"What do you want it for?" queried Thuillier.
"For mademoiselle; she told me to take it to her
"What does she want of it?"
"Mademoiselle is going on a journey I think; all
her linen is taken out of the bureau already, and she's
folding her dresses as if she was going to pack them. "
"Another crazy whim, now!" said Thuillier.
"For heaven's sake, Flavie, go and see what mag-
got she's got in her head."
"Faith, no!" exclaimed Madame Colleville; "go
yourself; in her state of exasperation, she's quite
capable of beating me."
"So my stupid wife," cried Thuillier, "must
needs go and raise this difficulty about the contract!
She must have said some pretty sharp things for
Brigitte to go off her hinges this way."
"Monsieur doesn't tell me where the key is?"
"I don't know anything about it!" retorted Thuil-
lier angrily; "go and look for it, or else tell her it's
"Oh! yes," said Josephine, "I think I see my-
self telling her that "
At that moment the bell of the outer door rang.
"It's La Peyrade without doubt," said Thuillier
A moment later the Provencal made his appear-
ance. "Faith, my friend," said Thuillier, "it's
322 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
high time you came, for the household's in revolt
on your account, and you must try to restore peace
and tranquillity with your golden tongue."
And he told the advocate the cause and incidents
of the civil war that had recently broken out.
Thereupon Theodose said to Madame Colleville:
"The relations between us make it possible for
me, I think, without impropriety, to request a
few moments' conversation with Mademoiselle Ce-
There again the Provencal exhibited his accus-
tomed shrewdness; he realized that Celeste Colle-
ville was the key to the situation that he had to
deal with in the mission of pacification imposed
"I'll send for her," said Flavie, "and we'll leave
you alone with her."
"My dear Thuillier," said La Peyrade, "you
must, quietly and in a few words, urge upon Made-
moiselle Celeste the necessity of giving her con-
sent, so as to make her think that that was the
purpose for which you sent for her. After that
I will dismiss you and look after the rest my-
The servant was despatched to Madame Colle-
ville's apartments on the entresol, with orders to
say to Celeste that her godfather desired to speak
The sort of office where, amid Brigitte's house-
keeping chaos, the scene we have been following
began, was not a suitable place for the interview
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 323
requested by La Peyrade; so, they went into the
salon to await Celeste's coming. As soon as she
appeared, Thuillier said to her, to follow out the
programme agreed upon :
"My child, your mother has told us certain things
that surprise me greatly; can it be true, when your
contract was to have been signed yesterday, that
you haven't yet made up your mind to the marriage
we have arranged for you?"
"Godfather," replied Celeste, somewhat taken
aback by this abrupt interpellation, "I don't think
I said that to mamma."
"Do you mean to say," said Flavie, "that you
didn't speak of Monsieur Felix Phellion in most en-
thusiastic terms of praise just now?"
"I spoke of Monsieur Phellion as everybody
speaks of him."
"Come, come!" said Thuillier authoritatively,
"this is no time for equivocation; do you refuse to
marry Monsieur de la Peyrade or not?"
"My good friend," interposed La Peyrade, "you
have an abrupt and downright way of putting ques-
tions, which doesn't seem to me just the thing,
especially in my presence; will you permit me, as
a principal party in interest, to have an under-
standing with mademoiselle, which may perhaps
become necessary ? This favor will not be denied
me by Madame Colleville, I know; in my position,
there can be nothing in my request, 1 think, to
arouse her maternal anxiety."
"I would willingly accede to your wish," replied
324 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
Flavie, "if I were not afraid that all this manoeu-
vring would seem to admit a doubt as to something
that is irrevocably decided."
"I, my dear madame, on the contrary, most
earnestly desire that Mademoiselle Celeste should
remain absolutely and entirely free until the last
moment Be good enough therefore to grant my
petition, as we say at the Palais."
"Very well!" said Madame Colleville; "you
think yourself very clever; but if you let this little
miss twist you around her thumb, so much the worse
for you! Come along, Thuillier," she added, "as
we seem to be in the way here."
"Mademoiselle," said La Peyrade, drawing for-
ward a chair for Celeste and seating himself when
they were left alone, "I dare believe you will do
me the justice to admit that until this day I have
never wearied you with any expression of my sen-
timents. I have been well aware of the inclina-
tions of your heart and at the same time of the
disinclination of your conscience; I hoped after a
while, by making myself very small, to succeed
finally in passing between these two opposing cur-
rents; but, at the point at which we have now
arrived, I do not think that I am either impatient or
unfair in begging you to let me know the decision
you have reached."
"Mon Dieu! monsieur," replied Celeste, "since
you speak so kindly and so frankly I will tell you,
what you know already, that, as I was brought up
with Monsieur Felix Pheilion, and have known him
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 325
much longer than you, the idea of marriage, which
is always so alarming to a young girl, terrified
me less in connection with him than with any
"And yet at one time," observed Theodose, "you
were authorized to fix your choice on him "
"I was, but at that time there was a difficulty
about religious matters between us."
"And that difficulty has disappeared to-day?"
"Almost," said Celeste. "I am accustomed to
subordinate my opinion to that of persons better
informed and more enlightened than I am, and you
yourself, monsieur, heard how Monsieur 1'Abbe
Gondrin expressed himself yesterday."
"God forbid," rejoined the Provencal, "that I
should presume to cast doubt upon the judgment of
so eminent an authority! And yet I will venture
to remind you that there are marked differences
between the members of the priesthood: some are
considered to be too severe, others too indulgent
Monsieur 1'Abbe Gondrin is rather a preacher than
a casuist "
"But Monsieur Felix," said Celeste hastily,
"seems very willing to justify the vicar's hopes
of him, for I know that he called upon him this
"In that case," said La Peyrade with a touch of
irony, "he might certainly have gone to see Pere
Anselme, eh? But, admitting that in the matter of
religious principles Monsieur Phellion will soon be
in a fair way to satisfy your requirements in every
326 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
respect, have you thought, mademoiselle, of the
great event that has come to pass in his life?"
"Certainly I have, and it doesn't seem to me that
that constitutes a reason for looking upon him with
"No, but it is a reason why he should look upon
himself with more favor. I am afraid, for your
sake, that the modesty and humility which were
among the greatest charms of his character may
be replaced by a self-reliance, a self-satisfaction,
which, by developing in him a certain individ-
uality, may eventually divert and dry up the source
of the sentimental affections; and then you can
scarcely fail to see, mademoiselle, that he who has
discovered one world may discover two; can you
imagine yourself the rival of a whole firmament?"
"You plead your cause with much spirit," said
Celeste, smiling, "and as an advocate I deem you
quite as alarming a husband as Monsieur Phellion
considered as an astronomer."
"Mademoiselle," rejoined the Provencal, "to
speak more seriously, I consider that your heart is
admirably well bestowed, and that it is capable of
the greatest refinement of sentiment: now, do you
know what has happened to Monsieur Phellion?
He has lost nothing by his devotion to his old pro-
fessor ; his pious fraud is known to everyone to-day ;
his discovery is credited to him, and, if I am to
believe Monsieur Minard, whom I met only a
moment ago, he is to be immediately appointed a
chevalier of the Legion of Honor, and very shortly
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 327
a member of the Academy of Sciences. If I were a
woman, I should be very sorry, I confess, that such
an avalanche of good fortune should descend upon a
man, at the precise moment that I was about to take
him into favor; I should be afraid that the public
would accuse me of worshiping the rising sun."
"Oh! monsieur," said Celeste eagerly, "you do
not think me capable of such baseness?"
"I, no indeed," said the Provencal; "I but now
offered my contrary opinion ; but the world is so
hasty, so unjust, and at the same time so obstinate
in its judgments!"
Seeing that he had succeeded in planting a feel ing
of uneasiness in the young girl's mind, and as she
made no reply, La Peyrade continued:
"Now, to turn to a much more serious aspect of
your situation, to something which is not purely
personal, taking place, so to speak, between your-
self and yourself, do you know that, at this
moment, in this household, you are unwittingly the
cause of a most painful and most regrettable state of
"I, monsieur?" exclaimed Celeste, in surprise
mingled with alarm.
"Yes: you have made a new woman of your god-
mother, by reason of her excessive affection for you.
For the first time in her life she has an idea of her
own. With an energetic exhibition of will power,
which can be readily explained in the case of one
who has never expended much of that article, she
declares that she will not become a party to your
328 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
contract by making any sort of provision for you,
and I need not tell you at whom this unexpected
rigor is aimed."
"But, monsieur, I beg you to believe that I was
utterly unacquainted with this purpose on the part
of my godmother."
"I am well aware of it," said La Peyrade, "and
it would be a matter of small consequence, if Made-
moiselle Brigitte had not taken her sister-in-law's
attitude as an insult, as she had always found her
manageable and easily susceptible to her influence.
Explanations, in which hard words led on to vio-
lence, have taken pi ace. Thuillier, standing between
the hammer and the anvil, could do nothing; on the
contrary, he has rather made matters worse, with-
out meaning to, and they have now gone so far,
that if you could, at this moment, without exposing
yourself to some terrible outburst of anger, go to
Mademoiselle Thuillier's room, you would find
her packing her trunks preparatory to leaving the
"What do you say, monsieur?" cried Celeste in
"The truth, and you can ask the servants to con-
firm what I say, for I feel that my revelations are
"Why, it's impossible," said the poor child,
whose agitation increased with every word the cun-
ning Provencal uttered; "lean not have been the
cause of such horrible misery."
"That is to say that you did not wish to be, for,
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 329
as a matter of fact, the evil is already done, and
Heaven grant that it be not past remedy!"
"My God, what must I do?" said Celeste, wring-
ing her hands.
"I would reply without hesitation, sacrifice your-
self, mademoiselle, were it not that, in the present
case, the role, at once enviable and painful, of offi-
ciating priest at the sacrifice is reserved for me."
"Monsieur," said Celeste, "you interpret very
ill the resistance I may have made, which has
hardly been expressed; I may have had a prefer-
ence, but I have never looked upon myself as a vic-
tim; whatever it is necessary to do to restore
tranquillity to this household, in which I have
sown discord, I will do without repugnance, even
"That would be, so far as I am concerned, far
more than I can claim," rejoined La Peyrade with
mock humility; "but, to obtain the result we both
seek, I am bound to tell you that something beyond
that is necessary, in appearance at least Madame
Thuillier hasn't laid aside her natural character to
resume it immediately, except upon being assured
of your submission; in my mouth this statement
sounds amazingly ridiculous, but the situation de-
mands it, and it is necessary that your godmother
should believe you to be guilty of such notoriously
bad taste as to feel an eager desire for the success
of my suit, which desire, although assuredly most
unnatural, should yet be sufficiently well counter-
feited to deceive her."
330 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
"Very well," said Celeste, "I will laugh and
seem to be happy. My godmother is a second
mother to me, monsieur, and what would one not
endure for a mother?"
The situation was so pitiful, and Celeste dis-
played so ingenuously the immensity of her sacri-
fice side by side with her absolute determination to
make it, that, with ever so little heart, La Peyrade
would have been disgusted with his r61e; but
Celeste to him was a stepping-stone; and, so long
as the ladder bears your weight and helps you to
ascend, who ever cares to notice whether it is en-
thusiastic over it or not? It was agreed, therefore,
that Celeste should go to her godmother, and should
convince her of the mistake she had fallen into
relative to a supposed feeling of repulsion on her
part, which in reality she had never entertained,
for La Peyrade. Madame Thuillier's resistance
once overcome, the rest was easy; the advocate
would undertake to restore peace between the two
sisters-in-law, and it will readily be conceived that
he did not lack words to depict to the innocent child
a future, wherein, by virtue of his love and devo-
tion, he would cause her to lay aside all regret for
having been forced to submit to this moral necessity.
When Celeste approached her godmother, she
found it less difficult to convince her than she had
feared. To go so far as she had gone in her rebel-
lion, the poor woman, who was acting in direct
opposition to all her instincts and her whole temper-
ament, had to make an almost superhuman effort of
her will. At the moment when she received her
beloved goddaughter's false confidences, the reaction
was taking place, and it is more than probable that
she would have lacked strength to continue in the
path on which she had started. She therefore
readily allowed herself to be deceived by the farce
played for the Provencal's benefit As soon as the
tempest was allayed in that direction, La Peyrade
had no difficulty in making Brigitte understand that
she had overstepped the bounds of propriety to some
slight extent in putting down the uprising against
her authority; as her authority was no longer ques-
tioned, Brigitte ceased to bear her sister-in-law
malice because she had been upon the point of beat-
ing her, and by dint of a few pleasant words and an
embrace, poor Celeste paying all the expenses of
the war, the difference was arranged.
After dinner, at which no guests were present,
the notary, to whose office they were to go the next
day informally, for it was not possible to under-
take a new edition of the abortive evening-party,
332 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
called upon Mademoiselle Thuillier. The minis-
terial functionary came to submit to the parties con-
cerned the draft of the contract before putting it in
its final shape. This thoughtful ness was easily
accounted for on the part of one who was just enter-
ing into business relations with a man of Thuillier's
consequence, and was not likely to leave any stone
unturned to secure him permanently as a client.
La Peyrade knew too much to proffer any obser-
vations whatsoever, upon the draft which was read
to him. From certain changes suggested by Brigitte,
which gave the notary an exalted idea of the old
maid's business capacity, it was very easy for the
Provencal to detect a purpose to take rather more
precautions against him than were consistent with
common decency, but he was determined to make
no objections; he knew that a contract is never so
closely woven that a determined, intelligent man
can not puncture it
An appointment was made for two o'clock the fol-
lowing day at the notary's office, where the family
alone would be present
During a portion of the evening, profiting by the
gracious attitude toward himself that he had ad-
vised Celeste to adopt, and which she did her best
to counterfeit, La Peyrade played with the poor girl,
so to speak, forcing her by the false warmth of his
gratitude and his requited love to reply to him in
a key that was a thousand miles from reflecting the
real state of her heart, which was entirely filled
with thoughts of Felix Phellion.
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 333
As she watched the Provencal exerting all his
powers of fascination, Flavie could but remember
the pains he had once taken to twine himself about
her heart "The monster!" she muttered to her-
self; yet she had no choice but to smile under the
torture, and a moment later the discovery of a fur-
ther great service rendered by La Peyrade to the
Thuillier family gave the finishing touch to his in-
fluence and his credit
Minard was announced.
"My dear friends," said he, as he came in, "I
have come to tell you a little piece of news that
cannot fail to surprise you, and will be a lesson to
us all when it comes to admitting strangers into our
"How's that?" said Brigitte with interest
"That Hungarian woman you were so fond of,
Madame Torna, Comtesse de Godollo "
"What about her?" demanded the old maid.
"Why, she was nobody at all, and for two whole
months you coddled the most shameless of kept
"Who told you that fable?" said Brigitte, to
whom it came very hard to admit that she had
fallen into such a trap.
"No one told me any fable," replied the mayor;
"I know the thing myself, from having seen it"
"Oho! so you keep company with kept women,
do you?" said Brigitte, taking the offensive. "Well,
that is a pretty affair! if Zelie only knew that!"
"It isn't he who keeps company with them," said
334 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
Thuillier with a sly expression, "but monsieur his
son; we've heard about him!"
"Well yes," said Minard, giving way to the ill-
humor caused by this manner of receiving his com-
munication; "and as the impudent rascal has had
the audacity to commend his strolling player to your
notice, so that you would speak of her in your paper,
I have nothing to conceal from you. Monsieur Julien
is in fact making a great show of keeping a woman
who acts at second-rate theatres, and it was in that
creature's company that I saw your friend Madame
de Godollo. It seems to me that I speak plainly
enough and that after what I say doubt is no longer
"It may be plain to you," retorted Brigitte, "but
unless you're one of the obliging kind of fathers
that sons introduce their mistresses to, I'd like to
ask you how you happened to be in the company of
Monsieur Julien's blonde?"
"Ah! do you imagine," said Minard with dignity,
"that I am a man to wink at my son's misdeeds?"
"I don't imagine anything," retorted Brigitte;
"you were the one who said: 'I was in com-
"I didn't say that," Minard interrupted; "I said
that I saw Madame de Godollo, whose name is Ma-
dame Komorn, and who's no more a countess than
you or Madame Colleville, 1 saw her in the com-
pany of the unworthy creature on whom my son
spends his money and his time. Now must I ex-
plain the how and the why of the meeting?"
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 335
"Why yes," said Brigitte, "an explanation won't
"Well, to show you my way of closing my eyes
to my son's dissolute life as soon as I was in-
formed by an anonymous letter of what he was
doing, I took steps to make sure with my own eyes,
because I know how much notice one ought to take
of anonymous letters in general."
"Say!" said Brigitte, parenthetically, to La Pey-
rade, "it's funny we haven't received any about
you, Monsieur 1'Avocat!"
"If you don't choose to listen to me," said Minard,
offended at the interruption, "it's no use to ask me
for the details."
"Why, we're listening," said Brigitte. "You
wanted to see with your own eyes ?"
"Yes," Minard resumed, "and on the day of your
dinner-party, when I was late, you know, I had
been to the Fol ies-Dramatiques, the scene of Jul ien's
vagaries, where his creature was to make her debut
I wanted to make sure if the villain, who pretended
to be sick, but left the house immediately after our
departure, was at his post as claqueur. It's a cruel
thing to admit, I know, but the lunatics who take a
fancy to stage women descend even as low as that"
"Was he there?" queried Brigitte, with an air
denoting but little sympathy for the mayor's grief.
"No, mademoiselle, he wasn't there. I couldn't
see him in the hall ; but there was some slight con-
fusion on the stage just as the curtain rose, and as I
turned my eyes in that direction I saw that child,
336 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
the shame of my old age, talking most familiarly
with a fireman and standing so far out from the
wings that one of the vulgar frequenters of the pit
cried out: 'Pull in your bullet-head, you fraud!'
Judge how my father's heart must have rejoiced at
that pleasant form of address!"
"There you are!" said Brigitte; "you've spoiled
your dear Monsieur Julien. "
"I am so far from having spoiled him," said
Minard, "that, except for his mother's urgent en-
treaties I was disposed to take the harshest measures
against him ; but, when I heard Abbe Gondrin's
sensible and tolerant words last night it occurred to
me to go and ask his advice, and after doing so I
determined to "
"Do priests understand such things?" said
"The proof that they understand them is that the
plan the vicar suggested to me succeeded perfectly.
I went to see this dangerous young woman's mother
and said to her that, in order to put an end to the
disorderly conduct of our children, which undoubt-
edly distressed her as much as it did myself, I had
decided to make a sacrifice; that I would go as far
as fifteen hundred francs a year, or thirty thousand
francs outright as a contribution toward a marriage-
portion for her daughter, and I added that there was
nothing more to be expected from my son, as I pro-
posed to cut off his supplies. 'Well now ! that turns
out very well,' the woman replied, 'there's a man
who copies for the justice's clerk in the twelfth
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 337
arrondissement, who had designs upon Olympe and
is trying it on again just now.' "
"Didn't she tell you this copyist's name?" asked
"I don't think so," said Minard; "if she did I've
forgotten it; the whole business was arranged in a
moment with the mother, who seems to me a very
good sort of woman."
"By the way," observed Brigitte, "I don't see
anything of Madame de Godollo yet."
" Be patient," said Minard. " ' The only thing I'm
afraid of, ' the actress's mother said to me, ' is the
bad advice of a Polish woman named Madame
Cramone, who's my daughter's hairdresser and
makes her do what she pleases; perhaps if you see
her and give her a glimpse of a present, she'd play
our game; she's right here, do you want me to call
her? I'll tell her, without mentioning your name,
that a gentleman wants to speak to her.' I assented
to this arrangement, and she went after the for-
eigner ; fancy my surprise at finding myself face to
face with your Madame de Oodollo, who ran off,
laughing like a madwoman, as soon as she caught
sight of me!"
"And you're sure it was she?" demanded
Brigitte. "If you only got a glimpse of her "
The crafty Provencal was not the man to let slip
such an opportunity as was afforded him to show up
the Hungarian's double-deal mg.
"Monsieur le Maire made no mistake," said he
338 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
"Oho! you know her too, do you," said Made-
moiselle Thuillier, "and you let us rub elbows with
"Quite the reverse," said LaPeyrade; "I cleared
your house of her without scandal, without saying
a word to anyone. You remember how abruptly
the wretch changed her quarters ; it was because I
had discovered what she was and gave her two days
to clear out, threatening to reveal everything to you
if she refused."
"My dear fellow," said Thuillier, pressing the
advocate's hand, "you acted with as much prudence
as determination. You have put us under still
greater obligations to you."
"You see, mademoiselle," said La Peyrade to