Honore de Balzac
Part 6 out of 7
refusal to admit Mlle. Remonencq had sufficiently opened Fraisier's
eyes. Still, it seemed evident that Pons and Schmucke, being pious
souls, would take any one recommended by the Abbe, with blind
confidence. Mme. Cantinet should bring Mme. Sauvage with her, and to
put in Fraisier's servant was almost tantamount to installing Fraisier
The Abbe Duplanty, coming downstairs, found the gateway blocked by the
Cibots' friends, all of them bent upon showing their interest in one
of the oldest and most respectable porters in the Marais.
Dr. Poulain raised his hat, and took the Abbe aside.
"I am just about to go to poor M. Pons," he said. "There is still a
chance of recovery; but it is a question of inducing him to undergo an
operation. The calculi are perceptible to the touch, they are setting
up an inflammatory condition which will end fatally, but perhaps it is
not too late to remove them. You should really use your influence to
persuade the patient to submit to surgical treatment; I will answer
for his life, provided that no untoward circumstance occurs during the
"I will return as soon as I have taken the sacred ciborium back to the
church," said the Abbe Duplanty, "for M. Schmucke's condition claims
the support of religion."
"I have just heard that he is alone," said Dr. Poulain. "The German,
good soul, had a little altercation this morning with Mme. Cibot, who
has acted as housekeeper to them both for the past ten years. They
have quarreled (for the moment only, no doubt), but under the
circumstances they must have some one in to help upstairs. It would be
a charity to look after him.--I say, Cantinet," continued the doctor,
beckoning to the beadle, "just go and ask your wife if she will nurse
M. Pons, and look after M. Schmucke, and take Mme. Cibot's place for a
day or two. . . . Even without the quarrel, Mme. Cibot would still
require a substitute. Mme. Cantinet is honest," added the doctor,
turning to M. Duplanty.
"You could not make a better choice," said the good priest; "she is
intrusted with the letting of chairs in the church."
A few minutes later, Dr. Poulain stood by Pons' pillow watching the
progress made by death, and Schmucke's vain efforts to persuade his
friend to consent to the operation. To all the poor German's
despairing entreaties Pons only replied by a shake of the head and
occasional impatient movements; till, after awhile, he summoned up all
his fast-failing strength to say, with a heartrending look:
"Do let me die in peace!"
Schmucke almost died of sorrow, but he took Pons' hand and softly
kissed it, and held it between his own, as if trying a second time to
give his own vitality to his friend.
Just at this moment the bell rang, and Dr. Poulain, going to the door,
admitted the Abbe Duplanty.
"Our poor patient is struggling in the grasp of death," he said. "All
will be over in a few hours. You will send a priest, no doubt, to
watch to-night. But it is time that Mme. Cantinet came, as well as a
woman to do the work, for M. Schmucke is quite unfit to think of
anything: I am afraid for his reason; and there are valuables here
which ought to be in the custody of honest persons."
The Abbe Duplanty, a kindly, upright priest, guileless and
unsuspicious, was struck with the truth of Dr. Poulain's remarks. He
had, moreover, a certain belief in the doctor of the quarter. So on
the threshold of the death-chamber he stopped and beckoned to
Schmucke, but Schmucke could not bring himself to loosen the grasp of
the hand that grew tighter and tighter. Pons seemed to think that he
was slipping over the edge of a precipice and must catch at something
to save himself. But, as many know, the dying are haunted by an
hallucination that leads them to snatch at things about them, like men
eager to save their most precious possessions from a fire. Presently
Pons released Schmucke to clutch at the bed-clothes, dragging them and
huddling them about himself with a hasty, covetous movement
significant and painful to see.
"What will you do, left alone with your dead friend?" asked M. l'Abbe
Duplanty when Schmucke came to the door. "You have not Mme. Cibot
"Ein monster dat haf killed Bons!"
"But you must have somebody with you," began Dr. Poulain. "Some one
must sit up with the body to-night."
"I shall sit up; I shall say die prayers to Gott," the innocent German
"But you must eat--and who is to cook for you now?" asked the doctor.
"Grief haf taken afay mein abbetite," Schmucke said, simply.
"And some one must give notice to the registrar," said Poulain, "and
lay out the body, and order the funeral; and the person who sits up
with the body and the priest will want meals. Can you do all this by
yourself? A man cannot die like a dog in the capital of the civilized
Schmucke opened wide eyes of dismay. A brief fit of madness seized
"But Bons shall not tie! . . ." he cried aloud. "I shall safe him!"
"You cannot go without sleep much longer, and who will take your
place? Some one must look after M. Pons, and give him drink, and nurse
"Ah! dat is drue."
"Very well," said the Abbe, "I am thinking of sending your Mme.
Cantinet, a good and honest creature--"
The practical details of the care of the dead bewildered Schmucke,
till he was fain to die with his friend.
"He is a child," said the doctor, turning to the Abbe Duplanty.
"Ein child," Schmucke repeated mechanically.
"There, then," said the curate; "I will speak to Mme. Cantinet, and
send her to you."
"Do not trouble yourself," said the doctor; "I am going home, and she
lives in the next house."
The dying seem to struggle with Death as with an invisible assassin;
in the agony at the last, as the final thrust is made, the act of
dying seems to be a conflict, a hand-to-hand fight for life. Pons had
reached the supreme moment. At the sound of his groans and cries, the
three standing in the doorway hurried to the bedside. Then came the
last blow, smiting asunder the bonds between soul and body, striking
down to life's sources; and suddenly Pons regained for a few brief
moments the perfect calm that follows the struggle. He came to
himself, and with the serenity of death in his face he looked round
almost smilingly at them.
"Ah, doctor, I have had a hard time of it; but you were right, I am
doing better. Thank you, my good Abbe; I was wondering what had become
"Schmucke has had nothing to eat since yesterday evening, and now it
is four o'clock! You have no one with you now and it would be wise to
send for Mme. Cibot."
"She is capable of anything!" said Pons, without attempting to conceal
all his abhorrence at the sound of her name. "It is true, Schmucke
ought to have some trustworthy person."
"M. Duplanty and I have been thinking about you both--"
"Ah! thank you, I had not thought of that."
"--And M. Duplanty suggests that you should have Mme. Cantinet--"
"Oh! Mme. Cantinet who lets the chairs!" exclaimed Pons. "Yes, she is
an excellent creature."
"She has no liking for Mme. Cibot," continued the doctor, "and she
would take good care of M. Schmucke--"
"Send her to me, M. Duplanty . . . send her and her husband too. I
shall be easy. Nothing will be stolen here."
Schmucke had taken Pons' hand again, and held it joyously in his own.
Pons was almost well again, he thought.
"Let us go, Monsieur l'Abbe," said the doctor. "I will send Mme.
Cantinet round at once. I see how it is. She perhaps may not find M.
While the Abbe Duplanty was persuading Pons to engage Mme. Cantinet as
his nurse, Fraisier had sent for her. He had plied the beadle's wife
with sophistical reasoning and subtlety. It was difficult to resist
his corrupting influence. And as for Mme. Cantinet--a lean, sallow
woman, with large teeth and thin lips--her intelligence, as so often
happens with women of the people, had been blunted by a hard life,
till she had come to look upon the slenderest daily wage as
prosperity. She soon consented to take Mme. Sauvage with her as
Mme. Sauvage had had her instructions already. She had undertaken to
weave a web of iron wire about the two musicians, and to watch them as
a spider watches a fly caught in the toils; and her reward was to be a
tobacconist's license. Fraisier had found a convenient opportunity of
getting rid of his so-called foster-mother, while he posted her as a
detective and policeman to supervise Mme. Cantinet. As there was a
servant's bedroom and a little kitchen included in the apartment, La
Sauvage could sleep on a truckle-bed and cook for the German. Dr.
Poulain came with the two women just as Pons drew his last breath.
Schmucke was sitting beside his friend, all unconscious of the crisis,
holding the hand that slowly grew colder in his grasp. He signed to
Mme. Cantinet to be silent; but Mme. Sauvage's soldierly figure
surprised him so much that he started in spite of himself, a kind of
homage to which the virago was quite accustomed.
"M. Duplanty answers for this lady," whispered Mme. Cantinet by way of
introduction. "She once was cook to a bishop; she is honesty itself;
she will do the cooking."
"Oh! you may talk out loud," wheezed the stalwart dame. "The poor
gentleman is dead. . . . He has just gone."
A shrill cry broke from Schmucke. He felt Pons' cold hand stiffening
in his, and sat staring into his friend's eyes; the look in them would
have driven him mad, if Mme. Sauvage, doubtless accustomed to scenes
of this sort, had not come to the bedside with a mirror which she held
over the lips of the dead. When she saw that there was no mist upon
the surface, she briskly snatched Schmucke's hand away.
"Just take away your hand, sir; you may not be able to do it in a
little while. You do not know how the bones harden. A corpse grows
cold very quickly. If you do not lay out a body while it is warm, you
have to break the joints later on. . . ."
And so it was this terrible woman who closed the poor dead musician's
With a business-like dexterity acquired in ten years of experience,
she stripped and straightened the body, laid the arms by the sides,
and covered the face with the bedclothes, exactly as a shopman wraps a
"A sheet will be wanted to lay him out.--Where is there a sheet?" she
demanded, turning on the terror-stricken Schmucke.
He had watched the religious ritual with its deep reverence for the
creature made for such high destinies in heaven; and now he saw his
dead friend treated simply as a thing in this packing process--saw
with the sharp pain that dissolves the very elements of thought.
"Do as you vill----" he answered mechanically. The innocent creature
for the first time in his life had seen a man die, and that man was
Pons, his only friend, the one human being who understood him and
"I will go and ask Mme. Cibot where the sheets are kept," said La
"A truckle-bed will be wanted for the person to sleep upon," Mme.
Cantinet came to tell Schmucke.
Schmucke nodded and broke out into weeping. Mme. Cantinet left the
unhappy man in peace; but an hour later she came back to say:
"Have you any money, sir, to pay for the things?"
The look that Schmucke gave Mme. Cantinet would have disarmed the
fiercest hate; it was the white, blank, peaked face of death that he
turned upon her, as an explanation that met everything.
"Dake it all and leaf me to mein prayers and tears," he said, and
Mme. Sauvage went to Fraisier with the news of Pons' death. Fraisier
took a cab and went to the Presidente. To-morrow she must give him the
power of attorney to enable him to act for the heirs.
Another hour went by, and Mme. Cantinet came again to Schmucke.
"I have been to Mme. Cibot, sir, who knows all about things here," she
said. "I asked her to tell me where everything is kept. But she almost
jawed me to death with her abuse. . . . Sir, do listen to me. . . ."
Schmucke looked up at the woman, and she went on, innocent of any
barbarous intention, for women of her class are accustomed to take the
worst of moral suffering passively, as a matter of course.
"We must have linen for the shroud, sir, we must have money to buy a
truckle-bed for the person to sleep upon, and some things for the
kitchen--plates, and dishes, and glasses, for a priest will be coming
to pass the night here, and the person says that there is absolutely
nothing in the kitchen."
"And what is more, sir, I must have coal and firing if I am to get the
dinner ready," echoed La Sauvage, "and not a thing can I find. Not
that there is anything so very surprising in that, as La Cibot used to
do everything for you--"
Schmucke lay at the feet of the dead; he heard nothing, knew nothing,
saw nothing. Mme. Cantinet pointed to him. "My dear woman, you would
not believe me," she said. "Whatever you say, he does not answer."
"Very well, child," said La Sauvage; "now I will show you what to do
in a case of this kind."
She looked round the room as a thief looks in search of possible
hiding-places for money; then she went straight to Pons' chest, opened
the first drawer, saw the bag in which Schmucke had put the rest of
the money after the sale of the pictures, and held it up before him.
He nodded mechanically.
"Here is money, child," said La Sauvage, turning to Mme. Cantinet. "I
will count it first and take enough to buy everything we want--wine,
provisions, wax-candles, all sorts of things, in fact, for there is
nothing in the house. . . . Just look in the drawers for a sheet to
bury him in. I certainly was told that the poor gentleman was simple,
but I don't know what he is; he is worse. He is like a new-born child;
we shall have to feed him with a funnel."
The women went about their work, and Schmucke looked on precisely as
an idiot might have done. Broken down with sorrow, wholly absorbed, in
a half-cataleptic state, he could not take his eyes from the face that
seemed to fascinate him, Pons' face refined by the absolute repose of
Death. Schmucke hoped to die; everything was alike indifferent. If the
room had been on fire he would not have stirred.
"There are twelve hundred and fifty francs here," La Sauvage told him.
Schmucke shrugged his shoulders.
But when La Sauvage came near to measure the body by laying the sheet
over it, before cutting out the shroud, a horrible struggle ensued
between her and the poor German. Schmucke was furious. He behaved like
a dog that watches by his dead master's body, and shows his teeth at
all who try to touch it. La Sauvage grew impatient. She grasped him,
set him in the armchair, and held him down with herculean strength.
"Go on, child; sew him in his shroud," she said, turning to Mme.
As soon as this operation was completed, La Sauvage set Schmucke back
in his place at the foot of the bed.
"Do you understand?" said she. "The poor dead man lying there must be
done up, there is no help for it."
Schmucke began to cry. The women left him and took possession of the
kitchen, whither they brought all the necessaries in a very short
time. La Sauvage made out a preliminary statement accounting for three
hundred and sixty francs, and then proceeded to prepare a dinner for
four persons. And what a dinner! A fat goose (the cobbler's pheasant)
by way of a substantial roast, an omelette with preserves, a salad,
and the inevitable broth--the quantities of the ingredients for this
last being so excessive that the soup was more like a strong meat-
At nine o'clock the priest, sent by the curate to watch by the dead,
came in with Cantinet, who brought four tall wax candles and some
tapers. In the death-chamber Schmucke was lying with his arms about
the body of his friend, holding him in a tight clasp; nothing but the
authority of religion availed to separate him from his dead. Then the
priest settled himself comfortably in the easy-chair and read his
prayers while Schmucke, kneeling beside the couch, besought God to
work a miracle and unite him to Pons, so that they might be buried in
the same grave; and Mme. Cantinet went on her way to the Temple to buy
a pallet and complete bedding for Mme. Sauvage. The twelve hundred and
fifty francs were regarded as plunder. At eleven o'clock Mme. Cantinet
came in to ask if Schmucke would not eat a morsel, but with a gesture
he signified that he wished to be left in peace.
"Your supper is ready, M. Pastelot," she said, addressing the priest,
and they went.
Schmucke, left alone in the room, smiled to himself like a madman free
at last to gratify a desire like the longing of pregnancy. He flung
himself down beside Pons, and yet again he held his friend in a long,
close embrace. At midnight the priest came back and scolded him, and
Schmucke returned to his prayers. At daybreak the priest went, and at
seven o'clock in the morning the doctor came to see Schmucke, and
spoke kindly and tried hard to persuade him to eat, but the German
"If you do not eat now you will feel very hungry when you come back,"
the doctor told him, "for you must go to the mayor's office and take a
witness with you, so that the registrar may issue a certificate of
"/I/ must go!" cried Schmucke in frightened tones.
"Who else? . . . You must go, for you were the one person who saw him
"Mein legs vill nicht carry me," pleaded Schmucke, imploring the
doctor to come to the rescue.
"Take a cab," the hypocritical doctor blandly suggested. "I have given
notice already. Ask some one in the house to go with you. The two
women will look after the place while you are away."
No one imagines how the requirements of the law jar upon a heartfelt
sorrow. The thought of it is enough to make one turn from civilization
and choose rather the customs of the savage. At nine o'clock that
morning Mme. Sauvage half-carried Schmucke downstairs, and from the
cab he was obliged to beg Remonencq to come with him to the registrar
as a second witness. Here in Paris, in this land of ours besotted with
Equality, the inequality of conditions is glaringly apparent
everywhere and in everything. The immutable tendency of things peeps
out even in the practical aspects of Death. In well-to-do families, a
relative, a friend, or a man of business spares the mourners these
painful details; but in this, as in the matter of taxation, the whole
burden falls heaviest upon the shoulders of the poor.
"Ah! you have good reason to regret him," said Remonencq in answer to
the poor martyr's moan; "he was a very good, a very honest man, and he
has left a fine collection behind him. But being a foreigner, sir, do
you know that you are like to find yourself in a great predicament--
for everybody says that M. Pons left everything to you?"
Schmucke was not listening. He was sounding the dark depths of sorrow
that border upon madness. There is such a thing as tetanus of the
"And you would do well to find some one--some man of business--to
advise you and act for you," pursued Remonencq.
"Ein mann of pizness!" echoed Schmucke.
"You will find that you will want some one to act for you. If I were
you, I should take an experienced man, somebody well known to you in
the quarter, a man you can trust. . . . I always go to Tabareau myself
for my bits of affairs--he is the bailiff. If you give his clerk power
to act for you, you need not trouble yourself any further."
Remonencq and La Cibot, prompted by Fraisier, had agreed beforehand to
make a suggestion which stuck in Schmucke's memory; for there are
times in our lives when grief, as it were, congeals the mind by
arresting all its functions, and any chance impression made at such
moments is retained by a frost-bound memory. Schmucke heard his
companion with such a fixed, mindless stare, that Remonencq said no
"If he is always to be idiotic like this," thought Remonencq, "I might
easily buy the whole bag of tricks up yonder for a hundred thousand
francs; if it is really his. . . . Here we are at the mayor's office,
Remonencq was obliged to take Schmucke out of the cab and to half-
carry him to the registrar's department, where a wedding-party was
assembled. Here they had to wait for their turn, for, by no very
uncommon chance, the clerk had five or six certificates to make out
that morning; and here it was appointed that poor Schmucke should
suffer excruciating anguish.
"Monsieur is M. Schmucke?" remarked a person in a suit of black,
reducing Schmucke to stupefaction by the mention of his name. He
looked up with the same blank, unseeing eyes that he had turned upon
Remonencq, who now interposed.
"What do you want with him?" he said. "Just leave him in peace; you
can plainly see that he is in trouble."
"The gentleman has just lost his friend, and proposes, no doubt, to do
honor to his memory, being, as he is, the sole heir. The gentleman, no
doubt, will not haggle over it, he will buy a piece of ground outright
for a grave. And as M. Pons was such a lover of the arts, it would be
a great pity not to put Music, Painting, and Sculpture on his tomb--
three handsome full-length figures, weeping--"
Remonencq waved the speaker away, in Auvergnat fashion, but the man
replied with another gesture, which being interpreted means "Don't
spoil sport"; a piece of commercial free-masonry, as it were, which
the dealer understood.
"I represent the firm of Sonet and Company, monumental stone-masons;
Sir Walter Scott would have dubbed me /Young Mortality/," continued
this person. "If you, sir, should decide to intrust your orders to us,
we would spare you the trouble of the journey to purchase the ground
necessary for the interment of a friend lost to the arts--"
At this Remonencq nodded assent, and jogged Schmucke's elbow.
"Every day we receive orders from families to arrange all
formalities," continued he of the black coat, thus encouraged by
Remonencq. "In the first moment of bereavement, the heir-at-law finds
it very difficult to attend to such matters, and we are accustomed to
perform these little services for our clients. Our charges, sir, are
on a fixed scale, so much per foot, freestone or marble. Family vaults
a specialty.--We undertake everything at the most moderate prices. Our
firm executed the magnificent monument erected to the fair Esther
Gobseck and Lucien de Rubempre, one of the finest ornaments of Pere-
Lachaise. We only employ the best workmen, and I must warn you, sir,
against small contractors--who turn out nothing but trash," he added,
seeing that another person in a black suit was coming up to say a word
for another firm of marble-workers.
It is often said that "death is the end of a journey," but the aptness
of the simile is realized most fully in Paris. Any arrival, especially
of a person of condition, upon the "dark brink," is hailed in much the
same way as the traveler recently landed is hailed by hotel touts and
pestered with their recommendations. With the exception of a few
philosophically-minded persons, or here and there a family secure of
handing down a name to posterity, nobody thinks beforehand of the
practical aspects of death. Death always comes before he is expected;
and, from a sentiment easy to understand, the heirs usually act as if
the event were impossible. For which reason, almost every one that
loses father or mother, wife or child, is immediately beset by scouts
that profit by the confusion caused by grief to snare others. In
former days, agents for monuments used to live round about the famous
cemetery of Pere-Lachaise, and were gathered together in a single
thoroughfare, which should by rights have been called the Street of
Tombs; issuing thence, they fell upon the relatives of the dead as
they came from the cemetery, or even at the grave-side. But
competition and the spirit of speculation induced them to spread
themselves further and further afield, till descending into Paris
itself they reached the very precincts of the mayor's office. Indeed,
the stone-mason's agent has often been known to invade the house of
mourning with a design for the sepulchre in his hand.
"I am in treaty with this gentleman," said the representative of the
firm of Sonet to another agent who came up.
"Pons deceased! . . ." called the clerk at this moment. "Where are the
"This way, sir," said the stone-mason's agent, this time addressing
Schmucke stayed where he had been placed on the bench, an inert mass.
Remonencq begged the agent to help him, and together they pulled
Schmucke towards the balustrade, behind which the registrar shelters
himself from the mourning public. Remonencq, Schmucke's Providence,
was assisted by Dr. Poulain, who filled in the necessary information
as to Pons' age and birthplace; the German knew but one thing--that
Pons was his friend. So soon as the signatures were affixed, Remonencq
and the doctor (followed by the stone-mason's man), put Schmucke into
a cab, the desperate agent whisking in afterwards, bent upon taking a
La Sauvage, on the lookout in the gateway, half-carried Schmucke's
almost unconscious form upstairs. Remonencq and the agent went up with
"He will be ill!" exclaimed the agent, anxious to make an end of the
piece of business which, according to him, was in progress.
"I should think he will!" returned Mme. Sauvage. "He has been crying
for twenty-four hours on end, and he would not take anything. There is
nothing like grief for giving one a sinking in the stomach."
"My dear client," urged the representative of the firm of Sonet, "do
take some broth. You have so much to do; some one must go to the Hotel
de Ville to buy the ground in the cemetery on which you mean to erect
a monument to perpetuate the memory of the friend of the arts, and
bear record to your gratitude."
"Why, there is no sense in this!" added Mme. Cantinet, coming in with
broth and bread.
"If you are as weak as this, you ought to think of finding some one to
act for you," added Remonencq, "for you have a good deal on your
hands, my dear sir. There is the funeral to order. You would not have
your friend buried like a pauper!"
"Come, come, my dear sir," put in La Sauvage, seizing a moment when
Schmucke laid his head back in the great chair to pour a spoonful of
soup into his mouth. She fed him as if he had been a child, and almost
in spite of himself.
"Now, if you were wise, sir, since you are inclined to give yourself
up quietly to grief, you would find some one to act for you--"
"As you are thinking of raising a magnificent monument to the memory
of your friend, sir, you have only to leave it all to me; I will
"What is all this? What is all this?" asked La Sauvage. "Has M.
Schmucke ordered something? Who may you be?"
"I represent the firm of Sonet, my dear madame, the biggest monumental
stone-masons in Paris," said the person in black, handing a business-
card to the stalwart Sauvage.
"Very well, that will do. Some one will go with you when the time
comes; but you must not take advantage of the gentleman's condition
now. You can quite see that he is not himself----"
The agent led her out upon the landing.
"If you will undertake to get the order for us," he said
confidentially, "I am empowered to offer you forty francs."
Mme. Sauvage grew placable. "Very well, let me have your address,"
Schmucke meantime being left to himself, and feeling the stronger for
the soup and bread that he had been forced to swallow, returned at
once to Pons' rooms, and to his prayers. He had lost himself in the
fathomless depths of sorrow, when a voice sounding in his ears drew
him back from the abyss of grief, and a young man in a suit of black
returned for the eleventh time to the charge, pulling the poor,
tortured victim's coatsleeve until he listened.
"Sir!" said he.
"Vat ees it now?"
"Sir! we owe a supreme discovery to Dr. Gannal; we do not dispute his
fame; he has worked miracles of Egypt afresh; but there have been
improvements made upon his system. We have obtained surprising
results. So, if you would like to see your friend again, as he was
when he was alive--"
"See him again!" cried Schmucke. "Shall he speak to me?"
"Not exactly. Speech is the only thing wanting," continued the
embalmer's agent. "But he will remain as he is after embalming for all
eternity. The operation is over in a few seconds. Just an incision in
the carotid artery and an injection.--But it is high time; if you wait
one single quarter of an hour, sir, you will not have the sweet
satisfaction of preserving the body. . . ."
"Go to der teufel! . . . Bons is ein spirit--und dat spirit is in
"That man has no gratitude in his composition," remarked the youthful
agent of one of the famous Gannal's rivals; "he will not embalm his
The words were spoken under the archway, and addressed to La Cibot,
who had just submitted her beloved to the process.
"What would you have, sir!" she said. "He is the heir, the universal
legatee. As soon as they get what they want, the dead are nothing to
An hour later, Schmucke saw Mme. Sauvage come into the room, followed
by another man in a suit of black, a workman, to all appearance.
"Cantinet has been so obliging as to send this gentleman, sir," she
said; "he is coffin-maker to the parish."
The coffin-maker made his bow with a sympathetic and compassionate
air, but none the less he had a business-like look, and seemed to know
that he was indispensable. He turned an expert's eye upon the dead.
"How does the gentleman wish 'it' to be made? Deal, plain oak, or oak
lead-lined? Oak with a lead lining is the best style. The body is a
stock size,"--he felt for the feet, and proceeded to take the measure
--"one metre seventy!" he added. "You will be thinking of ordering the
funeral service at the church, sir, no doubt?"
Schmucke looked at him as a dangerous madman might look before
striking a blow. La Sauvage put in a word.
"You ought to find somebody to look after all these things," she said.
"Yes----" the victim murmured at length.
"Shall I fetch M. Tabareau?--for you will have a good deal on your
hands before long. M. Tabareau is the most honest man in the quarter,
"Yes. Mennesir Dapareau! Somepody vas speaking of him chust now--"
said Schmucke, completely beaten.
"Very well. You can be quiet, sir, and give yourself up to grief, when
you have seen your deputy."
It was nearly two o'clock when M. Tabareau's head-clerk, a young man
who aimed at a bailiff's career, modestly presented himself. Youth has
wonderful privileges; no one is alarmed by youth. This young man
Villemot by name, sat down by Schmucke's side and waited his
opportunity to speak. His diffidence touched Schmucke very much.
"I am M. Tabareau's head-clerk, sir," he said; "he sent me here to
take charge of your interests, and to superintend the funeral
arrangements. Is this your wish?"
"You cannot safe my life, I haf not long to lif; but you vill leaf me
"Oh! you shall not be disturbed," said Villemot.
"Ver' goot. Vat must I do for dat?"
"Sign this paper appointing M. Tabareau to act for you in all matters
relating to the settlement of the affairs of the deceased."
"Goot! gif it to me," said Schmucke, anxious only to sign it at once.
"No, I must read it over to you first."
"Read it ofer."
Schmucke paid not the slightest attention to the reading of the power
of attorney, but he set his name to it. The young clerk took
Schmucke's orders for the funeral, the interment, and the burial
service; undertaking that he should not be troubled again in any way,
nor asked for money.
"I vould gif all dat I haf to be left in beace," said the unhappy man.
And once more he knelt beside the dead body of his friend.
Fraisier had triumphed. Villemot and La Sauvage completed the circle
which he had traced about Pons' heir.
There is no sorrow that sleep cannot overcome. Towards the end of the
day La Sauvage, coming in, found Schmucke stretched asleep at the bed-
foot. She carried him off, put him to bed, tucked him in maternally,
and till the morning Schmucke slept.
When he awoke, or rather when the truce was over and he again became
conscious of his sorrows, Pons' coffin lay under the gateway in such a
state as a third-class funeral may claim, and Schmucke, seeking vainly
for his friend, wandered from room to room, across vast spaces, as it
seemed to him, empty of everything save hideous memories. La Sauvage
took him in hand, much as a nurse manages a child; she made him take
his breakfast before starting for the church; and while the poor
sufferer forced himself to eat, she discovered, with lamentations
worthy of Jeremiah, that he had not a black coat in his possession. La
Cibot took entire charge of his wardrobe; since Pons fell ill, his
apparel, like his dinner, had been reduced to the lowest terms--to a
couple of coats and two pairs of trousers.
"And you are going just as you are to M. Pons' funeral? It is an
unheard-of thing; the whole quarter will cry shame upon us!"
"Und how vill you dat I go?"
"Why, in mourning--"
"It is the proper thing."
"Der bropper ding! . . . Confound all dis stupid nonsense!" cried poor
Schmucke, driven to the last degree of exasperation which a childlike
soul can reach under stress of sorrow.
"Why, the man is a monster of ingratitude!" said La Sauvage, turning
to a personage who just then appeared. At the sight of this
functionary Schmucke shuddered. The newcomer wore a splendid suit of
black, black knee-breeches, black silk stockings, a pair of white
cuffs, an extremely correct white muslin tie, and white gloves. A
silver chain with a coin attached ornamented his person. A typical
official, stamped with the official expression of decorous gloom, an
ebony wand in his hand by way of insignia of office, he stood waiting
with a three-cornered hat adorned with the tricolor cockade under his
"I am the master of the ceremonies," this person remarked in a subdued
Accustomed daily to superintend funerals, to move among families
plunged in one and the same kind of tribulation, real or feigned, this
man, like the rest of his fraternity, spoke in hushed and soothing
tones; he was decorous, polished, and formal, like an allegorical
stone figure of Death.
Schmucke quivered through every nerve as if he were confronting his
"Is this gentleman the son, brother, or father of the deceased?"
inquired the official.
"I am all dat and more pesides--I am his friend," said Schmucke
through a torrent of weeping.
"Are you his heir?"
"Heir? . . ." repeated Schmucke. "Noding matters to me more in dis
vorld," returning to his attitude of hopeless sorrow.
"Where are the relatives, the friends?" asked the master of the
"All here!" exclaimed the German, indicating the pictures and
rarities. "Not von of dem haf efer gifn bain to mein boor Bons. . . .
Here ees everydings dot he lofed, after me."
Schmucke had taken his seat again, and looked as vacant as before; he
dried his eyes mechanically. Villemot came up at that moment; he had
ordered the funeral, and the master of the ceremonies, recognizing
him, made an appeal to the newcomer.
"Well, sir, it is time to start. The hearse is here; but I have not
often seen such a funeral as this. Where are the relatives and
"We have been pressed for time," replied Villemot. "This gentleman was
in such deep grief that he could think of nothing. And there is only
The master of the ceremonies looked compassionately at Schmucke; this
expert in sorrow knew real grief when he saw it. He went across to
"Come, take heart, my dear sir. Think of paying honor to your friend's
"We forgot to send out cards; but I took care to send a special
message to M. le Presidente de Marville, the one relative that I
mentioned to you.--There are no friends.--M. Pons was conductor of an
orchestra at a theatre, but I do not think that any one will come.--
This gentleman is the universal legatee, I believe."
"Then he ought to be chief mourner," said the master of the
ceremonies.--"Have you a black coat?" he continued, noticing
"I am all in plack insite!" poor Schmucke replied in heartrending
tones; "so plack it is dot I feel death in me. . . . Gott in hefn is
going to haf pity upon me; He vill send me to mein friend in der
grafe, und I dank Him for it--"
He clasped his hands.
"I have told our management before now that we ought to have a
wardrobe department and lend the proper mourning costumes on hire,"
said the master of the ceremonies, addressing Villemot; "it is a want
that is more and more felt every day, and we have even now introduced
improvements. But as this gentleman is chief mourner, he ought to wear
a cloak, and this one that I have brought with me will cover him from
head to foot; no one need know that he is not in proper mourning
costume.--Will you be so kind as to rise?"
Schmucke rose, but he tottered on his feet.
"Support him," said the master of the ceremonies, turning to Villemot;
"you are his legal representative."
Villemot held Schmucke's arm while the master of the ceremonies
invested Schmucke with the ample, dismal-looking garment worn by
heirs-at-law in the procession to and from the house and the church.
He tied the black silken cords under the chin, and Schmucke as heir
was in "full dress."
"And now comes a great difficulty," continued the master of the
ceremonies; "we want four bearers for the pall. . . . If nobody comes
to the funeral, who is to fill the corners? It is half-past ten
already," he added, looking at his watch; "they are waiting for us at
"Oh! here comes Fraisier!" Villemot exclaimed, very imprudently; but
there was no one to hear the tacit confession of complicity.
"Who is this gentleman?" inquired the master of the ceremonies.
"Oh! he comes on behalf of the family."
"The disinherited family. He is M. Camusot de Marville's
"Good," said the master of the ceremonies, with a satisfied air. "We
shall have two pall-bearers at any rate--you and he."
And, happy to find two of the places filled up, he took out some
wonderful white buckskin gloves, and politely presented Fraisier and
Villemot with a pair apiece.
"If you gentlemen will be so good as to act as pall-bearers--" said
Fraisier, in black from head to foot, pretentiously dressed, with his
white tie and official air, was a sight to shudder at; he embodied a
"Willingly, sir," said he.
"If only two more persons will come, the four corners will be filled
up," said the master of the ceremonies.
At that very moment the indefatigable representative of the firm of
Sonet came up, and, closely following him, the man who remembered Pons
and thought of paying him a last tribute of respect. This was a
supernumerary at the theatre, the man who put out the scores on the
music-stands for the orchestra. Pons had been wont to give him a five-
franc piece once a month, knowing that he had a wife and family.
"Oh, Dobinard (Topinard)!" Schmucke cried out at the sight of him,
"/you/ love Bons!"
"Why, I have come to ask news of M. Pons every morning, sir."
"Efery morning! boor Dobinard!" and Schmucke squeezed the man's hand.
"But they took me for a relation, no doubt, and did not like my visits
at all. I told them that I belonged to the theatre and came to inquire
after M. Pons; but it was no good. They saw through that dodge, they
said. I asked to see the poor dear man, but they never would let me
"Dat apominable Zipod!" said Schmucke, squeezing Topinard's horny hand
to his heart.
"He was the best of men, that good M. Pons. Every month he use to give
me five francs. . . . He knew that I had three children and a wife. My
wife has gone to the church."
"I shall difide mein pread mit you," cried Schmucke, in his joy at
finding at his side some one who loved Pons.
"If this gentleman will take a corner of the pall, we shall have all
four filled up," said the master of the ceremonies.
There had been no difficulty over persuading the agent for monuments.
He took a corner the more readily when he was shown the handsome pair
of gloves which, according to custom, was to be his property.
"A quarter to eleven! We absolutely must go down. They are waiting for
us at the church."
The six persons thus assembled went down the staircase.
The cold-blooded lawyer remained a moment to speak to the two women on
the landing. "Stop here, and let nobody come in," he said, "especially
if you wish to remain in charge, Mme. Cantinet. Aha! two francs a day,
By a coincidence in nowise extraordinary in Paris, two hearses were
waiting at the door, and two coffins standing under the archway;
Cibot's funeral and the solitary state in which Pons was lying was
made even more striking in the street. Schmucke was the only mourner
that followed Pons' coffin; Schmucke, supported by one of the
undertaker's men, for he tottered at every step. From the Rue de
Normandie to the Rue d'Orleans and the Church of Saint-Francois the
two funerals went between a double row of curious onlookers for
everything (as was said before) makes a sensation in the quarter.
Every one remarked the splendor of the white funeral car, with a big
embroidered P suspended on a hatchment, and the one solitary mourner
behind it; while the cheap bier that came after it was followed by an
immense crowd. Happily, Schmucke was so bewildered by the throng of
idlers and the rows of heads in the windows, that he heard no remarks
and only saw the faces through a mist of tears.
"Oh, it is the nutcracker!" said one, "the musician, you know--"
"Who can the pall-bearers be?"
"I say, just look at poor old Cibot's funeral. There is one worker the
less. What a man! he could never get enough of work!"
"He never went out."
"He never kept Saint Monday."
"How fond he was of his wife!"
"Ah! There is an unhappy woman!"
Remonencq walked behind his victim's coffin. People condoled with him
on the loss of his neighbor.
The two funerals reached the church. Cantinet and the doorkeeper saw
that no beggars troubled Schmucke. Villemot had given his word that
Pons' heir should be left in peace; he watched over his client, and
gave the requisite sums; and Cibot's humble bier, escorted by sixty or
eighty persons, drew all the crowd after it to the cemetery. At the
church door Pons' funeral possession mustered four mourning-coaches,
one for the priest and three for the relations; but one only was
required, for the representative of the firm of Sonet departed during
mass to give notice to his principal that the funeral was on the way,
so that the design for the monument might be ready for the survivor at
the gates of the cemetery. A single coach sufficed for Fraisier,
Villemot, Schmucke, and Topinard; but the remaining two, instead of
returning to the undertaker, followed in the procession to Pere-
Lachaise--a useless procession, not unfrequently seen; there are
always too many coaches when the dead are unknown beyond their own
circle and there is no crowd at the funeral. Dear, indeed, the dead
must have been in their lifetime if relative or friend will go with
them so far as the cemetery in this Paris, where every one would fain
have twenty-five hours in the day. But with the coachmen it is
different; they lose their tips if they do not make the journey; so,
empty or full, the mourning coaches go to the church and cemetery and
return to the house for gratuities. A death is a sort of drinking-
fountain for an unimagined crowd of thirsty mortals. The attendants at
the church, the poor, the undertaker's men, the drivers and sextons,
are creatures like sponges that dip into a hearse and come out again
From the church door, where he was beset with a swarm of beggars
(promptly dispersed by the beadle), to Pere-Lachaise, poor Schmucke
went as criminals went in old times from the Palais de Justice to the
Place de Greve. It was his own funeral that he followed, clinging to
Topinard's hand, to the one living creature besides himself who felt a
pang of real regret for Pons' death.
As for Topinard, greatly touched by the honor of the request to act as
pall-bearer, content to drive in a carriage, the possessor of a new
pair of gloves,--it began to dawn upon him that this was to be one of
the great days of his life. Schmucke was driven passively along the
road, as some unlucky calf is driven in a butcher's cart to the
slaughter-house. Fraisier and Villemot sat with their backs to the
horses. Now, as those know whose sad fortune it has been to accompany
many of their friends to their last resting-place, all hypocrisy
breaks down in the coach during the journey (often a very long one)
from the church to the eastern cemetery, to that one of the burying-
grounds of Paris in which all vanities, all kinds of display, are met,
so rich is it in sumptuous monuments. On these occasions those who
feel least begin to talk soonest, and in the end the saddest listen,
and their thoughts are diverted.
"M. le President had already started for the Court." Fraisier told
Villemot, "and I did not think it necessary to tear him away from
business; he would have come too late, in any case. He is the next-of-
kin; but as he has been disinherited, and M. Schmucke gets everything,
I thought that if his legal representative were present it would be
Topinard lent an ear to this.
"Who was the queer customer that took the fourth corner?" continued
"He is an agent for a firm of monumental stone-masons. He would like
an order for a tomb, on which he proposes to put three sculptured
marble figures--Music, Painting, and Sculpture shedding tears over the
"It is an idea," said Fraisier; "the old gentleman certainly deserved
that much; but the monument would cost seven or eight hundred francs."
"Oh! quite that!"
"If M. Schmucke gives the order, it cannot affect the estate. You
might eat up a whole property with such expenses."
"There would be a lawsuit, but you would gain it--"
"Very well," said Fraisier, "then it will be his affair.--It would be
a nice practical joke to play upon the monument-makers," Fraisier
added in Villemot's ear; "for if the will is upset (and I can answer
for that), or if there is no will at all, who would pay them?"
Villemot grinned like a monkey, and the pair began to talk
confidentially, lowering their voices; but the man from the theatre,
with his wits and senses sharpened in the world behind the scenes,
could guess at the nature of their discourse; in spite of the rumbling
of the carriage and other hindrances, he began to understand that
these representatives of justice were scheming to plunge poor Schmucke
into difficulties; and when at last he heard the ominous word
"Clichy," the honest and loyal servitor of the stage made up his mind
to watch over Pons' friend.
At the cemetery, where three square yards of ground had been purchased
through the good offices of the firm of Sonet (Villemot having
announced Schmucke's intention of erecting a magnificent monument),
the master of ceremonies led Schmucke through a curious crowd to the
grave into which Pons' coffin was about to be lowered; but here, at
the sight of the square hole, the four men waiting with ropes to lower
the bier, and the clergy saying the last prayer for the dead at the
grave-side, something clutched tightly at the German's heart. He
Sonet's agent and M. Sonet himself came to help Topinard to carry poor
Schmucke into the marble-works hard by, where Mme. Sonet and Mme.
Vitelot (Sonet's partner's wife) were eagerly prodigal of efforts to
revive him. Topinard stayed. He had seen Fraisier in conversation with
Sonet's agent, and Fraisier, in his opinion, had gallows-bird written
on his face.
An hour later, towards half-past two o'clock, the poor, innocent
German came to himself. Schmucke thought that he had been dreaming for
the past two days; if he could only wake, he should find Pons still
alive. So many wet towels had been laid on his forehead, he had been
made to inhale salts and vinegar to such an extent, that he opened his
eyes at last. Mme. Sonet make him take some meat-soup, for they had
put the pot on the fire at the marble-works.
"Our clients do not often take things to heart like this; still, it
happens once in a year or two--"
At last Schmucke talked of returning to the Rue de Normandie, and at
this Sonet began at once.
"Here is the design, sir," he said; "Vitelot drew it expressly for
you, and sat up last night to do it. . . . And he has been happily
inspired, it will look fine--"
"One of the finest in Pere-Lachaise!" said the little Mme. Sonet. "But
you really ought to honor the memory of a friend who left you all his
The design, supposed to have been drawn on purpose, had, as a matter
of fact, been prepared for de Marsay, the famous cabinet minister. His
widow, however, had given the commission to Stidmann; people were
disgusted with the tawdriness of the project, and it was refused. The
three figures at that period represented the three days of July which
brought the eminent minister to power. Subsequently, Sonet and Vitelot
had turned the Three Glorious Days--"/les trois glorieuses/"--into the
Army, Finance, and the Family, and sent in the design for the
sepulchre of the late lamented Charles Keller; and here again Stidmann
took the commission. In the eleven years that followed, the sketch had
been modified to suit all kinds of requirements, and now in Vitelot's
fresh tracing they reappeared as Music, Sculpture, and Painting.
"It is a mere trifle when you think of the details and cost of setting
it up; for it will take six months," said Vitelot. "Here is the
estimate and the order-form--seven thousand francs, sketch in plaster
"If M. Schmucke would like marble," put in Sonet (marble being his
special department), "it would cost twelve thousand francs, and
monsieur would immortalize himself as well as his friend."
Topinard turned to Vitelot.
"I have just heard that they are going to dispute the will," he
whispered, "and the relatives are likely to come by their property. Go
and speak to M. Camusot, for this poor, harmless creature has not a
"This is the kind of customer that you always bring us," said Mme.
Vitelot, beginning a quarrel with the agent.
Topinard led Schmucke away, and they returned home on foot to the Rue
de Normandie, for the mourning-coaches had been sent back.
"Do not leaf me," Schmucke said, when Topinard had seen him safe into
Mme. Sauvage's hands, and wanted to go.
"It is four o'clock, dear M. Schmucke. I must go home to dinner. My
wife is a box-opener--she will not know what has become of me. The
theatre opens at a quarter to six, you know."
"Yes, I know . . . but remember dat I am alone in die earth, dat I haf
no friend. You dat haf shed a tear for Bons enliden me; I am in teep
tarkness, und Bons said dat I vas in der midst of shcoundrels."
"I have seen that plainly already; I have just prevented them from
sending you to Clichy."
"/Gligy!/" repeated Schmucke; "I do not understand."
"Poor man! Well, never mind, I will come to you. Good-bye."
"Goot-bye; komm again soon," said Schmucke, dropping half-dead with
"Good-bye, mosieu," said Mme. Sauvage, and there was something in her
tone that struck Topinard.
"Oh, come, what is the matter now?" he asked, banteringly. "You are
attitudinizing like a traitor in a melodrama."
"Traitor yourself! Why have you come meddling here? Do you want to
have a hand in the master's affairs, and swindle him, eh?"
"Swindle him! . . . Your very humble servant!" Topinard answered with
superb disdain. "I am only a poor super at a theatre, but I am
something of an artist, and you may as well know that I never asked
anything of anybody yet! Who asked anything of you? Who owes you
anything? eh, old lady!"
"You are employed at a theatre, and your name is--?"
"Topinard, at your service."
"Kind regards to all at home," said La Sauvage, "and my compliments to
your missus, if you are married, mister. . . . That was all I wanted
"Why, what is the matter, dear?" asked Mme. Cantinet, coming out.
"This, child--stop here and look after the dinner while I run round to
speak to monsieur."
"He is down below, talking with poor Mme. Cibot, that is crying her
eyes out," said Mme. Cantinet.
La Sauvage dashed down in such headlong haste that the stairs trembled
beneath her tread.
"Monsieur!" she called, and drew him aside a few paces to point out
Topinard was just going away, proud at heart to have made some return
already to the man who had done him so many kindnesses. He had saved
Pons' friend from a trap, by a stratagem from that world behind the
scenes in which every one has more or less ready wit. And within
himself he vowed to protect a musician in his orchestra from future
snares set for his simple sincerity.
"Do you see that little wretch?" said La Sauvage. "He is a kind of
honest man that has a mind to poke his nose into M. Schmucke's
"Who is he?" asked Fraisier.
"Oh! he is a nobody."
"In business there is no such thing as a nobody."
"Oh, he is employed at the theatre," said she; "his name is Topinard."
"Good, Mme. Sauvage! Go on like this, and you shall have your
And Fraisier resumed his conversation with Mme. Cibot.
"So I say, my dear client, that you have not played openly and above-
board with me, and that one is not bound in any way to a partner who
"And how have I cheated you?" asked La Cibot, hands on hips. "Do you
think that you will frighten me with your sour looks and your frosty
airs? You look about for bad reasons for breaking your promises, and
you call yourself an honest man! Do you know what you are? You are a
blackguard! Yes! yes! scratch your arm; but just pocket that--"
"No words, and keep your temper, dearie. Listen to me. You have been
feathering your nest. . . . I found this catalogue this morning while
we were getting ready for the funeral; it is all in M. Pons'
handwriting, and made out in duplicate. And as it chanced, my eyes
fell on this--"
And opening the catalogue, he read:
"No. 7. /Magnificent portrait painted on marble, by Sebastian del
Piombo, in 1546. Sold by a family who had it removed from Terni
Cathedral. The picture, which represents a Knight-Templar kneeling
in prayer, used to hang above a tomb of the Rossi family with a
companion portrait of a Bishop, afterwards purchased by an
Englishman. The portrait might be attributed to Raphael, but for
the date. This example is, to my mind, superior to the portrait of
Baccio Bandinelli in the Musee; the latter is a little hard, while
the Templar, being painted upon 'lavagna,' or slate, has preserved
its freshness of coloring./"
"When I come to look for No. 7," continued Fraisier, "I find a
portrait of a lady, signed 'Chardin,' without a number on it! I went
through the pictures with the catalogue while the master of ceremonies
was making up the number of pall-bearers, and found that eight of
those indicated as works of capital importance by M. Pons had
disappeared, and eight paintings of no special merit, and without
numbers, were there instead. . . . And finally, one was missing
altogether, a little panel-painting by Metzu, described in the
catalogue as a masterpiece."
"And was /I/ in charge of the pictures?" demanded La Cibot.
"No; but you were in a position of trust. You were M. Pons'
housekeeper, you looked after his affairs, and he has been robbed--"
"Robbed! Let me tell you this, sir: M. Schmucke sold the pictures, by
M. Pons' orders, to meet expenses."
"And to whom?"
"To Messrs. Elie Magus and Remonencq."
"For how much?"
"I am sure I do not remember."
"Look here, my dear madame; you have been feathering your nest, and
very snugly. I shall keep an eye upon you; I have you safe. Help me, I
will say nothing! In any case, you know that since you deemed it
expedient to plunder M. le President Camusot, you ought not to expect
anything from /him/."
"I was sure that this would all end in smoke, for me," said La Cibot,
mollified by the words "I will say nothing."
Remonencq chimed in at this point.
"Here are you finding fault with Mme. Cibot; that is not right!" he
said. "The pictures were sold by private treaty between M. Pons, M.
Magus, and me. We waited for three days before we came to terms with
the deceased; he slept on his pictures. We took receipts in proper
form; and if we gave Madame Cibot a few forty-franc pieces, it is the
custom of the trade--we always do so in private houses when we
conclude a bargain. Ah! my dear sir, if you think to cheat a
defenceless woman, you will not make a good bargain! Do you
understand, master lawyer?--M. Magus rules the market, and if you do
not come down off the high horse, if you do not keep your word to Mme.
Cibot, I shall wait till the collection is sold, and you shall see
what you will lose if you have M. Magus and me against you; we can get
the dealers in a ring. Instead of realizing seven or eight hundred
thousand francs, you will not so much as make two hundred thousand."
"Good, good, we shall see. We are not going to sell; or if we do, it
will be in London."
"We know London," said Remonencq. "M. Magus is as powerful there as at
"Good-day, madame; I shall sift these matters to the bottom," said
Fraisier--"unless you continue to do as I tell you" he added.
"You little pickpocket!--"
"Take care! I shall be a justice of the peace before long." And with
threats understood to the full upon either side, they separated.
"Thank you, Remonencq!" said La Cibot; "it is very pleasant to a poor
widow to find a champion."
Towards ten o'clock that evening, Gaudissart sent for Topinard. The
manager was standing with his back to the fire, in a Napoleonic
attitude--a trick which he had learned since be began to command his
army of actors, dancers, /figurants/, musicians, and stage carpenters.
He grasped his left-hand brace with his right hand, always thrust into
his waistcoat; he head was flung far back, his eyes gazed out into
"Ah! I say, Topinard, have you independent means?"
"Are you on the lookout to better yourself somewhere else?"
"No, sir--" said Topinard, with a ghastly countenance.
"Why, hang it all, your wife takes the first row of boxes out of
respect to my predecessor, who came to grief; I gave you the job of
cleaning the lamps in the wings in the daytime, and you put out the
scores. And that is not all, either. You get twenty sous for acting
monsters and managing devils when a hell is required. There is not a
super that does not covet your post, and there are those that are
jealous of you, my friend; you have enemies in the theatre."
"Enemies!" repeated Topinard.
"And you have three children; the oldest takes children's parts at
"You want to meddle in other people's business, and put your finger
into a will case.--Why, you wretched man, you would be crushed like an
egg-shell! My patron is His Excellency, Monseigneur le Comte Popinot,
a clever man and a man of high character, whom the King in his wisdom
has summoned back to the privy council. This statesman, this great
politician, has married his eldest son to a daughter of M. le
President de Marville, one of the foremost men among the high courts
of justice; one of the leading lights of the law-courts. Do you know
the law-courts? Very good. Well, he is cousin and heir to M. Pons, to
our old conductor whose funeral you attended this morning. I do not
blame you for going to pay the last respects to him, poor man. . . .
But if you meddle in M. Schmucke's affairs, you will lose your place.
I wish very well to M. Schmucke, but he is in a delicate position with
regard to the heirs--and as the German is almost nothing to me, and
the President and Count Popinot are a great deal, I recommend you to
leave the worthy German to get out of his difficulties by himself.
There is a special Providence that watches over Germans, and the part
of deputy guardian-angel would not suit you at all. Do you see? Stay
as you are--you cannot do better."
"Very good, monsieur le directeur," said Topinard, much distressed.
And in this way Schmucke lost the protector sent to him by fate, the
one creature that shed a tear for Pons, the poor super for whose
return he looked on the morrow.
Next morning poor Schmucke awoke to a sense of his great and heavy
loss. He looked round the empty rooms. Yesterday and the day before
yesterday the preparations for the funeral had made a stir and bustle
which distracted his eyes; but the silence which follows the day, when
the friend, father, son, or loved wife has been laid in the grave--the
dull, cold silence of the morrow is terrible, is glacial. Some
irresistible force drew him to Pons' chamber, but the sight of it was
more than the poor man could bear; he shrank away and sat down in the
dining-room, where Mme. Sauvage was busy making breakfast ready.
Schmucke drew his chair to the table, but he could eat nothing. A
sudden, somewhat sharp ringing of the door-bell rang through the
house, and Mme. Cantinet and Mme. Sauvage allowed three black-coated
personages to pass. First came Vitel, the justice of the peace, with
his highly respectable clerk; third was Fraisier, neither sweeter nor
milder for the disappointing discovery of a valid will canceling the
formidable instrument so audaciously stolen by him.
"We have come to affix seals on the property," the justice of the
peace said gently, addressing Schmucke. But the remark was Greek to
Schmucke; he gazed in dismay at his three visitors.
"We have come at the request of M. Fraisier, legal representative of
M. Camusot de Marville, heir of the late Pons--" added the clerk.
"The collection is here in this great room, and in the bedroom of the
deceased," remarked Fraisier.
"Very well, let us go into the next room.--Pardon us, sir; do not let
us interrupt with your breakfast."
The invasion struck an icy chill of terror into poor Schmucke.
Fraisier's venomous glances seemed to possess some magnetic influence
over his victims, like the power of a spider over a fly.
"M. Schmucke understood how to turn a will, made in the presence of a
notary, to his own advantage," he said, "and he surely must have
expected some opposition from the family. A family does not allow
itself to be plundered by a stranger without some protest; and we
shall see, sir, which carries the day--fraud and corruption or the
rightful heirs. . . . We have a right as next of kin to affix seals,
and seals shall be affixed. I mean to see that the precaution is taken
with the utmost strictness."
"Ach, mein Gott! how haf I offended against Hefn?" cried the innocent
"There is a good deal of talk about you in the house," said La
Sauvage. "While you were asleep, a little whipper-snapper in a black
suit came here, a puppy that said he was M. Hannequin's head-clerk,
and must see you at all costs; but as you were asleep and tired out
with the funeral yesterday, I told him that M. Villemot, Tabareau's
head-clerk, was acting for you, and if it was a matter of business, I
said, he might speak to M. Villemot. 'Ah, so much the better!' the
youngster said. 'I shall come to an understanding with him. We will
deposit the will at the Tribunal, after showing it to the President.'
So at that, I told him to ask M. Villemot to come here as soon as he
could.--Be easy, my dear sir, there are those that will take care of
you. They shall not shear the fleece off your back. You will have some
one that has beak and claws. M. Villemot will give them a piece of his
mind. I have put myself in a passion once already with that abominable
hussy, La Cibot, a porter's wife that sets up to judge her lodgers,
forsooth, and insists that you have filched the money from the heirs;
you locked M. Pons up, she says, and worked upon him till he was
stark, staring mad. She got as good as she gave, though, the wretched
woman. 'You are a thief and a bad lot,' I told her; 'you will get into
the police-courts for all the things that you have stolen from the
gentlemen,' and she shut up."
The clerk came out to speak to Schmucke.
"Would you wish to be present, sir, when the seals are affixed in the
"Go on, go on," said Schmucke; "I shall pe allowed to die in beace, I
"Oh, under any circumstances a man has a right to die," the clerk
answered, laughing; "most of our business relates to wills. But, in my
experience, the universal legatee very seldom follows the testator to
"I am going," said Schmucke. Blow after blow had given him an
intolerable pain at the heart.
"Oh! here comes M. Villemot!" exclaimed La Sauvage.
"Mennesir Fillemod," said poor Schmucke, "rebresent me."
"I hurried here at once," said Villemot. "I have come to tell you that
the will is completely in order; it will certainly be confirmed by the
court, and you will be put in possession. You will have a fine
"/I?/ Ein fein vordune?" cried Schmucke, despairingly. That he of all
men should be suspected of caring for the money!
"And meantime what is the justice of the peace doing here with his wax
candles and his bits of tape?" asked La Sauvage.
"Oh, he is affixing seals. . . . Come, M. Schmucke, you have a right
to be present."
"No--go in yourself."
"But where is the use of the seals if M. Schmucke is in his own house
and everything belongs to him?" asked La Sauvage, doing justice in
feminine fashion, and interpreting the Code according to their fancy,
like one and all of her sex.
"M. Schmucke is not in possession, madame; he is in M. Pons' house.
Everything will be his, no doubt; but the legatee cannot take
possession without an authorization--an order from the Tribunal. And
if the next-of-kin set aside by the testator should dispute the order,
a lawsuit is the result. And as nobody knows what may happen,
everything is sealed up, and the notaries representing either side
proceed to draw up an inventory during the delay prescribed by the
law. . . . And there you are!"
Schmucke, hearing such talk for the first time in his life, was
completely bewildered by it; his head sank down upon the back of his
chair--he could not support it, it had grown so heavy.
Villemot meanwhile went off to chat with the justice of the peace and
his clerk, assisting with professional coolness to affix the seals--a
ceremony which always involves some buffoonery and plentiful comments
on the objects thus secured, unless, indeed, one of the family happens
to be present. At length the party sealed up the chamber and returned
to the dining-room, whither the clerk betook himself. Schmucke watched
the mechanical operation which consists in setting the justice's seal
at either end of a bit of tape stretched across the opening of a
folding-door; or, in the case of a cupboard or ordinary door, from
edge to edge above the door-handle.
"Now for this room," said Fraisier, pointing to Schmucke's bedroom,
which opened into the dining-room.
"But that is M. Schmucke's own room," remonstrated La Sauvage,
springing in front of the door.
"We found the lease among the papers," Fraisier said ruthlessly;
"there was no mention of M. Schmucke in it; it is taken out in M.
Pons' name only. The whole place, and every room in it, is a part of
the estate. And besides"--flinging open the door--"look here, monsieur
le juge de la paix, it is full of pictures."
"So it is," answered the justice of the peace, and Fraisier thereupon
gained his point.
"Wait a bit, gentlemen," said Villemot. "Do you know that you are
turning the universal legatee out of doors, and as yet his right has
not been called in question?"
"Yes, it has," said Fraisier; "we are opposing the transfer of the
"And upon what grounds?"
"You shall know that by and by, my boy," Fraisier replied,
banteringly. "At this moment, if the legatee withdraws everything that
he declares to be his, we shall raise no objections, but the room
itself will be sealed. And M. Schmucke may lodge where he pleases."
"No," said Villemot; "M. Schmucke is going to stay in his room."
"I shall demand an immediate special inquiry," continued Villemot,
"and prove that we pay half the rent. You shall not turn us out. Take
away the pictures, decide on the ownership of the various articles,
but here my client stops--'my boy.' "
"I shall go out!" the old musician suddenly said. He had recovered
energy during the odious dispute.
"You had better," said Fraisier. "Your course will save expense to
you, for your contention would not be made good. The lease is
"The lease! the lease!" cried Villemot, "it is a question of good
"That could only be proved in a criminal case, by calling witnesses.--
Do you mean to plunge into experts' fees and verifications, and orders
to show cause why judgment should not be given, and law proceedings
"No, no!" cried Schmucke in dismay. "I shall turn out; I am used to
In practice Schmucke was a philosopher, an unconscious cynic, so
greatly had he simplified his life. Two pairs of shoes, a pair of
boots, a couple of suits of clothes, a dozen shirts, a dozen bandana
handkerchiefs, four waistcoats, a superb pipe given to him by Pons,
with an embroidered tobacco-pouch--these were all his belongings.
Overwrought by a fever of indignation, he went into his room and piled
his clothes upon a chair.
"All dese are mine," he said, with simplicity worthy of Cincinnatus.
"Der biano is also mine."
Fraisier turned to La Sauvage. "Madame, get help," he said; "take that
piano out and put it on the landing."
"You are too rough into the bargain," said Villemot, addressing
Fraisier. "The justice of the peace gives orders here; he is supreme."
"There are valuables in the room," put in the clerk.
"And besides," added the justice of the peace, "M. Schmucke is going
out of his own free will."
"Did any one ever see such a client!" Villemot cried indignantly,
turning upon Schmucke. "You are as limp as a rag--"
"Vat dos it matter vere von dies?" Schmucke said as he went out. "Dese
men haf tiger faces. . . . I shall send somebody to vetch mein bits of
"Where are you going, sir?"
"Vere it shall blease Gott," returned Pons' universal legatee with
"Send me word," said Villemot.
Fraisier turned to the head-clerk. "Go after him," he whispered.
Mme. Cantinet was left in charge, with a provision of fifty francs
paid out of the money that they found. The justice of the peace looked
out; there Schmucke stood in the courtyard looking up at the windows
for the last time.
"You have found a man of butter," remarked the justice.
"Yes," said Fraisier, "yes. The thing is as good as done. You need not
hesitate to marry your granddaughter to Poulain; he will be head-
surgeon at the Quinze-Vingts." (The Asylum founded by St. Louis for
three hundred blind people.)
"We shall see.--Good-day, M. Fraisier," said the justice of the peace
with a friendly air.
"There is a man with a head on his shoulders," remarked the justice's
clerk. "The dog will go a long way."
By this time it was eleven o'clock. The old German went like an
automaton down the road along which Pons and he had so often walked
together. Wherever he went he saw Pons, he almost thought that Pons
was by his side; and so he reached the theatre just as his friend
Topinard was coming out of it after a morning spent in cleaning the
lamps and meditating on the manager's tyranny.
"Oh, shoost der ding for me!" cried Schmucke, stopping his
acquaintance. "Dopinart! you haf a lodging someveres, eh?"
"A home off your own?"
"Are you villing to take me for ein poarder? Oh! I shall pay ver'
vell; I haf nine hundert vrancs of inkomm, und--I haf not ver' long
ter lif. . . . I shall gif no drouble vatefer. . . . I can eat
onydings--I only vant to shmoke mein bipe. Und--you are der only von
dat haf shed a tear for Bons, mit me; und so, I lof you."
"I should be very glad, sir; but, to begin with, M. Gaudissart has
given me a proper wigging--"
"That is one way of saying that he combed my hair for me."
"/Combed your hair?/"
"He gave me a scolding for meddling in your affairs. . . . So we must
be very careful if you come to me. But I doubt whether you will stay
when you have seen the place; you do not know how we poor devils
"I should rader der boor home of a goot-hearted mann dot haf mourned
Bons, dan der Duileries mit men dot haf ein tiger face. . . . I haf
chust left tigers in Bons' house; dey vill eat up everydings--"
"Come with me, sir, and you shall see. But--well, anyhow, there is a
garret. Let us see what Mme. Topinard says."
Schmucke followed like a sheep, while Topinard led the way into one of
the squalid districts which might be called the cancers of Paris--a
spot known as the Cite Bordin. It is a slum out of the Rue de Bondy, a
double row of houses run up by the speculative builder, under the
shadow of the huge mass of the Porte Saint-Martin theatre. The
pavement at the higher end lies below the level of the Rue de Bondy;
at the lower it falls away towards the Rue des Mathurins du Temple.
Follow its course and you find that it terminates in another slum
running at right angles to the first--the Cite Bordin is, in fact, a
T-shaped blind alley. Its two streets thus arranged contain some
thirty houses, six or seven stories high; and every story, and every
room in every story, is a workshop and a warehouse for goods of every
sort and description, for this wart upon the face of Paris is a
miniature Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Cabinet-work and brasswork,
theatrical costumes, blown glass, painted porcelain--all the various
fancy goods known as /l'article Paris/ are made here. Dirty and
productive like commerce, always full of traffic--foot-passengers,
vans, and drays--the Cite Bourdin is an unsavory-looking neighborhood,
with a seething population in keeping with the squalid surroundings.
It is a not unintelligent artisan population, though the whole power
of the intellect is absorbed by the day's manual labor. Topinard, like
every other inhabitant of the Cite Bourdin, lived in it for the sake
of comparatively low rent, the cause of its existence and prosperity.
His sixth floor lodging, in the second house to the left, looked out
upon the belt of green garden, still in existence, at the back of
three or four large mansions in the Rue de Bondy.
Topinard's apartment consisted of a kitchen and two bedrooms. The
first was a nursery with two little deal bedsteads and a cradle in it,
the second was the bedroom, and the kitchen did duty as a dining-room.
Above, reached by a short ladder, known among builders as a "trap-
ladder," there was a kind of garret, six feet high, with a sash-window
let into the roof. This room, given as a servants' bedroom, raised the
Topinards' establishment from mere "rooms" to the dignity of a
tenement, and the rent to a corresponding sum of four hundred francs.
An arched lobby, lighted from the kitchen by a small round window, did
duty as an ante-chamber, and filled the space between the bedroom, the
kitchen, and house doors--three doors in all. The rooms were paved
with bricks, and hung with a hideous wall-paper at threepence apiece;
the chimneypieces that adorned them were of the kind called
/capucines/--a shelf set on a couple of brackets painted to resemble
wood. Here in these three rooms dwelt five human beings, three of them
children. Any one, therefore, can imagine how the walls were covered
with scores and scratches so far as an infant arm can reach.
Rich people can scarcely realize the extreme simplicity of a poor
man's kitchen. A Dutch oven, a kettle, a gridiron, a saucepan, two or
three dumpy cooking-pots, and a frying-pan--that was all. All the
crockery in the place, white and brown earthenware together, was not
worth more than twelve francs. Dinner was served on the kitchen table,
which, with a couple of chairs and a couple of stools, completed the
furniture. The stock of fuel was kept under the stove with a funnel-
shaped chimney, and in a corner stood the wash-tub in which the family
linen lay, often steeping over-night in soapsuds. The nursery ceiling
was covered with clothes-lines, the walls were variegated with
theatrical placards and wood-cuts from newspapers or advertisements.
Evidently the eldest boy, the owner of the school-books stacked in a
corner, was left in charge while his parents were absent at the
theatre. In many a French workingman's family, so soon as a child
reaches the age of six or seven, it plays the part of mother to
younger sisters and brothers.
From this bare outline, it may be imagined that the Topinards, to use
the hackneyed formula, were "poor but honest." Topinard himself was
verging on forty; Mme. Topinard, once leader of a chorus--mistress,
too, it was said, of Gaudissart's predecessor, was certainly thirty
years old. Lolotte had been a fine woman in her day; but the
misfortunes of the previous management had told upon her to such an
extent, that it had seemed to her to be both advisable and necessary
to contract a stage-marriage with Topinard. She did not doubt but
that, as soon as they could muster the sum of a hundred and fifty
francs, her Topinard would perform his vows agreeably to the civil
law, were it only to legitimize the three children, whom he worshiped.
Meantime, Mme. Topinard sewed for the theatre wardrobe in the morning;
and with prodigious effort, the brave couple made nine hundred francs
per annum between them.
"One more flight!" Topinard had twice repeated since they reached the
third floor. Schmucke, engulfed in his sorrow, did not so much as know
whether he was going up or coming down.
In another minute Topinard had opened the door; but before he appeared
in his white workman's blouse Mme. Topinard's voice rang from the
"There, there! children, be quiet! here comes papa!"
But the children, no doubt, did as they pleased with papa, for the
oldest member of the family, sitting astride a broomstick, continued
to command a charge of cavalry (a reminiscence of the Cirque-
Olympique), the second blew a tin trumpet, while the third did its
best to keep up with the main body of the army. Their mother was at
work on a theatrical costume.
"Be quiet! or I shall slap you!" shouted Topinard in a formidable
voice; then in an aside for Schmucke's benefit--"Always have to say
that!--Here, little one," he continued, addressing his Lolotte, "this
is M. Schmucke, poor M. Pons' friend. He does not know where to go,
and he would like to live with us. I told him that we were not very
spick-and-span up here, that we lived on the sixth floor, and had only
the garret to offer him; but it was no use, he would come--"
Schmucke had taken the chair which the woman brought him, and the
children, stricken with sudden shyness, had gathered together to give
the stranger that mute, earnest, so soon-finished scrutiny
characteristic of childhood. For a child, like a dog, is wont to judge
by instinct rather than reason. Schmucke looked up; his eyes rested on
that charming little picture; he saw the performer on the tin trumpet,
a little five-year-old maiden with wonderful golden hair.
"She looks like ein liddle German girl," said Schmucke, holding out
his arms to the child.
"Monsieur will not be very comfortable here," said Mme. Topinard. "I
would propose that he should have our room at once, but I am obliged
to have the children near me."
She opened the door as she spoke, and bade Schmucke come in. Such
splendor as their abode possessed was all concentrated here. Blue
cotton curtains with a white fringe hung from the mahogany bedstead,
and adorned the window; the chest of drawers, bureau, and chairs,
though all made of mahogany, were neatly kept. The clock and
candlesticks on the chimneypiece were evidently the gift of the
bankrupt manager, whose portrait, a truly frightful performance of
Pierre Grassou's, looked down upon the chest of drawers. The children
tried to peep in at the forbidden glories.
"Monsieur might be comfortable in here," said their mother.
"No, no," Schmucke replied. "Eh! I haf not ver' long to lif, I only
vant a corner to die in."
The door was closed, and the three went up to the garret. "Dis is der
ding for me," Schmucke cried at once. "Pefore I lifd mid Bons, I vas
nefer better lodged."
"Very well. A truckle-bed, a couple of mattresses, a bolster, a
pillow, a couple of chairs, and a table--that is all that you need to
buy. That will not ruin you--it may cost a hundred and fifty francs,
with the crockeryware and strip of carpet for the bedside."
Everything was settled--save the money, which was not forthcoming.
Schmucke saw that his new friends were very poor, and recollecting
that the theatre was only a few steps away, it naturally occurred to
him to apply to the manager for his salary. He went at once, and found
Gaudissart in his office. Gaudissart received him in the somewhat
stiffly polite manner which he reserved for professionals. Schmucke's
demand for a month's salary took him by surprise, but on inquiry he
found that it was due.
"Oh, confound it, my good man, a German can always count, even if he
has tears in his eyes. . . . I thought that you would have taken the
thousand francs that I sent you into account, as a final year's
salary, and that we were quits."
"We haf receifed nodings," said Schmucke; "und gif I komm to you, it
ees because I am in der shtreet, und haf not ein benny. How did you
send us der bonus?"
"By your portress."
"By Montame Zipod!" exclaimed Schmucke. "She killed Bons, she robbed
him, she sold him--she tried to purn his vill--she is a pad creature,
"But, my good man, how come you to be out in the street without a roof
over your head or a penny in your pocket, when you are the sole heir?
That does not necessarily follow, as the saying is."
"They haf put me out at der door. I am a voreigner, I know nodings of
"Poor man!" thought Gaudissart, foreseeing the probable end of the
unequal contest.--"Listen," he began, "do you know what you ought to
do in this business?"
"I haf ein mann of pizness!"
"Very good, come to terms at once with the next-of-kin; make them pay
you a lump sum of money down and an annuity, and you can live in
"I ask noding more."
"Very well. Let me arrange it for you," said Gaudissart. Fraisier had
told him the whole story only yesterday, and he thought that he saw
his way to making interest out of the case with the young Vicomtesse
Popinot and her mother. He would finish a dirty piece of work, and
some day he would be a privy councillor, at least; or so he told
"I gif you full powers."
"Well. Let me see. Now, to begin with," said Gaudissart, Napoleon of
the boulevard theatres, "to begin with, here are a hundred crowns--"
(he took fifteen louis from his purse and handed them to Schmucke).
"That is yours, on account of six months' salary. If you leave the
theatre, you can repay me the money. Now for your budget. What are
your yearly expenses? How much do you want to be comfortable? Come,
now, scheme out a life for a Sardanapalus--"
"I only need two suits of clothes, von for der vinter, von for der
"Three hundred francs," said Gaudissart.
"Shoes. Vour bairs."
"A dozen pairs--thirty-six francs."
"Half a tozzen shirts."
"Six calico shirts, twenty-four francs; as many linen shirts, forty-
eight francs; let us say seventy-two. That makes four hundred and
sixty-eight francs altogether.--Say five hundred, including cravats
and pocket-handkerchiefs; a hundred francs for the laundress--six
hundred. And now, how much for your board--three francs a day?"
"No, it ees too much."
"After all, you want hats; that brings it to fifteen hundred. Five
hundred more for rent; that makes two thousand. If I can get two
thousand francs per annum for you, are you willing? . . . Good
"Und mein tobacco."
"Two thousand four hundred, then. . . . Oh! Papa Schmucke, do you call
that tobacco? Very well, the tobacco shall be given in.--So that is
two thousand four hundred francs per annum."
"Dat ees not all! I should like som monny."
"Pin-money!--Just so. Oh, these Germans! And calls himself an
innocent, the old Robert Macaire!" thought Gaudissart. Aloud he said,
"How much do you want? But this must be the last."
"It ees to bay a zacred debt."
"A debt!" said Gaudissart to himself. What a shark it is! He is worse
than an eldest son. He will invent a bill or two next! We must cut
this short. This Fraisier cannot take large views.--What debt is this,
my good man? Speak out."
"Dere vas but von mann dot haf mourned Bons mit me. . . . He haf a
tear liddle girl mit wunderschones haar; it vas as if I saw mein boor
Deutschland dot I should nefer haf left. . . . Baris is no blace for
die Germans; dey laugh at dem" (with a little nod as he spoke, and the
air of a man who knows something of life in this world below).
"He is off his head," Gaudissart said to himself. And a sudden pang of
pity for this poor innocent before him brought a tear to the manager's
"Ah! you understand, mennesir le directeur! Ver' goot. Dat mann mit
die liddle taughter is Dobinard, vat tidies der orchestra and lights
die lamps. Bons vas fery fond of him, und helped him. He vas der only
von dat accombanied mein only friend to die church und to die grafe. .
. . I vant dree tausend vrancs for him, und dree tausend for die
"Poor fellow!" said Gaudissart to himself.
Rough, self-made man though he was, he felt touched by this nobleness
of nature, by a gratitude for a mere trifle, as the world views it;
though for the eyes of this divine innocence the trifle, like
Bossuet's cup of water, was worth more than the victories of great
captains. Beneath all Gaudissart's vanity, beneath the fierce desire
to succeed in life at all costs, to rise to the social level of his
old friend Popinot, there lay a warm heart and a kindly nature.
Wherefore he canceled his too hasty judgments and went over to
"You shall have it all! But I will do better still, my dear Schmucke.
Topinard is a good sort--"
"Yes. I haf chust peen to see him in his boor home, vere he ees happy
mit his children--"
"I will give him the cashier's place. Old Baudrand is going to leave."
"Ah! Gott pless you!" cried Schmucke.
"Very well, my good, kind fellow, meet me at Berthier's office about
four o'clock this afternoon. Everything shall be ready, and you shall
be secured from want for the rest of your days. You shall draw your
six thousand francs, and you shall have the same salary with Garangeot
that you used to have with Pons."
"No," Schmucke answered. "I shall not lif. . . . I haf no heart for
anydings; I feel that I am attacked--"
"Poor lamb!" Gaudissart muttered to himself as the German took his
leave. "But, after all, one lives on mutton; and, as the sublime
Beranger says, 'Poor sheep! you were made to be shorn,' " and he
hummed the political squib by way of giving vent to his feelings. Then
he rang for the office-boy.
"Call my carriage," he said.
"Rue de Hanovre," he told the coachman.
The man of ambitions by this time had reappeared; he saw the way to
the Council of State lying straight before him.
And Schmucke? He was busy buying flowers and cakes for Topinard's
children, and went home almost joyously.
"I am gifing die bresents . . ." he said, and he smiled. It was the
first smile for three months, but any one who had seen Schmucke's face
would have shuddered to see it there.
"But dere is ein condition--"
"It is too kind of you, sir," said the mother.
"De liddle girl shall gif me a kiss and put die flowers in her hair,
like die liddle German maidens--"
"Olga, child, do just as the gentleman wishes," said the mother,
assuming an air of discipline.
"Do not scold mein liddle German girl," implored Schmucke. It seemed
to him that the little one was his dear Germany. Topinard came in.
"Three porters are bringing up the whole bag of tricks," he said.
"Oh! Here are two hundred vrancs to bay for eferydings . . ." said
Schmucke. "But, mein friend, your Montame Dobinard is ver' nice; you
shall marry her, is it not so? I shall gif you tausend crowns, and die
liddle vone shall haf tausend crowns for her toury, and you shall
infest it in her name. . . . Und you are not to pe ein zuper any more
--you are to pe de cashier at de teatre--"
"/I/?--instead of old Baudrand?"
"Who told you so?"
"Oh! it is enough to send one wild with joy! . . . Eh! I say, Rosalie,
what a rumpus there will be at the theatre! But it is not possible--"
"Our benefactor must not live in a garret--"
"Pshaw! for die few tays dat I haf to lif it ees fery komfortable,"
said Schmucke. "Goot-pye; I am going to der zemetery, to see vat dey
haf don mit Bons, und to order som flowers for his grafe."
Mme. Camusot de Marville was consumed by the liveliest apprehensions.
At a council held with Fraisier, Berthier, and Godeschal, the two
last-named authorities gave it as their opinion that it was hopeless
to dispute a will drawn up by two notaries in the presence of two
witnesses, so precisely was the instrument worded by Leopold
Hannequin. Honest Godeschal said that even if Schmucke's own legal
adviser should succeed in deceiving him, he would find out the truth
Back to Full Books