the only one which can, in the slang of the Bourse,
describe them to you, was of short duration. Like
two famished dogs, they fought over each bit of car-
rion. The first speculations of the house of Cerizet
and Claparon were, however, sufficiently well con-
trived. These two rogues associated themselves
with the Barbets, the Chaboisseaus, the Samanons
and other usurers from whom they bought doubt-
ful claims. The Claparon agency was then situ-
ated in a little entresol of the Rue Chabannais,
composed of five rooms, and the rent of which did
not amount to more than seven hundred francs.
Each partner slept in a little chamber which,
through prudence, was kept so carefully closed that
my master clerk was never able to penetrate them.
The offices consisted of an antechamber, a salon,
and a cabinet of which the furniture would not have
brought three hundred francs at the auctioneers'.
298 A MAN OF BUSINESS
You know Paris well enough to be able to see the
arrangement of the two offices: haircloth chairs,
a table with a green cloth, a mean clock between
two candlesticks under glass which bored to look
at, before a little mirror with a gilded frame,
on a chimney-piece the fire-brands in which
were, according to my master clerk, two years old!
As to the cabinet, you can guess it: many paste-
board boxes and little business! — a common portfolio
for each partner; then in the middle the cylin-
drical desk empty as the cash-box! two working
chairs on each side of a chimney-piece with a coal
fire. On the floor was laid a carpet, second-hand,
like the credits. In short, it was that stuff
mahogany which is sold in our offices during
fifty years from predecessor to successor. You are
now acquainted with each of the two adversaries.
Well, in the first three months of their association,
which was liquidated by blows of the fist at the end
of seven months, Cerizet and Claparon bought two
thousand francs' worth of paper signed Maxime —
since Maxime there is — and stuffed the two portfol-
ios full — judgment, appeal, decree, execution, report,
— in short, a credit of three thousand two hundred
francs and some centimes which they had for five
hundred francs by a conveyance under private sig-
nature, with special power of attorney to act in
order to avoid the costs. — At that time, Maxime,
already ripe, had one of those caprices peculiar to
men of fifty — "
"Antonia!" cried La Palferine, "that Antonia
A MAN OF BUSINESS 299
whose fortune had been made by a letter in which I
reclaimed a tooth brush from her!"
"Her real name is Chocardelle," said Malaga,
whom this pretentious name vexed.
"That's the one," resumed Desroches.
"Maxime had committed this fault only this once
in all his life; but, what would you have, vice is
not perfect!" said Bixiou.
"Maxime was still ignorant of the life which one
leads with a little girl of eighteen who wishes to
throw herself, head first, out of her honest garret to
fall into a sumptuous equipage," resumed Desroches,
"and statesmen should know everything. At this
epoch, De Marsay had just employed his friend, our
friend, in the high comedy of politics. A man of
great conquests, Maxime had known only titled
women ; and, at fifty, he certainly had the right to
bite into a little fruit said to be wild, like a hunter
who stops in a peasant's field under an apple tree.
The count found for Mademoiselle Chocardelle a lit-
tle literary establishment sufficiently elegant, a great
opportunity, as always — "
"Bah! she did not stay there six months," said
Nathan; "she was too handsome to keep a literary
"Are you the father of her child? — " said the
lorette to Nathan.
"One morning," resumed Desroches, "Cerizet,
who, since the purchase of Maxime's notes, had
arrived by degrees at the style of the first clerk of
a bailiff, was introduced, after seven unavailing
300 A MAN OF BUSINESS
attempts, into the count's apartments. Suzon, the
old valet de chambre, though expert, had come to
take Cerizet for a solicitor who arrived to propose a
thousand ecus to Maxime if he would obtain for a
young woman a shop for stamped paper. Suzon,
without any suspicion of this little scamp, a real
gamin of Paris with prudence drubbed into him by
his condemnation by the correctional police, per-
suaded his master to receive him. Do you see this
man of business, with an uneasy glance, thin hair,
a bald forehead, with a little dry black coat, in
muddy boots — "
"What an image of Credit!" cried Lousteau.
"—Before the count," resumed Desroches, "the
image of the Debt insolent, in a dressing-gown of
white flannel, in slippers embroidered by some mar-
chioness, in pantaloons of beautiful white wool
having on his black dyed hair a magnificent cap,
displaying a dazzling shirt front, and playing with
the tassels of his girdle?—"
"It is a Genre painting, "said Nathan, "for those
who know the pretty little waiting-room in which
Maxime breakfasted, full of pictures of great value,
hung with silk, in which one walked on a Smyrna
carpet, whilst admiring cabinets full of curiosities,
of rarities that would fill with envy a king of
Saxony — "
"That is the scene," said Desroches.
With this word, the narrator obtained the most
"'Monsieur le Comte,' said Cerizet, 'I am sent
A MAN OF BUSINESS 301
by one Monsieur Charles Claparon, formerly a
"'Ah! what does he want with me, the poor
devil ?— '
" 'Well, he has become your creditor for a sum of
three thousand two hundred francs seventy-five
centimes, in capital, interest, and costs — '
" 'The Coutelier claim,' said Maxime, who knew
all about his affairs as a pilot knows his coasts.
" 'Yes, Monsieur le Comte,' replied Cerizet bow-
ing. '1 have come to know what are your inten-
" 'I shall not settle this obligation until it pleases
me,' replied Maxime, ringing for Suzon. 'Claparon
is very daring to buy a credit on me without con-
sulting me! I am vexed on his account, he who for
so long had so well conducted himself as a man of
straiv for my friends. I said of him 'Truly, he must
be an imbecile to serve for so little gain, and with so
much fidelity, men who are stuffed with millions.'
Well, he gives me here a proof of his stupidity. —
Yes, men merit their fate! One is fitted with a
crown or a bullet! one is millionaire or porter, and
everything is just. What would you have, my dear
fellow! I — I am not a king, I maintain my princi-
ples. I am without pity for those who make costs
for me or who do not know their business of cred-
itors. — Suzon, my tea ! — You see, monsieur ?' he said
to the valet de chambre. 'Well, you have let your-
self be taken in, you poor old thing. Monsieur is a
creditor; you should have recognized it by his boots.
302 A MAN OF BUSINESS
Neither my friends, nor the strangers who have
need of me, nor my enemies, come to see me on foot.
— My dear Monsieur Cerizet, you understand? You
will not wipe your boots on my carpet any more,'
said he, looking at the mud which whitened the
soles of his adversary. 'You will make my com'
pliments to this poor boniface of a Claparon, for I
will put this affair in the Z. '
"All this was said in a tone of benevolence that
would have given the colic to a virtuous bourgeois.
"'You are wrong, Monsieur le Comte,' replied
Cerizet, taking a little peremptory tone; 'we will
be paid in full and in a manner which may be some-
what inconvenient to you. Therefore I have come
to see you amicably, as should be done by well-
" 'Ah! you understand it that way? — ' answered
Maxime, whom this last pretension of Cerizet
"In this insolence there was some of Talleyrand's
spirit, if you see clearly the contrast between the
two costumes and the two men. Maxime knit his
brows and fastened his looks upon the Cerizet,
who not only sustained this jet of cold rage but,
still more, who responded to it by that glacial
malice which distils from the fixed eyes of a cat.
" 'Very well, monsieur, go — '
" 'Very well; adieu, Monsieur le Comte. Before
the end of six months, we shall be even with each
" 'If you can steal from me the amount of your
A MAN OF BUSINESS 303
credit, which I recognize is legitimate, I shall be
obliged to you, Monsieur,' replied Maxime; 'you
will have taught me some new precaution to take. —
I am truly your servant'
" 'Monsieur le Comte,' said Cerizet, 'it is I who
"This was neat, full of strength and of security
on both sides. Two tigers who regard each other
before fighting, over some prey, would not be finer
nor more wily than were these two natures as
crafty one as the other, one in his impertinent
elegance, the other in his filthy harness.— Which
will you bet on? — " said Desroches, who looked
at his audience surprised to find themselves so
"Well, that is one, that is a story !—" said Mal-
aga. "Oh ! go on, I beg you, my dear ; that goes to
"Between two dogs of that strength, nothing
common should have happened," said La Palterine.
"Bah! 1 will bet my furniture-maker's bill, and
he worries me to death, that the little toad downed
Maxime," cried Malaga.
"I will bet on Maxime," said Cardot; "no one
ever took him napping."
Desroches made a pause while emptying a little
glass which was presented to him by the lorette.
"The reading-room of Mademoiselle Chocardelle,"
he resumed, "was situated in the Rue Coquenard,
two steps from the Rue Pigalle, in which Max-
ime lived. The aforesaid Demoiselle Chocardelle
304 A MAN OF BUSINESS
occupied a little apartment opening on a garden and
separated from her shop by a large dark place in
which she kept her books. Antonia had this estab-
lishment kept by her aunt — "
"She already had her aunt? — " cried Malaga.
"The devil! Maxime managed things well."
"It was, alas! a real aunt," resumed Desroches,
"whose name was — wait a moment — "
"Ida Bonamy — , " said Bixiou.
"Thus, Antonia relieved of a great deal of trouble
by her aunt, rose late, went to bed late, and only
appeared at her counter between two and four
o'clock," resumed Desroches. "From the very
first, her presence sufficed to bring customers to her
reading-room; thither came several old gentlemen of
the quarter, among others a former coach-maker
named Croizeau. After having seen this miracle
of feminine beauty through a window, the former
coach-maker concluded to read the newspapers
every day in this salon, an example which was fol-
lowed by a former custom-house officer, named
Denisart, a man with a decoration, in whom the
Croizeau concluded to see a rival and to whom later
he said: 'Mosieur, you have certainly given me
a practical lesson."
"This word should enable you to perceive the
personage. The Sieur Croizeau belonged to that
species of little old men who, since Henry Mon-
nier, have been known as the species Coquerel, so
well has he rendered the little voice, the little man-
ners, the little queue, the little powder in the hair,
A MAN OF BUSINESS 305
the little step, the little movements of the head, the
little dry tone, in his character of Coquerel of La
Famille Improvis'ee. This Croizeau said: 'Here,
fair lady!' in passing his two sous to Antonia with
a pretentious gesture. Madame Ida Bonamy, aunt
of Mademoiselle Chocardelle, soon learned through
the cook that the former coach-maker, a man of
excessive ugliness, was taxed at forty thousand
francs income in the quarter where he lived, Rue
de Buffault A week after the installation of the
handsome circulator of romances, he was delivered
of this pun:
"'You lend me livres, but I return you many
francs — '
"Some days later he assumed a knowing little air
to say :
" 'I know that you are engaged, but my day will
come: I am a widower.'
"Croizeau always appeared with beautiful linen,
with a blue-bottle colored coat, a waistcoat in that
silk known as pou-de-soie, black pantaloons, double-
soled shoes tied with ribbons of black silk and
creaking like those of an abbe. He carried always
in his hand his fourteen-franc silk hat.
" 'I am old and without children,' he said to the
young person some days after the visit of Cerizet
to Maxime. '1 have a horror of my collateral heirs.
They are all peasants, made to cultivate the earth!
Just imagine that I came from my village with six
francs, and that I made my fortune here. I am not
proud — . A pretty woman is my equal. Would it
306 A MAN OF BUSINESS
not be better to be Madame Croizeau for some time
than to be the servant of a count during a year? —
You will be left, some day or other. And you
will then think of me. Your servant, fair lady!'
"All this was managed very quietly. The very
slightest gallantries are uttered secretly. No one
in the world knew that this spruce little old man
loved Antonia, for the prudent countenance of this
lover in the reading-room would have conveyed
nothing to a rival. Croizeau was suspicious for a
couple of months of the retired director of customs.
But towards the middle of the third month he had
grounds for recognizing the very slight foundations
of the suspicions. Croizeau exercised his ingen-
uity in keeping near to Denisart when in his com-
pany, then, taking his opportunity, he said to him:
" 'It is fine weather, Mosieur: — '
"To which the former functionary replied:
"'The weather of Austerlitz, Monsieur: I was
there — , I was even wounded there ; my cross is
because of my conduct on that fine day — '
"And, insensibly, from one thing to another,
step by step, through little confidences, an in-
timacy was developed between these two relics
of the Empire. The little Croizeau was con-
nected with the Empire by his intimacy with the
sisters of Napoleon, — he had been their carriage-
maker, and he had often tormented them by his bills.
He therefore gave himself out as having had relations
with the imperial family. Maxime, informed by
Antonia of the propositions offered by the agreeable
A MAN OF BUSINESS 307
old man, for such was the title given by the
aunt to the rentier, wished to see him. The declar-
ation of war made by Cerizet had had the effect of
making this fine gentleman in yellow gloves study
his position on his chess-board and observe the least
important pieces. Now, apropos of this agreeable
old gentleman, he received the understanding that
stroke of the clock which announces to you a misfor-
tune. One evening, Maxime placed himself in the
second dusky apartment, around which were ar-
ranged the shelves of the library. After having
examined by an opening between two green curtains
the seven or eight habituej of the salon, he gauged
with a look the soul of the little carriage-maker; he
appraised his passion, and was very well satisfied
to know that, at the moment when his fancy should
be over, a sufficiently sumptuous future would open
at command its varnished portals to Antonia.
" 'And that one,' he said, indicating the fine, large
old man decorated with the Legion of Honor; 'who
is he ?'
" 'A former director of customs.'
" 'He has a disquieting appearance !' said Maxime,
admiring the style of the Sieur Denisart.
"In fact, this old soldier held himself straight as
a steeple; his head attracted attention by its pow-
dered and pomaded arrangement, almost similar to
that of the postilions of a masked ball. Under this
species of felt, modeled on an oblong head was
presented an old countenance, administrative and
military both at once, marked by a proud air, similar
308 A MAN OF BUSINESS
enough to that which caricature has lent to the
Constitutionnel. This former administrator, of an
age, of a quality, of a curve of the back which per-
mitted him to read nothing without glasses, main-
tained his respectable abdomen with all the pride
of an old man with a mistress, and wore in his ears
gold rings which recalled those of the old General
Montcornet, the habitue of the Vaudeville. Denisart
held blue in favor, — his pantaloons and his old
frock-coat, very full, were of blue cloth.
"'How long has that old fellow been coming
here ?' asked Maxime, to whom the glasses appeared
to have a suspicious aspect.
"'Oh! from the commencement,' replied An-
tonia. 'It is now nearly two months — '
" 'Good; Cerizet came only about a month ago,'
said Maxime to himself. — 'Make him speak,' he
said in Antonia's ear; 'I wish to hear his voice.'
"'Bah!' she replied, 'that would be difficult; he
never says anything to me.'
" 'Why does he come, then? — ' asked Maxime.
" 'For a queer enough reason,' replied the beau-
tiful Antonia. 'In the first place, he has a passion,
notwithstanding his sixty-nine years; but, because
of his sixty-nine years, he is regulated like a clock-
dial. This good man there goes to dine with his
passion, Rue de la Victoire, at five o'clock every
day. — There is an unlucky woman! He leaves her
house at six o'clock, comes to read the newspapers
for four hours, and returns there at ten o'clock.
The papa Croizeau says he is acquainted with the
A MAN OF BUSINESS 309
motives of Monsieur's conduct; he approves them;
and, in his place, he would act the same way.
Thus, I know my future! If ever I become Madame
Croizeau, from six to ten o'clock I shall be free.'
"Maxime consulted the Almanack des 25,000
adresses ; he found there this reassuring line:
" 'DENISART *, former director of customs, Rue
de la Victoire.
"There was no further uneasiness. By degrees,
there were established between Monsieur Denisart
and the Sieur Croizeau certain confidences. Noth-
ing unites men more than a certain conformity of
views respecting women. Papa Croizeau dined in
the house of her whom he called La Belle de Mon-
sieur Denisart. Here I should insert a sufficiently
important observation. The reading-room had been
purchased by the count for a sum, half cash down
and half in notes signed by the aforesaid Demoiselle
Chocardelle. Rabelais' quart d'heure arrived, the
count found himself without funds. Whereupon,
the first of the three notes of a thousand francs
was paid in full by the agreeable coach-maker, whom
the old scoundrel of a Denisart counseled to secure
his loan by establishing for himself certain advan-
tages of a privileged creditor upon the reading-room.
"'I,' said Denisart, 'I have seen some beauties
among the fair sex! — Thus, in every case, even
when I have no longer my head about me, I
always take my precautions with women. This
310 A MAN OF BUSINESS
creature for whom I am so crazy, well, she is not in
her own furniture ; she is in mine. The lease of the
apartment is in my name — '
"You know Maxime; he thought that the coach-
maker was very young! The Croizeau could pay
the three thousand francs without having anything
to show for it for a long time, for Maxime found
himself more enamored than ever of Antonia — "
"I can well believe it," said La Palferine; "she
is the Belle Imperia of the Middle Ages."
"A woman who has a rough skin!" cried the lor-
ette, "and so rough that she ruins herself in bran
"Croizeau spoke with a coach-maker's admiration
of the sumptuous furnishing which the amorous
Denisart had given for a setting-off to his Belle; he
described it with a satanic complacency to the am-
bitious Antonia," resumed Desroches. "There
were coffers of ebony inlaid with mother-of-pearl
and gold wire, Belgian carpets, a mediaeval bed of
the value of a thousand ecus, a clock by Boulle ; then,
in the dining-room, candelabra at the four corners,
curtains of China silk on which Chinese patience
had painted birds, and portieres suspended from
cross-pieces much more valuable than the divided
" 'See what you should have, fair lady — , and
what I should be willing to offer you — , ' said he in
conclusion. 'I know very well that you would love
me tolerably well; but, at my age, one is reason-
able. You may judge how much I love you, since
A MAN OF BUSINESS 311
I have lent you a thousand francs. I can admit it
to you: in all my life nor in my days have I ever
lent so much!'
"And he tendered the two sous of his sitting
with the importance which a scientist attaches to a
"That evening, Antonia said to the count, at the
" 'It is pretty stupid all the same, a reading-room.
I don't feel any inclination for that sort of a busi-
ness; I don't see any chance of fortune in that
That is something for a widow who just wishes to
keep life together, or for a young woman who is
atrociously ugly and who thinks she may catch a
man by dressing a little.'
"'That is what you asked of me,' replied the
"At this moment, Nucingen, whom, from the
evening before, the king of the Lions, for the yellow
gloves had then become lions, had won a thousand
ecus, came in to give them to him, and seeing the
astonishment of Maxime, he said to him :
"'I haf receivet a brotest at the reguest of dat
tevil of a Glabaron — '
" 'Ah! that's their method!' cried Maxime; 'they
are not very clever, that lot — '
" 'All de zame,' replied the banker, 'bay dem, for
dey can attress demselves to others dan myself and
but you in de wrong — . I dake for widness dis
preddy voman dat I have baid you dis morning, even
bevore de brotest — '
312 A MAN OF BUSINESS
"Queen of the spring-board," said La Palferine,
smiling. "You will lose—"
"It has long happened," resumed Desroches,
"that, in a similar case, but where the too honest
debtor, frightened at having to make an affirmation
in the courts of justice, did not wish to pay Maxime,
we had roughly dragged in the protesting creditor by
opposing protests en masse, so as to absorb the
whole amount in expenses of contribution — "
"What's all that?"— cried Malaga. "Here are a lot
of words which sound to me like gibberish. Since
you have found the sturgeon excellent, pay me the
value of the sauce in lessons in trickery."
"Well," said Desroches, "the amount which one
of your creditors covers with a protest in the hands
of one of your debtors may become the object of a
similar protest on the part of all your other cred-
itors. What, then, does the court, of whom all the
creditors demand the authorization to be paid? — It
divides legally the sum seized among them all.
This division, made under the eye of justice, is
called a contribution. If you owe ten thousand
francs, and if your creditors seize by protest a thous-
and francs, they have each so much per cent of their
claim, by means of a repartition an marc le franc,
according to the terms of the Palais, that is to say,
in a distribution pro rata of their amounts; but they
only receive this by means of a legal paper called an
Extrait du Bordereau de Collocation, which is deliv-
ered by the clerk of the court. You can imagine
this work accomplished by a judge and prepared by
A MAN OF BUSINESS 313
the advocates? it involves a great deal of stamped
paper covered with empty and scattered lines, in
which the figures are lost in columns of entire empti-
ness. The first thing to do is to deduct the cost.
Now, the cost being the same for a sum of a thous-
and francs seized and for a sum of a million, it is
not difficult to eat up a thousand ecus, for instance,
in costs, especially if one succeeds in stirring up
"An advocate always succeeds," said Cardot;
"how many times has one of yours asked me: 'How
much is there to get?' "
"They succeed above all," resumed Desroches,
"when the debtor provokes you to eat up the sum
in costs. Thus the count's creditors got nothing;
they had only their running about to the advocates
and their efforts. In order to be paid by a debtor
as clever as the count, a creditor would be obliged
to put himself in a legal situation excessively diffi-
cult to establish, — he would have to be at once his
debtor and his creditor, for then one has the right,
according to the law, to bring about the confu-
sion — "
"Of the debtor?" said the lorette, who lent an
attentive ear to this discourse.
"No, of the two qualities of creditor and debtor,
and pay one's self by his hands," resumed Des-
roches. "The innocence of Claparon, who had
only invented protests, had therefore the effect of
tranquillizing the count. In taking Antonia home
from the Varietes, he adopted the more readily the
314 A MAN OF BUSINESS
idea of selling the reading-room in order to pay off
the last two thousand francs of the price, for he
feared the ridicule of being known as the silent
partner in such an enterprise. He therefore accepted