Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (2024)

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Title: Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II

Author: Various

Editor: William Patten

Release date: June 22, 2024 [eBook #73893]

Language: English

Original publication: New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1907

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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SHORT STORY CLASSICS (FOREIGN), VOL. 5, FRENCH II ***

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (1)

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Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (2)
Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (3)

(FOREIGN)

VOLUME FIVE
FRENCH II

EDITED BY
William Patten

WITH
AN INTRODUCTION
AND NOTES

P. F. COLLIER & SON
NEW YORK

Copyright 1907
By P. F. Collier & Son

The use of the copyrighted translations in this
collection has been authorized by the
authors or their representatives. The
translations made especially for
this collection are covered
by the general
copyright

CONTENTS—VOLUME V

PAGE
LA BRETONNE
André Theuriet
1339
WHICH WAS THE MADMAN?
Edmond About
1349
THE GRAND MARRIAGE
Ludovic Halévy
1379
THE ACCURSED HOUSE
Émile Gaboriau
1415
THE FÊTE AT COQUEVILLE
Émile Zola
1427
THE LOST CHILD
François Coppée
1471
PUTOIS
Anatole France
1495
SAC-AU-DOS
Joris Karl Huysmans
1515
"BONJOUR, MONSIEUR"
Jean Richepin
1559
THE BIT OF STRING
Guy de Maupassant
1571
THE NECKLACE
Guy de Maupassant
1581
THE WALL OPPOSITE
Pierre Loti
1595
THE ANCESTOR
Paul Bourget
1605
WHEN HE WAS A LITTLE BOY
Henri Lavedan
1639
A GENTLEMAN FINDS A WATCH
Georges Courteline
1651
A YOUNG GIRL'S DIARY
Marcel Prévost
1659
THE SIGN OF THE KEY AND THE CROSS
Henri de Régnier
1671
THE TELEGRAPH OPERATOR
Alphonse Allais
1685

LA BRETONNE

BY CLAUDE ADHÉMAR ANDRÉ THEURIET

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (4)

André Theuriet, born at Marly-le-Roi in1833, went to Paris to study law, and finallybecame head of the Government Departmentof Finance. In 1857 appeared the charmingcollection of verses called "Chemin des Bois,"which was crowned by the Academy, andwhich earned for the author the title of "SongSparrow" from the great critic Sainte-Beuve.

Theuriet received, in 1890, the Vitel prizefrom the Academy for general literary excellence,and was admitted to that body in 1896.His style is sane, fresh, limpid, delicate, andrich in color. He is a lover of nature with aprofound feeling for the peasant.

Theuriet's standing is well assured whenwe consider that such men as Jules Claretie,Adolph Brisson, François Coppée, all contributedappreciations of Theuriet in "Les AnnalesPolitiques et Littéraires," soon after his death,on April 23, 1907.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (5)

[Pg 1339]

LA BRETONNE

BY ANDRÉ THEURIET

Translated by B. C. Waggener.
Copyright, 1891, by The Current LiteraturePublishing Company.

One November evening, the eve of Sainte-Catherine'sDay, the gate of the Auberiveprison turned upon its hinges to allow to passout a woman of some thirty years, clad in a fadedwoolen gown and coiffed in a linen cap that framedin a singular fashion a face pale and puffed by thatsickly-hued fat which develops on prison regimen.She was a prisoner whom they had just liberated, andwhom her companions of detention called La Bretonne.

Condemned for infanticide, it was exactly, day forday, six years ago that the prison van had brought herto the Centrale. Now, in her former garb, and withher small stock of money received from the clerk inher pocket, she found herself free and with her roadpassstamped for Langres.

The courier for Langres, however, had long sincegone. Cowed and awkward, she took her way stumblinglytoward the chief inn of the borough, and withtrembling voice asked shelter for the night. But theinn was crowded, and the aubergiste, who did not careto harbor "one of those birds from over yonder,"counseled her to push on to the cabaret at the far endof the village.

La Bretonne passed on, and, more trembling and[Pg 1340]awkward than ever, knocked at the door of thatcabaret, which, properly speaking, was but a cantinefor laborers. The cabaretière also eyed her askance,scenting doubtless a "discharged" from the Centrale,and finally refused her on the plea that she had no bedto give her.

La Bretonne dared not insist, but with bowed headpursued her way, while at the bottom of her soul roseand grew a dull hatred for that world which thusrepulsed her.

She had no other resource than to gain Langresafoot.

Toward the end of November, night comes quickly.Soon she found herself enveloped in darkness, on agrayish road that ran between two divisions of theforest, and where the north wind whistled fiercely,choked her with dust, and pelted her with dead leaves.

After six years of sedentary and recluse life herlegs were stiff, the muscles knotted and her feet, accustomedto sabots, pinched and bruised by her new slippers.At the end of a league she felt them blisteredand herself exhausted. She dropped upon a pile ofstones by the wayside, shivering and asking herself ifshe was going to be forced to perish of cold andhunger in this black night, under this icy breeze, whichfroze her to the marrow.

All at once, in the solitude of the road, she seemedto hear the droning notes of a voice singing. She listenedand distinguished the air of one of those caressingand monotonous chants with which one soothesyoung children.

[Pg 1341]

She was not alone, then!

She struggled to her feet and in the direction fromwhich the voice came, and there, at the turn of a crossroad,perceived a reddish light streaming through thebranches. Five minutes later she was before a mud-walledhovel, whose roof, covered by squares of sod,leaned again the rock, and whose window had allowedto pass that beckoning ray.

With anxious heart she decided to knock.

The chant ceased instantly and a woman opened thedoor, a peasant woman, no older than La Bretonneherself, but faded and aged by work. Her bodice,torn in places, displayed the skin tanned and dirty;her red hair escaped disheveled from under a soiledstuff cap, and her gray eyes regarded with amazementthe stranger whose face had in it something of touchingloneliness.

"Good evening!" said she, lifting yet higher thesputtering lamp in her hand; "what do you desire?"

"I am unable to go on," murmured La Bretonne, ina voice broken by a sob; "the city is far, and if youwill lodge me for the night, you will do me a service....I have money; I will pay you for the trouble."

"Enter," replied the other, after a moment's hesitancy;"but why," continued she, in a tone more curiousthan suspicious, "did you not sleep at Auberive?"

"They would not give me a lodging," lowering herblue eyes and taken with a sudden scruple, "be—because,see you, I come from the Maison Centrale."

"So! the Maison Centrale! but no matter—enter—Ifear nothing, having known only misery. Moreover,[Pg 1342]I've a conscience against turning a Christianfrom the door on a night like this. I'll give you a bedand a slice of cheese."

And she pulled from the eaves some bundles ofdried heather and spread them as a pallet in the cornerby the fire.

"Do you live here alone?" demanded La Bretonne,timidly.

"Yes, with my gâchette, going on seven years now.I earn our living by working in the wood."

"Your man, then, is dead?"

"Yes," said the other bruskly, "the gâchette has nofather. Briefly, to each his sorrow! But come, beholdyour straw, and two or three potatoes left from supper.It is all I can offer you—"

She was called by a childish voice coming froma dark nook, separated from the room by a boardpartition.

"Good night!" she repeated, "the little one cries; Imust go, but sleep you well!"

And taking up the lamp she passed into the closet,leaving La Bretonne crouched alone in the darkness.

Stretched upon her heather, after she had eaten hersupper, she strove to close her eyes, but sleep wouldnot come to her. Through the thin partition she heardthe mother still softly talking to the child, whom thearrival of a stranger had wakened, and who did notwish to go to sleep again.

The mother soothed and fondled it with words ofendearment that somehow strangely disturbed LaBretonne. That outburst of simple tenderness seemed[Pg 1343]to waken a confused maternal instinct in the soul ofthat girl condemned in the past for having stifled hernew-born.

"If things had not gone so badly with me," thoughtLa Bretonne, sorrowfully, "it would have been thesame age as this little one here."

At that thought and at the sound of that childishvoice, a sickening shudder seemed to shake her veryvitals; something soft and tender to spring up in thatsoured heart, and an increasing need for the reliefof tears.

"But come, come, my little one," the mother cried,"to sleep you must go! And if you are good and doas I say, to-morrow I'll take you to the Sainte-Catherine'sFair!"

"The fête of little children, mama; the fête of littlechildren, you mean?"

"Yes, my angel, of little children."

"And the day when the good Sainte-Catherinebrings playthings to the babies, mama?"

"Sometimes—yes."

"Then why doesn't she bring playthings to ourhouse, mama?"

"We live too far away, perhaps; and then—we aretoo poor."

"She brings them only to rich babies, then, mama?But why, mama, why, I say? I should love to seeplaythings!"

"Eh, bien! some day you may, if you are very good—to-night,perhaps, if you are wise and go to sleepsoon."

[Pg 1344]

"I will, then, mama, I will right away, so she canbring them to-morrow."

The little voice ceased; there was a long silence;then a long breath, even and light!

The child slept at last—the mother also.

La Bretonne, only, did not sleep! An emotion, atonce poignant and tender, tore at her heart, and shethought more than ever of that other little one, whomthey said she had killed.... This lasted till dawn.

Mother and child slept still, but La Bretonne was upand out, gliding hurriedly and furtively in the directionof Auberive and slackening her pace only whenthe first houses of the village came in sight.

Soon she had reached and was traversing its onlystreet, walking slowly now and scanning with all hereyes the signs of the shops. One at last seemed to fixher attention. She knocked at the shutter and presentlyit opened. A mercer's shop, apparently, but alsowith some toys and playthings in the window—poor,pitiful trifles, a pasteboard doll, a Noah's ark, a woolly,stiff-legged little sheep!

To the astonishment of the merchant, La Bretonnepurchased them all, paid, and went out. She had resumedthe road to the hovel in the wood, when suddenlya hand fell heavily upon her shoulder, and shewas face to face with a brigadier of gendarmerie.

The unhappy one had forgotten that it was forbiddento liberated prisoners to loiter near the MaisonCentrale.

"Instead of vagabondizing here, you should alreadybe at Langres," said the brigadier, gruffly. "Come,[Pg 1345]march, be off with you! To the road, to the road,I say!"

She sought to explain. Pains lost. At once a passingcart was pressed into service, La Bretonne bundledinto it, and in charge of a gendarme once more enroute for Langres.

The cart jolted lumberingly over the frozenruts. The poor La Bretonne clutched with a heartbrokenair her bundle of playthings in her freezingfingers.

All at once, at a turn of the road, she recognizedthe cross path that led through the wood. Her heartleaped and she besought the gendarme to stop onlyone moment. She had a commission for La Fleuriotte,the woman that lived there!

She supplicated with so much fervor that the gendarme,a good man at heart, allowed himself to bepersuaded. They stopped, tied the horse to a tree, andascended the pathway.

Before the door La Fleuriotte hewed the gatheredwood into the required fa*gots. On seeing her visitorreturn, accompanied by a gendarme, she stood open-mouthedand with arms hanging.

"Hist!" said La Bretonne, "hist! the little one—doesit sleep still?"

"Yes—but—"

"Then, here, these playthings, lay them on the bedand tell her Sainte-Catherine brought them. I returnedto Auberive for them; but it seems I had noright to do it, and they are taking me now toLangres."

[Pg 1346]

"Holy Mother of God!" cried the amazed La Fleuriotte.

"Hist! be still, I say!"

And drawing near the bed herself, followed alwaysby her escort, La Bretonne scattered upon the coverletthe doll, the Noah's ark, and the stiff-legged, woolly,and somewhat grimy little lamb, bent the bare arm ofthe child till it clasped the latter, then turned with asmile.

"Now," said she, addressing the gendarme, vigorouslyrubbing his eyes with the cuff of his jacket—thefrost, it seemed, had gotten into them—"I am ready:we can go!"

[Pg 1347]

WHICH WAS THE MADMAN?

BY EDMOND FRANÇOIS VALENTIN ABOUT

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (6)

Edmond About, born at Dieuze in 1828, authorof a play, "Gaetana," the noisy failure ofwhich crushed for a long time his dramaticaspiration, turned to the writing of novels,such as "The Marriages of Paris," "Madelon,"and "The Romish Question," the latter a bookwhich attacked with great venom and vivacitythe temporal power of the Pope. "The Man ofthe Old School" is a general title under whichhe collected separate stories, studies of socialreform, such as "The Romance of an HonestMan," at one time an eloquent manual of patriotism.About has also written studies inpolitics and finance, besides art criticisms,more brilliant than profound.

About's style is distinguished by its spiritand lucidity. He knows how to tell a story,and has great respect for his mother tongue.He was elected to the Academy in 1884, butdied in 1885 without delivering his thesis.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (7)

[Pg 1348]

[Pg 1349]

WHICH WAS THE MADMAN?
THE STORY OF A STRANGE CASE

BY EDMOND ABOUT

Copyright, 1903, by The Current Literature Publishing Company.

I

One might pass Dr. Auvray's house twentytimes without suspecting the miracles thatare wrought there. It is a modest establishmentnear the end of Montaigne Avenue, betweenPrince Soltikoff's Gothic palace and the gymnasium.The unpretentious iron gates open into a small garden,filled with lilacs and rosebushes. The porter'slodge is on the left side of the gateway; the wingcontaining the doctor's office and the apartments ofhis wife and daughter are on the right; while the mainbuilding stands with its back to the street and its southwindows overlook a small grove of horsechestnuts andlindens.

It is there that the doctor treats, and generally cures,cases of mental aberration. I would not introduce youinto his house, however, if you incurred any risk ofmeeting frenzied lunatics or hopeless imbeciles. Youwill be spared all such harrowing sights. Dr. Auvrayis a specialist, and treats cases of monomania only.He is an extremely kind-hearted man, endowed withplenty of shrewdness and good sense; a true philosopher,[Pg 1350]an untiring student, and an enthusiastic followerof the famous Esquirol.

Having come into possession of a small fortunesoon after the completion of his medical course, hemarried, and founded the establishment which we havedescribed. Had there been a spark of charlatanism inhis composition, he could easily have amassed a fortune,but he had been content to merely earn a living.He shunned notoriety, and when he effected a wonderfulcure, he never proclaimed it upon the housetops.His very enviable reputation had been acquired withoutany effort on his part, and almost against his will.Would you have a proof of this? Well, his treatise onmonomania, published by Baillière in 1852, has passedthrough six editions, though the author has never senta single copy to the newspapers. Modesty is a goodthing, certainly, but one may carry it too far. MademoiselleAuvray will have a dowry of only twentythousand francs, and she will be twenty-two in April.

About a month ago a hired coupé stopped in frontof Dr. Auvray's door, from which two men alightedand entered the office. The servant asked them to beseated, and await his master's return.

One of the visitors was about fifty years of age, atall, stout, dark-complexioned but ruddy-faced man,rather ungainly in figure and appearance. He hadthick, stubby hands and enormous thumbs. Picture alaboring man, dressed in his employer's clothes, andyou have M. Morlot.

His nephew, Francis Thomas, is a young man, abouttwenty-three years old; but it is very difficult to describe[Pg 1351]him, as there is nothing distinctive either in hismanner or appearance. He is neither tall nor short,handsome nor ugly, stout nor thin—in short, he iscommonplace and mediocre in every respect, with chestnuthair, and of an extremely retiring disposition, mannerand attire. When he entered Dr. Auvray's office,he seemed to be greatly excited. He walked wildly toand fro, as if unable to remain in one place; lookedat twenty different things in the same instant, andwould certainly have handled them all if his hands hadnot been tied.

"Compose yourself, my dear Francis," said hisuncle, soothingly. "What I am doing is for yourown good. You will be perfectly comfortable andhappy here, and the doctor is sure to cure you."

"I am not sick. There is nothing whateverthe matter with me. Why have you tied myhands?"

"Because you would have thrown me out of thewindow, if I had not. You are not in your right mind,my poor boy, but Dr. Auvray will soon make you wellagain."

"I am as sane as you are, uncle; and I can't imaginewhat you mean. My mind is perfectly clear and mymemory excellent. Shall I recite some poetry to you,or construe some Latin? I see there is a Tacitus herein the bookcase. Or, if you prefer, I will solve a problemin algebra or geometry. You don't desire it?Very well, then listen while I tell you what you havebeen doing this morning.

"You came to my room at eight o'clock, not to[Pg 1352]wake me, for I was not asleep, but to get me out ofbed. I dressed myself without any assistance fromGermain. You asked me to accompany you to Dr.Auvray's; I refused; you insisted; then Germain aidedyou in tying my hands. I shall dismiss him this evening.I owe him thirteen days' wages; that is to say,thirteen francs, as I promised to pay him thirty francsa month. You, too, owe him something, as you arethe cause of his losing his New Year's gift. Isn't thisa tolerably clear statement of the facts? Do you stillintend to try to make me out a lunatic? Ah, my dearuncle, let your better nature assert itself. Rememberthat my mother was your sister. What would mypoor mother say if she saw me here? I bear you noill-will, and everything can be amicably arranged.You have a daughter."

"Ah, there it is again. You must certainly see thatyou are not in your right mind. I have a daughter—I?Why, I am a bachelor, as you know perfectlywell."

"You have a daughter—" repeated Francis,mechanically.

"My poor nephew, listen to me a moment. Haveyou a cousin?"

"A cousin? No, I have no cousin. Oh, you won'tcatch me there. I have no cousin, either male orfemale."

"But I am your uncle, am I not?"

"Yes; you are my uncle, of course, though youseem to have forgotten the fact this morning."

"Then if I had a daughter, she would be your[Pg 1353]cousin; but as you have no cousin, I can have nodaughter."

"You are right, of course. I had the pleasure ofmeeting her at Ems last summer with her mother;I love her; I have reason to believe that she is notindifferent to me, and I have the honor to ask youfor her hand in marriage."

"Whose hand, may I ask?"

"Your daughter's hand."

"Just hear him," Morlot said to himself. "Dr.Auvray must certainly be very clever if he succeedsin curing him. I am willing to pay him six thousandfrancs a year for board and treatment. Six thousandfrancs from thirty thousand leaves twenty-four thousand.How rich I shall be! Poor Francis!"

He seated himself again, and picked up a book thatchanced to be lying on a table near him.

"Calm yourself," he said soothingly, "and I willread you something. Try to listen. It may quietyou."

Opening the volume, he read as follows:

"'Monomania is opinionativeness on one subject;a persistent clinging to one idea; the supreme ascendencyof a single passion. It has its origin in the heart.To cure the malady, the cause must be ascertainedand removed. It arises generally from love, fear,vanity, overweening ambition or remorse, and betraysitself by the same symptoms as any other passion;sometimes by boisterousness, gaiety, and garrulousness;sometimes by extreme timidity, melancholy, andsilence.'"

[Pg 1354]

As M. Morlot read on, Francis became more quiet,and at last appeared to fall into a peaceful slumber.

"Bravo!" thought the uncle, "here is a triumph ofmedical skill already. It has put to sleep a man whowas neither hungry nor sleepy!"

Francis was not asleep, but he was feigning sleepto perfection. His head drooped lower and lower,and he regulated his heavy breathing with mathematicalexactness. Uncle Morlot was completely deceived.He went on reading for some time in moreand more subdued tones; then he yawned; then hestopped reading; then he let the book drop from hishands and closed his eyes, and in another minute hewas sound asleep, to the intense delight of his nephew,who was watching him maliciously out of the cornerof his eye.

Francis began operations by scraping his chair onthe uncarpeted floor, but M. Morlot moved no morethan a post. Francis then tramped noisily up anddown the room, but his uncle snored the louder. Thenthe nephew approached the doctor's desk, picked upan eraser that was lying there, and with it finally succeededin cutting the rope that bound his hands. Onregaining his liberty he uttered a smothered exclamationof joy; then he cautiously approached his uncle.In two minutes, M. Morlot himself was securelybound, but it had been done so gently and so adroitlythat his slumbers had not been disturbed in the least.

Francis stood admiring his work for a moment;then he stooped and picked up the book that had fallento the floor. It was Dr. Auvray's treatise on monomania.[Pg 1355]He carried it off into a corner of the roomand began to read it with much apparent interest, whileawaiting the doctor's coming.

II

It is necessary to revert briefly to the antecedentsof this uncle and nephew. Francis Thomas was theonly son of a former toy-merchant, on the Rue deSaumon. The toy trade is an excellent business, aboutone hundred per cent profit being realized on mostof the articles; consequently, since his father's death,Francis had been enjoying that ease generally knownas honest ease; possibly because it enables one to livewithout stooping to sordid acts; possibly, too, becauseit enables one to keep one's friends honest, also. Inshort, he had an income of thirty thousand francsa year.

His tastes were extremely simple, as I have saidbefore. He detested show, and always selected gloves,waistcoats, and trousers of those sober hues shadingfrom dark brown to black. He never carried an eyeglassfor the very good reason, he said, that he hadexcellent eyesight; he wore no scarf-pin, because heneeded no pin to hold his cravat securely; but thefact is, he was afraid of exciting comment. He wouldhave been wretched had his sponsors bestowed uponhim any save the most commonplace names; but,fortunately, his cognomens were as modest and unpretendingas if he had chosen them himself.

His excessive modesty prevented him from adopting[Pg 1356]a profession. When he left college, he consideredlong and carefully the seven or eight different pathsopen before him. A legal career seemed to be attendedwith too much publicity; the medical professionwas too exciting; business too complicated. The responsibilitiesof an instructor of youth were too onerous;the duties of a government official too confiningand servile. As for the army, that was out of thequestion, not because he feared the enemy, but becausehe shuddered at the thought of wearing a uniform;so he finally decided to live on his income, not becauseit was the easiest thing to do, but because it was themost unobtrusive.

But it was in the presence of the fair sex that hisweakness became most apparent. He was always inlove with somebody. Whenever he attended a play ora concert he immediately began to gaze around him insearch of a pretty face. If he found one to his taste,the play was admirable, the music perfection; if hefailed, the whole performance was detestable, theactors murdered their lines, and all the singers sangout of tune. He worshiped these divinities in secret,however, for he never dared to speak to one of them.

When he fancied himself a victim to the tender passion,he spent the greater part of his time in composingthe most impassioned declarations of love, whichnever passed his lips, however. In imagination headdressed the tenderest words of affection to hisadored one, and revealed the innermost depths of hissoul to her; he held long conversations with her, delightfulinterviews, in which he furnished both the[Pg 1357]questions and answers. His burning protestations ofundying love would have melted a heart of ice, butnone of his divinities were ever aware of his aspirationsand longings.

It chanced, however, in the month of August ofthat same year, about four months before he soadroitly bound his uncle's hands, that Francis hadmet at Ems a young lady almost as shy and retiringas himself, a young lady whose excessive timidityseemed to imbue him with some of the courage of anordinary mortal. She was a frail, delicate Parisienne—paleas a flower that had blossomed in the shade,and with a skin as transparent as an infant's. Shewas at Ems in company with her mother, who hadbeen advised to try the waters for an obstinate throattrouble, chronic laryngitis, if I remember right. Themother and daughter had evidently led a very secludedlife, for they watched the noisy crowd with undisguisedcuriosity and amazement. Francis was introducedto them quite unexpectedly by one of his friendswho was returning from Italy by way of Germany.After that, Francis was with them almost constantlyfor a month; in fact, he was their sole companion.

For sensitive, retiring souls, a crowd is the mostcomplete of solitudes; the more people there are aroundthem, the more persistently they retreat to a corner tocommune with themselves. Of course, the mother anddaughter soon became well acquainted with Francis,and they grew very fond of him. Like the navigatorwho first set foot on American soil, they discoveredsome new treasure every day. They never inquired[Pg 1358]whether he was rich or poor; it was enough for themto know that he was good. Francis, for his part, wasinexpressibly delighted with his own transformation.Have you ever heard how spring comes in the gardensof Russia? One day everything is shrouded in snow;the next day a ray of sunshine appears and puts grimwinter to flight. By noon the trees are in bloom; bynight they are covered with leaves; a day or two moreand the fruit appears.

The heart of Francis underwent a similar metamorphosis.His reserve and apparent coldness disappearedas if by magic, and in a few short weeks thetimid youth was transformed into a resolute, energeticman—at least to all appearances. I do not know whichof the three persons first mentioned marriage, but thatis a matter of no consequence. Marriage is alwaysunderstood when two honest hearts avow their love.

Now Francis was of age, and undisputed master ofhimself and his possessions, but the girl he loved had afather whose consent must be obtained, and it was justhere that this young man's natural timidity of dispositionreasserted itself. True, Claire had said to him:"You can write to my father without any misgivings.He knows all about our attachment. You will receivehis consent by return mail."

Francis wrote and rewrote his letter a hundredtimes, but he could not summon up the courage tosend it.

Surely the ordeal was an easy one, and it wouldseem as though the most timorous mind could havepassed through it triumphantly. Francis knew the[Pg 1359]name, position, fortune, and even the disposition of hisprospective father-in-law. He had been initiated intoall the family secrets, he was virtually a member ofthe household. The only thing he had to do was tostate in the briefest manner who he was and what hepossessed. There was no doubt whatever as to theresponse; but he delayed so long that at the end of amonth Claire and her mother very naturally began todoubt his sincerity. I think they would have waitedpatiently another fortnight, however, but the fatherwould not permit it. If Claire loved the young man,and her lover was not disposed to make known hisintentions, the girl must leave him at once. PerhapsMr. Francis Thomas would then come and ask herhand in marriage. He knew where to find her.

Thus it chanced that, one morning when Franciswent to invite the ladies to walk as usual, the proprietorof the hotel informed him that they had returned toParis, and that their apartments were already occupiedby an English family. This crushing blow, falling sounexpectedly, destroyed the poor fellow's reason, and,rushing out of the house like a madman, he began afrantic search for Claire in all the places where he hadbeen in the habit of meeting her. At last he returnedto his own hotel with a violent sick headache, whichhe proceeded to doctor in the most energetic manner.First he had himself bled, then he took baths in boilinghot water, and applied the most ferocious mustardplasters; in short, he avenged his mental tortures uponhis innocent body. When he believed himself cured,he started for France, firmly resolved to have an interview[Pg 1360]with Claire's father before even changing hisclothes. He traveled with all possible speed, jumpedoff the train before it stopped, forgetting his baggageentirely, sprang into a cab, and shouted to thecoachman:

"Drive to her home as quick as you can!"

"Where, sir?"

"To the house of Monsieur—on the—the Rue—Ican't remember." He had forgotten the name andaddress of the girl he loved.

"I will go home," he said to himself, "and it willcome back to me."

So he handed his card to the coachman, who tookhim to his own home.

His concierge was an aged man, with no children,and named Emmanuel. On seeing him, Francis bowedprofoundly, and said:

"Sir, you have a daughter, Mlle. Claire Emmanuel.I intended to write and ask you for her hand in marriage,but decided it would be more seemly to makethe request in person."

They saw that he was mad, and his uncle Morlot,in the Faubourg Saint Antoine, was immediatelysummoned.

Now Uncle Morlot was the most scrupulously honestman on the Rue Charonne, which, by the way, isone of the longest streets in Paris. He manufacturedantique furniture with conscientious care, but onlymediocre skill. He was not a man to pass off ebonizedpine for real ebony, or a cabinet of his own makefor a medieval production; and yet, he understood the[Pg 1361]art of making new wood look old and full of apparentworm-holes as well as anybody living; but it was aprinciple of his never to cheat or deceive any one.With almost absurd moderation for a follower of thistrade, he limited his profits to five per cent over andabove the expenses of the business, so he had gainedmore esteem than money. When he made out a bill,he invariably added up the items three times, so afraidwas he of making a mistake in his own favor.

After thirty years of close attention to business hewas very little better off than when he finished hisapprenticeship. He had merely earned his living, justlike the humblest of his workmen, and he often askedhimself rather enviously how his brother-in-law hadmanaged to acquire a competence. If this brother-in-law,with the natural arrogance of a parvenu, ratherlooked down on the poor cabinet-maker, the latter,with all the pride of a man who has not tried to succeedfinancially, esteemed himself all the more highly.He gloried in his poverty, as it were; and said tohimself with plebeian pride: "I, at least, have thesatisfaction of knowing that I owe nothing to anyone."

Man is a strange animal: I am not the first personwho has made that remark. This most estimableM. Morlot, whose overscrupulous probity made himalmost a laughing-stock, experienced a singular feelingof elation in his secret heart when he was apprisedof his nephew's condition. An insinuating voicewhispered softly: "If Francis is insane, you will becomehis guardian."

[Pg 1362]

"You will be none the richer," responded Conscience,promptly.

"And why not?" persisted the Tempter. "The expensesof an insane person never amount to thirtythousand francs a year. Besides, you will be put toa great deal of trouble and have to neglect your business,very probably, so it is only right that you shouldreceive some compensation. You will not be wrongingany one by taking part of the money."

"But one ought to expect no compensation for suchservices to a member of one's family," retorted thevoice of Conscience.

"Then why have the members of our family neverdone anything for me? I have been in straitened circ*mstancesagain and again, and have found it almostimpossible to meet my obligations, but neither mynephew Francis nor his deceased father ever renderedme the slightest assistance."

"Nonsense," replied his better nature; "this attackof insanity is nothing serious. Francis will be himselfa*gain in a few days."

"It is just as probable that the malady will wear himout and that you will come into possession of the entireproperty," persisted the wily Tempter.

The worthy cabinet-maker tried to close his ears tothe insidious voice, but his ears were so large that thesubtle, persistent voice glided in, despite all his efforts.The establishment on the Rue Charonne was intrustedto the care of the foreman, and the uncle took up hisabode in his nephew's comfortable apartments. Heslept in an excellent bed, and enjoyed it very much; he[Pg 1363]sat down to a well-spread table, and the indigestion,which had tormented him for years, vanished as if byenchantment. He was waited upon and shaved byGermain, his nephew's valet, and he speedily came toregard such attentions as a necessity. Gradually, too,he became accustomed to seeing his nephew in thisdeplorable condition, and to quite reconcile himself tothe idea that he would never be cured, but all the whilehe kept repeating to himself, as if to ease his conscience,"I am wronging nobody."

At the expiration of three months he had becomevery tired of having an insane person shut up in thehouse with him—for he had long since begun to considerhimself at home—and his nephew's incessantmaundering, and continual requests for Mlle. Claire'shand in marriage, became an intolerable bore. Hetherefore resolved to get rid of him by placing himin Dr. Auvray's insane asylum.

"After all, my nephew will be much better cared forthere," he said to himself, "and I shall be much easierin mind. Every one admits that the best way to diverta lunatic's mind is to give him a change of scene, soI am only doing my duty."

It was with this very thought in his mind that hefell asleep just before Francis bound his hands. Whatan awakening was his!

The doctor entered with a smiling excuse for hislong delay. Francis rose, laid his book on the table,and proceeded with volubility to explain the businessthat had brought him there.

"It is my uncle on my mother's side that I desire to[Pg 1364]intrust to your care," he began. "He is, as you see,a man between forty-five and fifty years of age, accustomedto manual labor and the economy and privationsof a humble and busy life; moreover, he wasborn of healthy, hard-working parents, in a familywhere no case of mental aberration was ever beforeknown. You will not, therefore, be obliged to contendwith a hereditary malady. His is probably one of themost peculiar cases of monomania that has ever comeunder your observation. His mood changes almostinstantaneously from one of extreme gaiety to profoundmelancholy. In fact, it is a strange compoundof monomania and melancholy."

"He has not lost his reason entirely?"

"Oh, no; he is never violent; in fact, he is insaneupon one subject only."

"What is the nature of his malady?"

"Alas! the besetting sin of the age, sir; cupidity.He has become deeply imbued with the spirit of ourtimes. After working hard from childhood, he findshimself still comparatively poor, while my father, whobegan life under like circ*mstances, was able to leaveme a snug little fortune. My uncle began by beingenvious of me; then the thought occurred to him that,being my only relative, he would become my heir incase of my death, and my guardian in case I becameinsane; and as it is very easy for a weak-minded personto believe whatever he desires to believe, theunfortunate man soon persuaded himself that I hadlost my reason. He has told everybody that this is thecase; and he will soon tell you so. In the carriage,[Pg 1365]though his hands were tied, he really believed that itwas he who was bringing me here."

"When did this malady first show itself?"

"About three months ago. He came to my conciergeand said to him, in the wildest manner: 'MonsieurEmmanuel, you have a daughter. Let me in, and thencome and assist me in binding my nephew.'"

"Is he aware of his condition? Does he know thathis mind is affected?"

"No, sir, and I think that is a favorable sign. Ishould add, however, that his physical health is somewhatimpaired, and he is much troubled with indigestionand insomnia."

"So much the better; an insane person who sleepsand eats regularly is generally incurable. Supposeyou allow me to wake him."

Dr. Auvray placed his hand gently on the shoulderof the sleeper, who instantly sprang to his feet. Thefirst movement he made was to rub his eyes. When hediscovered that his hands were tied, he instantly suspectedwhat had taken place while he was asleep, andburst into a hearty laugh.

"A good joke, a very good joke!" he exclaimed.

Francis drew the doctor a little aside.

"Sir, in five minutes he will be in a towering rage,"he whispered.

"Let me manage him. I know how to take him."

The good doctor smiled on the supposed patient asone smiles on a child one wishes to amuse. "Well,you wake in very good spirits, my friend; did youhave a pleasant dream?" he asked affably.

[Pg 1366]

"No, I had no dream at all; I'm merely laughingto find myself tied up like a bundle of fa*gots. Onewould suppose that I was the madman, instead of mynephew."

"There, I told you so," whispered Francis.

"Have the goodness to untie my hands, doctor. Ican explain better when I am free."

"I will unbind you, my friend, but you must promiseto give no trouble."

"Can it be, doctor, that you really take me for aninsane person?"

"No, my friend, but you are ill, and we will takecare of you, and, I hope, cure you. See, your handsare free; don't abuse your liberty."

"What the devil do you imagine I'll do? I camehere merely to bring my nephew."

"Very well, we will talk about that matter by andby. I found you sound asleep. Do you often fallasleep in the daytime?"

"Never! It was that stupid book that—"

"Oh, oh! This is a serious case," muttered theauthor of the book referred to. "So you really believethat your nephew is insane?"

"Dangerously so, doctor. The fact that I wasobliged to bind his hands with this very rope is proofof that."

"But it was your hands that were bound. Don'tyou recollect that I just untied them?"

"But let me explain—"

"Gently, gently, my friend, you are becoming excited.Your face is very red; I don't want you to[Pg 1367]fatigue yourself. Just be content to answer my questions.You say that your nephew is ill?"

"Mad, mad, mad, I tell you!"

"And it pleases you to see him mad?"

"What?"

"Answer me frankly. You don't wish him to becured, do you?"

"Why do you ask me that?"

"Because his fortune is under your control. Don'tyou wish to be rich? Are you not disappointed anddiscouraged because you have toiled so long withoutmaking a fortune? Don't you very naturally thinkthat your turn has come now?"

M. Morlot made no reply. His eyes were rivetedon the floor. He asked himself if he was not dreaming,and tried his best to decide how much of thiswhole affair was real, and how much imaginary, socompletely bewildered was he by the questions of thisstranger, who read his heart as if it had been an openbook.

"Do you ever hear voices?" inquired Dr. Auvray.

Poor M. Morlot felt his hair stand on end, and rememberingthat relentless voice that was ever whisperingin his ear, he replied mechanically, "Sometimes."

"Ah, he is the victim of an hallucination," murmuredthe doctor.

"No, there is nothing whatever the matter with me,I tell you. Let me get out of here. I shall be ascrazy as my nephew if I remain much longer. Askmy friends. They will all tell you that I am perfectly[Pg 1368]sane. Feel my pulse. You can see that I have nofever."

"Poor uncle!" murmured Francis. "He doesn'tknow that insanity is delirium unattended with fever."

"Yes," added the doctor, "if we could only giveour patients a fever, we could cure every one ofthem."

M. Morlot sank back despairingly in his armchair.His nephew began to pace the floor.

"I am deeply grieved at my uncle's deplorable condition,"he remarked feelingly, "but it is a great consolationto me to be able to intrust him to the care of aman like yourself. I have read your admirable treatiseon monomania. It is the most valuable work ofthe kind that has appeared since the publication of thegreat Esquirol's Treatise upon Mental Diseases. Iknow, moreover, that you are truly a father to yourpatients, so I will not insult you by commending M.Morlot to your special care. As for the compensationyou are to receive, I leave that entirely to you."

As he spoke, he drew from his pocket-book a thousand-francnote and laid it on the mantel. "I shall domyself the honor to call again some time during theensuing week. At what hour are your patients allowedto see visitors?"

"From twelve to two, only; but I am always athome. Good day, sir."

"Stop him! stop him!" shouted Uncle Morlot."Don't let him go. He is the one that is mad; I willtell you all about it."

"Calm yourself, my dear uncle," said Francis, starting[Pg 1369]toward the door. "I leave you in Dr. Auvray'scare; he will soon cure you, I trust."

M. Morlot sprang up to intercept his nephew, butthe doctor detained him.

"What a strange fatality!" cried the poor uncle."He has not uttered a single senseless remark. If hewould only rave as usual, you would soon see that Iam not the one who is mad, but—"

Francis already had his hand on the door-knob, butturning suddenly, he retraced his steps as if he hadforgotten something and, walking straight up to thedoctor, said:

"My uncle's malady was not the only thing thatbrought me here."

"Ah," murmured M. Morlot, seeing a ray of hope,at last.

"You have a daughter," continued the young man.

"At last!" shouted the poor uncle. "You are awitness to the fact that he said: 'You have adaughter.'"

"Yes," replied the doctor, addressing Francis. "Willyou kindly explain—"

"You have a daughter, Mlle. Claire Auvray."

"There, there! didn't I tell you so?" cried the uncle.

"Yes," again replied the doctor.

"She was at Ems three months ago with hermother."

"Bravo! Bravo!" yelled M. Morlot.

"Yes," responded the physician for the third time.

M. Morlot rushed up to the doctor, and cried: "Youare not the doctor, but a patient in the house."

[Pg 1370]

"My friend, if you are not more quiet we shall haveto give you a douche."

M. Morlot recoiled in terror. His nephew continuedcalmly:

"I love your daughter, sir; I have some hope thatI am loved in return, and if her feelings have notchanged since the month of September, I have thehonor to ask her hand in marriage."

"Is it to Monsieur Francis Thomas that I have thehonor of speaking?" inquired the doctor.

"The same, sir. I should have begun by telling youmy name."

"Then you must permit me to say, sir, that you havebeen guilty of no unseemly haste—"

But just then the good doctor's attention was divertedby M. Morlot, who was rubbing his hands in afrenzied manner.

"What is the matter with you, my friend?" thedoctor asked in his kind, fatherly way.

"Nothing, nothing! I am only washing my hands.There is something on them that troubles me."

"Show me what it is. I don't see anything."

"Can't you see it? There, there, between my fingers.I see it plainly enough."

"What do you see?"

"My nephew's money. Take it away, doctor. I'man honest man; I don't want anything that belongs toanybody else."

While the physician was listening attentively to M.Morlot's first ravings, an extraordinary change tookplace in Francis. He became as pale as death, and[Pg 1371]seemed to be suffering terribly from cold, for his teethchattered so violently that Dr. Auvray turned andasked what was the matter with him.

"Nothing," he replied. "She is coming, I hear her!It is joy, but it overpowers me. It seems to be fallingon me and burying me beneath its weight like a snowdrift.Winter will be a dreary time for lovers. Oh,doctor, see what is the matter with my head!"

But his uncle rushed up to him, crying:

"Enough, enough! Don't rave so! I don't wantpeople to think you mad. They will say I stole yourreason from you. I'm an honest man. Doctor, lookat my hands, examine my pockets, send to my houseon the Rue Charonne. Search the cupboard. Openall the drawers. You will find I have nothing thatbelongs to any other person."

Between his two patients the doctor was at his wits'end, when a door opened, and Claire came in to tellher father that breakfast was on the table.

Francis leaped up out of his chair, as if moved bya spring, but though his will prompted him to rushtoward Mlle. Auvray, his flesh proved weak, and hefell back in his chair like lead. He could scarcelymurmur the words:

"Claire, it is I! I love you. Will you—"

He passed his hand over his forehead. His pale facebecame a vivid scarlet. His temples throbbed almostto bursting; it seemed to him that an iron band wascontracting more and more around his head, just abovehis brows. Claire, frightened nearly to death, seizedboth his hands; his skin was so dry, and his pulse so[Pg 1372]rapid that the poor girl was terrified. It was not thusthat she had hoped to see him again. In a few minutes,a yellowish tinge appeared about his nostrils;nausea ensued, and Dr. Auvray recognized all thesymptoms of a bilious fever.

"How unfortunate!" he said to himself. "If thisfever had only attacked his uncle, it would have curedhim!"

He rang. A servant appeared, and shortly afterwardMme. Auvray, who scarcely knew Francis, sogreatly had he changed. It was necessary that thesick man should be got to bed without delay, andClaire relinquished her own pretty room to him.While they were installing him there, his uncle wanderedexcitedly about the parlor, tormenting the doctorwith questions, embracing the sick man, seizing Mme.Auvray's hand and exclaiming wildly: "Save him,save him! He shall not die! I will not have himdie! I forbid it. I have a right to. I am his uncleand guardian. If you do not care for him, people willsay I killed him. You are witnesses to the fact thatI ask for none of his property! I shall give all hispossessions to the poor! Some water—please give mesome water to wash my hands!" He was taken to thebuilding occupied by the patients, where he became soviolent that it was necessary to put him in a strait-jacket.

Mme. Auvray and her daughter nursed Francis withthe tenderest care. Confined in the sick-room day andnight, the mother and daughter spent most of theirleisure time discussing the situation. They could not[Pg 1373]explain the lover's long silence or his sudden reappearance.If he loved Claire, why had he left her insuspense for three dreary months? Why did he feelobliged to give his uncle's malady as an excuse for presentinghimself at Dr. Auvray's house? But if he hadrecovered from his infatuation, why did he not takehis uncle to some other physician? There were plentyof them in Paris. Possibly he had believed himselfcured of his folly until the sight of Claire undeceivedhim? But no, he had asked her father for her hand inmarriage before he saw her again. But, in his delirium,Francis answered all or nearly all of thesequestions. Claire, bending tenderly over him, listenedbreathlessly to his every word, and afterward repeatedthem to her mother and to the doctor, who was notlong in discovering the truth. They soon knew thathe had lost his reason and under what circ*mstances;they even learned how he had been the innocent causeof his uncle's insanity. Fears of an entirely differentnature now began to assail Mlle. Auvray. Was theterrible crisis which she had unwittingly brought aboutlikely to cure his mental disorder? The doctor assuredhis daughter that a fever, under such circ*mstances,was almost certain to put an end to the insanity, butthere is no rule without its exception, especially inmedicine. And even if he seemed to be cured, wasthere not danger of a recurrence of the malady?

"So far as I am concerned, I am not in the leastafraid," said Claire, smiling sadly. "I am the causeof all his troubles. Therefore, it is my duty to consolehim. After all, his madness consists merely in[Pg 1374]continually asking my hand. There will be no need ofdoing that after I become his wife, so we really havenothing to fear. The poor fellow lost his reasonthrough his excessive love; so cure him, my dearfather, but not entirely. Let him remain insane enoughto love me as much as I love him!"

"We will see," replied Dr. Auvray. "Wait untilthis fever passes off. If he seems ashamed of havingbeen demented, if he appears gloomy, or melancholyafter his recovery, I can not vouch for him; if, on thecontrary, he remembers his temporary aberration ofmind without mortification or regret—if he speaks ofit without any reserve, and if he is not averse to seeingthe persons who nursed him through his illness, thereis not the slightest reason to apprehend a return of themalady."

On the 25th of December, Francis, fortified by a cupof chicken broth and half the yolk of a soft boiledegg, sat up in bed, and without the slightest hesitancyor mortification, and in a perfectly lucid manner,gave the history of the past three months without anyemotion save that of quiet joy. Claire and Mme.Auvray wept as they listened to him; the doctor pretendedto be taking notes, or rather to be writing underdictation, but something besides ink fell on the paper.When the story ended, the convalescent added, by wayof conclusion:

"And now on this, the 25th day of December, Isay to my good doctor, and much loved father—Dr.Auvray, whose street and number I shall never againforget—'Sir, you have a daughter, Mlle. Claire Auvray,[Pg 1375]whom I met at Ems, with her mother. I loveher; she has proved that she loves me in return, andif you have no fears that I will become insane again,I have the honor to ask her hand in marriage."

The doctor was so deeply affected that he could onlybow his head in token of assent, but Claire put herarms around the sick man's neck and kissed him tenderlyon the forehead. I am sure I should desire nobetter response under like circ*mstances.

That same day, M. Morlot, who had become muchmore quiet and tractable, and who had long since beenreleased from the bondage of a strait jacket, rose abouteight o'clock in the morning, as usual. On getting outof bed, he picked up his slippers, examined and reexaminedthem inside and out, then handed them to anurse for inspection, begging him to see for himselfthat they contained no thirty thousand francs. Untilpositively assured of this fact he would not consentto put them on. Then he carefully shook each of hisgarments out of the window, but not until after he hadsearched every fold and pocket in them. After histoilet was completed, he called for a pencil, and wroteon the walls of his chamber:

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's money, noranything that is his."

Dr. Auvray is confident of his ability to cure him,but it will take time. It is in the summer and autumnthat physicians are most successful in their endeavorsto cure insanity.

[Pg 1376]

[Pg 1377]

THE GRAND MARRIAGE

BY LUDOVIC HALÉVY

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (8)

Ludovic Halévy was born at Paris in 1834,and began to write for the theatre when veryyoung. He is the author of the opera librettos,"Orphée aux Enfers," 1861, "Carmen," 1875,etc.; besides a number of vaudevilles, such as"Froufrou," etc. Most of his pieces are writtenin collaboration with Meilhac. Outside of thetheatre he has published a collection of littlescenes in the paper called "La Vie Parisienne,"under the title of "Madame Cardinal" and "LesPetit* Cardinal"; impressions of war under thetitle "L'Invasion," and some novels, such as"L'Abbé Constantin," 1882. In 1884 he waselected a member of the Academy.

Halévy tempered the fantastic humors ofMeilhac, and restrained the more far-fetched ofhis own, bringing them down to earth. Histheatre paints what is called Parisian life, remarkablefor ease, delicacy, grace, but withoutmuch substance. His novels have a very delicateflavor, with a combination of suavity andirony.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (9)

[Pg 1378]

[Pg 1379]

THE GRAND MARRIAGE

BY LUDOVIC HALÉVY

Translated by J. Matthewman.
Copyright, 1891, by The Current LiteraturePublishing Company.

Nov. 25th, 1893. 4 o'clock.

This morning at ten o'clock I was just settlingdown to attack Beethoven's Twenty-fifthsymphony, when the door opened, and whoshould walk in but mama. Mama awake and stirringat ten o'clock! And not only awake and stirring, butdressed and ready to go out—mantled and bonneted.

I could not remember ever to have seen her stirringso early before. She never manages to get to churchon Sunday before the middle of the one o'clock mass.The other evening she said, laughingly, to AbbéPontal:

"Monsieur l'Abbé, our dear religion would be absolutelyperfect if you substituted a mass at two forthat at one. Then the concerts at the Conservatoirecould be put an hour later, and Sunday in winter wouldbe all that could be desired."

At mama's entrance I was stupefied, and exclaimed:"You are going out, mama?"

"No, I've just come in."

"You've just come in?"

"Yes, I had something to do this morning—tochoose some stuffs for the hangings—that blue, youknow, which is so difficult to find."

[Pg 1380]

"Have you found it?"

"No—no. But that they say they can get it for me—andI hope that—They are going to send it by theday after to-morrow at the latest."

Mama got quite confused in her explanation. Shefinally announced that we were going to a soirée at theMercerey's. There was to be a little music. She hadknown of it for several days, but had forgotten tomention it to me before. I didn't show the slightestsign of surprise, but while listening to mama, Istudied her carefully, and thought to myself: "What'sthe meaning of all this? Mama rambling about atthis unearthly hour, matching blues! A soirée musicaleat the Mercerey's! Mama evidently confused,too! There's something hidden."

So I let her flounder and never uttered a sound.When she had finished she took a few steps towardthe door, just as actors do in a theatre when they pretendthey are going out, then she turned back and triedto say with an air of indifference, as if the thought hadonly just occurred to her: "Which gown do you thinkof putting on to-night?"

"To-night, mama? Really, I don't know. I mightput the gray on—or the blue—or the rose."

"No, no; not the rose. Put the blue on. Youlooked quite nice in it the day before yesterday atAunt Clarice's. Besides, your papa doesn't like therose, and as he is going with us to the Mercerey's—"

"Papa going to the Mercerey's!"

"Yes, certainly."

"Does he know that there's to be some music?"

[Pg 1381]

"Yes."

"He knows—and yet he is going?"

"Yes. What is there surprising in that?"

"Oh, nothing, mama; nothing at all."

Whereupon she really left the room, and I was quitealone. Then, without a moment's hesitation, I said tomyself: "A marriage on the tapis. They're going toshow me off to some one. That's why pap is obligedto go."

Fancy papa letting himself be dragged by mama toa soirée musicale! The whole world will seem topsy-turvy.There are only three places which he findsbearable in the evening—the club, the opera duringthe ballet, and the little theatres where people go tolaugh and amuse themselves generally—the theatreswhere young girls are not allowed to go, but where Iintend to go when I am married.

Yes, I'm sure there's an interview in the wind. Itmust be something of great importance, for mama hasbeen in a state of the highest excitement ever since thismorning. She ate no breakfast, and didn't manage toconceal her unrest at all. Not only has she inspectedmy blue dress carefully, but she has also examined mewith equal thoroughness. She fell into a fit of veritabledespair on verifying the fact that there was a slightflaw on my features.

"What's that?" she cried.

"Where? What? mama!"

"On the tip of your nose."

"Have I anything on the tip of my nose?"

"Yes, a horrid gash."

[Pg 1382]

"Oh, good gracious! A gash?"

Quite horrified, I rushed to the mirror. Then Ibreathed freely again. It was the merest trifle—wherethe kitten had given me a pat with its paw.Nothing worth mentioning—a little reddish mark thatwas hardly visible to the naked eye, and which couldeasily be got rid of before evening.

But in mama's solicitous eyes the little mark assumedthe proportions of a disfiguring wound. The tip ofmy nose has never received so much touching attentionbefore. Mama made me sit still in an armchairduring half of the day, with cold-water cloths fixedlike a pair of goggles on the said tip of the aforementionednose.

Poor mama! She's so anxious to see me married.It's quite natural, after all. She looks very well herselfyet in the evening, and it is awkward to haveto drag a big marriageable daughter around at herheels.

I don't like it, either, for that matter. I know thatI make her look older, and, therefore, as soon as weenter a room in the evening I slip away from her, andtry to see as little as possible of her afterward until thecarriage is announced. So each goes her own way,and interferes as little as possible with the other.

She's a dear, good old soul. There are motherswho simply bully their daughters, and worry them intomarrying at five minutes' notice. Quite a leap in thedark. Mama isn't one of them.

Besides, she knows I have made up my mind not tobe hurried—and not to decide carelessly. Marriage[Pg 1383]is not a trifling thing. If a mistake is made it is forlife; so it's well to know what one is doing when onetakes the plunge. When I get married it will be in allseriousness. I don't intend to tumble head over earsin love with the first newcomer, be he fair or dark,who says to his mother: "I've found the girl of mychoice. I love her, and her alone. I'll have her ornobody."

Oh, no! I'm not going into that stupidity. I intendto keep my eyes open, and my wits about me.

Last spring I declined five very likely wooers simplybecause none of them offered all the advantages ofbirth, fortune, and position which I consider I amjustified in demanding.

I shall follow the same course of action during thewinter campaign—the same calm prudence. I am notyet twenty, so I can afford to wait.

Since this morning I have felt highly satisfied withmyself—very highly satisfied. I have not been in theleast affected by mother's open agitation. To-day, asusual, I have glanced through my notes.

On my eighteenth birthday I find I wrote the followingsimple words on the first page of my notebook,which I still keep carefully under lock and key:

MY MARRIAGE.

"And so five have bitten the dust already." I'msure there'll be a sixth combatant in the lists to-night.Is he the one who will finally become my very humbleand very obedient servant and lord?

[Pg 1384]

In any case, he had better get ready to undergo themost rigorous and searching examination.

I'm not like mama. I don't lose my head.

Nov. 26th. Four o'clock.

I wasn't mistaken. It was the sixth.

But let me be orderly, and write the events, bothsmall and great, in their due sequence.

After dinner mama and I went upstairs to dress. Itook a long time over it, and was very careful, too. Imay as well tell the truth. I worked at my toilet. Ittook me an hour and a half to dress to my own completesatisfaction. On coming downstairs I found allthe doors open, and as I noiselessly approached thedrawing-room I heard papa and mama talking. Papasaid:

"You think it absolutely necessary, then?"

"Absolutely necessary. Just think of it. Your presenceis indispensable."

The temptation was too great. I stopped to listen.Was it not right, or at least justifiable curiosity on mypart?

"Why indispensable?" replied papa. "I know theyoung fellow. I've often met him at the club. I'veeven played whist with him. He doesn't play badly,either. He saw Irene on horseback, and thought shewas superb. That settles the whole affair as far as Iam concerned. What business is it of mine? It's onlyyour affair—your's and Irene's."

"My dear, I assure you that propriety demands—"

"Well, well; I'll go, I'll go."

[Pg 1385]

Then silence fell. Not another word was spoken.I waited to hear the man's name, but it didn't come.My heart beat a little quicker as I stood there in expectancy—infact, I distinctly heard its tick-tack. Istood two or three minutes, but as they did not thinkfit to resume the conversation, I entered, and had topretend to know nothing.

But I did know something, and that something wasof importance, too. He is a member of the "Jockey."To me that means everything. If I attach too muchimportance to it, it is papa's fault, for he thinks thatany one who is not a member of the Jockey is simplynobody. The world, as far as papa is concerned, beginswith the Jockey, and ends at those who are notof the charmed circle. I have been brought up withthose ideas. My husband must be a member of theJockey.

Well, the three of us set off in the landau—papagloomy, depressed, silent; mama in the same state ofeager excitement; I outwardly cool and indifferent,but thinking hard all the same.

What could be the meaning of so much mystery?This gentleman has seen me on horseback, and hadthough I was bewitching, which was very sweetof him. Was it he who had asked to see me in abrilliantly-lighted room—décolletée?

That, it seemed to me, was scarcely the correctthing. He ought to have been shown to me beforeI was so liberally shown to him on horseback and onfoot. But, after all, it didn't matter much.

We got to the Mercerey's at half-past ten. I was[Pg 1386]very sorry for papa, for it really was a soirée musicale,and there was a quartet, too, which is about the mosttrying thing in the world for one who does not carefor music, and has not been broken in into bearing it.In addition, the music was highly and wearily classical.

There were not many people present—only about ascore. The company was very mixed, and it was evidentthat the affair had been arranged in a hurry, forthe people seemed to have been picked up haphazard,with no thought for their peculiarities and idiosyncrasies—nobodyknew anybody, and there was an evidentlack of sympathy.

We entered just when the andante movement of asonata was in full swing, and we went on tiptoe toseats. I settled myself snugly in a quiet corner andcast a rapid, furtive glance round the battlefield. Atfirst I only saw a few old men—blasé looking individuals—evidentlynot for me.

Then, in the opposite corner, I noticed a little knotof four young men. There could be no doubt thatthere was the enemy.

Yes, but which of the four? In my simplicity Ithought: "It must be he who is looking at me mostdevotedly and attentively." I modestly lowered myeyes, and assumed the attitude of a saint listeningwith inward rapture to the austere strains of a Haydnsonata.

Then suddenly I raised my eyes and let them fallfull upon the group of young men. But I had to dropthem more quickly than I had raised them, for all thefour young men were studying me with an equal[Pg 1387]amount of curiosity and evident approbation. I letthe sonata go a little longer, and again renewed theexperiment—with the same result. The four pairs ofeyes were fixed unflinchingly upon me.

I don't think I was much put out by so much attention.In fact, I wasn't at all put out. It was pleasant,very pleasant; and I rather liked it than otherwise.

The country did wonders for me last summer. Ihave grown a little—ever so little—fatter. Virginie,my maid, said to me the other evening while dressingme:

"Ah! Mademoiselle, you don't know how the summerhas improved you." In which Virginie was verymuch mistaken. Mademoiselle did know it very well.One always notices such things first one's self.

The quartet at last came to an end, and the usualconfusion of tongues followed. I took mama asideand said:

"Mama, do point him out."

"Why, you little minx, have you guessed?"

"Yes, I've guessed. Show me him—quick—themusic's going to start again."

"That's he—the tall dark man, on the left there—theman standing under the Meissonnier. Don't lookjust now. He's looking at you."

"He's not the only one. They're all doing that."

"He's not looking now, though. There he is. He'sgoing to papa. He's talking to him."

"He's not bad looking."

"I should rather think he isn't!"

"But his mouth's too large."

[Pg 1388]

"I don't think so."

"Oh, yes it is. But that's a trifle. On the whole,he'll do."

"Oh, if you only knew all—birth, fortune, everythingyou could wish for. It was such an extraordinaryaccident, too—quite romantic."

"What's his name?"

"Comte de Martelle-Simieuse. Don't look at him;he's beginning to look at you again. As I was saying,he is a Martelle-Simieuse, and the Martelle-Simieusesare cousins of the Landry-Simieuses andof the Martelle-Jonzacs. You know the Martelle-Simieuses?"

At this point one of the musicians tapped on hisdesk, and mama's flow of genealogical eloquence wasstopped. We resumed our seats, and the music commenced.Mozart this time. I sank back into my cornerand settled down to my reflections. It was evidentto me that he must be a splendid catch, for mama wasso excited.

Comtesse de Martelle-Simieuse. Two names. Justwhat I had dreamt of and longed for. Of course, Ishould have preferred to be a duch*ess; but then thereare so few real dukes left—only twenty-two, I believe—sothat is practically out of the question. But acountess is passable.

Comtesse de Martelle-Simieuse. The name wouldsound well, I thought, and I repeated it several timesto convince myself. I paid no attention whatever toMozart. At first I scarcely realized that the musicianswere playing Mozart—it might have been Wagner.[Pg 1389]All that I knew was that the musicians were playinga melody which seemed to fit in with the words:"Madame la Comtesse de Martelle-Simieuse."

After all a name is a matter of great importance,and particularly a name which goes well with a title.He is titled as well as a member of the "Jockey." Hemust be titled. I wouldn't become plain "Madame"—no,not for a fabulous fortune. Comtesse de Martelle-Simieuse.Yes, certainly, that sounded very well.

When the quartette was over the conversation wasrenewed. Papa turned toward mama, so did I. Assoon as I reached her, she said, excitedly: "The affairis marching splendidly. He has asked to be introducedto you, and papa noticed that his voice trembled—didn'tit?"

"Yes," replied papa, "his voice trembled."

"Your papa is going to bring him up to introducehim. If you are not satisfied with him, don't stay atmy side. If you are satisfied, stay."

"Of course I shall stay, mama; but it must be understoodthat I shall have due time for reflection afterward.You have promised not to hurry me."

"You will be quite free. But don't forget that itis a chance in a hundred thousand. If you only knewhis relatives, and how well they are married. Hismother was a Précigny-Laroche. Think of that!A P—"

"Yes, yes. I see."

"There is no better blood than that of the Précigny-Laroches."

"Keep calm, mama. Don't get so excited. People[Pg 1390]are looking at you." Then papa fetched him, and wehad a nice chat in the interval. It was evident thathe was affected. He had had courage to stare at mefrom a distance, but close at hand he daren't look atme. I had to lead the conversation, and I managed inten minutes, while chatting apparently about themost trivial topics, to learn all that was absolutelynecessary that I should know before letting thingsgo farther.

He loves Paris—so do I. He detests the country—sodo I. He thinks Trouville is very amusing—so doI. He doesn't like shooting—nor do I. On the otherhand, he is passionately fond of horses and hunting—justas I am. It is well that we agree on that point.How many times have I said to myself, "My husbandwill have a hunting-seat." He has one. He rents aforest which is only ten leagues from Paris. Youleave Paris at half-past eight in the morning from theGare du Nord—the most convenient of stations—andat half-past ten you are on horseback. And unless thehunt is a very long one, you are back in Paris in theevening for the theatre or a ball.

Then again, his time, his fortune, as well as he himself,are entirely at his own disposal. He has neitherfather nor mother. He has only a younger brother,who is at present serving in an artillery regiment, anda very rich and very old aunt, who has no children.So he is the head of the family. Martelle-Simieusebelongs to him. It is an estate somewhere out in Vendée.Of course, I have not the remotest idea of goingand burying myself out in Vendée for half of the year;[Pg 1391]but it's quite necessary to have a country seat, andVendée is just as good as anywhere else.

All which information I picked up in the short spaceof ten minutes or a quarter of an hour at the outside.Madame Mercerey, seeing that we were engaged in aserious conversation, lengthened the interval for thebenefit of us four—I might say of us three, for papanever uttered a word—might even say of us two, formama didn't say much either.

All the information I obtained by skilfully turningthe conversation in the most natural manner, and withoutasking a single question.

This morning mama told me that she was absolutelyshocked at my calmness and precision last night. Yes,I have a practical side to my nature. I am anxious toplace my life in certain unassailable conditions of independenceand security, without which there could beneither happiness nor love, nor anything else worthhaving.

For instance, I'm determined not to have a mother-in-law.I don't know what I wouldn't give not to havea mother-in-law. I don't intend to have to quarrelwith one. At home a wife should be at home, andonly have her husband to deal with.

It was on account of that decision that I rejected thelittle Marquis de Marillac last year. He was one ofthe five. I could have loved him; really, I had alreadybegun to. Then I saw his mother. Then I stopped.

She was a terrible creature—strict, lugubrious, andferociously dévote. She expected her daughter-in-lawto go and bury herself in the depths of Bretagne for[Pg 1392]eight months out of the twelve. Certainly, it wouldhave been a saving—but at what a cost! What slavery!Besides, what would be the good of getting married,if, the day after leaving girlhood, the wife hadto become a child and go back into leading-stringsagain the next day?

Now let me see. Where was I? I've really quiteforgotten. Oh, I remember. The music began again,as I said. It was the last piece. We four sat downin a row in the following order: I, mama, papa, andhe. It was scarcely an hour before that I had first seteyes on him, and we were already quite a little familyparty, we four, sitting stupidly and stiffly in a straightline on our chairs.

Some short waltzes of Beethoven were played, withintervals of one minute between. During the first intervalmother said to me:

"Well, what do you think of him, now that youhave seen him?"

"The same as before, mama."

"Is he all right?"

"He'll do."

"Then your father may venture to ask him todinner?"

"Wouldn't that be hurrying matters rather toomuch?"

"We must hurry matters."

"Why, mama?"

"Sh! They're going to begin again."

I was somewhat put out. What was the reason forsuch unseemly haste? I was quite shocked by it. It[Pg 1393]seemed really as if I were being thrown at the gentleman'shead. I was in a hurry to know the why andthe wherefore. I thought the concert would neverend.

After ages of waiting the second interval came, andI began again:

"Mama, tell me why."

"I can't tell you anything just now. It would taketoo long. I'll tell you all presently, when we get home.But if he's invited it must be to-night; and there's nota minute to lose—yes or no?"

"Mama, you're hurrying me."

"No, I'm not hurrying you. You are at liberty todecline."

"Very well, then—yes."

"Dinner on Thursday?"

"Thursday will do very well."

Between the third and fourth waltzes, mama saidhurriedly to papa:

"Invite him to dinner."

"What day?"

"Thursday."

"All right."

Papa has behaved with admirable docility and resignation.I never saw him in such a serious rôle before.It is true that the music seemed to bewilder him so thathe scarcely knew what he was doing. I felt restless,and thought: "There, now, he'll go and invite thewrong one." Nothing of the sort. He gave theinvitation quite correctly, and it was accepted withenthusiasm.

[Pg 1394]

We left at midnight, and before we had fairly gotaway from Mercerey's I said to mama:

"I see clearly that you are as anxious as possible thatI should accept this man."

"Certainly."

"Then tell me—"

"Just let me get my breath first. I am quite exhausted.I'll tell you everything when we get home."

An hour later I knew all. It was the most extraordinarything in the world. Yesterday morning ateight o'clock a maid awoke mama, and gave her anote marked "Important." It was from Madame deMercerey, and was as follows:

"I have a migraine and can not leave my room.Come—come at once to see me. A splendid stroke ofluck for Irene."

Mama at once got up and went to MadameMercerey.

But I must leave the rest till to-morrow. We dineat eight o'clock.

November 27th.

Well, mama went off post-haste, and this is whatshe heard from Madame Mercerey: "The two Martelle-Simieuses,the elder, Adrien (he's mine), and theyounger, Paul, lost their grandmother ten years ago.She was an excellent old lady—very rich and verycrotchety. She had one fixed idea—that of ensuringthe perpetuity of her family. She seemed to imaginethat if the Martelle-Simieuses became extinct the world[Pg 1395]would of necessity come to an end. She was not byany means stupid, and she caused a very ingenious andpeculiar clause to be inserted in her will, by which sheset aside 1,000,000 francs, which sum, together withthe accumulated interest, was to go to her grandsonAdrien if he married before reaching the age oftwenty-five. If he failed to marry within the timestipulated, it passed to his brother Paul, on the sameconditions. If both brothers insisted on remainingbachelors the money went to the poor. The trifle thusset aside now amounts to the respectable sum of oneand a half millions. Adrien showed no inclinationto marry, but was addicted to sport, and wished aboveall to maintain his independence. 'I will not marry,'he used to say. 'I have an income of 180,000 francs,and that's enough for me. With a little care and economyI can make both ends meet.' In short, he regardedthe approach of the fatal 10th of January with perfectcomplacency, although he knew that on that day hewould be twenty-five."

Toward the end of last year there was a great speculatingcraze in our set—a sort of commercial crusadeagainst the infidel Jews. Adrien plunged into speculation,not so much for the sake of gain as for excitement,and to do good. He assisted in an attempt tomaintain the credit of a certain bank which was hardpressed.

In the crash that ensued the poor fellow lost heavily—1,400,000francs. So his income was reduced to 80,000,and naturally he was very much pinched. But hewasn't by any means depressed. He showed a brave[Pg 1396]face to misfortune, and at once set to work to reducehis expenditure by dismissing some of his servants andselling some of his horses.

His resolution not to marry remained unaltered.But about a month ago some of his friends undertookto show him the error of his ways. They pointed outhow absurd it was to stupidly let such a fortune slipfrom his grasp, simply through want of decision toclose his hand, and that he might easily marry and geta heap of money into the bargain, so that the unpleasantnessof marrying might be greatly alleviated. Thisargument shook his resolution somewhat. He askedhis cousin, Madame de Riémens, to look out for a wifefor him. She sought, and found that great gawk Catherinede Puymarin, who is very, very rich, but no morefigure than a lath. His first words when he saw herwere: "She is too slim, and won't look well on horseback."From the moment that he began to entertainthe thought of marrying, he settled it as a sine qua nonthat his wife must be a good horsewoman.

Time was flying, and Adrien's friends worried andpressed him. He had begun by saying "No" to them.Then he declined to say either "Yes" or "No." Hewas in all probability going to say "Yes" when thefateful and dramatic day arrived—November 24th.

On that eventful day, instead of going to ride in theafternoon as I usually do, I had to go in the morningwith Monsieur Coates, who kindly considers me oneof his most brilliant pupils, and who occasionally doesthe Bois with me.

At ten o'clock I drove out in a dog-cart with Miss[Pg 1397]Morton. We stopped near the Champignon, on theright, at the entrance of the Bois, where MonsieurCoates was waiting for me. The groom had broughtTriboulet, who doesn't always behave very well, andon the day in question, as he hadn't been out of hisbox for forty-eight hours, he was full of mischief, andcapered and pranced in fine style. I had had to dressvery hurriedly, as it happened, and Virginie had skeweredmy hair into two balls, and to keep the puffs inplace she had stuck in about a dozen hairpins.

Monsieur Coates helped me to mount, but not withoutsome difficulty, for Triboulet was remarkably friskyand disinclined to be mounted. As soon as he felt meon his back he began to plunge, and tore off at full tilt.But I am pretty much at home on horseback—besides,I know how to manage Triboulet, and I punished himsoundly. Just, however, as we were in the middle ofour explanations I felt something rolling—rolling overmy shoulders. It was my hair, which had come down,and was spreading itself in an avalanche, which carriedmy hat away. So there I was, bareheaded—Tribouletracing as hard as he could, and my hair flying outbehind.

At that precise moment, Adrien, Comte de Martelle-Simieuse,rode down the Allée des Poteaux, and got aview of the performance. He reined up at a respectfuldistance, quite surprised at the unusual sight, andin something less than no time he had given vent tothree little exclamations of admiration and wonder:

The first was for the horsewoman: "'Pon my word,she does ride well."

[Pg 1398]

The second was for my hair: "What a magnificenthead of hair."

The third was for my face: "Gad—how pretty."

Triboulet, in the mean time, had got a little calmer.The groom managed to find five of the scattered hairpins,and I got my hair into a little better condition,and fastened my veil around my head.

Finally, Monsieur Coates and I started, the groomriding behind, and behind him rode the Comte deMartelle-Simieuse, who made a second tour of theBois in my honor.

I, in my innocence, never dreamt of the conquest Ihad made. The weather was rather cold and raw, andwe went at a good pace. Triboulet, stung by the keenair, made several attempts at insurrection, but he soonfound out whom he had to deal with. Monsieur Coateswas very much pleased with me.

"This morning," said he, "you ride superbly—likean angel"—which was also the opinion of my second,self-appointed groom, who kept saying to himself:

"How well she rides! How well she rides!"

That was the idea which filled his head during theride, and he compared me with Catherine de Puymarin.

The ride finished, I went and found Miss Morton,got into the dog-cart, and set off for the Rue deVarennes. Young Martelle-Simieuse trotted behindand acted as my escort home.

He waited until the door was opened and we hadentered, then he satisfied himself that I lived in a goodhouse, in a good street, and that from all appearancesI was no adventuress.

[Pg 1399]

What he then wanted was the name of the intrepidAmazon. A very simple idea occurred to him. Whatdoes the name matter for the moment? He returnedhome, got the directory—Rue de Varennes, 49 bis,Baron and Baronne de Léoty. That is how he discoveredthe name of her who will perhaps become thefaithful partner of his joys and sorrows. Baron deLéoty. He knew papa from the club. But had papaa daughter? The mystery had to be solved.

It was very soon solved, for that evening Adriendined at the Mercerey's, and during a lull in the conversationhe said carelessly to Madame Mercerey: "Doyou happen to know a Monsieur de Léoty?"

"Quite well."

"Has he a daughter?"

"Yes."

"How old is she?"

"About twenty."

"Very pretty, isn't she?"

At which, it appears, there was a general and enthusiasticoutburst in my honor. He was the only onepresent who didn't know me, poor fellow. Madamede Mercerey wanted to know the reason for all his inquiries.So he recounted the story of the morning'sride, my horse's obstinacy, my firmness, my hair flyingin the wind—in fact, it was quite a lyrical description,which caused general stupefaction, for he hadnever been heard to sing in that strain before.

Whereupon Madame de Mercerey showed presenceof mind which was as rare as it was admirable. Enpassant it must be observed that she loves mama and[Pg 1400]hates the Puymarins heartily, although, until about sixweeks ago, they were the best of friends. She reallyhas good cause to be offended with them, though.

The Puymarins have given three soirées this year—theOrléans princes were at one, and the Grand DukeVladimir at another, while the third was made up ofnobodies. Well, the duch*ess invited the Mercereyswith the nobodies. Now, considering their birth andfortune, they might reasonably have expected moreconsideration than that. For that reason they are veryangry—and justifiably so.

Now comes Madame de Mercerey's stroke of genius.Taking the ball, as it were, on the rise, without a moment'shesitation, she said, in the presence of her husband,who was stupefied at the assertion, that on thefollowing evening they were going to have a fewfriends, among whom Madame and MademoiselleLéoty were invited, and that Monsieur de Martelle-Simieusewould be welcome if he cared to come.There would be some music, and he would have anopportunity of seeing his fair heroine of the Bois.Monsieur de Mercerey was thunderstruck:

"Aren't you mistaken in the date, my dear?" hesaid. "We were surely going to the Gymnase to-morrownight to see the new piece of Octave Feuillet."

"No, my dear; that is for the day after to-morrow."

"I thought that—I ordered the box myself."

"It is for the day after to-morrow, I tell you."

Upon which Monsieur subsided and got no furtherexplanation of the riddle until dinner was over. Madamede Mercerey's exertions did not stop at that. She[Pg 1401]took possession of Monsieur de Martelle-Simieuse, andtreated him to a eulogy of me.

"Irene de Léoty is just the girl to suit you—just thewife you want. The meeting this morning was clearlythe work of Providence."

He repeated as refrain:

"How well she rides."

Yesterday, after having seen mama, Madame deMercerey, in spite of her migraine, courageously set towork and took the field to get people together—engagedmusicians and got programs printed. Whatadmirable activity!

On what insignificant trifles our destiny hangs. IfVirginie had fastened my hair up properly, if Triboulethad been quiet, if the Puymarins had not put the Mercereysamong the nobodies—Monsieur de Martelle-Simieusewould not have been invited to dine at ourhouse to-morrow, and I should not be asking myselfthe question:

"Shall I, or shall I not be Comtesse de Martelle-Simieuse?"

Poor Puymarins! They have come to Paris for thesole purpose of exhibiting their phenomenon. PoorCatherine de Puymarin! Shall I let her keep hercount, or shall I take him myself?

I don't yet know. But I do know that the sixth hasnot made a bad start, and if I had to bet on the result,I would not give odds.

November 20th. Ten o'clock in the morning.

What deliberations there were about the dinner.[Pg 1402]Should it be a big affair or a small one? Whereshould he be placed? Opposite me or at my side?Mama at first held out for opposite. She maintainedthat I produce a much better effect en face than enprofil, especially when I am décolletée, and of course Iwas décolletée. I stuck out for being at his side.I didn't feel at all nervous at the idea of having himnear me. It was necessary to make him talk, so as tobe able to take his measure. I still held to my resolutionof not getting married without knowing what Iwas doing. So, of course, he was put at my side—onmy right. So as not to be too hungry, and to haveplenty of time for cross-questioning, I had a prettysubstantial lunch at five o'clock. That left me free toturn the conversation as I wished—which I did.

We were at table over an hour and a half, and atthe end of that time I was convinced that we weremade for each other. We first talked about carriagesand hunting. It was a splendid start. I discoveredimmediately that his ideal of a horse is just the sameas mine—not too thin, and not too high—light certainly,but not too slim; elegant, but well formed. Ithink he was somewhat surprised to find that I wasau fait in such matters. About carriages and gear ourideas are exactly the same.

He was both surprised and charmed. When dinnerbegan he was evidently excited and ill at ease, but aswe chatted, and I put him at his ease, the conversationbegan to go swimmingly. We spoke the same language.We were made to understand each other.

He hunts boars with a pack of eighty hounds—magnificent[Pg 1403]animals of the best breed. He describedhis hunting suit minutely—coat à la française, color ofdead leaves, facings and pockets of blue velvet. Itwould be charming to have a costume to harmonizewith the dead leaves. I have already an idea for alittle hat—a dainty little thing.

One reason which induces me to favor him is that,as a rule, we have to choose our husbands from amongmen who have nothing to do, and who live lives of themost appalling idleness. That is the reason why ennuiand fatigue ruins so many happy households.

His time is, however, quite occupied. He hasn't asingle minute of free time which he can really call hisown. His energy and intellect are employed in pursuitswhich are at the same time useful and elegant.He is one of the leaders of a very chic clique, whichhas just been organized; member of the committee ofa pigeon-shooting society, and of a skaters' league; heis interested in a society for steeplechasing, and is partowner of a stud of race-horses. With so many ironsin the fire it is evident that he is fully occupied.

All which I had learned in half an hour. Then Ipassed on to politics, and catechized him thereon. Thisis a very, very important question, and I have fullymade up my mind to have no misunderstandings onthat head. Poor mama has suffered cruelly, and I amresolved not to expose myself to like annoyances.

Mama has been very happy with papa—except froma political standpoint. She was very young when shewas married. Her family was an ancient one, and ofstrict monarchical principles. So was papa. So far, so[Pg 1404]good. But toward the end of 1865 papa went overto the Empire. It was not because his opinions hadchanged—he took the step out of goodness of heart.Poor papa is so good—too good in fact. His changein politics was due to his devotion to my Uncle Armand,his brother, who is now general of division. He wasonly a captain then, and had had no promotion forages. He was not in favor because papa refused to setfoot in the Tuileries in spite of the many advancesmade to him. So at last papa, who adored UncleArmand, accepted an invitation and promised to presentmama. That was a veritable triumph for theEmpire, for there is no bluer blood in France thanthat of mama's family.

Mama passed the day of the presentation in tears.She was, however, forced to obey, but en route therewas a frightful scene in the landau. Mama becameobstinate, and declared that she would not be presented.She wanted to get out of the carriage intothe street, although she was wearing white satin shoesand a crown of roses, and it was snowing heavily atthe time. At length she became quieter, and resignedherself to her fate.

A fortnight afterward Uncle Armand received adecoration, and at the end of six months was chiefof a squadron. But the affair caused many doors tobe shut against papa and mama. That caused him notrouble—not a bit; in fact, he was rather pleased thanotherwise. He detests society, and always has his club.But society is mama's life-breath, and she is not amember of the "Jockey," so she suffered cruelly.

[Pg 1405]

Nearly all the doors which were shut have sincebeen opened—that is to say, since the establishment ofthe Republic, because since then many things have beenforgotten. The remainder would be thrown open tome were I once Comtesse de Martelle-Simieuse. Ishould be received everywhere with open arms. Sincethe beginning of the century the political attitude ofthe Martelle-Simieuses has been irreproachable. It didnot even trip during the Empire.

The Martelle-Simieuses can trace their pedigree,fairly and without any trickery, back to the fourteenthcentury. Adrien's mother—there, I am alreadycalling him Adrien—Adrien's mother was a Précigny-Laroche,and as for his father—Adrien has publisheda little book about his genealogy. Only a hundredcopies were printed and distributed among his friends.Madame de Mercerey has a copy of it, which she lentto mama. I have read it, and reread it, until I knowit by heart. It proves incontestably that Adrien is thethird in rank among the counts of France—not fourth,but third.

Of course, one must naturally consider nobility ofheart and elevation of character in the first place, butone must not forget to attach their real importance tothese other things. They are of enormous interest inlife, and especially at this particular moment, in themidst of this flood of soi disant nobility, in the presenceof Spanish dukes and Italian princes, who are easilyable, if we can not prove that we are really of noblefamily, to steal a march on us, and usurp our positionin society. I couldn't bear the thought of being[Pg 1406]put at table at dinner with money-makers and literarypersons.

Another point demands attention, for nothing is tootrifling to notice when it is a question of making certaindefinite arrangements for the comfort and pleasureof after-life. One ought firmly to secure what onewants. Mama has a box at the opera every Monday.It has been understood, for some time past, that whenI marry I am to go halves on that box. Mama willhave it one Monday, and I the next. That's a verygood arrangement, and I am quite satisfied with it.

Now, if I marry Adrien, I shall have a box in thefirst row, in front, at the Théâtre Français, every Tuesdayfrom December to June. This is how it will bearranged. He has an aunt, a dear old aunt, very rich,without children (so he is her heir), very old, asthmatic,and she has the said box at the Théâtre Français.She is quite willing to hand it over to him, forshe never uses it. She has not been in the theatre forover three years. What a dear old aunt she is!

All that information I got out of him between thesoup and the cheese. So, when, after dinner, mamarushed to me and said, "Well?" I replied:

"I don't think I could find a better."

"Then it's settled?"

"Two are necessary for a marriage."

"Oh, you may set your mind at rest on that score.You are two. I have been watching you the wholetime during dinner. His head is quite turned."

That was my opinion, too. When mama rushedto me, he rushed off to Madame Mercerey, who, of[Pg 1407]course, was of the party. He loved me to distraction;adored me, would marry only me—me and nobodyelse. And he besought Madame Mercerey to go anddemand me from mama at once.

She had to try to pacify him, and to show him thatone must not act too rashly. Mama, for her part,would have been quite contented to settle the affair atonce. She had a dread of the machinations of thePuymarin clique.

I didn't share her fear in the least. I recognizedclearly what an effect I had produced, and I felt thatI was mistress of the situation. So I reminded mamaof her promises, and of my resolution only to come toa decision when I had carefully weighed the pros andcons, and said that I had only seen him twice—eachtime in evening dress. I was determined to see himtwice in the daytime, and in frock coat. I knew howCousin Mathilde had managed. She saw her husbandtwice in the daytime—once in the Louvre and once atthe Hippodrome. As there was no Hippodrome whereI could see Adrien, I would substitute the museum atCluny. I was determined, however, to have my twointerviews in broad daylight.

So Madame Mercerey arranged an accidental meetingat the Louvre for to-day at three o'clock punctually,in front of Murillo's "Virgin."

The same day. Five o'clock.

We have just returned from an hour's stroll in thegalleries, where we did not pay much attention to thepictures. I imagine that he is surprisingly ignorant of[Pg 1408]pictures. But then I have no thought of marrying anart critic. He has such a fine figure, and dresses sowell. He speaks very little, is very reserved, but verycorrect; and above all, never makes stupid remarks.Taking him altogether, I am quite contented.

As soon as we were alone in the carriage in the RueRivoli, I had to repulse another attack from mama:

"He's simply charming. I should think that youwould never insist on Cluny now."

"No. I waive that. Never mind Cluny."

"That's right. Then you've decided?"

"Not yet, mama; not yet. One oughtn't to rushmadly into marriage after having got a little informationabout a man's fortune and situation."

"But what more do you want?"

"To see him on horseback. He's seen me riding,but I haven't seen him."

In short, Madame de Mercerey, whose devotion isindefatigable, is going to advise him to-night to goand ride about at the entrance of the Avenue desAcacias about ten o'clock to-morrow morning. Asinducement she will hint delicately that he may possiblymeet papa and me. For papa—I must say thatpapa astonishes me—he is acting the rôle of a fatherwho has a marriageable daughter to perfection. Hehasn't mounted a horse for four years, but to-morrowhe is going to risk a broken neck.

November 20th.

We had a ride round the Bois—all three of us—papa,he, and I. He looks very well on horseback. He[Pg 1409]rode a splendid bay mare. I will take her for myself,and will pass Triboulet on to him, for I know Triboulettoo well, and am tired of him.

On my return I flung my arms round mama'sneck—

"Yes, a thousand times," I said.

And with tears in my eyes, I thanked her forhaving been so indulgent, so good, so patient.

December 4th.

To-day at three o'clock the old aunt who has thebox at the theatre on Tuesdays is to come to demandmy hand officially, and so before the 10th of January(that will be absolutely necessary because of thegrandmother's will) I shall be Comtesse de Martelle-Simieuse.Adrien will get the one and a half millionsand me into the bargain, as extra consolation prize. Ithink it will be money easily gained. I don't think thathe is much to be pitied.

December 11th.

The wedding is fixed for January 6th. It is absurdto get married at such a time, but it couldn't be arrangedotherwise. The will! The will! Besides,after all, the date doesn't displease me so very much.We shall have a short—a very short—honeymoon—afew days at Nice—ten days at the outside.

After that Paris in full swing, with all the theatresopen. The unfortunate Louise de Montbrian gotmarried last spring—at the end of May, and returnedto Paris after a six-weeks' honeymoon only to find thecity torrid and sinister.

[Pg 1410]

We shall be supremely happy—of that I haven't theslightest doubt. He adores me. And I! Do I lovehim? Well, I must be candid with myself, and itwould not be true if I declared, in the phrases so commonin English novels, that I love him madly; that Ionly really live when he is present; that I trembleat the sound of his footsteps, and start when I hearhis voice.

Oh, no! I am not so easily moved. My heart can'tbe expected to go at that rate. But I already like himvery much. Love will come in time, I have no doubt.

Love is such an economizer in a household. I bringa million, and we can reckon on an income of about230,000 francs. That may at first sight seem a verylarge income, but it isn't really so. First of all wemust deduct about 80,000 francs for the keeping upof Simieuse, our château in Vendée, and for hunting.That will leave only 150,000 francs for living expenses,which amount will be quite sufficient if we loveeach other and pull together en bon camarade.

But if, on the contrary, we begin after a short time—andthis is the history of many households—to pullin opposite directions, we shall only have 75,000 francseach, and that will mean pinching—supposing thattheatres—leaving the opera and the Théâtre Françaisout of the reckoning—cost 2,000 or 3,000 francs ayear if we go together, it would at once be double thatsum if we went separately. And so with everythingelse—the expenditure doubled.

Take, for instance, Caroline and her husband. Theyhave only 100,000 francs per annum, but they live well,[Pg 1411]and without economizing. Why? Because they loveeach other. They have quite a small house, and naturallydon't require a host of servants. They receivelittle, and rarely go out. The more they are with eachother, the more they see of each other, the more theyare satisfied. Caroline is quite content, too, with 12,000francs for her toilet.

Take Adèle as an example of the contrary. Poorgirl, she married very much against her own will andjudgment. Her mother was dazzled by the title. Certainlya title is something—in fact, it is a great deal—butit is not exactly everything. Well, her marriagewith Gontran turned out badly. Things went wrongfrom the first week. Consequently they find themselvespinched in spite of their great income of 250,000francs. She spends a fortune on clothes, on stupidwhims. It costs her much more to satisfy the wholeworld than it would to please one individual. TheDuke, in consequence, has taken to play, and hasalready squandered half of his fortune.

Caroline said to me recently:

"As soon as you are married try to love your husband.In our set that means a saving of at least 100,000per annum, and even if people can't love each otherfor love's sake, they ought to for convenience."

"Oh, yes! I'll love him. I'll love him. Besides,it's only the 11th of December. Between now and the6th of January I have still twenty-six days before me."

[Pg 1412]

[Pg 1413]

THE ACCURSED HOUSE

BY ÉMILE GABORIAU

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (10)

Émile Gaboriau, best known for his remarkabledetective stories, was born at Sansonin 1853, and died at Paris in 1873. He wasfor a time private secretary of Paul Féval,the novelist, and published a great varietyof work. In 1866 appeared in the paper called"Le Pays" his first great detective story,"L'Affaire Lerouge," which the author dramatizedin collaboration with Hostein in 1872.Like all of the great series, "L'Affaire Lerouge,""Monsieur Lecoq," "Les Esclaves deParis," etc., are written in an easy flowingstyle, and are full of exciting moments.

It is interesting to trace the ancestry of themodern detective story. The first seeds aresaid to be found in Voltaire's "Zadig"; theygerminate in Poe's tales, take form in Gaboriau,and are in full bloom in Conan Doyle's"Sherlock Holmes."

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (11)

[Pg 1414]

[Pg 1415]

THE ACCURSED HOUSE

BY ÉMILE GABORIAU

Translated by E. C. Waggener.
Copyright, 1891, by The Current LiteraturePublishing Company.

The Vicomte de B——, an amiable andcharming young man, was peacefully enjoyingan income of 30,000 livres yearly,when, unfortunately for him, his uncle, a miser ofthe worst species, died, leaving him all his wealth,amounting to nearly two millions.

In running through the documents of succession,the Vicomte de B—— learned that he was the proprietorof a house in the Rue de la Victoire. Helearned, also, that the unfurnished building, bought in1849 for 300,000 francs, now brought in, clear oftaxes, rentals amounting to 82,000 francs a year.

"Too much, too much, entirely," thought the generousvicomte, "my uncle was too hard; to rent at thisprice is usury, one can not deny it. When one bearsa great name like mine, one should not lend himselfto such plundering. I will begin to-morrow to lowermy rents, and my tenants will bless me."

With this excellent purpose in view, the Vicomtede B—— sent immediately for the concièrge of thebuilding, who presented himself as promptly, withback bent like a bow.

"Bernard, my friend," said the vicomte, "go at[Pg 1416]once from me and notify all your tenants that I lowertheir rents by one-third."

That unheard-of word "lower" fell like a brick onBernard's head. But he quickly recovered himself;he had heard badly; he had not understood.

"Low—er the rents!" stammered he. "Monsieurle Vicomte deigns to jest. Lower! Monsieur, ofcourse means to raise the rents."

"I was never more serious in my life, my friend,"the vicomte returned; "I said, and I repeat it, lowerthe rents."

This time the concièrge was surprised to the pointof bewilderment—so thrown off his balance that heforgot himself and lost all restraint.

"Monsieur has not reflected," persisted he. "Monsieurwill regret this evening. Lower the tenants'rents! Never was such a thing known, monsieur!If the lodgers should learn of it, what would theythink of monsieur? What would people say in theneighborhood? Truly—"

"Monsieur Bernard, my friend," dryly interruptedthe vicomte, "I prefer, when I give an order, to beobeyed without reply. You hear me—go!"

Staggering like a drunken man, Monsieur Bernardwent out from the house of his proprietor.

All his ideas were upset, overthrown, confounded.Was he, or was he not, the plaything of a dream, aridiculous nightmare? Was he himself Pierre Bernard,or Bernard somebody else?

"Lower his rents! lower his rents!" repeated he."It is not to be believed! If indeed the lodgers had[Pg 1417]complained! But they have not complained; on thecontrary, all are good payers. Ah! if his uncle couldonly know this, he would rise from the tomb! Hisnephew has gone mad, 'tis certain! Lower the rents!They should have up this young man before a familycouncil; he will finish badly! Who knows—after this—whathe will do next? He lunched too well, perhaps,this morning."

And the worthy Bernard was so pale with emotionwhen he reentered his lodge, so pale and spent, thaton seeing him enter, his wife and daughter Amandaexclaimed as with one voice:

"Goodness! what is it? What has happened toyou now?"

"Nothing," responded he, with altered voice, "absolutelynothing."

"You are deceiving me," insisted Madame Bernard,"you are concealing something from me; do not spareme; speak, I am strong—what did the new proprietortell you? Does he think of turning us off?"

"If it were only that! But just think, he told mewith his own lips, he told me to—ah! you will neverbelieve me—"

"Oh, yes; only do go on."

"You will have it, then!—Well, then, he told me,he ordered me to notify all the tenants that—he loweredtheir rents one-third! Did you hear what I said?—loweredthe rents of the tenants—"

But neither Madame nor Mademoiselle Bernardheard him out—they were twisting and doubling withconvulsive laughter.

[Pg 1418]

"Lower!" repeated they; "ah! what a good joke,what a droll man! Lower the tenants' rents."

But Bernard, losing his temper and insisting thathe must be taken seriously in his own lodge, his wifelost her temper too, and a quarrel followed! MadameBernard declaring that Monsieur Bernard had,beyond a doubt, taken his fantastic order from thebottom of a litre of wine in the restaurant at thecorner.

But for Mademoiselle Amanda the couple wouldundoubtedly have come to blows, and finally MadameBernard, who did not wish to be thought demented,threw a shawl over her head and ran to the proprietor'shouse. Bernard had spoken truly; with her owntwo ears, ornamented with big, gilded hoops, she heardthe incredible word. Only, as she was a wise and prudentwoman, she demanded "a bit of writing," to put,as she said, "her responsibility under cover."

She, too, returned thunderstruck, and all theevening in the lodge, father, mother, and daughterdeliberated.

Should they obey? or should they warn some relativeof this mad young man, whose common sensewould oppose itself to such insanity?

They decided to obey.

Next morning, Bernard, buttoning himself into hisbest frock coat, made the rounds of the three-and-twentylodges to announce his great news.

Ten minutes afterward the house in the Rue de laVictoire was in a state of commotion impossible todescribe. People who, for forty years had lived on[Pg 1419]the same floor, and never honored each other with somuch as a tip of the hat, now clustered together andchatted eagerly.

"Do you know, monsieur?"

"It is very extraordinary."

"Simply unheard of!"

"The proprietor's lowered my rent!"

"One-third, is it not? Mine also."

"Astounding! It must be a mistake!"

And despite the affirmations of the Bernard family,despite even the "bit of writing," "under cover," therewere found among the tenants doubting Thomases,who doubted still in the face of everything.

Three of them actually wrote to the proprietor totell him what had passed, and to charitably warn himthat his concièrge had wholly lost his mind. The proprietorresponded to these skeptics, confirming whatBernard had said. Doubt, thereafter, was out of thequestion.

Then began reflections and commentaries.

"Why had the proprietor lowered his rents?"

"Yes, why?"

"What motives," said they all, "actuate this strangeman? For certainly he must have grave reasons fora step like this! An intelligent man, a man of goodsense, would never deprive himself of good fat revenues,well secured, for the simple pleasure of deprivinghimself. One would not conduct himself thuswithout being forced, constrained by powerful or terriblecirc*mstances."

And each said to himself:

[Pg 1420]

"There is something under all this!"

"But what?"

And from the first floor to the sixth they sought andconjectured and delved in their brains. Every lodgerhad the preoccupied air of a man that strives with allhis wits to solve an impossible cipher, and everywherethere began to be a vague disquiet, as it happens whenone finds himself in the presence of a sinister mystery.

Some one went so far as to hazard:

"This man must have committed a great and stillhidden crime; remorse pushes him to philanthropy."

"It was not a pleasant idea, either, the thought ofliving thus side by side with a rascal; no, by no means;he might be repentant, and all that, but suppose heyielded to temptation once more!"

"The house, perhaps, was badly built?" questionedanother, anxiously.

"Hum-m, so-so! no one could tell; but all knew onething—it was very, very old!"

"True! and it had been necessary to prop itwhen they dug the drain last year in the month ofMarch."

"Maybe it was the roof, then, and the house is top-heavy?"suggested a tenant on the fifth floor.

"Or perhaps," said a lodger in the garret, "there isa press for coining counterfeit money in the cellar; Ihave often heard at night a sound like the dull, muffledthud of a coin-stamper."

The opinion of another was that Russian, maybePrussian, spies had gained a lodgment in the house,while the gentleman of the first story was inclined to[Pg 1421]believe that the proprietor purposed to set fire to hishouse and furniture with the sole object of drawinggreat sums from the insurance companies.

Then began to happen, as they all declared, extraordinaryand even frightful things. On the sixth andmansard floors it appeared that strange and absolutelyinexplicable noises were heard. Then the nurse of theold lady on the fourth story, going one night to stealwine from the cellar, encountered the ghost of the defunctproprietor—he even held in his hand a receipt forrent—by which she knew him!

And the refrain from loft to cellar was:

"There is something under all this!"

From disquietude it had come to fright; from frightit quickly passed to terror. So that the gentleman ofthe first floor, who had valuables in his rooms, made uphis mind to go, and sent in notice by his clerk.

Bernard went to inform the proprietor, whor*sponded:

"All right, let the fool go!"

But next day the chiropodist of the second floor,though he had naught to fear for his valuables, imitatedthe gentleman beneath him. Then the bachelorsand the little households of the fifth story quickly followedthis example.

From that moment it was a general rout. By theend of the week, everybody had given notice. Everyone awaited some frightful catastrophe. They slept nomore. They organized patrols. The terrified domesticsswore that they too would quit the accursed houseand remained temporarily only on tripled wages.

[Pg 1422]

Bernard was no more than the ghost of himself; thefever of fear had worn him to a shadow.

"No," repeated his wife mournfully at each freshnotification, "no, it is not natural."

Meanwhile three-and-twenty "For Rent" placardsswung against the façade of the house, drawing anoccasional applicant for lodgings.

Bernard—never grumbling now—climbed the staircaseand ushered the visitor from apartment to apartment.

"You can have your choice," said he to the peoplethat presented themselves, "the house is entirelyvacant; all the tenants have given notice as one man.They do not know why, exactly, but things have happened,oh! yes, things! a mystery such as was neverbefore known—the proprietor has lowered his rents!"

And the would-be lodgers fled away affrighted.

The term ended, three-and-twenty vans carried awaythe furniture of the three-and-twenty tenants. Everybodyleft. From top to bottom, from foundations togarret, the house lay empty of lodgers.

The rats themselves, finding nothing to live on,abandoned it also.

Only the concièrge remained, gray green with fearin his lodge. Frightful visions haunted his sleep. Heseemed to hear lugubrious howlings and sinister murmursat night that made his teeth chatter with terrorand his hair erect itself under his cotton nightcap.Madame Bernard no more closed an eye than he. AndAmanda in her frenzy renounced all thought of theoperatic stage and married—for nothing in the world[Pg 1423]but to quit the paternal lodge—a young barber andhair-dresser whom she had never before been able toabide.

At last, one morning, after a more frightful nightmarethan usual, Bernard, too, took a great resolution.He went to the proprietor, gave up his keys, andscampered away.

And now on the Rue de la Victoria stands the abandonedhouse, "The Accursed House," whose history Ihave told you. Dust thickens upon the closed slats,grass grows in the court. No tenant ever presentshimself now; and in the quarter, where stands thisAccursed House, so funereal is its reputation that eventhe neighboring houses on either side of it have alsodepreciated in value.

Lower one's rents!! Who would think of such athing!!!

[Pg 1424]

[Pg 1425]

THE FÊTE AT COQUEVILLE

BY ÉMILE ZOLA

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (12)

"Jacques Damour" is the greatest of Zola'sshort stories, but its length precludes its usehere.

"Zola," says Edmund Gosse, "has rarely displayedthe quality of humor, but it is presentin the story called 'The Fête at Coqueville.'"

This scientific collector of "human documents"is probably the most widely read ofmodern French authors. He was born atParis in 1840, the son of an Italian engineer.In 1871 he began that long series for whichhe has been so much censured, the twenty volumesof "Rougon-Macquart," the natural andsocial history of a family under the SecondEmpire. Zola died by asphyxiation in 1902.

Though Zola has a predilection for the uglyside of life, he offends only against taste andnot against morals. It was a splendid act ofheroism, that manifesto of his called "J'Accuse"in which he defended Dreyfus in 1898, and forwhich he was imprisoned and fined.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (13)

[Pg 1426]

[Pg 1427]

THE FÊTE AT COQUEVILLE

BY ÉMILE ZOLA

Translated by L. G. Meyer.
Copyright, 1907, by P. F. Collier & Son.

I

Coqueville is a little village planted in acleft in the rocks, two leagues from Grandport.A fine sandy beach stretches in front of thehuts lodged half-way up in the side of the cliff likeshells left there by the tide. As one climbs to theheights of Grandport, on the left the yellow sheet ofsand can be very clearly seen to the west like a riverof gold dust streaming from the gaping cleft in therock; and with good eyes one can even distinguish thehouses, whose tones of rust spot the rock and whosechimneys send up their bluish trails to the very crestof the great slope, streaking the sky. It is a desertedhole. Coqueville has never been able to attain to thefigure of two hundred inhabitants. The gorge whichopens into the sea, and on the threshold of which thevillage is planted, burrows into the earth by turns soabrupt and by descents so steep that it is almost impossibleto pass there with wagons. It cuts off all communicationand isolates the country so that one seemsto be a hundred leagues from the neighboring hamlets.Moreover, the inhabitants have communication withGrandport only by water. Nearly all of them fishermen,living by the ocean, they carry their fish thereevery day in their barks. A great commission house,[Pg 1428]the firm of Dufeu, buys their fish on contract. Thefather Dufeu has been dead some years, but the widowDufeu has continued the business; she has simply engageda clerk, M. Mouchel, a big blond devil, chargedwith beating up the coast and dealing with the fishermen.This M. Mouchel is the sole link between Coquevilleand the civilized world.

Coqueville merits a historian. It seems certainthat the village, in the night of time, was founded bythe Mahés; a family which happened to establish itselfthere and which grew vigorous at the foot of the cliff.These Mahés continued to prosper at first, marryingcontinually among themselves, for during centuries onefinds none but Mahés there. Then under Louis XIIIappeared one Floche. No one knew too much of wherehe came from. He married a Mahé, and from that timea phenomenon was brought forth; the Floches in theirturn prospered and multiplied exceedingly, so that theyended little by little in absorbing the Mahés whosenumbers diminished until their fortune passed entirelyinto the hands of the newcomers. Without doubt, theFloches brought new blood, more vigorous physicalorgans, a temperament which adapted itself better tothat hard condition of high wind and of high sea. Atany rate, they are to-day masters of Coqueville.

It can easily be understood that this displacementof numbers and of riches was not accomplished withoutterrible disturbances. The Mahés and the Flochesdetest each other. Between them is a hatred of centuries.The Mahés in spite of their decline retain thepride of ancient conquerors. After all they are the[Pg 1429]founders, the ancestors. They speak with contemptof the first Floche, a beggar, a vagabond picked up bythem from feelings of pity, and to have given awayone of their daughters to whom was their eternal regret.This Floche, to hear them speak, had engenderednothing but a descent of libertines and thieves,who pass their nights in raising children and their daysin coveting legacies. And there is not an insult they donot heap upon the powerful tribe of Floche, seizedwith that bitter rage of nobles, decimated, ruined, whosee the spawn of the bourgeoisie master of their rentsand of their châteaux. The Floches, on their side,naturally have the insolence of those who triumph.They are in full possession, a thing to make them insolent.Full of contempt for the ancient race of theMahés, they threaten to drive them from the villageif they do not bow their heads. To them they arestarvelings, who instead of draping themselves in theirrags would do much better to mend them.

So Coqueville finds itself a prey to two fierce factions—somethinglike one hundred and thirty inhabitantsbent upon devouring the other fifty for thesimple reason that they are the stronger.

The struggle between two great empires has noother history.

Among the quarrels which have lately upset Coqueville,they cite the famous enmity of the brothers,Fouasse and Tupain, and the ringing battles of theRouget ménage. You must know that every inhabitantin former days received a surname, which has becometo-day the regular name of the family; for it was[Pg 1430]difficult to distinguish one's self among the cross-breedingsof the Mahés and the Floches. Rouget assuredlyhad an ancestor of fiery blood. As for Fouasse andTupain, they were called thus without knowing why,many surnames having lost all rational meaning incourse of time. Well, old Françoise, a wanton ofeighty years who lived forever, had had Fouasse bya Mahé, then becoming a widow, she remarried with aFloche and brought forth Tupain. Hence the hatredof the two brothers, made specially lively by the questionof inheritance. At the Rouget's they beat eachother to a jelly because Rouget accused his wife,Marie, of being unfaithful to him for a Floche, thetall Brisemotte, a strong, dark man, on whom he hadalready twice thrown himself with a knife, yellingthat he would rip open his belly. Rouget, a small,nervous man, was a great spitfire.

But that which interested Coqueville most deeplywas neither the tantrums of Rouget nor the differencesbetween Tupain and Fouasse. A great rumorcirculated: Delphin, a Mahé, a rascal of twenty years,dared to love the beautiful Margot, the daughter ofLa Queue, the richest of the Floches and chief manof the country. This La Queue was, in truth, a considerablepersonage. They called him La Queuebecause his father in the days of Louis Philippe, hadbeen the last to tie up his hair, with the obstinacy ofold age that clings to the fashions of its youth. Well,then, La Queue owned one of the two large fishingsmacks of Coqueville, the "Zéphir," by far the best,still quite new and seaworthy. The other big boat,[Pg 1431]the "Baleine," a rotten old patache,[1] belonged to Rouget,whose sailors were Delphin and Fouasse, while LaQueue took with him Tupain and Brisemotte. Theselast had grown weary of laughing contemptuously atthe "Baleine"; a sabot, they said, which would disappearsome fine day under the billows like a handful ofmud. So when La Queue learned that that ragamuffinof a Delphin, the froth of the "Baleine," allowed himselfto go prowling around his daughter, he deliveredtwo sound whacks at Margot, a trifle merely to warnher that she should never be the wife of a Mahé. As aresult, Margot, furious, declared that she would passthat pair of slaps on to Delphin if he ever ventured torub against her skirts. It was vexing to be boxed on theears for a boy whom she had never looked in the face!Margot, at sixteen years strong as a man andhandsome as a lady, had the reputation of being ascornful person, very hard on lovers. And from that,added to the trifle of the two slaps, of the presumptuousnessof Delphin, and of the wrath of Margot,one ought easily to comprehend the endless gossipof Coqueville.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (14)

Émile Zola

Notwithstanding, certain persons said that Margot,at bottom, was not so very furious at sight of Delphincircling around her. This Delphin was a little blonde,with skin bronzed by the sea-glare, and with a mane ofcurly hair that fell over his eyes and in his neck.And very powerful despite his slight figure; quitecapable of thrashing any one three times his size.They said that at times he ran away and passed the[Pg 1432]night in Grandport. That gave him the reputationof a werwolf with the girls, who accused him, amongthemselves, of "making a life of it"—a vague expressionin which they included all sorts of unknownpleasures. Margot, when she spoke of Delphin, betrayedtoo much feeling. He, smiling with an artfulair, looked at her with eyes half shut and glittering,without troubling himself the least in the world overher scorn or her transports of passion. He passedbefore her door, he glided along by the bushes watchingfor her hours at a time, full of the patience andthe cunning of a cat lying in wait for a tomtit; andwhen suddenly she discovered him behind her skirts,so close to her at times that she guessed it by thewarmth of his breath, he did not fly, he took on an airgentle and melancholy which left her abashed, stifled,not regaining her wrath until he was some distanceaway. Surely, if her father saw her he would smiteher again. But she boasted in vain that Delphin wouldsome day get that pair of slaps she had promised him;she never seized the moment to apply them when he wasthere; which made people say that she ought not to talkso much, since in the end she kept the slaps herself.

No one, however, supposed she could ever be Delphin'swife. In her case they saw the weakness of acoquette. As for a marriage between the most beggardlyof the Mahés, a fellow who had not six shirts toset up housekeeping with, and the daughter of themayor, the richest heiress of the Floches, it would seemsimply monstrous. Evil tongues insinuated that shecould perfectly go with him all the same, but that she[Pg 1433]would certainly not marry him. A rich girl takes herpleasure as it suits her, only if she has a head, she doesnot commit a folly. Finally all Coqueville interesteditself in the matter, curious to know how things wouldturn out. Would Delphin get his two slaps? or elseMargot, would she let herself be kissed on both cheeksin some hole in the cliff? They must see! Therewere some for the slaps and there were some for thekisses. Coqueville was in revolution.

In the village two people only, the curé and thegarde champêtre,[2] belonged neither to the Mahés norto the Floches. The garde champêtre, a tall, dried-upfellow, whose name no one knew, but who was calledthe Emperor, no doubt because he had served underCharles X, as a matter of fact exercised no burdensomesupervision over the commune which was all barerocks and waste lands. A sub-prefect who patronizedhim had created for him the sinecure where he devouredin peace his very small living.

As for the Abbé Radiguet, he was one of thosesimple-minded priests whom the bishop, in his desireto be rid of him, buries in some out of the way hole.He lived the life of an honest man, once more turnedpeasant, hoeing his little garden redeemed from therock, smoking his pipe and watching his salads grow.His sole fault was a gluttony which he knew not howto refine, reduced to adoring mackerel and to drinking,at times, more cider than he could contain. In otherrespects, the father of his parishioners, who came atlong intervals to hear a mass to please him.

[Pg 1434]

But the curé and the garde champêtre were obligedto take sides after having succeeded for a long timein remaining neutral. Now, the Emperor held forthe Mahés, while the Abbé Radiguet supported theFloches. Hence complications. As the Emperor,from morning to night, lived like a bourgeois [citizen],and as he wearied of counting the boats which put outfrom Grandport, he took it upon himself to act asvillage police. Having become the partizan of theMahés, through native instinct for the preservation ofsociety, he sided with Fouasse against Tupain; hetried to catch the wife of Rouget in flagrante delictowith Brisemotte, and above all he closed his eyes whenhe saw Delphin slipping into Margot's courtyard. Theworst of it was that these tactics brought about heatedquarrels between the Emperor and his natural superior,the mayor La Queue. Respectful of discipline, theformer heard the reproaches of the latter, then recommencedto act as his head dictated; which disorganizedthe public authority of Coqueville. One couldnot pass before the shed ornamented with the nameof the town hall without being deafened by the noiseof some dispute. On the other hand, the Abbé Radiguetrallied to the triumphant Floches, who loadedhim with superb mackerel, secretly encouraged theresistance of Rouget's wife and threatened Margotwith the flames of hell if she should ever allow Delphinto touch her with his finger. It was, to sum up,complete anarchy; the army in revolt against the civilpower, religion making itself complaisant toward thepleasures of the bourgoisie; a whole people, a hundred[Pg 1435]and eighty inhabitants, devouring each other in a hole,in face of the vast sea, and of the infinite sky.

Alone, in the midst of topsy-turvy Coqueville, Delphinpreserved the laughter of a love-sick boy, whoscorned the rest, provided Margot was for him. Hefollowed her zigzags as one follows hares. Very wise,despite his simple look, he wanted the curé to marrythem, so that his bliss might last forever.

One evening, in a byway where he was watchingfor her, Margot at last raised her hand. But shestopped, all red; for without waiting for the slap,he had seized the hand that threatened him andkissed it furiously. As she trembled, he said to herin a low voice: "I love you. Won't you have me?"

"Never!" she cried, in rebellion.

He shrugged his shoulders, then with an air, calmand tender, "Pray do not say that—we shall be verycomfortable together, we two. You will see hownice it is."

II

That Sunday the weather was appalling, one ofthose sudden calamities of September that unchainsuch fearful tempests on the rocky coast of Grandport.At nightfall Coqueville sighted a ship in distressdriven by the wind. But the shadows deepened,they could not dream of rendering help. Since theevening before, the "Zéphir" and the "Baleine" hadbeen moored in the little natural harbor situated atthe left of the beach, between two walls of granite.Neither La Queue nor Rouget had dared to go out;[Pg 1436]the worst of it was that M. Mouchel, representing theWidow Dufeu, had taken the trouble to come in personthat Saturday to promise them a reward if they wouldmake a serious effort; fish was scarce, they werecomplaining at the markets. So, Sunday evening,going to bed under squalls of rain, Coqueville growledin a bad humor. It was the everlasting story: orderskept coming in while the sea guarded its fish. Andall the village talked of the ship which they had seenpassing in the hurricane, and which must assuredlyby that time be sleeping at the bottom of the water.The next day, Monday, the sky was dark as ever.The sea, still high, raged without being able to calmitself, although the wind was blowing less strong.It fell completely, but the waves kept up their furiousmotion. In spite of everything, the two boats wentout in the afternoon. Toward four o'clock, the"Zéphir" came in again, having caught nothing.While the sailors, Tupain and Brisemotte, anchoredin the little harbor, La Queue, exasperated, on theshore, shook his fist at the ocean. And M. Mouchelwas waiting! Margot was there, with the half ofCoqueville, watching the last surgings of the tempest,sharing her father's rancor against the sea and thesky.

"But where is the 'Baleine'?" demanded some one.

"Out there beyond the point," said La Queue. "Ifthat carcass comes back whole to-day, it will be by achance."

He was full of contempt. Then he informed themthat it was good for the Mahés to risk their skins in[Pg 1437]that way; when one is not worth a sou, one mayperish. As for him, he preferred to break his wordto M. Mouchel.

In the mean time, Margot was examining the pointof rocks behind which the "Baleine" was hidden.

"Father," she asked at last, "have they caught something?"

"They?" he cried. "Nothing at all."

He calmed himself and added more gently, seeingthe Emperor, who was sneering at him:

"I do not know whether they have caught anything,but as they never do catch anything—"

"Perhaps, to-day, all the same, they have takensomething," said the Emperor ill-naturedly. "Suchthings have been seen." La Queue was about toreply angrily. But the Abbé Radiguet, who cameup, calmed him. From the porch of the church theabbé had happened to observe the "Baleine"; and thebark seemed to be giving chase to some big fish. Thisnews greatly interested Coqueville. In the groupsreunited on the shore there were Mahés and Floches,the former praying that the boat might come in witha miraculous catch, the others making vows that itmight come in empty.

Margot, holding herself very straight, did not takeher eyes from the sea. "There they are!" said shesimply.

And in fact a black dot showed itself beyond thepoint. All looked at it. One would have said a corkdancing on the water. The Emperor did not seeeven the black dot. One must be of Coqueville to[Pg 1438]recognize at that distance the "Baleine" and thosewho manned her.

"See!" said Margot, who had the best eyes of thecoast, "it is Fouasse and Rouget who are rowing—Thelittle one is standing up in the bow."

She called Delphin "the little one" so as not to mentionhis name. And from then on they followed thecourse of the bark, trying to account for her strangemovements. As the curé said, she appeared to begiving chase to some great fish that might be fleeingbefore her. That seemed extraordinary. The Emperorpretended that their net was without doubtbeing carried away. But La Queue cried that theywere do-nothings, and that they were just amusingthemselves. Quite certain they were not fishing forseals! All the Floches made merry over that joke;while the Mahés, vexed, declared that Rouget was afine fellow all the same, and that he was risking hisskin while others at the least puff of wind preferredterra firma. The Abbé Radiguet was forced to interposeagain for there were slaps in the air.

"What ails them?" said Margot abruptly. "Theyare off again!" They ceased menacing one another,and every eye searched the horizon. The "Baleine"was once more hidden behind the point. This timeLa Queue himself became uneasy. He could not accountfor such maneuvres. The fear that Rougetwas really in a fair way to catch some fish threw himoff his mental balance. No one left the beach, althoughthere was nothing strange to be seen. They stayedthere nearly two hours, they watched incessantly for[Pg 1439]the bark, which appeared from time to time, then disappeared.It finished by not showing itself at all anymore. La Queue, enraged, breathing in his heart theabominable wish, declared that she must have sunk;and, as just at that moment Rouget's wife appearedwith Brisemotte, he looked at them both, sneering,while he patted Tupain on the shoulder to consolehim already for the death of his brother, Fouasse.But he stopped laughing when he caught sight of hisdaughter Margot, silent and looming, her eyes on thedistance; it was quite possibly for Delphin.

"What are you up to over there?" he scolded. "Beoff home with you! Mind, Margot!"

She did not stir. Then all at once: "Ah! therethey are!"

He gave a cry of surprise. Margot, with her goodeyes, swore that she no longer saw a soul in the bark;neither Rouget, nor Fouasse, nor any one! The"Baleine," as if abandoned, ran before the wind,tacking about every minute, rocking herself with alazy air.

A west wind had fortunately risen and was drivingher toward the land, but with strange capriceswhich tossed her to right and to left. Then all Coquevilleran down to the shore. One half shouted to theother half, there remained not a girl in the houses tolook after the soup. It was a catastrophe; somethinginexplicable, the strangeness of which completelyturned their heads. Marie, the wife of Rouget, aftera moment's reflection, thought it her duty to burst intotears. Tupain succeeded in merely carrying an air of[Pg 1440]affliction. All the Mahés were in great distress, whilethe Floches tried to appear conventional. Margot collapsedas if she had her legs broken.

"What are you up to again!" cried La Queue, whostumbled upon her.

"I am tired," she answered simply.

And she turned her face toward the sea, her cheeksbetween her hands, shading her eyes with the endsof her fingers, gazing fixedly at the bark rocking itselfidly on the waves with the air of a good fellow whohas drunk too much.

In the mean while suppositions were rife. Perhapsthe three men had fallen into the water? Only,all three at a time, that seemed absurd. La Queuewould have liked well to persuade them that the"Baleine" had gone to pieces like a rotten egg; butthe boat still held the sea; they shrugged theirshoulders. Then, as if the three men had actuallyperished, he remembered that he was Mayor and spokeof formalities.

"Leave off!" cried the Emperor, "Does one die insuch a silly way?" "If they had fallen overboard,little Delphin would have been here by this!"

All Coqueville had to agree, Delphin swam like aherring. But where then could the three men be?They shouted: "I tell you, yes!"—"I tell you, no!"—"Toostupid!"—"Stupid yourself!" And matterscame to the point of exchanging blows. The AbbéRadiguet was obliged to make an appeal for reconciliation,while the Emperor hustled the crowd aboutto establish order. Meanwhile, the bark, without haste,[Pg 1441]continued to dance before the world. It waltzed,seeming to mock at the people; the sea carried her in,making her salute the land in long rhythmic reverences.Surely it was a bark in a crazy fit. Margot,her cheeks between her hands, kept always gazing.A yawl had just put out of the harbor to go to meetthe "Baleine." It was Brisemotte, who had exhibitedthat impatience, as if he had been delayed in givingcertainty to Rouget's wife. From that moment allCoqueville interested itself in the yawl. The voicesrose higher: "Well, does he see anything?" The"Baleine" advanced with her mysterious and mockingair. At last they saw him draw himself up and lookinto the bark that he had succeeded in taking in tow.All held their breath. But, abruptly, he burst outlaughing. That was a surprise; what had he to beamused at? "What is it? What have you got there?"they shouted to him furiously.

He, without replying, laughed still louder. Hemade gestures as if to say that they would see. Thenhaving fastened the "Baleine" to the yawl, he towedher back. And an unlooked-for spectacle stunnedCoqueville. In the bottom of the bark, the three men—Rouget,Delphin, Fouasse—were beatifically stretchedout on their backs, snoring, with fists clenched, deaddrunk. In their midst was found a little cask stove in,some full cask they had come across at sea and whichthey had appreciated. Without doubt, it was verygood, for they had drunk it all save a liter's worthwhich had leaked into the bark and which was mixedwith the sea water.

[Pg 1442]

"Ah! the pig!" cried the wife of Rouget, brutally,ceasing to whimper.

"Well, it's characteristic—their catch!" said LaQueue, who affected great disgust.

"Forsooth!" replied the Emperor, "they catch whatthey can! They have at least caught a cask, whileothers have not caught anything at all."

The Mayor shut up, greatly vexed. Coquevillebrayed. They understood now. When barks are intoxicated,they dance as men do; and that one, intruth, had her belly full of liquor. Ah, the slu*t!What a minx! She festooned over the ocean withthe air of a sot who could no longer recognize hishome. And Coqueville laughed, and fumed, theMahés found it funny, while the Floches found itdisgusting. They surrounded the "Baleine," theycraned their necks, they strained their eyes to seesleeping there the three jolly dogs who were exposingthe secret springs of their jubilation, oblivious of thecrowd hanging over them. The abuse and the laughtertroubled them but little. Rouget did not hear hiswife accuse him of drinking up all they had; Fouassedid not feel the stealthy kicks with which his brotherTupain rammed his sides. As for Delphin, he waspretty, after he had drunk, with his blond hair, hisrosy face drowned in bliss. Margot had gotten up,and silently, for the present, she contemplated thelittle fellow with a hard expression.

"Must put them to bed!" cried a voice.

But just then Delphin opened his eyes. He rolledlooks of rapture over the people. They questioned him[Pg 1443]on all sides with an eagerness that dazed him somewhat,the more easily since he was still as drunk as athrush.

"Well! What?" he stuttered; "it was a little cask—Thereis no fish. Therefore, we have caught a littlecask."

He did not get beyond that. To every sentence headded simply: "It was very good!"

"But what was it in the cask?" they asked himhotly.

"Ah! I don't know—it was very good."

By this time Coqueville was burning to know.Every one lowered their noses to the boat, sniffingvigorously. With one opinion, it smelt of liquor;only no one could guess what liquor. The Emperor,who flattered himself that he had drunk of everythingthat a man can drink, said that he would see. Hesolemnly took in the palm of his hand a little of theliquor that was swimming in the bottom of the bark.The crowd became all at once silent. They waited.But the Emperor, after sucking up a mouthful, shookhis head as if still badly informed. He sucked twice,more and more embarrassed, with an air of uneasinessand surprise. And he was bound to confess:

"I do not know—It's strange—If there was nosalt water in it, I would know, no doubt—My wordof honor, it is very strange!"

They looked at him. They stood struck with awebefore that which the Emperor himself did not ventureto pronounce. Coqueville contemplated with respectthe little empty cask.

[Pg 1444]

"It was very good!" once more said Delphin, whoseemed to be making game of the people. Then, indicatingthe sea with a comprehensive sweep, he added:"If you want some, there is more there—I saw them—littlecasks—little casks—little casks—"

And he rocked himself with the refrain which hekept singing, gazing tenderly at Margot. He hadjust caught sight of her. Furious, she made a motionas if to slap him; but he did not even close his eyes;he awaited the slap with an air of tenderness.

The Abbé Radiguet, puzzled by that unknown tipple,he, too, dipped his finger in the bark and sucked it.Like the Emperor, he shook his head: no, he was notfamiliar with that, it was very extraordinary. Theyagreed on but one point: the cask must have beenwreckage from the ship in distress, signaled Sundayevening. The English ships often carried to Grandportsuch cargoes of liquor and fine wines.

Little by little the day faded and the people werewithdrawn into shadow. But La Queue remained absorbed,tormented by an idea which he no longerexpressed. He stopped, he listened a last time toDelphin, whom they were carrying along, and whowas repeating in his sing-song voice: "Little casks—littlecasks—little casks—if you want some, there aremore!"

III

That night the weather changed completely. WhenCoqueville awoke the following day an unclouded sunwas shining; the sea spread out without a wrinkle, like[Pg 1445]a great piece of green satin. And it was warm, one ofthose pale glows of autumn.

First of the village, La Queue had risen, stillclouded from the dreams of the night. He kept lookingfor a long time toward the sea, to the right, to theleft. At last, with a sour look, he said that he mustin any event satisfy M. Mouchel. And he went awayat once with Tupain and Brisemotte, threatening Margotto touch up her sides if she did not walk straight.As the "Zéphir" left the harbor, and as he saw the"Baleine" swinging heavily at her anchor, he cheeredup a little, saying: "To-day, I guess, not a bit of it!Blow out the candle, Jeanetton! those gentlemen havegone to bed!"

And as soon as the "Zéphir" had reached the opensea, La Queue cast his nets. After that he went tovisit his "jambins." The jambins are a kind of elongatedeel-pot in which they catch more, especially lobstersand red gurnet. But in spite of the calm sea,he did well to visit his jambins one by one. All wereempty; at the bottom of the last one, as if in mockery,he found a little mackerel, which he threw back angrilyinto the sea. It was fate; there were weeks like thatwhen the fish flouted Coqueville, and always at a timewhen M. Mouchel had expressed a particular desirefor them. When La Queue drew in his nets, an hourlater, he found nothing but a bunch of seaweed.Straightway he swore, his fists clenched, raging somuch the more for the vast serenity of the ocean,lazy and sleeping like a sheet of burnished silver underthe blue sky. The "Zéphir," without a waver, glided[Pg 1446]along in gentle ease. La Queue decided to go in again,after having cast his nets once more. In the afternoonhe came to see them, and he menaced God and thesaints, cursing in abominable words.

In the mean while, Rouget, Fouasse, and Delphinkept on sleeping. They did not succeed in standingup until the dinner hour. They recollected nothing,they were conscious only of having been treated tosomething extraordinary, something which they didnot understand. In the afternoon, as they were allthree down at the harbor, the Emperor tried to questionthem concerning the liquor, now that they hadrecovered their senses. It was like, perhaps, eau-de-viewith liquorice-juice in it; or rather one might sayrum, sugared and burned. They said "Yes"; theysaid "No." From their replies, the Emperor suspectedthat it was ratafia; but he would not have sworn to it.That day Rouget and his men had too many pains intheir sides to go a-fishing. Moreover, they knew thatLa Queue had gone out without success that morning,and they talked of waiting until the next day beforevisiting their jambins. All three of them, seated onblocks of stone, watched the tide come in, their backsrounded, their mouths clammy, half-asleep.

But suddenly Delphin woke up; he jumped on to thestone, his eyes on the distance, crying: "Look, Boss,off there!"

"What?" asked Rouget, who stretched his limbs.

"A cask."

Rouget and Fouasse were at once on their feet, theireyes gleaming, sweeping the horizon.

[Pg 1447]

"Where is it, lad? Where is the cask?" repeatedthe boss, greatly moved.

"Off there—to the left—that black spot."

The others saw nothing. Then Rouget swore anoath. "Nom de Dieu!"

He had just spotted the cask, big as a lentil on thewhite water in a slanting ray of the setting sun. And heran to the "Baleine," followed by Delphin and Fouasse,who darted forward tapping their backs with theirheels and making the pebbles roll.

The "Baleine" was just putting out from the harborwhen the news that they saw a cask out at sea wascirculated in Coqueville. The children, the women,began to run. They shouted: "A cask! a cask!"

"Do you see it? The current is driving it towardGrandport."

"Ah, yes! on the left—a cask! Come, quick!"

And Coqueville came; tumbled down from its rock;the children arrived head over heels, while the womenpicked up their skirts with both hands to descendquickly. Soon the entire village was on the beach ason the night before.

Margot showed herself for an instant, then she ranback at full speed to the house, where she wished toforestall her father, who was discussing an officialprocess with the Emperor. At last La Queue appeared.He was livid; he said to the garde champêtre:"Hold your peace! It's Rouget who has sent youhere to beguile me. Well, then, he shall not get it.You'll see!"

When he saw the "Baleine," three hundred metres[Pg 1448]out, making with all her oars toward the black dot,rocking in the distance, his fury redoubled. And heshoved Tupain and Brisemotte into the "Zéphir," andhe pulled out in turn, repeating: "No, they shall nothave it; I'll die sooner!"

Then Coqueville had a fine spectacle; a mad racebetween the "Zéphir" and the "Baleine." When thelatter saw the first leave the harbor, she understoodthe danger, and shot off with all her speed. She mayhave been four hundred metres ahead; but the chancesremained even, for the "Zéphir" was otherwise lightand swift; so excitement was at its height on thebeach. The Mahés and the Floches had instinctivelyformed into two groups, following eagerly the vicissitudesof the struggle, each upholding its own boat.At first the "Baleine" kept her advantage, but as soonas the "Zéphir" spread herself, they saw that she wasgaining little by little. The "Baleine" made a supremeeffort and succeeded for a few minutes in holding herdistance. Then the "Zéphir" once more gained uponthe "Baleine," came up with her at extraordinaryspeed. From that moment on, it was evident thatthe two barks would meet in the neighborhood ofthe cask. Victory hung on a circ*mstance, on theslightest mishap.

"The 'Baleine'! The 'Baleine'!" cried the Mahés.

But they soon ceased shouting. When the "Baleine"was almost touching the cask, the "Zéphir," by a boldmaneuvre, managed to pass in front of her and throwthe cask to the left, where La Queue harpooned itwith a thrust of the boat-hook.

[Pg 1449]

"The 'Zéphir'! the 'Zéphir'!" screamed the Floches.

And the Emperor, having spoken of foul play, bigwords were exchanged. Margot clapped her hands.The Abbé Radiguet came down with his breviary,made a profound remark which abruptly calmed thepeople, and then threw them into consternation.

"They will, perhaps, drink it all, these, too," hemurmured with a melancholy air.

At sea, between the "Baleine" and the "Zéphir," aviolent quarrel broke out. Rouget called La Queuea thief, while the latter called Rouget a good-for-nothing.The men even took up their oars to beat eachother down, and the adventure lacked little of turninginto a naval combat. More than this, they engaged tomeet on land, showing their fists and threatening todisembowel each other as soon as they found eachother again.

"The rascal!" grumbled Rouget. "You know, thatcask is bigger than the one of yesterday. It's yellow,this one—it ought to be great." Then in accents ofdespair: "Let's go and see the jambins; there may verypossibly be lobsters in them."

And the "Baleine" went on heavily to the left, steeringtoward the point.

In the "Zéphir," La Queue had to get in a passionin order to hold Tupain and Brisemotte from the cask.The boat-hook, in smashing a hoop, had made a leakingfor the red liquid, which the two men tasted fromthe ends of their fingers, and which they found exquisite.One might easily drink a glass without its producingmuch effect. But La Queue would not have it.[Pg 1450]He caulked the cask and declared that the first whosucked it should have a talk with him. On land, theywould see.

"Then," asked Tupain, sullenly, "are we going todraw out the jambins?"

"Yes, right away; there is no hurry!" replied LaQueue.

He also gazed lovingly at the barrel. He felt hislimbs melt with longing to go in at once and taste it.The fish bored him.

"Bah!" said he at the end of a silence. "Let's goback, for it's late. We will return to-morrow." Andhe was relaxing his fishing when he noticed anothercask at his right, this one very small, and which stoodon end, turning on itself like a top. That was the laststraw for the nets and the jambins. No one even spokeof them any longer. The "Zéphir" gave chase to thelittle barrel, which was caught very easily.

During this time a similar adventure overtook the"Baleine." After Rouget had already visited five jambinscompletely empty, Delphin, always on the watch,cried out that he saw something. But it did not havethe appearance of a cask, it was too long.

"It's a beam," said Fouasse.

Rouget let fall his sixth jambin without drawing itout of the water. "Let's go and see, all the same,"said he.

As they advanced, they thought they recognized atfirst a beam, a chest, the trunk of a tree. Then theygave a cry of joy.

It was a real cask, but a very queer cask, such as[Pg 1451]they had never seen before. One would have said atube, bulging in the middle and closed at the twoends by a layer of plaster.

"Ah, that's comical!" cried Rouget, in rapture."This one I want the Emperor to taste. Come, children,let's go in."

They all agreed not to touch it, and the "Baleine"returned to Coqueville at the same moment as the"Zéphir," in its turn, anchored in the little harbor.Not one inquisitive had left the beach. Cries of joygreeted that unexpected catch of three casks. Thegamins hurled their caps into the air, while the womenhad at once gone on the run to look for glasses. Itwas decided to taste the liquid on the spot. The wreckagebelonged to the village. Not one protest arose.Only they formed into two groups, the Mahés surroundedRouget, the Floches would not let go of LaQueue.

"Emperor, the first glass for you!" cried Rouget."Tell us what it is."

The liquor was of a beautiful golden yellow. Thegarde champêtre raised his glass, looked at it, smelt it,then decided to drink.

"That comes from Holland," said he, after a longsilence.

He did not give any other information. All theMahés drank with deference. It was rather thick, andthey stood surprised, for it tasted of flowers. Thewomen found it very good. As for the men, theywould have preferred less sugar. Nevertheless, at thebottom it ended by being strong at the third or fourth[Pg 1452]glass. The more they drank, the better they liked it.The men became jolly, the women grew funny.

But the Emperor, in spite of his recent quarrels withthe Mayor, had gone to hang about the group ofFloches.

The biggest cask gave out a dark-red liquor, whilethey drew from the smallest a liquid white as waterfrom the rock; and it was this latter that was thestiffest, a regular pepper, something that skinnedthe tongue.

Not one of the Floches recognized it, neither thered nor the white.

There were, however, some wags there. It annoyedthem to be regaling themselves without knowingover what.

"I say, Emperor, taste that for me!" said La Queue,thus taking the first step.

The Emperor, who had been waiting for the invitation,posed once more as connoisseur.

"As for the red," he said, "there is orange inthat! And for the white," he declared, "that—thatis excellent!"

They had to content themselves with these replies,for he shook his head with a knowing air, with thehappy look of a man who has given satisfaction tothe world.

The Abbé Radiguet, alone, did not seem convinced.As for him, he had the names on the tip of his tongue;and to thoroughly reassure himself, he drank smallglasses, one after the other, repeating: "Wait, wait, Iknow what it is. In a moment I will tell you."

[Pg 1453]

In the mean while, little by little, merriment grew inthe group of the Mahés and the group of the Floches.The latter, particularly, laughed very loud because theyhad mixed the liquors, a thing that excited them themore. For the rest, the one and the other of thegroups kept apart. They did not offer each other oftheir casks, they simply cast sympathetic glances, seizedwith the unavowed desire to taste their neighbor'sliquor, which might possibly be better. The inimicalbrothers, Tupain and Fouasse, were in close proximityall the evening without showing their fists. It wasremarked, also, that Rouget and his wife drank fromthe same glass. As for Margot, she distributed theliquor among the Floches, and as she filled the glassestoo full, and the liquor ran over her fingers, she keptsucking them continually, so well that, though obeyingher father who forbade her to drink, she became asfuddled as a girl in vintage time. It was not unbecomingto her; on the contrary, she got rosy all over,her eyes were like candles.

The sun set, the evening was like the softness ofspringtime. Coqueville had finished the casks and didnot dream of going home to dine. They found themselvestoo comfortable on the beach. When it waspitch night, Margot, sitting apart, felt some one blowingon her neck. It was Delphin, very gay, walking onall fours, prowling behind her like a wolf. She represseda cry so as not to awaken her father, whowould have sent Delphin a kick in the back.

"Go away, imbecile!" she murmured, half angry,half laughing; "you will get yourself caught!"

[Pg 1454]

IV

The following day Coqueville, in rising, found thesun already high above the horizon. The air wassofter still, a drowsy sea under a clear sky, one ofthose times of laziness when it is so good to do nothing.It was a Wednesday. Until breakfast time,Coqueville rested from the fête of the previous evening.Then they went down to the beach to see.

That Wednesday the fish, the Widow Dufeu, M.Mouchel, all were forgotten. La Queue and Rougetdid not even speak of visiting their jambins.Toward three o'clock they sighted some casks. Fourof them were dancing before the village. The "Zéphir"and the "Baleine" went in chase; but as there wasenough for all, they disputed no longer. Each boathad its share. At six o'clock, after having swept allover the little gulf, Rouget and La Queue came in,each with three casks. And the fête began again.The women had brought down tables for convenience.They had brought benches as well; they set up twocafés in the open air, such as they had at Grandport.The Mahés were on the left; the Floches on the right,still separated by a bar of sand. Nevertheless, thatevening the Emperor, who went from one group to theother, carried his glasses full, so as to give every onea taste of the six casks. At about nine o'clock theywere much gayer than the night before. The next dayCoqueville could never remember how it had goneto bed.

Thursday the "Zéphir" and the "Baleine" caught[Pg 1455]but four casks, two each, but they were enormous.Friday the fishing was superb, undreamed of; therewere seven casks, three for Rouget and four for LaQueue. Coqueville was entering upon a golden age.They never did anything any more. The fishermen,working off the alcohol of the night before, slept tillnoon. Then they strolled down to the beach and interrogatedthe sea. Their sole anxiety was to knowwhat liquor the sea was going to bring them. Theywaited there for hours, their eyes strained; they raisedshouts of joy when wreckage appeared.

The women and the children, from the tops of therocks, pointed with sweeping gestures even to the leastbunch of seaweed rolled in by the waves. And, at allhours, the "Zéphir" and the "Baleine" stood ready toleave. They put out, they beat the gulf, they fishedfor casks, as they had fished for tun; disdaining nowthe tame mackerel who capered about in the sun, andthe lazy sole rocked on the foam of the water. Coquevillewatched the fishing, dying of laughter on thesands. Then in the evening they drank the catch.

That which enraptured Coqueville was that thecasks did not cease. When there were no more, therewere still more! The ship that had been lost musttruly have had a pretty cargo aboard; and Coquevillebecame egoist and merry, joked over the wrecked ship,a regular wine-cellar, enough to intoxicate all the fishof the ocean. Added to that, never did they catch twocasks alike; they were of all shapes, of all sizes, ofall colors. Then, in every cask there was a differentliquor. So the Emperor was plunged into profound[Pg 1456]reveries; he who had drunk everything, he could identifynothing any more. La Queue declared that neverhad he seen such a cargo. The Abbé Radiguet guessedit was an order from some savage king, wishing toset up his wine-cellar. Coqueville, rocked in mysteriousintoxication, no longer tried to understand.

The ladies preferred the "creams"; they had creamof moka, of cacao, of mint, of vanilla. Marie Rougetdrank one night so much anisette that she was sick.

Margot and the other young ladies tapped thecuraçao, the benedictine, the trappistine, the chartreuse.As to the cassis, it was reserved for the little children.Naturally the men rejoiced more when they caughtcognacs, rums, gins, everything that burned the mouth.Then surprises produced themselves. A cask of rakiof Chio, flavored with mastic, stupefied Coqueville,which thought that it had fallen on a cask of essenceof turpentine. All the same they drank it, for theymust lose nothing; but they talked about it for a longtime. Arrack from Batavia, Swedish eau-de-vie withcumin, tuica calugaresca from Rumania, slivowitzfrom Servia, all equally overturned every idea thatCoqueville had of what one should endure. At heartthey had a weakness for kümmel and kirschwasser,for liqueurs as pale as water and stiff enough to killa man.

Heavens! was it possible so many good things hadbeen invented! At Coqueville they had known nothingbut eau-de-vie; and, moreover, not every one atthat. So their imaginations finished in exultation;they arrived at a state of veritable worship, in face of[Pg 1457]that inexhaustible variety, for that which intoxicates.Oh! to get drunk every night on something new, onsomething one does not even know the name of! Itseemed like a fairy-tale, a rain, a fountain, that wouldspout extraordinary liquids, all the distilled alcohols,perfumed with all the flowers and all the fruits ofcreation.

So then, Friday evening, there were seven casks onthe beach! Coqueville did not leave the beach. Theylived there, thanks to the mildness of the season.Never in September had they enjoyed so fine a week.The fête had lasted since Monday, and there was noreason why it should not last forever if Providenceshould continue to send them casks; for the AbbéRadiguet saw therein the hand of Providence. Allbusiness was suspended; what use drudging whenpleasure came to them in their sleep? They were allbourgeois, bourgeois who were drinking expensiveliquors without having to pay anything at the café.With hands in pocket, Coqueville, basked in the sunshinewaiting for the evening's spree. Moreover, itdid not sober up; it enjoyed side by side the gaieties ofkümmel, of kirschwasser, of ratafia; in seven daysthey knew the wraths of gin, the tendernesses ofcuraçao, the laughter of cognac. And Coqueville remainedas innocent as a new-born child, knowingnothing about anything, drinking with conviction thatwhich the good Lord sent them.

It was on Friday that the Mahés and the Flochesfraternized. They were very jolly that evening. Already,the evening before, distances had drawn nearer,[Pg 1458]the most intoxicated had trodden down the bar of sandwhich separated the two groups. There remained butone step to take. On the side of the Floches the fourcasks were emptying, while the Mahés were equallyfinishing their three little barrels; just three liqueurswhich made the French flag; one blue, one white, andone red. The blue filled the Floches with jealousy,because a blue liqueur seemed to them something reallysupernatural. La Queue, grown good-natured nowever since he had been drunk, advanced, a glass in hishand, feeling that he ought to take the first step asmagistrate.

"See here, Rouget," he stuttered, "will you drinkwith me?"

"Willingly," replied Rouget, who was staggeringunder a feeling of tenderness.

And they fell upon each other's necks. Then theyall wept, so great was their emotion. The Mahés andthe Floches embraced, they who had been devouringone another for three centuries. The Abbé Radiguet,greatly touched, again spoke of the finger of God.They drank to each other in the three liqueurs, theblue, the white, and the red.

"Vive la France!" cried the Emperor.

The blue was worthless, the white of not much account,but the red was really a success. Then theytapped the casks of the Floches. Then they danced.As there was no band, some good-natured boys clappedtheir hands, whistling, which excited the girls. Thefête became superb. The seven casks were placed ina row; each could choose that which he liked best.[Pg 1459]Those who had had enough stretched themselves outon the sands, where they slept for a while; and whenthey awoke they began again. Little by little the othersspread the fun until they took up the whole beach.Right up to midnight they skipped in the open air.The sea had a soft sound, the stars shone in a deepsky, a sky of vast peace. It was the serenity of theinfant ages enveloping the joy of a tribe of savages,intoxicated by their first cask of eau-de-vie.

Nevertheless, Coqueville went home to bed again.When there was nothing more left to drink, theFloches and the Mahés helped one another, carriedone another, and ended by finding their beds againone way or another. On Saturday the fête lasted untilnearly two o'clock in the morning. They had caughtsix casks, two of them enormous. Fouasse and Tupainalmost fought. Tupain, who was wicked when drunk,talked of finishing his brother. But that quarrel disgustedevery one, the Floches as well as the Mahés.Was it reasonable to keep on quarreling when thewhole village was embracing? They forced the twobrothers to drink together. They were sulky. TheEmperor promised to watch them. Neither did theRouget household get on well. When Marie had takenanisette she was prodigal in her attentions to Brisemotte,which Rouget could not behold with a calmeye, especially since having become sensitive, he alsowished to be loved. The Abbé Radiguet, full of forbearance,did well in preaching forgiveness of injuries;they feared an accident.

"Bah!" said La Queue; "all will arrange itself. If[Pg 1460]the fishing is good to-morrow, you will see—Yourhealth!"

However, La Queue himself was not yet perfect.He still kept his eye on Delphin and leveled kicks athim whenever he saw him approach Margot. TheEmperor was indignant, for there was no commonsense in preventing two young people from laughing.But La Queue always swore to kill his daughter soonerthan give her to "the little one." Moreover, Margotwould not be willing.

"Isn't it so? You are too proud," he cried. "Neverwould you marry a ragamuffin!"

"Never, papa!" answered Margot.

Saturday, Margot drank a great deal of sugaryliqueur. No one had any idea of such sugar. As shewas no longer on her guard, she soon found herselfsitting close to the cask. She laughed, happy, in paradise;she saw stars, and it seemed to her that there wasmusic within her, playing dance tunes. Then it wasthat Delphin slipped into the shadow of the casks. Hetook her hand; he asked: "Say, Margot, will you?"

She kept on smiling. Then she replied: "It is papawho will not."

"Oh! that's nothing," said the little one; "you knowthe old ones never will—provided you are willing,you." And he grew bold, he planted a kiss on herneck. She bridled; shivers ran along her shoulders."Stop! You tickle me."

But she talked no more of giving him a slap. Inthe first place, she was not able to, for her hands weretoo weak. Then it seemed nice to her, those little[Pg 1461]kisses on the neck. It was like the liqueur that enervatedher so deliciously. She ended by turning herhead and extending her chin, just like a cat.

"There!" she stammered, "there under the ear—thattickles me. Oh! that is nice!"

They had both forgotten La Queue. Fortunatelythe Emperor was on guard. He pointed them out tothe Abbé.

"Look there, Curé—it would be better to marrythem."

"Morals would gain thereby," declared the priestsententiously.

And he charged himself with the matter for themorrow. 'Twas he himself that would speak to LaQueue. Meanwhile La Queue had drunk so muchthat the Emperor and the Curé were forced tocarry him home. On the way they tried to reasonwith him on the subject of his daughter; but theycould draw from him nothing but growls. Behindthem, in the untroubled night, Delphin led Margothome.

The next day by four o'clock the "Zéphir" and the"Baleine" had already caught seven casks. At sixo'clock the "Zéphir" caught two more. That madenine.

Then Coqueville fêted Sunday. It was the seventhday that it had been drunk. And the fête wascomplete—a fête such as no one had ever seen, andwhich no one will ever see again. Speak of it inLower Normandy, and they will tell you with laughter,"Ah! yes, the fête at Coqueville!"

[Pg 1462]

V

In the mean while, since the Tuesday, M. Mouchelhad been surprised at not seeing either Rouget or LaQueue arrive at Grandport. What the devil couldthose fellows be doing? The sea was fine, the fishingought to be splendid. Very possibly they wished tobring a whole load of soles and lobsters in all at once.And he was patient until the Wednesday.

Wednesday, M. Mouchel was angry. You mustknow that the Widow Dufeu was not a commodiousperson. She was a woman who in a flash came to highwords. Although he was a handsome fellow, blondand powerful, he trembled before her, especially sincehe had dreams of marrying her, always with littleattentions, free to subdue her with a slap if he everbecame her master. Well, that Wednesday morningthe Widow Dufeu stormed, complaining that the bundleswere no longer forwarded, that the sea failed;and she accused him of running after the girls of thecoast instead of busying himself with the whiting andthe mackerel which ought to be yielding in abundance.M. Mouchel, vexed, fell back on Coqueville's singularbreach of honor. For a moment surprise calmed theWidow Dufeu. What was Coqueville dreaming about?Never had it so conducted itself before. But she declaredimmediately that she had nothing to do withCoqueville; that it was M. Mouchel's business to lookinto matters, that she should take a partner if he allowedhimself to be played with again by the fishermen.In a word, much disquieted, he sent Rouget and[Pg 1463]La Queue to the devil. Perhaps, after all, they wouldcome to-morrow.

The next day, Thursday, neither the one nor theother appeared. Toward evening, M. Mouchel, desperate,climbed the rock to the left of Grandport, fromwhich one could see in the distance Coqueville, withits yellow spot of beach. He gazed at it a long time.The village had a tranquil look in the sun, light smokewas rising from the chimneys; no doubt the womenwere preparing the soup. M. Mouchel was satisfiedthat Coqueville was still in its place, that a rock fromthe cliff had not crushed it, and he understood lessand less. As he was about to descend again, hethought he could make out two black points on thegulf; the "Baleine" and the "Zéphir." After that hewent back to calm the Widow Dufeu. Coqueville wasfishing. The night passed. Friday was here. Stillnothing of Coqueville. M. Mouchel climbed to hisrock more than ten times. He was beginning to losehis head; the Widow Dufeu behaved abominably tohim, without his finding anything to reply. Coquevillewas always there, in the sun, warming itself like alazy lizard. Only, M. Mouchel saw no more smoke.The village seemed dead. Had they all died in theirholes? On the beach, there was quite a movement,but that might be seaweed rocked by the tide. Saturday,still no one. The Widow Dufeu scolded no more;her eyes were fixed, her lips white. M. Mouchelpassed two hours on the rock. A curiosity grew inhim, a purely personal need of accounting to himselffor the strange immobility of the village. The old[Pg 1464]walls sleeping beatifically in the sun ended by worryinghim. His resolution was taken; he would setout that Monday very early in the morning and try toget down there near nine o'clock.

It was not a promenade to go to Coqueville. M.Mouchel preferred to follow the route by land, in thatway he would come upon the village without theirexpecting him. A wagon carried him as far as Robineux,where he left it under a shed, for it wouldnot have been prudent to risk it in the middle of thegorge. And he set off bravely, having to make nearlyseven kilometers over the most abominable of roads.The route was otherwise of a wild beauty; it descendedby continual turns between two enormous ledges ofrock, so narrow in places that three men could notwalk abreast. Farther on it skirted the precipices;the gorge opened abruptly; and one caught glimpsesof the sea, of immense blue horizons. But M. Mouchelwas not in a state of mind to admire the landscape.He swore as the pebbles rolled under his feet.It was the fault of Coqueville, he promised to shakeup those do-nothings well. But, in the meantime, hewas approaching. All at once, in the turning at thelast rock, he saw the twenty houses of the villagehanging to the flank of the cliff.

Nine o'clock struck. One would have believed itJune, so blue and warm was the sky; a superb season,limpid air, gilded by the dust of the sun, refreshed bythe good smell of the sea. M. Mouchel entered theonly street of the village, where he came very often;and as he passed before Rouget's house, he went in.[Pg 1465]The house was empty. Then he cast his eye towardFouasse's—Tupain's—Brisemotte's. Not a soul; allthe doors open, and no one in the rooms. What didit mean? A light chill began to creep over his flesh.Then he thought of the authorities. Certainly, theEmperor would reassure him. But the Emperor'shouse was empty like the others. Even to the gardechampêtre, there was failure! That village, silent anddeserted, terrified him now. He ran to the Mayor's.There another surprise awaited him: the house wasfound in an abominable mess; they had not made thebeds in three days; dirty dishes littered the place;chairs seemed to indicate a fight. His mind upset,dreaming of cataclysms, M. Mouchel determined togo on to the end, and he entered the church. No morecuré than mayor. All the authorities, even religionitself had vanished. Coqueville abandoned, slept withouta breath, without a dog, without a cat. Not evena fowl; the hens had taken themselves off. Nothing,a void, silence, a leaden sleep under the great blue sky.

Parbleu! It was no wonder that Coqueville broughtno more fish! Coqueville had moved away. Coquevillewas dead. He must notify the police. Themysterious catastrophe exalted M. Mouchel, when,with the idea of descending to the beach, he uttereda cry. In the midst of the sands, the whole populationlay stretched. He thought of a general massacre.But the sonorous snores came to undeceive him.During the night of Sunday Coqueville had feastedso late that it had found itself in absolute inability togo home to bed. So it had slept on the sand, just[Pg 1466]where it had fallen, around the nine casks, completelyempty.

Yes, all Coqueville was snoring there; I hear thechildren, the women, the old people, and the men. Notone was on his feet. There were some on their stomachs,there were some on their backs; others heldthemselves en chien de fusils.[3] As one makes his bedso must one lie on it. And the fellows found themselves,happen what may, scattered in their drunkennesslike a handful of leaves driven by the wind. Themen had rolled over, heads lower than heels. It wasa scene full of good-fellowship; a dormitory in theopen air; honest family folk taking their ease; forwhere there is care, there is no pleasure.

It was just at the new moon. Coqueville, thinkingit had blown out its candle, had abandoned itself tothe darkness. Then the day dawned; and now the sunwas flaming, a sun which fell perpendicularly on thesleepers, powerless to make them open their eyelids.They slept rudely, all their faces beaming with the fineinnocence of drunkards. The hens at early morningmust have strayed down to peck at the casks, for theywere drunk; they, too, sleeping on the sands. Therewere also five cats and five dogs, their paws in the air,drunk from licking the glasses glistening with sugar.

For a moment M. Mouchel walked about among thesleepers, taking care not to step on any of them. Heunderstood, for at Grandport they, too, had receivedcasks from the wreck of the English ship. All hiswrath left him. What a touching and moral spectacle!

[Pg 1467]

Coqueville reconciled, the Mahés and the Flochessleeping together! With the last glass the deadliestenemies had embraced. Tupain and Fouasse lay theresnoring, hand in hand, like brothers, incapable of comingto dispute a legacy. As to the Rouget household,it offered a still more amiable picture, Marie slept betweenRouget and Brisemotte, as much as to say thathenceforth they were to live thus, happy, all the three.

But one group especially exhibited a scene of familytenderness. It was Delphin and Margot; one onthe neck of the other, they slept cheek to cheek, theirlips still opened for a kiss. At their feet the Emperor,sleeping crosswise, guarded them. Above them LaQueue snored like a father satisfied at having settledhis daughter, while the Abbé Radiguet, fallen therelike the others, with arms outspread, seemed to blessthem. In her sleep Margot still extended her rosymuzzle like an amorous cat who loves to have onescratch her under the chin.

The fête ended with a marriage. And M. Mouchelhimself later married the Widow Dufeu, whom hebeat to a jelly. Speak of that in Lower Normandy,they will tell you with a laugh, "Ah! yes, the fête atCoqueville!"

[Pg 1468]

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Naval term signifying a rickety old concern.

[2] Watchman.

[3] Primed for the event.

[Pg 1469]

THE LOST CHILD

BY FRANÇOIS ÉDOUARD JOACHIM COPPÉE

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (15)

François Coppée, Poet of the Humble, wasborn at Paris in 1842. His first collection ofpoems was called "Le Reliquaire," 1866, andalready exhibited to an astonishing degree thefull equipment of a poet, much as Keats didin his first work. But Coppée's great reputationbegan to grow from the date of "Passant,"1869, exquisite comedies in verse, and "Le Luthierde Crèmone," an agreeable and touchinglittle piece, and his brilliantly written romanticdramas, full of fine bursts of eloquence.

Besides poems and plays, he has written fiveor six volumes of short stories remarkable forgrace of sentiment, and a number of novels,chronicles, etc.

Coppée's happy vein seems to be the familiarnarrative, the genre picture. He shows a finesympathy for the miseries and the virtues ofthe obscure.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (16)

[Pg 1470]

[Pg 1471]

THE LOST CHILD

BY FRANÇOIS COPPÉE

Translated by J. Matthewman.
Copyright, 1894, by The Current LiteraturePublishing Company.

On that morning, which was the morning beforeChristmas, two important events happenedsimultaneously—the sun rose, and sodid M. Jean-Baptiste Godefroy.

Unquestionably the sun, illuminating suddenly thewhole of Paris with its morning rays, is an old friend,regarded with affection by everybody. It is particularlywelcome after a fortnight of misty atmosphereand gray skies, when the wind has cleared the air andallowed the sun's rays to reach the earth again. Besidesall of which the sun is a person of importance.Formerly, he was regarded as a god, and was calledOsiris, Apollyon, and I don't know what else. Butdo not imagine that because the sun is so importanthe is of greater influence than M. Jean-Baptiste Godefroy,millionaire banker, director of the Comptoir Généralde Crédit, administrator of several big companies,deputy and member of the General Counsel of theEure, officer of the Legion of Honor, etc., etc. Andwhatever opinion the sun may have about himself, hecertainly has not a higher opinion than M. Jean-BaptisteGodefroy has of himself. So we are authorizedto state, and we consider ourselves justified instating, that on the morning in question, at about a[Pg 1472]quarter to eight, the sun and M. Jean-Baptiste Godefroyrose.

Certainly the manner of rising of these two greatpowers mentioned was not the same. The good oldsun began by doing a great many pretty actions. Asthe sleet had, during the night, covered the barebranches of the trees in the boulevard Malesherbes,where the hôtel Godefroy is situated, with a powderedcoating, the great magician sun amused himself bytransforming the branches into great bouquets of redcoral. At the same time he scattered his rays impartiallyon those poor passers-by whom necessity sentout, so early in the morning, to gain their daily bread.He even had a smile for the poor clerk, who, in athin overcoat, was hurrying to his office, as well asfor the grisette, shivering under her thin, insufficientclothing; for the workman carrying half a loaf underhis arm, for the car-conductor as he punched thetickets, and for the dealer in roast chestnuts, whowas roasting his first panful. In short, the sun gavepleasure to everybody in the world. M. Jean-BaptisteGodefroy, on the contrary, rose in quite a differentframe of mind. On the previous evening he haddined with the Minister for Agriculture. The dinner,from the removal of the potage to the salad, bristledwith truffles, and the banker's stomach, aged forty-sevenyears, experienced the burning and biting ofpyrosis. So the manner in which M. Jean-BaptisteGodefroy rang for his valet-de-chambre was so expressivethat, as he got some warm water for his master'sshaving, Charles said to the kitchen-maid:

[Pg 1473]

"There he goes! The monkey is barbarously ill-temperedagain this morning. My poor Gertrude,we're going to have a miserable day."

Whereupon, walking on tiptoe, with eyes modestlycast down, he entered the chamber of his master,opened the curtains, lit the fire, and made all thenecessary preparations for the toilet with the discreetdemeanor and respectful gestures of a sacristan placingthe sacred vessels on the altar for the priest.

"What sort of weather this morning?" demandedM. Godefroy curtly, as he buttoned his undervest ofgray swandown upon a stomach that was already alittle too prominent.

"Very cold, sir," replied Charles meekly. "At sixo'clock the thermometer marked seven degrees abovezero. But, as you will see, sir, the sky is quite clear,and I think we are going to have a fine morning."

In stropping his razor, M. Godefroy approached thewindow, drew aside one of the hangings, looked onthe boulevard, which was bathed in brightness, andmade a slight grimace which bore some resemblanceto a smile.

It is all very well to be perfectly stiff and correct,and to know that it is bad taste to show feeling of anykind in the presence of domestics, but the appearanceof the roguish sun in the middle of December sendssuch a glow of warmth to the heart that it is impossibleto disguise the fact. So M. Godefroy deigned,as before observed, to smile. If some one had whisperedto the opulent banker that his smile had anythingin common with that of the printer's boy, who[Pg 1474]was enjoying himself by making a slide on the pavement,M. Godefroy would have been highly incensed.But it really was so all the same; and during the spaceof one minute this man, who was so occupied by businessmatters, this leading light in the financial andpolitical worlds, indulged in the childish pastime ofwatching the passers-by, and following with his eyesthe files of conveyances as they gaily rolled in thesunshine.

But pray do not be alarmed. Such a weakness couldnot last long. People of no account, and those whohave nothing to do, may be able to let their time slipby in doing nothing. It is very well for women, children,poets, and riffraff. M. Godefroy had other fishto fry; and the work of the day which was commencingpromised to be exceptionally heavy. From half-pasteight to ten o'clock he had a meeting at his office witha certain number of gentlemen, all of whom bore astriking resemblance to M. Godefroy. Like him, theywere very nervous; they had risen with the sun, theywere all blasés, and they all had the same object inview—to gain money. After breakfast (which he tookafter the meeting), M. Godefroy had to leap into hiscarriage and rush to the Bourse, to exchange a fewwords with other gentlemen who had also risen atdawn, but who had not the least spark of imaginationamong them. (The conversations were always on thesame subject—money.) From there, without losingan instant, M. Godefroy went to preside over anothermeeting of acquaintances entirely void of compassionand tenderness. The meeting was held round a baize-covered[Pg 1475]table, which was strewn with heaps of papersand well provided with ink-wells. The conversationagain turned on money, and various methods of gainingit. After the aforesaid meeting he, in his capacityof deputy, had to appear before several commissions(always held in rooms where there were baize-coveredtables and ink-wells and heaps of papers). There hefound men as devoid of sentiment as he was, all utterlyincapable of neglecting any occasion of gaining money,but who, nevertheless, had the extreme goodness tosacrifice several hours of the afternoon to the glory ofFrance.

After having quickly shaved he donned a morningsuit, the elegant cut and finish of which showed thatthe old beau of nearly fifty had not ceased trying toplease. When he shaved he spared the narrow stripof pepper-and-salt beard round his chin, as it gave himthe air of a trustworthy family man in the eyes of theArrogants and of fools in general. Then he descendedto his cabinet, where he received the file of men whowere entirely occupied by one thought—that of augmentingtheir capital. These gentlemen discussed severalprojected enterprises, all of them of considerableimportance, notably that of a new railroad to be laidacross a wild desert. Another scheme was for thefounding of monster works in the environs of Paris,another of a mine to be worked in one of the SouthAmerican republics. It goes without saying that noone asked if the railway would have passengers orgoods to carry, or if the proposed works should manufacturecotton nightcaps or distil whisky; whether the[Pg 1476]mine was to be of virgin gold or of second-rate copper:certainly not. The conversation of M. Godefroy'smorning callers turned exclusively upon the profitswhich it would be possible to realize during the weekwhich should follow the issue of the shares. They discussedparticularly the values of the shares, which theyknew would be destined before long to be worth lessthan the paper on which they were printed in fine style.

These conversations, bristling with figures, lastedtill ten o'clock precisely, and then the director of theComptoir Général de Crédit, who, by the way, was anhonest man—at least, as honest as is to be found inbusiness—courteously conducted his last visitor to thehead of the stairway. The visitor named was an oldvillain, as rich as Crœsus, who, by a not uncommonchance, enjoyed the general esteem of the public;whereas, had justice been done to him, he would havebeen lodging at the expense of the State in one ofthose large establishments provided by a thoughtfulgovernment for smaller delinquents; and there hewould have pursued a useful and healthy calling for alengthy period, the exact length having been fixed bythe judges of the supreme court. But M. Godefroyshowed him out relentlessly, notwithstanding his importance—itwas absolutely necessary to be at theBourse at 11 o'clock—and went into the dining-room.

It was a luxuriously furnished room. The furnitureand plate would have served to endow a cathedral.Nevertheless, notwithstanding that M. Godefroy tooka gulp of bicarbonate of soda, his indigestion refusedto subside, consequently the banker could only take the[Pg 1477]scantiest breakfast—that of a dyspeptic. In the midstof such luxury, and under the eye of a well-paid butler,M. Godefroy could only eat a couple of boiled eggsand nibble a little mutton chop. The man of moneytrifled with dessert—took only a crumb of Roquefort—notmore than two cents' worth. Then the dooropened and an overdressed but charming little child—youngRaoul, four years old—the son of the companydirector, entered the room, accompanied by his Germannursery governess.

This event occurred every day at the same hour—aquarter to eleven, precisely, while the carriage whichwas to take the banker to the Bourse was awaitingthe gentleman who had only a quarter of an hour togive to paternal sentiment. It was not that he did notlove his son. He did love him—nay, he adored him,in his own particular way. But then, you know, businessis business.

At the age of forty-two, when already worldly-wiseand blasé, he had fancied himself in love with thedaughter of one of his club friends—Marquis de Neufontaine,an old rascal—a nobleman, but one whosecard-playing was more than open to suspicion, andwho would have been expelled from the club more thanonce but for the influence of M. Godefroy. The noblemanwas only too happy to become the father-in-lawof a man who would pay his debts, and withoutany scruples he handed over his daughter—a simpleand ingenuous child of seventeen, who was taken froma convent to be married—to the worldly banker. Thegirl was certainly sweet and pretty, but she had no[Pg 1478]dowry except numerous aristocratic prejudices andromantic illusions, and her father thought he wasfortunate in getting rid of her on such favorableterms. M. Godefroy, who was the son of an avowedold miser of Andelys, had always remained a man ofthe people, and intensely vulgar. In spite of his improvedcirc*mstances, he had not improved. Hisentire lack of tact and refinement was painful to hisyoung wife, whose tenderest feelings he ruthlessly andthoughtlessly trampled upon. Things were lookingunpromising, when, happily for her, Madame Godefroydied in giving birth to her firstborn. When he spokeof his deceased wife, the banker waxed poetical, althoughhad she lived they would have been divorced insix months. His son he loved dearly for several reasons—first,because the child was an only son; secondly,because he was a scion of two such houses asGodefroy and Neufontaine; finally, because the manof money had naturally great respect for the heir tomany millions. So the youngster had golden rattlesand other similar toys, and was brought up like ayoung Dauphin. But his father, overwhelmed withbusiness worries, could never give the child more thanfifteen minutes per day of his precious time—and, ason the day mentioned, it was always during "cheese"—andfor the rest of the day the father abandoned thechild to the care of the servants.

"Good morning, Raoul."

"Good morning, papa."

And the company director, having put his servietteaway, sat young Raoul on his left knee, took the child's[Pg 1479]head between his big paws, and in stroking and kissingit actually forgot all his money matters and evenhis note of the afternoon, which was of great importanceto him, as by it he could gain quite an importantamount of patronage.

"Papa," said little Raoul suddenly, "will FatherChristmas put anything in my shoe to-night?"

The father answered with "Yes, if you are a goodchild." This was very striking from a man who wasa pronounced freethinker, who always applaudedevery anti-clerical attack in the Chamber with avigorous "Hear, hear." He made a mental notethat he must buy some toys for his child that veryafternoon.

Then he turned to the nursery governess with:

"Are you quite satisfied with Raoul, MademoiselleBertha?"

Mademoiselle Bertha became as red as a peony atbeing addressed, as if the question were scarcelycomme il faut, and replied by a little imbecile snigg*r,which seemed fully to satisfy M. Godefroy's curiosityabout his son's conduct.

"It's fine to-day," said the financier, "but cold. Ifyou take Raoul to Monceau Park, mademoiselle, pleasebe careful to wrap him up well."

Mademoiselle, by a second fit of idiotic smiling, havingset at rest M. Godefroy's doubts and fears on thatessential point, he kissed his child, left the room hastily,and in the hall was enveloped in his fur coat byCharles, who also closed the carriage door. Then thefaithful fellow went off to the café which he frequented,[Pg 1480]Rue de Miromesnil, where he had promised tomeet the coachman of the baroness who lived opposite,to play a game of billiards, thirty up—and spot-barred,of course.

Thanks to the brown bay—for which a thousandfrancs over and above its value was paid by M. Godefroyas a result of a sumptuous snail supper givento that gentleman's coachman by the horse-dealer—thanksto the expensive brown bay which certainlywent well, the financier was able to get through hismany engagements satisfactorily. He appeared punctuallyat the Bourse, sat at several committee tables,and at a quarter to five, by voting with the ministry,he helped to reassure France and Europe that therumors of a ministerial crisis had been totally unfounded.He voted with the ministry because he hadsucceeded in obtaining the favors which he demandedas the price of his vote.

After he had thus nobly fulfilled his duty to himselfand his country, M. Godefroy remembered what hehad said to his child on the subject of Father Christmas,and gave his coachman the address of a dealerin toys. There he bought, and had put in his carriage,a fantastic rocking-horse, mounted on castors—awhip in each ear; a box of leaden soldiers—allas exactly alike as those grenadiers of the Russianregiment of the time of Paul I, who all had blackhair and snub noses; and a score of other toys, allequally striking and costly. Then, as he returnedhome, softly reposing in his well-swung carriage, therich banker, who, after all, was a father, began to[Pg 1481]think with pride of his little boy and to form plansfor his future.

When the child grew up he should have an educationworthy of a prince, and he would be one, too, forthere was no longer any aristocracy except that ofmoney, and his boy would have a capital of about30,000,000 francs.

If his father, a pettifogging provincial lawyer,who had formerly dined in the Latin Quarter whenin Paris, who had remarked every evening whenputting on a white tie that he looked as fine as ifhe were going to a wedding—if he had been ableto accumulate an enormous fortune, and to becomethereby a power in the republic; if he had been ableto obtain in marriage a young lady, one of whoseancestors had fallen at Marignan, what an importantpersonage little Raoul might become. M. Godefroybuilt all sorts of air-castles for his boy, forgettingthat Christmas is the birthday of a very poor littlechild, son of a couple of vagrants, born in astable, where the parents only found lodging throughcharity.

In the midst of the banker's dreams the coachmancried: "Door, please," and drove into the yard. As hewent up the steps M. Godefroy was thinking that hehad barely time to dress for dinner; but on enteringthe vestibule he found all the domestics crowded infront of him in a state of alarm and confusion. In acorner, crouching on a seat, was the German nursery-governess,crying. When she saw the banker sheburied her face in her hands and wept still more copiously[Pg 1482]than before. M. Godefroy felt that some misfortunehad happened.

"What's the meaning of all this? What's amiss?What has happened?"

Charles, the valet de chambre, a sneaking rascal ofthe worst type, looked at his master with eyes full ofpity and stammered: "Mr. Raoul—"

"My boy?"

"Lost, sir. The stupid German did it. Since fouro'clock this afternoon he has not been seen."

The father staggered back like one who had beenhit by a ball. The German threw herself at his feet,screaming: "Mercy, mercy!" and the domestics allspoke at the same time.

"Bertha didn't go to parc Monceau. She lost thechild over there on the fortifications. We have soughthim all over, sir. We went to the office for you, sir,and then to the Chamber, but you had just left. Justimagine, the German had a rendezvous with her loverevery day, beyond the ramparts, near the gate ofAsnières. What a shame! It is a place full of lowgipsies and strolling players. Perhaps the child hasbeen stolen. Yes, sir, we informed the police at once.How could we imagine such a thing? A hypocrite,that German! She had a rendezvous, doubtless, witha countryman—a Prussian spy, sure enough!"

His son lost! M. Godefroy seemed to have a torrentof blood rushing through his head. He sprangat Mademoiselle, seized her by the arms and shookher furiously.

"Where did you lose him, you miserable girl? Tell[Pg 1483]me the truth before I shake you to pieces. Do youhear? Do you hear?"

But the unfortunate girl could only cry and beg formercy.

The banker tried to be calm. No, it was impossible.Nobody would dare to steal his boy. Somebody wouldfind him and bring him back. Of that there could beno doubt. He could scatter money about right andleft, and could have the entire police force at hisorders. And he would set to work at once, for notan instant should be lost.

"Charles, don't let the horses be taken out. Youothers, see that this girl doesn't escape. I'm going tothe Prefecture."

And M. Godefroy, with his heart thumping againsthis sides as if it would break them, his hair wild withfright, darted into his carriage, which at once rolledoff as fast as the horses could take it. What irony!The carriage was full of glittering playthings, whichsparkled every time a gaslight shone on them. Forthe next day was the birthday of the divine Infant atwhose cradle wise men and simple shepherds alikeadored.

"My poor little Raoul! Poor darling! Where ismy boy?" repeated the father as in his anguish hedug his nails into the cushions of the carriage. Atthat moment all his titles and decorations, his honors,his millions, were valueless to him. He had one singleidea burning in his brain. "My poor child! Whereis my child?"

At last he reached the Prefecture of Police. But[Pg 1484]no one was there—the office had been deserted forsome time.

"I am M. Godefroy, deputy from L'Eure—Mylittle boy is lost in Paris; a child of four years. Imust see the Prefect."

He slipped a louis into the hand of the concièrge.

The good old soul, a veteran with a gray mustache,less for the sake of the money than out of compassionfor the poor father, led him to the Prefect's privateapartments. M. Godefroy was finally ushered intothe room of the man in whom were centred all hishopes. He was in evening dress, and wore a monocle;his manner was frigid and rather pretentious. Thedistressed father, whose knees trembled through emotion,sank into an armchair, and, bursting into tears,told of the loss of his boy—told the story stammeringlyand with many breaks, for his voice was chokedby sobs.

The Prefect, who was also father of a family, wasinwardly moved at the sight of his visitor's grief, buthe repressed his emotion and assumed a cold and self-importantair.

"You say, sir, that your child has been missing sincefour o'clock."

"Yes."

"Just when night was falling, confound it. Heisn't at all precocious, speaks very little, doesn't knowwhere he lives, and can't even pronounce his ownname?"

"Unfortunately that is so."

"Not far from Asnières gate? A suspected quarter.[Pg 1485]But cheer up. We have a very intelligent Commissairede Police there. I'll telephone to him."

The distressed father was left alone for fiveminutes. How his temples throbbed and his heartbeat!

Then, suddenly, the Prefect reappeared, smilingwith satisfaction. "Found!"

Whereupon M. Godefroy rushed to the Prefect,whose hand he pressed till that functionary wincedwith the pain.

"I must acknowledge that we were exceedingly fortunate.The little chap is blond, isn't he? Ratherpale? In blue velvet? Black felt hat, with a whitefeather in it?"

"Yes, yes; that's he. That's my little Raoul."

"Well, he's at the house of a poor fellow down inthat quarter who had just been at the police office tomake his declaration to the Commissaire. Here's hisaddress, which I took down: 'Pierron, rue des Cailloux,Levallois-Perret.' With good horses you may reachyour boy in less than an hour. Certainly, you won'tfind him in an aristocratic quarter; his surroundingswon't be of the highest. The man who found him isonly a small dealer in vegetables."

But that was of no importance to M. Godefroy, who,having expressed his gratitude to the Prefect, leapeddown the stairs four at a time, and sprang into hiscarriage. At that moment he realized how devotedlyhe loved his child. As he drove away he no longerthought of little Raoul's princely education and magnificent[Pg 1486]inheritance. He was decided never again tohand over the child entirely to the hands of servants,and he also made up his mind to devote less time tomonetary matters and the glory of France and attendmore to his own. The thought also occurred to himthat France wouldn't be likely to suffer from theneglect. He had hitherto been ashamed to recognizethe existence of an old-maid sister of his father, buthe decided to send for her to his house. She wouldcertainly shock his lackeys by her primitive mannersand ideas. But what of that? She would take careof his boy, which to him was of much more importancethan the good opinion of his servants. The financier,who was always in a hurry, never felt so eager toarrive punctually at a committee meeting as he wasto reach the lost little one. For the first time in hislife he was longing through pure affection to take thechild in his arms.

The carriage rolled rapidly along in the clear,crisp night air down boulevard Malesherbes; and,having crossed the ramparts and passed the largehouses, plunged into the quiet solitude of suburbanstreets. When the carriage stopped M. Godefroy sawa wretched hovel, on which was the number he wasseeking; it was the house where Pierron lived. Thedoor of the house opened immediately, and a big,rough-looking fellow with red mustache appeared.One of his sleeves was empty. Seeing the gentlemanin the carriage, Pierron said cheerily: "So you are thelittle one's father. Don't be afraid. The little darlingis quite safe," and, stepping aside in order to allow[Pg 1487]M. Godefroy to pass, he placed his finger on his lipswith: "Hush! The little one is asleep!"

Yes, it was a real hovel. By the dim light of alittle oil lamp M. Godefroy could just distinguish adresser from which a drawer was missing, some brokenchairs, a round table on which stood a beer-mug whichwas half empty, three glasses, some cold meat on aplate, and on the bare plaster of the wall two gaudypictures—a bird's-eye view of the Exposition of 1889,with the Eiffel Tower in bright blue, and the portraitof General Boulanger when a handsome young lieutenant.This last evidence of weakness of the tenantof the house may well be excused, since it was sharedby nearly everybody in France. The man took thelamp and went on tiptoe to the corner of the roomwhere, on a clean bed, two little fellows were fastasleep. In the little one, around whom the otherhad thrown a protecting arm, M. Godefroy recognizedhis son.

"The youngsters were tired to death, and so sleepy,"said Pierron, trying to soften his rough voice. "I hadno idea when you would come, so gave them somesupper and put them to bed, and then I went to makea declaration at the police office. Zidore generallysleeps up in the garret, but I thought they would bebetter here, and that I should be better able to watchthem."

M. Godefroy, however, scarcely heard the explanation.Strangely moved, he looked at the two sleepinginfants on an iron bedstead and covered with an oldblanket which had once been used either in barracks[Pg 1488]or hospital. Little Raoul, who was still in his velvetsuit, looked so frail and delicate compared with hiscompanion that the banker almost envied the latterhis brown complexion.

"Is he your boy?" he asked Pierron.

"No," answered he. "I am a bachelor, and don'tsuppose I shall ever marry, because of my accident.You see, a dray passed over my arm—that was all.Two years ago a neighbor of mine died, when thatchild was only five years old. The poor mother reallydied of starvation. She wove wreaths for the cemeteries,but could make nothing worth mentioning atthat trade—not enough to live. However, she workedfor the child for five years, and then the neighborshad to buy wreaths for her. So I took care of theyoungster. Oh, it was nothing much, and I was soonrepaid. He is seven years old, and is a sharp littlefellow, so he helps me a great deal. On Sundays andThursdays, and the other days after school, he helpsme push my handcart. Zidore is a smart little chap.It was he who found your boy."

"What!" exclaimed M. Godefroy—"that child!"

"Oh, he's quite a little man, I assure you. When heleft school he found your child, who was walking onahead, crying like a fountain. He spoke to him andcomforted him, like an old grandfather. The difficultyis, that one can't easily understand what yourlittle one says—English words are mixed up with Germanand French. So we couldn't get much out ofhim, nor could we learn his address. Zidore broughthim to me—I wasn't far away; and then all the old[Pg 1489]women in the place came round chattering and croakinglike so many frogs, and all full of advice.

"'Take him to the police,'" said some.

But Zidore protested.

"That would scare him," said he, for like allParisians, he has no particular liking for the police—"andbesides, your little one didn't wish to leavehim. So I came back here with the child as soon asI could. They had supper, and then off to bed.Don't they look sweet?"

When he was in his carriage, M. Godefroy had decidedto reward the finder of his child handsomely—togive him a handful of that gold so easily gained.Since entering the house he had seen a side of humannature with which he was formerly unacquainted—thebrave charity of the poor in their misery. The courageof the poor girl who had worked herself to deathweaving wreaths to keep her child; the generosity ofthe poor cripple in adopting the orphan, and above all,the intelligent goodness of the little street Arab in protectingthe child who was still smaller than himself—allthis touched M. Godefroy deeply and set him reflecting.For the thought had occurred to him thatthere were other cripples who needed to be lookedafter as well as Pierron, and other orphans as well asZidore. He also debated whether it would not be betterto employ his time looking after them, and whethermoney might not be put to a better use than merelygaining money. Such was his reverie as he stoodlooking at the two sleeping children. Finally, heturned round to study the features of the greengrocer,[Pg 1490]and was charmed by the loyal expression in the faceof the man, and his clear, truthful eyes.

"My friend," said M. Godefroy, "you and youradopted son have rendered me an immense service. Ishall soon prove to you that I am not ungrateful.But, for to-day—I see that you are not in comfortablecirc*mstances, and I should like to leave a small proofof my thankfulness."

But the hand of the cripple arrested that of thebanker, which was diving into his coat-pocket wherehe kept bank-notes.

"No, sir; no! Anybody else would have done just aswe have done. I will not accept any recompense; butpray don't take offense. Certainly, I am not rollingin wealth, but please excuse my pride—that of an oldsoldier; I have the Tonquin medal—and I don't wishto eat food which I haven't earned."

"As you like," said the financier; "but an old soldierlike you is capable of something better. You aretoo good to push a handcart. I will make some arrangementfor you, never fear."

The cripple responded by a quiet smile, and saidcoldly: "Well, sir, if you really wish to do somethingfor me—"

"You'll let me care for Zidore, won't you?" criedM. Godefroy, eagerly.

"That I will, with the greatest of pleasure," respondedPierron, joyfully. "I have often thoughtabout the child's future. He is a sharp little fellow.His teachers are delighted with him."

Then Pierron suddenly stopped, and an expression[Pg 1491]came over his face which M. Godefroy at once interpretedas one of distrust. The thought evidently was:"Oh, when he has once left us he'll forget us entirely."

"You can safely pick the child up in your arms andtake him to the carriage. He'll be better at home thanhere, of course. Oh, you needn't be afraid of disturbinghim. He is fast asleep, and you can just pick himup. He must have his shoes on first, though."

Following Pierron's glance M. Godefroy perceivedon the hearth, where a scanty co*ke fire was dying out,two pairs of children's shoes—the elegant ones ofRaoul, and the rough ones of Zidore. Each pair containeda little toy and a package of bonbons.

"Don't think about that," said Pierron in an abashedtone. "Zidore put the shoes there. You know childrenstill believe in Christmas and the child Jesus,whatever scholars may say about fables; so, as I cameback from the commissaire, as I didn't know whetheryour boy would have to stay here to-night, I got thosethings for them both."

At which the eyes of M. Godefroy, the freethinker,the hardened capitalist, and blasé man of the world,filled with tears.

He rushed out of the house, but returned in a minutewith his arms full of the superb mechanical horse,the box of leaden soldiers, and the rest of the costlyplaythings bought by him in the afternoon, and whichhad not even been taken out of the carriage.

"My friend, my dear friend," said he to the greengrocer,"see, these are the presents which Christmashas brought to my little Raoul. I want him to find[Pg 1492]them here, when he awakens, and to share them withZidore, who will henceforth be his playmate andfriend. You'll trust me now, won't you? I'll takecare both of Zidore and of you, and then I shall everremain in your debt, for not only have you found myboy, but you have also reminded me, who am rich andlived only for myself, that there are other poor whoneed to be looked after. I swear by these two sleepingchildren, I won't forget them any longer."

Such is the miracle which happened on the 24th ofDecember of last year, ladies and gentlemen, at Paris,in the full flow of modern egotism. It doesn't soundlikely—that I own; and I am compelled to attributethis miraculous event to the influence of the DivineChild who came down to earth nearly nineteen centuriesago to command men to love one another.

[Pg 1493]

PUTOIS

BY ANATOLE FRANCE

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (17)

The gentle Anatole France, with "vast learningworn with an almost mocking air," conserverof pure, unaffected French, chief of theschool inaugurating the sociological novel, thefiction of ideas, was born at Paris in 1844.Since his first attempt at verse, he has writtenonly in prose, "The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard,"in 1881, giving him at once his place inliterature and winning a crown from the Academy.Besides "Thäis," a masterpiece of colorand construction, he has written volumes ofcontemporary criticism and history—but in allhe writes he figures forth the soul of AnatoleFrance, a complex, subtle soul of varied moods,attached to no religion, with sympathy for all.His style, pure as spring water, is flavored witha delicate irony. Anatole France, or AnatoleFrançois Thibault, to use his real name, succeededJules Claretie on "Le Temps," and in1896 was elected to the Academy.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (18)

[Pg 1494]

[Pg 1495]

Dedicated to
Georges Brandes

PUTOIS

BY ANATOLE FRANCE

Translated by William Patten.
Copyright, 1907, by P. F. Collier & Son.

I

This garden of our childhood, said MonsieurBergeret, this garden that one could paceoff in twenty steps, was for us a whole world,full of smiles and surprises.

"Lucien, do you recall Putois?" asked Zoe, smilingas usual, the lips pressed, bending over her work.

"Do I recall Putois! Of all the faces I saw as achild that of Putois remains the clearest in my remembrance.All the features of his face and hischaracter are fixed in my mind. He had a pointedcranium...."

"A low forehead," added Mademoiselle Zoe.

And the brother and sister recited alternately, in amonotonous voice, with an odd gravity, the pointsin a sort of description:

"A low forehead."

"Squinting eyes."

"A shifty glance."

"Crow's-feet at the temples."

"The cheek-bones sharp, red and shining."

"His ears had no rims to them."

"The features were devoid of all expression."

"His hands, which were never still, alone expressedhis meaning."

[Pg 1496]

"Thin, somewhat bent, feeble in appearance...."

"In reality he was unusually strong."

"He easily bent a five-franc piece between the firstfinger and the thumb...."

"Which was enormous."

"His voice was drawling...."

"And his speech mild."

Suddenly Monsieur Bergeret exclaimed: "Zoe! wehave forgotten 'Yellow hair and sparse beard.' Letus begin all over again."

Pauline, who had listened with astonishment to thisstrange recital, asked her father and aunt how theyhad been able to learn by heart this bit of prose, andwhy they recited it as if it were a litany.

Monsieur Bergeret gravely answered:

"Pauline, what you have heard is a text, I may say aliturgy, used by the Bergeret family. It should behanded down to you so that it may not perish with youraunt and me. Your grandfather, my daughter, yourgrandfather, Eloi Bergeret, who was not amused withtrifles, thought highly of this bit, principally because ofits origin. He called it 'The Anatomy of Putois.' Andhe used to say that he preferred, in certain respects,the anatomy of Putois to the anatomy of Quaresmeprenant.'If the description by Xenomanes,' he said,'is more learned and richer in unusual and choice expressions,the description of Putois greatly surpassesit in clarity and simplicity of style.' He held this opinionbecause Doctor Ledouble, of Tours, had not yetexplained chapters thirty, thirty-one, and thirty-two ofthe fourth book of Rabelais."

[Pg 1497]

"I do not understand at all," said Pauline.

"That is because you did not know Putois, my daughter.You must understand that Putois was the mostfamiliar figure in my childhood and in that of yourAunt Zoe. In the house of your grandfather Bergeretwe constantly spoke of Putois. Each believed that hehad seen him."

Pauline asked:

"Who was this Putois?"

Instead of replying, Monsieur Bergeret commencedto laugh, and Mademoiselle Bergeret also laughed,her lips pressed tight together. Pauline looked fromone to the other. She thought it strange that heraunt should laugh so heartily, and more strange thatshe should laugh with and in sympathy with herbrother. It was indeed singular, as the brother andsister were quite different in character.

"Papa, tell me what was Putois? Since you wishme to know, tell me."

"Putois, my daughter, was a gardener. The sonof honest market-gardeners, he set up for himself asnurseryman at Saint-Omer. But he did not satisfy hiscustomers and got in a bad way. Having given upbusiness, he went out by the day. Those who employedhim could not always congratulate themselves."

At this, Mademoiselle Bergeret, laughing, rejoined:

"Do you recall, Lucien, when our father could notfind his ink, his pens, his sealing-wax, his scissors, hesaid: 'I suspect Putois has been here'?"

"Ah!" said Monsieur Bergeret, "Putois had not agood reputation."

[Pg 1498]

"Is that all?" asked Pauline.

"No, my daughter, it is not all. Putois was remarkablein this, that while we knew him and were familiarwith him, nevertheless—"

"—He did not exist," said Zoe.

Monsieur Bergeret looked at his sister with an airof reproach.

"What a speech, Zoe! and why break the charmlike that? Do you dare say it, Zoe? Zoe, can youprove it? To maintain that Putois did not exist,that Putois never was, have you sufficiently consideredthe conditions of existence and the modes of being?Putois existed, my sister. But it is true that his was apeculiar existence."

"I understand less and less," said Pauline, discouraged.

"The truth will be clear to you presently, my daughter.Know then that Putois was born fully grown. Iwas still a child and your aunt was a little girl. Welived in a little house, in a suburb of Saint-Omer. Ourparents led a peaceful, retired life, until they were discoveredby an old lady named Madame Cornouiller,who lived at the manor of Montplaisir, twelve milesfrom town, and proved to be a great-aunt of mymother's. By right of relationship she insisted thatour father and mother come to dine every Sunday atMontplaisir, where they were excessively bored. Shesaid that it was the proper thing to have a familydinner on Sunday and that only people of commonorigin failed to observe this ancient custom. Myfather was bored to the point of tears at Montplaisir.[Pg 1499]His desperation was painful to contemplate. ButMadame Cornouiller did not notice it. She saw nothing.My mother was braver. She suffered as muchas my father, and perhaps more, but she smiled."

"Women are made to suffer," said Zoe.

"Zoe, every living thing is destined to suffer. Invain our parents refused these fatal invitations. MadameCornouiller came to take them each Sundayafternoon. They had to go to Montplaisir; it was anobligation from which there was absolutely no escape.It was an established order that only a revolt couldbreak. My father finally revolted and swore not toaccept another invitation from Madame Cornouiller,leaving it to my mother to find decent pretexts andvaried reasons for these refusals, for which she wasthe least capable. Our mother did not know how topretend."

"Say, Lucien, that she did not like to. She couldtell a fib as well as any one."

"It is true that when she had good reasons she gavethem rather than invent poor ones. Do you recall, mysister, that one day she said at table: 'Fortunately,Zoe has the whooping-cough; we shall not have to goto Montplaisir for some time'?"

"That was true!" said Zoe.

"You got over it, Zoe. And one day Madame Cornouillersaid to my mother: 'Dearest, I count on yourcoming with your husband to dine Sunday at Montplaisir.'Our mother, expressly bidden by her husbandto give Madame Cornouiller a good reason fordeclining, invented, in this extremity, a reason that[Pg 1500]was not the truth. 'I am extremely sorry, dear Madame,but that will be impossible for us. Sunday Iexpect the gardener.'

"On hearing this, Madame Cornouiller lookedthrough the glass door of the salon at the little wildgarden, where the prickwood and the lilies looked asthough they had never known the pruning-knife andwere likely never to know it. 'You expect the gardener!What for?'

"'To work in the garden.'

"And my mother, having involuntarily turned hereyes on this little square of weeds and plants run wild,that she had called a garden, recognized with dismaythe improbability of her excuse.

"'This man,' said Madame Cornouiller, 'could justas well work in your garden Monday or Tuesday.Moreover, that will be much better. One should notwork on Sunday.'

"'He works all the week.'

"I have often noticed that the most absurd andridiculous reasons are the least disputed: they disconcertthe adversary. Madame Cornouiller insisted,less than one might expect of a person so little disposedto give up. Rising from her armchair, she asked:

"'What do you call your gardener, dearest?'

"'Putois,' answered my mother without hesitation.

"Putois was named. From that time he existed.Madame Cornouiller took herself off, murmuring:'Putois! It seems to me that I know that name.Putois! Putois! I must know him. But I do notrecollect him. Where does he live?'

[Pg 1501]

"'He works by the day. When one wants him oneleaves word with this one or that one.'

"'Ah! I thought so, a loafer and a vagabond—agood-for-nothing. Don't trust him, dearest.'

"From that time Putois had a character."

II

Messieurs Goubin and Jean Marteau having arrived,Monsieur Bergeret put them in touch with theconversation.

"We were speaking of him whom my mother causedto be born gardener at Saint-Omer and whom shechristened. He existed from that time on."

"Dear master, will you kindly repeat that?" saidMonsieur Goubin, wiping the glass of his monocle.

"Willingly," replied Monsieur Bergeret. "Therewas no gardener. The gardener did not exist. Mymother said: 'I am waiting for the gardener.' Atonce the gardener was. He lived."

"Dear master," said Monsieur Goubin, "how couldhe live since he did not exist?"

"He had a sort of existence," replied Monsieur Bergeret.

"You mean an imaginary existence," Monsieur Goubinreplied, disdainfully.

"Is it nothing then, but an imaginary existence?"exclaimed the master. "And have not mythical beingsthe power to influence men? Consider mythology,Monsieur Goubin, and you will perceive that they arenot real beings but imaginary beings that exercise the[Pg 1502]most profound and lasting influence on the mind.Everywhere and always, beings who have no morereality than Putois have inspired nations with hatredand love, terror and hope, have advised crimes, receivedofferings, made laws and customs. MonsieurGoubin, think of the eternal mythology. Putois is amythical personage, the most obscure, I grant you, andof the lowest order. The coarse satyr, who in oldentimes sat at the table with our peasants in the North,was considered worthy of appearing in a picture byJordaens and a fable by La Fontaine. The hairy sonof Sycorax appeared in the noble world of Shakespeare.Putois, less fortunate, will be always neglected byartists and poets. He lacks bigness and the unusualstyle and character. He was conceived by minds tooreasonable, among people who knew how to read andwrite, and who had not that delightful imagination inwhich fables take root. I think, Messieurs, that I havesaid enough to show you the real nature of Putois."

"I understand it," said Monsieur Goubin.

And Monsieur Bergeret continued his discourse.

"Putois was. I can affirm it. He was. Consider it,gentlemen, and you will admit that a state of beingby no means implies substance, and means only thebonds attributed to the subject, expresses only arelation."

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (19)

Anatole France

"Undoubtedly," said Jean Marteau; "but a beingwithout attributes is a being less than nothing. I donot remember who at one time said, 'I am that I am.'Pardon my lapse of memory. One can not remembereverything. But the unknown who spoke in that[Pg 1503]fashion was very imprudent. In letting it be understoodby this thoughtless observation that he wasdeprived of attributes and denied all relations, heproclaimed that he did not exist and thoughtlesslysuppressed himself. I wager that no one has heard ofhim since."—"You have lost," answered MonsieurBergeret. "He corrected the bad effect of these egotisticalexpressions by employing quantities of adjectives,and he is often spoken of, most often withoutjudgment."—"I do not understand," said MonsieurGoubin.—"It is not necessary to understand," repliedJean Marteau. And he begged Monsieur Bergeret tospeak of Putois.—"It is very kind of you to ask me,"said the master.—"Putois was born in the second halfof the nineteenth century, at Saint-Omer. He wouldhave been better off if he had been born some centuriesbefore in the forest of Arden or in the forest of Brocéliande.He would then have been a remarkably cleverevil spirit."—"A cup of tea, Monsieur Goubin," saidPauline.—"Was Putois, then, an evil spirit?" said JeanMarteau.—"He was evil," replied Monsieur Bergeret;"he was, in a way, but not absolutely. It was true ofhim as with those devils that are called wicked, but inwhom one discovers good qualities when one associateswith them. And I am disposed to think that injusticehas been done Putois. Madame Cornouiller, who,warned against him, had at once suspected him ofbeing a loafer, a drunkard, and a robber, reflected thatsince my mother, who was not rich, employed him, itwas because he was satisfied with little, and asked herselfif she would not do well to have him work instead[Pg 1504]of her gardener, who had a better reputation, but expectedmore. The time had come for trimming theyews. She thought that if Madame Eloi Bergeret,who was poor, did not pay Putois much, she herself,who was rich, would give him still less, for it is customaryfor the rich to pay less than the poor. Andshe already saw her yews trimmed in straight hedges,in balls and in pyramids, without her having to paymuch. 'I will keep an eye open,' she said, 'to see thatPutois does not loaf or rob me. I risk nothing, and itwill be all profit. These vagabonds sometimes do betterwork than honest laborers.' She resolved to maketrial, and said to my mother: 'Dearest, send me Putois.I will set him to work at Montplaisir.' My motherwould have done so willingly. But really it was impossible.Madame Cornouiller waited for Putois atMontplaisir, and waited in vain. She followed up herideas and did not abandon her plans. When she sawmy mother again, she complained of not having anynews of Putois. 'Dearest, didn't you tell him that Iwas expecting him?'—'Yes! but he is strange, odd.'—'Oh,I know that kind. I know your Putois by heart.But there is no workman so crazy as to refuse to cometo work at Montplaisir. My house is known, I think.Putois must obey my orders, and quickly, dearest. Itwill be sufficient to tell me where he lives; I will goand find him myself.' My mother answered that shedid not know where Putois lived, that no one knew hishouse, that he was without hearth or home. 'I havenot seen him again, Madame. I believe he is hiding.'What better could she say? Madame Cornouiller[Pg 1505]heard her distrustfully; she suspected her of misleading,of removing Putois from inquiry, for fear of losinghim or making him ask more. And she thoughther too selfish. Many judgments accepted by the worldthat history has sanctioned are as well founded asthat."—"That is true," said Pauline.—"What is true?"asked Zoe, half asleep.—"That the judgments of historyare often false. I remember, papa, that you saidone day: 'Madame Roland was very ingenuous to appealto the impartiality of posterity, and not perceivethat, if her contemporaries were ill-natured monkeys,their posterity would be also composed of ill-naturedmonkeys.'"—"Pauline," said Mademoiselle Zoe severely,"what connection is there between the storyof Putois and this that you are telling us?"—"A verygreat one, my aunt."—"I do not grasp it."—MonsieurBergeret, who was not opposed to digressions, answeredhis daughter: "If all injustices were finallyredressed in the world, one would never have imaginedanother for these adjustments. How do you expectposterity to pass righteous judgment on the dead?How question them in the shades to which they havetaken flight? As soon as we are able to be just tothem we forget them. But can one ever be just? Andwhat is justice? Madame Cornouiller, at least, wasfinally obliged to recognize that my mother had notdeceived her and that Putois was not to be found.However, she did not give up trying to find him.She asked all her relatives, friends, neighbors, servants,and tradesmen if they knew Putois. Only two orthree answered that they had never heard of him. For[Pg 1506]the most part they believed they had seen him. 'I haveheard that name,' said the cook, 'but I can not recall hisface.'—'Putois! I must know him,' said the street-sweeper,scratching his ear. 'But I can not tell youwho it is.' The most precise description came fromMonsieur Blaise, receiver of taxes, who said that hehad employed Putois to cut wood in his yard, fromthe 19th to the 23d of October, the year of the comet.One morning, Madame Cornouiller, out of breath,dropped into my father's office. 'I have seen Putois.Ah! I have seen him.'—'You believe it?'—'I am sure.He was passing close by Monsieur Tenchant's wall.Then he turned into the Rue des Abbesses, walkingquickly. I lost him.'—'Was it really he?'—'Withouta doubt. A man of fifty, thin, bent, the air of a vagabond,a dirty blouse.'—'It is true,' said my father, 'thatthis description could apply to Putois.'—'You see!Besides, I called him. I cried: "Putois!" and heturned around.'—'That is the method,' said my father,'that they employ to assure themselves of the identityof evil-doers that they are hunting for.'—'I told youthat it was he! I know how to find him, your Putois.Very well! He has a bad face. You had been verycareless, you and your wife, to employ him. I understandphysiognomy, and though I only saw his back,I could swear that he is a robber, and perhaps an assassin.The rims of his ears are flat, and that is a signthat never fails.'—'Ah! you noticed that the rims ofhis ears were flat?'—'Nothing escapes me. My dearMonsieur Bergeret, if you do not wish to be assassinatedwith your wife and your children, do not let[Pg 1507]Putois come into your house again. Take my advice:have all your locks changed.'—Well, a few days afterward,it happened that Madame Cornouiller hadthree melons stolen from her vegetable garden. Therobber not having been found, she suspected Putois.The gendarmes were called to Montplaisir, and theirreport confirmed the suspicions of Madame Cornouiller.Bands of marauders were ravaging the gardensof the countryside. But this time the robbery seemedto have been committed by one man, and with singulardexterity. No trace of anything broken, no footprintsin the damp earth. The robber could be no onebut Putois. That was the opinion of the corporal, whoknew all about Putois, and had tried hard to put hishand on that bird. The 'Journal of Saint-Omer' devotedan article to the three melons of MadameCornouiller, and published a portrait of Putois fromdescriptions furnished by the town. 'He has,' saidthe paper, 'a low forehead, squinting eyes, a shiftyglance, crow's-feet, sharp cheek-bones, red and shining.No rims to the ears. Thin, somewhat bent, feeblein appearance, in reality he is unusually strong. Heeasily bends a five-franc piece between the first fingerand the thumb.' There were good reasons for attributingto him a long series of robberies committed withsurprising dexterity. The whole town was talking ofPutois. One day it was learned that he had been arrestedand locked up in prison. But it was soon recognizedthat the man that had been taken for him wasan almanac seller named Rigobert. As no charge couldbe brought against him, he was discharged after fourteen[Pg 1508]months of detention on suspicion. And Putoisremained undiscoverable. Madame Cornouiller wasthe victim of another robbery, more audacious thanthe first. Three small silver spoons were taken fromher sideboard. She recognized in this the hand ofPutois, had a chain put on the door of her bedroom,and was unable to sleep...."

About ten o'clock in the evening, Pauline havinggone to her room, Mademoiselle Bergeret said to herbrother: "Do not forget to relate how Putois betrayedMadame Cornouiller's cook."—"I was thinking of it,my sister," answered Monsieur Bergeret. "To omit itwould be to lose the best of the story. But everythingmust be done in order. Putois was carefully searchedfor by the police, who could not find him. When itwas known that he could not be found, each one consideredit his duty to find him; the shrewd ones succeeded.And as there were many shrewd ones atSaint-Omer and in the suburbs, Putois was seensimultaneously in the streets, in the fields, and in thewoods. Another trait was thus added to his character.He was accorded the gift of ubiquity, the attribute ofmany popular heroes. A being capable of leapinglong distances in a moment, and suddenly showinghimself at the place where he was least expected, washonestly frightening. Putois was the terror of Saint-Omer.Madame Cornouiller, convinced that Putoishad stolen from her three melons and three littlespoons, lived in a state of fear, barricaded at Montplaisir.Bolts, bars, and locks did not reassure her.Putois was for her a frightfully subtle being who[Pg 1509]could pass through doors. Trouble with her servantsredoubled her fear. Her cook having been betrayed,the time came when she could no longer hide her misfortune.But she obstinately refused to name her betrayer."—"Hername was Gudule," said MademoiselleZoe.—"Her name was Gudule, and she believed thatshe was protected from danger by a long, forkedbeard that she wore on her chin. The sudden appearanceof a beard protected the innocence of that holydaughter of the king that Prague venerates. A beard,no longer youthful, did not suffice to protect the virtueof Gudule. Madame Cornouiller urged Gudule to tellher the man. Gudule burst into tears, but kept silent.Prayers and menaces had no effect. Madame Cornouillermade a long and circ*mstantial inquiry. Sheadroitly questioned her neighbors and tradespeople,the gardener, the street-sweeper, the gendarmes; nothingput her on the track of the culprit. She tried againto obtain from Gudule a complete confession. 'Inyour own interest, Gudule, tell me who it is.' Guduleremained mute. All at once a ray of light flashedthrough the mind of Madame Cornouiller: 'It is Putois!'The cook cried, but did not answer. 'It isPutois! Why did I not guess it sooner? It is Putois!Miserable! miserable! miserable!' and Madame Cornouillerremained convinced that it was Putois. Everybodyat Saint-Omer, from the judge to the lamplighter'sdog, knew Gudule and her basket. At thenews that Putois had betrayed Gudule, the town wasfilled with surprise, wonder, and merriment.... Withthis reputation in the town and its environs he remained[Pg 1510]attached to our house by a thousand subtleties. He passed before our door, and it was believedthat he sometimes climbed the wall of our garden. Hewas never seen face to face. At any moment wewould recognize his shadow, his voice, his footsteps.More than once we thought we saw his back in thetwilight, at the corner of a road. To my sister andme he gradually changed in character. He remainedmischievous and malevolent, but he became childlikeand very ingenuous. He became less real and, I daresay, more poetical. He entered in the artless cycle ofchildish traditions. He became more like Croquemitaine,[4]like Père Fouettard, or the sand man who closesthe children's eyes when evening comes. It was notthat imp that tangled the colts' tails at night in thestable. Less rustic and less charming, but equally andfrankly roguish, he made ink mustaches on my sister'sdolls. In our bed, before going to sleep, we listened;he cried on the roofs with the cats, he howled with thedogs, he filled the mill hopper with groans, and imitatedthe songs of belated drunkards in the streets.What made Putois ever-present and familiar to us, whatinterested us in him, was that the remembrance of himwas associated with all the objects about us. Zoe'sdolls, my school books, in which he had many timesrumpled and besmeared the pages; the garden wall,over which we had seen his red eyes gleam in theshadow; the blue porcelain jar that he cracked onewinter's night, unless it was the frost; the trees, thestreets, the benches—everything recalled Putois, the[Pg 1511]children's Putois, a local and mythical being. He didnot equal in grace and poetry the dullest satyr, thestoutest fawn of Sicily or Thessaly. But he was stilla demigod. He had quite a different character for ourfather; he was symbolical and philosophical. Ourfather had great compassion for men. He did notthink them altogether rational; their mistakes, whenthey were not cruel, amused him and made him smile.The belief in Putois interested him as an epitome anda summary of all human beliefs. As he was ironicaland a joker, he spoke of Putois as if he were a realbeing. He spoke with so much insistence sometimes,and detailed the circ*mstances with such exactness,that my mother was quite surprised and said to him inher open-hearted way: 'One would say that you spokeseriously, my friend: you know well, however....' Hereplied gravely: 'All Saint-Omer believes in the existenceof Putois. Would I be a good citizen if I denyhim? One should look twice before setting aside anarticle of common faith.' Only a perfectly honest soulhas such scruples. At heart my father was a Gassendiste.[5]He keyed his own particular sentiment withthe public sentiment, believing, like the countryside, inthe existence of Putois, but not admitting his direct responsibilityfor the theft of the melons and the betrayalof the cook. Finally, he professed faith in the existenceof a Putois, to be a good citizen; and he eliminatedPutois in his explanations of the events that tookplace in the town. By doing so in this instance, as inall others, he was an honorable and a sensible man.

[Pg 1512]

"As for our mother, she reproached herself somewhatfor the birth of Putois, and not without reason.Because, after all, Putois was the child of our mother'sinvention, as Caliban was the poet's invention. Withoutdoubt the faults were not equal, and my motherwas more innocent than Shakespeare. However, shewas frightened and confused to see her little falsehoodgrow inordinately, and her slight imposture achievesuch a prodigious success, that, without stopping, extendedall over town and threatened to extend over theworld. One day she even turned pale, believing thatshe would see her falsehood rise up before her. Thatday, a servant she had, new to the house and thetown, came to say to her that a man wished to seeher. He wished to speak to Madame. 'What man isit?'—'A man in a blouse. He looks like a laborer.'—'Didhe give his name?'—'Yes, Madame.'—'Well!what is his name?'—'Putois.'—'He told you that washis name?'—'Putois, yes, Madame.'—'He is here?'—'Yes,Madame. He is waiting in the kitchen.'—'Yousaw him?'—'Yes, Madame.'—'What does he want?'—'Hedid not say. He will only tell Madame.'—'Go askhim.'

"When the servant returned to the kitchen Putoiswas gone. This meeting of the new servant with Putoiswas never cleared up. But from that day I think mymother commenced to believe that Putois might wellexist and that she had not told a falsehood after all."

FOOTNOTES:

[4] The national "bugaboo" or "bogy man."

[5] A follower of Gassendi (d. 1655), an exponent of Epicurus.

[Pg 1513]

SAC-AU-DOS

BY JORIS KARL HUYSMANS

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (20)

Sac-au-dos means, literally, "pack-a-back."The "Athenæum" calls the story "a masterpieceof concentrated observation and description."It was first published, with stories byZola, De Maupassant, and two others, in acollection called "Soirées de Médan." Huysmans,with his minute painting of detail, remindsus of his Dutch ancestry of artists.His art criticisms have marked him the mostvigorous and intelligent champion of the impressionists,Moreau, Pissaro, Monet, andWhistler.

He was born at Paris in 1848. After1892, when he retired to the Trappe de NotreDame d'Igny, Huysmans showed an altogethernew side to his genius. His conversion toRoman Catholicism became complete, and hiswritings show a more sincere interest in religiousmatters.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (21)

[Pg 1514]

[Pg 1515]

SAC-AU-DOS

BY JORIS KARL HUYSMANS

Translated by L. G. Meyer.
Copyright, 1907, by P. F. Collier & Son.

As soon as I had finished my studies my parentsdeemed it useful to my career to cause meto appear before a table covered with greencloth and surmounted by the living busts of some oldgentlemen who interested themselves in knowingwhether I had learned enough of the dead languagesto entitle me to the degree of Bachelor.

The test was satisfactory. A dinner to which allmy relations, far and near, were invited celebrated mysuccess, affected my future, and ultimately fixed mein the law. Well I passed my examination andgot rid of the money provided for my first year'sexpenses with a blonde girl who, at times, pretendedto be fond of me.

I frequented the Latin Quarter assiduously andthere I learned many things; among others to takean interest in those students who blew their politicalopinions into the foam of their beer, every night,then to acquire a taste for the works of George Sandand of Heine, of Edgard Quinet, and of HenriMürger.

The psychophysical moment of silliness wasupon me.

That lasted about a year; gradually I ripened. The[Pg 1516]electoral struggles of the closing days of the Empireleft me cold; I was the son neither of a Senator nora prescript and I had but to outlive, no matter whatthe régime, the traditions of mediocrity and wretchednesslong since adopted by my family. The lawpleased me but little. I thought that the Code hadbeen purposely maldirected in order to furnish certainpeople with an opportunity to wrangle, to theutmost limit, over the smallest words; even to-dayit seems to me that a phrase clearly worded can notreasonably bear such diverse interpretation.

I was sounding my depths, searching for some stateof being that I might embrace without too much disgust,when the late Emperor found one for me; hemade me a soldier through the maladroitness of hispolicy.

The war with Prussia broke out. To tell the truthI did not understand the motives that made thatbutchery of armies necessary. I felt neither the needof killing others nor of being killed by them. Howeverthat may be, enrolled in the Garde mobile of theSeine, I received orders, after having gone in searchof an outfit, to visit the barber and to be at the barracksin the Rue Lourcine at seven o'clock in theevening.

I was at the place punctually. After roll-call partof the regiment swarmed out of the barrack gatesand emptied into the street. Then the sidewalks raiseda shout and the gutters ran.

Crowding one against another, workmen in blouses,workmen in tatters, soldiers strapped and gaitered,[Pg 1517]without arms, they scanned to the clink of glassesthe Marseillaise over which they shouted themselveshoarse with their voices out of time. Heads gearedwith képis[6] of incredible height and ornamentedwith vizors fit for blind men and with tin co*ckades ofred, white and blue, muffled in blue-black jackets withmadder-red collars and cuffs, breeched in blue linenpantaloons with a red stripe down the side, the militiaof the Seine kept howling at the moon before goingforth to conquer Prussia. That was a deafening uproarat the wine shops, a hubbub of glasses, cans andshrieks, cut into here and there by the rattling of awindow shaken by the wind. Suddenly the roll of thedrum muffled all that clamor; a new column pouredout of the barracks; there was carousing and tipplingindescribable. Those soldiers who were drinkingin the wine shops shot now out into the streets,followed by their parents and friends who disputedthe honor of carrying their knapsacks; the ranks werebroken, it was a confusion of soldiers and citizens;mothers wept, fathers, more contained, sputtered wine,children frisked for joy and shrieked patriotic songs atthe top of their shrill voices.

They crossed Paris helter-skelter by the flashes oflightning that whipped the storming clouds into whitezigzags. The heat was overpowering, the knapsackwas heavy; they drank at every corner of the street;they arrived at last at the railway station of Aubervilliers.There was a moment of silence broken bythe sound of sobbing, dominated again by a burst of[Pg 1518]the Marseillaise, then they stalled us like cattle in thecars. "Good night, Jules! may we meet soon again!Be good! Above all write to me!" They squeezedhands for a last time, the train whistled, we had leftthe station. We were a regular shovelful of fiftymen in that box that rolled away with us. Some wereweeping freely, jeered at by the others who, completelylost in drink were sticking lighted candles intotheir provisions and bawling at the top of their voices;"Down with Badinguet! and long live Rochefort!"[7]Others, in a corner by themselves, stared silently andsullenly at the broad floor that kept vibrating in thedust. All at once the convoy makes a halt—I got out.Complete darkness—twenty-five minutes after midnight.

On all sides stretch the fields, and in the distance,lighted up by sharp flashes of lightning, a cottage, atree sketch their silhouette against a sky swollen bythe tempest. Only the grinding and rumbling of theengine is heard, whose clusters of sparks flying fromthe smokestack scatter like a bouquet of fireworks thewhole length of the train. Every one gets out, goesforward as far as the engine, which looms up in thenight and becomes huge. The stop lasted quite twohours. The signal disks flamed red, the engineer waswaiting for them to reverse. They turn; again we getback into the wagons, but a man who comes up onthe run and swinging a lantern, speaks a few wordsto the conductor, who immediately backs the train[Pg 1519]into a siding where we remain motionless. Not oneof us knows where we are. I descend again from thecarriage, and sitting on an embankment, I nibble ata bit of bread and drink a drop or two, when the whirlof a hurricane whistles in the distance, approaches,roaring and vomiting fire, and an interminable trainof artillery passed at full speed, carrying along horses,men, and cannon whose bronze necks sparkle in aconfusion of light. Five minutes after we take upour slow advance, again interrupted by halts that growlonger and longer. The journey ends with daybreak,and leaning from the car window, worn out by the longwatch of the night, I look out upon the country thatsurrounds us: a succession of chalky plains, closingin the horizon, a band of pale green like the color of asick turquoise, a flat country, gloomy, meagre, the beggarlyChampagne Pouilleuse!

Little by little the sun brightens, we, rumbling onthe while, end, however, by getting there! Leavingat eight o'clock in the evening, we were delivered atthree o'clock of the afternoon of the next day. Twoof the militia had dropped by the way, one who hadtaken a header from the top of the car into the river,the other who had broken his head on the ledge of abridge. The rest, after having pillaged the hovels andthe gardens met along the route wherever the trainstopped, either yawned, their lips puffed out withwine, and their eyes swollen, or amused themselvesby throwing from one side of the carriage to the otherbranches of shrubs and hen-coops which they hadstolen.

[Pg 1520]

The disembarking was managed after the same fashionas the departure. Nothing was ready; neithercanteen, nor straw, nor coats, nor arms, nothing, absolutelynothing. Only tents full of manure and ofinsects, just left by the troops off for the frontier.For three days we live at the mercy of Mourmelon.[8]Eating a sausage one day and drinking a bowl of café-au-laitthe next, exploited to the utmost by the natives,sleeping, no matter how, without straw and withoutcovering. Truly such a life was not calculated to giveus a taste for the calling they had inflicted on us.

Once in camp, the companies separated; the laborerstook themselves to the tents of their fellows; the bourgeoisdid the same. The tent in which I found myselfwas not badly managed, for we succeeded in drivingout by argument of wine the two fellows, the nativeodor of whose feet was aggravated by a long andhappy neglect.

One or two days passed. They made us mountguard with the pickets, we drank a great deal of eau-de-vie,and the drink-shops of Mourmelon were fullwithout let, when suddenly Canrobert[9] passed us inreview along the front line of battle. I see him nowon his big horse, bent over the saddle, his hair flying,his waxed mustaches in a ghastly face. A mutiny wasbreaking out. Deprived of everything, and hardlyconvinced by that marshal that we lacked nothing, wegrowled in chorus when he talked of repressing our[Pg 1521]complaints by force: "Ran, plan, plan, a hundredthousand men afoot, to Paris, to Paris!"

Canrobert grew livid, and shouted, planting hishorse in the midst of us. "Hats off to a marshal ofFrance!" Again a howl goes up from the ranks; thenturning bridle, followed in confusion by his staff officers,he threatened us with his finger, whistling betweenhis separated teeth. "You shall pay dear forthis, gentlemen from Paris!"

Two days after this episode, the icy water of thecamp made me so sick that there was urgent need of myentering the hospital. After the doctor's visit, I buckleon my knapsack, and under guard of a corporal, hereI am going limping along, dragging my legs andsweating under my harness. The hospital is gorgedwith men; they send me back. I then go to one ofthe nearest military hospitals; a bed stands empty; Iam admitted. I put down my knapsack at last, andwith the expectation that the major would forbid meto move, I went out for a walk in the little gardenwhich connected the set of buildings. Suddenly thereissued from a door a man with bristling beard andbulging eyes. He plants his hands in the pockets ofa long dirt-brown cloak, and shouts out from the distanceas soon as he sees me:

"Hey you, man! What are you doing over here?"I approach, I explain to him the motive that bringsme. He thrashes his arms about and bawls:

"Go in again! You have no right to walk aboutin this garden until they give you your costume."

I go back into the room, a nurse arrives and brings[Pg 1522]me a great military coat, pantaloons, old shoes withoutheels, and a cap like a nightcap. I look at myself,thus grotesquely dressed, in my little mirror. GoodHeavens, what a face and what an outfit! With myhaggard eyes and my sallow complexion, with my haircut short, and my nose with the bumps shining; withmy long mouse-gray coat, my pants stained russet, mygreat heelless shoes, my colossal cotton cap, I am prodigiouslyugly. I could not keep from laughing. I turnmy head toward the side of my bed neighbor, a tall boyof Jewish type, who is sketching my portrait in a notebook.We become friends at once; I tell him to call meEugène Lejantel; he responds by telling me to call himFrancis Emonot; we recall to each other this and thatpainter; we enter into a discussion of esthetics and forgetour misfortunes. Night arrives; they portion outto us a dish of boiled meat dotted black with a few lentils,they pour us out brimming cups of coco-clairet,and I undress, enchanted at stretching myself out ina bed without keeping my clothes and my shoes on.

The next morning I am awakened at about sixo'clock by a great fracas at the door and a clatter ofvoices. I sit up in bed, I rub my eyes, and I see thegentleman of the night before, still dressed in hiswrapper, brown the color of cachou, who advancesmajestically, followed by a train of nurses. It wasthe major. Scarcely inside, he rolls his dull green eyesfrom right to left and from left to right, plunges hishands in his pockets and bawls:

"Number One, show your leg—your dirty leg. Eh,it's in a bad shape, that leg, that sore runs like a fountain;[Pg 1523]lotion of bran and water, lint, half-rations, astrong licorice tea. Number Two, show your throat—yourdirty throat. It's getting worse and worse,that throat; the tonsils will be cut out to-morrow."

"But, doctor—"

"Eh, I am not asking anything from you, am I?Say one word and I'll put you on a diet."

"But, at least—"

"Put that man on a diet. Write: diet, gargles,strong licorice tea."

In that vein he passed all the sick in review, prescribingfor all, the syphilitics and the wounded, thefevered and the dysentery patients his strong licoricetea. He stopped in front of me, stared into my face,tore off my covering, punched my stomach with hisfist, ordered albuminated water for me, the inevitabletea; and went out snorting and dragging his feet.

Life was difficult with the men who were about us.There were twenty-one in our sleeping quarters. Atmy left slept my friend, the painter; on my right, agreat devil of a trumpeter, with face pocked like asewing thimble and yellow as a glass of bile. Hecombined two professions, that of cobbler by day anda procurer of girls by night. He was, in other respects,a comical fellow who frisked about on his hands,or on his head, telling you in the most naïve way in theworld the manner in which he expedited at the toeof his boot the work of his menials, or intoned in atouching voice sentimental songs:

"I have cherished in my sorrow—ow
But the friendship of a swallow—ow."

[Pg 1524]

I conquered his good graces by giving him twentysous to buy a liter of wine with, and we did well innot being on bad terms with him, for the rest of ourquarters—composed in part of attorneys of the RueMaubuée—were well disposed to pick a quarrelwith us.

One night, among others, the 15th of August,Francis Emonot threatened to box the ears of two menwho had taken his towel. There was a formidablehubbub in the dormitory. Insults rained, we weretreated to "roule-en-coule et de duch*esses." Being twoagainst nineteen, we were in a fair way of getting aregular drubbing, when the bugler interfered, tookaside the most desperate and coaxed them into givingup the stolen object. To celebrate the reconciliationwhich followed this scene, Francis and I contributedthree francs each, and it was arranged that the buglerwith the aid of his comrades should try to slip out ofthe hospital and bring back some meat and wine.

The light had disappeared from the major's window,the druggist at last extinguished his, we climbover the thicket, examine our surroundings, cautionthe men who are gliding along the walls, not to encounterthe sentinels on the way, mount on one another'sshoulders and jump off into the field. An hourlater they came back laden with victuals; they passthem over and reenter the dormitory with us; we suppressthe two night lamps, light candle-ends stuck onthe floor, and around my bed in our shirts we form acircle. We had absorbed three or four liters of wineand cut up the best part of a leg of mutton, when a[Pg 1525]great clattering of shoes is heard; I blow out thecandle stubs, by the grace of my shoe, and every oneescapes under the beds. The door opens; the majorappears, heaves a formidable "Good Heavens!" stumblesin the darkness, goes out and comes back with alantern and the inevitable train of nurses. I profit bythe moment to disperse the remains of the feast; themajor crosses the dormitory at a quick step, swearing,threatening to take us all into custody and to put usin stocks.

We are convulsed with laughter under our coverings;a trumpet-flourish blazes from the other side ofthe dormitory. The major puts us all under diet; thenhe goes out, warning us that we shall know in a fewminutes what metal he is made of.

Once gone, we vie with each other in doing ourworst; flashes of laughter rumble and crackle. Thetrumpeter does a handspring in the dormitory, one ofhis friends joins him, a third jumps on his bed as ona springboard and bounces up and down, his armsbalancing, his shirt flying; his neighbor breaks into atriumphant cancan; the major enters abruptly, ordersfour men of the line he has brought with him to seizethe dancers, and announces to us that he is going todraw up a report and send it to whom it may concern.

Calm is restored at last; the next day we get thenurses to buy us some eatables. The days run on withoutfurther incident. We are beginning to perish ofennui in this hospital, when, one day, at five o'clock,the doctor bursts into the room and orders us to put onour campaign clothes and to buckle on our knapsacks.

[Pg 1526]

We learn ten minutes later that the Prussians aremarching on Chalons.

A gloomy amazement reigns in the quarters. Untilnow we have had no doubts as to the outcome of passingevents. We knew about the too celebrated victoryof Sarrebrück, we do not expect the reverses whichoverwhelm us. The major examines every man; notone is cured, all had been too long gorged with licoricewater and deprived of care. Nevertheless, he returnsto their corps the least sick, he orders others tolie down completely dressed, knapsack in readiness.Francis and I are among these last. The day passes,the night passes. Nothing. But I have the colic continuallyand suffer. At last, at about nine o'clock inthe morning, appears a long train of mules with"cacolets,"[10] and led by "tringlots."[11] We climb twoby two into the baskets. Francis and I were liftedonto the same mule, only, as the painter was very fatand I very lean, the arrangement see-sawed; I go upin the air while he descends under the belly of themule, who, dragged by the head, and pushed frombehind, dances and flings about furiously. We trotalong in a whirlwind of dust, blinded, bewildered,jolted, we cling to the bar of the cacolet, shut oureyes, laugh and groan. We arrive at Chalons moredead than alive; we fall to the gravel like jaded cattle,then they pack us into the cars and we leave Chalonsto go—where? No one knows.

It is night; we fly over the rails. The sick are taken[Pg 1527]from the cars and walked up and down the platforms.The engine whistles, slows down and stops in a railwaystation—that of Reims, I suppose, but I can notbe sure. We are dying of hunger, the commissary forgotbut one thing: to give us bread for the journey. Iget out. I see an open buffet. I run for it, but othersare there before me. They are fighting as I come up.Some were seizing bottles, others meat, some bread,some cigars. Half-dazed but furious, the restaurant-keeperdefends his shop at the point of a spit. Crowdedby their comrades, who come up in gangs, the frontrow of militia throw themselves onto the counter,which gives way, carrying in its wake the owner ofthe buffet and his waiters. Then followed a regularpillage; everything went, from matches to toothpicks.Meanwhile the bell rings and the train starts. Not oneof us disturbs himself, and while sitting on the walk, Iexplain to the painter how the tubes work, the mechanismof the bell. The train backs down over therails to take us aboard. We ascend into our compartmentsagain and we pass in review the booty we hadseized. To tell the truth, there was little variety offood. Pork-butcher's meat and nothing but pork-butcher'smeat! We had six strings of Bologna sausagesflavored with garlic, a scarlet tongue, two sausages,a superb slice of Italian sausage, a slice in silverstripe, the meat all of an angry red, mottled white;four liters of wine, a half-bottle of cognac, and a fewcandle ends. We stick the candle ends into the neckof our flasks, which swing, hung by strings to thesides of the wagon. There was, thus, when the train[Pg 1528]jolted over a switch, a rain of hot grease which congealedalmost instantly into great platters, but ourcoats had seen many another.

We began our repast at once, interrupted by thegoing and coming of those of the militia who keptrunning along the footboards the whole length of thetrain, and knocked at our window-panes and demandedsomething to drink. We sang at the top of our voices,we drank, we clinked glasses. Never did sick menmake so much noise or romp so on a train in motion!One would have said that it was a rolling Court ofMiracles; the cripples jumped with jointed legs, thosewhose intestines were burning soaked them in bumpersof cognac, the one-eyed opened their eyes, the feveredcapered about, the sick throats bellowed and tippled;it was unheard of!

This disturbance ends in calming itself. I profit bythe lull to put my nose out of the window. There wasnot a star there, not even a tip of the moon, heavenand earth seem to make but one, and in that intensityof inky blackness, the lanterns winked like eyes of differentcolors attached to the metal of the disks. Theengineer discharged his whistle, the engine puffed andvomited its sparks without rest. I reclose the windowand look at my companions. Some were snoring,others disturbed by the jolting of the box, gurgled andswore in their sleep, turning over incessantly, searchingfor room to stretch their legs, to brace their headsthat nodded at every jolt.

By dint of looking at them, I was beginning to getsleepy when the train stopped short and woke me up.[Pg 1529]We were at a station; and the station-master's officeflamed like a forge fire in the darkness of the night.I had one leg numbed, I was shivering with cold, Idescend to warm up a bit. I walk up and down theplatform, I go to look at the engine, which they uncouple,and which they replace by another, and walkingby the office I hear the bills and the tic-tac of thetelegraph. The employee, with back turned to me, wasstooping a little to the right in such a way thatfrom where I was placed, I could see but the back ofhis head and the tip of his nose, which shone red andbeaded with sweat, while the rest of his figure disappearedin the shadow thrown by the screen of a gas-jet.

They invite me to get back into the carriage, andI find my comrades again, just as I had left them.That time I went to sleep for good. For how long didmy sleep last? I don't know—when a great cry wokeme up: "Paris! Paris!" I made a dash for the doorway.At a distance, against a band of pale gold, stoodout in black the smokestacks of factories and workshops.We were at Saint-Denis; the news ran fromcar to car. Every one was on his feet. The enginequickened its pace. The Gare du Nord looms up inthe distance. We arrive there, we get down, wethrow ourselves at the gates. One part of us succeedsin escaping, the others are stopped by the employeesof the railroad and by the troops; by force theymake us remount into a train that is getting up steam,and here we are again, off for God knows where!

We roll onward again all day long. I am weary oflooking at the rows of houses and trees that spin by[Pg 1530]before my eyes; then, too, I have the colic continuallyand I suffer. About four o'clock of the afternoon, theengine slackens its speed, and stops at a landing-stagewhere awaits us there an old general, around whomsports a flock of young men, with headgear of redképis, breached in red and shod with boots with yellowspurs. The general passes us in review and dividesus into two squads; the one for the seminary, theother is directed toward the hospital. We are, itseems, at Arras. Francis and we form part of thefirst squad. They tumble us into carts stuffed withstraw, and we arrive in front of a great building thatsettles and seems about to collapse into the street. Wemount to the second story to a room that contains somethirty beds; each one of us unbuckles his knapsack,combs himself, and sits down. A doctor arrives.

"What is the trouble with you?" he asks of the first.

"A carbuncle."

"Ah! and you?"

"Dysentery."

"Ah! and you?"

"A bubo."

"But in that case you have not been wounded duringthe war?"

"Not the least in the world."

"Very well! You can take up your knapsacksagain. The archbishop gives up the beds of his seminaristsonly to the wounded."

I pack into my knapsack again all the knickknacksthat I had taken out, and we are off again, willy-nilly,for the city hospital. There was no more room there.[Pg 1531]In vain the sisters contrive to squeeze the iron bedstogether, the wards are full. Worn out by all thesedelays, I seize one mattress, Francis takes another, andwe go and stretch ourselves in the garden on a greatgrass-plot.

The next day I have a talk with the director, anaffable and charming man. I ask permission for thepainter and for me to go out into the town. He consents;the door opens; we are free! We are goingto dine at last! To eat real meat, to drink real wine!Ah, we do not hesitate; we make straight for the besthotel in town. They serve us there with a wholesomemeal. There are flowers there on the table, magnificentbouquets of roses and fuchsias that spread themselvesout of the glass vases. The waiter brings in a roastthat drains into a lake of butter; the sun himself comesto the feast, makes the covers sparkle and the bladesof the knives, sifts his golden dust through the carafes,and playing with the pomard that gently rocks in theglasses, spots with a ruby star the damask cloth.

Oh, sacred joy of the guzzlers! My mouth is fulland Francis is drunk! The fumes of the roast minglewith the perfume of the flowers; the purple of the winevies in gorgeousness with the red of the roses. Thewaiter who serves us has the air of folly and we havethe air of gluttons, it is all the same to us! We stuffdown roast after roast, we pour down bordeaux uponburgundy, chartreuse upon cognac. To the devil withyour weak wines and your thirty-sixes,[12] which we havebeen drinking since our departure from Paris! To the[Pg 1532]devil with those whimsicalities without name, thosemysterious pot-house poisons with which we have beenso crammed to leanness for nearly a month! We areunrecognizable; our once peaked faces redden like adrunkard's, we get noisy, with noise in the air we cutloose. We run all over the town that way.

Evening arrives; we must go back, however. Thesister who is in charge of the old men's ward saysto us in a small flute-like voice:

"Soldiers, gentlemen, you were very cold last night,but you are going to have a good bed."

And she leads us into a great room where threenight lamps, dimly lighted, hang from the ceiling. Ihave a white bed, I sink with delight between thesheets that still smell fresh with the odor of washing.We hear nothing but the breathing or the snoring ofthe sleepers. I am quite warm, my eyes close, I knowno longer where I am, when a prolonged chucklingawakes me. I open one eye and I perceive at the footof my bed an individual who is looking down at me.I sit up in bed. I see before me an old man, tall, lean,his eyes haggard, lips slobbering into a rough beard.I ask what he wants of me. No answer! I cry out:"Go away! Let me sleep!"

He shows me his fist. I suspect him to be a lunatic.I roll up my towel, at the end of which I quietly twista knot; he advances one step; I leap to the floor; Iparry the fisticuff he aims at me, and with the towelI deal him a return blow full in the left eye. He seesthirty candles, he throws himself at me; I draw backand let fly a vigorous kick in the stomach. He tumbles,[Pg 1533]carrying with him a chair that rebounds; thedormitory is awakened; Francis runs up in his shirtto lend me assistance; the sister arrives; the nursesdart upon the madman, whom they flog and succeedwith great difficulty in putting in bed again. Theaspect of the dormitory was eminently ludicrous; tothe gloom of faded rose, which the dying night lampshad spread around them, succeeded the flaming ofthree lanterns. The black ceiling, with its rings oflight that danced above the burning wicks, glitterednow with its tints of freshly spread plaster. The sickmen, a collection of Punch and Judies without age,had clutched the piece of wood that hung at the endof a cord above their beds, hung on to it with onehand, and with the other made gestures of terror. Atthat sight my anger cools, I split with laughter, thepainter suffocates, it is only the sister who preservesher gravity and succeeds by force of threats andentreaties in restoring order in the room.

Night came to an end, for good or ill; in the morningat six o'clock the rattle of a drum assembled us,the director called off the roll. We start for Rouen.Arrived in that city, an officer tells the unfortunateman in charge of us that the hospital is full and cannot take us in. Meanwhile we have an hour to wait.I throw my knapsack down into a corner of the station,and though my stomach is on fire, we are off,Francis and I, wandering at random, in ecstasies beforethe church of Saint-Ouen, in wonder before theold houses. We admire so much and so long that thehour had long since passed before we even thought of[Pg 1534]looking for the station again. "It's a long time sinceyour comrades departed," one of the employees of therailroad said to us; "they are in Evreux." "The devil!The next train doesn't go until nine o'clock.—Come,let's get some dinner!"

When we arrived at Evreux, midnight had come.We could not present ourselves at a hospital at suchan hour; we would have the appearance of malefactors.The night is superb, we cross the city and wefind ourselves in the open fields. It was the time ofhaying, the piles were in stacks. We spy out a littlestack in a field, we hollow out there two comfortablenests, and I do not know whether it is the reminiscentodor of our couch or the penetrating perfume of thewoods that stirs us, but we feel the need of airing ourdefunct love affairs. The subject was inexhaustible.Little by little, however, words become fewer, enthusiasmdies out, we fall asleep. "Sacre bleu!" cries myneighbor, as he stretches himself. "What time can itbe?" I awake in turn. The sun will not be late inrising, for the great blue curtain is laced at the horizonwith a fringe of rose. What misery! It will be necessarynow to go knock at the door of the hospital,to sleep in wards impregnated with that heavy smellthrough which returns, like an obstinate refrain, theacrid flower of powder of iodoform! All sadly wetake our way to the hospital again. They open to usbut alas! one only of us is admitted, Francis—and I,they send me on to the lyceum. This life is no longerpossible, I meditate an escape, the house surgeon onduty comes down into the courtyard. I show him my[Pg 1535]law-school diploma; he knows Paris, the Latin Quarter.I explain to him my situation. "It has come to anabsolute necessity." I tell him "that either Franciscomes to the lyceum or that I go to rejoin him at thehospital." He thinks it over, and in the evening, comingclose to my bed, he slips these words into my ear:"Tell them to-morrow morning that your sufferingsincrease." The next day, in fact, at about seveno'clock, the doctor makes his appearance; a good, anexcellent man, who had but two faults; that of odorousteeth and that of desiring to get rid of his patients atany cost. Every morning the following scene tookplace:

"Ah, ha! the fine fellow," he cries, "what an air hehas! good color, no fever. Get up and go take a goodcup of coffee; but no fooling, you know! don't go runningafter the girls; I will sign for you your Exeat;you will return to-morrow to your regiment."

Sick or not sick, he sent back three a day. Thatmorning he stops in front of me and says:

"Ah! saperlotte, my boy, you look better!"

I exclaim that never have I suffered so much.

He sounds my stomach. "But you are better," hemurmurs; "the stomach is not so hard." I protest—heseems astonished, the interne then says to him inan undertone:

"We ought perhaps to give him an injection; andwe have here neither syringe nor stomach-pump; if wesend him to the hospital—?"

"Come, now, that's an idea!" says the good man,delighted at getting rid of me, and then and there he[Pg 1536]signs the order for my admission. Joyfully I buckleon my knapsack, and under guard of one of the servantsof the lyceum I make my entrance at the hospital.I find Francis again! By incredible good luckthe St. Vincent corridor, where he sleeps, in defaultof a room in the wards, contains one empty bed nextto his. We are at last reunited! In addition to ourtwo beds, five cots stretch, one after the other, alongthe yellow glazed walls. For occupants they have asoldier of the line, two artillerymen, a dragoon, and ahussar. The rest of the hospital is made up of certainold men, crack-brained and weak-bodied, some youngmen, rickety or bandy-legged, and a great number ofsoldiers—wrecks from MacMahon's army—who, afterbeing floated on from one military hospital to another,had come to be stranded on this bank. Francis and I,we are the only ones who wear the uniform of theSeine militia; our bed neighbors were good enoughfellows; one, to tell the truth, quite as insignificant asanother; they were, for the most part, the sons ofpeasants or farmers called to serve under the flag afterthe declaration of war.

While I am taking off my vest, there comes a sister,so frail, so pretty that I can not keep from lookingat her; the beautiful big eyes! the long blond lashes!the pretty teeth! She asks me why I have left thelyceum; I explain to her in roundabout phrases howthe absence of a forcing pump caused me to be sentback from the college. She smiles gently and says tome: "Ah, sir soldier, you could have called the thingby its name; we are used to everything." I should[Pg 1537]think she was used to everything, unfortunate woman,for the soldiers constrained themselves but little indelivering themselves of their indiscreet amenities beforeher. Yet never did I see her blush. She passedamong them mute, her eyes lowered, seeming not tohear the coarse jokes retailed around her.

Heavens! how she spoiled me! I see her now inthe morning, as the sun breaks on the stone floor theshadows of the window bars, approaching slowly fromthe far end of the corridor, the great wings of herbonnet flapping at her face. She comes close to mybed with a dish that smokes, and on the edge of whichglistens her well-trimmed finger nail. "The soup is alittle thin to-day," she says with her pretty smile, "soI bring you some chocolate. Eat it quick while it'shot!"

In spite of the care she lavished upon me, I wasbored to death in that hospital. My friend and I, wehad reached that degree of brutishness that throwsyou on your bed, trying to kill in animal drowsinessthe long hours of insupportable days. The only distractionsoffered us consisted in a breakfast and a dinnercomposed of boiled beef, watermelon, prunes, anda finger of wine—the whole of not sufficient quantityto nourish a man.

Thanks to my ordinary politeness toward the sistersand to the prescription labels that I wrote forthem, I obtained fortunately a cutlet now and then anda pear picked in the hospital orchard. I was, then, onthe whole, the least to be pitied of all the soldierspacked together, pell-mell, in the wards, but during[Pg 1538]the first days I could not succeed even in swallowingthe meagre morning dole. It was inspection hour, andthe doctor chose that moment to perform his operations.The second day after my arrival he ripped athigh open from top to bottom; I heard a piercing cry;I closed my eyes, not enough, however, to avoid seeinga red stream spurt in great jets on to the doctor'sapron. That morning I could eat no more. Little bylittle, however, I grew accustomed to it; soon I contentedmyself by merely turning my head away andkeeping my soup.

In the mean while the situation became intolerable.We tried, but in vain, to procure newspapers andbooks; we were reduced to masquerading, to donningthe hussar's vest for fun. This puerile fooling quicklywore itself out, and stretching ourselves every twentyminutes, exchanging a few words, we dive our headsinto the bolsters.

There was not much conversation to be drawn fromour comrades. The two artillerymen and the hussarwere too sick to talk. The dragoon swore by the nameof heaven, saying nothing, got up every instant, envelopedin his great white mantle, and went to thewash-bowls, whose sloppy condition he reported bymeans of his bare feet. There were some old saucepanslying about in which the convalescents pretendedto cook, offering their stew in jest to the sisters.

There remained, then, only the soldier of the line:an unfortunate grocer's clerk, father of a child, calledto the army, stricken constantly by fever, shiveringunder his bedclothes.

[Pg 1539]

Squatting, tailor-fashion, on our bed, we listen tohim recount the battle in which he was picked up. Castout near Froeschwiller, on a plain surrounded withwoods, he had seen the red flashes shoot by in bouquetsof white smoke, and he had ducked, trembling, bewilderedby the cannonading, wild with the whistlingof the balls. He had marched, mixed in with theregiments, through the thick mud, not seeing a singlePrussian, not knowing in what direction they were,hearing on all sides groans, cut by sharp cries, thenthe ranks of the soldiers placed in front of him, allat once turned, and in the confusion of flight he hadbeen, without knowing how, thrown to the ground.He had picked himself up and had fled, abandoninghis gun and knapsack, and at last, worn out by theforced marches endured for eight days, underminedby fear, weakened by hunger, he had rested himself ina trench. He had remained there dazed, inert, stunnedby the roar of the bombs, resolved no longer to defendhimself, to move no more; then he thought of his wife,and, weeping, demanded what he had done that theyshould make him suffer so; he picked up, withoutknowing why, the leaf of a tree, which he kept, andwhich he had about him now, for he showed it to usoften, dried and shriveled at the bottom of his pockets.

An officer had passed meanwhile, revolver in hand,had called him "coward," and threatened to break hishead if he did not march. He had replied: "Thatwould please me above all things. Oh, that this wouldend!" But the officer at the very moment he was shakinghim on to his feet was stretched out, the blood[Pg 1540]bursting, spurting from his neck. Then fear took possessionof him; he fled and succeeded in reaching aroad far off, overrun with the flying, black with troops,furrowed by gun-carriages whose dying horses brokeand crushed the ranks.

They succeeded at last in putting themselves undershelter. The cry of treason arose from the groups.Old soldiers seemed once more resolved, but the recruitsrefused to go on. "Let them go and be killed,"they said, indicating the officers; "that's their profession.As for me I have children; it's not the Statethat will take care of them if I die!" And theyenvied the fate of those who were slightly woundedand the sick who were allowed to take refuge in theambulances.

"Ah, how afraid one gets, and, then, how one holdsin the ear the voices of men calling for their mothersand begging for something to drink," he added, shiveringall over. He paused, and, looking about thecorridor with an air of content, he continued: "It'sall the same, I am very happy to be here; and then,as it is, my wife can write to me," and he drew fromhis trousers pocket some letters, saying with satisfaction:"The little one has written, look!" and he pointsout at the foot of the paper under his wife's laboredhandwriting, some up-and-down strokes forming a dictatedsentence, where there were some "I kiss papas"in blots of ink.

We listened twenty times at least to that story, andwe had to suffer during mortal hours the repetitionsof that man, delighted at having a child. We ended[Pg 1541]by stopping our ears and by trying to sleep so as not tohear him any more.

This deplorable life threatened to prolong itself,when one morning Francis, who, contrary to his habit,had been prowling around the whole of the eveningbefore in the courtyard, says to me: "I say, Eugène,come out and breathe a little of the air of the fields."I prick my ears. "There is a field reserved for lunatics,"he continued; "that field is empty; by climbingonto the roofs of the outhouses, and that is easy, thanksto the gratings that ornament the windows, we canreach the coping of the wall; we jump and we tumbleinto the country. Two steps from the wall is one ofthe gates of Evreux. What do you say?"

I say—I say that I am quite willing to go out, buthow shall we get back?

"I do not know anything about that; first let us getout, we will plan afterward. Come, get up, they aregoing to serve the soup; we jump the wall after."

I get up. The hospital lacked water, so much sothat I was reduced to washing in the seltzer waterwhich the sister had had sent to me. I take my siphon,I mark the painter who cries fire, I press the trigger,the discharge hits him full in his face; then I placemyself in front of him, I receive the stream in mybeard, I rub my nose with the lather, I dry my face.We are ready, we go downstairs. The field is deserted;we scale the wall; Francis takes his measureand jumps. I am sitting astride the coping of thewall, I cast a rapid glance around me; below, a ditchand some grass, on the right one of the gates of the[Pg 1542]town; in the distance, a forest that sways and showsits rents of golden red against a band of pale blue.I stand up; I hear a noise in the court; I jump; weskirt the walls; we are in Evreux!

Shall we eat? Motion adopted.

Making our way in search of a resting-place, weperceive two little women wagging along. We followthem and offer to breakfast with them; they refuse;we insist; they answer no less gently; we insist again;they say yes. We go home with them, with a meat-pie,bottles of wine, eggs, and a cold chicken. It seemsodd to us to find ourselves in a light room, hung withpaper, spotted with lilac blossoms and green leaves;there are at the casem*nts damask curtains of red currantcolor, a mirror over the fireplace, an engravingrepresenting a Christ tormented by the Pharisees. Sixchairs of cherry wood and a round table with an oil-clothshowing the kings of France, a bedspread witheiderdown of pink muslin. We set the table, we lookwith greedy eye at the girls moving about. It takesa long time to get things ready, for we stop them fora kiss in passing; for the rest, they are ugly and stupidenough. But what is that to us? It's so long since wehave scented the mouth of woman!

I carve the chicken; the corks fly, we drink liketopers, we eat like ogres. The coffee steams in thecups; we gild it with cognac; my melancholy fliesaway, the punch kindles, the blue flames of the Kirschwasserleap in the salad bowl, the girls giggle, theirhair in their eyes. Suddenly four strokes ring outslowly from the church tower. It is four o'clock.[Pg 1543]And the hospital! Good heavens, we had forgottenit! I turn pale. Francis looks at me in fright, wetear ourselves from the arms of our hostesses, we goout at double quick.

"How to get in?" says the painter.

Alas! we have no choice; we shall get there scarcelyin time for supper. Let's trust to the mercy of heavenand make for the great gate!

We get there; we ring; the sister concièrge is aboutto open the door for us and stands amazed. Wesalute her, and I say loud enough to be heard by her:

"I say, do you know, they are not very amiable atthat commissariat; the fat one specially received usonly more or less civilly."

The sister breathes not a word. We run at a gallopfor the messroom; it was time, I heard the voice ofSister Angèle who was distributing the rations. Iwent to bed as quickly as possible, I covered with myhand a spot my beauty had given me the length ofmy neck; the sister looks at me, finds in my eyes anunwonted sparkle, and asks with interest: "Are yourpains worse?"

I reassure her and reply: "On the contrary, sister, Iam better; but this idleness and this imprisonment arekilling me."

When I speak of the appalling ennui that is tryingme, sunk in this company, in the midst of the country,far from my own people, she does not reply, but herlips close tight, her eyes take on an indefinable expressionof melancholy and of pity. One day she said tome in a dry tone: "Oh, liberty's worth nothing to[Pg 1544]you," alluding to a conversation she had overheardbetween Francis and me, discussing the charming allurementsof Parisian women; then she softened andadded with her fascinating little moue: "You are reallynot serious, Mr. Soldier."

The next morning we agreed, the painter and I, thatas soon as the soup was swallowed, we would scalethe wall again. At the time appointed we prowl aboutthe field; the door is closed. "Bast, worse luck!" saysFrancis, "En avant!" and he turns toward the greatdoor of the hospital. I follow him. The sister incharge asks where we are going. "To the commissariat."The door opens, we are outside.

Arrived at the grand square of the town, in frontof the church, I perceive, as we contemplate the sculpturesof the porch, a stout gentleman with a face likea red moon bristling with white mustaches, who staresat us in astonishment. We stare back at him, boldly,and continue on our way. Francis is dying of thirst;we enter a café, and, while sipping my demi-tasse, Icast my eyes over the local paper, and I find there aname that sets me dreaming. I did not know, to tellthe truth, the person who bore it, but that name recalledto me memories long since effaced. I rememberedthat one of my friends had a relation in a veryhigh position in the town of Evreux. "It is absolutelynecessary for me to see him," I say to the painter; Iask his address of the café-keeper; he does not knowit; I go out and visit all the bakers and the druggiststhat I meet with. Every one eats bread and takesmedicine; it is impossible that one of those manufacturers[Pg 1545]should not know the address of Monsieur deFréchêdé. I did find it there, in fact; I dust off myblouse, I buy a black cravat, gloves, and I go and ringgently, in the Rue Chatrain, at the iron grating of aprivate residence which rears its brick façade and slateroofs in the clearing of a sunny park. A servant letsme in. Monsieur de Fréchêdé is absent, but Madameis at home. I wait for a few seconds in a salon; theportière is raised and an old lady appears. She hasan air so affable that I am reassured. I explain to herin a few words who I am.

"Sir," she says with a kind smile, "I have oftenheard speak of your family. I think, even, that I havemet at Madame Lezant's, madame, your mother, duringmy last journey to Paris; you are welcome here."

We talked a long time; I, somewhat embarrassed,covering with my képi the spot on my neck; shetrying to persuade me to accept some money, whichI refuse.

She says to me at last: "I desire with all my heartto be useful to you. What can I do?" I reply:"Heavens, Madame, if you could get them to send meback to Paris, you would render me a great service;communications will be interrupted very soon, if thenewspapers are to be believed; they talk of anothercoup d'état, or the overthrow of the Empire; I havegreat need of seeing my mother again; and especiallyof not letting myself be taken prisoner here if thePrussians come."

In the mean while Monsieur de Fréchêdé enters.In two words he is made acquainted with the situation.

[Pg 1546]

"If you wish to come with me to the doctor of thehospital," he says, "you have no time to lose."

To the doctor! Good heavens! and how account tohim for my absence from the hospital? I dare notbreathe a word; I follow my protector, asking myselfhow it will all end. We arrive; the doctor looks atme with a stupefied air. I do not give him time toopen his mouth, and I deliver with prodigious volubilitya string of jeremiads over my sad position.

Monsieur de Fréchêdé in his turn takes up the argument,and asks him, in my favor, to give me a convalescent'sleave of absence for two months.

"Monsieur is, in fact, sick enough," says the doctor,"to be entitled to two months' rest; if my colleaguesand if the General look at it as I do your protégé willbe able in a few days to return to Paris."

"That's good," replies Monsieur de Fréchêdé. "Ithank you, doctor; I will speak to the General myselfto-night."

We are in the street; I heave a great sigh of relief;I press the hand of that excellent man who shows sokindly an interest in me. I run to find Francis again.We have but just time to get back; we arrive at thegate of the hospital; Francis rings; I salute the sister.She stops me: "Did you not tell me this morning thatyou were going to the commissariat?"

"Quite right, sister."

"Very well! the General has just left here. Go andsee the director and Sister Angèle; they are waitingfor you; you will explain to them, no doubt, the objectof your visits to the commissariat."

[Pg 1547]

We remount, all crestfallen, the dormitory stairs.Sister Angèle is there, who waits for us, and who says:

"Never could I have believed such a thing! Youhave been all over the city, yesterday and to-day,and Heaven knows what kind of life you have beenleading!"

"Oh, really!" I exclaim.

She looked at me so fixedly that I breathed notanother word.

"All the same," she continued, "the General himselfmet you on the Grand Square to-day. I denied thatyou had gone out, and I searched for you all over thehospital. The General was right, you were not here.He asked me for your names; I gave him the name ofone of you, I refused to reveal the other, and I didwrong, that is certain, for you do not deserve it!"

"Oh, how much I thank you, my sister!" But SisterAngèle did not listen to me. She was indignant overmy conduct! There was but one thing to do; keepquiet and accept the downpour without trying to sheltermyself.

In the mean time Francis was summoned before thedirector, and since, I do not know why, they suspectedhim of corrupting me; and since he was, moreover, byreason of his foolery, in bad odor with the doctor andthe sisters, he was informed that he must leave thehospital the following day and join his corps at once.

"Those huzzies with whom we dined yesterday arelicensed women, who have sold us; it was the directorhimself who told me," he declared furiously.

All the time we are cursing the jades and lamenting[Pg 1548]over our uniforms which made us so recognizable, therumor runs that the Emperor is taken prisoner andthat the Republic has been proclaimed at Paris; I givea franc to an old man who was allowed to go out andwho brings me a copy of the "Gaulois." The news istrue. The hospital exults. Badinguet fallen! it is nottoo soon; good-by to the war that is ended at last.

The following morning Francis and I, we embraceand he departs. "Till we meet again," he shouts tome as he shuts the gate; "and in Paris!"

Oh, the days that followed that day! What suffering!what desolation! Impossible to leave the hospital;a sentinel paced up and down, in my honor,before the door. I had, however, spirit enough not totry to sleep. I paced like a caged beast in the yard.I prowled thus for the space of twelve hours. I knewmy prison to its smallest cranny. I knew the spotswhere the lichens and the mosses pushed up throughthe sections of the wall which had given way in cracking.Disgust for my corridor, for my truckle-bed flattenedout like a pancake, for my linen rotten with dirt,took hold of me. I lived isolated, speaking to no one,beating the flint stones of the courtyard with my feet,straying, like a troubled soul, under the arcades whitewashedwith yellow ochre the same as the wards, comingback to the grated entrance gate surmounted by aflag, mounting to the first floor where my bed was,descending to where the kitchen shone, flashing thesparkle of its red copper through the bare nakednessof the scene. I gnawed my fists with impatience,watching at certain hours the mingled coming and[Pg 1549]going of civilians and soldiers, passing and repassingon every floor, filling the galleries with their interminablemarch.

I had no longer any strength left to resist the persecutionof the sisters, who drove us on Sunday intothe chapel. I became a monomaniac; one fixed ideahaunted me; to flee as quickly as possible that lamentablejail. With that, money worry oppressed me. Mymother had forwarded a hundred francs to me at Dunkirk,where it seems I ought to be. The money neverappeared. I saw the time when I should not have asou to buy either paper or tobacco.

Meanwhile the days passed. The De Fréchêdésseemed to have forgotten me, and I attributed theirsilence to my escapades, of which they had no doubtbeen informed. Soon to all these anxieties were addedhorrible pains: ill-cared for and aggravated by mychase after petticoats, my bowels became inflamed. Isuffered so that I came to fear I should no longer beable to bear the journey. I concealed my sufferings,fearing the doctor would force me to stay longer atthe hospital. I keep my bed for a few days; then, asI felt my strength diminishing, I wished to get up, inspite of all, and I went downstairs into the yard. SisterAngèle no longer spoke to me, and in the evening,while she made her rounds in the corridor and in themess, turning so as not to notice the sparks of the forbiddenpipes that glowed in the shadows, she passedbefore me, indifferent, cold, turning away her eyes.One morning, however, when I had dragged myselfinto the courtyard and sunk down on every bench to[Pg 1550]rest, she saw me so changed, so pale, that she couldnot keep from a movement of compassion. In theevening, after she had finished her visit to the dormitories,I was leaning with one elbow on my bolster,and, with eyes wide open, I was looking at the bluishbeams which the moon cast through the windows ofthe corridor, when the door at the farther end openedagain, and I saw, now bathed in silver vapor, now inshadow, and as if clothed in black crepe, according asto whether she passed before the casem*nts or alongthe walls, Sister Angèle, who was coming toward me.She was smiling gently. "To-morrow morning," shesaid to me, "you are to be examined by the doctors. Isaw Madame de Fréchêdé to-day; it is probable thatyou will start for Paris in two or three days." I springup in my bed, my face brightens, I wanted to jumpand sing; never was I happier. Morning rises. Idress, and uneasy, nevertheless, I direct my way to theroom where sits a board of officers and doctors.

One by one the soldiers exhibit their bodies gougedwith wounds or bunched with hair. The Generalscraped one of his finger nails, the Colonel of theGendarmerie[13] fans himself with a newspaper; the practitionerstalk among themselves as they feel the men.My turn comes at last. They examine me from headto foot, they press down on my stomach, swollen andtense like a balloon, and with a unanimity of opinionthe council grants me a convalescent's leave of sixtydays.

I am going at last to see my mother, to recover my[Pg 1551]curios, my books! I feel no more the red-hot iron thatburns my entrails; I leap like a kid!

I announce to my family the good news. Mymother writes me letter after letter, wondering whyI do not come. Alas! my order of absence must becountersigned at the division headquarters at Rouen.It comes back after five days; I am "in order"; I goto find Sister Angèle; I beg her to obtain for me beforethe time fixed for my departure permission to go intothe city to thank De Fréchêdés, who have been sogood to me. She goes to look for the director andbrings me back permission. I run to the house ofthose kind people, who force me to accept a silk handkerchiefand fifty francs for the journey. I go insearch of my papers at the commissariat. I returnto the hospital, I have but a few minutes to spare.I go in quest of Sister Angèle, whom I find in thegarden, and I say to her with great emotion:

"Oh, dear Sister, I am leaving; how can I ever repayyou for all that you have done for me?"

I take her hand which she tries to withdraw, andI carry it to my lips. She grows red. "Adieu!" shemurmurs, and, menacing me with her finger, she addsplayfully, "Be good! and above all do not make anywicked acquaintances on the journey."

"Oh, do not fear, my Sister. I promise you!"

The hour strikes; the door opens; I hurry off tothe station; I jump into a car; the train moves; I haveleft Evreux. The coach is half full, but I occupyfortunately, one of the corners. I put my nose outof the window; I see some pollarded trees, the tops[Pg 1552]of a few hills that undulate away into the distance, abridge astride of a great pond that sparkles in the sunlike burnished glass. All this is not very pleasing.I sink back in my corner, looking now and then atthe telegraph wires that stripe the ultramarine skywith their black lines, when the train stops, the travellerswho are about me descend, the door shuts, thenopens again and makes way for a young woman.While she seats herself and arranges her dress, Icatch a glimpse of her face under the displacing ofher veil. She is charming; with her eyes full of theblue of heaven, her lips stained with purple, her whiteteeth, her hair the color of ripe corn. I engage herin conversation. She is called Reine; embroidersflowers; we chat like old friends. Suddenly she turnspale, and is about to faint. I open the windows, Ioffer her a bottle of salts which I have carried withme ever since my departure from Paris; she thanksme, it is nothing, she says, and she leans on my knapsackand tries to sleep. Fortunately we are alone inthe compartment, but the wooden partition thatdivides into equal parts the body of the carriagecomes up only as far as the waist, and one can seeand above all hear the clamor and the coarse laughterof the country men and women. I could have thrashedthem with hearty good will, these imbeciles who weretroubling her sleep! I contented myself with listeningto the commonplace opinions which they exchanged onpolitics. I soon have enough of it; I stop my ears. I,too, try to sleep; but that phrase which was spoken bythe station-master of the last station, "You will not[Pg 1553]get to Paris, the rails are torn up at Mantes," returnedin all my dreams like an obstinate refrain. I open myeyes. My neighbor wakes up, too; I do not wish toshare my fears with her; we talk in a low voice. Shetells me that she is going to join her mother at Sèvres."But," I say to her, "the train will scarcely enter Parisbefore eleven o'clock to-night. You will never havetime to reach the landing on the left bank."

"What shall I do?" she says, "if my brother is notdown at my arrival?"

Oh, misery, I am as dirty as a comb and my stomachburns! I can not dream of taking her to my bachelorlodgings, and then I wish before all to see my mother.What to do? I look at Reine with distress. I takeher hand; at that moment the train takes a curve,the jerk throws her forward; our lips approach, theytouch, I press mine; she turns red. Good heavens,her mouth moves imperceptibly; she returns my kiss;a long thrill runs up my spine; at contact of thoseardent embers my senses fail. Oh! Sister Angèle,Sister Angèle! a man can not make himself over!And the train roars and rolls onward, without slackeningspeed; we are flying under full steam towardMantes; my fears are vain; the track is clear. Reinehalf shuts her eyes; her head falls on my shoulder; herlittle waves of hair tangle with my beard and ticklemy lips. I put my arm about her waist, which yields,and I rock her. Paris is not far; we pass the freight-depots,by the roundhouses where the engines roar inred vapor, getting up steam; the train stops; they takeup the tickets. After reflection, I will take Reine to[Pg 1554]my bachelor rooms, provided her brother is not waitingher arrival. We descend from the carriage; herbrother is there. "In five days," she says, with akiss, and the pretty bird has flown. Five days afterI was in my bed, atrociously sick, and the Prussiansoccupy Sèvres. Never since then have I seen her.

My heart is heavy. I heave a deep sigh; this is not,however, the time to be sad! I am jolting on in afiacre. I recognize the neighborhood; I arrive beforemy mother's house; I dash up the steps, four at a time.I pull the bell violently; the maid opens the door. "It'sMonsieur!" and she runs to tell my mother, who dartsout to meet me, turns pale, embraces me, looks me overfrom head to foot, steps back a little, looks at me oncemore, and hugs me again. Meanwhile the servanthas stripped the buffet. "You must be hungry, M.Eugène?" I should think I was hungry! I devoureverything they give me. I toss off great glasses ofwine; to tell the truth, I do not know what I am eatingand what I am drinking!

At length I go to my rooms to rest. I find my lodgingjust as I left it. I run through it, radiant, then Isit down on the divan and I rest there, ecstatic, beatific,feasting my eyes with the view of my knickknacks andmy books. I undress, however; I splash about in agreat tub, rejoicing that for the first time in manymonths I am going to get into a clean bed with whitefeet and toenails trimmed. I spring onto the mattress,which rebounds. I dive my head into the feather pillow,my eyes close; I soar on full wings into the landof dreams.

[Pg 1555]

I seem to see Francis, who is lighting his enormouswooden pipe, and Sister Angèle, who is contemplatingme with her little moue; then Reine advances towardme, I awake with a start, I behave like an idiot, I sinkback again up to my ears, but the pains in my bowels,calmed for a moment, awake, now that the nerves becomeless tense, and I rub my stomach gently, thinkingthat the horrors of dysentery are at last over! Iam at home. I have my rooms to myself, and I sayto myself that one must have lived in the promiscuosityof hospitals and camps to appreciate the value of abasin of water, to appreciate the solitude where modestymay rest at ease.

[Pg 1556]

FOOTNOTES:

[6] Military hats.

[7] Badinguet, nickname given to Napoleon III; Henri Rochefort,anti-Napoleon journalist and agitator.

[8] A suburb of Chalons.

[9] Canrobert, a brave and distinguished veteran, head of the SixthCorps of the Army of the Rhine.

[10] Panier seats used in the French army to transport the wounded.

[11] Tringlots are the soldiers detailed for this duty.

[12] Brandy of thirty-six degrees.

[13] Armed police.

[Pg 1557]

"BONJOUR, MONSIEUR"

BY JEAN RICHEPIN

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (22)

This poet and teller of tales was born atMédéa, Algeria, in 1849. His tremendous exuberanceof spirits at first found an outlet inmilitary service during the war of 1870, andlater in a collection of vagabond songs called"La Chanson des Gueux," for which shock tothe conventions he was sent to prison for amonth. Between 1877 and 1879 he publisheda variety of ballads while pursuing in picturesqueflashes the careers of sailor and lighterman.

Richepin has written many stories, more orless with a penchant for extraordinary sensationsand psychological anomalies. "NanaSahib" is a play he wrote in 1883, in which, fora short time, he acted the principal rôle withSarah Bernhardt.

Richepin is distinguished by his truly subtleuse of words, by an unbridled, almost truculent,eloquence, clothed in rich and savorylanguage.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (23)

[Pg 1558]

[Pg 1559]

"BONJOUR, MONSIEUR"

BY JEAN RICHEPIN

"Modernity, the essence of inquietude!"

Adrien Juvigny.

Translated by Mason Carnes.
Copyright, 1894, by The Current LiteraturePublishing Company.

Ferdinand Octave Bruat awoke onemorning with an idea. Ferdinand OctaveBruat was what one commonly calls a man ofletters. He had written verses that no one would publish,novels that all the publishers had returned unread,theatrical effusions that even the director of the Funambuleshad refused. However, he had, in defaultof talent, a theory, an ideal. He thought himself calledto be a leader, and firmly believed that he had inventeda modern school. He meant by that, all that constitutesour daily life, so bizarre on this side, so practicalon that, so foolish on others. He maintained that thetime had come to attack boldly all imitations, classic aswell as romantic, and that he should ransack contemporaneoussociety to derive therefrom ideas, forms, alanguage absolutely new and original. He said thatas each epoch had had its own expression so oursshould have its own also.

He was not wrong. Unfortunately he had not thestrength to carry to battle the standard he had raised,and all his valiance merely ended in debating muchand haranguing in the cafés. He overthrew more fools[Pg 1560]than bigots and made more debts than masterpieces.But one morning, on rising, he found the masterpiecewhich he had sought. When I say he had found it,I am mistaken. He had given birth to a title!

What to do with it? As yet he did not know. Butthe title seemed to him eloquent, sonorous, easy toremember, rich in variations, full of modernity, epitomizingthe whole century in a manner at once simpleand complex. The title was the more wonderful thatit was so common. It was a phrase of two words,spoken thousands of times each morning; a phrasewithout affectation, without pretense, without pedantry,neither classic nor romantic. It was simply,"Bonjour, Monsieur!"

Under this title he wrote first a sonnet. This sonnetwas read to his friends, naturally accompanied byprefaces and commentaries philological as well as philosophical,destined not only to make them the betterenjoy its essence, but also to make them thoroughlycomprehend its import. With one voice it was pronouncedadmirable.

"It must be published at once," cried the most enthusiastic;"it will give the keynote to the poetry ofthe future."

One crabbed old fellow, who did not dare to givehis opinion frankly, but who was irritated by thissuccess, turned his criticism into a compliment.

"As for me," he said, "I believe the subject demandsgreater development. Certainly the sonnet is beautiful;but does it not strike you that it is not sufficientfor a subject of such importance. Think of it! A[Pg 1561]thing so profound, so varied, so complicated can notbe confined in fourteen lines. A thought so powerfulbreaks its mold. Were I Bruat, I would turn mysonnet into a drama."

The assemblage adopted his opinion, enchanted atheart to see the famous sonnet thus criticized. Bruatdid not perceive the irony of the grumbler. "You areright," said he with an air of superiority. "I havecompressed my idea into this narrow mold. Thanksfor your criticism, which proves how much you esteemme. Truly my idea deserves more than fourteen lines.I will write a drama in five acts and nine tableaux."And, in spite of the hypocritical protestations ofhis friends, he tore into pieces his masterpiece of asonnet.

He lived for five years on the memory of his sonnet.He was always promising the astonishing drama—"Bonjour,Monsieur!" He was becoming almost celebratedby this piece in embryo. They knew that hehad but a few scenes to finish; they said that the workwas advancing. The simple-minded and the prejudicedwho had never seen the author were convincedof his genius and spread his renown. To believe them,there was a great future, a marvelous hope; one mustwait for the thunderclap. No doubt he was taking histime; but do not aloes take a hundred years toflower?

At last the drama was finished. This was a greatevent for the daily papers. What theatre would bethe battlefield of the new school? Without doubt thedirectors would dispute for the honor of presenting[Pg 1562]to the public the principal work of the nineteenthcentury? Would there be artists capable of interpretingit?

First of all, Bruat assembled his little court, wishingto give them the first-fruits of his victory. The dramadid not meet with the success of the sonnet. Perhapsthe wits had conceived in advance too high an idea ofit? Perhaps Bruat had not been as brilliant as theyhad expected? Perhaps there was a little envy mingledwith their judgment? Perhaps, also, the auditorswere less young and therefore less enthusiastic? Inshort, the reading was a failure. The grumbler aloneprotested against the general coldness, and made aparade of an unlimited admiration.

"Well and good," said he; "here is something thatexpresses the idea in quest, here is movement, life,research, keenness. Away with the sonnet! My friend,you have found the new drama, the modern drama, thedrama of the future."

But Bruat was disheartened. At least he mistrustedthe grumbler, who had counseled him to substitute thedrama for the sonnet. He owed him a grudge becausethe drama had produced no effect in comparison withthe sonnet. "Well," said he to the others, "where amI at fault?"

"Oh, in nothing, nothing at all," replied the chorusof friends.

"However, my drama does not meet with yourapproval; I see it clearly."

"Do you wish me to tell you the truth?" interruptedone, emboldened by Bruat's failure.

[Pg 1563]

"Say it, my friend, for you know it is my principleto seek truth everywhere."

"Well, I think that modern life is too complicatedfor the drama. There are casualties, phenomena ofthe heart, complications of sentiment, descriptions materialand spiritual, inquiries physiological and psychological,which can not be expressed in action. Youhave striven against the difficulty. Sometimes youhave avoided it, which has caused a lack of unity.Sometimes you have been overwhelmed by it, whichhas caused a lack of polish. In spite of all your talentsyou have not been able to control this monster. Yourplot is obscure, your characters badly drawn, your conclusionunnatural. But, on the other hand, what observation!what brilliant analysis! what force of penetration!what language! Oh! to be inspired in spiteof the obstacles, you must be a man of genius. Whatwould you? The impossible can not be achieved. Inyour case I would recast everything; I would expand,I would clarify, I would develop, I would take mytime, I would enlarge my frame to the size of my idea.I would turn my drama into a novel."

"He is right," said the chorus, "he is right. Thatis the point. You must make a novel of 'Bonjour,Monsieur!'"

The opinion was unanimous. Bruat was too sincerenot to be guided by it. Heroically he burned hisdrama, and set to work on his novel. In this work hespent ten years. To him it was the time of apotheosis.He had more prophets than God. Some exalted himfrom real admiration; others, because they thought[Pg 1564]he would accomplish nothing, and that, therefore, hewould not be a dangerous adversary, spread his praises.Critics used his name to crush budding authors. Journalistsfilled up spaces with notices of his novel, withanecdotes of the labor in the thousand and one alterationsin his work. The ignorant, the foolish, the gossipschattered about him without knowing why. Hebecame as famous as the obelisk.

Nevertheless, they finished by waiting. The echo ofhis glory became fainter as it passed from one generationto another. At sixty he was about forgotten. Hewas only spoken of from time to time, and then merelyas an eccentric, almost a lunatic. They rememberedvaguely that he was working at a great novel, but theydoubted whether he would ever finish it, or, rather,they were sure that he would never reach the end.They never spoke but with a smile of his giganticundertaking, of the twenty volumes which wouldepitomize the nineteenth century, of this creationwhich would be the babel and pandemonium ofmodern life.

They would have laughed much more could theyhave known on what Bruat was engaged in his old age.

The unhappy man had finished his formidable novel.He had written twenty-seven volumes under the wonderfultitle, "Bonjour, Monsieur!" But at the end ofhis labor, frightened at having spoken at such length,he did not dare the trial of the reading. Then he setto work to abridge, to cut, to condense. By this meanshe had, little by little, reduced the book first to tenvolumes, then to two, then to one. Finally, he had[Pg 1565]epitomized everything into a story of one hundredpages.

Ferdinand Octave Bruat was then eighty years old.One friend alone remained to him, the confidant of hisundying ambition.

"Publish your story," said his friend: "I assure youit will make a sensation in the world. It is the paragonof modernity."

"No, no," cried Bruat, "I have not yet condensed itsufficiently. You see, I know myself; I know the public.To hold it, to leave something to posterity, tocreate a lasting work, one must be intense. To beintense—that is everything. A hundred pages! Thatis too prolix. In my first inspiration I found the trueform for my thought—a form short, precise, chiseled,straight, fitting the idea like a cuirass; I mean the sonnet.Oh! if I could recall the marvelous sonnet of myyouth! But it has been abandoned too long. To-dayI will do better. I will put into it my experience, mylife. Could I but live ten years longer, men wouldsee what fourteen lines could express, and posteritywould know our modern life, so vast, in this poemso small, as one inhales a subtle essence prisoned ina diamond."

He lived those ten years, and the story was abandonedlike the novel and the drama; and slowly, letterby letter, word by word, line by line, was written thecolossal sonnet which was to contain everything.

At ninety-two Ferdinand Octave Bruat lay on hisdeathbed.

His faithful friend was at his side, weeping, sobbing,[Pg 1566]in despair at seeing so high an intelligence laidso low.

"Weep not, my friend," said Bruat, "weep not. Idie, but my idea dies not with me. I have destroyedmy first sonnet, I have burnt my drama, I have burnt,one by one, the twenty-seven volumes of my novel:the ten, then the five, then the two, then the one andonly, then the story. But, at last, I have created mymasterpiece."

"The sonnet! the immortal sonnet! Give it me!You have not read it to me, but I know that it is amasterpiece. Give it me; I will publish it. If necessary,I will ruin myself that it may be written on goldin letters of diamonds. It merits it, it will dazzle theworld. Give it me!"

"The sonnet! What sonnet?" stammered Bruat,gasping for breath.

"Your great sonnet!" sighed the friend, who saw thedelirium of death approaching.

"Ah! yes, yes, the sonnet, the great sonnet. Toogreat, my friend, too long! It must be made moreintense."

"What! have you burnt your last sonnet also?"

"I have found something better. I have foundeverything. Modern life, modernity, I hold it, I haveit, I express it. It is not in a sonnet, nor in a quatrain,nor even in a line, it is—"

His voice grew weaker, became hoarse, wheezy,lost.

His friend, with bloodshot eyes, gaping mouth,leaned over the bed to drink in his last word, the[Pg 1567]word that would give the key to the mystery, the OpenSesame to art in the future.

"Speak, speak!" he cried.

"Everything in one phrase, everything in onephrase!" murmured Bruat.

And the old man raised himself up in a paroxysm ofa*gony. His look was ecstatic. One felt that over thethreshold of death he saw his ideal. He made a terribleeffort to express it, and the wondrous phrase fellfrom his lips with his last sigh.

It was, "Bonjour, Monsieur!"

[Pg 1568]

[Pg 1569]

THE BIT OF STRING
AND
THE NECKLACE

BY HENRI RENÉ ALBERT GUY DE MAUPASSANT

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (24)

Guy de Maupassant, writer of the shortstory par excellence, was born at the Châteauof Miromesnil in 1850, and died insane atParis in 1893. His godfather Flaubert saidof his first story, the "Boule de Suif," whichappeared in a miscellany called "Les Soiréesde Médan": "I consider it a chef-d'oeuvre—thatlittle story will stay, you may be sure."De Maupassant was for a few years connectedwith the Ministry of Marine and Public Instruction.Besides his almost perfect shortstories, he has written plays and novels.

De Maupassant describes himself admirablyin one of his heroes, "armed with an eye thatgathers images, attitudes, manners with theprecision of a camera." His style is calm,robust, sober, clean-cut, impersonal. "The Bitof String" and "The Necklace" are two famousexamples of De Maupassant at his best.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (25)

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[Pg 1571]

THE BIT OF STRING

BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT

Translated by Emar Soule.
Copyright, 1899, by The Current Literature PublishingCompany.

Along all the roads leading to Goderville thepeasants and their wives were going towardthe town, for it was market-day. The menwalked at an easy pace, the whole body thrown aheadat each movement of the long, crooked legs, men deformedby rude labor, by guiding the plow, whichat once forces the right shoulder upward and twiststhe waist; by reaping, which spreads the knees, forsolid footing; by all the patient and painful toil of thecountry. Their blue blouses, glossy with starch, asthough varnished, ornamented at the neck and wristsby a simple pattern in white, swelled out round theirbony chests, like captive balloons from which heads,arms, and legs were protruding.

Some were leading by a cord a cow or calf, andtheir wives behind the animals were hastening theirpace by the strokes of branches stripped of their leaves.The women carried on their arms great baskets, outof which hung, here and there, heads of chickens orducks. They walked with shorter steps than theirhusbands, and at a more rapid pace, spare, erect andwrapped in scant shawls pinned across their flat chests,their heads enveloped in white linen drawn closelyover the hair and surmounted by a bonnet.

[Pg 1572]

Now a pleasure wagon passed at a jerky pony trot,shaking fantastically two men seated side by side, anda woman at the back of the vehicle, holding on to itssides to soften the hard jolts.

In the square of Goderville was a crowd—a jam ofmingled human beings and beasts. The horns of cattle,the high hats of the rich farmers and the head-dressesof the women, emerged from the surface ofthe assembly; and discordant voices, clamorous, bawling,kept up a continuous and savage babel, overtoppednow and then by a shout from the robust lungs of amerry countryman, or the lowing of a cow attached tothe wall of a house. All this mass was redolent of thestable and soilure, of milk, of hay, of sweat, and diffusedthat rank, penetrating odor, human and bestial,peculiar to people of the fields.

Master Hauchecorne of Bréauté had just arrived atGoderville, and was going toward the square when hesaw on the ground a bit of string. Master Hauchecorne,economist, like every true Norman, thoughtanything that might be of use worth picking up, andhe bent down painfully, for he suffered from rheumatism.He took up the piece of string, and was windingit carefully, when he noticed Malandin, the harness-maker,watching him from his doorway. Thetwo men had long ago had a quarrel about a halter,and both being vindictive, had remained unfriendly.Hauchecorne was seized with a kind of shame, at thusbeing seen by his enemy picking a bit of twine out ofthe mud. He quickly hid his prize under his blouse,then in his breeches pocket; then he pretended to[Pg 1573]search the ground again for something which he didnot find, and he went off toward the market, his headin advance, bent double by his infirmities.

He was forthwith lost in the noisy, shuffling crowdeverywhere in motion from innumerable buyings andsellings. The peasants examined the cows, went away,came back, hesitated, always fearful of being outwitted,never daring to decide, peering into the faceof the vender, endlessly searching to discover the rusein the man and the fault in the beast.

The women, putting their great baskets down attheir feet, had drawn out their fowls, which werelying on the ground, legs bound, eyes wild, combsscarlet. They listened to offers, held to their pricesunmoved, their faces inscrutable; or suddenly decidingto accept an offer, cried out to the would-be purchaserslowly moving away:

"Agreed, Master Hutine; I will give it at yourprice."

Then little by little the square emptied, and theAngelus sounding noon, those who lived too far togo home dispersed in the various public houses.

At Jourdain's the great dining-room was full offeasters, as the vast court was full of vehicles of everypedigree—carts, gigs, tilburies, pleasure vans, cariolesinnumerable, yellow with mud, mended, out of order,lifting to heaven their shafts, like two arms, or nosingthe ground, rear in the air.

Opposite the tables of diners the great chimney-piece,full of bright flame, threw a lively warmth onthe backs of the row at the right. Three spits were[Pg 1574]turning, weighted with chickens, pigeons, and legs ofmutton, and a delectable odor of roast flesh and ofjuice streaming over its golden brown skin, escapedfrom the hearth, put every one in gay humor, andmade mouths water. All the aristocracy of the plowdined there with Master Jourdain, innkeeper and horse-dealer,a shrewd fellow, who had his dollars.

The platters were passed and emptied as were thetankards of yellow cider. Each one talked of hisaffairs, his purchases, his sales. The harvest was discussed.The weather was good for grass, but a littlesharp for grain.

All at once the drum sounded in the court beforethe house. All save a few indifferent fellows werequickly on their feet, and running to the door or thewindows, their mouths full, their napkins in theirhands.

When he had finished his roulade the public crierheld forth in a jerky voice, cutting his phrases atthe wrong place:

"It is made known to the inhabitants of Godervilleand in general to all—the people present at market,that there was lost this morning, on the Benzevilleroad between—nine and ten o'clock, a wallet containingfive hundred francs and important papers. Youare asked to return—it to the town hall, without delay,or to the house of Master Fortuné Houlebrèque, ofManneville. There will be twenty francs reward."

Then the crier went on. One heard once more faroff the muffled beating of his drum, and his voice enfeebledby the distance. Then they all began to talk[Pg 1575]of the event, estimating Master Houlebrèque's chancesof finding or not finding his wallet.

And the meal went on.

They were finishing their coffee when the chief ofpolice appeared at the door.

"Where is Master Hauchecorne of Bréauté?" heasked.

Hauchecorne, seated at the farther end of the table,replied:

"I'm here."

The chief proceeded:

"Master Hauchecorne, will you have the kindness toaccompany me to the town hall? The mayor wishesto speak with you."

The countryman, surprised and disquieted, emptiedat a draft his little glass of rum, arose, and, still morebent than in the morning, for the first movement aftereach relaxation was particularly difficult, he set out,repeating:

"I'm here, I'm here."

And he followed the chief.

The mayor was waiting for him, seated in his fauteuil.He was the notary of the vicinity, a big, solemnman, of pompous phrases.

"Master Hauchecorne," said he, "you were seen topick up, on the Benzeville road, this morning, thewallet lost by Master Houlebrèque, of Manneville."

The peasant, astonished, looked at the mayor, frightenedalready, without knowing why, by this suspicionwhich had fallen on him.

"What! what! I picked up the wallet?"

[Pg 1576]

"Yes; you yourself."

"Word of honor, I didn't even know of it."

"You were seen."

"Seen? What? Who saw me?"

"Monsieur Malandin, the harness-maker."

Then the old man remembered, understood, reddenedwith anger.

"He saw meh, th' lout? He saw meh pick up thatstring! See here, m'sieu mayor," and feeling in thebottom of his pocket, he drew out the bit of cord.

But the mayor, incredulous, shook his head.

"You won't make me believe, Master Hauchecorne,that Malandin, who is a man worthy of credence, tookthat thread for a wallet."

The peasant, furious, raised his hand, spit, to attesthis innocence, and declared:

"Yet it's the truth of God, the sacred truth, m'sieumayor. On my soul and my salvation, I repeat it."

The mayor continued:

"After picking up the object you went on searchingin the mud a long time to see if some piece of moneymightn't have escaped you."

The old man gasped with indignation and fear.

"May one tell—may one tell lies like that to injurean honest man? May one say—"

His protest was vain. He was not believed. Hewas confronted with Monsieur Malandin, who repeatedand sustained his former affirmation. For anhour the two men hurled insults at each other.Hauchecorne was searched, at his demand, and nothingwas found on him. Finally the mayor, greatly[Pg 1577]perplexed, sent him away, warning him that he shouldinform the council and await orders.

The news spread. When he came out of the townhall the old man was surrounded and questioned witha curiosity serious or mocking, but with no ill-willin it.

He began to recount the story of the string, butno one believed him—they only laughed.

He went on, stopped by everybody, stopping hisacquaintances, beginning anew his tale and his protestations,turning his pockets inside out to prove thathe had nothing.

"Move on, old quibbler," they said to him.

And he became angry, exasperated, feverish, sickat heart, at not being believed. He did not knowwhat to do, but told his story over and over.

Night came. It was time to go home. He set outwith three of his neighbors, to whom he pointed outthe place where he had picked up the bit of cord, andall the way home he talked of his adventure. In theevening he made a circuit of the village of Bréautéto tell it to everybody. He met only incredulity.He was ill all night from his trouble.

The next day, toward one o'clock in the afternoon,Marius Paumelle, a farm hand, of Ymanville, returnedthe wallet and its contents to MonsieurHoulebrèque, of Manneville. The man stated, ineffect, that he had found the wallet in the road,but not knowing how to read, had taken it home tohis employer.

The news spread all about. Master Hauchecorne[Pg 1578]was told of it. He at once set out again on his travels,and began to narrate his story, completed by the dénouement.He was triumphant.

"It's not the thing 'at grieved me most, you understand,"he said, "but it's the lie. Nothing harms youlike being charged with a lie."

All day long he talked of his adventure. He toldit on the streets to men passing, in the taverns to mendrinking, after church the next Sunday. He stoppedstrangers to tell it to them. Now he was tranquil,yet something half disturbed him, without his knowingexactly what. People had an amused air asthey listened to him. They did not appear convinced.He thought he detected whispers behindhis back.

Tuesday of the following week he betook himselfto the market of Goderville, driven there by the needof exploiting his case. Malandin, standing in his doorway,began to laugh when he saw him passing. Why?He accosted a farmer of Criquetot, who did not lethim finish, but giving him a blow in the pit of thestomach, cried in his face:

"Go your way, humbug!"

Master Hauchecorne was dumfounded, and moreand more ill at ease. Why had he been called ahumbug?

When he was seated at table in Jourdain's inn heagain began to explain the affair. A jockey of Montivillierscried to him:

"Come, come, old croaker, I know about yourstring!"

[Pg 1579]

Hauchecorne stammered:

"But since it is found—the wallet?"

The other answered:

"Hold your tongue, father. One finds, anotherreturns. I know nothing about it, but I implicateyou."

The peasant was left choking. He understood atlast. He was accused of having returned the walletthrough an accomplice. He tried to protest. Thewhole table began to laugh. He could not finish hisdinner, and went out in the midst of mockeries.

He returned home, ashamed and disgraced, stranglingwith rage and confusion, so much the more overwhelmed,in that he was capable, with his Normanduplicity, of doing the very thing of which he wasaccused, and even boasting of it as a good stroke.Confusedly he saw his innocence impossible to prove,his chicanery being well known, and he felt himselfcut to the heart by the injustice of the suspicion.

Then he commenced again to recount his adventure,lengthening each day his story, adding each time newreasonings, more energetic protestations, more solemnoaths, which he invented and arranged in his hoursof solitude, his mind occupied solely with the story ofthe string. He was believed the less in proportion tothe complication of his defense and the subtlety of hisargument.

"That's the reasoning of a liar," they said behindhis back.

He felt it, spent himself, wore his life out in uselessefforts. He wasted away visibly. Wags now made[Pg 1580]him tell "the string" for their amusem*nt, as onemakes a soldier who has fought recount his battle.His mind, harassed and unsettled, grew feeble.

Toward the end of December he took to his bed.He died early in January, and in the delirium of hisagony he attested his innocence, repeating:

"A little string ... a little string ... wait, hereit is, m'sieu mayor!"

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THE NECKLACE

BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT

Translated by Mathilde Weissenhorn.
Copyright, 1898, by The Current LiteraturePublishing Company.

She was one of those charming girls, born by afreak of destiny in a family of toilers. She hadno fortune, no expectations, no means of satisfyingher ambitions, except by a marriage with arich and distinguished man, and, as she knew none,in order to escape from her surroundings, she marrieda clerk in the office of the Minister of PublicInstruction.

She dressed simply, because she had no means ofadornment; but she was as unhappy as though she hadfallen from a high social position, for the women whohave neither caste nor race use their beauty, grace, andcharm as stepping-stones to those heights from whichthey are otherwise barred, their natural tact and instinctiveelegance and quick perceptions being theironly inheritance, and, skilfully used, make them theequal of their more fortunate sisters. She sufferedincessantly when she glanced around her humble home,and felt the absence of all those delicacies and luxurieswhich are enjoyed only by the rich. In short, all thelittle nothings, that another woman of her caste wouldnot have seen, tortured and wounded her. The sightof the old Breton peasant woman who performed her[Pg 1582]simple household duties awakened in her vain longingsand troubled dreams.

She dreamed of beautiful halls, discreetly lighted bycandles in great bronze candlesticks, whose rich carpetsgave back no sounds and whose walls were coveredwith silks from the Orient, and of obsequiousfootmen half asleep in their large armchairs, ready toattend to your every want at a moment's notice; oflarge salons draped in ancient silks; of "étagers" coveredwith priceless bric-à-brac. She thought also ofcoquettish small salons, made expressly for the "fiveo'clock," when one receives only one's intimates ordistinguished men of letters, from whom it is everywoman's ambition to receive attentions.

When she was seated at the table (whose cloth hadalready done duty for three days) or opposite her husband—whoevinced his entire satisfaction with the evening'srepast by such exclamations as: "Oh, the good'pot-au-feu'! I know nothing better!"—her imaginationcarried her away to stately banquet halls, whosewalls were covered with rich tapestries, portrayingscenes in which ancient personages and strange birdswere pictured in the middle of a fairy-like forest. Shepictured the glittering silver, strange dishes, exquisitelyserved on marvelous plate, and gallantries whisperedand listened to with the sphinx-like smile withwhich a woman of the world knows so well how toconceal her emotions, all the while eating a rosy troutor dallying with a wing of a lark. She had no toilets,no jewels, and it was for these things that she longed,as the fleet Arabian longs for his native desert. What[Pg 1583]pleasure to have pleased, been envied, to be seductiveand sought after!

She had a rich friend, a comrade from the convent,whom she no longer visited, because she suffered fromseeing the things she could not have, and on returningwept whole days for grief, regret, despair, anddistress.

One evening her husband came home radiant, holdingin his hand a large envelope.

"See," said he, "here is something for you."

She nervously tore open the envelope, drew out acard, on which these words were printed:

"The Minister of Public Instruction and MadameGeorges Ramponeau beg the honor of the company ofMonsieur and Madame Loisel for the evening of Monday,January 18th."

Instead of being wild with delight, as he had expected,she threw the invitation on the table, with anexclamation of disgust, saying sullenly:

"What do you wish me to do with that?"

"But, my dear, I thought you would be so pleased.You never go out, and this is an event. I only obtainedit after infinite trouble. Everybody wants one;they are much sought after, and they are not generallygiven to employees. You will see there all ofthe official world."

She looked at him with supreme disdain, and saidimpatiently:

"What would you like me to wear?" The secretwas out. Manlike, he had not thought of that.

"But—the dress—that you wear to the theatre,"[Pg 1584]stammered he. "You always look beautiful to me inthat."

He stopped speaking, stupefied and dismayed on seeinghis wife in tears. Two large tears trickled slowlydown her cheeks.

"What is the matter? What is the matter?" askedhe tenderly. By violent effort she conquered her griefand calmly said, while wiping her humid cheeks:

"Nothing; only I have no toilet, and, of course, cannot go. Give the card to one of your comrades whosewife is fortunate enough to have something suitablefor the occasion."

Despairingly he said:

"See, Mathilde, how much will a dress cost to wearto this ball; one which can also be used for other occasions—somethingvery simple."

She reflected a few moments, figuring in her ownmind the sum she could ask without danger of immediaterefusal and frightening her economical husband.Finally she hesitatingly said:

"I do not know exactly; but it seems to me I mightmanage with about 400 francs."

He paled a little, because he had been saving justthat sum to buy a gun for the following summer, whenhe would go with some of his friends to the plainsof Nanterre on Sundays to shoot larks. Stifling hisregrets, however, he replied:

"Very well, I will give you 400 francs, but try tohave a beautiful dress."

The day of the fête drew near; but Madame Loiselseemed sad, anxious, and uneasy. Her toilet was[Pg 1585]ready, what could it be? Her husband said to herone evening:

"What is the matter? You have been so queer forthe last few days!"

She replied: "It worries me that I have not onejewel, not a precious stone to wear. What a miserablefigure I shall be! I think I would rather not goat all!"

"You can wear natural flowers; it is all the rage atthis season, and for ten francs you can have two orthree magnificent roses."

But she was not convinced.

"No; there is nothing more humiliating than to bepoorly dressed among so many rich women."

"But how silly you are! Go to your friend, MadameForestier, and ask her to lend you her jewels. You arefriendly enough with her to do that."

She gave a cry of joy.

"Yes; that is true—I had not thought of it."

The following day she went to her friend and explainedher predicament. Madame Forestier went toa closet and took out a large casket, and, opening it,said:

"Choose, my dear; they are at your service."

She saw first bracelets, then a necklace of pearls, aVenetian cross, gold and precious stones of exquisiteworkmanship. She tried them on before the glass,unable to decide whether to wear them or not.

"Have you nothing else?" said she.

"Oh, yes; look them over, I don't know what mightplease you."

[Pg 1586]

Suddenly she opened a black satin case, disclosingto view a superb rivière of diamonds, her heartbeat furiously with the desire of possession. She tookthem in her trembling hands and put them on over hersimple high-neck gown, and stood lost in an ecstasy ofadmiration of herself. Then, fearfully, hesitatingly,dreading the agony of a refusal:

"Can you lend me only that?"

"Why, certainly; if it pleases you."

She fell on her friend's neck, embraced her tempestuously,and then left hastily with her treasure.

The day of the ball arrived. Madame Loisel was asuccess. Among all the beautiful women she was themost beautiful, elegant, gracious, and smiling withjoy. She attracted the attention of some of themost distinguished men present, and on all sides washeard:

"Who is she?"

All the attachés of the cabinet sought her dancingcard eagerly, and even the Minister himself expressedhis approval. She danced with pleasure, thinking ofnothing but the triumph of her beauty and the gloryof her success. Intoxicated by all the admiration, sheseemed to float through a cloud of happiness, intensifiedby her complete victory and the tribute paid toher charms, so sweet to the hearts of women. Sheleft about four o'clock in the morning; her husbandhad slept since midnight in a small room, desertedexcept by two or three gentlemen who also awaitedtheir wives.

He threw over her shoulders the modest cloak which[Pg 1587]she had brought, whose shabbiness seemed to mock theelegance of the ball toilet. She felt the incongruity,and walked swiftly away in order not to be seen bythose whose rich furs were more in accordance withthe occasion.

"Wait," said her husband, "you will take cold; Iwill call a carriage."

But she heeded him not, and rapidly descended thestaircase. When they reached the street, there was nocarriage in sight, and they were obliged to look forone, calling to the drivers who passed by, but in vain.Shiveringly they walked toward the Seine and finallyfound on the quay one of those nocturnal coupés onefinds only in Paris after dark, hovering about the greatcity like grim birds of prey, who conceal their miseryduring the day. It carried them to their door (Ruede Martyrs), and they slowly and sadly entered theirsmall apartments. It was ended for her, and he onlyremembered that he would have to be at his desk atten o'clock.

She took off her cloak in front of the glass in orderto admire herself once more in all her bravery, but,suddenly, she cried out: "The diamonds are gone!"Her husband, almost half asleep, started at the cry andasked:

"What is the matter?"

She turned toward him with a frightened air.

"I—I have lost Madame Forestier's necklace!"

He rose dismayed.

"What—how! But it is not possible!" And theyimmediately began to search in the folds of the dress,[Pg 1588]the cloak, in the pockets—everywhere, and foundnothing.

"Are you sure that you had it when you left theball?"

"Yes; I felt it while still in the vestibule at theMinister's."

"But if you had lost it in the street we should haveheard it drop. It ought to be in the carriage."

"Yes; it is possible. Did you take the number?"

"No; and you have not looked at it, either?"

"No."

They looked at each other fearfully; finally Loiseldressed himself.

"I shall go over the whole ground that we traveledon foot, to see whether I can not find it."

He went out. She sat still in her brilliant ball toilet;no desire to sleep, no power to think, all swallowed upin the fear of the calamity which had fallen upon them.

Her husband came in at seven o'clock. He hadfound nothing. He had been to the Prefecture of thePolice, to the papers offering a reward, to all smallcab companies, anywhere, in short, where he couldhave the shadow of hope of recovery.

She waited all day in the same state of fear in theface of this frightful disaster.

Loisel returned in the evening pallid and haggard.No news as yet.

"You must write to your friend that you havebroken the clasp of the necklace and are having itrepaired. That will give us time to look around."

[Pg 1589]

At the end of the week they had lost all hope, andLoisel, to whom it seemed this care and trouble hadadded five years to his age, said:

"We must try and replace the jewels."

The following day they went to the jeweler whosename was stamped inside the case. He consulted hisbooks: "I did not sell that necklace, madame, I onlyfurnished the case."

Then they went from jeweler to jeweler, rackingtheir memories to find the same, both of them sickwith grief and agony. At last, in a small shop in thePalais Royal, they found one which seemed to themlike the one they had lost. With beating hearts theyasked the price.

Forty thousand francs; but they could have it for36,000 francs.

They asked the jeweler not to dispose of it for threedays, and he also promised to take it back at 34,000francs if the first one was found before the end ofFebruary.

Loisel had inherited 18,000 francs from his father.He borrowed the rest.

He borrowed a thousand francs from one, five hundredfrom another, five louis here, five louis there—hegave notes, made ruinous engagements, had recourseto the usurers, ran the whole gamut of money-lenders.He compromised his whole existence riskinghis signature, without knowing that it would be honored,terrified by the agony of the future, by the blackmisery which enveloped him, by the prospect of all thephysical privations and moral tortures. He went for[Pg 1590]the new necklace and deposited on the counter his36,000 francs.

When Madame Loisel returned the necklace to MadameForestier, she coldly said:

"You should have returned it sooner, as I mighthave needed it."

She did not open the case, the one thing MadameLoisel had dreaded. What if she had discovered thechange—what would she have thought? Would shenot be taken for a thief?

From that time on Madame Loisel knew what lifemeant to the very poor in all its phases. She tookher part heroically. This frightful debt must be paid.Her share of privations was bravely borne. They dischargedtheir one domestic, changed their location, andrented smaller apartments near the roof.

She knew now what meant the duties of the household,the heavy work of the kitchen. Her pretty handssoon lost all semblance of the care of bygone days.She washed the soiled linen and dried it in her room.She went every morning to the street with the refuseof the kitchen, carrying the water, stopping at eachflight of stairs to take breath—wearing the dress ofthe women of the people; she went each day to thegrocer, the fruiterer, the butcher, carrying her basketon her arm, bargaining, defending cent by cent hermiserable money.

They were obliged each month to pay some notesand renew others in order to gain time. Her husbandworked in the evening balancing the books of merchants,[Pg 1591]and often was busy all night, copying at fivecents a page.

And this life they endured for ten years.

At the end of this time they had paid all the tax ofthe usurers and compound interest.

Madame Loisel seemed an old woman now. Shehad become strong and hardy as the women of theprovinces, and with tousled head, short skirts, redhands, she was foremost among the loud-voiced womenof the neighborhood, who passed their time gossipingat their doorsteps.

But sometimes when her husband was at his officeshe seated herself at the window and thought of thatevening in the past and that ball, where she had beenso beautiful and so admired.

What would have happened if she had not lostthe necklace? Who knows? Life is a singular andchangeable thing, full of vicissitudes. How little ittakes to save or wreck us!

One Sunday as she was walking in the ChampsElysées to divert herself from the cares and duties ofthe week she suddenly perceived a lady, with a littlechild, coming toward her. It was Madame Forestier,still young, beautiful and charming. Madame Loiselstopped short, too agitated to move. Should shespeak to her? Yes, certainly. And now that thenecklace was paid for she would tell her everything.Why not?

She walked up to her and said: "Good day, Jeanne."

Madame Forestier did not recognize her and seemed[Pg 1592]astonished at being spoken to so familiarly by thiswoman of the people.

"But—madame—I do not—I think you are mistaken."

"No; I am Mathilde Loisel."

"Oh!—my poor Mathilde, how you are changed!"

"Yes; I have had lots of trouble and misery sincelast I saw you—and all for you."

"For me! And how was that?"

"Do you remember the necklace of diamonds youlent me, to wear to the Minister's ball?"

"Yes; well?"

"Well, I lost it."

"Lost it! How could you, since you returned itto me?"

"I returned you one just like it, and for ten yearswe have been paying for it. You know, it was noteasy for us, who had nothing—but it is finished, andI am very happy."

"You say that you bought a necklace of diamondsto replace mine," said Madame Forestier.

"Yes; and you never found it out! They were somuch alike," and she smiled proudly.

Touched to the heart, Madame Forestier took thepoor, rough hands in hers, drawing her tenderly towardher, her voice filled with tears:

"Oh, my poor Mathilde! But mine were false.They were not worth more than 500 francs at most."

[Pg 1593]

THE WALL OPPOSITE

BY PIERRE LOTI

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (26)

Louis Marie Julien Viaud, known as PierreLoti, was born at Rochefort in 1850, of anold Protestant family. He shipped aboard the"Borda" in 1867, and made many voyages toIndia and elsewhere in the East. This youngnaval officer was so modest and retiring thathis comrades called him "Loti," after the nameof a little flower of India which discreetlyhides itself. In 1891 he was elected to theAcademy. His chief works are "Le Marriagede Loti," 1882, "Madame Chrysanthème," 1887,"Japoneries d'Automne," "Le Roman d'unSpahi," etc.

Loti is an impressionist, a personal psychologist—givingreflections of the passing show,fleeting things. "He has an exquisite instinctfor the preservation of whatever is antiqueand beautiful—a Pied Piper who draws hisadmirers after him whether they will or no."

"The Wall Opposite" is an exquisite bit ofsymbolism, worthy to stand, as it does, in thesame volume with the author's "Papillon deMite."

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (27)

[Pg 1594]

[Pg 1595]

THE WALL OPPOSITE

BY PIERRE LOTI

Translated by R. W. Howes, 3d.
Copyright, 1907, by P. F. Collier & Son.

'Way at the farther end of a court they lived,in a modest little suite, the mother, thedaughter, and a maternal parent alreadyquite aged—their aunt and great-aunt—whom theyhad come to shelter.

The daughter was still very young, in the fleetingfreshness of her eighteen years, when they were compelled,after a reverse of fortune, to withdraw thereinto the most secluded corner of their ancestral mansion.The rest of the familiar home, all the bright sidethat looked out on to the street, it had become necessaryto let to some profane strangers, who changedthere the aspect of things ancient and obliterated thecherished associations.

A judicial sale had stripped them of the most luxuriousfurniture of other days, and they had arrangedtheir new little salon of recluses with objects a littleincongruous: relics of ancestors, old things brought tolight from the garret, the reserves of the house. Butthey fell in love with it at once, this salon so humble,which must now for years to come, on winter evenings,reunite all three around the same fire and aroundthe same lamp. One found it comfortable there; ithad an air cozy and intimate. One felt a little cloisteredthere, it is true, but without melancholy, for the[Pg 1596]windows, draped with simple muslin curtains, lookedout on to a sunny court, whose walls, 'way at thisfarther end, were adorned with honeysuckle and roses.

And already were they forgetting the comfort, theluxury of other times, happy in their modest salon,when one day a communication was brought to themwhich left them in mournful consternation: the neighborwas about to raise his apartment two stories; awall was going to rise there, in front of their windows,to steal away the air, to hide the sun.

And no means, alas! to turn aside that misfortune,more intimately cruel to their spirits than all the precedingdisasters of fortune. To buy that house fromtheir neighbor, a thing that had been easy at the timeof their past affluence, was no longer to be dreamedof! Nothing to do, in their poverty, but to bow theirheads.

And so the stories began to mount, line upon line;with anxiety they watched them grow; a silence ofgrief reigned among them, in the little salon, the depthof their melancholy measured day by day by the heightof that obscuring object. And to think that that thingthere, higher and still higher, would soon replace thebackground of blue sky or golden clouds, againstwhich in days gone by the wall of their court trailedoff in its network of branches!

In one month the masons had achieved their work:it was a glazed surface in freestone, which was nextpainted a grayish white, resembling almost a twilightsky of November, perpetually opaque, unchangeable[Pg 1597]and dead; and in the summers following the rosetrees, the bushes of the court, took on their green againmore palely in its shadow.

Into the salon the warm suns of June and July stillpenetrated, but more laggardly in the morning, fleeingmore hurriedly in the evening; the twilights of autumnfell one hour earlier, bringing abruptly down the dull,chill melancholy.

And the times, the months, the seasons, passed.Between daylight and darkness, at the undecidedhours of evening, when the three women left off oneafter the other their work of embroidery or sewingbefore lighting the evening lamp, the young daughter—whowould soon be no longer young—lifted hereyes ever toward the wall, set up there in place of hersky of yesterday; often, even, in a sort of melancholychildishness that constantly returned to her like thesick fancy of a prisoner, she amused herself in watchingfrom a certain place the branches of the rose trees,the tops of the bushes detach themselves in reliefa*gainst the grayish background of the painted stones,and sought to give herself the illusion that the backgroundthere was a sky, a sky lower and nearer thanthe real one—after the manner of those who at nighthang upon the deformed visions of dreams.

They had in expectation a heritage of which theyoften spoke around their lamp and their work-table,as of a day-dream, as of a fairy tale, so far away itseemed.

[Pg 1598]

But, as soon as they possess it, that accession fromAmerica, at no matter what price, the house of theneighbor shall be bought in order to pull down all thatnew part, to reestablish things as in times past, and torestore to their court, to restore to their cherished rosebushes of the high walls, the sun of other times. Tothrow it down, that wall, this had become their soleearthly desire, their continual obsession.

And the old aunt was accustomed to say at suchtimes:

"My dear daughters, may God grant that I live longenough, even I, to see that happy day!"

It tarried long in coming, that heritage.

The rains, and time, had traced on that glazedsurface a sort of blackish stripes, melancholy, melancholyto look at, formed like a V, or like thetrembling silhouette of a hovering bird. And theyoung girl contemplated that wearily every day,every day.

Once, in a very warm springtime, which, in spiteof the shadow of the wall, made the roses more advancedthan usual, and more spreading, a young manappeared at the farther end of that court, took his placefor several evenings at the table of the three ladieswithout fortune. Passing through the village, he hadbeen recommended by some friends in common, notwithout arrière-pensée of marriage. He was handsome,with a high-spirited face, browned by the greatblowings of the seas.

[Pg 1599]

But he judged it too chimerical, that heritage; hefound her too poor, the young girl, in whom, besides,the color began to fade for lack of sunlight.

So he departed, without return, he who had representedthere for a time the sun, energy, and life. Andshe who already looked upon herself as his fiancée receivedfrom that departure a dumb and secret feelingas of death.

And the monotonous years continued their march,like the impassive rivers; there passed five; therepassed ten, fifteen, even twenty. The freshness ofthe young girl without fortune finished little by littleby fading away, useless and disdained; the mothertook on some gray hairs; the old aunt became infirm,shaking her head, octogenarian in a faded armchair,forever seated at the same place, near the darkenedwindow, her venerable profile cut out against thefoliage of the court below that background ofglazed wall where the blackish marbling accentuateditself in the form of a bird, traced by the sluggishgutters.

In the presence of the wall, of the inexorable wall,they grew old all three. And the rose bushes, theshrubs, grew old, too, with the less ominous age ofplants, with their airs of rejuvenation at each returnof spring.

"Oh! my daughters, my poor daughters," said theaunt continually in her broken voice that no longerfinished the phrase, "provided I live long enough,even I."

[Pg 1600]

And her bony hand, with a movement of menace,indicated that oppressive thing of stone.

She had been dead a twelvemonth, leaving a dreadfulvoid in that little salon of recluses, and they hadwept over her as the most cherished of grandmothers,when at last the inheritance came, very upsetting, oneday when they had ceased longer to think of it.

The aged daughter—forty years struck now—foundherself quite young in her joy at entering into possessionof the returned fortune.

They drove out the lodgers, you may be sure, theyreestablished themselves as before; but by preferencethey kept themselves ordinarily in the little salon ofthe days of moderate means: in the first place it wasnow full of souvenirs, and then besides it was againtaking on a sunny cheerfulness, since they were tothrow down that imprisoning wall which was to-dayno more than a vain scarecrow, so easy to destroy bytouch of louis d'or.

It took place at last, that downfall of brick andmortar, longed for during twenty gloomy years. Ittook place in April, at the moment of the first balmyairs of the first long evenings. Very quickly it wasaccomplished, in the midst of the noise of fallingstones, of singing workmen, in a cloud of plaster andof ancient dust.

And at twilight of the second day, when the workwas finished, the workmen gone, silence returned, theyfound themselves once more sitting at their table, the[Pg 1601]mother and the daughter, bewildered at seeing soclearly, at having need no longer of the lamp to begintheir evening meal. Like a formal visit from familiardays gone by, they contemplated the rose bushesof their court spread out once more against the sky.But instead of the joy they had looked forward tothere was at first an indefinable uneasiness: too muchlight all at once in their little salon, a sort of melancholysplendor, and the feeling of an unaccustomedvoid out of doors, of limitless change. No words therecame to them in presence of the accomplishment oftheir dream; rapt, the one and the other, held by anever-increasing melancholy, they remained therewithout talking, without touching the waiting meal.And little by little, their two hearts pressing stillcloser, that grew to be a kind of grief, like one ofthose regrets, dull and without hope, which thedead leave us.

When the mother, at length, perceived that the eyesof her daughter began to grow faded with crying,divining the unexpressed thoughts which must so perfectlyresemble her own: "It can be built up again,"she says. "It seems to me they can try, can they not,to make it the same again?"

"I, too, thought of that," replied the daughter. "Butno, don't you see: it would never be the same!"

Mon Dieu! was it possible that such a thing couldbe; it was she, the very same, who had decreed it, theannihilation of that background of a familiar picture,below which, during one springtime, she had seen inhigh relief a certain fine face of a young man, and[Pg 1602]during so many winters the venerable profile of an oldaunt dead.

And all at once, at recollection of that vague designin the form of the shadow of a bird, traced there bypatient gutters, and which she would see again never,never, never, her heart was suddenly torn in a mannermost pitiable; she wept the most melancholy tears ofher life before the irreparable destruction of that wall.

[Pg 1603]

THE ANCESTOR

BY CHARLES JOSEPH PAUL BOURGET

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (28)

Paul Bourget presents the greatest possiblecontrast to Anatole France. His style is involved,sentence is fitted into sentence, clothedlike Henry James, and altogether un-French.Bourget's psychology, though penetrating, seemsrather to clothe his characters than to createthem, consequently his novels are long psychologicaltreatises. It was a delight, therefore,to come upon this tale of Bourget's, in whichthe story is as absorbing as the psychology.

Bourget was born at Amiens in 1852, andbegan his literary career, as usual, by writingverses, etc. Besides "Outre Mer," which hepublished in 1891 after his visit to America,his work consists chiefly of novels, "Mensonges,""Crime d'Amour," "Le Disciple,""Cosmopolis," etc. He was elected a memberof the French Academy in 1894.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (29)

[Pg 1604]

[Pg 1605]

THE ANCESTOR

BY PAUL BOURGET

Translated by V. Quiroga.
Copyright, 1907, by P. F. Collier & Son.

Alfred Boyer felt very happy that afternoonover the printer's proofs that the mail hadjust brought him. He could not take hiseyes off the page containing the title:

"Mémoires du Maréchal Frédet Prince d'Augsbourg,Duc d'Ivrea, with notes and introductionby Alfred Boyer, former student of the Écolede Chartres." The work to which he had devotedhimself during the last two years was nearing completion.His name was going to be associated forever with that of "Catinat of the Grande Armée,"who had begun as volunteer in 1792, and had died ofa broken heart after Waterloo.

Need one recall Frédet's heroism in the wars inthe North—then too, in the first campaign in Italy,just under the walls of Ivrea, and his brilliant servicesin Egypt and Germany; how after Ulm, he had surroundedand taken prisoner ten thousand of the enemyat the gates of Augsbourg, with a handful of hussars?Austerlitz, Iéna, Eylau, Wagram, and Spain in turnsaw this indefatigable soldier maneuvre his troops withthe skill to which the "Mémoires" bore testimony."I sent Frédet to Catalonia," said the Emperor,"with twenty thousand men. It was like sendingfifty thousand. He alone made up the difference."

[Pg 1606]

A very severe wound prevented his joining Napoleonin Russia, he achieved wonders at Dresden,though scarcely reestablished in health, and at Leipzig,where he saved the retreat by checking during severalhours, the main body of the Austrian cavalry. LikeNey, and like the Emperor himself, he was one of thosewho sought death at Waterloo, and whom death wouldnot accept, in spite of prodigies of valor, exaltedalmost to madness by the despair of the defeat.

When peace was concluded, the veteran shut himselfup at Combronde, near Riom, on a smallestate that he had acquired in Auvergne, where hehad been born. It was there where he commencedto write or rather to dictate his mémoires in a haphazardfashion, following his exalted fancy, accumulatinga pile of rather incoherent notes, whichhad slept in their portfolios for eighty years—from1821, at which date the old soldier died, until1900 when his grandson, the present Prince of Augsbourg,had at last decided to publish those papers,a little influenced, it must be admitted, by his need ofmoney. Having a scanty fortune and a very largefamily—five marriageable daughters—he had beentempted by the success of "Marbot's Mémoires." Hesummoned from Paris to his little Château of Combes,where the meagreness of his income and his misanthropykept him prisoner the year round, a young manwho was to put in order that mass of documentsmostly without shape. That is how Alfred Boyerfound himself with a task that developed into a passion.Whatever may be the political value accorded to[Pg 1607]the Napoleonic legend, its heroic character casts amagic spell that few historians of that fantastic epochhave been able to overthrow. That magic spell hadacted so much the more on the young compiler, becausethe moral figure of Frédet was fully in accord withhis military bearing. Among the portraits of thosemarshals, all equally brilliant, but not equally attractive,his was one of the most pure and exalted. Theheroism of the Prince of Augsbourg retained to thelast that antique charm that one imagines would haveadorned Desaix had he lived long enough. It seemsthat Frédet never had any ambition for these dignitieswhich his master delighted to shower upon him. Whendid he have a chance to enjoy them? Bonaparte, whoknew men and their value, never ceased for a momentto keep him employed, in peace as well as in war.When he was not fighting, Frédet was an administrator.His proverbial integrity, his gentleness, and—aquality extremely rare in that army sprung from theRevolution—his religious fervor, gave to his countenancethe look of a paladin. While he lived it wasimpossible to come in contact with him without lovinghim. He disarmed the envy of Marmont, the sourhumor of Soult, and warmed the coldness of Macdonald.The writings of these three rivals in glory,give ample proof of it. Dead, his rare personalityhad just performed a similar miracle of seductionin his memorialist, who gazed as if hypnotized atthe first page of the mémoires, and the bulky packageof proofs. At that very minute he was living overagain the two years of his arduous labor. He saw[Pg 1608]himself once more, after his thesis had been approved,hesitating between accepting a poorly paid post aslibrarian in an obscure corner of some province, andthe offer that one of his professors had made him,to work on the mémoires of the famous marshal.It was food and lodging assured for some time, ameans of becoming known, and of laying aside a fewthousand francs with which he could support himselfuntil he could obtain appointment to some good post.Beyond this, Boyer did not know anything about thesoldier whose papers he had to classify.

In that old house at Combes, which had remainedunchanged during three-quarters of a century, he hadcommenced to give himself up to that retrospectivesemi-hallucination known only to those who have ascholarly disposition. Taine has pictured it in thateloquent page, where he describes himself at the archives,following over the yellowed paper the oldwritings of the men of the Revolution. "I was," hesays, "tempted to speak aloud to them." In thatpoor mansion where the old hero had sheltered himselfin his last few days, the walls were coveredwith relics of his glorious adventures, brought togetherin confusion; here, swords of honor hung on the wall,next to them some engravings representing feats ofarms; there, portraits of the marshal himself, the firstConsul, the Emperor, Frédet's chosen companions,among others that of Ney, who had been one ofthe witnesses to his marriage. Frédet's wife was there,frail and delicate in her rich costume of a court lady,painted by Gérard, in an attitude identical with that[Pg 1609]of the duch*ess of Rovigo, on the edge of a parkleaning on a small column ornamented with helmetsand cuirasses in high relief. She had survived herhusband forty years, and to her piety was due thepreservation of the home to which the eldest son ofthe family had not returned until 1875, after havingserved in the army and resigned while simple lieutenant-colonel,when another had—unjustly as hemaintained—been promoted over him. His carelessnessproduced at least this advantage, that the speciesof family museum brought together through the sorrowof the grandmother had remained undisturbed.

In the mean while, that is to say, under the monarchyof July and the Second Empire, the Frédets had livedin Paris; the second Prince of Augsbourg as a peerof France, and then as Senator; the third, the presentPrince, as an officer of the staff of Napoleon the Third.Physically the colonel was the living image of hisillustrious grandfather. He had the leonine face, thecalm and powerful mien, the grave eyes, the seriousmouth, and also the athlete's muscles, broad shouldersand powerful neck. There the resemblance stopped.Was it lack of education or opportunity? Did he takemorally after some ancestor on the mother's side?His father had married a girl of noble birth, but of thatcountry nobility with whom hunting is the sole hereditaryoccupation. In his old age it was the only pleasurethat seemed to survive in this heir to an illustriousname, the first ambition of a disappointed career.

Alfred Boyer recalled his strange impression duringthe first weeks of his sojourn when he saw the Prince[Pg 1610]start out in the early morning, with his gamekeeperand his dogs and not return until nightfall, coveredwith dust or mud, sunburned or else soaked in rain,according to the weather, his gun on his shoulder, andhis game bag bulging with the pheasants hunted duringthe day. To his five daughters, left at home under thecharge of an old aunt, who managed the household forhim, this taciturn hunter seemed to give no thought.

They were pretty and refined girls, and if the memorialisthad not been a poor pale-faced student, hispresence in this isolation with these five young unmarriedgirls might not have been without danger. ButAlfred belonged to that class of timid, intellectual menwho have no need of disenchanting experiences toput in practise the advice the fair Venetian gave soamusingly to Rousseau: "Avoid women and studymathematics." Being of a sickly nature, knowinghimself awkward and homely, he had early turnedinto intellectual channels the feverish ardor that youngmen of his age usually spend in sentimental adventures.His only pleasures were the discoveries of unpublishedtexts, of ingenious hypotheses on obscurehistorical points, and the patient conquest of a chairin the Institute by force of erudite publications. Themarshal's papers fell in well with this program, andwith something more—the poetry of the extraordinaryimperial exploit incarnate in one of the most magnificentworkers. Thus it was that after having engagedin the work as compiler of records, Alfred Boyer continuedas enthusiast, identifying himself with his heroin each episode of his brilliant career, collating the[Pg 1611]smallest anecdotes about him, claiming for him thefirst place in all the events in which he had taken part,putting himself at infinite pains to make this greatman greater still; possessed by one of those retrospectiveidolatries at which we can not smile, so disinterestedand pathetic are they when their object isa name sunk in misfortune and oblivion, like that ofthis soldier who had died of the defeat of his masterand of France. What a work it was to decipher thepiles of notes and documents he had left, to makeselection from among the texts, to complete them withcommentaries! But those "Mémoires" were at last toappear, all the traits of that noble figure were to shineout in a brilliant light, and the author of this posthumousjustice could not gaze enough on the printedcharacters that would soon shine forth in the cover ofthe first volume—the complete work would be in fourvolumes—in the booksellers' shop windows....

The sound of a door opening roused Boyer fromhis "semihypnotic"[14] trance. He raised his head andsprang suddenly to his feet. It was the Prince ofAugsbourg who had just entered the library. Thosevisits, rare at first, had become more frequent asAlfred Boyer's work advanced. Not that the sportsmanhad ever ventured to give any advice to thememorialist, who had read to him some of the pagesdictated or written by his grandfather—those, morefrequently, in which the marshal told of the departurefrom his paternal roof (he was the son of a physicianat Combronde), to join the army—the story of the[Pg 1612]first battle in which he had taken part, at Hondschoote—thatof his last, and his farewell to the Emperorbefore the charge at Waterloo.

The manner in which he listened to those recitals,his head in his hands, never uttering a word, revealedan intense feeling in the hero's descendant. Evidentlyan almost religious cult for his ancestor burned in thisobscure and wild nature, which Alfred Boyer pitiedwithout quite comprehending. He could see that, overburdenedby the weight of a great name, ruined by hisfather, discontented with his present circ*mstances,and knowing his inability to alter them, the colonelhad fallen into that lethargy of the will in which forsome years he had simply vegetated.

He had given up the society of his set, as well as hisprofession, turning countryman, and since his wife'sdeath had not paid any attention to the small detailsin personal appearance that, even in the most ordinarysurroundings, reveal the man who has been used togood company. It was evident that he loved hisdaughters, as proved by the sadness with which hiseyes would sometimes rest on these pretty children,doomed by their portionless condition to some obscuremarriage in that corner of Auvergne. The remnantsof his fortune yielded an income of about thirty thousandfrancs a year. Was that enough to sustain therank of a prince?

The colonel had said to himself that decadencewould be better borne in the solitude of this housepeopled with the memories of his grandfather. Thushe had reasoned.

[Pg 1613]

Or at least that was the solution that Alfred Boyerhad found in his mind to the enigma presented bythat character; and his own constantly increasing cultfor the marshal made him sympathize with the homagerendered by abdication to that ruinous heritage. Thegrandson felt the glory of the grandfather. That wasenough to make the enthusiastic compiler of the"Mémoires" feel himself in sympathy with his taciturnpatron, and on this occasion he felt keen pleasureat seeing him enter the library. He would show him theproofs just arrived by the courier. He welcomed thenewcomer, and, handing to him the proofs, he said:

"I was just going to ask you to receive me, Prince.Our first volume is printed."

"I do not understand much about these things," repliedthe Prince of Augsbourg, after having glancedat the bundle of proofs, "but all this seems to me verygood." He glanced through them again more slowly,stopping at certain passages that he recognized, and,a detail that Alfred was surprised to note, his facegrew visibly more sombre. This made his resemblanceto his grandfather much more striking. One wouldhave said that to hold in his hand this book, whichwas, in a measure, his production since he had keptthe memorialist at work at his own expense duringthe past two years, was more than painful to him.At last he returned the sheets to the young man, saying:"Yes, that is very good—but perhaps you willhave to add some notes to it. Yes," he continued aftera moment's hesitation, "I received a letter this morninginforming me that certain documents will be[Pg 1614]placed at my disposal. I shall have to go to Paristo fetch them. I have come to ask you to accompanyme—Thanks," he went on as Alfred Boyer noddedassent, "I did not doubt that you would be willing tocome—" He hesitated again, then with an effort headded: "Doubtless you have heard something aboutthe duch*esse d'Ivrea."

"The duch*esse d'Ivrea?" repeated the young man."I thought that title was one of those belonging to thePrincess of Augsbourg."

"It is borne by the widow of my younger brother,"interrupted the colonel, who added in a singular tone:"You are right. All the titles of the family shouldbelong to the eldest, but my uncle was formerly calledthe Duc d'Ivrea, and my brother naturally took thesame title. I am surprised at your not knowing this,after having been busy with the marshal, as you have,for almost twenty months. It is true," and a bittersmile curled his lips, "that, compared with him, we arescarcely interesting. And then my brother and I hadnot visited each other, and I do not know his wife.That is why I never mentioned her to you. She isvery ill, she informs me—given up by her physicians,in fact. She wishes to deliver into my hands somefamily papers left in her keeping by my brother. Ican rely on you, then. The most interesting part ofthem is a correspondence with Moreau during the latter'ssojourn in America. You know that the marshalmade a campaign with him in Holland. He foresawhis failure and wished to prevent it. These letterswere offered for sale some years ago. They got them[Pg 1615]away from me because they were wealthier than I, butnow they wish to return them to me, and it is rightthat they should. We should find a place for them inthe second volume. That will mean a great deal ofrevising, but it is worth the trouble. I shall leave younow, as I have many orders to attend to. We shallstart this evening." ...

While making his preparations after this interview,Alfred Boyer could not shake off an impression, that,vague as it was and without foundation, seemed to hima certainty. This visit to his sister-in-law was costingthe Prince very dear. There was a mystery intheir relations, and a very painful one. Whence camethis rupture, and what were its causes, so profoundthat not the slightest mention of a duch*ess d'Ivreahad ever been made either by the Prince or by anyof his five daughters? Not one of them bore thisname; they were called simply the Frédets of Augsbourg.What had happened between the two brothers?Had this rupture preceded the marriage? Or had thatevent been the cause of it?

All these questions presented themselves to the youngman's mind without his having the faintest inkling as totheir solution. During the long months of his sojournhe had not established relations with any one among thefew country families in the neighborhood of Combes.

Moreover, he would have considered himself unworthyof the confidence that his patron had shownhim from the very first, opening his archives to him,letting him live in complete intimacy with his household,if he had made any inquiries about the Frédets.[Pg 1616]From the moment that there was a question of somefamily secret, to start a conversation on this subjectwith the old relative who acted as housekeeper wouldhave been as impossible as to try and make one of theyoung girls talk about it. He knew no more of theaffair when the day after the conversation the Princeand he arrived in Paris than he did on the precedingevening. During the journey he had noted the increasingpreoccupation of his companion, who, whenthey reached the station, said to him: "I do not knowas yet where we shall put up. Let us take a cab andwe will stop at some lodging-house. I used to knowa place in the Rue de Bourgogne, in the neighborhoodof the Chamber of Deputies. We will be near the Ruede Grenelle, where our business is. The d'Ivrea houseis the same that the marshal lived in under the Empire."

"Next door to the house of the Duc de Feltré?"returned Alfred Boyer. "It was only three days agothat I was transcribing the page on which he relatestheir meeting on the sidewalk in front of their houseson his return from Waterloo, and his refusal to returnthe Duc's salutation. How finely the passage concludes:'Perhaps it was not just,' he writes, 'but atthat time every French officer who had not fought atWaterloo filled me with horror. I should add thatif the Duc de Feltré deserted us, at least it was not,as in so many other cases, for money. He was myfriend, and I attest that I have always known him tobe an upright man with clean hands.'

"Upright and with clean hands," repeated thePrince. "Yes, those were his words; I recall them,[Pg 1617]too. That might have been his own device, do younot think so? My brother repurchased the house," headded after a pause. "I do not know how they havefurnished it, but the façade should not be changed. Itis of the seventeenth century and has the grand styleof that period. You shall judge of it yourself this afternoon,for I do not intend to remain here long. I countupon going to the d'Ivrea house in this same cab assoon as we have engaged our apartment in the RueBourgogne. You will not leave me—I am not payinga visit to a relative. I have come here to obtain somepapers that belong to me by right as the senior. Youhave been good enough to engage your services ashistorian for our family until the end of the publicationof the 'Mémoires.' Your place, then, is with me."

They had taken their places in the carriage while theex-colonel was thus formulating the program of a proceedingmade the more mysterious by these words, andby the irrevocable determination that they indicated.

During the three-quarters of an hour that it tookthem to reach the Rue de Bourgogne, where the lodging-housestood, and then the Rue de Grenelle,they were silent, the Prince absorbed in his thoughts,and the young man out of respect for a sadness ofwhich he divined the cause, without being able to determineits precise nature. The sadness was changedinto an actual contraction of pain when the carriagestopped in front of a high porte-cochère, above whichcould be read this inscription, recently restored, as thebrilliancy of the lettering indicated: "Hôtel d'Ivrea."Alfred alighted first and waited before the open door,[Pg 1618]ready to assist the Prince out of the carriage. Thelatter did not move. This last effort was almost intolerableto him.

"I thought at first I should send you in my place, mydear Boyer," he said, finally deciding to alight, "butshe would not receive you. It is me that she wishesto see. She has adopted the only way, my venerationfor the marshal. Let us go in—but it is so hard!"

Never in all those weeks that they had lived almostconstantly together had he uttered such intimate sentimentsto his companion. His irritation, which hescarcely gave himself the trouble to conceal, increasedstill more as they crossed the court at the back ofwhich rose the beautiful gray façade he had spoken of,with its high windows and its ample mansard roofpierced with bull's-eyes. Though Alfred Boyer wasmuch moved by the family tragedy, of which thePrince's attitude was an index, he could not but admirethe noble aspect of the structure in which the heroicFrédet had thought to find rest. But if the exteriorof the ancient house harmonized with the legend of thehero, the interior offered a no less striking contrast toit. The extraordinary excess of gaudy upholstery, themultiplicity of trifling ornaments, and the total absenceof real works of art, the petty coquetry of the curtains,everything from the very entrance stairs and the vestibulegave an impression of false luxury and cheapimitation. The walls and ceiling of the salon intowhich the two men were shown were draped with bluesatin, the assorted portières were held up by silver-fringedcurtain rings; double curtains of heavy silk[Pg 1619]and lace veiled the windows. The sumptuous upholsteringof the furniture utterly lacking in taste, theoverladen garnishment of the mantel capped the climax,and made of this sumptuous apartment an almostquestionable place. It fairly reeked with orders fromthe fashionable draper, of bank bills, and nothingshowed personal taste. The abundance of coronetsscattered everywhere proclaimed the parvenu. Thatthe woman who ordered such furnishings for theaustere mansion should be the duch*esse d'Ivrea wasone of those paradoxes of fate that amuse only theunthinking. When one has such a passionate adorationfor a hero as the compiler of the "Mémoires" hadfor the Duc d'Ivrea, such antitheses seemed to bea profanation.

Alfred was not surprised, then, at the visible repugnanceshown in the face of the actual bearer of thename and arms of the Frédets during the few momentspassed in the salon while they were waiting to be presented.The Prince had sent word by the servant thathe was there with the gentleman who had charge ofthe publication of the marshal's papers.

As if turning his back on this cheap luxury, he hadgone and leaned against the window, from which hisrude hand had roughly pushed aside the flimsy curtains.He looked out on a narrow garden to whichthe first shoots of spring were already giving a touchof green, and which was vulgarized by a Japanesekiosk with colored windows. When the servant returnedto the room, Alfred could see that the eyes ofthe sturdy hunter were suffused with tears.

[Pg 1620]

"Well?" he demanded almost imperiously. "Madamela duch*esse is awaiting Monsieur le Prince,"was the reply, "but alone; she is too ill this morningto receive two visitors."—"What did I tell you, Boyer!"exclaimed the Prince, not caring whether or not hewas heard by the footman. "She wants me to come topay her a visit, but I have not come with any such intention,and I will not have it so. I came with you toobtain the papers. Let her receive you or not in herbedroom, that is of no importance. You are none theless here in the house, and officially. Wait for mehere then. It will not be long." Ten minutes later theirascible nobleman appeared again, holding in his handa large sealed envelope, which he displayed, saying:"It is the first restitution, and the most important forus: the correspondence with Moreau."

And when they were again in the carriage, rollingtoward the Rue Bourgogne: "I must do her this justice,"he continued, without giving his sister-in-law hertitle, "she was quite correct. I found her in bed. Ihad never seen her, as I have already told you. Shehas the reputation of having been very beautiful, andshe must have been. Though she is worn by sickness,she still has fine features and astonishing eyes. She isdying of cancer of the liver. She knows it; she toldme of it. She returned these papers to me very simply,saying that on my next visit she would give me otherdocuments, which she says she must arrange. I amnot her dupe; they are all arranged. She wants toprove—though I have not the slightest idea to whom—thatthe Frédet family recognizes her since the[Pg 1621]Prince of Augsbourg goes to her house. But the matteris done with. I have the packet necessary for ourwork. We can start back again for Combes with ourbooty this evening or to-morrow, and though it is tobe regretted that some parts of it are lacking, still theyare mere trifles. But let us assure ourselves that wehave not been cheated.

"There were thirty-seven letters, according to thecatalog of the sale at which they bought them. Good,here we are! we can go upstairs and make sure thatthe number is correct. Will you take charge of thematter and count them carefully? Thirty-seven—"

When they were both in the apartment, consisting oftwo little communicating bedrooms, that had been reservedfor them, Alfred Boyer's first action was toopen the envelope, which was fastened with a sealbearing the escutcheon and device of the Frédets.His historian's heart beat high as he saw that it wasnot merely a matter of simple notes, but of long letters,some of which covered ten or a dozen pages. Hebegan to count them, drawing them out of the envelopeone by one.

He was unfolding the fifteenth when he noticed asmaller envelope, that had been slipped into it. Hetook it out and read the direction: "For the Prince ofAugsbourg." The envelope had not been sealed. Heopened it mechanically, thinking that it had some connectionwith the correspondence. In it was a sheet ofpaper, again with the crest of the Frédets, on whichhe read with that swift look that takes in ten lines ata glance:

[Pg 1622]

"This is my will, which annuls all preceding ones.I constitute as my sole legatee Monsieur Jules Frédet,Prince d'Augsbourg, under the express condition thathe shall personally conduct my funeral, that he shallhave my body as well as that of my husband depositedin the tomb of the Frédet family, and that I appear asdonor of the letters to General Moreau in the forthcoming'Mémoires' of the marshal. If Monsieur JulesFrédet does not accept this legacy, my will depositedat my notary's shall be valid in place of this. Givenunder my hand"—here followed a date and beneath itthe signature: "duch*esse d'Ivrea."

"Is the count correct?" This question, snapped outby the Prince through the open door from the end ofthe other room where he had gone to dress, startled theyoung man. Surely he was quite innocent of all design,and he had no sooner discovered the confidentialnature of the paper than he replaced it in its envelope.Nevertheless he had discovered its contents, and it waswith cheeks flaming like those of a guilty man that hereplied: "I do not know yet, but I have just found thisin the correspondence." He had on the tip of histongue the avowal of his involuntary indiscretion, butfalse shame restrained him.

"An envelope?" said the Prince. "Addressed tome? It must be some trick she has devised to get aletter to me. If it is a letter I shall tear it up withoutreading it. Let me see"—he had advanced to the doorof the room and began reading aloud: "This is my—"

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (30)

Paul Bourget

He stopped short. He had turned terribly pale.Alfred saw that his hand clenched over the sheet as[Pg 1623]if to crush and tear it. Then, folding the paper, hereturned it to its envelope and placed it on the mantelunder a book, as if it were of no importance. He cameback to the door and looked at Alfred, who was alreadybent over his work, prudently avoiding this look.He seemed to have a question on his lips that he didnot put into words. He had stopped while shaving tocall out his question. Without saying anything morehe finished shaving while Boyer continued to arrangethe letters with hands trembling with emotion, andthe same emotion shook his voice as he said, finallybreaking the silence, when the work was done:

"The thirty-seven letters are here."

"They are all here, eh?" replied the Prince. Hewas so upset that he did not notice the young man'sembarrassment. "You need not begin to examinethem until to-morrow morning," he continued. "Igive you leave of absence for this afternoon. Youhave not been in Paris for a long time, and youmay have some friends that you wish to lookup here. You are at liberty for the rest of the day,but come back at about six o'clock to see if I needyou."

He had scarcely reached the sidewalk of the Rue deBourgogne, when the young man felt so strongly thepangs of remorse at not having confessed his indiscretionthat he stood still for several minutes, askinghimself whether he should not at once go upstairsand tell the Prince that he had read the will. At thesame time he saw that, once in the Prince's presence,it would again be impossible for him to confess.

[Pg 1624]

Not that he feared reproaches for the act itself; hehad only done as he had been directed in ascertainingthe contents of the envelope, which, moreover, wasopen. His silence afterward was easily explained bytimidity. What now made the avowal so painful wasthe knowledge that he had surprised the grandson ofhis hero in a moment of mental anguish. The mannerin which the Prince had spoken of his sister-in-law,his attitude at the d'Ivrea house, his gesturewhen he had taken up the envelope, his first words,then the contraction of his hand over the paper—allthese indications combined to reveal an aversion whichcould not arise from a mere family disagreement, suchas is ordinarily dissolved by death, but from a mostintense, a most violent contempt. The silence concerningher maintained by the family proved that theaversion was not personal. Why? For what reasonhad all the elder branch taken such a stand against themarriage of the head of the younger branch? Alfredcould no longer doubt that the duch*esse d'Ivrea knewthe disposition of her relatives toward her. Themethod she had adopted to send her will to herbrother-in-law sufficiently proved that.

Then why did she make this will? Why shouldshe leave this fortune unreservedly to relatives forwhom she ought to have a hatred equal to their own?

Suddenly the terms of this will that he had scarcelylooked at—but how could he ever forget its smallestdetail?—recurred to the young man's mind. Thefuneral, conducted officially by the Prince, the placein the family tomb at Père-Lachaise, the name in the[Pg 1625]"Mémoires" of the marshal—it would be to acknowledgethe relationship and the marriage with the Ducd'Ivrea, giving a formal revocation to an ostracismthat, doubtless, had lasted many years and exasperatedher womanly pride. The duch*ess had placedthe bargain entirely in the Prince's hands. The figureof the latter actually holding in his hands the paperthat formulated this bargain arose before Alfred'smind with the clearness of a perfect image, and againhe saw the conflict of the three emotions which hisface had expressed: astonishment, anger, hesitation.

The Prince had hesitated. He hesitated still. Alfred,who had gone a few steps in the direction of theBourbon Palace, stopped a second time to turn backto his lodgings. For a long time his eyes were fastenedon the windows of the second floor, behindwhich a drama of conscience was being enacted ofwhich he would soon know all the details. As yethe could only see facts that were of too doubtful asignificance to enable him to form an opinion. "Afterall," said he, shrugging his shoulders, "it is none ofmy business. It is for the Prince to decide whetherthe motives of his antipathy toward his sister-in-laware stronger than his desire to become rich. The episodeis worth my little trip to Paris; let us profit by it."

Ever since the now distant time when he had exiledhimself in Auvergne until his work should have beenfinished, in order not to draw upon his savings, he hadlet slip the bonds of friendship that had united him tomany of his comrades in the École de Chartres. Havingno parents to visit, he began to think of them,[Pg 1626]moved thereto, perhaps, by a last remark of his patron.All at once a face and a name stood out in his memorywith singular distinctness. Was it not in this veryquarter where he now was, in the Rue de l'Université,that one of his most charming classmates lived, Raymondde Contay? He was a young man of high birth,grandson to the famous duch*esse de Contay, who wasso well known for her unbounded charity. After makingan excellent record as student in the same collegewith Alfred, and having no desire to be an idler, hehad enrolled himself in the École de Chartres. Hisintention had been to devote himself to historicalwork.

If Alfred had probed his own motives he wouldhave recognized the fact that the sympathy he hadformerly felt for this clever and pleasing youth wasnot the real cause of the temptation that led himirresistibly to go to his house this very morning inspite of the unusual hour. It was nearly noon. "Ihope I will find him." A thought that was not inspiredmerely by a friendly feeling. The real cause was thatRaymond belonged to the most select class. To Alfred,who had no idea of the air-tight partitions thatdivide the different circles of the various nobilities,this meant that his comrade certainly knew the duch*essed'Ivrea, or had heard her spoken of by peoplewho knew her. If any one could give him exact informationabout her it was Contay, and Alfred Boyerfelt that he must have this information.

He hungered and thirsted for it, as much as if, insteadof being the simple posthumous secretary to the[Pg 1627]marshal Prince of Augsbourg, the blood of this herocoursed in his own veins, and he had a right to knowwho bore this title of d'Ivrea, won at the cannon'smouth on the battlefield. Besides, the will stipulatedthat the duch*ess should figure in the "Mémoires" asthe donor of the letters to Moreau, and was not hisown honor involved in these "Mémoires"? Had henot devoted two precious years of his youth to them?Was he not ready to devote a third, with this recompenseas his supreme ambition, that his name as apoor scribbler should one day be linked forever withthat of the mighty warrior of the "Grande Armée"?What if this woman, however, who bought a place inthe book with the gift of her fortune, had made herselfunworthy of the honor by some infamous action?Was such a thing possible? No. The master ofCombes professed such a passionate reverence for hisgrandfather!

That her name should be cited in the "Mémoires,"that the Prince should conduct the funeral, that sheshould be given a place in the tomb of the Frédets—neverwould he admit it, even for a moment, and evenat the price of millions, that these three things couldbe granted to a person unworthy.

But the Prince had not destroyed the will—then hemust have seen some possibility of conforming to it!Yet his sadness and disgust, the tone of voice inwhich he had spoken of her, as he put it, his firstmovement, his subsequent silence—how were all thesecontradictory indications to be reconciled? Alfredhastened his steps toward the sole chance of learning[Pg 1628]the whole truth with a feverish impatience thatamounted almost to pain....

Raymond de Contay was at home getting ready togo out to lunch. This was a relief to Boyer, who inhis embarrassment suddenly feared that it would lookas if he had come, thus early, in order to be asked tostay for luncheon. But his classmate's welcome wasso cordial that he had no scruples about suggestingthat he should walk with him. As he ascended Raymond'sstairs he felt an almost painful apprehensionover the means he should employ in his quest. Thepretext was furnished to him by his friend, who, notcontent with asking him about his work, wished toknow how he had got along at Combes. Boyer tookoccasion to sketch in a few words the characters ofthe Prince, his five daughters, and the maiden aunt.With a lump in his throat at the thought of what hemight be about to learn he continued: "This is all Ihave seen of the family. But there is another branch,the younger, now represented by the duch*esse d'Ivrea"—helooked for a sign of intelligence in his friend'sface. "Who is she?"—"The duch*esse d'Ivrea," repliedRaymond. "I do not know her."

"But she belongs to your world," said Alfrednaively; then giving way to the morbid curiosity thathad been goading him on ever since he had read thewill, he added: "You surely must know some peoplewho know her. I can not explain the matter to you,but I have a strong interest in knowing why she is atodds with her relatives. The matter concerns the entirefuture of my work, perhaps. In fact, I ask you[Pg 1629]as a great service—understand me, a very great serviceindeed—to try to find out about her for me."

He spoke in so serious a tone, his face expressed somuch anxiety, that Raymond was deeply impressed.He thought that probably these "Mémoires of Frédet"had started one of those disagreements between relativesthat sometimes prevent for many years the publicationof books of this sort.

"If you are so bent upon it," replied his comrade,"I shall try to find out. I am lunching to-day withone of my cousins, who belongs to all the clubs andhas Paris at his fingers' ends. If your duch*esse d'Ivreabroke with her family for any reasons that have beentalked about, my cousin will know them. I will dropyou a line about it this evening, but I do not promiseyou success. In any event, give me your address."

Although this chance of seeing a little more clearlyinto the relations that existed between the celebratedmarshal's heirs was very dubious, it was a chance, andfor the time being the prospect calmed the agitationinto which the morning's episode had thrown Boyer.He had a few errands to do relative to his work. Heattended to them all carefully, and about six o'clockhe found himself at the door of his lodgings in theRue de Bourgogne. He asked if his patron were in.On the concièrge's reply that the Prince had not goneout during the afternoon, Alfred was again seizedwith the feverish curiosity of the morning.

Raymond had left no letter for him, from whichhe concluded that the inquiry of the cousin had beenuseless, and he ascended the stairs a prey to an uneasiness[Pg 1630]that reached a climax when he found himself faceto face with the Prince. Evidently the unhappy manwas at the end of his mental resources. He paced toand fro from one extremity to the other of the twonarrow chambers like a wild beast in a cage. Theluncheon that he had ordered had not been touchedand was still on the table, and at the first glance Alfredcould see that the envelope that contained the will hadnot been moved from its place. It still rested underthe book on the marble mantel. It had been beyondthe Prince's strength even to touch it. Alas, thetemptation had begun to work in him. Alfred hadproof of it immediately in the words that were addressedto him as soon as he appeared.

"I have had news from the Rue de Grenelle," saidthe Prince. "It seems that she has had a severe attacksince we left her, and almost succumbed to it. Thedoctor is not sure that she will live through the day.You see, we did well to come when we did for the lettersto Moreau. Apropos of these letters, perhaps itwould be well to publish them separately. We willtalk it over. What I have been having a day-dreamabout is a library made up of works concerning themen of the First Empire who had relations with thePrince, all his papers well classified, and all his memoirs,and all of this installed in the d'Ivrea housewhere we were this morning. I can see the housenow, stripped of the tawdry gewgaws that spoil it, andrestored to the exact condition in which it was in themarshal's time. It would be very easy—we have theinventories at Combes. I would like to make it a museum[Pg 1631]to the glory of the "Grande Armée," with roomsconsecrated to all the companions in arms whom heloved—a Ney room, a Masséna room, a Davoust room,a Macdonald room—what do you say to this project,my dear Boyer, with you as perpetual curator at somesmall emolument? Do not say no to it; you deservethe place. Do you imagine that I do not know thedifference between purely mercenary work and thatwhich you have devoted to the "Mémoires"? Butyour devotion shall not be lost. It is a pity that youcould not be in Paris with your time your own, allyour time, to devote to some great historical work.You shall have it. It is also a pity—do you not thinkso?—that so many objects of interest in the history ofthe Empire should be hidden away at Combes andthat no one should know them? The portraits, forinstance; they must be brought here; they must be—andit is the same with my daughters. I wish themto be here; I wish them to be married—well and happilymarried." For a long time he continued in thisvein without any response from the young man. ThePrince busied himself with the future employment ofthe fortune that had suddenly fallen into his possession,putting almost a kind of fever into his projects. Hereveled in anticipatory visions of the noble end to whichhe would devote his wealth—always provided he acceptedit, for his ardor in justifying the acceptance inadvance clearly proved that he had not yet decided, asdid also the painful hesitation in his voice, in his gestures,in the sound of his footsteps on the floor, andstill more in his obstinacy in not returning to the house[Pg 1632]of his dying sister-in-law. Against what idea was hestruggling so violently? Against what apprehensionof remorse? Why did this flood of imaginative confidences—sincethere was no question yet but of possibilities—rollforth while the real confidence, that whichconcerned the will, never appeared?

Alfred saw the whiteness of the envelope standingout against the gray on the marble mantel, and as helistened his heart became more oppressed with eachnew phrase, for each was a fresh sign that the Princeconsidered the acceptance of the conditions containedin that envelope as an indelicacy, worse than that, asa crime. A crime? Against whom? Against whom,if not against this ancestor? What image obsessedhim, passing and repassing in all these words? that ofthe marshal. It was as if by making promises to thatgreat figure he wished to disarm the anger of its shade,to expiate in advance an outrage on its memory thathe was about to commit, that he had already committedin not at once spurning a certain offer.

How long might this strange monologue have continued,in which the grandson of the illustrious soldierconcealed the fever of a terrible indecision bythinking aloud before a witness whose cognizance ofthe facts he did not suspect? Would Alfred Boyerhave given way to the passionate longing he felt tointerrupt this half confession with his own completeconfession by crying out to the Prince: "I have readthe will!" Would he, on the other hand, have continuedto listen to this discourse, seeking to solve anenigma of which the answer had not yet been given?

[Pg 1633]

An incident he had not hoped for suddenly extricatedhim from his uncertainty, all at once givingfrightful distinctness to what had until then been onlya vague guess. The servant came to tell him thatMonsieur de Contay was waiting to see him.

"I got some information, as I thought I would, frommy cousin," said Raymond after the other had flowndownstairs four steps at a time in his haste to know."I was not able to bring it to you before, and I haveonly a minute." He pointed to the carriage whichwas waiting for him in the street. "Here it is. Thepresent duch*esse d'Ivrea has never been received,either by the family or by any one else. She was afast woman, who had formerly been on the stage. Shewas then called Leona d'Asti. After living a very gaylife, she married an old swindler on his deathbed, aconfessed thief named Audry, who left her a verylarge fortune. Once a widow, she married d'Ivrea,a poor devil, who, it seems, had eaten and drunk upeverything he had—a most shameful union for oneof his name. Now you know as much as I do."...

Next morning, when the Prince of Augsbourgawoke from a sleep broken by all the nightmares bywhich intense moral anguish pursues us even in ourrest, his first glance was toward the ill-fated envelopethat his fingers had not touched since he had placedit under the book. Had he been dreaming? Had allthe internal tempest of which he had been the victimbeen a hallucination, a stroke of madness? The envelopewas not there. He jumped out of bed and wentto the mantel; he lifted up the book. Nothing! Immediately[Pg 1634]the whole series of events came back to him.No; he had not been mad. The scenes of the precedingday arose in his mind with a certainty that left noroom for doubt; his visit to his sister-in-law, his returnto his lodgings, Alfred Boyer handing to him theenvelope and what had followed, his afternoon spentin struggling against temptation, Alfred's return, thenhis going out again, the note that the young man hadafterward sent him and in which he said that he woulddine out with a friend. The Prince had spent theevening alone, eating his heart out over the evil actionthat had such a horrible attraction for him. He hadgone to bed early, without having been able to eatanything, in order to try to forget this ill-fated will,to forget himself. He had heard his neighbor comein about midnight—then all was a blank. He had fallenasleep, and now this mystery, this envelope missing.But how? Stolen—by whom?

He began to dress, a prey to the superstitious fearthat sometimes lays hold of the most energetic men inface of an absolutely incomprehensible fact, and littleby little his ideas began to coordinate in his mind. Ofthe two doors of his chamber, one, that which openedupon the stairs, was fastened with a bolt; he had neglectedto turn the key on that which led to AlfredBoyer's room. The thief, then, must have come inby that door during his sleep. But he had remainedawake until the young man had come in. Suddenlythe Prince recalled the latter's face at the time of thediscovery of the will; how he had flushed and avoidedhis eyes. He remembered also the expression on that[Pg 1635]transparent face while, late in the afternoon, he hadbeen developing those projects, all of which presupposeda change in the condition of his fortune. As ina flash of lightning the whole thing was clear tohim. He sank half dressed upon a chair. He satthere motionless, a prey to a tumult of so many contradictoryand violent emotions that his whole bodytrembled; disillusionment as to this fortune, suddenlysnatched away, if the young man had actually destroyedthe will; shame at having been seen by him,tempted and giving way to the temptation, anger atAlfred's audacity in having interfered, and by whatright? Through his veneration for the marshal's memory,remorse that this veneration had been stronger inan outsider than in himself, and, in spite of all, a sort ofsorrowful joy at this deliverance, if the will no longerreally existed, with its shameful conditions, whichwere, indeed, less shameful than the origin of ignoblemoney. Again the d'Ivrea house rose before hismind's eye; he saw the great door hung with blackdraperies, with his coat-of-arms, the bier upon whichthat miserable creature, that public woman enrichedby a swindler, who had dishonored his brother, shouldlie, himself behind her conducting this sinister mourning;and the tomb, the tomb! Wildly, as the prisonerwho escapes from his cell through broken bars stainedwith his blood, but sustained, intoxicated by the freedomof liberty, he burst into the room where Alfredsat at his table. His bed had not been disturbed. Hehad not slept, and his pale face, his burning eyes, betrayedin what agony he had spent the sleepless hours.[Pg 1636]Ever since he had glided into the Prince's bedroom totake the will and burn it he had been awaiting theterrible moment when his patron should awake, determinedthis time not to make any denial and to sufferthe consequences of his act, whatever they might be.

"Boyer," said the Prince, "when you gave me thatenvelope yesterday, had you read the paper that itcontained?"

"Yes," replied the young man.

"Did you know who the person was that wrote thatpaper?"

"I have learned since."

"And it was you who destroyed the will?"

"It was I."

"It was you!" cried the Prince; "you!" Then,bursting into sobs: "Let me embrace you and thank youin his name!" and he pointed with his hand to the thinsheets on the table in which was to be recognized theproud, delicate writing of "Catinat of the GrandeArmée," of "the Black Lion," as the old soldiers ofthe First Empire had called him to distinguish himfrom his brother in arms, Ney, "the Red Lion." Tearsstreamed down his face, so like that of his gloriousancestor, while he pressed Alfred to his breast, andboth of them, the old man and the young, felt thatexquisite emotion that floods our souls with melancholyand an almost supernatural serenity when wehave paid a sacred debt to the dead.

FOOTNOTES:

[14] "Demi-hipnose," writes Paul Bourget

[Pg 1637]

WHEN HE WAS A LITTLE BOY

BY HENRI LÉON ÉMILE LAVEDAN

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (31)

Henri Lavedan stands for the bright side ofParisian life of to-day—for the witty dialogueand the delicate sentiment. He has created alanguage of his own, sound, racy, with all theabruptness and unexpected drollery of theboulevards.

He was born at Orléans in 1859, and beganhis literary career by contributing to thejournals satiric pictures of the manners andcustoms of the Paris world. Those writtenbetween 1885 and 1892 form a series of chronicles,which he has gathered into several volumes.Most of his works, however, are writtenfor the theatre. In 1899 he was elected a memberof the Academy.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (32)

[Pg 1638]

[Pg 1639]

WHEN HE WAS A LITTLE BOY

BY HENRI LAVEDAN

Translated by Katharine Vincent.
Copyright, 1902, by The Current LiteraturePublishing Company.

Madame de Précy said to her husband:"You wish to know what is the matter?Oh! I will tell you, if for a few momentsyou will condescend to lend me your attention."

In an icy tone he answered: "I will not lend, I willgive it to you."

"Well, then, the matter is"—and a trembling voicebetrayed her excitement—"that life with you has becomeunbearable and that I have resolved no longerto try to endure it. You are, I admit, an honorableman, and have, I believe, been a faithful husband. I,on my side, have never forgotten my marriage vows.Here we stand on the same ground. The trouble isthat we are uncongenial. Everything I do annoys you,and to me all your ways are insufferable. What Isay always vexes you, and your laugh drives me crazy.Even when silent, we provoke each other. About themerest trifles we have frightful scenes—about a hat,a dress, whether it will be best to carry a cane or anumbrella, or whether the meat is overdone or not—inshort, everything—and everything makes us quarrel!Then, at home, either you talk so much that I can notput in a word or else you do not open your lips, andyou look about as cheerful as a mortuary chapel. I[Pg 1640]must be happy when you are happy, sad when you aresad. Your temper is changeable, odd, quick; you donot allow the slightest contradiction; if I begin to speakof something which does not interest you, I am notallowed to finish my sentence. For me to express anopinion suffices to make you take an opposite view.You insist that you understand music, and that I knownothing about politics, while, in point of fact, thecontrary is the truth. You scold my maid until shecries, and your disgusting valet drinks all the wine inmy cellar. You forbid me to smoke, and insist that mydresses shall not be cut too low. And when we quarrel,even about some very ordinary matter, instead of itsbeing over in five minutes, it lasts for hours, and wetry to outdo each other in saying bitter things whichneither of us forgets. In short, everything about meis disagreeable to you. I feel it, and I know it; youhate the tone of my voice, the sound of my step, mygestures, even my clothes; do not deny it, at this verymoment I can read in your face that you would liketo pitch me out of the window.

"Therefore?" said Monsieur de Précy.

"Therefore I conclude that it is wiser for us notto prolong our experience of married life. Its havingproved a failure is neither your fault nor mine, orrather it is the fault of both; at any rate it is a fact.We were not made to live together; until we cease todo so, neither of us will be happy. After all, thereis nothing to prevent us from amicably parting.Fortunately there is no child to quarrel about, wehave each an ample fortune, so I really can not see[Pg 1641]why we should any longer remain on the same perch,pulling out each other's feathers. As for me, I havehad enough of it, and you have had too much. I amquite sure you will be happy; sometimes in the morning,while you are shaving, you will think of me; andfor my part I shall always remember you as a perfectlyhonorable, thoroughly disagreeable man. Butfor that I bear you no ill-will, because it is in yourblood, all the Précys are so, and your own father andmother, as you have often told me, could never contrive,for more than ten days at a time, to remain together.However, I will waste no more breath intalking about the matter, but will now, Monsieur, retireto my own rooms, where until to-morrow I shallpass my time in thinking over the most practical wayin which to arrange our separation."

Monsieur de Précy had in silence received this avalancheof reproaches, but his lips twitched, once ortwice he sighed, deeply sighed, and toward the middleof the discourse he had begun to pace the floor. Whenhis wife ceased speaking he stopped before her, and,looking at her with an expression which he strove torender as dignified as possible, said in a sad, somewhatvictimized, tone of voice: "Have you finished?"—"Ihave finished, and it is finished."—"So be it, mydear; the book is closed, and I, like you, think itbest not again to open it. As you wish it, we will to-morrowseparate and each try solitude."—"Oh, Ipermit you to enliven it!"—"Thanks, and I forbidyou to do so."—"Gracious! I do not dream ofsuch a thing. When I leave you, it is to become my[Pg 1642]own mistress, not to change masters. You can be quiteeasy; to marry again would be a folly I shall nevercommit. Have you anything more to say?"—"No,except that if we take this step without knowing towhat it may lead...."—"Oh! I know. First topeace, then to old age, finally to Père Lachaise."—"Donot joke, but please allow me to finish. We will do aswe wish, but it is not necessary that the world shouldbe at once enlightened as to our disagreements. Thatis my opinion, and I think you will agree with me."—"Ido not know, because, of course, people can notlong remain ignorant...."—"Yes, but for a time.Later the same objections will not exist. In short, thisis what I ask: before taking any measures to obtain adivorce, let us by all means separate, but under specialconditions which will save appearances, and excite nosuspicions in the minds of our friends."—"What, then,is your idea?"—"As you wish to leave to-morrow, doso; but instead of taking refuge with some friendin the country or abroad, as is probably your intention,go to Meneaux, my château in Brittany, andas long as you can endure it—two months, if youhave the courage—remain there. Madame Bénard,my parents' old housekeeper, who brought me up, isin charge. She will receive you, and in every waylook after your comfort. You can tell her that I willsoon join you."—"That, I imagine, will not be thetruth."—"No, but you had better say so. The house iswell furnished, pretty, and not more than four milesfrom Guérande. Under the pretext that Brittany is toofar away from Paris, you have always avoided setting[Pg 1643]foot upon this family estate where my childhood waspassed. This, before we each go our own way in life,is a good opportunity to look at it. If you let thischance escape, you will never have another. Now canI count upon you? Do you consent?"—"You havemade your request with civility, and I consent. I willgo to Meneaux, and will remain there for two months.You may send a telegram to Madame Bénard."

Then a few words more were exchanged with acoldness too intense to be quite genuine.—"Thanks—goodnight—good-by!—yes, good-by!"—Their voicesdid not tremble, oh no; but their hearts, their poorhearts, ached! Each one privately thought: "What?Can it be true we are to part—and forever? Thatis what we shall see, my wife! I'm not quite sureabout that, my husband!"

But, nevertheless, Madame de Précy the next daydeparted.

On a clear, fresh May morning the young womanarrived at Meneaux. It is at the seaside, a delightfulmoment when spring, like a tiny child on its uncertainlegs, hesitatingly treads there. The sparse, backwardvegetation is more rugged than elsewhere; the blue ofthe sky has a deeper tint, and in the salt air there issomething bracing and healthful which brings red tothe cheek and peace to the soul.

For Madame de Précy's occupation, Madame Bénardhad prepared, on the second floor, a large bedchamber,wainscoted in oak and hung with old sulphur-coloreddamask, which on one side overlooked a wide expanse[Pg 1644]of flat country, broken only here and there by a rockor a thin cluster of reeds; and on the other a pine woodceaselessly murmuring in the breeze.

After she had emptied her trunks and made herselfat home in her room, Madame de Précy found plentyof time for reflection. Nature offers to those who ata moral crisis fly to her, many consolations. By a sortof reflex action, she deadens pain, soothes and cheers.Her immutability, her apparent egotism, are good advisers.Before her who does not pass away one learnsto see that everything else will do so, our little happinessesas well as our great sorrows; and the orderwhich in everything she observes incites us to order alsoour hearts and minds. Madame de Précy began tothink, and more seriously than for many and many along day before. She reviewed her entire past life, beginningwith the first white pages of cradle, dolls, firstcommunion, long skirts and balls, next turning to thechapter of marriage. Her life had not been a romance,scarcely even a story, but very ordinary, without greatjoys, great catastrophes, or anything striking. Everynight she had gone to bed with the secret hope thatthe next day something might happen. During thenine years of her married life, the sun had risen manytimes, but never had anything happened. Little bylittle she and her husband had become embittered, andperhaps he also, without being willing to admit it, hadsuffered from that monotony to some beings so irritating—monotonyof things, hours, events, crimes,heroisms, vices, seasons, rain, sun, admirations, andanticipations. Her husband was not a man to be despised:[Pg 1645]cultivated, distinguished, honorable, sometimes(only sometimes) tender-hearted—in fact, admirable—yetimpossible to live with. So, while deploring herfate, in the bloom of youth finding herself thus aloneand in a false position, she did not, however, regretthe impulse to which she had yielded. She would notknow happiness, but she could have peace. One cannot expect everything at once. Without feeling thather dignity was compromised, she gladly accepted thesociety of Madame Bénard, the old housekeeper incharge of the château, and yet, as a rule, she washaughty. But Madame Bénard had brought up Monsieurde Précy, and then the country equalizes; itssolitude brings together human beings, raising a littlethose who are below, and lowering a little those whoare above, so that Madame de Précy and the good oldlady—for a lady she really was—soon became friends.

On the day Madame Bénard took Madame dePrécy through the château, she went first to a largeroom on the third story, and, as she pushed open thedoor, said: "I want to begin by showing you everythingconnected with Monsieur's childhood. This isthe room where Monsieur played and amused himselfwhen he was a little boy." Then she opened closetswhere lay balls, drums, trumpets, boxes of tin soldiers,games of patience, checkers, and dominoes, saying asone after another she fingered them: "These wereMonsieur's playthings when he was a little boy." Andsuddenly she pulled from a heap a doll with a brokennose. "See, Madame! he even had a doll, that boy; hecalled her Pochette, and when he kissed her he used to[Pg 1646]say: 'She shall be my wife!' Was it not ludicrous?Well, he would not say that now. He has somethingbetter." Madame de Précy did not reply. The housekeeperquestioned: "It must agitate you to see allthese things?"—"Yes, Madame Bénard."

Then the old lady took her to see the room whereMonsieur used to sleep; sometimes forgetting herself,instead of Monsieur, she said Louis; and Madame dePrécy was strangely moved at hearing pronounced byanother that name she had so often called, but mightnever say again. The room where her husband usedto study was next exhibited, with its shelves still filledby his old school-books and copy-books. One of thelatter was seized by Madame Bénard, who, tendering itto Madame de Précy, cried: "See how well Monsieurwrote when he was a little boy." And traced in large,uncertain letters she read: "Let us love one another."Then she exclaimed: "I should like to go out intothe air; I do not feel quite well."

They went out of doors, and for some momentssilently walked about. When a large pond, on whichfloated two beautiful white swans, was presently approached,Madame Bénard announced: "Here is thepond where Monsieur kept his boat when he was a littleboy. One evening he came near drowning himself. Ishall never forget that."

When, a few steps farther on, they reached an oldstraight-backed, moss-grown wooden bench, on eitherside of which stood a tall earthenware vase, she cried:"This is the bench where Monsieur used to sit andread when he was a little boy."

[Pg 1647]

Next they entered the vegetable garden, and MadameBénard, walking at once toward a little plot,enclosed by a hedge of box, said again: "This wasMonsieur's garden when he was a little boy."

As they afterward crossed the servants' court, aglimpse of the farm horses in their stalls, afforded bywidely opened stable doors, caused Madame Bénardto exclaim: "Oh, Boniface used to be kept there!"

"What was Boniface?" asked Madame de Précy.

"Boniface was Monsieur's pony when he was a littleboy."

So clearly had Madame Bénard brought beforeMadame de Précy a little Louis who studied, read,wrote, laughed, and played that she almost saw himnow, in short trousers with sunburnt legs and barehead, running across the garden.

When later in the day they were both seated in thedining-room near a large window overlooking the sea,Madame Bénard began in a simple way to relate thestory of Monsieur when he was a little boy. It wasnot very cheerful.

"I must tell you, Madame," said the old woman,"that Monsieur's parents were very peculiar. Younever saw them, but I knew them well.

"Just imagine, they actually disliked each other, andwithout any good reason. That they were not 'congenial'was the only excuse they could give for livingalmost always apart; but think how wicked that was!If the father was in Paris the mother traveled, andwhen she returned he went away. They both lovedMonsieur Louis, but rather than share his society preferred[Pg 1648]entirely to deprive themselves of it. So he wassent here to me, and I had to be to him both fatherand mother. That is the way I happened to bringhim up, and I did my best. His parents both diedquite young, and he, poor child, wept as bitterly as ifhe had known them. I can forgive him, but I'm quitesure that when I die he will not grieve as much.

"I tell you all this, Madame, because perhaps he hasnever done so, and also that you may be able to makeallowance for him if sometimes he appears nervous,quick-tempered, or moody. It is not his fault; it isthe fault of old times when he was a little boy. Had itnot been for his deserted, lonely childhood, he wouldhave grown up quite a different man."

All this Madame Bénard said and much besides,telling many anecdotes, and giving a mass of details,so that the conversation lasted until evening. Neitherof the two women thought of ringing for a lamp, anddarkness enveloped them. Therefore, Madame Bénarddid not observe that Madame de Précy was furtivelydrying her eyes. When she rose it was to say:

"All you have related about my husband has interestedme very much, dear Madame Bénard," and shewarmly pressed the good old woman's hands. Thisdid not astonish Madame Bénard, nor was she surprisedwhen the young woman handed her a telegramfor Paris to be sent to the office at Guérande. Whatdid the telegram contain? What is sure is that it wassent that night, and that the next day Monsieur dePrécy arrived.

[Pg 1649]

A GENTLEMAN FINDS A WATCH

BY GEORGES COURTELINE

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (33)

Georges Moinaux, whose nom de plume isGeorges Courteline, was born at Tours in 1860.He has written a great number of one-actcomedies that have been acted at nearly all ofthe best Paris theatres, the first called "L'AffaireChampignon," in collaboration with PierreVeber, 1899, and the latest "Menton Bleus."Courteline is a sincere, earnest genius, but heprefers to masquerade as an amuser—he hasbeen summed up as the nearest approach theFrench have to a Mark Twain. He assumesthe quick, snappy, humorous, jaunty businessstyle of the reporter as a rule, but in his one-actverse, called "Conversion d'Alceste," actedat the Comédie Française in 1905, he appearsas a misanthrope.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (34)

[Pg 1650]

[Pg 1651]

A GENTLEMAN FINDS A WATCH

BY GEORGES COURTELINE

Translated by V. Quiroga.
Copyright, 1907, by P. F. Collier & Son.

From the top seats of L'Étoile tram-carI perceived my friend Bréloc, who was justcrossing the Place Blanche in such a state ofexcitement that I descended from the car on purposeto question him.

"Hey! my God! what is the matter, Bréloc? Whatis the meaning of this face of yours, more mournfulthan a shop closed on account of a death in thefamily?"

"Please don't mention it," he replied; "I just hada narrow escape from being put in jail."

Which led me to think that he had committed somedishonest action, and I began to ejacul*te ratherloudly, when he, guessing the turn of my thoughts,exclaimed: "You don't seem to understand! I wasvery nearly being put in jail through an unlucky watchthat I picked up last night on the Boulevard SaintMichel, and which I honestly deposited in the hands ofthe commissaire [police inspector] of our ward. Prettytough, heigh? I feel almost ill from astonishmentand fright. But you can judge by yourself. Haveyou five minutes to spare?"

"Certainly. Why not?"

"Then listen, and I hope you may profit by myexperience.

[Pg 1652]

"About nine A.M. I presented myself at the policestation in the Rue Duperré carrying said watch—abeautiful timepiece, by the way, with gold case andplatina monogram—and I asked to be shown to thecommissaire. That gentleman had just finished drinkinghis cup of chocolate, when he gave orders that Ishould be admitted to his presence, and without deigningto say good day or offer me a seat, he began:

"'What do you wish?'

"I had composed my features for the occasion, withthe smile of a man who accomplishes a meritoriousact for which he expects to be almost crowned withglory. So I answered: "'Monsieur le Commissaireof Police, I have the honor of depositing into yourhands a watch that I found last night, and—'

"Without letting me finish the sentence, the commissairesprang up, repeating the words:

"'A watch! A watch!'

"The gendarmes were playing a game of cards inthe next room.

"He hallooed to them:

"'Hey! you there! Close the street door! Thereis more draft here than in a windmill!' And he remainedgrumbling until his order had been executed.

"Then, resuming his seat, he proceeded:

"'Please give me that article.'

"I handed him the watch, which he began to turnabout, examining and turning the winder, openingthe case and the chain swivel.

"'Yes,' he said gravely, 'it is indeed a watch, thereis no denying.'

[Pg 1653]

"Saying which, he deposited the watch in thedepths of a very large safe, closing its three locks.

"I looked with astonishment, and he resumed:

"'And where did you find this valuable article?'

"'Boulevard Saint Michel, at the corner of RueMonsieur-le-Prince.'

"On the ground?' asked the commissaire; 'on thesidewalk?'

"I answered in the affirmative.

"'It is very extraordinary,' he then said with asuspicious look at me; 'the sidewalk is not the usualplace to leave a watch.'

"I remarked smilingly:

"'If I may call your attention—'

"Dryly the commissaire said:

"'That will do! You may omit all remarks. Iknow my business.'

"I stopped talking and smiling.

"He resumed: 'In the first place, who are you?'

"I gave my name.

"'Where do you live?'

"'I have already said that I live at the PlaceBlanche, 26, second floor.'

"'What are your means of living?'

"I explained that I had an income of twelve thousandfrancs.

"'At what time, as near as you can tell, did youfind the watch?'

"'Three o'clock A.M.'

"'Was not it later?' he remarked ironically.

"'I don't think it was,' I said candidly.

[Pg 1654]

"'Well, I congratulate you,' he said ironically. 'Itseems to me that you are leading a somewhat singularexistence.'

"As I was taking exception on my right to liveaccording to my fancy:

"'Admitted!' said the commissaire. 'But I have aright to know what the deuce you could be doing atthat hour on the Boulevard Saint Michel, corner ofRue Monsieur-le-Prince, you who say that you areliving at the Place Blanche?'

"'What do you mean by that, I say?'

"'Yes, you say so.'

"'If I say so, it is a fact.'

"'That is what we must have proved. Meanwhile,please do not divert from the conversation, andanswer courteously to all the questions that I feelduty bound to put to you. I am asking what wereyou doing at that unearthly hour in a neighborhoodthat was not your own?'

"I explained (as it was true) that I was comingfrom the house of a lady friend.

"'What does she do, your lady friend?'

"'She is a married woman.

"'Married. To whom?'

"'To a druggist.'

"'What is his name?'

"'That is none of your business,' I answered, impatiently.

"'Is it to me that you are talking like that?' hallooedthe commissaire.

"'Of course.'

[Pg 1655]

"The commissaire's face became purple.

"'But, my boy! you will have to alter your tune;that strain of yours does not suit me. And—I fancythat I recollect your features.'

"'Oh, bosh!'

"'Yes—I do have a recollection—'

"There was a moment of silence. Then:

"'Have you ever been committed for trial, Bréloc?'

"This exhausted my patience.

"'And you?' said I.

"The commissaire sprang to his feet.

"'You are a blackguard!' he cried.

"'And you are an idiot!' I retorted.

"At that moment I thought my last hour had come.The commissaire bounded toward me, flushed andfoaming with rage. Under his bushy eyebrows Icould see the glistening of his wild eyes.

"'What are you saying?' he stammered. 'Whatare you saying?'

"I attempted to utter a word, but he did not giveme a chance.

"'And I say this: that I am going to send you tojail; and it will not take a very long time! It is justthe hour for the patrol wagon! Who on earth sentme up this dummy? Ah! you want to put on airs!Ah! you want to jeer at me, and at the law that Irepresent! Very well! you came to the wrong place!'

"He brought down his fist violently on the paperslying on his table with each of his sentences, adding:

"'Do I know you? Do I know who you are? Yousay that your name is Bréloc; I don't know anything[Pg 1656]about it! You say that you live at the Place Blanche.Where are the proofs of it? You say that you havetwelve thousand francs income. Am I bound to believeyou? Show me your twelve thousand francs!Hein! you would have a hard job to show them tome.'

"I was stunned.

"'All this is not very clear,' he concluded violently.'I say, do you understand me, that it is not very clear,and I don't know if you did not steal it, that watch!'

"'Steal it!'

"'Yes, steal it! Anyhow, I am going to find out.'

"The gendarmes, hearing the noise, had come intothe room. He called out to them:

"'Search this man!'

"In a second they undressed me completely, evendown to my socks.

"'Ah! you want to be smart!' the commissaire repeatedmockingly. 'Ah! you want to play smart!Look under his arms,' he said to the gendarmes.'Search him well!'"

At the recital of these indignities Bréloc's voice becameoverexcited. But I was laughing, nodding myhead approvingly, because I could recognize in his recitalthe two implacable enemies of honest folk—theadministration and the law.

"Let me find another watch!" roared my unfortunatefriend, with a closed fist as if threatening thefuture.

[Pg 1657]

A YOUNG GIRL'S DIARY

BY MARCEL PRÉVOST

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (35)

Marcel Prévost, a student of the psychologyof women, born at Paris in 1862, is a graduateof the Polytechnic School, and was for severalyears connected with the manufacturing of tobacco.He retired from business in 1890 afterhaving published three novels, and then wrote"Les Demi Vierges," which he turned into asuccessful play, and other novels, besides "Lettresde Femme," etc., and "Les Lettres à Françoise,"1902, intended for the instruction ofyoung girls.

Prévost's great strength lies in his weakness.He is a facile analyst of sentiment, delicate andgraceful. He does not lack a certain amountof vigor either—in "Le Scorpion" this vigorapproaches brutality, in "Mademoiselle Jauffre"it is strength.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (36)

[Pg 1658]

[Pg 1659]

A YOUNG GIRL'S DIARY

BY MARCEL PRÉVOST

Translated by Mrs. Clay C. MacDonald.
Copyright, 1899, by The Current LiteraturePublishing Company.

MY SUITORS

November —, 18—.

Just as I was going up to my room, Mondaynight, mama kissed me, and said in the severe tonewhich she reserves for communications touchingmy marriage: "Juliette, two gentlemen will dine withus Thursday. Consider it settled. You know whatyou must do." I considered it settled, certainly; butmama was mistaken in one thing—I was in absoluteignorance as to what I must do. What is there fora young girl to do from Monday till Thursday, whenshe is to be inspected by two suitors for her hand?I can not change in face or form, and I really haven'tthe time to learn a new language, one of those tongueswhich possess, so mama says, such a powerful attractionfor marriageable men! Nor have I even the timeto order a new gown. I have decided, therefore, toremain just as I am, and to present to those gentlemenThursday evening the Juliette of Monday, withher pink and white complexion, her five feet four ofstature, and the two poor little living languages whichshe murders atrociously.

Who are these gentlemen? I have a faint suspicion.

[Pg 1660]

Mama will not tell me their names, for she fears mypreliminary criticisms. Usually I sit upon her candidatesso thoroughly beforehand that she dares notexhibit them. "They are charming men," she declares;"charming, that expresses it. Much too good for amadcap like you. One of them is no longer young; butthe other is not yet thirty." That mama of mine hassuch an adorable way of putting things! She regardsmy suitors collectively, offsetting the faults of theone with the good qualities of the other. Wouldshe like to have me marry all of them at once, Iwonder?

Papa gave me more information. I do anything Ichoose with papa by a walk to the Champs Elysées inthe morning, or a stroll on the boulevards about fiveo'clock. I walk along with my hands clasped aroundhis right arm, clinging to him, my large gray eyesraised to his white beard as if in adoration. Peoplenudge each other as we pass, and how papa straightensup, and how happy he is! In these moments, if I werenot a good girl, I could have my allowance doubled,or all the diamonds in the shop windows. It was onreturning from just such a stroll that I questioned mydear old papa about the two musketeers that are toopen fire next Thursday. Immediately he grew graveand answered:

"They are two charming men—charming, that expressesit. Much too good for a—"

"Madcap like me. Agreed. Why do you let mamaput things into your head, you, who have such soundjudgment? It is shameful!"

[Pg 1661]

Now, nothing irritates papa so much as the discoveryof mama's exaggerated influence over him.

"Put things into my head! Put things into myhead, indeed! I will not permit you to say that yourmother puts things into my head. I can judge menat a glance. The duke (papa was a prefect under theEmpire) used always to say: 'Givernay—he is myhand and eye.' Do you know that, little one?" Ishould think I know the saying of the duke. At theage of three I had already heard it told so often inthe family that I never said "papa" without immediatelyadding "hand," "eye."

"Why, papa dear, you know very well that I amof the duke's opinion, and that is the reason I wantyou to guide me a little with your experience. I amnot a judge of men myself, and suppose both thesegentlemen should please me next Thursday?"

Evidently this contingency had not been thought of.And, nevertheless, suppose I should be smitten withboth of them, with the one who is no longer young,and with him who is not yet thirty? Papa's eye, celebratedby Morny, grew large and round.

He reflected.

How amused I was!

"These two gentlemen," said he finally, "are certainlyboth capable of pleasing. However, I knowone of them better, and therefore am disposed to favorhim. He is a companion of the Imperial, Monsieur deNivert, forty-three, cultured and high-spirited."

"What does he do?"

Papa wrinkled his brow and racked his brain in an[Pg 1662]endeavor to think what Monsieur de Nivert could possiblydo; after which he concluded, pitiably enough:

"I believe he doesn't do anything!"

And then he immediately resorted to mama's modeof defense; he considered the two collectively.

"But, on the other hand," said he, "the other gentlemanis a young man with a brilliant future. He isJudge of the Exchequer, and not yet thirty. Justthink of it! Gaston Salandier will be director-generalof a great administration some day, or a minister, perhaps.And then he is very good looking."

Poor Monsieur de Nivert! It seems after all thathis most brilliant qualities are possessed by MonsieurSalandier! This freak of Dame Fortune begins tomake me sympathetic.

"But," said I, after a few moments' reflection, "itseems to me that mama was hesitating among fourpossible matches for me, and not between two."

Papa smiled.

"Yes; but after thoroughly considering the candidates,we have decided that two only are worthy ofthe prettiest girl in Paris. For," he added, kissingme, "you are the prettiest girl in Paris."

Poor papa, I should like a husband like him. Andjust think how desperate mama makes him!

Let us sum up the situation: Fate decrees that Ishall become the wife of a serious young man, or ofa middle-aged fashionable man of the world. Let methink a moment. No; I have never seen even the pictureof the brilliant Judge of the Exchequer, who may,perhaps, be minister. But I think I noticed Baron de[Pg 1663]Nivert at a club entertainment. It seems to me thathe has not much hair, but, by way of compensation,as mama would say, he has a small stomach—oh, quitesmall. On the whole, he is not distasteful to me, forthe baron, if I remember rightly, is very elegant andstylish in his dress.

Well, the die is cast! Idle nobleman or plebeianwith a future, it is one of you two, gentlemen, whowill wed—in January—Mademoiselle Juliette Givernay.

THE PRESENTATION

It is over. The presentation took place last night,and I must jot down the story of that memorable eveningfor the amusem*nt of my old age.

Well, last night, at five minutes to eight, when mymaid had assured me that all our guests had arrived,I made my appearance in the drawing-room. Enteringa room is my forte. I don't think I have oftenfailed in it. I walk straight ahead, gazing steadilybefore me over the eyes of those present; I do notsee, nor do I wish to see any of those who are lookingat me. I choose, on the contrary, as a point ofdirection, some old lady settled comfortably in an armchair,or some inoffensive old friend of papa's, or simplymama. Invariably all conversation ceases at once,and all eyes are centred on me. What wonderful tactI possess, and isn't it a pity to be compelled to exerciseit in such a limited sphere?

Besides my parents, my suitors, and myself, thediners yesterday were Count and Countess d'Aube,[Pg 1664]nobility of the Empire, whose combined ages wouldmake a century and a half—insufferable bores, but finepeople withal; Madame Salandier, the mother of theyoung Judge of the Exchequer, bourgeoise, with aprotruding forehead, round eyes, and a ridiculous toilet,who showed much embarrassment at finding herselfin our society.

At table Monsieur de Nivert sat on mama's rightand Monsieur Salandier on her left. I found myselfseated between Madame Salandier and Monsieur deNivert. Madame Salandier immediately began talkingto me in quite a patronizing tone that quickly irritatedme. She extolled the serious character of herson, whom she proudly called "my own." "My own"retires every night at ten. She also offered me afew cursory glimpses of the qualities she expected herfuture daughter-in-law to possess—her deportment,economy, and domestic habits—"with occasionally areception or an evening at the theatre, of course; thatis necessary in the position which 'my own' occupies."

In the mean time "my own," quite at his ease andstroking from time to time his pointed beard (he isreally very handsome), was holding forth on the reductionof the public debt.

Papa, mama, Monsieur d'Aube, Mademoiselle Espalierand even old Madame d'Aube, who is as deaf asa post, listened with open mouths, and Madame Salandierwhispered in my ear:

"Listen to him. Not a minister is there that knowsas much about it as he does—"

I looked at Monsieur de Nivert. He met my glance[Pg 1665]with one of discreet irony, and immediately we feltlike comrades, two exiles from the same country whohad fallen among barbarians.

Monsieur de Nivert is not handsome, but it is astonishingwhat an immense advantage he has gained overhis rival by simply not saying a word about the publicdebt. In pouring me a glass of wine he paid me aneat compliment upon my toilet, saying that there wassomething truly elegant and uncommon about it. Andthen he began to talk of dress in a low tone, while "myown" continued his harangue for the benefit of papaand mama, who do not know how to add up the householdaccounts, and of Monsieur d'Aube, who is an oldimbecile, and of Madame d'Aube, who is deaf. Thehandsome judge, however, is not stupid if he ispedantic. In a few moments he saw that he wasboring us.

"This conversation," said he, "must be quite tiresometo Mademoiselle."

"Oh, no," I replied artlessly; "I was not listening."

And I had the joy of seeing a look of dismay spreadover the countenances of my parents and the goodEspalier, while Madame Salandier glared at me likea bonze who has just seen a street arab of Paris makea face at his Buddha.

Monsieur de Nivert smiled.

A little piqued, I think, "my own" replied:

"Indeed, such a conversation is beyond the depthsof the young girls of our continent. In America theywillingly take part in such discussions. Is there not[Pg 1666]some State in the North where women have the rightto vote?"

"Do you hear, Juliette?" said mama.

Did I hear? I think I did! He wearied me, thiseconomist bent on matrimony, and I let him see it veryplainly. I took up the accusation of frivolity impliedin his sentence, but I took it up as a banner. ProudlyI declared my right—the right of a pretty woman to beignorant, frivolous, and whimsical. I argued the advantagesof frivolity over seriousness, and of spiritand dash over dignity.

Oh, papa's expression and that of the two relics ofthe Empire and the mother of "my own"!

"My own" seemed perfectly amazed at discoveringa young girl capable of giving him a retort that tookthe wind out of his sails.

Nivert alone encouraged me with smiles and whisperedbravos.

The dinner ended in confusion.

In the drawing-room, in order to serve the coffee, Ibecame a very proper young lady again; but the companyhad not regained its wonted composure. MadameSalandier could find nothing better to say thanto ask:

"Isn't Mademoiselle Juliette going to play somethingfor us?"

"Certainly," said mama.

"Ah," thought I, "you wish some music; well, then,you shall have it. Wait a moment."

I seated myself at the piano and played—and Iplayed without stopping. I played everything that I[Pg 1667]could remember, for striking upon the little black andwhite keys soothed my nerves a little. Ah, you wantsome music! Well, listen. Take some Massenet, alittle Mozart, some Serpette, some Wagner, and someBeethoven, some Lecocq, and some Berlioz, someTchaikovsky, and some Nimporteki, one after another,haphazard, pell-mell; one hour and three-quarters atthe piano without stopping. After which I turnedround and looked at my auditors. They resembled aplantation after a hail-storm—they were simply annihilated.They took immediate advantage of the lullin the storm and fled. I was still caressing the keyswith my right hand, and they trembled lest I shouldbegin again. In a few minutes the drawing-room wasempty.

Mama came toward me:

"Will you tell me now, Mademoiselle—"

But I stopped her short.

"Listen, mother. You know that I am usually veryamiable and seldom nervous, but this evening I amvery nervous. Don't worry me, please. We will talkto-morrow as much as you like."

And I ran lightly up to my room.

This morning, on coming down to breakfast, I expectedto find my parents with long faces, but oh, whata surprise! they smiled upon me, they kissed me, andwere as sweet as could be.

The key to this mystery? It is this: Papa rejoinedthe baron at the club last night about midnight, andMonsieur de Nivert said to him:

"My dear Givernay, your daughter is adorable![Pg 1668]You will, I hope, permit me to call upon the ladiesagain as soon as possible."

But what is even more surprising is, that an hourbefore breakfast a letter came from Madame Salandier,in which that former chestnut vender declaredthat "her son had been deeply impressed by the witand grace of Mademoiselle Juliette," etc., and finallyasked if my mother could receive her Monday to havea serious talk with her.

My friend Pepita was quite right when she said:

"Little Juliette, there are two classes of men thatyou must treat insolently in order to make themrespect you—servants and suitors."

[Pg 1669]

THE SIGN OF THE KEY AND THE CROSS

BY HENRI DE RÉGNIER

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (37)

Henri de Régnier, one of the most distinguishedliving poets of France, was born atHonfleur in 1864. He has published a numberof novels, such as "La Double Maîtresse," in1901, aimed at reconstructing past eras of society,and a volume of tales distinguished fortheir originality. His first masters were Lecontede Lisle and De Heredia, but in thebeauty of his harmony and tenderness he isoriginal. He is a symbolist, chief of thatyounger generation of French writers whohave set out to enlarge the resources of theirnational poetry. Edmund Gosse says that"of the number of experiment makers ... hecomes nearest to presenting a definitely evolvedtalent ... a genuine artist of pure and strenuousvision."

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (38)

[Pg 1670]

[Pg 1671]

THE SIGN OF THE KEY ANDTHE CROSS

BY HENRI DE RÉGNIER

Translated by Sophie Earl.
Copyright, 1900, by The Current LiteraturePublishing Company.

As I walked through the streets of the city I keptthinking of one of the stories which had beenrelated to me by Monsieur d'Amercœur.Without having named the place where the circ*mstancesoccurred he described it minutely, so that Iseemed to recognize everything. The old city, nobleand monastic, crumbling in its dismantled rampartsbeside the yellowish river, with, beyond, the mountainspiled against the horizon; the narrow streets,half shade, half sunshine, the old walled-in houses,the churches and numerous convents, each with itschime of bells—all was familiar.

I seemed to find it again exactly as he described it,this city, an old pile of stones, sombre or luminous,wrapped in warmth and solitude, and the dusty ossification,retaining for such of its monuments as wereyet standing the skeleton of past grandeur. In thecentre the houses were crowded in a compact mass,still vast, outside of which the buildings were scattered,while over all a sleep or torpor seemed to hover,broken suddenly at times by a tolling or a merryclang of bells.

[Pg 1672]

The streets, paved with flat stones or hardened withgravel, cut across each other oddly to open into squareswhere the markets were held. The flocks of thecountryside gathered there to go away dispersed,according to their sale. The auction and the churchservice were, turn about, the sole occupations of theinhabitants. The place remained rustic and devout.The quick trot of the sheep pattered over the pavements,which echoed with the sandals of the monks.Pastor and flock jostled each other. The odor of theshearing mingled with the smell of woolen cloth.The air was redolent of incense and tallow. Shornand tonsured. Shepherds and priests.

I arrived at the angle of two streets. A fountainwas flowing into a time-worn basin. I rememberedthe fountain; Monsieur d'Amercœur had praised thefreshness of its water. The street to the right oughtto lead to the Close of the Black Friars. I followedits tortuosity, which wound into the very heart of thecity. A few poor shops displayed their wares. Chapletshung beside horsewhips. The street suddenlygrew wider. The high frontage of an old mansionappeared. I had seen several others of the sort hereand there, but this one was noticeable by some peculiarities.It was built on a battered stone masonry.The windows, high above the soil, were grated. Informer times they must have utilized those foundationson which arose the present edifice of severe architecturaldesign. At the corner of the structure thestreet turned abruptly and descended by steps, graduallyencircling the back of the building, which proved[Pg 1673]to be an ancient castle, a stronghold of which theblocks of stone were laid into the living rock.

I recognized the Mansion d'Heurteleure. Thestreet ended; before me I saw an avenue of poplars.Old stone sarcophagi, now empty, stood in rows amidthe long grass where a pathway had been worn. Tothe right stretched a wall with a low door at the side.I started as I perceived it. It opened into the herbgarden of the monks, the portal of whose conventcould be seen at the end of the walk. I paused andapproached the little mural door. It was massive andiron-bound. The keyhole was shaped like a heart.

Continuing, I reached the convent porch and rang.The porter admitted me. Immense corridors led tovast halls. We ascended stairs, my guide gatheringup the skirts of his frock as we mounted. We met noone. From the chapel, which I did not enter, came adroning psalmody of psalms. I was shown throughseveral cloisters, one of them charming, square, fullof flowers, and habited by doves, which grouped onthe cornices like a natural, graceful bas-relief. Froma church spire visible in the distance the horologe wasringing the hour. A great yellow sunflower waslooking into the deep water of a well and reflectingthere its golden disk, like a monstrance.

Nothing had altered since Monsieur d'Amercœurvisited the city. The same aspect proved the durationof the same habits. The cracking of horsewhips stillmingled with the tinkling of rosaries; the convent bellsclanged their chimes together as of yore, when Monsieurd'Amercœur in frock and cowl, his bare feet[Pg 1674]sandaled, his staff in hand, came knocking at the door.He asked to see the prior, which office was at thattime held by Dom Ricard, whose tomb I was shownamong the anonymous sepultures surrounding it. Theprior had preserved powerful links with the worldfrom which he had retired. Keeping one hand openthere for alms and lending it, at need, in exchange fordelicate enterprises, which might be aided by his prudenceand wisdom. Monsieur d'Amercœur explainedto him his costume, the motives for his coming, andthe details of his mission.

After twenty years of high service in the army, agentleman of the country, Monsieur d'Heurteleure returnedto settle. He married shortly after MademoiselleCallestie, a poor girl of good family and greatbeauty. The wedded pair lived at the d'Heurteleuremansion. The nobles of the city frequented the house,the most assiduous in his visits being Monsieur d'Aiglieul.He had served under and was related to Monsieurd'Heurteleure, who was very fond of him. Lifeat the mansion was very simple, no pomp, very fewdomestics; the dignity of rank was upheld by the vastproportion of the apartments, the width of the stairways,and the general aspect of antiquity.

Whether they grew weary of the dull existencein this old town after the excitements of a militarylife, were seized suddenly by a spirit of adventure, orfrom whatever cause it might have come, Monsieurd'Heurteleure and Monsieur d'Aiglieul disappearedone day, no one knew whither. Time passed. Thesearches were fruitless. Some mystery was hinted at.[Pg 1675]Madame d'Heurteleure wept. All sorts of singularsuspicions were afloat, which finally reached the courtwhere these two gentlemen were still remembered.One day the double disappearance was mentioned inthe hearing of Monsieur d'Amercœur, who determinedto solve the enigma. He was empowered withfull authority to act and at once he set about it.

His first care was to assume a monastic frock, certainwith this attire to penetrate everywhere, throughhalf-opened doors as well as through the fissures ofconscience, and Dom Ricard helped him to the best ofhis power. For a while his researches were withoutresult; but aided by the incognito of his costume andhis apparent calling, his inquiries were patient anddiverse. He hovered about the d'Heurteleure house,scrutinized the people and the habits, studied the life.He listened to and weighed all the still vivacious rumors.In vain. He wished to see Madame d'Heurteleure.He was told that she was ill. Every day hepassed the house; following the street which risesaround the sub-basem*nt, he reached the front, pausingsometimes to slake his thirst at the fountain. Returning,as he descended the steps, he examined theenormous foundations of stone and solid rock, longingto apply his ear and listen to their mystery, for itseemed to him that the flanks of the old castle containedthe fantom of the secret, which he had come toevoke from silence before it passed into oblivion. Atlast, discouraged, he was on the point of giving up.He would have taken leave of Dom Ricard but for theold monk's urgent advice to remain. The venerable[Pg 1676]prior enjoyed the society of this sheep, so dissimilarto the members of the flock which his wooden crossconducted in the monotonous paths of the Order.

One day toward five o'clock in the afternoon, Monsieurd'Amercœur went out by the old portal andstrolled amid the tall grasses of the avenue. Themoment was melancholy and grandiose; the treesthrew their shadows across the funereal path, thelizards ran over the warm stones of the antique tombsand in and out of their fissures. With one handMonsieur d'Amercœur held up the long monk's frock,with the other he held the key to open the heart-shapedlock of the medicinal garden, where he lovedto wander. He wished to visit it once more beforehe went away, to hear once more the soles of his sandalsscraping over the gravel, while his frock brushedthe borders of boxwood. The symmetry of the plotspleased him; their squares contained delicate plantsand curious flowers; little pools nourished aquaticspecimens which plunged their roots into the water,flowered and mirrored their bloom. At the intersectionof the paths stood porcelain urns painted withemblems and pharmaceutical designs, with serpentstwisted about the handles, and these urns containedvarieties rare and precious. Above the walls wavedthe tops of the poplars; from the kitchen gardens offto one side, separated by high green trellises, camethe sound of a rake, the striking of a spade against awatering can, the little sound of shears clipping theyoung shoots; in here all was silence; a flower bent,flexible, under the weight of an insect, swallows darted[Pg 1677]about; dragon flies flitted across the greenish water;heavy plants and delicate vines twined and intertwined.

Monsieur d'Amercœur was going toward the doorof this odd little enclosure when, at the end of theavenue, he saw approaching a woman dressed inblack. She walked slowly with faltering steps. Bysome inner revelation he knew at once that this wasMadame d'Heurteleure. He slackened his own pace,so as to meet her at the moment when he stopped beforethe door. Arrived there, he put the key into thelock. At the sound the lady started and hesitated.He stooped as though trying to turn the key. Shewished to profit by this moment to pass; but foundherself face to face with him as he suddenly turned.She stood with one hand pressing down her palpitatingheart. He saw a face pale and lovely, thoughhaggard from grief and insomnia, with troubled eyes,half-parted lips. Then he entered quickly, closing thedoor and leaving in the iron-heart of the lock the key.

The next day he was meditating in the little cloisterwhen a messenger came to tell him that a veiled ladydesired to speak with him. She was admitted. Herecognized Madame d'Heurteleure, and invited her tobe seated on a stone bench. The doves cooed softlyon the capitals of the quiet cloister, their murmursmingled with the sighs of the penitent. She sank onher knees, and with bent head and hands folded in hiswide sleeves Monsieur d'Amercœur listened to herdolorous confession. It was a horrible and tragicstory. Why relate it to him? Because her secret[Pg 1678]seemed to have been laid bare. When she saw a monkholding a key to open that heart-shaped lock, she feltas though he meant to force open her conscience.Their meeting seemed like a decree of fate, his gesturea mysterious allusion to the deliverance of hersoul imprisoned in the horror of its silence.

Her marriage with Monsieur d'Heurteleure wasloveless. She esteemed, while she feared his noblecharacter, the hardness of which intimidated her confidenceand discouraged her tenderness. Years passed.One winter Monsieur d'Aiglieul appeared and calledfrequently. He was handsome and still young. Sheyielded to his love. Then followed days of joy andterror; a dread of discovery and an agony of remorse.Monsieur d'Heurteleure seemed unaware of their perfidy,though he grew suddenly old and another deepline was added to those already furrowing his brow.He was as usual often absent. One evening Madamed'Heurteleure retired to her room about midnight.She felt depressed. Monsieur d'Aiglieul had not appearedand he seldom missed a day. As she was combingher hair before a mirror she saw the door open,and her husband entered. He was booted, but hisboots bore no trace of outdoor mire; his coat lookeddusty, a long spider web hung from his sleeve and inhis hand he held a key. Without speaking he wentdirectly to the wall of the chamber where a nail fastenedan ivory crucifix, which he tore off and brokeupon the floor, while in its place he suspended theheavy rusty key. Madame d'Heurteleure gazed fora moment without comprehending, then all at once[Pg 1679]her hands clasped her heart, she gave a cry and fellunconscious.

When she came to herself the whole affair was clearto her. Her husband had allured Monsieur d'Aiglieulinto some trap. The old mansion in its invisible depthscontained dungeons, chambers of eternal oblivion. Acry, his, vibrated still in her ears. It seemed to comefrom below, deafened by the piled-up stone, piercingthe superposed arches, reaching her from those lipsforever separated by the thickness of the walls. Shetried to get out, the door was fastened, the windowswere padlocked, the domestics occupied another partof the house and were beyond her call. The next dayMonsieur d'Heurteleure came to bring her food.Each day he came. The spider's web still hung fromhis dusty sleeve, his boots creaked on the tesselatedfloor, the great line on his forehead deepened in apallor of sleepless misery. He went away silently andto her tears and supplications he replied only by abrief gesture, showing the key hung against the wall.

During those tragic days the wretched woman livedwith her eyes fixed on the horrible ex-voto, whichgrew larger to her vision, became enormous. Thepatches of rust looked like red blood. The house wasstill as death. Toward evening a step was heard.Monsieur d'Heurteleure again entered bearing a lampand a basket. His head had grown white, he did notnow so much as glance at the unhappy being whogroveled at his feet, but he never failed to stare greedilyat the key. Then at last Madame d'Heurteleureunderstood the desire which gnawed, which was devouring[Pg 1680]him—to see his rival in death, to gloat overhis vengeance, to feel of the corruption that had oncebeen flesh and blood, to take down that key he hadhung on the wall in place of the Sign of Pardon, theivory emblem of which he had shattered to substitutean iron symbol of eternal rancor. But alas! vengeancenever is satisfied, always she craves for more; frenzied,insatiable, she feeds on her own vehemence to thevery dregs of memory, until the end of life.

Monsieur d'Heurteleure felt that she guessed hismorbid longing and that added to his torture. Theadamant of his pride was streaked with veins ofblood. One night when Madame d'Heurteleure slumbered,stretched on her bed, she heard her door opensoftly and saw her husband on the threshold. Hecarried a lamp with the flame turned low, and walkedas lightly as a shadow without a sound, as though thesombre somnambulism of his fixed idea had made ofhim an imponderable fantom. He crossed the room,reached up, took down the key and went out again.There was a dead silence. A fly awakened by thelight buzzed for an instant and then ceased. Thedoor remained on the latch. Madame d'Heurteleurebounded up. In her bare feet she slipped into thehall. Her husband was going downstairs; she followedhim. At the ground floor he continued to descend;the stairway plunged into gloom, but she couldhear along the subterranean corridors the steps whichpreceded her. They were now in the ancient substructionsof the castle. The walls sweated, the ceilingswere vaulted. A last stairway twisted its spiral into[Pg 1681]the rock. At its base the light of the vanishing lampstill glimmered on the slimy pavement. Bending forward,Madame d'Heurteleure listened. A gratingsound reached her and the light disappeared. At thefoot of the stairs she found a circular chamber. Anopening in the wall revealed a shallow bay; she stillcrept on, until, at the end of the passage, by feelingher way, she recognized a door very slightly ajar.She pushed it open. In a sort of square hole, vaultedabove and tiled below, Monsieur d'Heurteleure wasseated beside his little lamp. He was motionless, staringwith wide-open eyes. He looked at his wife withoutseeing her. A nauseating odor came from the cell,and beyond the shadow spread over the tiles lay afleshless hand already greenish in hue.

Madame d'Heurteleure did not scream. Shouldshe waken the wretched somnambulist, whose frenziedsleep had drawn him to this tragic dungeon? Wasshe capable of inflicting this degrading shock upon hispride? No. The vengeance of the outrage was just.She felt pity for those wild eyes, which stared at herwithout seeing her, for the tortured visage, for thehair blanched by such poignant anguish, and it seemedto her best to protect the secret of this nocturnal adventurethat he might never discover his self-betrayal.He must, she deemed, be allowed to satisfy his terriblecraving in the eternal silence of the tomb, withoutever knowing whose unseen hand walled him in faceto face with his sacrilege.

Monsieur d'Heurteleure still gazed blankly at her.Very calmly she knelt and clasped the greenish palm[Pg 1682]which stretched its fleshless fingers over the tiles, andthen from the outside she closed the door. Walkingaway on tiptoe, she slid the bolt of the vault whichclosed the passage. She ascended the spiral stairs, thesubterranean steps, the stairways of the upper house,and on the rusty nail of her chamber wall she suspendedthe tragic key, which balanced itself an instant,then hung motionless to mark an eternal hour.

The doves passed to and fro as they flew below thearches of the little cloister. The hour rang out simultaneouslyfrom all the belfries in the city. The miserablewoman sobbed and offered Monsieur d'Amercœurthe great key, letting it fall at his feet. He picked itup; it was heavy and the patches of rust were red likeblood. He walked away. Madame d'Heurteleure,still kneeling, supplicated wildly with her hands joinedconvulsively. He descended toward the little garden,which embalmed the centre of the cloister with itsfragrant flowers which grew in beds equally dividedby boxwood. Great roses engarlanded the well withits stone circle; their thorns clung to the monkishfrock as he bent over to drink; the water spurted out.A tall, golden sunflower mirrored its honey-ladenmonstrance. A dove cooed faintly, and Monsieurd'Amercœur, returning to his still prostrate penitent,murmured in her ear the words of an absolutionwhich, if it lost nothing in heaven, gave at least onearth peace to a tortured soul.

[Pg 1683]

THE TELEGRAPH OPERATOR

BY ALPHONSE ALLAIS

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (39)

Alphonse Allais, who has left an originalsuccessor in Georges Courteline, was the greatjoker of Paris who died in 1905, at fifty yearsof age. He clothes his ideas in jaunty, rakish,crisp, up-to-date style, in the language of thereporter and of the boulevards. Like most ofthe modern French literary aspirants, Allaismade his début in the Paris journals. Hewrote humorous, fantastic monologues full oflife, and what the French call "verve," which isa kind of sprightly enthusiasm tempered by anoriginal personality. He has written, besidesthe three-act vaudeville called "L'Innocent," incollaboration with Alfred Capus, several otherplays and vaudevilles which are immenselypopular with the Parisians.

Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (40)

[Pg 1684]

[Pg 1685]

THE TELEGRAPH OPERATOR

BY ALPHONSE ALLAIS

Translated by Emil Friend.
Copyright, 1892, by The Current Literature PublishingCompany.

I stepped upon the platform at Baisenmoyen-Certstation, where my friend Lenfileur awaitedme with his carriage.

While on the train I suddenly recollected somethingthat required immediate attention at Paris. Upon myarrival at Baisenmoyen-Cert, I went to the telegraphoffice to send back a message.

This station differed from others of its class becauseof the total lack of writing materials.

After a prolonged exploration, I finally succeededin capturing a rusty pen, dipping it in some colorless,slimy fluid. With heroic effort I succeeded in daubingdown the few words of my telegram. A decidedlyunprepossessing woman grudgingly took the despatch,counted it, and named the rate, which I immediatelypaid.

With the relieved conscience of having fulfilled aduty, I was about to walk out when my attention wasattracted by a young lady at one of the tables manipulatinga Morse key. With slight hauteur she turnedher back toward me.

Was she young? Probably. She certainly was red-haired.Was she pretty? Why not? Her simpleblack dress advantageously displayed a round, agreeable[Pg 1686]form; her luxuriant hair was arranged so as toreveal a few ringlets and a splendid white neck. Andsuddenly a mad, inexplicable desire to plant a kissupon those golden ringlets seized me. In the expectationthat the young lady would turn round,I stopped and asked the elderly woman a few questionsanent telegraph affairs. Her replies were notat all friendly.

The other woman, however, did not stir.

Whoever supposes that I did not go to the telegraphoffice the next morning does not know me.

The pretty, red-haired one was alone this time.

Now she was compelled to show her face, and,Sapristi! I could not complain.

I purchased some telegraph stamps, wrote severalmessages, asked a number of nonsensical questions,and played the part of a chump with amazingfidelity.

She responded calmly, prudently, in the manner ofa clever, self-possessed, and polite little woman.

And I came daily, sometimes twice a day, for Iknew when she would be alone.

To give my calls a reasonable appearance I wroteinnumerable letters to friends and telegraphed to anarmy of bare acquaintances a lot of impossible stuff.So that it was rumored in Paris that I had suddenlybecome deranged.

Every day I say to myself: "To-day, my boy, youmust make a declaration." But her cold manner suppressedupon my lips the words: "Mademoiselle, I loveyou."

[Pg 1687]

I invariably confined myself to stammering:

"Be kind enough to give me a three-sou stamp."

The situation gradually became unbearable.

As the day for my return approached, I resolved toburn my ships behind me and to venture all to wineverything.

I walked into the office and wrote the followingmessage:

"Coquelin, Cadet,[15] 17 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris:I am madly in love with the little red-haired telegraphoperator at Baisenmoyen-Cert."

I tremblingly handed her the telegram.

I expected at least, that her beautiful white complexionwould effulge.

But no!

Not a muscle relaxed! In the calmest manner in theworld she said: "Fifty-nine centimes, please."

Thoroughly nonplused by this queenly serenity, Ifumbled about in my pockets for the coin.

But I could not find a sou. From my pocket-book Itook a thousand-franc note and gave it her.

She took the bank-note and scrutinized it carefully.

[Pg 1688]

The examination terminated favorably, for herface was suddenly wreathed in smiles, and she burstinto a charming ripple of infectious laughter, displayingher marvelously handsome teeth.

And then the pretty young mademoiselle asked inParisian cadence, the cadence of the Ninth Arrondissem*nt[16]:"Do you want the change?"

FOOTNOTES:

[15] Coquelin Cadet (the Younger) is Ernest Coquelin, youngerbrother of Constant Coquelin, who is known as Coquelin Ainé(the Elder). Both are famous actors belonging to the ComédieFrançaise and have visited America. The younger enjoys thegreater popularity because of his jokes and the reputation hehas made with his clever monologues, for the most part writtenas well as interpreted by himself.

[16] Paris is divided into twenty Arrondissem*nts, or boroughs,each having its own mayor and borough hall. The 9th Arrondissem*ntincludes part of the Grand Boulevards, and the OperaHouse.

[Pg 1689]

INDEX BY TITLES

TITLE AND AUTHOR PAGE

Accursed House, The, Émile Gaboriau, 1415

Ancestor, The, Paul Bourget, 1605

At the Palais de Justice (At the Pa'lay de Justeese'), Alphonse Daudet, 1319

Bal Masqué, A (A Bal Maskay'), Alexandre Dumas 1105

Beauty-Spot, The, Alfred de Musset, 1185

Bit of String, The, Guy de Maupassant, 1571

Björn Sivertsen's Wedding Trip, Holger Drachmann, 547

Boless (Bōless'), Maxim Gorki, 273

"Bonjour, Monsieur" (Bonzshoor' Mseeur'), Jean Richepin, 1559

Boum-Boum, Jules Claretie, 1327

Bric-a-Brac and Destinies, Gabriele Reuter, 929

Broken Cup, The, Heinrich Zschokke, 663

Castle Neideck, Wilhelm Heinrich von Riehl, 691

Cavalleria Rusticana (Cavalleer'ia Rusticah'na), Giovanni Verga, 347

Circé (Seer'say), Octave Feuillet, 1257

Claude Gueux (Clawd Güirr'), Victor Hugo, 1083

Cloak, The, Nikolai Gogol, 21

Counting-House, The, Ivan Turgenev, 81

Curse of Fame, The, Ignatiy Potapenko, 183

Dead are Silent, The, Arthur Schnitzler, 955

Dean's Watch, The, Erckmann-Chatrian, 1289

Deliverance, Max Nordau, 903

Duel, The, Nikolai Teleshov, 263

Easter Night, Vladimir Korolénko, 153

End of Candia, The, Gabriele D'Annunzio, 411

Faust, Eugène Chirikov, 231

Fête at Coqueville, The (The Fate at Cǒh'kvil), Émile Zola, 1427

Fountain of Youth, The, Rudolf Baumbach, 849

Fur Coat, The, Ludwig Fulda, 939

Gentleman Finds a Watch, A, Georges Courteline, 1651

Good Blood, Ernst von Wildenbruch, 863

Grand Marriage, The, Ludovic Halévy, 1379
[Pg 1690]
Hanging at La Piroche, The (The Hanging at La Pee-rawsh'), Alexandre Dumas (Fils), 1269

How the Redoubt Was Taken, Prosper Mérimée, 1121

Irene Holm (Eeray'ney Hōlm), Hermann Bang, 619

Jalo the Trotter (Ya'lo the Trotter), Jacob Ahrenberg, 567

Karen (Kah'ren), Alexander Kielland, 595

La Bretonne (La Bretton'), André Theuriet, 1339

Little Sardinian Drummer, The, Edmondo de Amicis, 375

Long Exile, The, Leo Tolstoi, 137

Lost Child, The, François Coppée, 1471

Lost Letter, The, Enrico Castelnuovo, 329

Love and Bread, August Strindberg, 605

Love of a Scene-Painter, The, "Skitalitz", 285

Lulu's Triumph, Matilda Serao, 387

Margret's Pilgrimage, Clara Viebig, 981

Marquise, The (The Markeese'), George Sand, 1149

Mummy's Foot, The, Théophile Gautier, 1237

Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, Alfred de Vigny, 1067

Necklace, The, Guy de Maupassant, 1581

New-Year's Eve Confession, A, Hermann Sudermann, 917

Outlaws, The, Selma Lagerlöf, 637

Plague at Bergamo, The, Jens Peter Jacobsen, 583

Price of a Life, The, Eugène Scribe, 1049

Putois (Pü'twa), Anatole France, 1495

Queen of Spades, The, Alexander Poushkin, 3

Railroad and Churchyard, Björnstjerne Björnson, 511

Rendezvous, The (The Rǒn'dayvoo), Ivan Turgenev, 67

Sac-au-dos (Sack-ō-dō), Joris Karl Huysmans, 1515

Sign of the Key and the Cross, The, Henri de Régnier, 1671

Signal, The, Vsevolod Garshin, 165

Signora Speranza (Seenyo'ra Speran'za), Luigi Pirandello 427

Silver Crucifix, The, Antonio Fogazzaro, 359

Slanderer, The, Anton Chekhov, 223

Stonebreakers, The, Ferdinand von Saar, 793

Telegraph Operator, The, Alphonse Allais, 1685

Thief, The, Feodor Dostoievski, 109

Thou Shalt Not Kill, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, 839

Two Men and a Woman, Grazia Deledda, 481
[Pg 1691]
Unknown Masterpiece, The, Honoré de Balzac, 1007

Valia (Vah'lia), Leonid Andreiev, 309

Vendean Marriage, The (The Vendee'an Marriage), Jules Janin, 1131

Wall Opposite, The, Pierre Loti, 1595

When He Was a Little Boy, Henri Lavedan, 1639

Which Was the Madman? Edmond About, 1349

Work of Art, A, Anton Chekhov, 217

Young Girl of Treppi, The, Paul Heyse, 739

Young Girl's Diary, A, Marcel Prévost, 1659

INDEX BY AUTHORS

AUTHOR AND TITLE PAGE

About, Edmond François Valentin (Edmond' Fraw'nswa Valontan' Aboo'),
Which Was the Madman, 1349

Ahrenberg, Johann Jacob (Yo'hon Ya'kǒp Ahr'enbairg), Jalo the Trotter, 567

Allais, Alphonse (Al'fawns Allay'), The Telegraph Operator, 1685

Amicis, Edmondo de (Edmǒn'dǒ de Amee'chis), The Little Sardinian Drummer, 375

Andreiev, Leonid (Lehǒn'id Ondray'yef), Valia, 309

D'Annunzio, Gabriele (Gaabriel'le Dannoon'dzeeo), The End of Candia, 411

Balzac, Honoré de (Honoray' de Bal'zac, as in "shall"), The Unknown Masterpiece, 1007

Bang, Hermann Joachim (Hair'mon Yo'akim Bǒng), Irene Holm, 619

Baumbach, Rudolf (Roo'dolf Bah'umbogh), The Fountain of Youth, 849

Björnson, Björnstjerne (Byern'styern Byern'sun), Railroad and Churchyard, 511

Bourget, Charles Joseph Paul (Sharl Zshosef' Paul Boorsjay'), The Ancestor, 1605

Castelnuovo, Enrico (Enree'ko Kastelnooaw'vo), The Lost Letter, 329

Chatrian, Alexandre (Alexan'dr Sha'treean), The Dean's Watch, 1289

Chekhov, Anton Pavlovitch (An'tǒn Pavlo'vitch Chek'hof), A Work of Art, 217
[Pg 1692]The Slanderer, 223

Chirikov, Eugène (Irzchayn' Cheeri'khof), Faust, 231

Claretie, Arsène Arnaud, called Jules (Arsayn' Arno' Claraytee', Zhool), Boum-Boum, 1327

Coppée, François Edouard Joachim (Fraw'nswa Edwar' Yoahkeem' Copay'),
The Lost Child, 1471

Courteline, Georges (Zhawzh Coor'teleen), A Gentleman Finds a Watch, 1651

Daudet, Alphonse (Alfawnz' Dō'day), At the Palais de Justice, 1319

Deledda, Grazia (Grar'tsia Deled'da), Two Men and a Woman, 481

Dostoievsky, Feodor Mikailovitch (Fe'o-dor Mikaeel'ovitch Dǒhstoyef'ski), The Thief, 109

Drachmann, Holger (Hǒhl'ger Drogh'mon), Björn Sivertsen's Wedding Trip, 547

Dudevant, Amandine Lucie Aurore Dupin, Baroness Dudevant
(Amandeen Loosee' Orore' Düpan' Dü'devon).
See George Sand. The Marquise, 1149

Dumas, Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie (Alexan'dr Da'vee d'la Pay-tree' Dumah'),
A Bal Masqué, 1105

Dumas, Alexandre, Fils (Alexan'dr Dumah' Feece), The Hanging at La Piroche, 1269

Erckmann, Émile (Aymeel' Airck'mon), The Dean's Watch, 1289

Feuillet, Octave (Octarv' Fuhyeay'), Circé, 1257

Fogazzaro, Antonio (Antō'nio Fōgatzar'ro), The Silver Crucifix, 359

France, Anatole (Anatole' Frahnce).
See Thibault. Putois, 1495

Fulda, Ludwig (Lood'vigh Fuhl'da), The Fur Coat, 939

Gaboriau, Émile (Aymeel' Gaboreo'), The Accursed House, 1415

Garshin, Vsevolod Mikailovitch (Vsevo'lǒdh Mikaeel'ovitch Garsheen'), The Signal, 165

Gautier, Théophile (Teyofeel' Gō'tyay), The Mummy's Foot, 1237

Gogol, Nikolai Vasilievitch (Nikola'i Vasilye'vitch Gō'gōl), The Cloak, 21

Gorki, Maxim (Ma'xim Gor'ki). See Pyeshkov. Boless, 273

Halévy, Ludovic (Loo'dovic Halayvee'), The Grand Marriage, 1379

Heyse, Paul Johann Ludwig (Paul Yo'hǒn Lood'vigh High'zeh), The Young Girl of Treppi, 739
[Pg 1693]
Hugo, Victor Marie (Victor Maree' U'go), Claude Gueux 1083

Huysmans, Joris Karl (Yorees' Karl Wees'mon), Sac-au-dos, 1515

Jacobsen, Jens Peter (Yenz Pe'ter Ya'kobsen), The Plague at Bergamo, 583

Janin, Jules Gabriel (Zshool Gabriel' Zshan-an), The Vendean Marriage, 1131

Kielland, Alexander Lange (Alexon'der Lǒng'eh Kee'lont), Karen, 595

Korolénko, Vladimir Galaktionovitch (Vlǒ'demer Galaktyǒhn'vitch Korolen'ko),
Easter Night, 153

Lagerlöf, Selma (Sel'ma Log'erlerf), The Outlaws, 637

Lavedan, Henri Léon Émile (Awnree' Layon' Aymeel' Lav'dan), When He Was a Little Boy, 1639

Loti, Pierre (Pyair' Lo'tee). See Viaud.
The Wall Opposite, 1595

Maupassant, Henri René Albert Guy de (Awnree' Renay' Albair' Gee de Mō-pas-son'),
The Bit of String, 1571
The Necklace, 1581

Mérimée, Prosper (Prosper' Mehreemay'), How the Redoubt Was Taken, 1121

Moinaux, Georges (Zhawzh Mwa'no). See Courteline.
A Gentleman Finds a Watch, 1625

Musset, Alfred Louis Charles de (Alfred' Looee' Scharl de Müsay'), The Beauty-Spot, 1185

Nordau, Max Simon (Mox See'mon Nor'dough), Deliverance, 903

Petrov, A., "Skitalitz" (A. Petrof'), The Love of a Scene-Painter, 285

Pirandello, Luigi (Looee'ji Pirandel'lō), Signora Speranza, 427

Potapenko, Ignatiy Nikolaievitch (Inya'tyeh Nikolai'evitch Pohta'penkǒ),
The Curse of Fame, 183

Poushkin, Alexander Sergeievitch (Alexan'der Sergey'evitch Poosh'kin),
The Queen of Spades, 3

Prévost, Marcel (Mar'cel Prayvo'), A Young Girl's Diary, 1659

Pyeshkov, Alexei Maximovitch (Alek'sey Maksim'ovitch Pyeshkof'). See Gorki. Boless, 273

Régnier, Henri de (Awnree' de Rayn'yey), The Sign of the Key and the Cross, 1671
[Pg 1694]
Reuter, Gabriele (Garbriel'leh Roy'ter), Bric-a-Brac and Destinies, 929

Richepin, Jean (Zshon Reesh'pan), "Bonjour, Monsieur", 1559

Riehl, Wilhelm Heinrich von (Vil'helm Hine'righ Ree'ayl), Castle Neideck, 691

Saab, Ferdinand von (Fair'dnont fon Sar), The Stonebreakers, 793

Sacher-Masoch, Leopold von (Lay'opolt fon Sar'ker-Mass'ohgh), Thou Shalt Not Kill, 839

Sand, George. See Dudevant. The Marquise, 1149

Schnitzler, Arthur (Ar'toor Schnitz'ler), The Dead Are Silent, 955

Scribe, Augustin Eugène (Ogūstan' Irzsh'ayn Screeb), The Price of a Life, 1049

Serao, Matilda (Matil'da Sera'o), Lulu's Triumph, 387

"Skitalitz" (Skitar'lits). See Petrov. The Love of a Scene-Painter, 285

Strindberg, Jean August (Zhjan Ow'goost Strind'bairg), Love and Bread, 605

Sudermann, Hermann (Hair'mon Soo'dermon), A New-Year's Eve Confession, 917

Teleshov, Nikolai (Nikola'i Tele'shǒf), The Duel, 263

Theuriet, Claude Adhémar André (Clawd Adhemar Ondray' Ture'yey), La Bretonne, 1339

Thibault, Anatole François (Anatole' Frah'nswa Tee'-bō). See Anatole France. Putois, 1495

Tolstoi, Leo Nikolaievitch (Lay'o Nikolai'evitch Tol'stwi), The Long Exile, 137

Turgenev, Ivan (Ee'von Tourgey'nyef), The Rendezvous, 67
The Counting-House, 81

Verga, Giovanni (Jyo-vaa'ni Vair'ga), Cavalleria Rusticana, 347

Viaud, Louis Marie Julien (Looee' Maree' Zshoolyan' Vyo').
See Loti, Pierre. The Wall Opposite, 1595

Viebig, Clara (Clara Vee'bigh), Margret's Pilgrimage, 981

Vigny, Alfred Victor, Comte de (Alfred' Victor', Cawnt de Veenyee'),
Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, 1067

Wildenbruch, Ernst von (Airnst fǒn Vil'denbroogh), Good Blood, 863

Zola, Émile (Aymeel' Zō'la), The Fête at Coqueville, 1427

Zschokke, Johann Heinrich Daniel (Yo'hon Hine'righ Dan'yel Tchohk'ke),
The Broken Cup, 663

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Short story classics (Foreign), Vol. 5, French II (2024)

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