. Maxence shall not be your proxy unless he first
kills me. If I kill him, you must agree to take me in his place, and
I'll undertake to break in that handsome girl and keep her at your
beck and call. Yes, Flore shall love you, and if she doesn't satisfy
you--thunder! I'll thrash her."
"Oh! I never could allow that. A blow struck at Flore would break my
"But it is the only way to govern women and horses. A man makes
himself feared, or loved, or respected. Now that is what I wanted to
whisper in your ear--Good-morning, gentlemen," he said to Mignonnet
and Carpentier, who came up at the moment; "I am taking my uncle for a
walk, as you see, and trying to improve him; for we are in an age when
children are obliged to educate their grandparents."
They all bowed to each other.
"You behold in my dear uncle the effects of an unhappy passion. Those
two want to strip him of his fortune and leave him in the lurch--you
know to whom I refer? He sees the plot; but he hasn't the courage to
give up his SUGAR-PLUM for a few days so as to baffle it."
Philippe briefly explained his uncle's position.
"Gentlemen," he remarked, in conclusion, "you see there are no two
ways of saving him: either Colonel Bridau must kill Captain Gilet, or
Captain Gilet must kill Colonel Bridau. We celebrate the Emperor's
coronation on the day after to-morrow; I rely upon you to arrange the
seats at the banquet so that I shall sit opposite to Gilet. You will
do me the honor, I hope, of being my seconds."
"We will appoint you to preside, and sit ourselves on either side of
you. Max, as vice-president, will of course sit opposite," said
"Oh! the scoundrel will have Potel and Renard with him," said
Carpentier. "In spite of all that Issoudun now knows and says of his
midnight maraudings, those two worthy officers, who have already been
his seconds, remain faithful to him."
"You see how it all maps out, uncle," said Philippe. "Therefore, sign
no paper before the third of December; the next day you shall be free,
happy, and beloved by Flore, without having to coax for it."
"You don't know him, Philippe," said the terrified old man. "Maxence
has killed nine men in duels."
"Yes; but ninety thousand francs a year didn't depend on it," answered
"A bad conscience shakes the hand," remarked Mignonnet sententiously.
"In a few days from now," resumed Philippe, "you and the Rabouilleuse
will be living together as sweet as honey,--that is, after she gets
through mourning. At first she'll twist like a worm, and yelp, and
weep; but never mind, let the water run!"
The two soldiers approved of Philippe's arguments, and tried to
hearten up old Rouget, with whom they walked about for nearly two
hours. At last Philippe took his uncle home, saying as they parted:--
"Don't take any steps without me. I know women. I have paid for one,
who cost me far more than Flore can ever cost you. But she taught me
how to behave to the fair sex for the rest of my days. Women are bad
children; they are inferior animals to men; we must make them fear us;
the worst condition in the world is to be governed by such brutes."
It was about half-past two in the afternoon when the old man got home.
Kouski opened the door in tears,--that is, by Max's orders, he gave
signs of weeping.
"Oh! Monsieur, Madame has gone away, and taken Vedie with her!"
"Gone--a--way!" said the old man in a strangled voice.
The blow was so violent that Rouget sat down on the stairs, unable to
stand. A moment after, he rose, looked about the hall, into the
kitchen, went up to his own room, searched all the chambers, and
returned to the salon, where he threw himself into a chair, and burst
"Where is she?" he sobbed. "Oh! where is she? where is Max?"
"I don't know," answered Kouski. "The captain went out without telling
Gilet thought it politic to be seen sauntering about the town. By
leaving the old man alone with his despair, he knew he should make him
feel his desertion the more keenly, and reduce him to docility. To
keep Philippe from assisting his uncle at this crisis, he had given
Kouski strict orders not to open the door to any one. Flore away, the
miserable old man grew frantic, and the situation of things approached
a crisis. During his walk through the town, Maxence Gilet was avoided
by many persons who a day or two earlier would have hastened to shake
hands with him. A general reaction had set in against him. The deeds
of the Knights of Idleness were ringing on every tongue. The tale of
Joseph Bridau's arrest, now cleared up, disgraced Max in the eyes of
all; and his life and conduct received in one day their just award.
Gilet met Captain Potel, who was looking for him, and seemed almost
"What's the matter with you, Potel?"
"My dear fellow, the Imperial Guard is being black-guarded all over
the town! These civilians are crying you down! and it goes to the
bottom of my heart."
"What are they complaining of?" asked Max.
"Of what you do at night."
"As if we couldn't amuse ourselves a little!"
"But that isn't all," said Potel.
Potel belonged to the same class as the officer who replied to the
burgomasters: "Eh! your town will be paid for, if we do burn it!" So
he was very little troubled about the deeds of the Order of Idleness.
"What more?" inquired Gilet.
"The Guard is against the Guard. It is that that breaks my heart.
Bridau has set all these bourgeois on you. The Guard against the
Guard! no, it ought not to be! You can't back down, Max; you must meet
Bridau. I had a great mind to pick a quarrel with the low scoundrel
myself and send him to the shades; I wish I had, and then the
bourgeois wouldn't have seen the spectacle of the Guard against the
Guard. In war times, I don't say anything against it. Two heroes of
the Guard may quarrel, and fight,--but at least there are no civilians
to look on and sneer. No, I say that big villain never served in the
Guard. A guardsman would never behave as he does to another guardsman,
under the very eyes of the bourgeois; impossible! Ah! it's all wrong;
the Guard is disgraced--and here, at Issoudun! where it was once so
"Come, Potel, don't worry yourself," answered Max; "even if you do not
see me at the banquet--"
"What! do you mean that you won't be there the day after to-morrow?"
cried Potel, interrupting his friend. "Do you wish to be called a
coward? and have it said you are running away from Bridau? No, no! The
unmounted grenadiers of the Guard can not draw back before the
dragoons of the Guard. Arrange your business in some other way and be
"One more to send to the shades!" said Max. "Well, I think I can
manage my business so as to get there--For," he thought to himself,
"that power of attorney ought not to be in my name; as old Heron says,
it would look too much like theft."
This lion, tangled in the meshes Philippe Bridau was weaving for him,
muttered between his teeth as he went along; he avoided the looks of
those he met and returned home by the boulevard Vilatte, still talking
"I will have that money before I fight," he said. "If I die, it shall
not go to Philippe. I must put it in Flore's name. She will follow my
instructions, and go straight to Paris. Once there, she can marry, if
she chooses, the son of some marshal of France who has been sent to
the right-about. I'll have that power of attorney made in Baruch's
name, and he'll transfer the property by my order."
Max, to do him justice, was never more cool and calm in appearance
than when his blood and his ideas were boiling. No man ever united in
a higher degree the qualities which make a great general. If his
career had not been cut short by his captivity at Cabrera, the Emperor
would certainly have found him one of those men who are necessary to
the success of vast enterprises. When he entered the room where the
hapless victim of all these comic and tragic scenes was still weeping,
Max asked the meaning of such distress; seemed surprised, pretended
that he knew nothing, and heard, with well-acted amazement, of Flore's
departure. He questioned Kouski, to obtain some light on the object of
this inexplicable journey.
"Madame said like this," Kouski replied, "--that I was to tell
monsieur she had taken twenty thousand francs in gold from his drawer,
thinking that monsieur wouldn't refuse her that amount as wages for
the last twenty-two years."
"Wages?" exclaimed Rouget.
"Yes," replied Kouski. "Ah! I shall never come back," she said to
Vedie as she drove away. "Poor Vedie, who is so attached to monsieur,
remonstrated with madame. 'No, no,' she answered, 'he has no affection
for me; he lets his nephew treat me like the lowest of the low'; and
she wept--oh! bitterly."
"Eh! what do I care for Philippe?" cried the old man, whom Max was
watching. "Where is Flore? how can we find out where she is?"
"Philippe, whose advice you follow, will help you," said Max coldly.
"Philippe?" said the old man, "what has he to do with the poor child?
There is no one but you, my good Max, who can find Flore. She will
follow you--you could bring her back to me--"
"I don't wish to oppose Monsieur Bridau," observed Max.
"As for that," cried Rouget, "if that hinders you, he told me he meant
to kill you."
"Ah!" exclaimed Gilet, laughing, "we will see about it!"
"My friend," said the old man, "find Flore, and I will do all she
wants of me."
"Some one must have seen her as she passed through the town," said
Maxence to Kouski. "Serve dinner; put everything on the table, and
then go and make inquiries from place to place. Let us know, by
dessert, which road Mademoiselle Brazier has taken."
This order quieted for a time the poor creature, who was moaning like
a child that has lost its nurse. At this moment Rouget, who hated Max,
thought his tormentor an angel. A passion like that of this miserable
old man for Flore is astonishingly like the emotions of childhood. At
six o'clock, the Pole, who had merely taken a walk, returned to
announce that Flore had driven towards Vatan.
"Madame is going back to her own people, that's plain," said Kouski.
"Would you like to go to Vatan to-night?" said Max. "The road is bad,
but Kouski knows how to drive, and you'll make your peace better to-
night than to-morrow morning."
"Let us go!" cried Rouget.
"Put the horse in quietly," said Max to Kouski; "manage, if you can,
that the town shall not know of this nonsense, for Monsieur Rouget's
sake. Saddle my horse," he added in a whisper. "I will ride on ahead
Monsieur Hochon had already notified Philippe of Flore's departure;
and the colonel rose from Monsieur Mignonnet's dinner-table to rush to
the place Saint-Jean; for he at once guessed the meaning of this
clever strategy. When Philippe presented himself at his uncle's house,
Kouski answered through a window that Monsieur Rouget was unable to
see any one.
"Fario," said Philippe to the Spaniard, who was stationed in the
Grande-Narette, "go and tell Benjamin to mount his horse; it is all-
important that I shall know what Gilet does with my uncle."
"They are now putting the horse into the caleche," said Fario, who had
been watching the Rouget stable.
"If they go towards Vatan," answered Philippe, "get me another horse,
and come yourself with Benjamin to Monsieur Mignonnet's."
"What do you mean to do?" asked Monsieur Hochon, who had come out of
his own house when he saw Philippe and Fario standing together.
"The genius of a general, my dear Monsieur Hochon," said Philippe,
"consists not only in carefully observing the enemy's movements, but
also in guessing his intentions from those movements, and in modifying
his own plan whenever the enemy interferes with it by some unexpected
action. Now, if my uncle and Max drive out together, they are going to
Vatan; Maxence will have promised to reconcile him with Flore, who
"fugit ad salices,"--the manoeuvre is General Virgil's. If that's the
line they take, I don't yet know what I shall do; I shall have some
hours to think it over, for my uncle can't sign a power of attorney at
ten o'clock at night; the notaries will all be in bed. If, as I rather
fancy, Max goes on in advance of my uncle to teach Flore her lesson,--
which seems necessary and probable,--the rogue is lost! you will see
the sort of revenge we old soldiers take in a game of this kind. Now,
as I need a helper for this last stroke, I must go back to Mignonnet's
and make an arrangement with my friend Carpentier."
Shaking hands with Monsieur Hochon, Philippe went off down the Petite-
Narette to Mignonnet's house. Ten minutes later, Monsieur Hochon saw
Max ride off at a quick trot; and the old miser's curiosity was so
powerfully excited that he remained standing at his window, eagerly
expecting to hear the wheels of the old demi-fortune, which was not
long in coming. Jean-Jacques's impatience made him follow Max within
twenty minutes. Kouski, no doubt under orders from his master, walked
the horse through the town.
"If they get to Paris, all is lost," thought Monsieur Hochon.
At this moment, a lad from the faubourg de Rome came to the Hochon
house with a letter for Baruch. The two grandsons, much subdued by the
events of the morning, had kept their rooms of their own accord during
the day. Thinking over their prospects, they saw plainly that they had
better be cautious with their grandparents. Baruch knew very well the
influence which his grandfather Hochon exerted over his grandfather
and grandmother Borniche: Monsieur Hochon would not hesitate to get
their property for Adolphine if his conduct were such as to make them
pin their hopes on the grand marriage with which his grandfather had
threatened him that morning. Being richer than Francois, Baruch had
the most to lose; he therefore counselled an absolute surrender, with
no other condition than the payment of their debt to Max. As for
Francois, his future was entirely in the hands of his grandfather; he
had no expectations except from him, and by the guardianship account,
he was now his debtor. The two young men accordingly gave solemn
promises of amendment, prompted by their imperilled interests, and by
the hope Madame Hochon held out, that the debt to Max should be paid.
"You have done very wrong," she said to them; "repair it by future
good conduct, and Monsieur Hochon will forget it."
So, when Francois had read the letter which had been brought for
Baruch, over the latter's shoulder, he whispered in his ear, "Ask
"Read this," said Baruch, taking the letter to old Hochon.
"Read it to me yourself; I haven't my spectacles."
My dear Friend,--I hope you will not hesitate, under the serious
circumstances in which I find myself, to do me the service of
receiving a power of attorney from Monsieur Rouget. Be at Vatan
to-morrow morning at nine o'clock. I shall probably send you to
Paris, but don't be uneasy; I will furnish you with money for the
journey, and join you there immediately. I am almost sure I shall
be obliged to leave Issoudun, December third.
Adieu. I count on your friendship; rely on that of your friend,
"God be praised!" exclaimed Monsieur Hochon; "the property of that old
idiot is saved from the claws of the devil."
"It will be if you say so," said Madame Hochon; "and I thank God,--who
has no doubt heard my prayers. The prosperity of the wicked is always
"You must go to Vatan, and accept the power of attorney from Monsieur
Rouget," said the old man to Baruch. "Their object is to get fifty
thousand francs a year transferred to Mademoiselle Brazier. They will
send you to Paris, and you must seem to go; but you are to stop at
Orleans, and wait there till you hear from me. Let no one--not a soul
--know where you lodge; go to the first inn you come to in the
faubourg Bannier, no matter if it is only a post-house--"
"Look here!" cried Francois, who had rushed to the window at the
sudden noise of wheels in the Grande-Narette. "Here's something new!--
Pere Rouget and Colonel Bridau coming back together in the caleche,
Benjamin and Captain Carpentier following on horseback!"
"I'll go over," cried Monsieur Hochon, whose curiosity carried the day
over every other feeling.
Monsieur Hochon found old Rouget in his bedroom, writing the following
letter at his nephew's dictation:
Mademoiselle,--If you do not start to return here the moment you
receive this letter, your conduct will show such ingratitude for
all my goodness that I shall revoke the will I have made in your
favor, and give my property to my nephew Philippe. You will
understand that Monsieur Gilet can no longer be my guest after
staying with you at Vatan. I send this letter by Captain
Carpentier, who will put it into your own hands. I hope you will
listen to his advice; he will speak to you with authority from me.
"Captain Carpentier and I MET my uncle, who was so foolish as to
follow Mademoiselle Brazier and Monsieur Gilet to Vatan," said
Philippe, with sarcastic emphasis, to Monsieur Hochon. "I have made my
uncle see that he was running his head into a noose; for that girl
will abandon him the moment she gets him to sign a power of attorney,
by which they mean to obtain the income of his money in the Funds.
That letter will bring her back under his roof, the handsome runaway!
this very night, or I'm mistaken. I promise to make her as pliable as
a bit of whalebone for the rest of her days, if my uncle allows me to
take Maxence Gilet's place; which, in my opinion, he ought never to
have had in the first place. Am I not right?--and yet here's my uncle
"Neighbor," said Monsieur Hochon, "you have taken the best means to
get peace in your household. Destroy your will, and Flore will be once
more what she used to be in the early days."
"No, she will never forgive me for what I have made her suffer,"
whimpered the old man; "she will no longer love me."
"She shall love you, and closely too; I'll take care of that," said
"Come, open your eyes!" exclaimed Monsieur Hochon. "They mean to rob
you and abandon you."
"Oh! I was sure of it!" cried the poor imbecile.
"See, here is a letter Maxence has written to my grandson Borniche,"
said old Hochon. "Read it."
"What infamy!" exclaimed Carpentier, as he listened to the letter,
which Rouget read aloud, weeping.
"Is that plain enough, uncle?" demanded Philippe. "Hold that hussy by
her interests and she'll adore you as you deserve."
"She loves Maxence too well; she will leave me," cried the frightened
"But, uncle, Maxence or I,--one or the other of us--won't leave our
footsteps in the dust of Issoudun three days hence."
"Well then go, Monsieur Carpentier," said Rouget; "if you promise me
to bring her back, go! You are a good man; say to her in my name all
you think you ought to say."
"Captain Carpentier will whisper in her ear that I have sent to Paris
for a woman whose youth and beauty are captivating; that will bring
the jade back in a hurry!"
The captain departed, driving himself in the old caleche; Benjamin
accompanied him on horseback, for Kouski was nowhere to be found.
Though threatened by the officers with arrest and the loss of his
situation, the Pole had gone to Vatan on a hired horse, to warn Max
and Flore of the adversary's move. After fulfilling his mission,
Carpentier, who did not wish to drive back with Flore, was to change
places with Benjamin, and take the latter's horse.
When Philippe was told of Kouski's flight he said to Benjamin, "You
will take the Pole's place, from this time on. It is all mapping out,
papa Hochon!" cried the lieutenant-colonel. "That banquet will be
"You will come and live here, of course," said the old miser.
"I have told Fario to send me all my things," answered Philippe. "I
shall sleep in the room adjoining Gilet's apartment,--if my uncle
"What will come of all this?" cried the terrified old man.
"Mademoiselle Flore Brazier is coming, gentle as a paschal lamb,"
replied Monsieur Hochon.
"God grant it!" exclaimed Rouget, wiping his eyes.
"It is now seven o'clock," said Philippe; "the sovereign of your heart
will be here at half-past eleven: you'll never see Gilet again, and
you will be as happy ever after as a pope.--If you want me to
succeed," he whispered to Monsieur Hochon, "stay here till the hussy
comes; you can help me in keeping the old man up to his resolution;
and, together, we'll make that crab-girl see on which side her bread
Monsieur Hochon felt the reasonableness of the request and stayed: but
they had their hands full, for old Rouget gave way to childish
lamentations, which were only quieted by Philippe's repeating over and
over a dozen times:--
"Uncle, you will see that I am right when Flore returns to you as
tender as ever. You shall be petted; you will save your property: be
guided by my advice, and you'll live in paradise for the rest of your
When, about half-past eleven, wheels were heard in the Grande-Narette,
the question was, whether the carriage were returning full or empty.
Rouget's face wore an expression of agony, which changed to the
prostration of excessive joy when he saw the two women, as the
carriage turned to enter the courtyard.
"Kouski," said Philippe, giving a hand to Flore to help her down. "You
are no longer in Monsieur Rouget's service. You will not sleep here
to-night; get your things together, and go. Benjamin takes your
"Are you the master here?" said Flore sarcastically.
"With your permission," replied Philippe, squeezing her hand as if in
a vice. "Come! we must have an understanding, you and I"; and he led
the bewildered woman out into the place Saint-Jean.
"My fine lady," began the old campaigner, stretching out his right
hand, "three days hence, Maxence Gilet will be sent to the shades by
that arm, or his will have taken me off guard. If I die, you will be
the mistress of my poor imbecile uncle; 'bene sit.' If I remain on my
pins, you'll have to walk straight, and keep him supplied with first-
class happiness. If you don't, I know girls in Paris who are, with all
due respect, much prettier than you; for they are only seventeen years
old: they would make my uncle excessively happy, and they are in my
interests. Begin your attentions this very evening; if the old man is
not as gay as a lark to-morrow morning, I have only a word to say to
you; it is this, pay attention to it,--there is but one way to kill a
man without the interference of the law, and that is to fight a duel
with him; but I know three ways to get rid of a woman: mind that, my
During this address, Flore shook like a person with the ague.
"Kill Max--?" she said, gazing at Philippe in the moonlight.
"Come, here's my uncle."
Old Rouget, turning a deaf ear to Monsieur Hochon's remonstrances, now
came out into the street, and took Flore by the hand, as a miser might
have grasped his treasure; he drew her back to the house and into his
own room and shut the door.
"This is Saint-Lambert's day, and he who deserts his place, loses it,"
remarked Benjamin to the Pole.
"My master will shut your mouth for you," answered Kouski, departing
to join Max who established himself at the hotel de la Poste.
On the morrow, between nine and eleven o'clock, all the women talked
to each other from door to door throughout the town. The story of the
wonderful change in the Rouget household spread everywhere. The upshot
of the conversations was the same on all sides,--
"What will happen at the banquet between Max and Colonel Bridau?"
Philippe said but few words to the Vedie,--"Six hundred francs'
annuity, or dismissal." They were enough, however, to keep her
neutral, for a time, between the two great powers, Philippe and Flore.
Knowing Max's life to be in danger, Flore became more affectionate to
Rouget than in the first days of their alliance. Alas! in love, a
self-interested devotion is sometimes more agreeable than a truthful
one; and that is why many men pay so much for clever deceivers. The
Rabouilleuse did not appear till the next morning, when she came down
to breakfast with Rouget on her arm. Tears filled her eyes as she
beheld, sitting in Max's place, the terrible adversary, with his
sombre blue eyes, and the cold, sinister expression on his face.
"What is the matter, mademoiselle?" he said, after wishing his uncle
"She can't endure the idea of your fighting Maxence," said old Rouget.
"I have not the slightest desire to kill Gilet," answered Philippe.
"He need only take himself off from Issoudun and go to America on a
venture. I should be the first to advise you to give him an outfit,
and to wish him a safe voyage. He would soon make a fortune there, and
that is far more honorable than turning Issoudun topsy-turvy at night,
and playing the devil in your household."
"Well, that's fair enough," said Rouget, glancing at Flore.
"A-mer-i-ca!" she ejaculated, sobbing.
"It is better to kick his legs about in a free country than have them
rot in a pine box in France. However, perhaps you think he is a good
shot, and can kill me; it's on the cards," observed the colonel.
"Will you let me speak to him?" said Flore, imploring Philippe in a
humble and submissive tone.
"Certainly; he can come here and pack up his things. I will stay with
my uncle during that time; for I shall not leave the old man again,"
"Vedie," cried Flore, "run to the hotel, and tell Monsieur Gilet that
I beg him--"
"--to come and get his belongings," said Philippe, interrupting
"Yes, yes, Vedie; that will be a good pretext to see me; I must speak
Terror controlled her hatred; and the shock which her whole being
experienced when she first encountered this strong and pitiless nature
was now so overwhelming that she bowed before Philippe just as Rouget
had been in the habit of bending before her. She anxiously awaited
Vedie's return. The woman brought a formal refusal from Max, who
requested Mademoiselle Brazier to send his things to the hotel de la
"Will you allow me to take them to him?" she said to Jean-Jacques
"Yes, but will you come back?" said the old man.
"If Mademoiselle is not back by midday, you will give me a power of
attorney to attend to your property," said Philippe, looking at Flore.
"Take Vedie with you, to save appearances, mademoiselle. In future you
are to think of my uncle's honor."
Flore could get nothing out of Max. Desperate at having allowed
himself, before the eyes of the whole town, to be routed out of his
shameless position, Gilet was too proud to run away from Philippe. The
Rabouilleuse combated this objection, and proposed that they should
fly together to America; but Max, who did not want Flore without her
money, and yet did not wish the girl to see the bottom of his heart,
insisted on his intention of killing Philippe.
"We have committed a monstrous folly," he said. "We ought all three to
have gone to Paris and spent the winter there; but how could one
guess, from the mere sight of that fellow's big carcass, that things
would turn out as they have? The turn of events is enough to make one
giddy! I took the colonel for one of those fire-eaters who haven't two
ideas in their head; that was the blunder I made. As I didn't have the
sense to double like a hare in the beginning, I'll not be such a
coward as to back down before him. He has lowered me in the estimation
of this town, and I cannot get back what I have lost unless I kill
"Go to America with forty thousand francs. I'll find a way to get rid
of that scoundrel, and join you. It would be much wiser."
"What would people say of me?" he exclaimed. "No; I have buried nine
already. The fellow doesn't seem as if he knew much; he went from