Poor Relations
Honore de Balzac

Part 10 out of 16

a year, he says, and we are to go to live in the country a long way
off, in the Vosges."

At the word /Vosges/ the Baroness sat lost in reverie. It called up
the vision of her native village. She was roused from her melancholy
meditation by the entrance of the stove-fitter, who came to assure her
of his prosperity.

"In a year's time, madame, I can repay the money you lent us, for it
is God's money, the money of the poor and wretched. If ever I make a
fortune, come to me for what you want, and I will render through you
the help to others which you first brought us."

"Just now," said Madame Hulot, "I do not need your money, but I ask
your assistance in a good work. I have just seen that little Judici,
who is living with an old man, and I mean to see them regularly and
legally married."

"Ah! old Vyder; he is a very worthy old fellow, with plenty of good
sense. The poor old man has already made friends in the neighborhood,
though he has been here but two months. He keeps my accounts for me.
He is, I believe, a brave Colonel who served the Emperor well. And how
he adores Napoleon!--He has some orders, but he never wears them. He
is waiting till he is straight again, for he is in debt, poor old boy!
In fact, I believe he is hiding, threatened by the law--"

"Tell him that I will pay his debts if he will marry the child."

"Oh, that will soon be settled.--Suppose you were to see him, madame;
it is not two steps away, in the Passage du Soleil."

So the lady and the stove-fitter went out.

"This way, madame," said the man, turning down the Rue de la

The alley runs, in fact, from the bottom of this street through to the
Rue du Rocher. Halfway down this passage, recently opened through,
where the shops let at a very low rent, the Baroness saw on a window,
screened up to a height with a green, gauze curtain, which excluded
the prying eyes of the passer-by, the words:

"ECRIVAIN PUBLIC"; and on the door the announcement:


/Petitions Drawn Up, Accounts Audited, Etc./

/With Secrecy and Dispatch./

The shop was like one of those little offices where travelers by
omnibus wait the vehicles to take them on to their destination. A
private staircase led up, no doubt, to the living-rooms on the
entresol which were let with the shop. Madame Hulot saw a dirty
writing-table of some light wood, some letter-boxes, and a wretched
second-hand chair. A cap with a peak and a greasy green shade for the
eyes suggested either precautions for disguise, or weak eyes, which
was not unlikely in an old man.

"He is upstairs," said the stove-fitter. "I will go up and tell him to
come down."

Adeline lowered her veil and took a seat. A heavy step made the narrow
stairs creak, and Adeline could not restrain a piercing cry when she
saw her husband, Baron Hulot, in a gray knitted jersey, old gray
flannel trousers, and slippers.

"What is your business, madame?" said Hulot, with a flourish.

She rose, seized Hulot by the arm, and said in a voice hoarse with

"At last--I have found you!"

"Adeline!" exclaimed the Baron in bewilderment, and he locked the shop
door. "Joseph, go out the back way," he added to the stove-fitter.

"My dear!" she said, forgetting everything in her excessive joy, "you
can come home to us all; we are rich. Your son draws a hundred and
sixty thousand francs a year! Your pension is released; there are
fifteen thousand francs of arrears you can get on showing that you are
alive. Valerie is dead, and left you three hundred thousand francs.

"Your name is quite forgotten by this time; you may reappear in the
world, and you will find a fortune awaiting you at your son's house.
Come; our happiness will be complete. For nearly three years I have
been seeking you, and I felt so sure of finding you that a room is
ready waiting for you. Oh! come away from this, come away from the
dreadful state I see you in!"

"I am very willing," said the bewildered Baron, "but can I take the

"Hector, give her up! Do that much for your Adeline, who has never
before asked you to make the smallest sacrifice. I promise you I will
give the child a marriage portion; I will see that she marries well,
and has some education. Let it be said of one of the women who have
given you happiness that she too is happy; and do not relapse into
vice, into the mire."

"So it was you," said the Baron, with a smile, "who wanted to see me
married?--Wait a few minutes," he added; "I will go upstairs and
dress; I have some decent clothes in a trunk."

Adeline, left alone, and looking round the squalid shop, melted into

"He has been living here, and we rolling in wealth!" said she to
herself. "Poor man, he has indeed been punished--he who was elegance

The stove-fitter returned to make his bow to his benefactress, and she
desired him to fetch a coach. When he came back, she begged him to
give little Atala Judici a home, and to take her away at once.

"And tell her that if she will place herself under the guidance of
Monsieur the Cure of the Madeleine, on the day when she attends her
first Communion I will give her thirty thousand francs and find her a
good husband, some worthy young man."

"My eldest son, then madame! He is two-and-twenty, and he worships the

The Baron now came down; there were tears in his eyes.

"You are forcing me to desert the only creature who had ever begun to
love me at all as you do!" said he in a whisper to his wife. "She is
crying bitterly, and I cannot abandon her so--"

"Be quite easy, Hector. She will find a home with honest people, and I
will answer for her conduct."

"Well, then, I can go with you," said the Baron, escorting his wife to
the cab.

Hector, the Baron d'Ervy once more, had put on a blue coat and
trousers, a white waistcoat, a black stock, and gloves. When the
Baroness had taken her seat in the vehicle, Atala slipped in like an

"Oh, madame," she said, "let me go with you. I will be so good, so
obedient; I will do whatever you wish; but do not part me from my
Daddy Vyder, my kind Daddy who gives me such nice things. I shall be

"Come, come, Atala," said the Baron, "this lady is my wife--we must

"She! As old as that! and shaking like a leaf!" said the child. "Look
at her head!" and she laughingly mimicked the Baroness' palsy.

The stove-fitter, who had run after the girl, came to the carriage

"Take her away!" said Adeline. The man put his arms round Atala and
fairly carried her off.

"Thanks for such a sacrifice, my dearest," said Adeline, taking the
Baron's hand and clutching it with delirious joy. "How much you are
altered! you must have suffered so much! What a surprise for Hortense
and for your son!"

Adeline talked as lovers talk who meet after a long absence, of a
hundred things at once.

In ten minutes the Baron and his wife reached the Rue Louis-le-Grand,
and there Adeline found this note awaiting her:--


"Monsieur le Baron Hulot d'Ervy lived for one month in the Rue de
Charonne under the name of Thorec, an anagram of Hector. He is now
in the Passage du Soleil by the name of Vyder. He says he is an
Alsatian, and does writing, and he lives with a girl named Atala
Judici. Be very cautious, madame, for search is on foot; the Baron
is wanted, on what score I know not.

"The actress has kept her word, and remains, as ever,

"Madame la Baronne, your humble servant,
"J. M."

The Baron's return was hailed with such joy as reconciled him to
domestic life. He forgot little Atala Judici, for excesses of
profligacy had reduced him to the volatility of feeling that is
characteristic of childhood. But the happiness of the family was
dashed by the change that had come over him. He had been still hale
when he had gone away from his home; he had come back almost a
hundred, broken, bent, and his expression even debased.

A splendid dinner, improvised by Celestine, reminded the old man of
the singer's banquets; he was dazzled by the splendor of his home.

"A feast in honor of the return of the prodigal father?" said he in a
murmur to Adeline.

"Hush!" said she, "all is forgotten."

"And Lisbeth?" he asked, not seeing the old maid.

"I am sorry to say that she is in bed," replied Hortense. "She can
never get up, and we shall have the grief of losing her ere long. She
hopes to see you after dinner."

At daybreak next morning Victorin Hulot was informed by the porter's
wife that soldiers of the municipal guard were posted all round the
premises; the police demanded Baron Hulot. The bailiff, who had
followed the woman, laid a summons in due form before the lawyer, and
asked him whether he meant to pay his father's debts. The claim was
for ten thousand francs at the suit of an usurer named Samanon, who
had probably lent the Baron two or three thousand at most. Victorin
desired the bailiff to dismiss his men, and paid.

"But is it the last?" he anxiously wondered.

Lisbeth, miserable already at seeing the family so prosperous, could
not survive this happy event. She grew so rapidly worse that Bianchon
gave her but a week to live, conquered at last in the long struggle in
which she had scored so many victories.

She kept the secret of her hatred even through a painful death from
pulmonary consumption. And, indeed, she had the supreme satisfaction
of seeing Adeline, Hortense, Hulot, Victorin, Steinbock, Celestine,
and their children standing in tears round her bed and mourning for
her as the angel of the family.

Baron Hulot, enjoying a course of solid food such as he had not known
for nearly three years, recovered flesh and strength, and was almost
himself again. This improvement was such a joy to Adeline that her
nervous trembling perceptibly diminished.

"She will be happy after all," said Lisbeth to herself on the day
before she died, as she saw the veneration with which the Baron
regarded his wife, of whose sufferings he had heard from Hortense and

And vindictiveness hastened Cousin Betty's end. The family followed
her, weeping, to the grave.

The Baron and Baroness, having reached the age which looks for perfect
rest, gave up the handsome rooms on the first floor to the Count and
Countess Steinbock, and took those above. The Baron by his son's
exertions found an official position in the management of a railroad,
in 1845, with a salary of six thousand francs, which, added to the six
thousand of his pension and the money left to him by Madame Crevel,
secured him an income of twenty-four thousand francs. Hortense having
enjoyed her independent income during the three years of separation
from Wenceslas, Victorin now invested the two hundred thousand francs
he had in trust, in his sister's name and he allowed her twelve
thousand francs.

Wenceslas, as the husband of a rich woman, was not unfaithful, but he
was an idler; he could not make up his mind to begin any work, however
trifling. Once more he became the artist /in partibus/; he was popular
in society, and consulted by amateurs; in short, he became a critic,
like all the feeble folk who fall below their promise.

Thus each household, though living as one family, had its own fortune.
The Baroness, taught by bitter experience, left the management of
matters to her son, and the Baron was thus reduced to his salary, in
hope that the smallness of his income would prevent his relapsing into
mischief. And by some singular good fortune, on which neither the
mother nor the son had reckoned, Hulot seemed to have foresworn the
fair sex. His subdued behaviour, ascribed to the course of nature, so
completely reassured the family, that they enjoyed to the full his
recovered amiability and delightful qualities. He was unfailingly
attentive to his wife and children, escorted them to the play,
reappeared in society, and did the honors to his son's house with
exquisite grace. In short, this reclaimed prodigal was the joy of his

He was a most agreeable old man, a ruin, but full of wit, having
retained no more of his vice than made it an added social grace.

Of course, everybody was quite satisfied and easy. The young people
and the Baroness lauded the model father to the skies, forgetting the
death of the two uncles. Life cannot go on without much forgetting!

Madame Victorin, who managed this enormous household with great skill,
due, no doubt, to Lisbeth's training, had found it necessary to have a
man-cook. This again necessitated a kitchen-maid. Kitchen-maids are in
these days ambitious creatures, eager to detect the /chef's/ secrets,
and to become cooks as soon as they have learnt to stir a sauce.
Consequently, the kitchen-maid is liable to frequent change.

At the beginning of 1845 Celestine engaged as kitchen-maid a sturdy
Normandy peasant come from Isigny--short-waisted, with strong red
arms, a common face, as dull as an "occasional piece" at the play, and
hardly to be persuaded out of wearing the classical linen cap peculiar
to the women of Lower Normandy. This girl, as buxom as a wet-nurse,
looked as if she would burst the blue cotton check in which she
clothed her person. Her florid face might have been hewn out of stone,
so hard were its tawny outlines.

Of course no attention was paid to the advent in the house of this
girl, whose name was Agathe--an ordinary, wide-awake specimen, such as
is daily imported from the provinces. Agathe had no attractions for
the cook, her tongue was too rough, for she had served in a suburban
inn, waiting on carters; and instead of making a conquest of her chief
and winning from him the secrets of the high art of the kitchen, she
was the object of his great contempt. The /chef's/ attentions were, in
fact, devoted to Louise, the Countess Steinbock's maid. The country
girl, thinking herself ill-used, complained bitterly that she was
always sent out of the way on some pretext when the /chef/ was
finishing a dish or putting the crowning touch to a sauce.

"I am out of luck," said she, "and I shall go to another place."

And yet she stayed though she had twice given notice to quit.

One night, Adeline, roused by some unusual noise, did not see Hector
in the bed he occupied near hers; for they slept side by side in two
beds, as beseemed an old couple. She lay awake an hour, but he did not
return. Seized with a panic, fancying some tragic end had overtaken
him--an apoplectic attack, perhaps--she went upstairs to the floor
occupied by the servants, and then was attracted to the room where
Agathe slept, partly by seeing a light below the door, and partly by
the murmur of voices. She stood still in dismay on recognizing the
voice of her husband, who, a victim to Agathe's charms, to vanquish
this strapping wench's not disinterested resistance, went to the
length of saying:

"My wife has not long to live, and if you like you may be a Baroness."

Adeline gave a cry, dropped her candlestick, and fled.

Three days later the Baroness, who had received the last sacraments,
was dying, surrounded by her weeping family.

Just before she died, she took her husband's hand and pressed it,
murmuring in his ear:

"My dear, I had nothing left to give up to you but my life. In a
minute or two you will be free, and can make another Baronne Hulot."

And, rare sight, tears oozed from her dead eyes.

This desperateness of vice had vanquished the patience of the angel,
who, on the brink of eternity, gave utterance to the only reproach she
had ever spoken in her life.

The Baron left Paris three days after his wife's funeral. Eleven
months after Victorin heard indirectly of his father's marriage to
Mademoiselle Agathe Piquetard, solemnized at Isigny, on the 1st
February 1846.

"Parents may hinder their children's marriage, but children cannot
interfere with the insane acts of their parents in their second
childhood," said Maitre Hulot to Maitre Popinot, the second son of the
Minister of Commerce, who was discussing this marriage.


The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

Beauvisage, Phileas
The Member for Arcis

Berthier (Parisian notary)
Cousin Pons

Bianchon, Horace
Father Goriot
The Atheist's Mass
Cesar Birotteau
The Commission in Lunacy
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Secrets of a Princess
The Government Clerks
A Study of Woman
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Seamy Side of History
The Magic Skin
A Second Home
A Prince of Bohemia
Letters of Two Brides
The Muse of the Department
The Imaginary Mistress
The Middle Classes
The Country Parson
In addition, M. Bianchon narrated the following:
Another Study of Woman
La Grande Breteche

Bixiou, Jean-Jacques
The Purse
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Government Clerks
Modeste Mignon
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Firm of Nucingen
The Muse of the Department
The Member for Arcis
A Man of Business
Gaudissart II.
The Unconscious Humorists
Cousin Pons

A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Cousin Pons

Bridau, Joseph
The Purse
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Start in Life
Modeste Mignon
Another Study of Woman
Pierre Grassou
Letters of Two Brides
The Member for Arcis

Brisetout, Heloise
Cousin Pons
The Middle Classes

Cadine, Jenny
The Unconscious Humorists
The Member for Arcis

Cousin Pons

Chocardelle, Mademoiselle
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
The Member for Arcis

Colleville, Flavie Minoret, Madame
The Government Clerks
The Middle Classes

Collin, Jacqueline
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Unconscious Humorists

Crevel, Celestin
Cesar Birotteau
Cousin Pons

Esgrignon, Victurnien, Comte (then Marquis d')
Jealousies of a Country Town
Letters of Two Brides
A Man of Business
The Secrets of a Princess

Falcon, Jean
The Chouans
The Muse of the Department

Graff, Wolfgang
Cousin Pons

Grassou, Pierre
Pierre Grassou
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Middle Classes
Cousin Pons

Cesar Birotteau
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Start in Life
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Middle Classes

Hannequin, Leopold
Albert Savarus
Cousin Pons

Herouville, Duc d'
The Hated Son
Jealousies of a Country Town
Modeste Mignon

Hulot (Marshal)
The Chouans
The Muse of the Department

Hulot, Victorin
The Member for Arcis

La Bastie la Briere, Madame Ernest de
Modeste Mignon
The Member for Arcis

La Baudraye, Madame Polydore Milaud de
The Muse of the Department
A Prince of Bohemia

La Chanterie, Baronne Henri le Chantre de
The Seamy Side of History

Laginski, Comte Adam Mitgislas
Another Study of Woman
The Imaginary Mistress

La Palferine, Comte de
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
The Imaginary Mistress

La Roche-Hugon, Martial de
Domestic Peace
The Peasantry
A Daughter of Eve
The Member for Arcis
The Middle Classes

Lebas, Joseph
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
Cesar Birotteau

Lebas, Madame Joseph (Virginie)
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
Cesar Birotteau

The Muse of the Department

Lefebvre, Robert
The Gondreville Mystery

Lenoncourt-Givry, Duc de
Letters of Two Brides
The Member for Arcis

Lora, Leon de
The Unconscious Humorists
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Start in Life
Pierre Grassou

Lousteau, Etienne
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Bachelor's Establishment
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
A Daughter of Eve
The Muse of the Department
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
The Middle Classes
The Unconscious Humorists

Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Magic Skin
A Daughter of Eve
The Unconscious Humorists

Montauran, Marquis de (younger brother of Alphonse de)
The Chouans
The Seamy Side of History

Montcornet, Marechal, Comte de
Domestic Peace
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Peasantry
A Man of Business

Navarreins, Duc de
A Bachelor's Establishment
Colonel Chabert
The Muse of the Department
The Thirteen
Jealousies of a Country Town
The Peasantry
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Country Parson
The Magic Skin
The Gondreville Mystery
The Secrets of a Princess

Nourrisson, Madame
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Unconscious Humorists

Nucingen, Baron Frederic de
The Firm of Nucingen
Father Goriot
Cesar Birotteau
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Another Study of Woman
The Secrets of a Princess
A Man of Business
The Muse of the Department
The Unconscious Humorists

Paz, Thaddee
The Imaginary Mistress

Popinot, Anselme
Cesar Birotteau
Gaudissart the Great
Cousin Pons

Popinot, Madame Anselme
Cesar Birotteau
A Prince of Bohemia
Cousin Pons

Popinot, Vicomte
Cousin Pons

Rastignac, Eugene de
Father Goriot
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Ball at Sceaux
The Commission in Lunacy
A Study of Woman
Another Study of Woman
The Magic Skin
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
The Gondreville Mystery
The Firm of Nucingen
The Member for Arcis
The Unconscious Humorists

Rivet, Achille
Cousin Pons

Rochefide, Marquis Arthur de

Ronceret, Madame Fabien du
The Muse of the Department
The Unconscious Humorists

A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Government Clerks
A Man of Business

Sinet, Seraphine
The Unconscious Humorists

Steinbock, Count Wenceslas
The Imaginary Mistress

Modeste Mignon
The Member for Arcis
Cousin Pons
The Unconscious Humorists

Tillet, Ferdinand du
Cesar Birotteau
The Firm of Nucingen
The Middle Classes
A Bachelor's Establishment
Melmoth Reconciled
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
The Member for Arcis
The Unconscious Humorists

Trailles, Comte Maxime de
Cesar Birotteau
Father Goriot
Ursule Mirouet
A Man of Business
The Member for Arcis
The Secrets of a Princess
The Member for Arcis
The Unconscious Humorists

Turquet, Marguerite
The Imaginary Mistress
The Muse of the Department
A Man of Business

The Unconscious Humorists

Vernisset, Victor de
The Seamy Side of History

Vernou, Felicien
A Bachelor's Establishment
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
A Daughter of Eve

Vignon, Claude
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Daughter of Eve
The Unconscious Humorists





Translated by

Ellen Marriage


Towards three o'clock in the afternoon of one October day in the year
1844, a man of sixty or thereabouts, whom anybody might have credited
with more than his actual age, was walking along the Boulevard des
Italiens with his head bent down, as if he were tracking some one.
There was a smug expression about the mouth--he looked like a merchant
who has just done a good stroke of business, or a bachelor emerging
from a boudoir in the best of humors with himself; and in Paris this
is the highest degree of self-satisfaction ever registered by a human

As soon as the elderly person appeared in the distance, a smile broke
out over the faces of the frequenters of the boulevard, who daily,
from their chairs, watch the passers-by, and indulge in the agreeable
pastime of analyzing them. That smile is peculiar to Parisians; it
says so many things--ironical, quizzical, pitying; but nothing save
the rarest of human curiosities can summon that look of interest to
the faces of Parisians, sated as they are with every possible sight.

A saying recorded of Hyacinthe, an actor celebrated for his repartees,
will explain the archaeological value of the old gentleman, and the
smile repeated like an echo by all eyes. Somebody once asked Hyacinthe
where the hats were made that set the house in a roar as soon as he
appeared. "I don't have them made," he said; "I keep them!" So also
among the million actors who make up the great troupe of Paris, there
are unconscious Hyacinthes who "keep" all the absurd freaks of
vanished fashions upon their backs; and the apparition of some bygone
decade will startle you into laughter as you walk the streets in
bitterness of soul over the treason of one who was your friend in the

In some respects the passer-by adhered so faithfully to the fashions
of the year 1806, that he was not so much a burlesque caricature as a
reproduction of the Empire period. To an observer, accuracy of detail
in a revival of this sort is extremely valuable, but accuracy of
detail, to be properly appreciated, demands the critical attention of
an expert /flaneur/; while the man in the street who raises a laugh as
soon as he comes in sight is bound to be one of those outrageous
exhibitions which stare you in the face, as the saying goes, and
produce the kind of effect which an actor tries to secure for the
success of his entry. The elderly person, a thin, spare man, wore a
nut-brown spencer over a coat of uncertain green, with white metal
buttons. A man in a spencer in the year 1844! it was as if Napoleon
himself had vouchsafed to come to life again for a couple of hours.

The spencer, as its name indicates, was the invention of an English
lord, vain, doubtless, of his handsome shape. Some time before the
Peace of Amiens, this nobleman solved the problem of covering the bust
without destroying the outlines of the figure and encumbering the
person with the hideous boxcoat, now finishing its career on the backs
of aged hackney cabmen; but, elegant figures being in the minority,
the success of the spencer was short-lived in France, English though
it was.

At the sight of the spencer, men of forty or fifty mentally invested
the wearer with top-boots, pistachio-colored kerseymere small clothes
adorned with a knot of ribbon; and beheld themselves in the costumes
of their youth. Elderly ladies thought of former conquests; but the
younger men were asking each other why the aged Alcibiades had cut off
the skirts of his overcoat. The rest of the costume was so much in
keeping with the spencer, that you would not have hesitated to call
the wearer "an Empire man," just as you call a certain kind of
furniture "Empire furniture;" yet the newcomer only symbolized the
Empire for those who had known that great and magnificent epoch at any
rate /de visu/, for a certain accuracy of memory was needed for the
full appreciation of the costume, and even now the Empire is so far
away that not every one of us can picture it in its Gallo-Grecian

The stranger's hat, for instance, tipped to the back of his head so as
to leave almost the whole forehead bare, recalled a certain jaunty
air, with which civilians and officials attempted to swagger it with
military men; but the hat itself was a shocking specimen of the
fifteen-franc variety. Constant friction with a pair of enormous ears
had left their marks which no brush could efface from the underside of
the brim; the silk tissue (as usual) fitted badly over the cardboard
foundation, and hung in wrinkles here and there; and some skin-disease
(apparently) had attacked the nap in spite of the hand which rubbed it
down of a morning.

Beneath the hat, which seemed ready to drop off at any moment, lay an
expanse of countenance grotesque and droll, as the faces which the
Chinese alone of all people can imagine for their quaint curiosities.
The broad visage was as full of holes as a colander, honeycombed with
the shadows of the dints, hollowed out like a Roman mask. It set all
the laws of anatomy at defiance. Close inspection failed to detect the
substructure. Where you expected to find a bone, you discovered a
layer of cartilaginous tissue, and the hollows of an ordinary human
face were here filled out with flabby bosses. A pair of gray eyes,
red-rimmed and lashless, looked forlornly out of a countenance which
was flattened something after the fashion of a pumpkin, and surmounted
by a Don Quixote nose that rose out of it like a monolith above a
plain. It was the kind of nose, as Cervantes must surely have
explained somewhere, which denotes an inborn enthusiasm for all things
great, a tendency which is apt to degenerate into credulity.

And yet, though the man's ugliness was something almost ludicrous, it
aroused not the slightest inclination to laugh. The exceeding
melancholy which found an outlet in the poor man's faded eyes reached
the mocker himself and froze the gibes on his lips; for all at once
the thought arose that this was a human creature to whom Nature had
forbidden any expression of love or tenderness, since such expression
could only be painful or ridiculous to the woman he loved. In the
presence of such misfortune a Frenchman is silent; to him it seems the
most cruel of all afflictions--to be unable to please!

The man so ill-favored was dressed after the fashion of shabby
gentility, a fashion which the rich not seldom try to copy. He wore
low shoes beneath gaiters of the pattern worn by the Imperial Guard,
doubtless for the sake of economy, because they kept the socks clean.
The rusty tinge of his black breeches, like the cut and the white or
shiny line of the creases, assigned the date of the purchase some
three years back. The roomy garments failed to disguise the lean
proportions of the wearer, due apparently rather to constitution than
to a Pythagorean regimen, for the worthy man was endowed with thick
lips and a sensual mouth; and when he smiled, displayed a set of white
teeth which would have done credit to a shark.

A shawl-waistcoat, likewise of black cloth, was supplemented by a
white under-waistcoat, and yet again beneath this gleamed the edge of
a red knitted under-jacket, to put you in mind of Garat's five
waistcoats. A huge white muslin stock with a conspicuous bow, invented
by some exquisite to charm "the charming sex" in 1809, projected so
far above the wearer's chin that the lower part of his face was lost,
as it were, in a muslin abyss. A silk watch-guard, plaited to resemble
the keepsakes made of hair, meandered down the shirt front and secured
his watch from the improbable theft. The greenish coat, though older
by some three years than the breeches, was remarkably neat; the black
velvet collar and shining metal buttons, recently renewed, told of
carefulness which descended even to trifles.

The particular manner of fixing the hat on the occiput, the triple
waistcoat, the vast cravat engulfing the chin, the gaiters, the metal
buttons on the greenish coat,--all these reminiscences of Imperial
fashions were blended with a sort of afterwaft and lingering perfume
of the coquetry of the Incroyable--with an indescribable finical
something in the folds of the garments, a certain air of stiffness and
correctness in the demeanor that smacked of the school of David, that
recalled Jacob's spindle-legged furniture.

At first sight, moreover, you set him down either for the gentleman by
birth fallen a victim to some degrading habit, or for the man of small
independent means whose expenses are calculated to such a nicety that
the breakage of a windowpane, a rent in a coat, or a visit from the
philanthropic pest who asks you for subscriptions to a charity,
absorbs the whole of a month's little surplus of pocket-money. If you
had seen him that afternoon, you would have wondered how that
grotesque face came to be lighted up with a smile; usually, surely, it
must have worn the dispirited, passive look of the obscure toiler
condemned to labor without ceasing for the barest necessaries of life.
Yet when you noticed that the odd-looking old man was carrying some
object (evidently precious) in his right hand with a mother's care;
concealing it under the skirts of his coat to keep it from collisions
in the crowd, and still more, when you remarked that important air
always assumed by an idler when intrusted with a commission, you would
have suspected him of recovering some piece of lost property, some
modern equivalent of the marquise's poodle; you would have recognized
the assiduous gallantry of the "man of the Empire" returning in
triumph from his mission to some charming woman of sixty, reluctant as
yet to dispense with the daily visit of her elderly /attentif/.

In Paris only among great cities will you see such spectacles as this;
for of her boulevards Paris makes a stage where a never-ending drama
is played gratuitously by the French nation in the interests of Art.

In spite of the rashly assumed spencer, you would scarcely have
thought, after a glance at the contours of the man's bony frame, that
this was an artist--that conventional type which is privileged, in
something of the same way as a Paris gamin, to represent riotous
living to the bourgeois and philistine mind, the most /mirific/
joviality, in short (to use the old Rabelaisian word newly taken into
use). Yet this elderly person had once taken the medal and the
traveling scholarship; he had composed the first cantata crowned by
the Institut at the time of the re-establishment of the Academie de
Rome; he was M. Sylvain Pons, in fact--M. Sylvain Pons, whose name
appears on the covers of well-known sentimental songs trilled by our
mothers, to say nothing of a couple of operas, played in 1815 and
1816, and divers unpublished scores. The worthy soul was now ending
his days as the conductor of an orchestra in a boulevard theatre, and
a music master in several young ladies' boarding-schools, a post for
which his face particularly recommended him. He was entirely dependent
upon his earnings. Running about to give private lessons at his age!
--Think of it. How many a mystery lies in that unromantic situation!

But the last man to wear the spencer carried something about him
besides his Empire Associations; a warning and a lesson was written
large over that triple waistcoat. Wherever he went, he exhibited,
without fee or charge, one of the many victims of the fatal system of
competition which still prevails in France in spite of a century of
trial without result; for Poisson de Marigny, brother of the Pompadour
and Director of Fine Arts, somewhere about 1746 invented this method
of applying pressure to the brain. That was a hundred years ago. Try
if you can count upon your fingers the men of genius among the
prizemen of those hundred years.

In the first place, no deliberate effort of schoolmaster or
administrator can replace the miracles of chance which produce great
men: of all the mysteries of generation, this most defies the
ambitious modern scientific investigator. In the second--the ancient
Egyptians (we are told) invented incubator-stoves for hatching eggs;
what would be thought of Egyptians who should neglect to fill the
beaks of the callow fledglings? Yet this is precisely what France is
doing. She does her utmost to produce artists by the artificial heat
of competitive examination; but, the sculptor, painter, engraver, or
musician once turned out by this mechanical process, she no more
troubles herself about them and their fate than the dandy cares for
yesterday's flower in his buttonhole. And so it happens that the
really great man is a Greuze, a Watteau, a Felicien David, a Pagnesi,
a Gericault, a Decamps, an Auber, a David d'Angers, an Eugene
Delacroix, or a Meissonier--artists who take but little heed of
/grande prix/, and spring up in the open field under the rays of that
invisible sun called Vocation.

To resume. The Government sent Sylvain Pons to Rome to make a great
musician of himself; and in Rome Sylvain Pons acquired a taste for the
antique and works of art. He became an admirable judge of those
masterpieces of the brain and hand which are summed up by the useful
neologism "bric-a-brac;" and when the child of Euterpe returned to
Paris somewhere about the year 1810, it was in the character of a
rabid collector, loaded with pictures, statuettes, frames,
wood-carving, ivories, enamels, porcelains, and the like. He had sunk
the greater part of his patrimony, not so much in the purchases
themselves as on the expenses of transit; and every penny inherited
from his mother had been spent in the course of a three-years' travel
in Italy after the residence in Rome came to an end. He had seen
Venice, Milan, Florence, Bologna, and Naples leisurely, as he wished
to see them, as a dreamer of dreams, and a philosopher; careless of
the future, for an artist looks to his talent for support as the
/fille de joie/ counts upon her beauty.

All through those splendid years of travel Pons was as happy as was
possible to a man with a great soul, a sensitive nature, and a face so
ugly that any "success with the fair" (to use the stereotyped formula
of 1809) was out of the question; the realities of life always fell
short of the ideals which Pons created for himself; the world without
was not in tune with the soul within, but Pons had made up his mind to
the dissonance. Doubtless the sense of beauty that he had kept pure
and living in his inmost soul was the spring from which the delicate,
graceful, and ingenious music flowed and won him reputation between
1810 and 1814.

Every reputation founded upon the fashion or the fancy of the hour, or
upon the short-lived follies of Paris, produces its Pons. No place in
the world is so inexorable in great things; no city of the globe so
disdainfully indulgent in small. Pons' notes were drowned before long
in floods of German harmony and the music of Rossini; and if in 1824
he was known as an agreeable musician, a composer of various
drawing-room melodies, judge if he was likely to be famous in 183l!
In 1844, the year in which the single drama of this obscure life began,
Sylvain Pons was of no more value than an antediluvian semiquaver;
dealers in music had never heard of his name, though he was still
composing, on scanty pay, for his own orchestra or for neighboring

And yet, the worthy man did justice to the great masters of our day; a
masterpiece finely rendered brought tears to his eyes; but his
religion never bordered on mania, as in the case of Hoffmann's
Kreislers; he kept his enthusiasm to himself; his delight, like the
paradise reached by opium or hashish, lay within his own soul.

The gift of admiration, of comprehension, the single faculty by which
the ordinary man becomes the brother of the poet, is rare in the city
of Paris, that inn whither all ideas, like travelers, come to stay for
awhile; so rare is it, that Pons surely deserves our respectful
esteem. His personal failure may seem anomalous, but he frankly
admitted that he was weak in harmony. He had neglected the study of
counterpoint; there was a time when he might have begun his studies
afresh and held his own among modern composers, when he might have
been, not certainly a Rossini, but a Herold. But he was alarmed by the
intricacies of modern orchestration; and at length, in the pleasures
of collecting, he found such ever-renewed compensation for his
failure, that if he had been made to choose between his curiosities
and the fame of Rossini--will it be believed?--Pons would have
pronounced for his beloved collection.

Pons was of the opinion of Chenavard, the print-collector, who laid it
down as an axiom--that you only fully enjoy the pleasure of looking at
your Ruysdael, Hobbema, Holbein, Raphael, Murillo, Greuze, Sebastian
del Piombo, Giorgione, Albrecht Durer, or what not, when you have paid
less than sixty francs for your picture. Pons never gave more than a
hundred francs for any purchase. If he laid out as much as fifty
francs, he was careful to assure himself beforehand that the object
was worth three thousand. The most beautiful thing in the world, if it
cost three hundred francs, did not exist for Pons. Rare had been his
bargains; but he possessed the three qualifications for success--a
stag's legs, an idler's disregard of time, and the patience of a Jew.

This system, carried out for forty years, in Rome or Paris alike, had
borne its fruits. Since Pons returned from Italy, he had regularly
spent about two thousand francs a year upon a collection of
masterpieces of every sort and description, a collection hidden away
from all eyes but his own; and now his catalogue had reached the
incredible number of 1907. Wandering about Paris between 1811 and
1816, he had picked up many a treasure for ten francs, which would
fetch a thousand or twelve hundred to-day. Some forty-five thousand
canvases change hands annually in Paris picture sales, and these Pons
had sifted through year by year. Pons had Sevres porcelain, /pate
tendre/, bought of Auvergnats, those satellites of the Black Band who
sacked chateaux and carried off the marvels of Pompadour France in
their tumbril carts; he had, in fact, collected the drifted wreck of
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; he recognized the genius of
the French school, and discerned the merit of the Lepautres and
Lavallee-Poussins and the rest of the great obscure creators of the
Genre Louis Quinze and the Genre Louis Seize. Our modern craftsmen now
draw without acknowledgment from them, pore incessantly over the
treasures of the Cabinet des Estampes, borrow adroitly, and give out
their /pastiches/ for new inventions. Pons had obtained many a piece
by exchange, and therein lies the ineffable joy of the collector. The
joy of buying bric-a-brac is a secondary delight; in the give-and-take
of barter lies the joy of joys. Pons had begun by collecting
snuff-boxes and miniatures; his name was unknown in bric-a-bracology,
for he seldom showed himself in salesrooms or in the shops of
well-known dealers; Pons was not aware that his treasures had any
commercial value.

The late lamented Dusommerard tried his best to gain Pons' confidence,
but the prince of bric-a-brac died before he could gain an entrance to
the Pons museum, the one private collection which could compare with
the famous Sauvageot museum. Pons and M. Sauvageot indeed resembled
each other in more ways than one. M. Sauvageot, like Pons, was a
musician; he was likewise a comparatively poor man, and he had
collected his bric-a-brac in much the same way, with the same love of
art, the same hatred of rich capitalists with well-known names who
collect for the sake of running up prices as cleverly as possible.
There was yet another point of resemblance between the pair; Pons,
like his rival competitor and antagonist, felt in his heart an
insatiable craving after specimens of the craftsman's skill and
miracles of workmanship; he loved them as a man might love a fair
mistress; an auction in the salerooms in the Rue des Jeuneurs, with
its accompaniments of hammer strokes and brokers' men, was a crime of
/lese-bric-a-brac/ in Pons' eyes. Pons' museum was for his own delight
at every hour; for the soul created to know and feel all the beauty of
a masterpiece has this in common with the lover--to-day's joy is as
great as the joy of yesterday; possession never palls; and a
masterpiece, happily, never grows old. So the object that he held in
his hand with such fatherly care could only be a "find," carried off
with what affection amateurs alone know!

After the first outlines of this biographical sketch, every one will
cry at once, "Why! this is the happiest man on earth, in spite of his
ugliness!" And, in truth, no spleen, no dullness can resist the
counter-irritant supplied by a "craze," the intellectual moxa of a
hobby. You who can no longer drink of "the cup of pleasure," as it has
been called through all ages, try to collect something, no matter what
(people have been known to collect placards), so shall you receive the
small change for the gold ingot of happiness. Have you a hobby? You
have transferred pleasure to the plane of ideas. And yet, you need not
envy the worthy Pons; such envy, like all kindred sentiments, would be
founded upon a misapprehension.

With a nature so sensitive, with a soul that lived by tireless
admiration of the magnificent achievements of art, of the high rivalry
between human toil and the work of Nature--Pons was a slave to that
one of the Seven Deadly Sins with which God surely will deal least
hardly; Pons was a glutton. A narrow income, combined with a passion
for bric-a-brac, condemned him to a regimen so abhorrent to a
discriminating palate, that, bachelor as he was, he had cut the knot
of the problem by dining out every day.

Now, in the time of the Empire, celebrities were more sought after
than at present, perhaps because there were so few of them, perhaps
because they made little or no political pretension. In those days,
besides, you could set up for a poet, a musician, or a painter, with
so little expense. Pons, being regarded as the probable rival of
Nicolo, Paer, and Berton, used to receive so many invitations, that he
was forced to keep a list of engagements, much as barristers note down
the cases for which they are retained. And Pons behaved like an
artist. He presented his amphitryons with copies of his songs, he
"obliged" at the pianoforte, he brought them orders for boxes at the
Feydeau, his own theatre, he organized concerts, he was not above
taking the fiddle himself sometimes in a relation's house, and getting
up a little impromptu dance. In those days, all the handsome men in
France were away at the wars exchanging sabre-cuts with the handsome
men of the Coalition. Pons was said to be, not ugly, but
"peculiar-looking," after the grand rule laid down by Moliere in
Eliante's famous couplets; but if he sometimes heard himself described
as a "charming man" (after he had done some fair lady a service), his
good fortune went no further than words.

It was between the years 1810 and 1816 that Pons contracted the
unlucky habit of dining out; he grew accustomed to see his hosts
taking pains over the dinner, procuring the first and best of
everything, bringing out their choicest vintages, seeing carefully to
the dessert, the coffee, the liqueurs, giving him of their best, in
short; the best, moreover, of those times of the Empire when Paris was
glutted with kings and queens and princes, and many a private house
emulated royal splendours.

People used to play at Royalty then as they play nowadays at
parliament, creating a whole host of societies with presidents,
vice-presidents, secretaries and what not--agricultural societies,
industrial societies, societies for the promotion of sericulture,
viticulture, the growth of flax, and so forth. Some have even gone so
far as to look about them for social evils in order to start a society
to cure them.

But to return to Pons. A stomach thus educated is sure to react upon
the owner's moral fibre; the demoralization of the man varies directly
with his progress in culinary sapience. Voluptuousness, lurking in
every secret recess of the heart, lays down the law therein. Honor and
resolution are battered in breach. The tyranny of the palate has never
been described; as a necessity of life it escapes the criticism of
literature; yet no one imagines how many have been ruined by the
table. The luxury of the table is indeed, in this sense, the
courtesan's one competitor in Paris, besides representing in a manner
the credit side in another account, where she figures as the

With Pons' decline and fall as an artist came his simultaneous
transformation from invited guest to parasite and hanger-on; he could
not bring himself to quit dinners so excellently served for the
Spartan broth of a two-franc ordinary. Alas! alas! a shudder ran
through him at the mere thought of the great sacrifices which
independence required him to make. He felt that he was capable of
sinking to even lower depths for the sake of good living, if there
were no other way of enjoying the first and best of everything, of
guzzling (vulgar but expressive word) nice little dishes carefully
prepared. Pons lived like a bird, pilfering his meal, flying away when
he had taken his fill, singing a few notes by way of return; he took a
certain pleasure in the thought that he lived at the expense of
society, which asked of him--what but the trifling toll of grimaces?
Like all confirmed bachelors, who hold their lodgings in horror, and
live as much as possible in other people's houses, Pons was accustomed
to the formulas and facial contortions which do duty for feeling in
the world; he used compliments as small change; and as far as others
were concerned, he was satisfied with the labels they bore, and never
plunged a too-curious hand into the sack.

This not intolerable phase lasted for another ten years. Such years!
Pons' life was closing with a rainy autumn. All through those years he
contrived to dine without expense by making himself necessary in the
houses which he frequented. He took the first step in the downward
path by undertaking a host of small commissions; many and many a time
Pons ran on errands instead of the porter or the servant; many a
purchase he made for his entertainers. He became a kind of harmless,
well-meaning spy, sent by one family into another; but he gained no
credit with those for whom he trudged about, and so often sacrificed

"Pons is a bachelor," said they; "he is at a loss to know what to do
with his time; he is only too glad to trot about for us.--What else
would he do?"

Very soon the cold which old age spreads about itself began to set in;
the communicable cold which sensibly lowers the social temperature,
especially if the old man is ugly and poor. Old and ugly and poor--is
not this to be thrice old? Pons' winter had begun, the winter which
brings the reddened nose, and frost-nipped cheeks, and the numbed
fingers, numb in how many ways!

Invitations very seldom came for Pons now. So far from seeking the
society of the parasite, every family accepted him much as they
accepted the taxes; they valued nothing that Pons could do for them;
real services from Pons counted for nought. The family circles in
which the worthy artist revolved had no respect for art or letters;
they went down on their knees to practical results; they valued
nothing but the fortune or social position acquired since the year
1830. The bourgeoisie is afraid of intellect and genius, but Pons'
spirit and manner were not haughty enough to overawe his relations,
and naturally he had come at last to be accounted less than nothing
with them, though he was not altogether despised.

He had suffered acutely among them, but, like all timid creatures, he
kept silence as to his pain; and so by degrees schooled himself to
hide his feelings, and learned to take sanctuary in his inmost self.
Many superficial persons interpret this conduct by the short word
"selfishness;" and, indeed, the resemblance between the egoist and the
solitary human creature is strong enough to seem to justify the
harsher verdict; and this is especially true in Paris, where nobody
observes others closely, where all things pass swift as waves, and
last as little as a Ministry.

So Cousin Pons was accused of selfishness (behind his back); and if
the world accuses any one, it usually finds him guilty and condemns
him into the bargain. Pons bowed to the decision. Do any of us know
how such a timid creature is cast down by an unjust judgment? Who will
ever paint all that the timid suffer? This state of things, now
growing daily worse, explains the sad expression on the poor old
musician's face; he lived by capitulations of which he was ashamed.
Every time we sin against self-respect at the bidding of the ruling
passion, we rivet its hold upon us; the more that passion requires of
us, the stronger it grows, every sacrifice increasing, as it were, the
value of a satisfaction for which so much has been given up, till the
negative sum-total of renouncements looms very large in a man's
imagination. Pons, for instance, after enduring the insolently
patronizing looks of some bourgeois, incased in buckram of stupidity,
sipped his glass of port or finished his quail with breadcrumbs, and
relished something of the savor of revenge, besides. "It is not too
dear at the price!" he said to himself.

After all, in the eyes of the moralist, there were extenuating
circumstances in Pons' case. Man only lives, in fact, by some personal
satisfaction. The passionless, perfectly righteous man is not human;
he is a monster, an angel wanting wings. The angel of Christian
mythology has nothing but a head. On earth, the righteous person is
the sufficiently tiresome Grandison, for whom the very Venus of the
Crosswords is sexless.

Setting aside one or two commonplace adventures in Italy, in which
probably the climate accounted for his success, no woman had ever
smiled upon Pons. Plenty of men are doomed to this fate. Pons was an
abnormal birth; the child of parents well stricken in years, he bore
the stigma of his untimely genesis; his cadaverous complexion might
have been contracted in the flask of spirit-of-wine in which science
preserves some extraordinary foetus. Artist though he was, with his
tender, dreamy, sensitive soul, he was forced to accept the character
which belonged to his face; it was hopeless to think of love, and he
remained a bachelor, not so much of choice as of necessity. Then
Gluttony, the sin of the continent monk, beckoned to Pons; he rushed
upon temptation, as he had thrown his whole soul into the adoration of
art and the cult of music. Good cheer and bric-a-brac gave him the
small change for the love which could spend itself in no other way. As
for music, it was his profession, and where will you find the man who
is in love with his means of earning a livelihood? For it is with a
profession as with marriage: in the long length you are sensible of
nothing but the drawbacks.

Brillat-Savarin has deliberately set himself to justify the
gastronome, but perhaps even he has not dwelt sufficiently on the
reality of the pleasures of the table. The demands of digestion upon
the human economy produce an internal wrestling-bout of human forces
which rivals the highest degree of amorous pleasure. The gastronome is
conscious of an expenditure of vital power, an expenditure so vast
that the brain is atrophied (as it were), that a second brain, located
in the diaphragm, may come into play, and the suspension of all the
faculties is in itself a kind of intoxication. A boa constrictor
gorged with an ox is so stupid with excess that the creature is easily
killed. What man, on the wrong side of forty, is rash enough to work
after dinner? And remark in the same connection, that all great men
have been moderate eaters. The exhilarating effect of the wing of a
chicken upon invalids recovering from serious illness, and long
confined to a stinted and carefully chosen diet, has been frequently
remarked. The sober Pons, whose whole enjoyment was concentrated in
the exercise of his digestive organs, was in the position of chronic
convalescence; he looked to his dinner to give him the utmost degree
of pleasurable sensation, and hitherto he had procured such sensations
daily. Who dares to bid farewell to old habit? Many a man on the brink
of suicide has been plucked back on the threshold of death by the
thought of the cafe where he plays his nightly game of dominoes.

In the year 1835, chance avenged Pons for the indifference of
womankind by finding him a prop for his declining years, as the saying
goes; and he, who had been old from his cradle, found a support in
friendship. Pons took to himself the only life-partner permitted to
him among his kind--an old man and a fellow-musician.

But for La Fontaine's fable, /Les Deux Amis/, this sketch should have
borne the title of /The Two Friends/; but to take the name of this
divine story would surely be a deed of violence, a profanation from
which every true man of letters would shrink. The title ought to be
borne alone and for ever by the fabulist's masterpiece, the revelation
of his soul, and the record of his dreams; those three words were set
once and for ever by the poet at the head of a page which is his by a
sacred right of ownership; for it is a shrine before which all
generations, all over the world, will kneel so long as the art of
printing shall endure.

Pons' friend gave lessons on the pianoforte. They met and struck up an
acquaintance in 1834, one prize day at a boarding-school; and so
congenial were their ways of thinking and living, that Pons used to
say that he had found his friend too late for his happiness. Never,
perhaps, did two souls, so much alike, find each other in the great
ocean of humanity which flowed forth, in disobedience to the will of
God, from its source in the Garden of Eden. Before very long the two
musicians could not live without each other. Confidences were
exchanged, and in a week's time they were like brothers. Schmucke (for
that was his name) had not believed that such a man as Pons existed,
nor had Pons imagined that a Schmucke was possible. Here already you
have a sufficient description of the good couple; but it is not every
mind that takes kindly to the concise synthetic method, and a certain
amount of demonstration is necessary if the credulous are to accept
the conclusion.

This pianist, like all other pianists, was a German. A German, like
the eminent Liszt and the great Mendelssohn, and Steibelt, and Dussek,
and Meyer, and Mozart, and Doelher, and Thalberg, and Dreschok, and
Hiller, and Leopold Hertz, Woertz, Karr, Wolff, Pixis, and Clara Wieck
--and all Germans, generally speaking. Schmucke was a great musical
composer doomed to remain a music master, so utterly did his character
lack the audacity which a musical genius needs if he is to push his
way to the front. A German's naivete does not invariably last him
through his life; in some cases it fails after a certain age; and even
as a cultivator of the soil brings water from afar by means of
irrigation channels, so, from the springs of his youth, does the
Teuton draw the simplicity which disarms suspicion--the perennial
supplies with which he fertilizes his labors in every field of
science, art, or commerce. A crafty Frenchman here and there will turn
a Parisian tradesman's stupidity to good account in the same way. But
Schmucke had kept his child's simplicity much as Pons continued to
wear his relics of the Empire--all unsuspectingly. The true and
noble-hearted German was at once the theatre and the audience, making
music within himself for himself alone. In this city of Paris he lived
as a nightingale lives among the thickets; and for twenty years he sang
on, mateless, till he met with a second self in Pons. [See /Une Fille

Both Pons and Schmucke were abundantly given, both by heart and
disposition, to the peculiarly German sentimentality which shows
itself alike in childlike ways--in a passion for flowers, in that form
of nature-worship which prompts a German to plant his garden-beds with
big glass globes for the sake of seeing miniature pictures of the view
which he can behold about him of a natural size; in the inquiring turn
of mind that sets a learned Teuton trudging three hundred miles in his
gaiters in search of a fact which smiles up in his face from a wayside
spring, or lurks laughing under the jessamine leaves in the back-yard;
or (to take a final instance) in the German craving to endow every
least detail in creation with a spiritual significance, a craving
which produces sometimes Hoffmann's tipsiness in type, sometimes the
folios with which Germany hedges the simplest questions round about,
lest haply any fool should fall into her intellectual excavations;
and, indeed, if you fathom these abysses, you find nothing but a
German at the bottom.

Both friends were Catholics. They went to Mass and performed the
duties of religion together; and, like children, found nothing to tell
their confessors. It was their firm belief that music is to feeling
and thought as thought and feeling are to speech; and of their
converse on this system there was no end. Each made response to the
other in orgies of sound, demonstrating their convictions, each for
each, like lovers.

Schmucke was as absent-minded as Pons was wide-awake. Pons was a
collector, Schmucke a dreamer of dreams; Schmucke was a student of
beauty seen by the soul, Pons a preserver of material beauty. Pons
would catch sight of a china cup and buy it in the time that Schmucke
took to blow his nose, wondering the while within himself whether the
musical phrase that was ringing in his brain--the /motif/ from Rossini
or Bellini or Beethoven or Mozart--had its origin or its counterpart
in the world of human thought and emotion. Schmucke's economies were
controlled by an absent mind, Pons was a spendthrift through passion,
and for both the result was the same--they had not a penny on Saint
Sylvester's day.

Perhaps Pons would have given way under his troubles if it had not
been for this friendship; but life became bearable when he found some
one to whom he could pour out his heart. The first time that he
breathed a word of his difficulties, the good German had advised him
to live as he himself did, and eat bread and cheese at home sooner
than dine abroad at such a cost. Alas! Pons did not dare to confess
that heart and stomach were at war within him, that he could digest
affronts which pained his heart, and, cost what it might, a good
dinner that satisfied his palate was a necessity to him, even as your
gay Lothario must have a mistress to tease.

In time Schmucke understood; not just at once, for he was too much of
a Teuton to possess that gift of swift perception in which the French
rejoice; Schmucke understood and loved poor Pons the better. Nothing
so fortifies a friendship as a belief on the part of one friend that
he is superior to the other. An angel could not have found a word to
say to Schmucke rubbing his hands over the discovery of the hold that
gluttony had gained over Pons. Indeed, the good German adorned their
breakfast-table next morning with delicacies of which he went in
search himself; and every day he was careful to provide something new
for his friend, for they always breakfasted together at home.

If any one imagines that the pair could not escape ridicule in Paris,
where nothing is respected, he cannot know that city. When Schmucke
and Pons united their riches and poverty, they hit upon the economical
expedient of lodging together, each paying half the rent of the very
unequally divided second-floor of a house in the Rue de Normandie in
the Marais. And as it often happened that they left home together and
walked side by side along their beat of boulevard, the idlers of the
quarter dubbed them "the pair of nutcrackers," a nickname which makes
any portrait of Schmucke quite superfluous, for he was to Pons as the
famous statue of the Nurse of Niobe in the Vatican is to the Tribune

Mme. Cibot, portress of the house in the Rue de Normandie, was the
pivot on which the domestic life of the nutcrackers turned; but Mme.
Cibot plays so large a part in the drama which grew out of their
double existence, that it will be more appropriate to give her
portrait on her first appearance in this Scene of Parisian Life.

One thing remains to be said of the characters of the pair of friends;
but this one thing is precisely the hardest to make clear to
ninety-nine readers out of a hundred in this forty-seventh year of the
nineteenth century, perhaps by reason of the prodigious financial
development brought about by the railway system. It is a little thing,
and yet it is so much. It is a question, in fact, of giving an idea of
the extreme sensitiveness of their natures. Let us borrow an
illustration from the railways, if only by way of retaliation, as it
were, for the loans which they levy upon us. The railway train of
to-day, tearing over the metals, grinds away fine particles of dust,
grains so minute that a traveler cannot detect them with the eye; but
let a single one of those invisible motes find its way into the
kidneys, it will bring about that most excruciating, and sometimes
fatal, disease known as gravel. And our society, rushing like a
locomotive along its metaled track, is heedless of the all but
imperceptible dust made by the grinding of the wheels; but it was
otherwise with the two musicians; the invisible grains of sand sank
perpetually into the very fibres of their being, causing them
intolerable anguish of heart. Tender exceedingly to the pain of
others, they wept for their own powerlessness to help; and their own
susceptibilities were almost morbidly acute. Neither age nor the
continual spectacle of the drama of Paris life had hardened two souls
still young and childlike and pure; the longer they lived, indeed, the
more keenly they felt their inward suffering; for so it is, alas! with
natures unsullied by the world, with the quiet thinker, and with such
poets among the poets as have never fallen into any excess.

Since the old men began housekeeping together, the day's routine was
very nearly the same for them both. They worked together in harness in
the fraternal fashion of the Paris cab-horse; rising every morning,
summer and winter, at seven o'clock, and setting out after breakfast
to give music lessons in the boarding-schools, in which, upon
occasion, they would take lessons for each other. Towards noon Pons
repaired to his theatre, if there was a rehearsal on hand; but all his
spare moments were spent in sauntering on the boulevards. Night found
both of them in the orchestra at the theatre, for Pons had found a
place for Schmucke, and upon this wise.

At the time of their first meeting, Pons had just received that
marshal's baton of the unknown musical composer--an appointment as
conductor of an orchestra. It had come to him unasked, by a favor of
Count Popinot, a bourgeois hero of July, at that time a member of the
Government. Count Popinot had the license of a theatre in his gift,
and Count Popinot had also an old acquaintance of the kind that the
successful man blushes to meet. As he rolls through the streets of
Paris in his carriage, it is not pleasant to see his boyhood's chum
down at heel, with a coat of many improbable colors and trousers
innocent of straps, and a head full of soaring speculations on too
grand a scale to tempt shy, easily scared capital. Moreover, this
friend of his youth, Gaudissart by name, had done not a little in the
past towards founding the fortunes of the great house of Popinot.
Popinot, now a Count and a peer of France, after twice holding a
portfolio had no wish to shake off "the Illustrious Gaudissart." Quite
otherwise. The pomps and vanities of the Court of the Citizen-King had
not spoiled the sometime druggist's kind heart; he wished to put his
ex-commercial traveler in the way of renewing his wardrobe and
replenishing his purse. So when Gaudissart, always an enthusiastic
admirer of the fair sex, applied for the license of a bankrupt
theatre, Popinot granted it on condition that Pons (a parasite of the
Hotel Popinot) should be engaged as conductor of the orchestra; and at
the same time, the Count was careful to send certain elderly amateurs
of beauty to the theatre, so that the new manager might be strongly
supported financially by wealthy admirers of feminine charms revealed
by the costume of the ballet.

Gaudissart and Company, who, be it said, made their fortune, hit upon
the grand idea of operas for the people, and carried it out in a
boulevard theatre in 1834. A tolerable conductor, who could adapt or
even compose a little music upon occasion, was a necessity for ballets
and pantomimes; but the last management had so long been bankrupt,
that they could not afford to keep a transposer and copyist. Pons
therefore introduced Schmucke to the company as copier of music, a
humble calling which requires no small musical knowledge; and
Schmucke, acting on Pons' advice, came to an understanding with the
/chef-de-service/ at the Opera-Comique, so saving himself the clerical

The partnership between Pons and Schmucke produced one brilliant
result. Schmucke being a German, harmony was his strong point; he
looked over the instrumentation of Pons' compositions, and Pons
provided the airs. Here and there an amateur among the audience
admired the new pieces of music which served as accompaniment to two
or three great successes, but they attributed the improvement vaguely
to "progress." No one cared to know the composer's name; like
occupants of the /baignoires/, lost to view of the house, to gain a
view of the stage, Pons and Schmucke eclipsed themselves by their
success. In Paris (especially since the Revolution of July) no one can
hope to succeed unless he will push his way /quibuscumque viis/ and
with all his might through a formidable host of competitors; but for
this feat a man needs thews and sinews, and our two friends, be it
remembered, had that affection of the heart which cripples all
ambitious effort.

Pons, as a rule, only went to his theatre towards eight o'clock, when
the piece in favor came on, and overtures and accompaniments needed
the strict ruling of the baton; most minor theatres are lax in such
matters, and Pons felt the more at ease because he himself had been by
no means grasping in all his dealings with the management; and
Schmucke, if need be, could take his place. Time went by, and Schmucke
became an institution in the orchestra; the Illustrious Gaudissart
said nothing, but he was well aware of the value of Pons'
collaborator. He was obliged to include a pianoforte in the orchestra
(following the example of the leading theatres); the instrument was
placed beside the conductor's chair, and Schmucke played without
increase of salary--a volunteer supernumerary. As Schmucke's
character, his utter lack of ambition or pretence became known, the
orchestra recognized him as one of themselves; and as time went on, he
was intrusted with the often needed miscellaneous musical instruments
which form no part of the regular band of a boulevard theatre. For a
very small addition to his stipend, Schmucke played the viola d'amore,
hautboy, violoncello, and harp, as well as the piano, the castanets
for the /cachucha/, the bells, saxhorn, and the like. If the Germans
cannot draw harmony from the mighty instruments of Liberty, yet to
play all instruments of music comes to them by nature.

The two old artists were exceedingly popular at the theatre, and took
its ways philosophically. They had put, as it were, scales over their
eyes, lest they should see the offences that needs must come when a
/corps de ballet/ is blended with actors and actresses, one of the
most trying combinations ever created by the laws of supply and demand
for the torment of managers, authors, and composers alike.

Every one esteemed Pons with his kindness and his modesty, his great
self-respect and respect for others; for a pure and limpid life wins
something like admiration from the worst nature in every social
sphere, and in Paris a fair virtue meets with something of the success
of a large diamond, so great a rarity it is. No actor, no dancer
however brazen, would have indulged in the mildest practical joke at
the expense of either Pons or Schmucke.

Pons very occasionally put in an appearance in the /foyer/; but all
that Schmucke knew of the theatre was the underground passage from the
street door to the orchestra. Sometimes, however, during an interval,
the good German would venture to make a survey of the house and ask a
few questions of the first flute, a young fellow from Strasbourg, who
came of a German family at Kehl. Gradually under the flute's tuition
Schmucke's childlike imagination acquired a certain amount of
knowledge of the world; he could believe in the existence of that
fabulous creature the /lorette/, the possibility of "marriages at the
Thirteenth Arrondissement," the vagaries of the leading lady, and the
contraband traffic carried on by box-openers. In his eyes the more
harmless forms of vice were the lowest depths of Babylonish iniquity;
he did not believe the stories, he smiled at them for grotesque
inventions. The ingenious reader can see that Pons and Schmucke were
exploited, to use a word much in fashion; but what they lost in money
they gained in consideration and kindly treatment.

It was after the success of the ballet with which a run of success
began for the Gaudissart Company that the management presented Pons
with a piece of plate--a group of figures attributed to Benvenuto
Cellini. The alarming costliness of the gift caused talk in the
green-room. It was a matter of twelve hundred francs! Pons, poor
honest soul, was for returning the present, and Gaudissart had a
world of trouble to persuade him to keep it.

"Ah!" said the manager afterwards, when he told his partner of the
interview, "if we could only find actors up to that sample."

In their joint life, outwardly so quiet, there was the one disturbing
element--the weakness to which Pons sacrificed, the insatiable craving
to dine out. Whenever Schmucke happened to be at home while Pons was
dressing for the evening, the good German would bewail this deplorable

"Gif only he vas ony fatter vor it!" he many a time cried.

And Schmucke would dream of curing his friend of his degrading vice,
for a true friend's instinct in all that belongs to the inner life is
unerring as a dog's sense of smell; a friend knows by intuition the
trouble in his friend's soul, and guesses at the cause and ponders it
in his heart.

Pons, who always wore a diamond ring on the little finger of his right
hand, an ornament permitted in the time of the Empire, but ridiculous
to-day--Pons, who belonged to the "troubadour time," the sentimental
periods of the first Empire, was too much a child of his age, too much
of a Frenchman to wear the expression of divine serenity which
softened Schmucke's hideous ugliness. From Pons' melancholy looks
Schmucke knew that the profession of parasite was growing daily more
difficult and painful. And, in fact, in that month of October 1844,
the number of houses at which Pons dined was naturally much
restricted; reduced to move round and round the family circle, he had
used the word family in far too wide a sense, as will shortly be seen.

M. Camusot, the rich silk mercer of the Rue des Bourdonnais, had
married Pons' first cousin, Mlle. Pons, only child and heiress of one
of the well-known firm of Pons Brothers, court embroiderers. Pons' own
father and mother retired from a firm founded before the Revolution of
1789, leaving their capital in the business until Mlle. Pons' father
sold it in 1815 to M. Rivet. M. Camusot had since lost his wife and
married again, and retired from business some ten years, and now in
1844 he was a member of the Board of Trade, a deputy, and what not.
But the Camusot clan were friendly; and Pons, good man, still
considered that he was some kind of cousin to the children of the
second marriage, who were not relations, or even connected with him in
any way.

The second Mme. Camusot being a Mlle. Cardot, Pons introduced himself
as a relative into the tolerably numerous Cardot family, a second
bourgeois tribe which, taken with its connections, formed quite as
strong a clan as the Camusots; for Cardot the notary (brother of the
second Mme. Camusot) had married a Mlle. Chiffreville; and the
well-known family of Chiffreville, the leading firm of manufacturing
chemists, was closely connected with the whole drug trade, of which M.
Anselme Popinot was for many years the undisputed head, until the
Revolution of July plunged him into the very centre of the dynastic
movement, as everybody knows. So Pons, in the wake of the Camusots and
Cardots, reached the Chiffrevilles, and thence the Popinots, always in
the character of a cousin's cousin.

The above concise statement of Pons' relations with his entertainers
explains how it came to pass that an old musician was received in 1844
as one of the family in the houses of four distinguished persons--to
wit, M. le Comte Popinot, peer of France, and twice in office; M.
Cardot, retired notary, mayor and deputy of an arrondissement in
Paris; M. Camusot senior, a member of the Board of Trade and the
Municipal Chamber and a peerage; and lastly, M. Camusot de Marville,
Camusot's son by his first marriage, and Pons' one genuine relation,
albeit even he was a first cousin once removed.

This Camusot, President of a Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Paris,
had taken the name of his estate at Marville to distinguish himself
from his father and a younger half brother.

Cardot the retired notary had married his daughter to his successor,
whose name was Berthier; and Pons, transferred as part of the
connection, acquired a right to dine with the Berthiers "in the
presence of a notary," as he put it.

This was the bourgeois empyrean which Pons called his "family," that
upper world in which he so painfully reserved his right to a knife and

Of all these houses, some ten in all, the one in which Pons ought to
have met with the kindest reception should by rights have been his own
cousin's; and, indeed, he paid most attention to President Camusot's
family. But, alas! Mme. Camusot de Marville, daughter of the Sieur
Thirion, usher of the cabinet to Louis XVIII. and Charles X., had
never taken very kindly to her husband's first cousin, once removed.
Pons had tried to soften this formidable relative; he wasted his time;
for in spite of the pianoforte lessons which he gave gratuitously to
Mlle. Camusot, a young woman with hair somewhat inclined to red, it
was impossible to make a musician of her.

And now, at this very moment, as he walked with that precious object
in his hand, Pons was bound for the President's house, where he always
felt as if he were at the Tuileries itself, so heavily did the solemn
green curtains, the carmelite-brown hangings, thick piled carpets,
heavy furniture, and general atmosphere of magisterial severity
oppress his soul. Strange as it may seem, he felt more at home in the
Hotel Popinot, Rue Basse-du-Rempart, probably because it was full of
works of art; for the master of the house, since he entered public
life, had acquired a mania for collecting beautiful things, by way of
contrast no doubt, for a politician is obliged to pay for secret
services of the ugliest kind.

President de Marville lived in the Rue de Hanovre, in a house which
his wife had bought ten years previously, on the death of her parents,
for the Sieur and Dame Thirion left their daughter about a hundred and
fifty thousand francs, the savings of a lifetime. With its north
aspect, the house looks gloomy enough seen from the street, but the
back looks towards the south over the courtyard, with a rather pretty
garden beyond it. As the President occupied the whole of the first
floor, once the abode of a great financier of the time of Louis XIV.,
and the second was let to a wealthy old lady, the house wore a look of
dignified repose befitting a magistrate's residence. President Camusot
had invested all that he inherited from his mother, together with the
savings of twenty years, in the purchase of the splendid Marville
estate; a chateau (as fine a relic of the past as you will find to-day
in Normandy) standing in a hundred acres of park land, and a fine
dependent farm, nominally bringing in twelve thousand francs per
annum, though, as it cost the President at least a thousand crowns to
keep up a state almost princely in our days, his yearly revenue, "all
told," as the saying is, was a bare nine thousand francs. With this
and his salary, the President's income amounted to about twenty
thousand francs; but though to all appearance a wealthy man,
especially as one-half of his father's property would one day revert
to him as the only child of the first marriage, he was obliged to live
in Paris as befitted his official position, and M. and Mme. de
Marville spent almost the whole of their incomes. Indeed, before the
year 1834 they felt pinched.

This family schedule sufficiently explains why Mlle. de Marville, aged
three-and-twenty, was still unwed, in spite of a hundred thousand
francs of dowry and tempting prospects, frequently, skilfully, but so
far vainly, held out. For the past five years Pons had listened to
Mme. la Presidente's lamentations as she beheld one young lawyer after
another led to the altar, while all the newly appointed judges at the
Tribunal were fathers of families already; and she, all this time, had
displayed Mlle. de Marville's brilliant expectations before the
undazzled eyes of young Vicomte Popinot, eldest son of the great man
of the drug trade, he of whom it was said by the envious tongues of
the neighborhood of the Rue des Lombards, that the Revolution of July
had been brought about at least as much for his particular benefit as
for the sake of the Orleans branch.

Arrived at the corner of the Rue de Choiseul and the Rue de Hanovre,
Pons suffered from the inexplicable emotions which torment clear
consciences; for a panic terror such as the worst of scoundrels might
feel at sight of a policeman, an agony caused solely by a doubt as to
Mme. de Marville's probable reception of him. That grain of sand,
grating continually on the fibres of his heart, so far from losing its
angles, grew more and more jagged, and the family in the Rue de
Hanovre always sharpened the edges. Indeed, their unceremonious
treatment and Pons' depreciation in value among them had affected the
servants; and while they did not exactly fail in respect, they looked
on the poor relation as a kind of beggar.

Pons' arch-enemy in the house was the ladies'-maid, a thin and wizened
spinster, Madeleine Vivet by name. This Madeleine, in spite of, nay,
perhaps on the strength of, a pimpled complexion and a viper-like
length of spine, had made up her mind that some day she would be Mme.
Pons. But in vain she dangled twenty thousand francs of savings before
the old bachelor's eyes; Pons had declined happiness accompanied by so
many pimples. From that time forth the Dido of the ante-chamber, who
fain had called her master and mistress "cousin," wreaked her spite in
petty ways upon the poor musician. She heard him on the stairs, and
cried audibly, "Oh! here comes the sponger!" She stinted him of wine
when she waited at dinner in the footman's absence; she filled the
water-glass to the brim, to give him the difficult task of lifting it
without spilling a drop; or she would pass the old man over
altogether, till the mistress of the house would remind her (and in
what a tone!--it brought the color to the poor cousin's face); or she
would spill the gravy over his clothes. In short, she waged petty war
after the manner of a petty nature, knowing that she could annoy an
unfortunate superior with impunity.

Madeleine Vivet was Mme. de Marville's maid and housekeeper. She had
lived with M. and Mme. Camusot de Marville since their marriage; she
had shared the early struggles in the provinces when M. Camusot was a
judge at Alencon; she had helped them to exist when M. Camusot,
President of the Tribunal of Mantes, came to Paris, in 1828, to be an
examining magistrate. She was, therefore, too much one of the family
not to wish, for reasons of her own, to revenge herself upon them.
Beneath her desire to pay a trick upon her haughty and ambitious
mistress, and to call her master her cousin, there surely lurked a
long-stifled hatred, built up like an avalanche, upon the pebble of
some past grievance.

"Here comes your M. Pons, madame, still wearing that spencer of his!"
Madeleine came to tell the Presidente. "He really might tell me how he
manages to make it look the same for five-and-twenty years together."

Mme. Camusot de Marville, hearing a man's footstep in the little
drawing-room between the large drawing-room and her bedroom, looked at
her daughter and shrugged her shoulders.

"You always make these announcements so cleverly that you leave me no
time to think, Madeleine."

"Jean is out, madame, I was all alone; M. Pons rang the bell, I opened
the door; and as he is almost one of the family, I could not prevent
him from coming after me. There he is, taking off his spencer."

"Poor little puss!" said the Presidente, addressing her daughter, "we
are caught. We shall have to dine at home now.--Let us see," she
added, seeing that the "dear puss" wore a piteous face; "must we get
rid of him for good?"

"Oh! poor man!" cried Mlle. Camusot, "deprive him of one of his

Somebody coughed significantly in the next room by way of warning that
he could hear.

"Very well, let him come in!" said Mme. Camusot, looking at Madeleine
with another shrug.

"You are here so early, cousin, that you have come in upon us just as
mother was about to dress," said Cecile Camusot in a coaxing tone. But
Cousin Pons had caught sight of the Presidente's shrug, and felt so
cruelly hurt that he could not find a compliment, and contented
himself with the profound remark, "You are always charming, my little

Then, turning to the mother, he continued with a bow:

"You will not take it amiss, I think, if I have come a little earlier
than usual, dear cousin; I have brought something for you; you once
did me the pleasure of asking me for it."

Poor Pons! Every time he addressed the President, the President's
wife, or Cecile as "cousin," he gave them excruciating annoyance. As
he spoke, he draw a long, narrow cherry-wood box, marvelously carved,
from his coat-pocket.

"Oh, did I?--I had forgotten," the lady answered drily.

It was a heartless speech, was it not? Did not those few words deny
all merit to the pains taken for her by the cousin whose one offence
lay in the fact that he was a poor relation?

"But it is very kind of you, cousin," she added. "How much to I owe
you for this little trifle?"

Pons quivered inwardly at the question. He had meant the trinket as a
return for his dinners.

"I thought that you would permit me to offer it you----" he faltered

"What?" said Mme. Camusot. "Oh! but there need be no ceremony between
us; we know each other well enough to wash our linen among ourselves.
I know very well that you are not rich enough to give more than you
get. And to go no further, it is quite enough that you should have
spent a good deal of time in running among the dealers--"

"If you were asked to pay the full price of the fan, my dear cousin,
you would not care to have it," answered poor Pons, hurt and insulted;
"it is one of Watteau's masterpieces, painted on both sides; but you
may be quite easy, cousin, I did not give one-hundredth part of its
value as a work of art."

To tell a rich man that he is poor! you might as well tell the
Archbishop of Granada that his homilies show signs of senility. Mme.
la Presidente, proud of her husband's position, of the estate of
Marville, and her invitations to court balls, was keenly susceptible
on this point; and what was worse, the remark came from a
poverty-stricken musician to whom she had been charitable.

"Then the people of whom you buy things of this kind are very stupid,
are they?" she asked quickly.

"Stupid dealers are unknown in Paris," Pons answered almost drily.

"Then you must be very clever," put in Cecile by way of calming the

"Clever enough to know a Lancret, a Watteau, a Pater, or Greuze when I
see it, little cousin; but anxious, most of all, to please your dear

Mme. de Marville, ignorant and vain, was unwilling to appear to
receive the slightest trifle from the parasite; and here her ignorance
served her admirably, she did not even know the name of Watteau. And,
on the other hand, if anything can measure the extent of the
collector's passion, which, in truth, is one of the most deeply seated
of all passions, rivaling the very vanity of the author--if anything
can give an idea of the lengths to which a collector will go, it is
the audacity which Pons displayed on this occasion, as he held his own
against his lady cousin for the first time in twenty years. He was
amazed at his own boldness. He made Cecile see the beauties of the
delicate carving on the sticks of this wonder, and as he talked to her
his face grew serene and gentle again. But without some sketch of the
Presidente, it is impossible fully to understand the perturbation of
heart from which Pons suffered.

Mme. de Marville had been short and fair, plump and fresh; at
forty-six she was as short as ever, but she looked dried up. An arched
forehead and thin lips, that had been softly colored once, lent a
soured look to a face naturally disdainful, and now grown hard and
unpleasant with a long course of absolute domestic rule. Time had
deepened her fair hair to a harsh chestnut hue; the pride of office,
intensified by suppressed envy, looked out of eyes that had lost none
of their brightness nor their satirical expression. As a matter of
fact, Mme. Camusot de Marville felt almost poor in the society of
self-made wealthy bourgeois with whom Pons dined. She could not
forgive the rich retail druggist, ex-president of the Commercial
Court, for his successive elevations as deputy, member of the
Government, count and peer of France. She could not forgive her
father-in-law for putting himself forward instead of his eldest son as
deputy of his arrondissement after Popinot's promotion to the peerage.
After eighteen years of services in Paris, she was still waiting for
the post of Councillor of the Court of Cassation for her husband. It
was Camusot's own incompetence, well known at the Law Courts, which
excluded him from the Council. The Home Secretary of 1844 even
regretted Camusot's nomination to the presidency of the Court of
Indictments in 1834, though, thanks to his past experience as an
examining magistrate, he made himself useful in drafting decrees.

These disappointments had told upon Mme. de Marville, who, moreover,
had formed a tolerably correct estimate of her husband. A temper
naturally shrewish was soured till she grew positively terrible. She
was not old, but she had aged; she deliberately set herself to extort
by fear all that the world was inclined to refuse her, and was harsh
and rasping as a file. Caustic to excess she had few friends among
women; she surrounded herself with prim, elderly matrons of her own
stamp, who lent each other mutual support, and people stood in awe of
her. As for poor Pons, his relations with this fiend in petticoats
were very much those of a schoolboy with the master whose one idea of
communication is the ferule.

The Presidente had no idea of the value of the gift. She was puzzled
by her cousin's sudden access of audacity.

"Then, where did you find this?" inquired Cecile, as she looked
closely at the trinket.

"In the Rue de Lappe. A dealer in second-hand furniture there had just
brought it back with him from a chateau that is being pulled down near
Dreux, Aulnay. Mme. de Pompadour used to spend part of her time there
before she built Menars. Some of the most splendid wood-carving ever
known has been saved from destruction; Lienard (our most famous living
wood-carver) had kept a couple of oval frames for models, as the /ne
plus ultra/ of the art, so fine it is.--There were treasures in that
place. My man found the fan in the drawer of an inlaid what-not, which
I should certainly have bought if I were collecting things of the
kind, but it is quite out of the question--a single piece of
Riesener's furniture is worth three or four thousand francs! People
here in Paris are just beginning to find out that the famous French
and German marquetry workers of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and
eighteenth centuries composed perfect pictures in wood. It is a
collector's business to be ahead of the fashion. Why, in five years'
time, the Frankenthal ware, which I have been collecting these twenty
years, will fetch twice the price of Sevres /pata tendre/."

"What is Frankenthal ware?" asked Cecile.

"That is the name of the porcelain made by the Elector of the
Palatinate; it dates further back than our manufactory at Sevres; just
as the famous gardens at Heidelberg, laid waste by Turenne, had the
bad luck to exist before the garden of Versailles. Sevres copied
Frankenthal to a large extent.--In justice to the Germans, it must be
said that they have done admirable work in Saxony and in the

Mother and daughter looked at one another as if Pons were speaking
Chinese. No one can imagine how ignorant and exclusive Parisians are;
they only learn what they are taught, and that only when they choose.

"And how do you know the Frankenthal ware when you see it?"

"Eh! by the mark!" cried Pons with enthusiasm. "There is a mark on
every one of those exquisite masterpieces. Frankenthal ware is marked
with a C and T (for Charles Theodore) interlaced and crowned. On old
Dresden china there are two crossed swords and the number of the order
in gilt figures. Vincennes bears a hunting-horn; Vienna, a V closed
and barred. You can tell Berlin by the two bars, Mayence by the wheel,
and Sevres by the two crossed L's. The queen's porcelain is marked A
for Antoinette, with a royal crown above it. In the eighteenth
century, all the crowned heads of Europe had rival porcelain
factories, and workmen were kidnaped. Watteau designed services for
the Dresden factory; they fetch frantic prices at the present day. One
has to know what one is about with them too, for they are turning out
imitations now at Dresden. Wonderful things they used to make; they
will never make the like again--"

"Oh! pshaw!"

"No, cousin. Some inlaid work and some kinds of porcelain will never
be made again, just as there will never be another Raphael, nor
Titian, nor Rembrandt, nor Van Eyck, nor Cranach. . . . Well, now!
there are the Chinese; they are very ingenious, very clever; they make
modern copies of their 'grand mandarin' porcelain, as it is called.
But a pair of vases of genuine 'grand mandarin' vases of the largest
size, are worth, six, eight, and ten thousand francs, while you can
buy the modern replicas for a couple of hundred!"

"You are joking."

"You are astonished at the prices, but that is nothing, cousin. A
dinner service of Sevres /pate tendre/ (and /pate tendre/ is not
porcelain)--a complete dinner service of Sevres /pate tendre/ for
twelve persons is not merely worth a hundred thousand francs, but that
is the price charged on the invoice. Such a dinner-service cost
fifteen thousand francs at Sevres in 1750; I have seen the original

"But let us go back to this fan," said Cecile. Evidently in her
opinion the trinket was an old-fashioned thing.

"You can understand that as soon as your dear mamma did me the honor
of asking for a fan, I went round of all the curiosity shops in Paris,
but I found nothing fine enough. I wanted nothing less than a
masterpiece for the dear Presidente, and thought of giving her one
that once belonged to Marie Antoinette, the most beautiful of all
celebrated fans. But yesterday I was dazzled by this divine
/chef-d'oeuvre/, which certainly must have been ordered by Louis XV.
himself. Do you ask how I came to look for fans in the Rue de Lappe,
among an Auvergnat's stock of brass and iron and ormolu furniture?
Well, I myself believe that there is an intelligence in works of art;
they know art-lovers, they call to them--'Cht-tt!'"

Mme. de Marville shrugged her shoulders and looked at her daughter;
Pons did not notice the rapid pantomime.

"I know all those sharpers," continued Pons, "so I asked him,


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