Paul de Kock.

Novels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) online

. (page 12 of 27)
Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 12 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

" Pray do not grieve, mia cara bella. Although the
marquis forgets you, there is one who will never forget
you, who will watch over your future, and will not allow
you to vegetate in obscurity in this village. Patience;
you are still very young, although perfectly developed
already. Let us wait a bit ; Penelope waited a long while
for the return of Ulysses, but he came at last and killed
all her suitors. That man shot perfectly with the bow ! "

Louise gazed at Monsieur Gerondif in surprise, as if
to ask him what he meant ; but he had turned to Nicole.

" Now, I must bid you adieu," he said.

"What, already, Monsieur Gerondif, without eating
a mouthful, and without taking a drop to drink ? "

" Have a glass of wine," said Jacquinot ; " nobody
ever refuses that."

" Pardon me, my dear Frimousset, but it's very easy
to refuse it, when you are in the habit, as I am, of
drinking fine wines ; your sour stuff would make me
sick now."

" But why are you in such a hurry to go ? "

" Excellent Nicole, I know that there are potted quail
for dinner to-day, Mademoiselle Turlurette told me so,
and it would be uncivil to myself not to take my share
of them. Au revoir, virtuous country folk; Nicole,
watch over this little pearl margarita; I commend her


to your care. And you, sweet Louise, do not give way
to sorrow; you have a grand future before you as-
suredly ! This oracle is more reliable than the oracle of
Calchas. I wish you all the best of health, and I fly to
Villemonble to take the diligence."

As he spoke, Monsieur Gerondif bestowed an ex-
pansive smile upon each in turn; he added to the young
girl's smile an exceedingly ardent glance, and took his
leave, resuming his shiny hat and his glazed gloves.

" He tells me not to give way to sorrow," thought
Louise, when he had gone ; " and Cherubin gave him
no message for me ! "



Cherubin must inevitably appear ungrateful and fickle
in his affection, for he seems to have forgotten very
quickly good Nicole, who had reared him, and little
Louise, his playmate, whom he said that he loved so
dearly. But such ingratitude and inconstancy are too
natural in man for us to be surprised at finding them in
a mere boy. Cherubin had just entered his eighteenth
year; he was surrounded by people whose only aim was
to make life in Paris attractive to him, who were con-
stantly occupied in affording him new pleasures, and
who did not fail to make sport of him and rally him on
account of the time he had passed at his nurse's. Ridi-
cule is a very potent weapon among the French ; grown
men fear and do everything to avoid it; could a child
of seventeen be expected to set it at naught?


However, Cherubin was not so forgetful as one might
suppose. He had often longed to go to see Nicole and
Louise; but, in order to divert him from that design,
they had, in the first place, carefully concealed from him
the nurse's two visits to the house; then they had told
him that Madame Frimousset had sent Louise away to a
kinswoman in Bretagne, in order to help her to forget
the grief caused by her young friend's departure.

The prospect of not finding Louise at Gagny had con-
siderably cooled the young man's longing to revisit the
village. But, as he was still desirous that his nurse
should be happy, he had, as we have seen, despatched
Monsieur Gerondif to her with money, begging him also
to inquire about Louise, to ascertain whether she was
likely to return to Gagny soon in short, to satisfy him-
self concerning her future.

On returning from his visit to Nicole, Monsieur
Gerondif did not fail to inform his young master that
Louise was still in Bretagne, in the family of a respect-
able, well-to-do farmer, who treated her like his own
daughter ; and that she was very happy there.

Cherubin smiled faintly at the thought that his former
playmate had entirely forgotten him so soon ; he felt a
pang of sadness and regret, and for a moment he thought
of going to Bretagne, to reproach Louise for changing
so and for ceasing to love him.

For we are like that at every age : we are quite ready
to forget other people, but we are not willing that they
should forget us; we are inconstant and unfaithful, but
we hope that others will be constant and faithful to us;
in short, we have no hesitation in deceiving, but we do
not wish to be deceived.

Darena's arrival always brought animation to the hotel
de Grandvilain; and, while seeking to divert Cherubin,


he availed himself of the acquaintance to turn Monsieur
Poterne's talents to account.

For instance, the ugly hanger-on brought the young
marquis two saddle horses one morning, and, assuring
him that it was a magnificent opportunity, which he must
not let slip, induced him to pay three thousand francs
for a pair of nags that were worth five hundred at the
very most.

At another time, it was a tilbury which Poterne had
bought from a Russian prince; at another, some fine
hunting dogs of a very rare breed; in short, Monsieur
Poterne had reached the point where he dealt in every-
thing; he never appeared at the house without offering
Cherubin something at a bargain ; he even brought canes,
silk handkerchiefs, parrots and cats. The young man
bought everything, and paid with the most absolute con-
fidence. But Jasmin, who was beginning to consider that
Monsieur Poterne's bargains were terribly extravagant,
was in very ill humor whenever he saw him enter the
house; and he tried to devise some means by which he
could rid his master of his visits. Unfortunately the
old servant had never had a brilliant imagination, and
as he grew old that faculty had become more confined
instead of developing.

Monfreville might have thwarted Darena's schemes
and Poterne's little commercial ventures; but he had
been obliged to go for some time to an estate that he
owned in the neighborhood of Fontainebleau, where con-
siderable repairs were necessary. When he left Paris,
however, he urged his young friend to distrust Monsieur
Poterne's services and obliging disposition ; but Cherubin
was too young not to be trustful ; and moreover, Darena
always seemed amazed at the good bargains which his
steward found for the young marquis.


While Monfreville was absent, the mansion became
crowded with horses, hunting-dogs, birds of all varieties,
gothic vases, and objects said to be rare or curious, which
Monsieur Poterne brought thither every day.

At last, Jasmin said to his young master, one morning :

" If this goes on, monsieur, your house will look like
a bric-a-brac shop ! You can't turn around here ! This
Monsieur Poterne induces you to buy too many things ;
these antique, rare vases look very ugly to me ; the hunt-
ing dogs make a frightful noise, and when they are let
go, they bite everybody's legs. And then the parrots
shriek so, and you have five of them! That so-called
Spanish cat he sold you has changed color, and is noth-
ing but a common white cat now. And you have nine-
teen canes, my dear master ; I have counted them. What
do you mean to do with nineteen canes? Monsieur le
marquis, your father, had only one, and he never carried
more at one time."

" Hush, Jasmin," Cherubin replied, laughing at his old
servant's distress ; " am I not rich ? haven't I the means
to gratify my whims ? "

" Excuse me, my dear master, but you buy all these
things because Monsieur Poterne tells you they're mag-
nificent, great bargains, and a thousand other things to
tempt you; why, you would never have taken it into
your head to have ten dogs, nineteen canes, five parrots
and a turtle, and to fill this house with old vases and
strange looking jugs, which I call hideous, as I do the
turtle, which frightens me."

" Because you don't know about such things. Mon-
sieur Darena always congratulates me on my purchases ;
he thinks everything is very fine and not dear."

" Oh ! as to Monsieur Darena," said Jasmin, shaking
his head, " I don't call him economical ! By the way,


my dear master, has he ever repaid the money that you
paid the tailor, the shirt-maker and the boot-maker for

" No ; but that isn't very important. He has probably
forgotten it. Besides, Jasmin, you told me then that it
was very good form to lend money to one's friends, and
that my father often did it."

" That is true, monsieur, but all the difference is that
your father's friends paid back what they borrowed."

This conversation was interrupted by Poterne's arrival ;
he still wore his shabby box-coat, beneath which he car-
ried something of considerable size, which he kept care-
fully out of sight. Jasmin made a very significant gri-
mace at the appearance of the very person of whom he
had been speaking. But Monsieur Poterne came forward
with a most humble air, bowing to the ground, and try-
ing to assume a pleasant expression.

" Ah ! it's Monsieur Poterne ! " said Cherubin, laugh-
ing at his old servant's pantomime. " I was just talking
about you with Jasmin, who declares that my Spanish
cat is turning white."

Monsieur Poterne replied, with a sneering laugh that
sounded like the rattling of copper sous in a saucepan :

" Monsieur Jasmin is joking! The cat that I had the
honor to sell you is very valuable; he used to belong to
a Spanish grandee. It is possible that he may turn white
temporarily ; he may not be well ; but the color will all
come back if you take good care of him."

" Do you mean that you think that animals aren't well
fed in our house?" demanded Jasmin haughtily.

" I didn't mean that, my dear monsieur ; but Spanish
cats are very delicate, and "

" All right," said Cherubin, " we have talked enough
about a cat. Doubtless you have come to offer me


something new, Monsieur Poterne? for you are an in-
valuable man ! With you one has no time to form a wish."

" Monsieur le marquis is too kind ; as it happens, I
have something."

As he spoke, Monsieur Poterne bestowed a savage
glance on the old valet, whose presence embarrassed
him; but Jasmin did not budge, and as his master did
not tell him to go, Monsieur Poterne was fain to make
up his mind to exhibit before him what he had under his

" Well, what have you brought me to-day ? " asked

" What I have brought you, monsieur le marquis, is
a bargain."

" Always bargains," muttered Jasmin ; " we know all
about that."

" I have just come from the sale at an ex-minister's
house; he was a great epicure. At your age, monsieur
le marquis, young people like sweetmeats good things
especially those that are hard to get. Faith, when this
was put up for sale, I thought that you might like it."

As he spoke, Monsieur Poterne produced from beneath
his coat a huge jar of blue china, carefully sealed with

" What is there in that, Monsieur Poterne ? "

" Indian preserve, monsieur le marquis ; it's a very
popular sweetmeat in hot countries, and very rare in
France, on account of the difficulty of bringing it here ;
this is made of pineapples."

" The deuce ! " muttered Jasmin ; " he's taken to bring-
ing us eatables now ! This is the finishing touch ! "

" A jar of this size is ordinarily worth a hundred francs
at Chevet's, when he has any. I got this for fifty, and
I bought it with the intention of offering it to you."


" Thanks, Monsieur Poterne ; pineapple preserve
should be delicious, in very truth. Jasmin, give Mon-
sieur Poterne fifty francs, then take this preserve to the

Jasmin took the jar which the ugly knave handed him.

" We don't need preserves," he muttered. " Made-
moiselle Turlurette makes very good ones, and it wasn't
worth while "

A glance from Cherubin imposed silence on the old
retainer, who walked, still grumbling, to the secretary
and took out the money, while Poterne said to the young

" I shall soon have something very interesting to
offer to monsieur le marquis. It's a monkey of the large
species, extremely bright and intelligent, whose owner
would not dispose of him except that he has failed in
business. I mean to seize the opportunity, and you will
have a monkey worthy of a king."

" A monkey ! " cried Jasmin ; " that would be the
bouquet! Our house would be a complete menagerie

" Hush, Jasmin," said Cherubin ; " and do you, Mon-
sieur Poterne, bring me the monkey as soon as you obtain
it. I am very anxious to own it."

Monsieur Poterne bowed, took the fifty francs which
the old servant, with a horrible grimace, counted out to
him, and left the room, repeating that he would try to
get the monkey at a reasonable figure.

Cherubin, who had an appointment with Darena and
several other young men to breakfast at the Cafe de
Paris, hastily completed his toilet and dismissed his
old servant, who was in despair at the idea of having a
monkey. He left the room, a^ter casting an angry glance
at the jar for which his master had just paid fifty francs.


A few minutes later, Cherubin, attended by a genuine
groom, entered his tilbury and drove away, paying no
heed to Jasmin, who shouted to him from a window in
the pantry:

" He's taken us in, monsieur ! It's grape jelly and
nothing else ! "



At the Cafe de Paris, Cherubin found Darena and two
young dandies whose acquaintance he had made in the
foyer of the Opera. Intimacies are quickly formed at
eighteen years; we proffer and give our friendship as
if it were the most commonplace thing in the world.
As we grow older, we often discover that we gave noth-
ing and received nothing.

Cherubin's two new friends were only a few years
older than he. One of them, whose name was Benoit
Mousseraud, called himself de Mousseraud, and never
mentioned his Christian name, which he considered
vulgar. The other, on the contrary, whose name was
Oscar Chiponard, used his Christian name only, and
never mentioned his family name.

The former was a tall, slender young man of twenty-
two, not ill-looking, although his eyes lacked expression
and his hair, which he declared to be blond, bordered
closely on the red; he was a brainless chatterbox, who
boasted of making a conquest of every woman he saw,
and of being the best dressed man in Paris.


The other was twenty- four years of age ; he was small,
dark, yellow-skinned, and would have been decidedly
ugly, except that his black eyes were so full of fire and
animation that they imparted much expression to his
countenance. He might have passed for a clever fellow,
if he had not had the folly to blush for his family and
to lose his temper whenever anyone mentioned the name
of his father.

Both these gentlemen belonged to wealthy families.
Mousseraud was the son of a provincial notary and pro-
posed to purchase a brokerage business in Paris ; Chipo-
nard, whose father was a retired watchmaker, proposed
to do nothing at all.

They both displayed great friendliness to Darena be-
cause he was of noble birth, and he reciprocated because
they were rich. In society there is an almost constant
interchange of these selfish sentiments.

" Come, come, Marquis Cherubin," said Darena, " we
are waiting for you; the breakfast is all ordered, and it
will be rather fine; I understand such matters."

" You're a little late," said Oscar.

" He has probably been to bid one of his mistresses
good-morning," added the tall Mousseraud, stroking his

" My mistresses ! " repeated Cherubin artlessly ; " oh !
I haven't any."

" Hasn't any, indeed ! " cried Darena, nudging him ;
" I trust that you don't believe that ! The fact is that
he has them in all quarters ; he is a downright villain
with the women already. Don't say that you have no
mistresses," he added in Cherubin's ear ; " people will
laugh at you and point their fingers at you as a curiosity.
And it's a fact, my dear fellow, that for a young man of
eighteen, you are very backward."


Cherubin blushed and hastily took his seat at the table.
During the breakfast Mousseraud talked incessantly of
his bonnes fortunes, while Oscar from time to time made
malicious comments upon what his friend said. Darena
ate, drank, and laughed at their speeches. Cherubin
listened to everything with the utmost good faith, simply
uttering exclamations of wonder when their adventures
seemed to him extraordinary.

" Yes, messieurs," said the tall red-blond, " at this
moment I have five mistresses, without counting two
others who are on the waiting list."

"Waiting for what?" sneered Oscar.

" Parbleu ! that is plain enough : waiting for the in-
trigue to be consummated ; it will be arranged this week,
or next at the latest."

" Then you will have seven mistresses, just like a
rooster ! "

"Oh! you may pretend to joke, Oscar, but it's the
truth. Indeed, I sometimes have more."

" You are getting to be a terrible fellow, Monsieur de
Mousseraud ! " said Darena ; " however, if your con-
quests are pretty, accept my congratulations."

" Four of them are enchanting, two very nice, and
one passable. But I shall let the last three go; I intend
to keep only the first quality."

" What's that ! can you let a mistress go ? " inquired
Cherubin with a surprised expression.

" I say, marquis, where have you come from ? One
would think, to hear you, that you are a novice in
love ; whereas monsieur le comte assures us that you are
his pupil. That would not do him credit."

Darena emptied his glass and cried:

" Do you mean to say that you believe our young
Adonis? Don't you see that he's making sport of you


a man who keeps a damsel three days at most? He
takes us all in with his little innocent expression! And
if he deceives us men, tell me whether the women are
not likely to fall into his toils ? "

" Monsieur Cherubin is favored in every respect,"
said Oscar.

" Monsieur is not the only one ! " rejoined tall Mous-
seraud, with a conceited air ; " I only say this, because
it's a fact, but, on my word of honor, I have never met
a woman who could resist me."

" Oh ! that's not surprising with you ! " retorted Oscar,
in a mocking tone ; " you have such an ardent nature
anyone can see that from the color of your hair."

"What do you mean by that?" demanded the tall
young man, while his cheeks became as red as his locks.
" Do you dare to say that I have red hair?"

" It seems to me that there is no need for me to say so."

" Come, come, messieurs ; are we going to quarrel ? "
said Darena. " We met here to breakfast, to laugh and
talk nonsense ; and we lose our temper, and sulk ! That
is most execrable form and all about a matter of hair!
Mon Dieu ! I wish that mine were red ; I should be de-
lighted! It is much less common in France than dark
or fair hair. And it proves too that the hair is not
dyed. Fill my glass, Oscar, and you, de Mousseraud,
serve what is on that dish."

" Yes, yes ! " cried Cherubin ; " instead of losing your
temper, tell me what you do with your seven mistresses ? "

" Parbleu ! what you do with yours, I presume."

" I ? Why, I haven't " A glance from Darena

checked Cherubin, and he continued : " I don't do any-
thing at all with mine."

" In that case they must play some amusing tricks on


" I," said Oscar, " have a fascinating little grisette
just now ; I give her a cap every week and a dress every
month, and she is perfectly satisfied."

" Among my seven mistresses," said Mousseraud,
" there is an Englishwoman who costs me a lot of
money ; but she is an admirable creature ! "

" What a braggart he is with his seven mistresses !
He reminds me of Blue Beard. Take them all out walk-
ing some day you'll look like a boarding-school master."

" I give women nothing but my heart now," said
Darena ; " and they are much more fond of me since I
put them on that diet."

" And you, Cherubin, do you squander money on your
charmers ? "

" I I don't know that depends," stammered Cheru-
bin, playing with his knife.

" Really, you are too close-mouthed," said Mousseraud ;
" one can get nothing out of you."

Cherubin, who was much embarrassed by the turn
that the conversation had taken, drew his watch, pre-
tending that he had an appointment.

While he was looking at the time, Oscar Chopinard,
who was beside him, examined his watch.

" It's very pretty, very thin, isn't it ? " asked Cherubin,
holding the watch for his neighbor to see.

That gentleman took it, scrutinized it again very closely,
and exclaimed:

" This is very strange ! Is it a wager ? Let me see
the chain. Parbleu ! the chain too. It would be curious
if the pin Allow me, my dear Cherubin."

And Monsieur Oscar, who, after examining Cherubin's
watch, had scrutinized and weighed in his hand the chain
that he wore about his neck, turned his attention to his
diamond pin.


" What makes you stare at me like this ? " queried
Cherubin ; " what is there about me that is so extra-
ordinary ? "

" You have upon you objects that I am much surprised
to see you wear," replied Oscar ; " a young man as rich
as you are. You certainly didn't pay much for your
watch and chain and pin ? "

" Why, no, not too much twenty-five hundred francs
in all. To be sure, I got them at a bargain."

" Twenty-five hundred francs ! " cried Oscar, bring-
ing his hands together violently ; " well, my dear fellow,
in that case, you have been robbed! yes, absolutely
robbed ! The three articles are worth about sixty francs ;
the stones are imitation, and the watch and chain are
gilded copper."

" Copper ! " cried Cherubin ; while Darena muttered
between his teeth:

" Ah ! the villain ! I almost suspected as much ! "

" Why, it's impossible ! Monsieur Darena's man of
business sold me all these things."

" I promise you that I am sure of what I say."

" Parbleu ! " cried tall Mousseraud, in a sneering tone,
" Oscar ought to know : his father was a watchmaker,
and he was brought up in the shop."

" How can this be ? " said Cherubin, addressing
Darena. " You are well aware that it was Poterne who
brought me all these things."

Darena broke a plate with his glass, crying:

"If it is true, Poterne is a miserable villain who has
deceived me outrageously; but I will shatter him like
this plate."

Cherubin could not believe that they had told him
the truth. They left the restaurant and entered the
first jeweler's shop they saw. The jeweler had no sooner


examined the objects produced by the young man than
he said in a most courteous, but slightly sarcastic tone:

" Oh ! how can you wear such trash, monsieur ? I
would not give fifteen francs for the whole lot."

Cherubin took off his chain, his pin and his watch,
and dashed them all on the floor, in a passion which was
due, not to the loss of his money, but to his vexation
at being deceived. Then he gave the jeweler his address.

" Please bring me to-morrow," he said, " all that I
believed that I really owned the handsomest things that
you have ; you will see, monsieur, that I have the means
to pay for genuine jewels."

The jeweler bowed, assuring him that he should be
obeyed ; and they left the shop.

" As for your Monsieur Poterne," cried Cherubin to
Darena, " I advise him not to show his face at my house

Darena, making a show of being furious, seized Che-
rubin's hand and shook it violently.

" My friend," he said, " I am the involuntary cause
of all this; that rascally Poterne deceived me as he did
you. I am sure that he is robbing me shamefully too.
But it is for me to punish him; I am going to find him
now and give him a thrashing."

With that, he hastily took his leave of the three young
men and went home.

Darena at this time occupied a small, but attractive
apartment on Rue Neuve-Breda. Thanks to Poterne's
transactions with the young marquis, of which Darena
received a share of the profits, he had been in funds
for some time. His man of business occupied a small
room above his apartment.

" Is Poterne in my rooms ? " asked Darena, as he
passed the concierge.


" In yours or else in his, monsieur," was the reply ;
" he's upstairs. I just saw him go in with the little boy
who's been coming to see him every day for a fortnight."

" Aha ! so a little boy comes to see him every morn-
ing ? About how old a boy ? "

" Oh ! perhaps ten or twelve years old ; but he's got

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 12 of 27)