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The Nabob by Alphonse Daudet

Part 4 out of 8

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Will you come up to my rooms for a moment?"

There had only been between this young man and himself the banal
relations of two persons accustomed to frequent the same house, whom
no tie unites, who seem ever separated by a certain antipathy of
nature, of manner of life. What explanation could there be called for
between them? He followed him with much perplexed curiosity.

The aspect of the little studio, chilly under its top-light, the empty
fireplace, the wind blowing as though they were out of doors and
making the candle flicker, the solitary light on the scene of the
night's labour of a poor and lonely man, reflected on sheets of paper
scribbled over and scattered about, in short, this atmosphere of
habitations wherein the soul of the inhabitants lives on its own
aspirations, caused de Gery to understand the visionary air of Andre
Maranne, his long hair thrown back and streaming loose, that somewhat
excessive appearance, very excusable when it is paid for by a life of
sufferings and privations, and his sympathy immediately went out to
this courageous fellow whose intrepidity of spirit he guessed at a
glance. But the other was too deeply moved by emotion to notice the
progress of these reflections. As soon as the door was closed upon
them, he said, with the accent of a stage hero addressing the
perfidious seducer, "M. de Gery, I am not yet a Cassandra."

And seeing the stupefaction of de Gery:

"Yes, yes," he went on, "we understand each other. I have known
perfectly well what it is that draws you to M. Joyeuse's house, and
the eager welcome with which you are received there has not escaped my
notice either. You are rich, you are of noble birth, there can be no
hesitation between you and the poor poet who follows a ridiculous
trade in order to give himself full time to reach a success which
perhaps will never come. But I shall not allow my happiness to be
stolen from me. We must fight, monsieur, we must fight," he repeated,
excited by the peaceful calm of his rival. "For long I have loved
Mlle. Joyeuse. That love is the end, the joy, and the strength of an
existence which is very hard, in many respects painful. I have only it
in the world, and I would rather die than give it up."

Strangeness of the human soul! Paul did not love the charming Aline.
His whole heart belonged to the other. He thought of her simply as a
friend, the most adorable of friends. But the idea that Maranne was
interested in her, that she no doubt returned this regard, gave him
the jealous shiver of an annoyance, and it was with some considerable
sharpness that he inquired whether Mlle. Joyeuse was aware of this
sentiment of Andre's and had in any way authorized him thus to
proclaim his rights.

"Yes, monsieur, Mlle. Elise knows that I love her, and before your
frequent visits--"

"Elise? It is of Elise you are speaking?"

"And of whom, then, should I be speaking? The two others are too

He fully entered into the traditions of the family, this Andre. For
him, Bonne Maman's age of twenty years, her triumphant grace, were
obscured by a surname full of respect and the attributes of a
Providence which seemed to cling to her.

A very brief explanation having calmed Andre Maranne's mind, he
offered his apologies to de Gery, begged him to sit down in the arm-
chair of carved wood which was used by his sitters, and their
conversation quickly assumed an intimate and sympathetic character,
brought about by the so abrupt avowal at its opening. Paul confessed
that he, too, was in love, and that he came so often to M. Joyeuse's
only in order to speak of her whom he loved with Bonne Maman, who had
known her formerly.

"That is my case, too," said Andre. "Bonne Maman knows all my secrets;
but we have not yet ventured to say anything to the father. My
position is too unsatisfactory. Ah, when I shall have got /Revolt/

Then they talked of that famous drama, /Revolt/, upon which he had
been at work for six months, day and night, which had kept him warm
all the winter, a very severe winter, but whose rigours the magic of
composition had tempered in the little studio, which it transformed.
It was there, within that narrow space, that all the heroes of his
piece had appeared to his poet's vision like familiar gnomes dropped
from the roof or riding moon-beams, and with them the gorgeous
tapestries, the glittering chandeliers, the park scenes with their
gleaming flights of steps, all the luxurious circumstance expected in
stage effects, as well as the glorious tumult of his first night, the
applause of which was represented for him by the rain beating on the
glass roof and the boards rattling in the door, while the wind,
driving below over the murky timber-yard with a noise as of far-off
voices, borne near and anew carried off into the distance, resembled
the murmurs from the boxes opened on the corridor to let the news of
his success circulate among the gossip and wonderment of the crowd. It
was not only fame and money that it was destined to procure him, this
thrice-blessed play, but something also more precious still. With what
care accordingly did he not turn over the leaves of the manuscript in
five thick books, all bound in blue, books like those that the
Levantine was accustomed to strew about on the divan where she took
her siestas, and that she marked with her managerial pencil.

Paul, having in his turn approached the table in order to examine the
masterpiece had his glance attracted by a richly framed portrait of a
woman, which, placed so near to the artist's work, seemed to be there
to preside over it. Elise, doubtless? Oh, no, Andre had not yet the
right to bring out from its protecting case the portrait of his little
friend. This was a woman of about forty, gentle of aspect, fair, and
extremely elegant. As he perceived her, de Gery could not suppress an

"You know her?" asked Andre Maranne.

"Why, yes. Mme. Jenkins, the wife of the Irish doctor. I have had
supper at their house this winter."

"She is my mother." And the young man added in a lower tone:

"Mme. Maranne made a second marriage with Dr. Jenkins. You are
surprised, are you not, to see me in these poor surroundings, while my
relatives are living in the midst of luxury? But, you know, the
chances of family life sometimes group together natures that differ
very widely. My stepfather and I have never been able to understand
each other. He wished to make me a doctor, whereas my only taste was
for writing. So at last, in order to avoid the continual discussions
which were painful to my mother, I preferred to leave the house and
plough my furrow alone, without the help of anybody. A rough business.
Funds were wanting. The whole fortune has gone to that--to M. Jenkins.
The question was to earn a livelihood, and you are aware what a
difficult thing that is for people like ourselves, supposed to be well
brought-up. To think that among all the accomplishments gained from
what we are accustomed to call a complete education, this child's play
was the only thing I could find by which I could hope to earn my
bread. A few savings, my own purse, slender like that of most young
men, served to buy my first outfit and I installed myself here far
away, in the remotest region of Paris, in order not to embarrass my
relatives. Between ourselves, I don't expect to make a fortune out of
photography. The first days especially were very difficult. Nobody
came, or if by chance some unfortunate wight did mount, I made a
failure of him, got on my plate only an image blurred and vague as a
phantom. One day, at the very beginning, a wedding-party came up to
me, the bride all in white, the bridegroom with a waistcoat--like
that! And all the guests in white gloves, which they insisted on
keeping on for the portrait on account of the rarity of such an event
with them. No, I thought I should go mad. Those black faces, the great
white patches made by the dresses, the gloves, the orange-blossoms,
the unlucky bride, looking like a queen of Niam-niam under her wreath
merging indistinguishably into her hair. And all of them so full of
good-will, of encouragements to the artist. I began them over again at
least twenty times, and kept them till five o'clock in the evening.
And then they only left me because it was time for dinner. Can you
imagine that wedding-day passed at a photographer's?"

While Andre was recounting to him with this good humour the troubles
of his life, Paul recalled the tirade of Felicia that day when
Bohemians had been mentioned, and all that she had said to Jenkins of
their lofty courage, avid of privations and trials. He thought also of
Aline's passion for her beloved Paris, of which he himself was only
acquainted, for his part, with the unwholesome eccentricities, while
the great city hid in its recesses so many unknown heroisms and noble
illusions. This last impression, already experienced within the
sheltered circle of the Joyeuse's great lamp, he received perhaps
still more vividly in this atmosphere, less warm, less peaceful,
wherein art also entered to add its despairing or glorious
uncertainty; and it was with a moved heart that he listened to Andre
Maranne as he spoke to him of Elise, of the examinations which it was
taking her so long to pass, of the difficulties of photography, of all
that unforeseen element in his life which would end certainly "when he
could have secured the production of /Revolt/," a charming smile
accompanying on the poet's lips this so often expressed hope, which he
was wont himself to hasten to make fun of, as though to deprive others
of the right to do so.


Truly Fortune in Paris has bewildering turns of the wheel!

To have seen the Territorial Bank as I have seen it, the rooms without
fires, never swept, the desert with its dust, protested bills piled
high as /that/ on the desks, every week a notice of sale posted at the
door, my stew spreading throughout the whole place the odour of a poor
man's kitchen; and then to witness now the reconstitution of our
company in its newly furnished halls, in which I have orders to light
fires big enough for a Government department, amid a busy crowd,
blowings of whistles, electric bells, gold pieces piled up till they
fall over; it savours of miracle. I need to look at myself in the
glass before I can believe it, to see in the mirror my iron-gray coat,
trimmed with silver, my white tie, my usher's chain like the one I
used to wear at the Faculty on the days when there were sittings. And
to think that to work this transformation, to bring back to our brows
gaiety, the mother of concord, to restore to our scrip its value ten
times over, to our dear governor the esteem and confidence of which he
had been so unjustly deprived, one man has sufficed, the being of
supernatural wealth whom the hundred voices of renown designate by the
name of the Nabob.

Oh, the first time that he came to the office, with his fine presence,
his face a little worn perhaps, but so distinguished, his manners of
one accustomed to frequent courts, upon terms of the utmost
familiarity with all the princes of the Orient--in a word, that
indescribable quality of assurance and greatness which is bestowed by
immense wealth--I felt my heart bursting beneath the double row of
buttons on my waistcoat. People may mouth in vain their great words of
equality and fraternity; there are men who stand so surely above the
rest that one would like to bow one's self down flat in their
presence, to find new phrases of admiration in order to compel them to
take a practical interest in one. Let us hasten to add that I had need
of nothing of the kind to attract the attention of the Nabob. As I
rose at his passage--moved to some emotion, but with dignity, you may
trust Passajon for that--he looked at me with a smile and said in an
undertone to the young man who accompanied him: "What a fine head,
like a--" Then there came a word which I did not catch very well, a
word ending in /art/, something like /leopard/. No, however, it cannot
have been that. /Jean-Bart/, perhaps, although even then I hardly see
the connection. However that be, in any case he did say, "What a fine
head," and this condescension made me proud. Moreover, all the
directors show me a marked degree of kindness and politeness. It seems
that there was a discussion with regard to me at the meeting of the
board, to determine whether I should be kept or dismissed like our
cashier, that ill-tempered fellow who was always talking of getting
everybody sent to the galleys, and whom they have now invited to go
elsewhere to manufacture his cheap shirt-fronts. Well done! That will
teach him to be rude to people. So far as I am concerned, Monsieur the
Governor kindly consented to overlook my somewhat hasty words, in
consideration of my record of service at the Territorial and
elsewhere; and at the conclusion of the board meeting, he said to me
with his musical accent: "Passajon, you remain with us." It may be
imagined how happy I was and how profuse in the expression of my
gratitude. But just think! I should have left with my few pence
without hope of ever saving any more; obliged to go and cultivate my
vineyard in that little country district of Montbars, a very narrow
field for a man who has lived in the midst of all the financial
aristocracy of Paris, and among those great banking operations by
which fortunes are made at a stroke. Instead of that, here I am
established afresh in a magnificent situation, my wardrobe renewed,
and my savings, which I spent a whole day in fingering over, intrusted
to the kind care of the governor, who has undertaken to invest them
for me advantageously. I think that is a manoeuvre which he is the
very man to execute successfully. And no need for the least anxiety.
Every fear vanishes before the word which is in vogue just now at all
the councils of administration, in all shareholders' meetings, on the
Bourse, the boulevards, and everywhere: "The Nabob is in the affair."
That is to say, gold is being poured out abundantly, the worst
/combinazioni/ are excellent.

He is so rich, that man!

Rich to a degree one cannot imagine. Has he not just lent fifteen
million francs as a simple loan passing from hand to hand, to the Bey
of Tunis? I repeat, fifteen millions. It was a trick he played on the
Hemerlingues, who wished to embroil him with that monarch and cut the
grass under his feet in those fine regions of the Orient where it
grows golden, high, and thick. It was an old Turk whom I know, Colonel
Brahim, one of our directors at the Territorial, who arranged the
affair. Naturally, the Bey, who happened to be, it appears, short of
pocket-money, was very much touched by the alacrity of the Nabob to
oblige him, and he has just sent him through Brahim a letter of thanks
in which he announces that upon the occasion of his next visit to
Vichy, he will stay a couple of days with him at that fine Chateau de
Saint-Romans, which the former Bey, the brother of this one, honoured
with a visit once before. You may fancy, what an honour! To receive a
reigning prince as a guest! The Hemerlingues are in a rage. They who
had manoeuvred so carefully--the son at Tunis, the father in Paris--to
get the Nabob into disfavour. And then it is true that fifteen
millions is a big sum. And do not say, "Passajon is telling us some
fine tales." The person who acquainted me with the story has held in
his hands the paper sent by the Bey in an envelope of green silk
stamped with the royal seal. If he did not read it, it was because
this paper was written in Arabic, otherwise he would have made himself
familiar with its contents as in the case of all the rest of the
Nabob's correspondence. This person is his /valet de chambre/, M.
Noel, to whom I had the honour of being introduced last Friday at a
small evening-party of persons in service which he gave to all his
friends. I record an account of this function in my memoirs as one of
the most curious things which I have seen in the course of my four
years of sojourn in Paris.

I had thought at first when M. Francis, Monpavon's /valet de chambre/,
spoke to me of the thing, that it was a question of one of those
little clandestine junketings such as are held sometimes in the
garrets of our boulevards with the fragments of food brought up by
Mlle. Seraphine and the other cooks in the building, at which you
drink stolen wine, and gorge yourself, sitting on trunks, trembling
with fear, by the light of a couple of candles which are extinguished
at the least noise in the corridors. These secret practices are
repugnant to my character. But when I received, as for the regular
servants' ball, an invitation written in a very beautiful hand upon
pink paper:

"M. Noel rekwests M---- to be present at his evenin-party on the 25th
instent. Super will be provided"

I saw clearly, not withstanding the defective spelling, that it was a
question of something serious and authorized. I dressed myself
therefore in my newest frock-coat, my finest linen, and arrived at the
Place Vendome at the address indicated by the invitation.

For the giving of his party, M. Noel had taken advantage of a first-
night at the opera, to which all fashionable society was thronging,
thus giving the servants a free rein, and putting the entire place at
our disposal until midnight. Notwithstanding this, the host had
preferred to receive us upstairs in his own bed-chamber, and this I
approved highly, being in that matter of the opinion of the old fellow
in the rhyme:

Fie on the pleasure
That fear may corrupt!

But my word, the luxury on the Place Vendome! A felt carpet on the
floor, the bed hidden away in an alcove, Algerian curtains with red
stripes, an ornamental clock in green marble on the chimneypiece, the
whole lighted by lamps of which the flames can be regulated at will.
Our oldest member, M. Chalmette, is not better lodged at Dijon. I
arrived about nine o'clock with Monpavon's old Francis, and I must
confess that my entry made a sensation, preceded as I was by my
academical past, my reputation for politeness, and great knowledge of
the world. My fine presence did the rest, for it must be said that I
know how to go into a room. M. Noel, in a dress-coat, very dark
skinned and with mutton-chop whiskers, came forward to meet us.

"You are welcome, M. Passajon," said he, and taking my cap with silver
galloons which, according to the fashion, I had kept in my right hand
while making my entry, he gave it to a gigantic negro in red and gold

"Here, Lakdar, hang that up--and that," he added by way of a joke,
giving him a kick in a certain region of the back.

There was much laughter at this sally, and we began to chat together
in very friendly fashion. An excellent fellow, this M. Noel, with his
accent of the Midi, his pronounced style of dress, the smoothness and
the simplicity of his manners. He reminded me of the Nabob, without
his distinction, however. I noticed, moreover, that evening, that
these resemblances are frequently to be observed in /valets de
chambre/ who, living in the intimacy of their masters, by whom they
are always a little dazzled, end by acquiring their manners and
habits. Thus, M. Francis has a certain way of straightening his body
when displaying his linen-front, a mania for raising his arms in order
to pull his cuffs down--it is Monpavon to a T. Now one, for instance,
who bears no resemblance to his master is Joey, the coachman of Dr.
Jenkins. I call him Joey, but at the party every one called him
Jenkins; for, in that world, the stable folk among themselves give to
each other the names of their masters, call each other Bois l'Hery,
Monpavon, and Jenkins, without ceremony. Is it in order to degrade
their superiors, to raise the status of menials? Every country has its
customs; it is only a fool who will be surprised by them. To return to
Joey Jenkins, how can the doctor, affable as he is, so polished in
every particular, keep in his service that brute, bloated with
/porter/ and /gin/, who will remain silent for hours at a time, then,
at the first mounting of liquor to his head, begins to howl and to
wish to fight everybody, as witness the scandalous scene which had
just occurred when we entered?

The marquis's little groom, Tom Bois l'Hery, as they call him here,
had desired to have a jest with this uncouth creature of an Irishman,
who had replied to a bit of Parisian urchin's banter with a terrible
Belfast blow of his fist right in the lad's face.

"A sausage with paws, I! A sausage with paws, I!" repeated the
coachman, choking with rage, while his innocent victim was being
carried into the adjoining room, where the ladies and girls found
occupation in bathing his nose. The disturbance was quickly appeased,
thanks to our arrival, thanks also to the wise words of M. Barreau, a
middle-aged man, sedate and majestic, with a manner resembling my own.
He is the Nabob's cook, a former /chef/ of the Cafe Anglais, whom
Cardailhac, the manager of the Nouveautes, has procured for his
friend. To see him in a dress-coat, with white tie, his handsome face
full and clean-shaven, you would have taken him for one of the great
functionaries of the Empire. It is true that a cook in an
establishment where the table is set every morning for thirty persons,
in addition to madame's special meal, and all eating only the very
finest and most delicate of food, is not the same as the ordinary
preparer of a /ragout/. He is paid the salary of a colonel, lodged,
boarded, and then the perquisites! One has hardly a notion of the
extent of the perquisites in a berth like this. Every one consequently
addressed him respectfully, with the deference due to a man of his
importance. "M. Barreau" here, "My dear M. Barreau" there. For it is a
great mistake to imagine that servants among themselves are all
cronies and comrades. Nowhere do you find a hierarchy more prevalent
than among them. Thus at M. Noel's party I distinctly noticed that the
coachmen did not fraternize with their grooms, nor the valets with the
footmen and the lackeys, any more than the steward or the butler would
mix with the lower servants; and when M. Barreau emitted any little
pleasantry it was amusing to see how exceedingly those under his
orders seemed to enjoy it. I am not opposed to this kind of thing.
Quite on the contrary. As our oldest member used to say, "A society
without a hierarchy is like a house without a staircase." The
observation, however, seems to me one worth setting down in these

The party, I need scarcely say, did not shine with its full splendour
until after the return of its most beauteous ornaments, the ladies and
girls who had gone to nurse the little Tom, ladies'-maids with shining
and pomaded hair, chiefs of domestic departments in bonnets adorned
with ribbons, negresses, housekeepers, a brilliant assembly in which I
was immediately given great prestige, thanks to my dignified bearing
and to the surname of "Uncle" which the younger among these delightful
persons saw fit to bestow upon me.

I fancy there was in the room a good deal of second-hand frippery in
the way of silk and lace, rather faded velvet, even, eight-button
gloves that had been cleaned several times, and perfumes abstracted
from madame's dressing-table, but the faces were happy, thoughts given
wholly to gaiety, and I was able to make a little corner for myself,
which was very lively, always within the bounds of propriety--that
goes without saying--and of a character suitable for an individual in
my position. This was, moreover, the general tone of the party. Until
towards the end of the entertainment I heard none of those unseemly
jests, none of those scandalous stories which give so much amusement
to the gentlemen of our Board; and I take pleasure in remarking that
Bois l'Hery the coachman--to cite only one example--is much more
observant of the proprieties than Bois l'Hery the master.

M. Noel alone was conspicuous by his familiar tone and by the
liveliness of his repartees. In him you have a man who does not
hesitate to call things by their names. Thus he remarked aloud to M.
Francis, from one end of the room to the other: "I say, Francis, that
old swindler of yours has made a nice thing out of us again this
week." And as the other drew himself up with a dignified air, M. Noel
began to laugh.

"No offence, old chap. The coffer is solid. You will never get to the
bottom of it."

And it was on this that he told us of the loan of fifteen millions, to
which I alluded above.

I was surprised, however, to see no sign of preparation for the supper
which was mentioned on the cards of invitation, and I expressed my
anxiety on the point to one of my charming nieces, who replied:

"They are waiting for M. Louis."

"M. Louis?"

"What! you do not know M. Louis, the /valet de chambre/ of the Duc de

I then learned who this influential personage was, whose protection is
sought by prefects, senators, even ministers, and who must make them
pay stiffly for it, since with his salary of twelve hundred francs
from the duke he has saved enough to produce him an income of twenty-
five thousand, sends his daughters to the convent school of the Sacre
Coeur, his son to the College Bourdaloue, and owns a chalet in
Switzerland where all his family goes to stay during the holidays.

At this juncture the personage in question arrived; but nothing in his
appearance would have suggested the unique position in Paris which is
his. Nothing of majesty in his deportment, a waistcoat buttoned up to
the collar, a mean-looking and insolent manner, and a way of speaking
without moving the lips which is very impolite to those who are
listening to you.

He greeted the assembly with a slight nod of the head, extended a
finger to M. Noel, and we were sitting there looking at each other,
frozen by his grand manners, when a door opened at the farther end of
the room and we beheld the supper laid out with all kinds of cold
meats, pyramids of fruit, and bottles of all shapes beneath the light
falling from two candelabra.

"Come, gentlemen, give the ladies your hands." In a minute we were at
table, the ladies seated next the eldest or the most important among
us all, the rest on their feet, serving, chattering, drinking from
everybody's glass, picking a morsel from any plate. I had M. Francis
for my neighbour and I had to listen to his grudges against M. Louis,
of whose place he was envious, so brilliant was it in comparison with
that which he occupied under the noble but worn-out old gambler who
was his master.

"He is a /parvenu/," he muttered to me in a low voice. "He owes his
fortune to his wife, to Mme. Paul."

It appears that this Mme. Paul is a housekeeper, who has been in the
duke's establishment for twenty years, and who excels beyond all
others in the preparation for him of a certain ointment for an
affection to which he is subject. She is indispensable to Mora.
Recognising this, M. Louis made love to the old lady, married her
though much younger than she, and in order not to lose his sick-nurse
and her ointments, his excellency engaged the husband as /valet de
chambre/. At bottom, in spite of what I said to M. Francis, for my own
part I thought the proceeding quite praiseworthy and conformable to
the loftiest morality, since the mayor and the priest had a finger in
it. Moreover, that excellent meal, composed of delicate and very
expensive foods with which I was unacquainted even by name, had
strongly disposed my mind to indulgence and good-humour. But every one
was not similarly inclined, for from the other side of the table I
could hear the bass voice of M. Barreau, complaining:

"Why can he not mind his own business? Do I go pushing my nose into
his department? To begin with, the thing concerns Bompain, not him.
And then, after all, what is it that I am charged with? The butcher
sends me five baskets of meat every morning. I use only two of them
and sell the three others back to him. Where is the /chef/ who does
not do the same? As if, instead of coming to play the spy in my
basement, he would not do better to look after the great leakage up
there. When I think that in three months that gang on the first floor
has smoked twenty-eight thousand francs' worth of cigars. Twenty-eight
thousand francs! Ask Noel if I am not speaking the truth. And on the
second floor, in the apartments of madame, that is where you should
look to see a fine confusion of linen, of dresses thrown aside after
being worn once, jewels by the handful, pearls that you crush on the
floor as you walk. Oh, but wait a little. I shall get my own back from
that same little gentleman."

I understood that the allusion was to M. de Gery, that young secretary
of the Nabob who often comes to the Territorial, where he is always
occupied rummaging into the books. Very polite, certainly, but a very
haughty young man, who does not know how to push himself forward. From
all round the table there came nothing but a concert of maledictions
on him. M. Louis himself addressed some remarks to the company upon
the subject with his grand air:

"In our establishment, my dear M. Barreau, the cook quite recently had
an affair, similar to yours, with the chief of his excellency's
Cabinet, who had permitted himself to make some comments upon the
expenditure. The cook went up to the duke's apartments upon the
instant in his professional costume, and with his hand on the strings
of his apron, said, 'Let your excellency choose between monsieur and
myself.' The duke did not hesitate. One can find as many Cabinet
leaders as one desires, while the good cooks, you can count them.
There are in Paris four altogether. I include you, my dear Barreau. We
dismissed the chief of our Cabinet, giving him a prefecture of the
first class by way of consolation; but we kept the /chef/ of our

"Ah, you see," said M. Barreau, who rejoiced to hear this story, "you
see what it is to serve in the house of a /grand seigneur/. But
/parvenus/ are /parvenus/--what will you have?"

"And that is all Jansoulet is," added M. Francis, tugging at his
cuffs. "A man who used to be a street porter at Marseilles."

M. Noel took offence at this.

"Hey, down there, old Francis, you are very glad all the same to have
him to pay your card-debts, the street porter of La Cannebriere. You
may well be embarrassed by /parvenus/ like us who lend millions to
kings, and whom /grand seigneurs/ like Mora do not blush to admit to
their tables."

"Oh, in the country," chuckled M. Francis, with a sneer that showed
his old tooth.

The other rose, quite red in the face. He was about to give way to his
anger when M. Louis made a gesture with his hand to signify that he
had something to say, and M. Noel sat down immediately, putting his
hand to his ear like all the rest of us in order to lose nothing that
fell from those august lips.

"It is true," remarked the personage, speaking with the slightest
possible movement of his mouth and continuing to take his wine in
little sips, "it is true that we received the Nabob at Grandbois the
other week. There even happened something very funny on the occasion.
We have a quantity of mushrooms in the second park, and his excellency
amuses himself sometimes by gathering them. Now at dinner was served a
large dish of fungi. There were present, what's his name--I forget,
what is it?--Marigny, the Minister of the Interior, Monpavon, and your
master, my dear Noel. The mushrooms went the round of the table, they
looked nice, the gentlemen helped themselves freely, except M. le Duc,
who cannot digest them and out of politeness feels it his duty to
remark to his guests: 'Oh, you know, it is not that I am suspicious of
them. They are perfectly safe. It was I myself who gathered them.'

" '/Sapristi!' said Monpavon, laughing, 'then, my dear Auguste, allow
me to be excused from tasting them.' Marigny, less familiar, glanced
at his plate out of the corner of his eye.

" 'But, yes, Monpavon, I assure you. They look extremely good, these
mushrooms. I am truly sorry that I have no appetite left.'

"The duke remained very serious.

" 'Come, M. Jansoulet, I sincerely hope that you are not going to
offer me this affront, you also. Mushrooms selected by myself.'

" 'Oh, Excellency, the very idea of such a thing! Why, I would eat
them with my eyes closed.'

"So you see what sort of luck he had, the poor Nabob, the first time
that he dined with us. Duperron, who was serving opposite him, told us
all about it in the pantry. It seems there could have been nothing
more comic than to see the Jansoulet stuffing himself with mushrooms,
and rolling terrified eyes, while the others sat watching him
curiously without touching their plates. He sweated under the effort,
poor wretch. And the best of it was that he took a second portion, he
actually found the courage to take a second portion. He kept drinking
off glasses of wine, however, like a mason, between each mouthful. Ah,
well, do you wish to hear my opinion? What he did there was very
clever, and I am no longer surprised that this fat cow-herd should
have become the favourite of sovereigns. He knows where to flatter
them in those little pretensions which no man avows. In brief, the
duke has been crazy over him since that day."

This little story caused much laughter and scattered the clouds which
had been raised by a few imprudent words. So then, since the wine had
untied people's tongues, and they knew each other better, elbows were
leaned on the table and the conversation fell on masters, on the
places in which each of them had served, on the amusing things he had
seen in them. Ah! of how many such adventures did I not hear, how much
of the interior life of those establishments did I not see pass before
me. Naturally I also made my own little effect with the story of my
larder at the Territorial, the times when I used to keep my stew in
the empty safe, which circumstance, however, did not prevent our old
cashier, a great stickler for forms, from changing the key-word of the
lock every two days, as though all the treasures of the Bank of France
had been inside. M. Louis appeared to find my anecdote entertaining.
But the most astonishing was what the little Bois l'Hery, with his
Parisian street-boy's accent, related to us concerning the household
of his employers.

Marquis and Marquise de Bois l'Hery, second floor, Boulevard
Haussmann. Furniture rich as at the Tuileries, blue satin on all the
walls, Chinese ornaments, pictures, curiosities, a veritable museum,
indeed, overflowing even on to the stairway. The service very smart:
six men-servants, chestnut livery in winter, nankeen livery in summer.
These people are seen everywhere at the small Mondays, at the races,
at first-nights, at embassy balls, and their name always in the
newspapers with a remark upon the handsome toilettes of Madame, and
Monsieur's remarkable chic. Well! all that is nothing at all but
pretence, plated goods, show, and when the marquis wants five francs
nobody would lend them to him upon his possessions. The furniture is
hired by the fortnight from Fitily, the upholsterer of the demi-monde.
The curiosities, the pictures, belong to old Schwalbach, who sends his
clients round there and makes them pay doubly dear, since people don't
bargain when they think they are dealing with a marquis, an amateur.
As for the toilettes of the marquise, the milliner and the dressmaker
provide her with them each season gratis, get her to wear the new
fashions, a little ridiculous sometimes but which society subsequently
adopts because Madame is still a very handsome woman and reputed for
her elegance; she is what is called a /launcher/. Finally, the
servants! Makeshifts like the rest, changed each week at the pleasure
of the registry office which sends them there to do a period of
probation by way of preliminary to a serious engagement. If you have
neither sureties nor certificates, if you have just come out of prison
or anything of that kind, Glanand, the famous agent of the Rue de la
Paix, sends you off to the Boulevard Haussmann. You remain in service
there for a week or two, just the time necessary to buy a good
reference from the marquis, who, of course, it is understood, pays you
nothing and barely boards you; for in that house the kitchen-ranges
are cold most of the time, Monsieur and Madame dining out nearly every
evening or going to balls, where a supper is included in the
entertainment. It is positive fact that there are people in Paris who
take the sideboard seriously and make the first meal of their day
after midnight. The Bois l'Herys, in consequence, are well-informed
with regard to the houses that provide refreshments. They will tell
you that you get a very good supper at the Austrian Embassy, that the
Spanish Embassy rather neglects the wines, and that it is at the
Foreign Office again that you find the best /chaud-froid de
volailles/. And that is the life of this curious household. Nothing
that they possess is really theirs; everything is tacked on, loosely
fastened with pins. A gust of wind and the whole thing blows away. But
at least they are certain of losing nothing. It is this assurance
which gives to the marquis that air of raillery worthy of a Father
Tranquille which he has when he looks at you with both hands in his
pockets, as much as to say: "Ah, well, and what then? What can they do
to me?"

And the little groom, in the attitude which I have just mentioned,
with his head like that of a prematurely old and vicious child,
imitated his master so well that I could fancy I saw himself as he
looks at our board meetings, standing in front of the governor and
overwhelming him with his cynical pleasantries. All the same, one must
admit that Paris is a tremendously great city, for a man to be able to
live thus, through fifteen, twenty years of tricks, artifice, dust
thrown in people's eyes, without everybody finding him out, and for
him still to be able to make a triumphal entry into a drawing-room in
the rear of his name announced loudly and repeatedly, "Monsieur le
Marquis de Bois l'Hery."

No, look you, the things that are to be learned at a servants' party,
what a curious spectacle is presented by the fashionable world of
Paris, seen thus from below, from the basements, you need to go to one
before you can realize. Here, for instance, is a little fragment of
conversation which, happening to find myself between M. Francis and M.
Louis, I overheard about the worthy sire de Monpavon.

"You are making a mistake, Francis. You are in funds just now. You
ought to take advantage of the occasion to restore that money to the

"What will you have?" replied M. Francis with a despondent air. "Play
is devouring us."

"Yes, I know it well. But take care. We shall not always be there. We
may die, fall from power. Then you will be asked for accounts by the
people down yonder. And it will be a terrible business."

I had often heard whispered the story of a forced loan of two hundred
thousand francs which the marquis was reputed to have secured from the
State at the time when he was Receiver-General; but the testimony of
his /valet de chambre/ was worse than all. Ah! if masters had any
suspicion of how much servants know, of all the stories that are told
in the servants' hall, if they could see their names dragged among the
sweepings of the house and the refuse of the kitchen, they would never
again dare to say even "shut the door" or "harness the horses." Why,
for instance, take Dr. Jenkins, with the most valuable practice in
Paris, ten years of life in common with a magnificent woman, who is
sought after everywhere; it is in vain that he has done everything to
dissimulate his position, announced his marriage in the newspapers
after the English fashion, admitted to his house only foreign servants
knowing hardly three words of French. In those three words, seasoned
with vulgar oaths and blows of his fist on the table, his coachman
Joey, who hates him, told us his whole history during supper.

"She is going to kick the bucket, his Irish wife, the real one.
Remains to be seen now whether he will marry the other. Forty-five,
she is, Mrs. Maranne, and not a shilling. You should see how afraid
she is of being left in the lurch. Whether he marries her or whether
he does not marry her--kss, kss--we shall have a good laugh."

And the more drink he was given, the more he told us about her,
speaking of his unfortunate mistress as though she were the lowest of
the low. For my own part, I confess that she interested me, this false
Mme. Jenkins, who goes about weeping in every corner, implores her
lover as though he were the executioner, and runs the chance of being
thrown overboard altogether, when all society believes her to be
married, respectable, and established in life. The others only laughed
over the story, the women especially. Dame! it is amusing when one is
in service to see that the ladies of the upper ten have their troubles
also and torments that keep them awake at night.

Our festal board at this stage presented the most lively aspect, a
circle of gay faces stretched towards this Irishman whose story was
adjudged to have won the prize. The fact excited envy; the rest sought
and hunted through their memories for whatever they might hold in the
way of old scandals, adventures of deceived husbands, of those
intimate privacies which are emptied on the kitchen-table along with
the scraps from the plates and the dregs from the bottles. The
champagne was beginning to claim its own among the guests. Joey wanted
to dance a jig on the table-cloth. The ladies, at the least word that
was a little gay, threw themselves back with the piercing laughter of
people who are being tickled, allowing their embroidered skirts to
trail beneath the table, loaded with the remains of the food and
covered with spilt grease. M. Louis had discreetly retired. Glasses
were filled up before they had been emptied; one of the housekeepers
dipped a handkerchief in hers, filled with water, and bathed her
forehead with it, because her head was swimming, she said. It was time
that the festivity should end; and, in fact, an electric bell ringing
in the corridor warned us that the footman, on duty at the theatre,
had come to summon the coachmen. Thereupon Monpavon proposed the
health of the master of the house, thanking him for his little party.
M. Noel announced that he proposed to give another at Saint-Romans, in
honour of the visit of the Bey, to which most of those present would
probably be invited. And I was about to rise in my turn, being
sufficiently accustomed to social banquets to know that on such an
occasion the oldest man present is expected to propose the health of
the ladies, when the door opened abruptly, and a tall footman,
bespattered with mud, a dripping umbrella in his hand, perspiring, out
of breath, cried to us, without respect for the company:

"But come on then, you set of idiots! What are you sticking here for?
Don't you know it is over?"


In the regions of the Midi, of bygone civilization, historical castles
still standing are rare. Only at long intervals on the hillsides some
old abbey lifts its tottering and dismembered front, perforated by
holes that once were windows, whose empty spaces look now only to the
sky. A monument of dust, burnt up by the sun, dating from the time of
the Crusades or of the Courts of Love, without a trace of man among
its stones, where even the ivy no longer clings nor the acanthus, but
which the dried lavenders and the ferns embalm. In the midst of all
those ruins the castle of Saint-Romans is an illustrious exception. If
you have travelled in the Midi you have seen it, and you are to see it
again now. It is between Valence and Montelimart, on a site just where
the railway runs alongside the Rhone, at the foot of the rich slopes
of Baume, Raucoule, and Mercurol, where the far-famed vineyards of
l'Ermitage, spreading out for five miles in close-planted rows of
vines, which seem to grow as one looks, roll down almost into the
river, which is there as green and full of islands as the Rhine at
Basle, but under a sun the Rhine has never known. Saint-Romans is
opposite on the other side of the river; and, in spite of the brevity
of the vision, the headlong rush of the train, which seems trying to
throw itself madly into the Rhone at each turning, the castle is so
large, so well situated on the neighbouring hill, that it seems to
follow the crazy race of the train, and stamps on your mind forever
the memory of its terraces, its balustrades, its Italian architecture;
two low stories surmounted by a colonnaded gallery and flanked by two
slate-roofed pavilions dominating the great slopes where the water of
the cascades rebounds, the network of gravel walks, the perspective of
long hedges, terminated by some white statue which stands out against
the blue sky as on the luminous ground of a stained-glass window.
Quite at the top, in the middle of the vast lawns whose green turf
shines ironically under the scorching sun, a gigantic cedar uplifts
its crested foliage, enveloped in black and floating shadows--an
exotic silhouette, upright before this former dwelling of some Louis
XIV farmer of revenue, which makes one think of a great negro carrying
the sunshade of a gentleman of the court.

From Valence to Marseilles, throughout all the Valley of the Rhone,
Saint-Romans of Bellaignes is famous as an enchanted palace; and,
indeed, in that country burnt up by the fiery wind, this oasis of
greenness and beautiful rushing water is a true fairy-land.

"When I am rich, mamma," Jansoulet used to say, as quite a small boy,
to his mother whom he adored, "I shall give you Saint-Romans of
Bellaignes." And as the life of the man seemed the fulfilment of a
story from the Arabian Nights, as all his wishes came true, even the
most disproportionate, as his maddest chimeras came to lie down before
him, to lick his hands like familiar and obedient spaniels, he had
bought Saint-Romans to offer it, newly furnished and grandiosely
restored, to his mother. Although it was ten years since then, the
dear old woman was not yet used to her splendid establishment. "It is
the palace of Queen Jeanne that you have given me, my dear Bernard,"
she wrote to her son. "I shall never live there." She never did live
there, as a matter of fact, having stayed at the steward's house, an
isolated building of modern construction, situated quite at the other
end of the grounds, so as to overlook the outbuildings and the farm,
the sheepfolds and the oil-mills, with their rural horizon of stacks,
olive-trees and vines, extending over the plain as far as one could
see. In the great castle she would have imagined herself a prisoner in
one of those enchanted dwellings where sleep seizes you in the midst
of your happiness and does not let you go for a hundred years. Here,
at least, the peasant-woman--who had never been able to accustom
herself to this colossal fortune, come too late, from too far, and
like a thunder-clap--felt herself linked to reality by the coming and
going of the work-people, the letting-out and taking-in of the cattle,
their slow movement to the drinking pond, all that pastoral life which
woke her by the familiar call of the cocks and the sharp cries of the
peacocks, and brought her down the corkscrew staircase of the pavilion
before dawn. She looked upon herself only as the trustee of this
magnificent estate, which she was taking care of for her son, and
wished to give back to him in perfect condition on the day when, rich
enough and tired of living with the Turks, he would come, according to
his promise, to live with her beneath the shade of Saint-Romans.

Then, too, what universal and indefatigable supervision! Through the
mists of early morning the farm-servants heard her rough and husky
voice: "Olivier, Peyrol, Audibert. Come on! It is four o'clock." Then
she would hasten to the immense kitchen, where the maids, heavy with
sleep, were heating the porridge over the crackling, new-lit fire.
They gave her a little dish of red Marseilles-ware full of boiled
chestnuts--frugal breakfast of bygone times, which nothing would have
induced her to change. At once she was off, hurrying with great
strides, her large silver keyring at her belt, whence jingled all her
keys, her plate in her hand, balanced by the distaff which she held,
in working order, under her arm, for she spun all day long, and did
not stop even to eat her chestnuts. On the way, a glance at the
stables, still dark, where the animals were moving duly, at the
stifling pens with their rows of impatient and outstretched muzzles;
and the first glimmers of light creeping over the layers of stones
that supported the embankment of the park, lit up the figure of the
old woman, running in the dew, with the lightness of a girl, despite
her seventy years--verifying exactly each morning all the wealth of
the domain, anxious to make sure that the night had not taken away the
statues and the vases, uprooted the hundred-year-old quincunx, dried
up the springs which filtered into their resounding basins. Then the
full sunlight of midday, humming and vibrating, showed still, on the
sand of an alley, against the white wall of a terrace, the long figure
of the old woman, elegant and straight as her spindle, picking up bits
of dead wood, breaking off some uneven branch of a shrub, careless of
the shock it caused her and the sweat which broke out over her skin.
Towards this hour another figure was to be seen in the park also--less
active, less noisy, dragging rather than walking, leaning against the
walls and railings--a poor round-shouldered being, shaky and stiff, a
figure from which life seemed to have gone out, never speaking, when
he was tired giving a little plaintive cry towards the servant, who
was always near, who helped him to sit down, to crouch upon some step,
where he would stay for hours, motionless, mute, his mouth hanging,
his eyes blinking, hushed by the strident monotony of the
grasshopper's cry--a blotch of humanity in the splendid horizon.

This, this was the first-born, Bernard's brother, the darling child of
his father and mother, the glorious hope of the nail-maker's family.
Slaves, like so many others in the Midi, to the superstition of the
rights of primogeniture, they had made every possible sacrifice to
send to Paris their fine, ambitious lad, who set out assured of
success, the admiration of all the young women of the town; and Paris,
after having for six years, beaten, twisted, and squeezed in its great
vat the brilliant southern stripling, after having burnt him with all
its vitriol, rolled him in all its mud, finished by sending him back
in this state of wreckage, stupefied and paralyzed--killing his father
with sorrow, and forcing his mother to sell her all, and live as a
sort of char-woman in the better-class houses of her own country-side.
Lucky it was that just then, when this broken piece of humanity,
discharged from all the hospitals of Paris, was sent back by public
charity to Bourg-Saint-Andeol, Bernard--he whom they called Cadet, as
in these southern families, half Arab as they are, the eldest always
takes the family name, and the last-comer that of Cadet--Bernard was
at Tunis making his fortune, and sending home money regularly. But
what pain it was for the poor mother to owe everything, even the life,
the comfort of the sad invalid, to the robust and courageous boy whom
his father and she had loved without any tenderness; who, since he was
five years old, they had treated as a "hand," because he was very
strong, woolly-headed, and ugly, and even then knew better than any
one in the house how to deal in old nails. Ah! how she longed to have
him near her, her Cadet, to make some return to him for all the good
he did, to pay at last the debt of love and motherly tenderness that
she owed him!

But, you see, these princely fortunes have the burdens, the
wearinesses of royal lives. This poor mother, in her dazzling
surroundings, was very like a real queen: familiar with long exiles,
cruel separations, and the trials which detract from greatness; one of
her sons forever stupefied, the other far away, seldom writing,
absorbed in his business, saying, "I will come," and never coming. She
had only seen him once in twelve years, and then in the whirl of a
visit of the Bey to Saint-Romans--a rush of horses and carriages, of
fireworks, and of banquets. He had gone in the suite of his monarch,
having scarcely time to say good-bye to his old mother, to whom there
remained of this great joy only a few pictures in the illustrated
papers, showing Bernard Jansoulet arriving at the castle with Ahmed,
and presenting his mother. Is it not thus that kings and queens have
their family feelings exploited in the journals? There was also a
cedar of Lebanon, brought from the other end of the world, a regular
mountain of a tree, whose transport had been as difficult and as
costly as that of Cleopatra's needle, and whose erection as a souvenir
of the royal visit by dint of men, money, and teams had shaken the
very foundations. But this time, at least, knowing him to be in France
for several months--perhaps for good--she hoped to have her Bernard to
herself. And now he returned to her, one fine evening, enveloped in
the same triumphant glory, in the same official display, surrounded by
a crowd of counts, of marquises, of fine gentlemen from Paris,
filling, they and their servants, the two large wagonettes she had
sent to meet them at the little station of Giffas on the other side of
the Rhone.

"Come, give me a kiss, my dear mother. There is nothing to be ashamed
of in giving a good hug to the boy you haven't seen all these years.
Besides, all these gentlemen are our friends. This is the Marquis de
Monpavon, the Marquis de Bois d'Hery. Ah! the time is past when I
brought you to eat vegetable soup with us, little Cabassu and Jean-
Batiste Bompain. You know M. de Gery? With my old friend Cardailhac,
whom I now present, that makes the first batch. There are others to
come. Prepare yourself for a fine upsetting. We entertain the Bey in
four days."

"The Bey again!" said the old woman, astounded. "I thought he was

Jansoulet and his guests could not help laughing at this comical
terror, accentuated by her southern intonation.

"It is another, mamma. There is always a Bey--thank goodness. But
don't be afraid. You won't have so much bother this time. Our friend
Cardailhac has undertaken everything. We are going to have magnificent
celebrations. In the meantime, quick--dinner and our rooms. Our
Parisians are worn out."

"Everything is ready, my son," said the old lady quietly, stiff and
straight under her Cambrai cap, the head-dress with its yellowing
flaps, which she never left off even for great occasions. Good fortune
had not changed her. She was a true peasant of the Rhone valley,
independent and proud, without any of the sly humilities of Balzac's
country folk, too artless to be purse-proud. One pride alone she had--
that of showing her son with what scrupulous care she had discharged
her duties as guardian. Not an atom of dust, not a trace of damp on
the walls. All the splendid ground-floor, the reception-rooms with
their hangings of iridescent silk new out of the dust sheets, the long
summer galleries cool and sonorous, paved with mosaics and furnished
with a flowery lightness in the old-fashioned style, with Louis XIV
sofas in cane and silk, the immense dining-room decorated with palms
and flowers, the billiard-room with its rows of brilliant ivory balls,
its crystal chandeliers and its suits of armour--all the length of the
castle, through its tall windows, wide open to the stately terrace,
lay displayed for the admiration of the visitors. The marvellous
beauty of the horizon and the setting sun, its own serene and peaceful
richness, were reflected in the panes of glass and in the waxed and
polished wood with the same clearness as in the mirror-like ornamental
lakes, the pictures of the poplars and the swans. The setting was so
lovely, the whole effect so grand, that the clamorous and tasteless
luxury melted away, disappeared, even to the most hypercritical eyes.

"There is something to work on," said Cardailhac, the manager, his
glass in his eye, his hat on one side, combining already his stage-
effect. And the haughty air of Monpavon, whom the head-dress of the
old woman receiving them on the terrace had shocked, gave way to a
condescending smile. Here was something to work on, certainly, and,
guided by persons of taste, their friend Jansoulet could really give
his Moorish Highness an exceedingly suitable reception. All the
evening they talked of nothing else. In the sumptuous dining-room,
their elbows on the table, full of meat and drink, they planned and
discussed. Cardailhac, who had great ideas, had already his plan

"First of all, you give me /carte-blanche/, don't you, Nabob? /Carte-
blanche/, old fellow, and make that fat Hemerlingue burst with envy."

Then the manager explained his scheme. The festivities were to be
divided into days, as at Vaux, when Fouquet entertained Louis XIV. One
day a play; another day Provencal games, dances, bull-fights, local
bands; the third day-- And already the manager's hand sketched
programmes, announcements; while Bois l'Hery slept, his hands in his
pockets, his chair tilted back, his cigar sunk in the corner of his
sneering mouth; and the Marquis de Monpavon, always on his best
behaviour, straightened his shirt-front to keep himself awake.

De Gery had left them early. He had sought refuge beside the old
mother--who had known him as a boy, him and his brothers--in the
humble parlour of the brightly decorated, white-curtained house, where
the Nabob's mother tried to perpetuate her humble past with the help
of a few relics saved from its wreck.

Paul chatted quietly with the fine old woman, admiring her severe and
regular features, her white hair massed together like the hemp of her
distaff, as she sat holding herself straight in her seat--never in her
life having leaned back or sat in an arm-chair--a little green shawl
folded tightly across her flat breast. He called her Francoise, and
she called him M. Paul. They were old friends. And guess what they
talked about? Of her grandchildren, of Bernard's three sons, whom she
did not know and so much longed to know.

"Ah, M. Paul, if you knew how I long to see them! I should have been
so happy if he had brought them, my three little ones, instead of
these fine gentlemen. Think, I have never seen them, only their
portraits which are over there. I am a little afraid of their mother,
she is quite a great lady, a Miss Afchin. But them, the children, I am
sure they are not proud, and they would love their old granny. It
would be like having their father a little boy again, and I would give
to them what I did not give to him. You see, M. Paul, parents are not
always just. They have their favourites. But God is just, he is. The
ones that are most petted and spoiled at the expense of the others,
you should see what he does to them for you! And the favour of the old
often brings misfortune to the young!"

She sighed, looking towards the large recess from behind the curtains
of which there came, at intervals, a long sobbing breath like the
sleeping wail of a beaten child who has cried bitterly.

A heavy step on the staircase, a loud, sweet voice saying, very
softly, "It is I; don't move," and Jansoulet appeared. He knew his
mother's habits, how her lamp was the last to go out, so when every
one in the castle was in bed, he came to see her, to chat with her for
a little, to rejoice her heart with an affection he could not show
before the others. "Oh, stay, my dear Paul; we don't mind you," and
once more a child in his mother's presence, with loving gestures and
words that were really touching, the huge man threw himself on the
ground at her feet. She was very happy to have him there, so dearly
near, but she was just a little shy. She looked upon him as an all-
powerful being, extraordinary, raising him, in her simplicity, to the
greatness of an Olympian commanding the thunder and lightning. She
spoke to him, asking about his friends, his business, but not daring
to put the question she had asked de Gery: "Why haven't my
grandchildren come?" But he spoke of them himself. "They are at
school, mother. Whenever the holidays begin they shall be sent with
Bompain. You remember Jean-Baptiste Bompain? And you shall keep them
for two long months. They will come to you and make you tell them
stories, and they will go to sleep with their heads on your lap--
there, like that."

And he himself, putting his heavy, woolly head on her knee, remembered
the happy evenings of his childhood when he would go to sleep so, if
she would let him, and his brother had not taken up all the room. He
tasted for the first time since his return to France a few minutes of
delicious peace away from his restless and artificial life, as he lay
pressed to his old mother's heart, in the deep silence of night and of
the country which one feels hovering over him in limitless space; the
only sounds the beating of that old faithful heart and the swing of
the pendulum of the ancient clock in the corner. Suddenly came the
same long sigh, as of a child fallen asleep sobbing. Jansoulet lifted
his head and looked at his mother, and softly asked: "Is it--?" "Yes,"
she said, "I make him sleep there. He might need me in the night."

"I would like to see him, to embrace him."

"Come, then." She rose very gravely, took the lamp and went to the
alcove, of which she softly drew the large curtain, making a sign to
her son to draw near quietly.

He was sleeping. And no doubt something lived in him while he slept
that was not there when he waked, for instead of the flaccid
immobility in which he was congealed all day, he was now shaken by
sudden starts, and on the inexpressive and death-like face there were
lines of pain and the contractions of suffering life. Jansoulet, much
affected, looked long at those wasted features, faded and sickly,
where the beard grew with a surprising vigour. Then he bent down, put
his lips to the damp brow, and feeling him move, said very gravely and
respectfully, as one speaks to the head of the family, "Good-night, my
brother." Perhaps the captive soul had heard it from the depths of its
dark and abject limbo. For the lips moved and a long moan answered
him, a far-away wail, a despairing cry, which filled with helpless
tears the glance exchanged between Francoise and her son, and tore
from them both the same cry in which their sorrow met, "Pecaire," the
local word which expressed all pity and all tenderness.

The next day, from early morning, the commotion began with the arrival
of the actors, an avalanche of hats and wigs and big boots, of short
skirts and affected cries, of floating veils and fresh make-ups. The
women were in a great majority, as Cardailhac thought that for a Bey
the play was of little consequence, and that all that was needful was
to have catchy tunes in pretty mouths, to show fine arms and shapely
legs in the easy costume of light opera. All the well-made celebrities
of his theatre were there, Amy Ferat at the head of them, a bold young
woman who had already had her teeth in the gold of several crowns.
There were two or three well-known men whose pale faces made the same
kind of chalky and spectral spots amid the green of the trees as the
plaster of the statues. All these people, enlivened by the journey,
the surprise of the country, the overflowing hospitality, as well as
the hope of making something out of this sojourn of Beys and Nabobs
and other gilded fools, wanted only to play, to jest and sing with the
vulgar boisterousness of a crew of freshly discharged Seine boatmen.
But Cardailhac meant otherwise. No sooner were they unpacked,
freshened up, and luncheon over than, quick, the parts, the
rehearsals! There was no time to lose. They worked in the small
drawing-room next the summer gallery, where the theatre was already
being fitted up; and the noise of hammers, the songs from the
burlesque, the shrill voices, the conductor's fiddle, mingled with the
loud trumpet-like calls of the peacocks, and rose upon the hot
southern wind, which, not recognising it as only the mad rattle of its
own grasshoppers, shook it all disdainfully on the trailing tip of its

Seated in the centre of the terrace, as in the stage-box of his
theatre, Cardailhac watched the rehearsals, gave orders to a crowd of
workmen and gardeners, had trees cut down as spoiling the view,
designed the triumphal arches, sent off telegrams, express messengers
to mayors, to sub-prefects, to Arles--to arrange for a deputation of
girls in national costume; to Barbantane, where the best dancers are;
to Faraman, famous for its wild bulls and Camargue horses. And as the
name of Jansoulet, joined to that of the Bey of Tunis, flared at the
end of all these messages, on all sides they hastened to obey; the
telegraph wires were never still, messengers wore out horses on the
roads. And this little Sardanapalus of the stage called Cardailhac
repeated ever, "There's something to work on here," happy to scatter
gold at random like handfuls of seed, to have a stage of forty leagues
to stir about--the whole of Provence, of which this rabid Parisian was
a native and whose picturesque resources he knew to the core.

Dispossessed of her office, the old mother never appeared. She
occupied herself with the farm, and her invalid. She was terrified by
this crowd of visitors, these insolent servants whom it was difficult
to know from the masters, these women with their impudent and elegant
airs, these clean-shaven men who looked like bad priests--all these
mad-caps who chased each other at night in the corridors with pillows,
with wet sponges, with curtain tassels they had torn down, for
weapons. Even after dinner she no longer had her son; he was obliged
to stay with his guests, whose number grew each day as the /fetes/
approached; not even the resource of talking to M. Paul about her
grandchildren was left, for Jansoulet, a little embarrassed by the
seriousness of his friend, had sent him to spend a few days with his
brothers. And the careful housekeeper, to whom they came every minute
asking the keys for linen, for a room, for extra silver, thought of
her piles of beautiful dishes, of the sacking of her cupboards and
larders, remembered the state in which the old Bey's visit had left
the castle, devastated as by a cyclone, and said in her /patois/ as
she feverishly wet the linen on her distaff: "May lightning strike
them, this Bey and all the Beys!"

At last the day came, the great day which is still spoken of in all
the country-side. Towards three o'clock in the afternoon, after a
sumptuous luncheon at which the old mother presided, this time in a
new cap, over a company composed of Parisian celebrities, prefects,
deputies, all in full uniform, mayors with their sashes, priests
newshaven, Jansoulet in full dress stepped out on to the terrace
surrounded by his guests. He saw before him in that splendid frame of
magnificent natural scenery, in the midst of flags and arches and
coats of arms, a vast swarm of people, a flare of brilliant costumes
in rows on the slopes, at corners of the walks; here, grouped in beds,
like flowers on a lawn, the prettiest girls of Arles, whose little
dark heads showed delicately from beneath their lace fichus; farther
down were the dancers from Barbantane--eight tambourine players in a
line, ready to begin, their hands joined, ribbons flying, hats cocked,
and the red scarves round their hips; beyond them, on the succeeding
terraces were the choral societies in rows, dressed in black with red
caps, their standard-bearer in front, grave, important, his teeth
clinched, holding high his carved staff; farther down still, on a vast
circular space now arranged as an amphitheatre, were the black bulls,
and the herdsmen from Camargue seated on their long-haired white
horses, their high boots over their knees, at their wrists an uplifted
spear; then more flags, helmets, bayonets, and decorations right down
to the triumphal arch at the gates; as far as the eye could see, on
the other side of the Rhone (across which the two railways had made a
pontoon bridge that they might come straight from the station to
Saint-Romans), whole villages were assembling from every side,
crowding to the Giffas road in a cloud of dust and a confusion of
cries, sitting at the hedge-sides, clinging to the elms, squeezed in
carts--a living wall for the procession. Above all a great white sun
which scintillated in every direction--on the copper of a tambourine,
on the point of a trident, on the fringe of a banner; and in the midst
the great proud Rhone carrying to the sea the moving picture of this
royal feast. Before these marvels, where shone all the gold of his
coffers, the Nabob had a sudden feeling of admiration and of pride.

"This is beautiful," he said, paling; and behind him his mother
murmured, "It is too beautiful for man. It is as if God were coming."
She was pale, too, but with an unutterable fear.

The sentiment of the old Catholic peasant was indeed that which was
vaguely felt by all those people massed upon the roads as though for
the passing of a gigantic Corpus Christi procession, and whom this
visit of an Eastern prince to a child of their own country reminded of
the legends of the Magi, or the advent of Gaspard the Moor, bringing
to the carpenter's son myrrh and the triple crown.

As Jansoulet was being warmly congratulated by every one, Cardailhac,
who had not been seen since morning, suddenly appeared, triumphant and
perspiring. "Didn't I tell you there was something to work on! Eh?
Isn't it fine? What a scene! I bet our Parisians would pay dear to be
at such a first performance as this!" And lowering his voice, on
account of the mother who was quite near, "Have you seen our country
girls? No? Examine them more closely--the first, the one in front, who
is to present the bouquet."

"Why, it is Amy Ferat!"

"Just so. You see, old fellow, if the Bey should throw his
handkerchief amid that group of loveliness there must be some one to
pick it up. They wouldn't understand, these innocents. Oh, I have
thought of everything, you will see. Everything is prepared and
regulated just as on the stage. Garden side--farm side."

Here, to give an idea of the perfect organization, the manager raised
his stick. Immediately his gesture was repeated from the top to the
bottom of the park, and from the choral societies, from the brass
bands, from the tambourines, there burst forth the majestic strains of
the popular southern song, /Grand Soleil de la Provence/. Voices and
instruments rose in the sunlight, the banners filled, the dancers
swayed to their first movement, while on the other side of the river a
report flew like a breeze that the Bey had arrived unexpectedly by
another route. The manager made another gesture, and the immense
orchestra was hushed. The response was slower this time, there were
little delays, a hail of words lost in the leaves; but one could not
expect more from a concourse of three thousand people. Just then the
carriages appeared, the state coaches which had been used on the
occasion of the last Bey's visit--two large chariots, pink and gold as
at Tunis. Mme. Jansoulet had tended them almost as holy relics, and
they had come out of their coverings, with their panels, their
hangings and their gold fringes, as shining and new as the day they
were made. Here again Cardailhac's ingenuity had been freely
exercised. He had thought horses looked too heavy for those unreal
fragilities, so he had harnessed instead eight mules, with white
reins, decorated with bows and pompons and bells, and caparisoned from
head to foot in that marvellous Esparto work--an art Provence has
borrowed from the Moors and perfected. How could the Bey not be

The Nabob, Monpavon, the prefect, and one of the generals got into the
first coach; the others filled the succeeding carriages. The priests
and the mayors, swelling with importance, rushed to the head of the
choral societies of their villages which were to go in front, and all
moved off along the road to Giffas.

The weather was magnificent, but hot and heavy, three months in
advance of the season, as often happens in this impetuous country,
where everything is in a hurry and comes too soon. Although there was
not a cloud to be seen, the stillness of the atmosphere--the wind had
fallen suddenly like a loose sail--dazzling and heated white, a silent
solemnity hanging over all, foretold a storm brewing in some corner of
the horizon. The immense torpor of things gradually influenced the
living beings. One heard too distinctly the tinkling mule-bells, the
heavy steps in the dust of the band of singers whom Cardailhac was
placing at regular distances in the seething human hedge which
bordered the road and was lost in the distance; a sudden call,
children's voices, and the cry of the water-seller, that necessary
accompaniment of all open-air festivals in the Midi.

"Open your window, general, it is stifling," said Monpavon, crimson,
fearing for his paint, and the lowered windows exposed to the populace
these high functionaries mopping their august faces, strained,
agonized, by the same expression of waiting--waiting for the Bey, for
the storm, waiting for something, in short.

Still another trimphal arch. It was at Giffas, its long, stony street
strewn with green palms, and its sordid houses gay with flowers and
bright hangings. The station was outside the village, white and
square, stuck like a thimble on the roadside--true type of a little
country station, lost in the midst of vineyards, never having any one
in it except perhaps sometimes an old woman and her parcels waiting in
a corner, come three hours before the time.

In honour of the Bey this slight building had been rigged out with
flags, adorned with rugs and divans; a splendid buffet had been fitted
up with sherbets, all ready for his Highness. Once there and out of
the carriage the Nabob tried to dispel the feeling of uneasiness which
he, too, had begun to suffer from. Prefects, generals, deputies,
people in dress-coats and uniforms, were standing about on the
platform in imposing groups, their faces solemn, their mouths pursed,
their bodies swaying and jerking in the knowing way of public
functionaries who feel people are looking at them. And you can imagine
how noses were flattened against the windows to see all this
hierarchical swelldom. There was Monpavon, his shirt-front bulging
like a whipped egg. Cardailhac breathlessly giving his last orders,
and the honest face of Jansoulet, whose sparkling eyes, set over his
fat, sunburnt cheeks, looked like two gold nails in a goffering of
Spanish leather. Suddenly an electric bell rang. The station-master,
in a new uniform, ran down the line: "Gentlemen, the train is
signalled. It will be here in eight minutes." Every one started, and
with the same instinctive movement pulled out their watches. Only six
minutes more. Then in the great silence some one said: "Look over
there!" To the right, on the side from which the train was to come,
two great slopes, covered with vines, made a sort of funnel into which
the track disappeared as though swallowed up. Just then all this
hollow was as black as ink, darkened by an enormous cloud, a bar of
gloom, cutting the blue of the sky perpendicularly, throwing out banks
that resembled cliffs of basalt on which the light broke all white
like moonshine. In the solemnity of the deserted track, over the lines
of silent rails where one felt that everything was ready for the
coming of the prince, it was terrifying to see this aerial crag
approaching, throwing its shadow before it, to watch the play of the
perspective which gave the cloud a slow, majestic movement, and the
shadow the rapidity of a galloping horse. "What a storm we shall have
directly!" was the thought which came to every one, but none had voice
to express it, for a strident whistle sounded and the train appeared
at the end of the dark funnel. A real royal train, rapid and short,
and decorated with flags. The smoking, roaring engine carried a large
bouquet of roses on its breastplate, like a bridesmaid at some
leviathan wedding.

It came out of the funnel at full speed, but slowed down as it
approached. The functionaries grouped themselves, straightened their
backs, hitched their swords and eased their collars, while Jansoulet
went down the track to meet the train, an obsequious smile on his
lips, his back curved ready for the "Salam Alek." The train proceeded
very slowly. Jansoulet thought it had stopped, and put his hand on the
door of the royal carriage, glittering with gold under the black sky.
But, doubtless, the impetus had been too strong, and the train
continued to advance, the Nabob walking beside it, trying to open the
accursed door which was stuck fast, and making signs to the engine-
driver. The engine was not answering. "Stop, stop, there!" It did not
stop. Losing patience, he jumped on to the velvet-covered step, and in
that fiery, impulsive manner of his which had so delighted the old
Bey, he cried, his woolly head at the door, "Saint-Romans station,
your Highness."

You know the sort of vague light there is in dreams, the colourless
empty atmosphere where everything has the look of a phantom. Jansoulet
was suddenly enveloped in this, stricken, paralyzed. He wanted to
speak, words would not come, his nerveless hand held the door so
feebly that he almost fell backward. What had he seen? On a divan at
the back of the saloon, reposing on his elbow, his beautiful dark head
with its long silky beard leaning on his hand, was the Bey, close
wrapped in his Oriental coat, without other ornaments than the large
ribbon of the Legion of Honour across his breast and the diamond in
the aigrette of his fez. He was fanning himself impassively with a
little fan of gold-embroidered strawwork. Two aides-de-camp and an
engineer of the railway company were standing beside him. Opposite, on
another divan, in a respectful attitude, but favoured evidently, as
they were the only ones seated in the Bey's presence, were two owl-
like men, their long whiskers falling on their white ties, one fat and
the other thin. They were the Hemerlingues, father and son, who had
won over his Highness and were bearing him off in triumph to Paris.
What a horrible dream! All three men, who knew Jansoulet well, looked
at him coldly as though his face recalled nothing. Piteously white,
his forehead covered with sweat, he stammered, "But, your Highness,
are you not going to--" A vivid flash of lightning, followed by a
terrible peal of thunder, stopped the words. But the lightning in the
eyes of his sovereign seemed to him as terrible. Sitting up, his arm
outstretched, in guttural voice as of one accustomed to roll the hard
Arab syllables, but in pure French, the Bey struck him down with the
slow, carefully prepared words: "Go home, swindler. The feet go where
the heart guides. Mine will never enter the house of the man who has
cheated my country."

Jansoulet tried to say something. The Bey made a sign: "Go on." The
engineer pressed a button, a whistle replied, the train, which had
never really stopped, seemed to stretch itself, making all its iron
muscles crack, to take a bound and start off at full speed, the flags
fluttering in the storm-wind, and the black smoke meeting the
lightning flashes.

Jansoulet, left standing on the track, staggering, stunned, ruined,
watched his fortune fly away and disappear, oblivious of the large
drops of rain which were falling on his bare head. Then, when the
others rushed upon him, surrounded him, rained questions upon him, he
stuttered some disconnected words: "Court intrigues--infamous plot."
And suddenly, shaking his fist after the train, with eyes that were
bloodshot, and a foam of rage upon his lips, he roared like a wild
beast, "Blackguards!"

"You forget yourself, Jansoulet, you forget yourself." You guess who
it was that uttered those words, and, taking the Nabob's arm, tried to
pull him together, to make him hold his head as high as his own,
conducted him to the carriage through the rows of stupefied people in
uniform, and made him get in, exhausted and broken, like a near
relation of the deceased that one hoists into a mourning-coach after
the funeral. The rain began to fall, peals of thunder followed one
another. Every one now hurried into the carriages, which quickly took
the homeward road. Then there occurred a heart-rending yet comical
thing, one of the cruel farces played by that cowardly destiny which
kicks its victims after they are down. In the falling day and the
growing darkness of the cyclone, the crowd, squeezed round the
approaches of the station, thought they saw his Highness somewhere
amid the gorgeous trappings, and as soon as the wheels started an
immense clamour, a frightful bawling, which had been hatching for an
hour in all those breasts, burst out, rose, rolled, rebounded from
side to side and prolonged itself in the valley. "Hurrah, hurrah for
the Bey!" This was the signal for the first bands to begin, the choral
societies started in their turn, and the noise growing step by step,
the road from Giffas to Saint-Romans was nothing but an uninterrupted
bellow. Cardailhac and all the gentlemen, Jansoulet himself, leant in
vain out of the windows making desperate signs, "That will do! That's
enough!" Their gestures were lost in the tumult and the darkness; what
the crowd did see seemed to act only as an excitant. And I promise you
there was no need of that. All these meridionals, whose enthusiasm had
been carefully led since early morning, excited the more by the long
wait and the storm, shouted with all the force of their voices and the
strength of their lungs, mingling with the song of Provence the cry of
"Hurrah for the Bey!" till it seemed a perpetual chorus. Most of them
had no idea what a Bey was, did not even think about it. They
accentuated the appellation in an extraordinary manner as though it
had three b's and ten y's. But it made no difference, they excited
themselves with the cry, holding up their hands, waving their hats,
becoming agitated as a result of their own activity. Women wept and
rubbed their eyes. Suddenly, from the top of an elm, the shrill voice
of a child made itself heard: "Mamma, mamma--I see him!" He saw him!
They all saw him, for that matter! Now even, they will all swear to
you they saw him!

Confronted by such a delirium, in the impossibility of imposing
silence and calm on such a crowd, there was only one thing for the
people in the carriages to do: to leave them alone, pull up the
windows and dash along at full speed. It would at least shorten a
bitter martyrdom. But this was even worse. Seeing the procession
hurrying, all the road began to gallop with it. To the dull booming of
their tambourines the dancers from Barbantane, hand in hand, sprang--a
living garland--round the carriage doors. The choral societies,
breathless with singing as they ran, but singing all the same, dragged
on their standard-bearers, the banners now hanging over their
shoulders; and the good, fat priests, red and panting, shoving their
vast overworked bellies before them, still found strength to shout
into the very ear of the mules, in an unctuous, effusive voice, "Long
live our noble Bey!" The rain on all this, the rain falling in
buckets, discolouring the pink coaches, precipitating the disorder,
giving the appearance of a rout to this triumphal return, but a comic
rout, mingled with songs and laughs, mad embraces, and infernal oaths.
It was something like the return of a religious procession flying
before a storm, cassocks turned up, surplices over heads, and the
Blessed Sacrament put back in all haste, under a porch.

The dull roll of the wheels over the wooden bridge told the poor
Nabob, motionless and silent in a corner of his carriage, that they
were almost there. "At last!" he said, looking through the clouded
windows at the foaming waters of the Rhone, whose tempestuous rush
seemed calm after what he had just suffered. But at the end of the
bridge, when the first carriage reached the great triumphal arch,
rockets went off, drums beat, saluting the monarch as he entered the
estates of his faithful subject. To crown the irony, in the gathering
darkness a gigantic flare of gas suddenly illuminated the roof of the
castle, and in spite of the wind and the rain, these fiery letters
could still be seen very plainly, "Long liv' th' B'Y 'HMED!"

"That--that is the wind-up," said the poor Nabob, who could not help
laughing, though it was a very piteous and bitter laugh. But no, he
was mistaken. The end was the bouquet waiting at the castle door. Amy
Ferat came to present it, leaving the group of country maidens under
the veranda, where they were trying to shelter the shining silks of
their skirts and the embroidered velvets of their caps as they waited
for the first carriage. Her bunch of flowers in her hand, modest, her
eyes downcast, but showing a roguish leg, the pretty actress sprang
forward to the door in a low courtesy, almost on her knees, a pose she
had worked at for a week. Instead of the Bey, Jansoulet got out, stiff
and troubled, and passed without even seeing her. And as she stayed
there, bouquet in hand, with the silly look of a stage fairy who has
missed her cue, Cardailhac said to her with the ready chaff of the
Parisian who is never at a loss: "Take away your flowers, my dear. The
Bey is not coming. He had forgotten his handkerchief, and as it is
only with that he speaks to ladies, you understand--"

Now it is night. Everything is asleep at Saint-Romans after the
tremendous uproar of the day. Torrents of rain continue to fall; and
in the park, where the triumphal arches and the Venetian masts still
lift vaguely their soaking carcasses, one can hear streams rushing
down the slopes transformed into waterfalls. Everything streams or
drips. A noise of water, an immense noise of water. Alone in his
sumptuous room, with its lordly bed all hung with purple silks, the
Nabob is still awake, turning over his own black thoughts as he
strides to and fro. It is not the affront, that public outrage before
all these people, that occupies him, it is not even the gross insult
the Bey had flung at him in the presence of his mortal enemies. No,
this southerner, whose sensations were all physical and as rapid as
the firing of new guns, had already thrown off the venom of his
rancour. And then, court favourites, by famous examples, are always
prepared for these sudden falls. What terrifies him is that which he
guesses to lie behind this affront. He reflects that all his
possessions are over there, firms, counting-houses, ships, all at the
mercy of the Bey, in that lawless East, that country of the ruler's
good-pleasure. Pressing his burning brow to the streaming windows, his
body in a cold sweat, his hands icy, he remains looking vaguely out
into the night, as dark, as obscure as his own future.

Suddenly a noise of footsteps, of precipitate knocks at the door.

"Who is there?"

"Sir," said Noel, coming in half dressed, "it is a very urgent
telegram that has been sent from the post-office by special

"A telegram! What can there be now?"

He takes the envelope and opens it with shaking fingers. The god,
struck twice already, begins to feel himself vulnerable, to know the
fears, the nervous weakness of other men. Quick--to the signature.
MORA! Is it possible? The duke--the duke to him! Yes, it is indeed--
M-O-R-A. And above it: "Popolasca is dead. Election coming in Corsica.
You are official candidate."

Deputy! It was salvation. With that, nothing to fear. No one dares
treat a representative of the great French nation as a mere swindler.
The Hemerlingues were finely defeated.

"Oh, my duke, my noble duke!"

He was so full of emotion that he could not sign his name. Suddenly:
"Where is the man who brought this telegram?"

"Here, M. Jansoulet," replied a jolly south-country voice from the

He was lucky, that postman.

"Come in," said the Nabob. And giving him the receipt, he took in a
heap from his pockets--ever full--as many gold pieces as his hands
could hold, and threw them into the cap of the poor fellow, who
stuttered, distracted and dazzled by the fortune showered upon him, in
the night of this fairy palace.


Pozzonegro--near Sartene.

At last I can give you my news, dear M. Joyeuse. During the five days
we have been in Corsica we have rushed about so much, made so many
speeches, so often changed carriages and mounts--now on mules, now on
asses, or even on the backs of men for crossing the torrents--written
so many letters, noted so many requests, visited so many schools,
presented chasubles, altar-cloths, renewed cracked bells, and founded
kindergartens; we have inaugurated so many things, proposed so many
toasts, listened to so many harangues, consumed so much Talano wine
and white cheese, that I have not found time to send even a greeting
to the little family circle round the big table, from which I have
been missing these two months. Happily my absence will not be for much
longer, as we expect to leave the day after to-morrow, and are coming
straight back to Paris. From the electioneering point of view, I think
our journey has been a success. Corsica is an admirable country,
indolent and poor, a mixture of poverty and pride, which makes both
the nobles and the middle classes strive to keep up an appearance of
easy circumstances at the price of the most painful privations. They
speak quite seriously of Popolasca's fortune--that needy deputy whom
death robbed of the four thousand pounds his resignation in favour of
the Nabob would have brought him. All these people have, as well, an
administrative mania, a thirst for places which give them any sort of
uniform, and a cap to wear with the words "Government official"
written on it. If you gave a Corsican peasant the choice between the
richest farm in France and the shabbiest sword-belt of a village
policeman, he would not hesitate and would take the belt. In that
conditions of things, you may imagine what chances of election a
candidate has who can dispose of a personal fortune and the Government
favours. Thus, M. Jansoulet will be elected; and especially if he
succeeds in his present undertaking, which has brought us here to the
only inn of a little place called Pozzonegro (black well). It is a
regular well, black with foliage, consisting of fifty small red-stone
houses clustered round a long Italian church, at the bottom of a
ravine between rigid hills and coloured sandstone rocks, over which
stretch immense forests of larch and juniper trees. From my open
window, at which I am writing, I see up above there a bit of blue sky,
the orifice of the well; down below on the little square--which a huge
nut-tree shades as though the shadows were not already thick enough--
two shepherds clothed in sheep-skins are playing at cards, with their
elbows on the stone of a fountain. Gambling is the bane of this land
of idleness, where they get men from Lucca to do their harvesting. The
two poor wretches I see probably haven't a farthing between them, but
one bets his knife against a cheese wrapped up in vine leaves, and the
stakes lie between them on the bench. A little priest smokes his cigar
as he watches them, and seems to take the liveliest interest in their

And that is not all. Not a sound anywhere except the drops of water on
the stone, the oaths of one of the players who swears by the /sango
del seminaro/, and from underneath my room in the inn parlour the
eager voice of our friend mingling with the sputterings of the
illustrious Paganetti, who is interpreter, in his conversation with
the not less illustrious Piedigriggio.

M. Piedigriggio (gray feet) is a local celebrity. He is a tall, old
man of seventy-five, with a flowing beard and a straight back. He
wears a little pilot coat, a brown wool Catalonian cap on his white
locks. At his belt he carries a pair of scissors to cut the long
leaves of the green tobacco he smokes into the hollow of his hand. A
venerable-looking person in fact, and when he crossed the square,
shaking hands with the priest, smiling protectingly at the gamblers, I
would never have believed that I was looking at the famous brigand
Piedigriggio, who held the woods in Monte-Rotondo from 1840 to 1860,
outwitted the police and the military, and who to-day, thanks to the
proscription by which he benefits, after seven or eight cold-blooded
murders, moves peaceably about the country which witnessed his crimes,
and enjoys a considerable importance. This is why: Piedigriggio has
two sons who, nobly following in his footsteps, have taken to the
carbine and the woods, in their turn not to be found, not to be
caught, as their father was, for twenty years; warned by the shepherds
of the movements of the police, when the latter leave a village, they
make their appearance in it. The eldest, Scipio, came to mass last
Sunday at Pozzonegro. To say they love them, and that the bloody hand-
shake of those wretches is a pleasure to all who harbour them, would
be to calumniate the peaceful inhabitants of this parish. But they
fear them, and their will is law.

Now, these Piedigriggios have taken it into their heads to favour our
opponent in the election. And their influence is a formidable power,
for they can make two whole cantons vote against us. They have long
legs, the rascals, as long in proportion as the reach of their guns.
Naturally, we have the police on our side, but the brigands are far
more powerful. As our innkeeper said this morning: "The police, they
go away; /ma/ the /banditti/ they stay." In the face of this logical
reasoning we understood that the only thing to be done was to treat
with the Gray-feet, to try a "job," in fact. The mayor said something
of this to the old man, who consulted his sons, and it is the
conditions of this treaty they are discussing downstairs. I hear the
voice of our general director, "Come, my dear fellow, you know I am an
old Corsican myself," and then the other's quiet replies, broken, like
his tobacco, by the irritating noise of his scissors. The "dear
fellow" does not seem to have much confidence, and until the coin is
ringing upon the table I fancy there will not be any advance.

You see, Paganetti is known in his native country. The worth of his
word is written on the square in Corte, still waiting for the monument
to Paoli, on the vast fields of carrots which he has managed to plant
on the Island of Ithaca, in the gaping empty purses of all those
unfortunate small tradesmen, village priests, and petty nobility,
whose poor savings he has swallowed up dazzling their eyes with
chimerical /combinazioni/. Truly, for him to dare to come back here,
it needed all his phenomenal audacity, as well as the resources now at
his disposal to satisfy all claims.

And, indeed, what truth is there in the fabulous works undertaken by
the Territorial Bank?


Mines, which produce nothing and never will produce anything, for they
exist only on paper; quarries, which are still innocent of pick or
dynamite, tracts of uncultivated sandy land that they survey with a
gesture, telling you, "We begin here, and we go right over there, as
far as you like." It is the same with the forests. The whole of a
wooded hill in Monte-Rotondo belongs to us, it seems, but the felling
of the trees is impossible unless aeronauts undertake the woodman's
work. It is the same with the watering-places, among which this
miserable hamlet of Pozzonegro is one of the most important, with its
fountain whose astonishing ferruginous properties Paganetti
advertises. Of the streamers, not a shadow. Stay--an old, half-ruined
Genoese tower on the shore of the Gulf of Ajaccio bears on a tarnished
escutcheon, above its hermetically sealed doors, this inscription:
"Paganetti's Agency. Maritime Company. Inquiry Office." Fat, gray
lizards tend the office in company with an owl. As for the railways,
all these honest Corsicans to whom I spoke of it smiled knowingly,
replied with winks and mysterious hints, and it was only this morning
that I had the exceedingly buffoonish explanation of all this

I had read among the documents which the director-general flaunts in
our eyes from time to time, like a fan to puff up his impostures, the
bill of sale of a marble quarry at a place said to be "Taverna," two
hours' distance from Pozzonegro. Profiting by our stay here, I got on
a mule this morning, without telling any one, and guided by a tall
scamp of a fellow with legs like a deer--true type of a Corsican
poacher or smuggler, his thick, red pipe in his mouth, his gun in a
bandoleer--I went to Taverna. After a fearful progress across cracked
rocks and bogs, past abysses of unsoundable depths--on the very edges
of which my mule maliciously walked as though to mark them out with
her shoes--we arrived, by an almost perpendicular descent, at the end
of our journey. It was a vast desert of rocks, absolutely bare, all
white with the droppings of gulls and sea-fowl, for the sea is at the
bottom, quite near, and the silence of the place was broken only by
the flow of the waves and the shrill cries of the wheeling circles of
birds. My guide, who has a holy horror of excisemen and the police,
stayed above on the cliff, because of a little coastguard station
posted like a watchman on the shore. I made for a large red building
which still maintained, in this burning solitude its three stories, in
spite of broken windows and ruinous tiles. Over the worm-eaten door
was an immense sign-board: "Territorial Bank. Carr----bre----54." The
wind, the sun, the rain, have wiped out the rest.

There has been there, certainly, a commencement of operations, for a
large square, gaping hole, cut out with a punch, is still open in the
ground, showing along its crumbling sides, like a leopard's spots, red
slabs with brown veins, and at the bottom, in the brambles, enormous
blocks of the marble, called in the trade "black-heart" (marble
spotted with red and brown), condemned blocks that no one could make
anything of for want of a road leading to the quarry or a harbour to
make the coast accessible for freight ships, and for want, above all,
of subsidies considerable enough to carry out one or the other of
these two projects. So the quarry remains abandoned, at a few cable-
lengths from the shore, as cumbrous and useless as Robinson Crusoe's
canoe in the same unfortunate circumstances. These details of the
heart-rending story of our sole territorial wealth were furnished by a
miserable caretaker, shaking with fever, whom I found in the low-
ceilinged room of the yellow house trying to roast a piece of kid over
the acrid smoke of a pistachio bush.

This man, who in himself is the whole staff of the Territorial Bank in
Corsica, is Paganetti's foster-father, an old lighthouse-keeper upon
whom the solitude does not weigh. Our director-general leaves him
there partly for charity and partly because letters dated from the
Taverna quarry, now and again, make a good show at the shareholders'
meetings. I had the greatest difficulty extracting a little
information from this poor creature, three parts savage, who looked
upon me with cautious mistrust, half hidden behind the long hair of
his goat-skin /pelone/. He told me, however, without intending it,
what the Corsicans understand by the word "railway," and why they put
on mysterious airs when they speak of it. As I was trying to find out
if he knew anything about the scheme for a railway in the country,
this old man, instead of smiling knowingly like his compatriots, said,
quite naturally, in passable French, his voice rusty and benumbed like
an ancient, little-used lock:

"Oh, sir, no need of a railway here."

"But it would be most valuable, most useful; it would facilitate

"I don't say no; but with the police we have enough here."

"The policemen?"


This /quid pro quo/ went on for some five minutes before I discovered
that here the secret police service is called "the railway." As there
are many Corsican policemen on the Continent they use this euphemism
to designate the ignoble calling they follow. You inquire of the
relations, "Where is your brother Ambrosini? What is your uncle
Barbicaglia doing?" They will answer with a little wink, "He has a
place on the railway," and every one knows what that means. Among the
people, the peasants, who have never seen a railway and don't know
what it is, it is quite seriously believed that the great occult
administration of the Imperial police has no other name than that. Our
principal agent in the country shares this touching simplicity of
belief. It shows you the real state of the "Line from Ajaccio to
Bastia, passing by Bonifacio, Porto Vecchio, etc.," as it is written
on the big, green-backed books of the house of Paganetti. In fact all
the goods of the Territorial Bank consist of a few sign-boards and two
ruins, the whole not worthy of lying in the "old materials" yard in
the Rue Saint-Ferdinand; every night as I go to sleep I hear the old
vanes grating and the old doors banging on emptiness.

But in this case, where have gone, where are going now, the enormous
sums M. Jansoulet has spent during the last five months--not to count
what came from the outside, attracted by the magic of his name? I
thought, as you did, that all these soundings, borings, purchasings of
land that the books set forth in fine round-hand were exaggerated
beyond measure. But who could suspect such effrontery? This is why the
director was so opposed to the idea of bringing me on the
electioneering trip. I don't want to have an explanation now. My poor
Nabob has quite enough trouble in this election. Only, whenever we get
back, I shall lay before him all the details of my long inquiry, and,
whether he wants it or not, I will get him out of this den of thieves.
They have finished below. Old Piedigriggio is crossing the square,
pulling up the slip-knot of his long peasant's purse, which looks to
me well filled. The bargain is made, I conclude. Good-bye, hurriedly,
my dear M. Joyeuse; remember me to your daughters and ask them to keep
a tiny little place for me round the work-table.


The electioneering whirlwind which had enveloped them in Corsica,
crossed the sea behind them like a blast of the sirocco and filled the
flat in the Place Vendome with a mad wind of folly. It was overrun
from morning to night by the habitual element, augmented now by a
constant arrival of little dark men, brown as the locust-bean, with
regular features and thick beards, some turbulent and talkative, like
Paganetti, others silent, self-contained and dogmatic: the two types
of the race upon which the same climate produces different effects.
All these famished islanders, in the depths of their savage country,
promised each other to meet at the Nabob's table. His house had become
an inn, a restaurant, a market-place. In the dining-room, where the
table was kept constantly laid, there was always to be found some
newly arrived Corsican, with the bewildered and greedy appearance of a
country cousin, having something to eat.

The boasting, clamorous race of election agents is the same
everywhere; but these were unusually fiery, had a zeal even more
impassioned and the vanity of turkey-cocks, all worked up to white
heat. The most insignificant recorder, inspector, mayor's secretary,
village schoolmaster, spoke as if he had the whole country behind him,
and the pockets of his threadbare black coat full of votes. And it is
a fact, in Corsican parishes (Jansoulet had seen it for himself)
families are so old, have sprung from so little, have so many
ramifications, that any poor fellow breaking stones on the road is
able to claim relationship with the greatest personages of the island,
and is thereby able to exert a serious influence. These complications
are aggravated still more by the national temperament, which is proud,
secretive, scheming, and vindictive; so it follows that one has to be
careful how one walks amid the network of threads stretching from one
extremity of the people to the other.

The worst was that all these people were jealous of each other,
detested each other, and quarrelled across the table about the
election, exchanging black looks and grasping the handles of their
knives at the least contradiction. They spoke very loud and all at
once, some in the hard, sonorous Genoese dialect, and others in the
most comical French, all choking with suppressed oaths. They threw in
each other's teeth names of unknown villages, dates of local scandals,
which suddenly revived between two fellow guests two centuries of
family hatreds. The Nabob was afraid of seeing his luncheons end
tragically, and strove to calm all this violence and conciliate them
with his large good-natured smile. But Paganetti reassured him.
According to him, the vendetta, though still existing in Corsica, no
longer employs the stiletto or the rifle except very rarely, and among
the lowest classes. The anonymous letter had taken their place.
Indeed, every day unsigned letters were received at the Place Vendome
written in this style:

"M. Jansoulet, you are so generous that I cannot do less than point
out to you that the Sieur Bornalinco (Ange-Marie) is a traitor, bought
by your enemies. I could say very differently about his cousin
Bornalinco (Louis-Thomas), who is devoted to the good cause, etc."

Or again:

"M. Jansoulet, I fear your chances of election will come to nothing,
and are on a poor foundation for success if you continue to employ one
named Castirla (Josue), of the parish of Omessa. His relative,
Luciani, is the man you need."

Although he no longer read any of these missives, the poor candidate
suffered from the disturbing effect of all these doubts and of all
these unchained passions. Caught in the gearing of those small
intrigues, full of fears, mistrustful, curious, feverish, he felt in
every aching nerve the truth of the Corsican proverb, "The greatest
ill you can wish your enemy is an election in his house."

It may be imagined that the check-book and the three deep drawers in
the mahogany cabinet were not spared by this hoard of devouring
locusts which had fallen upon "Moussiou Jansoulet's" dwelling. Nothing
could be more comic than the haughty manner in which these good
islanders effected their loans, briskly, and with an air of defiance.
At the same time it was not they who were the worst--except for the
boxes of cigars which sank in their pockets as though they all meant
to open a "Civette" on their return to their own country. For just as
the very hot weather inflames and envenoms old sores, so the election
had given an astonishing new growth to the pillaging already
established in the house. Money was demanded for advertising expenses,
for Moessard's articles, which were sent to Corsica in bales of
thousands of copies, with portraits, biographies, pamphlets--all the
printed clamour that it was possible to raise round a name. And always
the usual work of the suction-pumps went on, those pumps now fixed to
this great reservoir of millions. Here, the Bethlehem Society, a
powerful machine working with regular, slow-recurring strokes, full of
impetus; the Territorial Bank, a marvellous exhauster, indefatigable,
with triple and quadruple rows of pumps, several thousand horse-power,
the Schwalbach pump, the Bois l'Hery pump, and how many others as
well? Some enormous and noisy with screaming pistons, some quite dumb
and discreet with clack-valves knowingly oiled, pumps with tiny
valves, dear little pumps as fine as the sting of insects, and like
them, leaving a poison in the place whence they have drawn life; all
working together and bound to bring about if not a complete drought,
at least a serious lowering of level.

Already evil rumours, vague as yet, were going the round of the
Bourse. Was this a move of the enemy? For Jansoulet was waging a
furious money war against Hemerlingue, trying to thwart all his
financial operations, and was losing considerable sums at the game. He
had against him his own fury, his adversary's coolness, and the
blunderings of Paganetti, who was his man of straw. In any case his
golden star was no longer in the ascendant. Paul de Gery knew this
through Joyeuse, who was now a stock-broker's accountant and well up
in the doings on the Bourse. What troubled him most, however, was the
Nabob's singular agitation, his need of constant distraction which had
succeeded his former splendid calm of strength and security, the loss,
too, of his southern sobriety. He kept himself in a continual state of
excitement, drinking great glasses of /raki/ before his meals,
laughing long, talking loud, like a rough sailor ashore. You felt that
here was a man overdoing himself to escape from some heavy care. It
showed, however, in the sudden contraction of all the muscles of his
face, as some unhappy thought crossed his mind, or when he feverishly
turned the pages of his little gilt-edged note-book. The serious
interview that Paul wanted so much Jansoulet would not give him at any
price. He spent his nights at the club, his mornings in bed, and from
the moment he awoke his room was full of people who talked to him as
he dressed, and to whom he replied, sponge in hand. If, by a miracle,
de Gery caught him alone for a second, he fled, stopping his words
with a "Not now, not now, I beg of you." In the end the young man had
recourse to drastic measures.

One morning, towards five o'clock, when Jansoulet came home from his
club, he found a letter on the table near his bed. At first he took it
to be one of the many anonymous denunciations he received daily. It
was indeed a denunciation, but it was signed and undisguised; and it
breathed in every word the loyalty and the earnest youthfulness of him
who wrote it. De Gery pointed out very clearly all the infamies and
all the double dealing which surrounded him. With no beating about the
bush he called the rogues by their names. There was not one of the
usual guests whom he did not suspect, not one who came with any other
object than to steal and to lie. From the top to the bottom of the
house all was pillage and waste. Bois l'Hery's horses were unsound,
Schwalbach's gallery was a swindle, Moessard's articles a recognised
blackmail. De Gery had made a long detailed memorandum of these
scandalous abuses, with proofs in support of it. But he specially
recommended to Jansoulet's attention the accounts of the Territorial
Bank as the real danger of the situation. Attracted by the Nabob's
name, as chairman of the company, hundreds of shareholders had fallen
into the infamous trap--poor seekers of gold, following the lucky
miner. In the other matters it was only money he lost; here his honour
was at stake. He would discover what a terrible responsibility lay
upon him if he examined the papers of the business, which was only
deception and cheatery from one end to the other.

"You will find the memorandum of which I speak," said Paul de Gery, at
the end of his letter, "in the top drawer of my desk along with sundry
receipts. I have not put them in your room, because I mistrust Noel
like the rest. When I go away to-night I will give you the key. For I
am going away, my dear benefactor and friend, I am going away full of
gratitude for the good you have done me, and heartbroken that your
blind confidence has prevented me from repaying you even in part. As
things are now, my conscience as an honest man will not let me stay
any longer useless at my post. I am looking on at a disaster, at the
sack of a palace, which I can do nothing to prevent. My heart burns at
all I see. I give handshakes which shame me. I am your friend, and I
seem their accomplice. And who knows that if I went on living in such
an atmosphere I might not become one?"

This letter, which he read slowly and carefully, even between the
lines and through the words, made so great an impression on the Nabob
that, instead of going to bed, he went at once to find his young
secretary. De Gery had a study at the end of the row of public rooms
where he slept on a sofa. It had been a provisional arrangement, but
he had preferred not to change it.

The house was still asleep. As he was crossing the lofty rooms, filled
with the vague light of a Parisian dawn (those blinds were never
lowered, as no evening receptions were held there), the Nabob stopped,
struck by the look of sad defilement his luxury wore. In the heavy
odour of tobacco and various liqueurs which hung over everything, the
furniture, the ceilings, the woodwork could be seen, already faded and
still new. Spots on the crumpled satins, ashes staining the beautiful
marbles, dirty footmarks on the carpets. It reminded one of a huge
first-class railway carriage incrusted with all the laziness, the
impatience, the boredom of a long journey, and all the wasteful,
spoiling disdain of the public for a luxury for which it has paid. In
the middle of this set scene, still warm from the atrocious comedy
played there every day, his own image, reflected in twenty cold and
staring looking-glasses, stood out before him, forbidding yet comical,
in absolute contrast to his elegant clothes, his eyes swollen, his
face bloated and inflamed.

What an obvious and disenchanting to-morrow to the mad life he was

He lost himself for a moment in dreary thought; then he gave his
shoulders a vigorous shake, a movement frequent with him--it was like
a peddler shifting his pack--as though to rid himself of too cruel
cares, and again took up the burden every man carried with him, which
bows his back, more or less, according to his courage or his strength,
and went into de Gery's room, who was already up, standing at his desk
sorting papers.

"First of all, my friend," said Jansoulet, softly shutting the door
for their interview, "answer me frankly. Is it really for the motives
given in your letter that you have resolved to leave me? Is there not,
beneath it all, one of those scandals that I know are being circulated
in Paris against me? I am sure you would be loyal enough to warn me
and to give me the opportunity of--of clearing myself to you."

Paul assured him that he had no other reasons for going, but that
those were surely sufficient, since it was a matter of conscience.

"Then, my boy, listen to me, and I am sure of keeping you. Your
letter, so eloquent of honesty and sincerity, has told me nothing that
I have not been convinced of for three months. Yes, my dear Paul, you
were right. Paris is more complicated than I thought. What I needed,
when I arrived, was an honest and disinterested cicerone to put me on
my guard against people and things. I met only swindlers. Every
worthless rascal in the town has left the mud of his boots on my
carpets. I was looking at them just now--my poor drawing-rooms. They
need a fine sweeping out. And I swear to you they shall have it, by
God, and with no light hand! But I must wait for that until I am a
deputy. All these scoundrels are of use to me for the election, and
this election is far too necessary now for me to risk losing the
smallest chance. In a word, this is the situation: Not only does the
Bey mean to keep the money I lent him three months ago, but he has
replied to my summons by a counter action for eighty millions, the sum
out of which he says I cheated his brother. It is a frightful theft,
an audacious libel. My fortune is mine, my own. I made it by my trade
as a merchant. I had Ahmed's favour; he gave me the opportunity of
becoming rich. It is possible I may have put on the screw a little
tightly sometimes. But one must not judge these things from a European
standpoint. Over there, the enormous profits the Levantines make is an
accepted fact--a known thing. It is the ransom those savages pay for
the western comfort we bring them. That wretch Hemerlingue, who is
suggesting all this persecution against me, has done just as much. But
what is the use of talking? I am in the lion's jaws. While waiting for
me to go to defend myself at his tribunals--and how I know it, justice
of the Orient!--the Bey has begun by putting an embargo on all my
goods, ships, and palaces, and what they contain. The affair was
conducted quite regularly by a decree of the Supreme Court. Young
Hemerlingue had a hand in that, you can see. If I am made a deputy, it
is only a joke. The court takes back its decree and they give me back
my treasure with every sort of excuse. If I am not elected I lose
everything, sixty, eighty millions, even the possibility of making
another fortune. It is ruin, disgrace, dishonour. Are you going to
abandon me in such a crisis? Think--I have only you in the whole
world. My wife--you have seen her, you know what help, what support
she is to her husband. My children--I might as well not have any. I
never see them; they would scarcely know me in the street. My horrible
wealth has killed all affection around me and has enveloped me with
shameless self-seeking. I have only my mother to love me, and she is
far away, and you who came to me from my mother. No, you will not
leave me alone amid all the scandals that are creeping around me. It
is awful--if you only knew! At the club, at the play, wherever I go I
seem to see the little viper's head of the Baroness Hemerlingue, I
hear the echo of her hiss, I feel the venom of her bite. Everywhere
mocking looks, conversation stopped when I appear, lying smiles, or
kindness mixed with a little pity. And then the deserters, and the
people who keep out of the way as at the approach of a misfortune.
Look at Felicia Ruys: just as she had finished my bust she pretends

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