"It happens that I have an important errand
to be done in your quarter," said Brigitte, seeing
plainly enough that she had got to make up her
mind to a sacrifice, "and I'm going to send my
concierge with a cabriolet, if you'd like to take
"I accept, madame," said the old professor, ris-
ing; "and, in case of need, you could testify before
my judges that you saw me show my stinginess by
refusing to hire a cab."
"Henri," said Brigitte to her servant, "take
monsieur down to Monsieur Pascal, the concierge;
and tell him, when he goes to take the message I
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 285
gave him just now, to leave him at his door aruj to
take good care of him."
"Good care! good care!" repeated the old fellow,
declining the servant's arm ; "do you take me for a
package, pray, madame, or a piece of cracked por-
When her man had at last reached the door,
Brigitte yielded to the impulse to be a little short
"What I say, monsieur, is for your good, and you
will permit me to observe that your character don't
seem to be very well put together."
"Good care!" repeated the old man; "why don't
you know, madame, that that's the kind of talk they
use to get a man put under guardianship? How-
ever, I won't repay with insults such generous hos-
pitality as I have received, especially as I think I
taught that fine gentleman who seemed inclined to
make fun of me, to know his place."
"Go along! go along, old beast!" exclaimed
Brigitte shutting the door behind him.
Before returning to the salon she was obliged to
drink a large glass of water; the constraint she was
forced to put upon herself in order to clear her skirts
of that dangerous guest, had, to use her own ex-
7ression, put her all about
The next morning Minard the elder sent in his
name to Phellion in his study. The great citizen
and his son Felix were at the time discussing a sub-
ject which seemed to impart great animation to
"My dear Felix," cried the mayor of the elev-
enth, giving his hand with great warmth to the
young professor, "you are the one who brings me
here this morning; I come to offer you my con-
"What's the matter, pray?" demanded Phellion;
"have the Thuilliers at last decided "
"A fig for the Thuilliers !" the mayor interrupted.
"But," he added, with a glance at Felix, "is it
possible that the sly dog has concealed even from
"I do not think," said the great citizen, "that
my son ever kept anything concealed from me."
"Then you do know of the sublime astronomical
discovery he communicated to the Academy of
"Your kindly feel ing for me, Monsieur le Maire,"
said Felix hastily, "has led you astray; I was the
reader simply, not the author of the paper."
"Don't try to fool us!" said Minard; "the
reader! the whole truth is known."
"But look," said Felix, handing Minard the
288 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
Constitutionnel, "here's the newspaper: not only
does it announce that Monsieur Picot is the one
who made the discovery, but it mentions the re-
wards the government has bestowed on him without
a moment's loss of time."
"Felix is right," said Phellion; "the newspaper
proves it, and I think that on this occasion the
government has acted in a very proper manner."
"But, my dear major, I tell you again that the
whole truth has come out, and your son appears in
a more admirable light than ever. To give his old
professor the credit of his discovery in order to
attract the favorable notice of the authorities to him
why, in all antiquity I know of no such noble
"'Felix," said his father, with some symptoms of
emotion, "this ceaseless toil to which you have
been devoting yourself for some time past, these
constant visits to the Observatory "
"No, no, father, Monsieur Minard has been mis-
"Misinformed!" echoed Minard, "when I have
the whole story from Monsieur Picot himself!"
At this argument, put forth in such a way as to
leave no possibility of doubt behind it, the whole
truth burst upon Phel lion's mind.
"Felix, my child!" he cried, rising to embrace
But he was compelled to resume his seat; his
legs refused to hold him, he turned pale, and that
ordinarily impassive nature seemed on the point of
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 289
giving way beneath the weight of the happiness
which had descended upon it
"My God!" exclaimed Felix in dismay, "he is
ill; ring, I beg you, Monsieur Minard!"
As he spoke he ran to the old man's side, quickly
removed his cravat and shirt collar and chafed his
hands. But it was only a passing weakness; re-
covering consciousness almost immediately Phellion
drew his son to his heart, and holding him there in
a long embrace, he repeated in a voice choked by
the tears which came to the relief of his paroxysm
of joy :
"Felix, my noble son, great in heart and great in
The peal Minard rang upon the bell was so em-
phatic and so authoritative that the whole household
was instantly aroused.
"It's nothing, it's nothing," said Phellion, dis-
missing the servants.
But, as he saw his wife coming in at almost the
same moment, he resumed his customary solemnity
"Madame Phellion," said he, pointing to Felix,
"how many years is it since you brought this
young man into the world?"
Madame Phellion, paralyzed by this question,
hesitated a moment, and finally replied:
"Twenty-five years next January."
"Do you not think," continued Phellion, "that
God has thus far fully satisfied your maternal
aspirations, by permitting the child of your womb
290 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
to be an honest man, a devoted son, and, further-
more, endowed with a remarkable aptitude for
mathematics, the science of sciences?"
"To be sure, "said Madame Phellion, understand-
ing less and less what her husband was driving at
"Well," continued Phellion, "you are indebted
to Heaven for an addition to its blessings, for it has
deigned to permit you to be the mother of a man of
genius; the labors we have inveighed against, and
which made us fear for our poor child's reason,
were the road, the steep, rough road, that leads
"Come, come!" said Madame Phellion, "will
you ever succeed yourself in finding the road that
leads to making yourself understood?"
"Your son," said Minard, measuring out joy in
more judicious doses this time, for fear of causing
another case of intoxication from happiness, "has
made an important discovery in astronomy."
"Really?" said Madame Phellion, going up to
Felix, taking both his hands and looking lovingly
into his face.
"When I say important," continued Minard, "I
spare your maternal blushes: it is a sublime dis-
covery, bewildering it may well be called. He is
but twenty-five years of age, and his name hence-
forth is immortal."
"And this is the man," exclaimed Madame
Phellion in a transport of joy, embracing Felix
effusively, "to whom they prefer a La Peyrade!"
"They do not prefer him, madame, " said Minard,
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 29!
"for the Thuilliers are not that scheming fellow's
dupes; but he forces himself upon them. Thuillier
has made up his mind that without his aid he can't
be elected to the Chamber, where he hasn't ar-
rived yet, by the way, and he is sacrificing every-
thing to that object"
"Why, it's a horrible thing," said Madame Phel-
lion, "to put his ambition before the happiness of
"Ah!" said Minard, "Celeste isn't their child;
she's only their adopted daughter."
"So far as Brigitte is concerned," rejoined Ma-
dame Phellion; "but how about Beau Thuillier?"
"My dear love, "said Phellion, "no harsh words;
the good Lord has sent us a mighty consolation ; and
indeed, this marriage may not take place after all,
although it's well advanced, and although Felix's
conduct in regard to it has not been marked by
the philosophy that might be desired."
Noticing that Felix shook his head incredulously,
"Why yes, the major's right; last night, at the
signing of the contract, there was a hitch. You
didn't come, to be sure; your absence was com-
"We were invited," said Phellion, "and up to the
last moment we hesitated as to whether we would
go ; but, you see, we were in a false position ; and
then Felix I can understand it now, as he had been
reading something of his own to the Academy was
used up with excitement and fatigue. To have
292 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
appeared without him would have been awkward;
that's why we acted like the wise man and decided
to stay away."
The presence of the man he had just pronounced
immortal did not prevent Minard, as soon as the
opportunity was offered him, from grasping eagerly
at one of the most highly-prized delights of bour-
geois existence, namely : gossiping and the dissem-
ination of news.
"You can't imagine," said he, "what a succession
of extraordinary things, each stranger than the last,
took place yesterday in the Thuillier household."
And thereupon he related at length the curious
episode of Pere Picot
Then he spoke of Abbe Gondrin's enthusiastic
approval of Felix's conduct, and of the young
preacher's expressed desire to make his acquaint-
"I'll go and see him, "said Felix; "do you know
where he lives?"
"Rue de la Madeleine, number 8," replied
Minard; "I came from there a moment ago; I had a
very delicate matter to talk over with him and his
advice was as charitable as it was clear and judi-
cious; but the great sensation of the evening
was this: there was a large, fashionable party
assembled to listen to the reading of the contract,
and the notary, after keeping them all waiting more
than an hour, ended by not coming at all."
"So the contract wasn't signed ?" exclaimed Felix
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 293
"Not even read, my friend; at last some one
came to say that the notary had gone to Brussels."
"For a more important matter of course," said
"A matter of the utmost importance," rejoined
Minard; "a trifling failure for five hundred thous-
and francs which this gentleman leaves behind
"But who is this public officer," said Phellion,
"who proves so scandalously recreant to the sacred
obligations of his profession?"
"Parbleu! your neighbor on Rue Saint- Jacques;
"What!" exclaimed Madame Phellion, "such a
devout man, and churchwarden of the parish!"
"Why, madame," said Minard, "they're the
very ones who ride post the best; there are pre-
"But," said Phellion, "such a piece of news as
that thrown into the midst of a private party must
have had the effect of a thunderbolt"
"Especially," said Minard, "as it arrived in the
most unexpected and extraordinary way."
"Pray tell us about it," said Madame Phellion
with renewed animation.
"It seems," continued Minard, "that this vir-
tuous sharper had in his custody the savings of a
great number of servants, and that Monsieur La
Peyrade for all these pious fellows are leagued
together, you see ! undertook to beat up funds for
him among that class of people."
294 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
"I always said it," Madame Phellion broke in;
"that Provencal's a good-for-nothing."
"Notably," resumed the mayor, "he had caused
to be entrusted to Monsieur Dupuis, to the credit
of an old servant, also a pious fraud, a certain little
sum, which was worth while, on my word ! twenty-
five thousand francs, if you please; this companion,
one Madame Lambert "
"Madame Lambert!" it was Felix's turn to in-
terrupt "why, she's Monsieur Picot's companion;
a pale, thin face, wears a scanty cap, keeps all her
hair out of sight and always looks at the ground
when she speaks?"
"That's the very woman," said Minard; "a true
"Twenty-five thousand francs laid by!" ex-
claimed Felix, "I don't wonder that poor Pere Picot
is always hard up."
"And that he neglects to interfere in the sale of
his books," said Minard slyly. "However that
may be, you can imagine that when she learned of
the notary's flight, the woman was up in arms. Off
she went to La Peyrade's rooms; at La Peyrade's
she was told that he was dining and passing the
evening at Thuillier's, whose address she didn't get
very accurately, so that, after rushing about all the
evening, about ten o'clock, when we had been
standing there in the salon for an endless time,
looking at the whites of one another's eyes, with no
idea what to say or do, for neither Brigitte nor
Thuillier have the tact to extricate themselves from
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 29$
such a hole, and we had not, to while away the time
of waiting, Madame de Godollo's voice or Madame
Phell ion's talent "
"Oh! you are too polite, Monsieur le Maire,"
said Madame Phellion in a mincing tone.
"At last," continued Minard, "about ten o'clock,
the Lambert woman arrived in the General Coun-
cillor's reception-room in a high state of excitement,
and asked to speak with Monsieur 1'Avocat"
"That was very natural," said Phellion; "as
the person through whom she invested her money,
the woman had the right to hold him respon-
"You'll see how the Tartuffe acted!" said Mi-
nard. "He went out at once and returned with the
news. As everybody asked nothing better than an
excuse for leaving, there was a general exodus;
then what does our man do ? He returned to Ma-
dame Lambert, whom he had left in the reception-
room, and as the good woman never stopped crying
out that she was ruined, that she was undone,
which might have been her own idea, but might
equally well have been a scene arranged with the
other, my gentleman, the editor-in-chief of the
cho de la B&vre said to her solemnly in presence
of the whole party whom the woman's outcries had
detained: 'Calm yourself, my good woman; the
investment was made with your sanction, and there-
fore I owe you nothing; but the fact that the money
passed through my hands is sufficient to make my
conscience tell me that I am responsible for it; if
296 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
you aren't paid when the notary's affairs are set-
tled, I will pay you.' "
"Very good," said Phellidn, "that's what I said
a moment ago; the middle man must answer. I
wouldn't have hesitated to do what Monsieur de
la Peyrade did, and I don't think he can fairly
be taxed with Jesuitism on account of his con-
"Yes, you would have done it," said Minard,
"and so would I ; but we wouldn't have said it with
a great flourish of trumpets, and we'd have paid out
our own money like true gentlemen. But what will
this electoral courtier pay with? with the marriage
At that moment the little servant entered and
handed a letter to Felix Phellion. It was from
Pere Picot, written at his dictation by Madame
Lambert; that is why we do not reproduce its
Madame Lambert's handwriting was of the sort
that you do not forget when it has once come under
your observation. Felix recognized it at once.
"It's a letter from the professor," said he.
"Have I your permission, Monsieur le Maire?" he
added, before breaking the seal.
"It ought to reconcile you," said Minard; "I
never saw anything so comic as his anger last
Felix smiled as he read the letter. When he had
finished it, he passed it to his father.
"You can read it aloud," said he.
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 297
Thereupon the great citizen began in his solemn
" MY DEAR FELIX.
" I have just received your note; it came just in time, for I
was what they call very angry with you. You say that
when you committed the abuse of confidence that 1 proposed
to discuss somewhat roundly with you, your particular pur-
pose was to hit my family a rap by proving that a man who
could make such complicated calculations as your discovery
required, was not a man to be put under guardianship or
bothered to death with a commission of lunacy. That argu-
ment pleases me and affords a good enough answer to the
infamous lawsuit for me to praise you for thinking of it.
But you sell your argument to me a little dear by making me
the crony and boon companion of a star, whose companion-
ship doesn't suit me at all, as you know very well. A man
of my years, who has solved the problem of perpetual motion,
doesn't bother his head with such stuff; it will do for green-
horns and beginners like you; and that's just what 1 went to
tell the Minister of Public Instruction this morning who re-
ceived me, by the way, with the greatest affability. I put it
to him whether, after making a mistake as to the address, he
ought not to take back the cross and the pension, although
I had certainly earned them in other ways.
" ' The government,' said the minister, 'is not in the
habit of making mistakes; what it does is always well done,
and an ordinance signed by his Majesty's hand isn't to be
annulled; your meritorious work has earned the two distinc-
tions the King confers on you, and it's a debt of long stand-
ing which 1 am glad to discharge in his name.'
"' But what about Felix?' said I; 'for, after all, this dis-
covery isn't so bad, for a young man!'
"'Monsieur Felix Phellion,' the minister replied, 'will
receive during the day his appointment as a knight of the
Legion of Honor; I will myself see to it that the King signs
the order this morning; moreover, there is at this moment a
298 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
vacancy in the Academy of Sciences, and if you don't make
" ' I, in the Academy!' 1 interrupted, with the outspoken-
ness you are familiar with, ' I detest your academies,
they're extinguishers, assemblages of sluggards, shops with
a huge sign and nothing to sell '
" ' Well, then,' said the minister with a smile, ' I think
that Monsieur Felix Phellion has all the chances in his favor
at the first election, and among those chances I include the
influence of the government, which is certain to be accorded
him, provided it is to be loyally and legitimately applied. 1
" ' That, my poor boy, is all I have been able to do to
reward you for your good intentions and to prove to you that
I bear you no malice. I believe, after all, that my relations
are likely to find their noses a little too long. Come and talk
it all over to-day, about four o'clock, for I don't dine the
next day, as I saw them doing last night at a house where I
had occasion to speak of your talents in rather high terms.
Madame Lambert, who is better with a saucepan in her hand
than a pen, will outdo herself, and, although it's a Friday,
when she never has any mercy on me, she promises us an
archbishop's fast-day dinner, with the slender half-bottle of
champagne, which we will duplicate if need be, to water the
' Your old professor and friend,
" ' PICOT.
" ' Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
" ' P. S. Suppose you should induce your excellent
mother to let you have a small bottle of that fine old brandy
you treated me to once on a time? I haven't a drop of it
left and I drank some yesterday that would have done to
wash horses' feet with; but I spoke my mind about it to the
charming Hebe that poured it out for me.' "
"Certainly he shall have some of it, " said Madame
Phellion, "and not a small bottle either, but a litre."
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 299
"And I too," said Minard, "who pride myself on
owning some that isn't too far gone with age, will
send him a bottle or two; but you mustn't tell him
where it comes from, Monsieur le Chevalier by
the way, I hope you'll allow me to be your sponsor
for one never knows how that strange man will
"Wife," said the elder Phellion abruptly, "a
white cravat and my black coat!"
"Where do you mean to go?" said Madame Phel-
lion; "to the minister's, to thank him?"
"Bring me those articles of apparel, I say; I have
an important visit to make, and I trust Monsieur le
Maire will excuse me."
"1 must be off, too," replied Minard, "for I have
some business to attend to relating to my own son,
who hasn't discovered a star."
Deaf to the questions put to him by his wife and
Felix, Phellion completed his toilet, put on a pair
of white gloves, sent for a cab, and, some fifteen
minutes later, sent in his card to Brigitte, whom he
found superintending the process of stowing away
the gala porcelain and silver-plate which had done
duty the preceding day.
Postponing this household duty to receive her
visitor, the old maid began when they were seated :
"Well, Papa Phellion, you went back on us yes-
terday : however, you have a keener scent than the
others. Do you know of the trick the notary
"I know everything," said Phellion, "and the
300 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
very delay imposed upon the execution of your
plans by that unforeseen occurrence is the text of
the momentous conversation I desire to have with
you. Sometimes Providence seems to take pleasure
in defeating our most skilfully devised plans; some-
times, too, by means of the obstacles it places in
our way it seems to intend to show us that we are
going wrong, and to urge us to reflect more care-
"Providence! Providence!" said Brigitte the
strong-minded; "it has something better to do than
bother its head about us."
"That's one way of looking at it," replied Phel-
lion; "but, for my own part, I am accustomed to
discern its decrees in small things as well as great,
and certainly, if it had permitted your engagements
with Monsieur de la Peyrade to pass the first stage
of execution yesterday, you would not see me in
your house at this moment."
"Then you think," said Brigitte, "that a marriage
can't take place for lack of a notary? As they say,
the convent doesn't stand still for lack of a monk."
"My dear mademoiselle," said the great citizen,
"you will do my wife and me the justice to say
that we have never tried to influence your decisions ;
we have allowed our young people to fall in love
without any too clear an idea what the attachment
might lead to "
"To put fleas in their ears," Brigitte interrupted
him; "that's what love does, and that's why I
always steered clear of it."
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 301
"What you say," rejoined Phellion, "is particu-
larly true as regards my unfortunate son; for, not-
withstanding the noble pursuits in which he has
sought distraction from his sorrow, he is so wretch-
edly unhappy under its weight to-day, that this
morning, notwithstanding the great triumph he has
achieved, he was talking to me about circumnavi-
gating the globe, a whim which would have kept
him away at least three years, even if he had
escaped the perils of such a prolonged journey."
"Well," said Brigitte, "that might not have been
such a bad idea; he'd have come back consoled, and
with three or four more stars to his credit."
"This one is enough for us," said Phellion with
twice his customary gravity, "and, relying upon the
advantages accruing from this discovery, which has
placed his name upon so lofty an eminence in the
scientific world, I am simple enough to dare to say
to you point-blank: 'I come, mademoiselle, to ask
the hand of Mademoiselle Celeste Colleville for my
son Felix Phellion, who loves her and is loved by
"But, little father, it's too late," replied Brigitte;
"consider that we are diametrically bound to La
"It is never too late to do what is right, so they
say, and yesterday it would have been too soon
for me to venture to come forward. My son, con-
fronted with the necessity of making up for the dif-
ference in their fortunes would not then have been
able to reply : 'If Celeste, through your generosity,
302 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
has a dowry which mine is far from equaling, I
have, nevertheless, the honor of being a member of
the royal order of the Legion of Honor, and in a
very short time, according to all appearances, I shall
be a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences,
one of the five divisions of the Institute.' "
"Certainly Felix is coming to be a very pretty
catch," said Brigitte, "but we've promised La Pey-
rade; he and Celeste are posted at the mayor's
office; unless something out of the common turns up
the contract will be executed; he's busy about
Thuillier's campaign, which he has already got into
very good shape ; we have money tied up with him
in a newspaper enterprise; so it's impossible to get
out of our promise, even if we wanted to."
"So then," said Phellion, "in one of those rare
cases in which reason and inclination are on the
same side, you think it right to give the question of
self-interest precedence over everything else?
Celeste, we know, has no great liking for Monsieur
de la Peyrade. Brought up with Felix "
"Brought up with Felix!" exclaimed Brigitte;