would still believe in La Peyrade's devotion, if
Celeste should decide in Felix's favor?"
"What can I do? Those are his conditions. And
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 39
the rascal has taken everything into account too; he
knows very well that Felix will never make up his
mind to carry Celeste a ticket of confession, and
that the little mummer will never accept him for a
husband until he does. So La Peyrade is playing a
very shrewd game."
"Too shrewd," retorted Brigitte; "however, fix
it as you please; I wont meddle with it; all this
trickery isn't to my taste."
Thuillier saw Madame Colleville and suggested
to her that she must inform Celeste of their plans
Celeste's sentiments for Felix Phellion had never
received official sanction. On the other hand, Flavie
had on a previous occasion expressly forbidden her
to give the young professor any hope ; but as she
felt that she was upheld in her preference by Ma-
dame Thuillier, her godmother, the only person in
whom she confided, she allowed herself to yield
gradually to her inclinations, without paying much
heed to the obstacles which her choice might some
day encounter. When therefore it was signified to
her that she must decide between Felix and La Pey-
rade, the innocent child thought of one only of the
two horns of the dilemma, and she promised herself
that she would perform a notably beneficent act by
virtue of this arrangement which made it possible for
her to dispose of her hand as her heart bade her do.
But La Peyrade was not at fault in his reckoning
that, on the one side, the girl's religious intolerance,
and, on the other, young Phellion's philosophical
40 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
inflexibility would prove insuperable obstacles to
On the day when Flavie was instructed to com-
municate Thuillier's sovereign will to Celeste, the
Phellions came to pass the evening with Brigitte,
and a very sharp conflict took place between the
young people. Mademoiselle Colleville did not need
her mother's hint that it would be extremely ill-
advised to employ the conditional approbation lately
given to their feeling for each other as an argument
in her controversy with Felix. Celeste had too
much delicacy and too much religious ardor to desire
to accomplish the conversion of the man she loved
by any other process than conviction. So they
passed the whole evening in theological discussions,
and love is such a capricious creature, and may
assume so many unexpected shapes, that, although
he was dressed that day in a black dress and square
cap he had not by any means the unprepossessing
appearance one might imagine. But Phellion junior
was unlucky to the last degree in this encounter, of
the seriousness of which he had no conception. Not
only would he concede nothing but he adopted an
airy, ironical tone in discussion, and finally drove
poor Celeste so beside herself, that she told him
that everything was over between them, and forbade
him to see her again.
This was the cue for a lover of more experience
than the young scholar to see Celeste again the very
next day, for a woman is never so near surrendering
at discretion in an affair of the heart as at the
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 41
moment when she tells herself that an eternal sepa-
ration is necessary.
But this law is not a logarithmic rule, and Felix
Phellion, incapable of divining its existence, be-
lieved himself to be very seriously and positively
proscribed; so that, during the fortnight allowed the
maiden for deliberation, as the Code says in the
matter of privileged successions, the ill-fated youth
had not the slightest idea of breaking his ban,
although he was expected from day to day and from
minute to minute by Celeste, who thought no more
of La Peyrade, by the way, than if he had been an
Luckily for this stupid lover a benevolent fairy
was watching over him, and on the day preceding
that on which Celeste was to announce her decision,
matters fell out as follows :
It was a Sunday, the day of the week which the
Thuilliers still devoted to stated receptions.
Being fully convinced that leakage in vulgar
parlance, servants' little pickings brings destruc-
tion to the most solidly-established fortunes,
Madame Phellion was in the habit of doing her own
marketing. From time immemorial Sunday had
been boiled dinner day in the Phellion household,
and the wife of the great citizen, in the costume of
studied negligence which housekeepers affect when
they go to market, was returning most prosaically
from the butcher's stall, followed by the cook, who
had in her basket a magnificent shank-bone. Twice
already she had rung her own door-belF, and a
42 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
terrible storm was gathering over the head of the
little servant-girl, who, by her deliberation in an-
swering the bell, was placing her mistress in a much
less endurable situation than that of Louis XIV., who
simply came near having to wait In her feverish
impatience Madame Phellion had just given the bell
a third, awe-inspiring jerk. Fancy her confusion
and agitation, when she saw a lady descend at that
moment from a little coupe which drove noisily up
to the door of her house, and when, in this unsea-
sonably early visitor, she recognized the elegant
Comtesse Torna de Godollo !
The poor woman's face became purple, she lost her
head, and was floundering about in apologies, on the
point of complicating her position, already intoler-
ably false, by some supreme gaucherie; fortunately
for her, Phellion's attention was attracted by the in-
cessant jangling of the bell, and he came out of his
study, attired in a dressing-gown with a Greek tur-
ban on his head, to see what was going on. After
a few words whose pompous grandiloquence abund-
antly made up for the neglige costume which they
were destined to excuse, the great citizen, with the
'serenity that never forsook him, gallantly offered
his hand to the stranger and led her to a seat in the
"Might I, without impertinence," he said,
"inquire of Madame la Comtesse to what we are
indebted for the unhoped-for honor of her visit?"
"I wished to talk with Madame Phellion," the
Hungarian replied, "upon a subject in which she
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 43
must take the keenest interest I have not had an
opportunity to see her alone, and so, although I am
hardly known to her, I have taken the liberty to
intrude upon her here."
"How now! madame, you confer signal honor
upon our humble abode. But what can have become
of Madame Phellion?" added the worthy man impa-
tiently, walking toward the door.
"No, do not disturb her I beseech you," said the
countess. "I have come awkwardly enough just
when she is in the midst of her household duties.
Brigitte is beginning to teach me with some success,
and I know the respect due to the cares of house-
keeping. Besides, I have no cause to complain as
1 have the compensation of your presence, which I
did not count upon."
Before Phellion had time to reply to this compli-
mentary speech, Madame Phellion appeared; a be-
ribboned cap replaced her marketing-hat, and a
capacious shawl concealed the other shortcomings
of her morning toilet. As his wife entered the great
citizen discreetly offered to retire.
"Monsieur Phellion," said the countess, "you are
by no means an outsider in the conference I desired
to have with madame; on the contrary, your excel-
lent judgment can not fail to be of the greatest ser-
vice in throwing light upon the question in which
you are no less deeply interested than your worthy
helpmeet; I refer to your son's marriage."
"My son's marriage!" echoed Madame Phellion
in an amazed tone; "why I am not aware that
44 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
anything of the sort is in contemplation at this
"Monsieur Felix's marriage to Celeste," contin-
ued the countess, "is a thing that you desire, 1 am
sure, even if you have no such plan?"
"We have taken no avowed steps to accomplish
it," said Madame Phellion.
"I know it only too well," rejoined the Hunga-
rian, "for every one in your family seems deter-
mined, on the other hand, to defeat my efforts ; but,
after all, one thing is certain, despite all the reserve
and, I won't mince my words, all the bungling
that has characterized the management of this affair,
and that is that the young people love each other,
and that they will both think it very hard if they
don't eventually belong to each other; and the
object of the step I decided this morning to take is
to prevent that disaster."
"We cannot but be touched by the interest you
take in our child's welfare, madame,"said Phellion;
"but, in truth, this interest "
"Is so hard to explain," the countess quickly in-
terposed, "that it makes you a little suspicious?"
"Oh! madame!" said Phellion, bowing with
a respectful deprecatory air.
"Mon Dieu!" continued the Hungarian, "the
explanation of what I have done is very simple.
I have studied Celeste, and have discovered in
the dear, innocent child a moral worth which
would make me bitterly regret to see her sacri-
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 4$
"Certainly," said Madame Phellion, "Celeste is
an angel of sweetness."
"As to Monsieur Felix, I venture to take an inter-
est in him also, in the first place, because he is the
worthy son of one who is, in my eyes, the most
virtuous of fathers "
"Madame, I cry you mercy!" exclaimed Phellion,
"But he also commends himself to me by the
clumsiness of true love, which speaks out in his
every word and his every act We women take in-
expressible delight in watching passion in a guise
which lays us open neither to deception nor mis-
"My son is not brilliant, it is true, "said Madame
Phellion, with a hardly perceptible tinge of acidity.
"He is not a young man of fashion."
"But he has all the most essential qualities,"
rejoined the countess, "and merit which is ignorant
of its own existence is the highest proof of intellec-
"In truth, madame," said Phellion, "you compel
us to listen to things that "
"Are nothing more than the truth," the countess
interrupted. "Another reason for my passionate
concern for the happiness of these young people, is
that I am not at all concerned for that of Monsieur
La Peyrade, who is false and self-seeking. That
fellow is trying to found the success of his
scheming upon the ruins of their hopes."
"Certain it is," said Phellion, "that there are
46 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
shadowy depths in Monsieur de la Peyrade, which
it is very difficult for the light to penetrate."
"And as I was unfortunate enough to have a man
of that stamp for my husband," continued Madame
de Godollo, "the bare thought of the torture in store
for Celeste in such a disastrous partnership, has
caused me to yield, in the interest of their future
welfare, to this charitable impulse, which perhaps
no longer surprises you."
"We did not require, madame," said Phellion,
"the more than satisfactory arguments with which
you have cast light upon your conduct, but I confess,
that in order to avoid committing similar mistakes
in future, it would seem to me to be not altogether
unprofitable to put your finger upon those by which
we have nullified your generous efforts."
"How long is it," asked the countess, "since any-
one of your family has crossed the Thuilliers*
"Why, if my memory serves me," said Phellion,
"we were there on the Sunday following the house-
"That is to say, two full weeks of separation,"
said the Hungarian ; "and do you think that nothing
can happen in two weeks?"
"No, indeed; for three glorious days sufficed, in
1830, to overthrow a perjured dynasty, and to estab-
lish the order of things which now prevails."
"You see!" said the countess. "And that last
evening did nothing take place between Celeste and
your son ?"
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 47
"Yes indeed," replied Phellion; "a very disa-
greeable dispute on the subject of Felix's religious
opinions; for if I must say it, dear Celeste, who is
a charming creature in every other respect, seems
to be a little fanatical in the matter of creed."
"I grant that," said the countess, "but she has
been brought up by the mother whom you know,
and no one has ever shown her the face of sincere
piety; she has seen piety making wry faces, noth-
ing more ; repentant Madeleines of Madame Colle-
ville's stamp always want to have the air of with-
drawing to the desert in company with a death's
head. They don't think they can procure salvation
any cheaper than that But, after all, what did
Celeste ask Monsieur Felix to do? to read the
Imitation of Jesus Christ. "
"He has read it, madame," replied Phellion; "he
considers it a very well-written book, but his con-
victions, unfortunately, are not shaken in the slight-
est degree by what he read."
"And do you think it clever of him not to make
for his mistress some trifling discount on the inflex-
ibility of those same convictions?"
"My son, madame, has never had from me any
lessons whate /er on the subject of cleverness of that
sort; loyalty and uprightness, those are the princi-
ples I have sought to inculcate."
"It seems to me, monsieur, that one shows no
lack of loyalty, when, with a sore heart, one goes
to work in the right way to avoid rubbing the sore;
but, never mind; let us assume that Monsieur Felix
48 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
owes it to himself to play the part of the bar of iron,
against which all Celeste's entreaties are shattered.
Was that a reason why, after that scene, which was
not the first of the same kind, and which assumed
the proportions of a rupture, he should sulk in his
tent for a fortnight, when he had an opportunity to
meet her at any time in Brigitte's salon, absolutely
neutral ground ? Above all things should he have
crowned his fit of the sulks by a proceeding which
passes my comprehension, and which, when we
found it out only a moment since, carried despair to
Celeste's heart, and at the same time the keenest
"My son capable of such a thing! impossible,
madame!" cried Phellion, "I don't know what you
refer to, but I have no hesitation in stating broadly
that you are misinformed."
"And yet nothing can be more certain. Young
Colleville, who comes home on Sundays, has just
told us that Monsieur Felix, who used to give him
lessons every other day with the greatest regularity,
has paid no attention to him for more than a week.
Unless your son is ill, I have no hesitation in say-
ing that such a performance is the climax of stu-
pidity. In his present situation with regard to the
sister, he should have given the brother his lessons
twice a day instead of selecting this moment to drop
The Phellions, husband and wife, looked at each
other, as if to consult, before replying.
"My son, madame," said Madame Phellion, "is
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 49
not precisely sick; but, since you have put us on
the right track by disclosing a fact which is, I agree,
most peculiar, and a thousand leagues from his
habits and character, I must admit that ever since
the day when Celeste apparently intended to signify
that all was at an end between them, something
extraordinary has taken place in Felix; Monsieur
Phellion and I are extremely troubled about it"
"Yes, madame," said Phellion, "the young man
certainly is not in his right mind."
"Why, what's the matter?" asked the countess
"Why," said Phellion, "the very evening of the
scene between them, after we came home my son
poured a flood of scalding tears into his mother's
bosom, giving us to understand that, in his opinion,
the happiness of his life was at an end "
"So far," said Madame de Godollo, "there's
nothing unnatural ; lovers always see things in their
"Of course," said Madame Phellion; "but from
that moment Felix has not made the slightest allu-
sion to his misfortune, and the next day he returned
to his work in a sort of frenzy ; does that seem nat-
"It is susceptible of explanation: study is
supposed to be a great comforter."
"Nothing is truer than that, "said Phellion; "but
in Felix's whole behavior there's a sort of excite-
ment and concentration at the same time which you
could hardly imagine. If you speak to him he
50 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
seems not to hear you ; he sits down at the table and
forgets to eat, or takes his food with an absent-
minded air which the doctor considers very bad for
the digestion; we have to remind him of his daily
duties and occupations which he is ordinarily so
regular about; why, the other day, while he was at
the Observatory, where he goes now every evening
and returns at most unseemly hours, I took it upon
myself to go to his room and look over his papers : I
was terrified, madame, to find a mass of paper cov-
ered with algebraic calculations carried out to such
an extent that they seemed to me to be beyond the
powers of any human mind."
"Perhaps," suggested the countess, "he is on the
scent of some great problem."
"Or on the road to insanity," said Madame Phel-
lion in a low voice and with a heavy sigh.
"That is hardly probable," said Madame de
Godollo; "a man with so tranquil a temperament
and so straightforward a mind as his, is not a
likely subject for a disaster of that sort I know of
one much more likely to befall him between this and
to-morrow, if we don't strike a decisive blow to-
night; Celeste may be lost to him for good and
"How so?" demanded the husband and wife in
"You may not know," continued the countess,
"that Thuillier and his sister at one time made a
definite agreement as to a marriage between Celeste
and Monsieur de la Peyrade. "
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 51
"We certainly suspected as much," said Madame
"But the execution of the agreement was post-
poned to a remote period and made dependent upon
certain conditions. Monsieur de la Peyrade, after
putting them in the way to purchase the property
near the Madeleine, was to obtain the Cross for Mon-
sieur Thuillier, to write a political pamphlet in his
name, and finally to procure him a seat in the
Chamber of Deputies. It was something like the
old romances of the days of knight-errantry, when
the hero was required to exterminate some horrible
monster, before he could aspire to the princess's
"How witty madame is!" said Madame Phellion
to her husband, who motioned to her not to interrupt
"I haven't the time to spare," continued the
countess, "and it would be useless, too, to tell you at
length the adroit measures by which Monsieur de la
Peyrade has undertaken to hasten the catastrophe ;
but there is this that it is important for you to
know, that, through his duplicity, Celeste has
been called upon to choose between himself and
Monsieur Felix; that the poor child was allowed a
fortnight to reflect and make up her mind; that the
fateful fortnight expires to-morrow, and that, thanks
to the wretched frame of mind into which your son's
attitude has thrown her, there is a very serious
danger that she may sacrifice to the evil counsel of
her loving anger her true sentiments and her genuine
52 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
"But what can we do, madame?" asked Phellion.
"Fight, monsieur ! come in force this evening to
Thuillier's and induce Monsieur Felix to come with
you; preach to him until he relaxes a little the stiff-
ness of his philosophical opinions. Paris is well
worth a mass, said Henri IV. ; but, better still, let
him dodge all such questions; tell him to search his
heart for words that will move a woman who loves
him ; to get the better of her in that way would be
such a long stride ! I will be there, and 1 will help
with all my might; perhaps, under the inspiration
of the moment I shall think up some way of making
my assistance efficacious. At all events we will
surely fight a great battle to-night, and if every one
doesn't do his duty valorously, this La Peyrade may
carry off the victory."
"My son isn't here, madame," rejoined Phellion,
"and I regret it, for perhaps your earnestness and
your warm words would have been successful in
rousing him from his torpor; but, at all events, I
will lay the matter before him in all its gravity, and
1 am very certain that he will go with us to call
upon our friends, the Thuilliers, this evening."
"It is needless to remind you," added the coun-
tess rising, "that we must carefully avoid anything
that might imply a previous understanding; we
shall have no conference there, and unless the
reconciliation is to be brought about in a perfectly
natural way it would be better to have said nothing
"Rely on my discretion, madame," said Phellion,
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 53
"and at the same time pray accept the assur-
"Of your most distinguished consideration,"
laughed the countess.
"No, madame," replied Phellion, gravely. "I
reserve that formula for the conclusion of my
letters, but pray believe that I feel for you the
warmest and most unalterable gratitude."
"We will talk about that when we're out of
danger," said Madame de Godollo, walking toward
the door; "and if Madame Phellion, the most affec-
tionate and most virtuous of mothers will deign to
accord me a tiny place in her friendship, I shall
esteem myself only too-well paid for my trouble."
Madame Phellion uttered a silly, far-fetched com-
pliment Phellion, having escorted the countess to
her carriage, continued to salute her with the utmost
respect long after she had driven away.
As the Latin quarter element became less assid-
uous in its attendance at Brigitte's salon and less
prominent there, a more animated variety of Par-
isian life began to sift in. Among his colleagues
in the General Council, and among the upper clerks
at the Prefecture of the Seine, the municipal coun-
cillor enlisted several desirable recruits; the mayor
of the arrondissement and his deputies, whom Thuil-
lier had called upon when he moved into the neigh-
borhood, made haste to return his civility, and it
was the same with some of the commissioned officers
of the first legion. The building itself had furnished
its contingent, and several of the newly installed
54 THE PETTY BOURGEOIS
tenants contributed by their presence to the rehab-
ilitation of the Sunday receptions. Among the latter
we must not omit to mention Rabourdin See The
Civil Service the former chief of Thuillier's bureau
at the Treasury Department Having had the mis-
fortune to lose his wife, whose salon, at an earlier
date, eclipsed Madame Colleville's, Rabourdin occu-
pied bachelor quarters on the third floor, above the
apartment let to Cardot, the retired notary. In
consequence of an outrageous piece of injustice, he
had voluntarily quitted the public service. At the
time when Thuillier fell in with him, he was man-
ager of one of the projected railroads, the completion
of which was constantly postponed by timidity and
parliamentary rivalries. Let us say, in passing,
that the reappearance in the Thuillier circle of this
shrewd man of business, who had meanwhile become
an important personage in the financial world,
afforded the worthy and excellent Phellion a fresh
opportunity to display the grandeur of his character.
At the time when Rabourdin was driven to resign,
Phellion alone among the clerks in his bureau
remained true to him in his misfortune. Now that
he was in a position where he had a goodly number
of places at his disposal, Rabourdin, when he fell in
with his faithful friend once more, lost no time in
offering him an easy and at the same time lucrative
"M&sieur," was Phellion's reply, "your good-will
touches me and honors me, but my desire to be
perfectly frank compels me to tell you something
THE PETTY BOURGEOIS 55
which I beg you not to take in bad part; I don't
believe in chemins defer, or railways, as the English
"You've a right to your opinion," said Rabourdin
with a smile, "but meanwhile we pay our employes
very well and I should be glad to have you with
me in that capacity. I know by experience that
you're a man to be relied on."
"Mdsieur," replied the great citizen, "I did my
duty at that time and nothing more; as for the offer
you so kindly make me, I cannot accept it; content
with my humble lot I neither desire nor deem it
necessary to embark upon a business career, and I
can say with the Latin poet:
" ' Claudite jam rivos, pueri, sat prata biberunt' "
Being thus reorganized in respect to its personnel,
the Thuillier salon felt the need of another element
of animation ; to use the words of Madelon in Les