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" But you are very much mistaken ; Monsieur de Mon-
freville is neither inquisitive nor talkative; on the con-
trary, he is a most sensible man, and he gives me ex-
cellent advice."

Darena bit his lips, seeing that it was useless for him
to try to destroy Cherubin's good opinion of Monfreville.

" Monfreville, sensible, virtuous ! " he retorted in a
sarcastic tone. " At all events, he hasn't always been ;
I remember a time when he was the greatest ne'er-do-
well; nothing was talked about but his conquests. To
be sure, it was fifteen or eighteen years ago. When the
devil grows old, he turns hermit. For my part, I am not
changed, at all events ; as I always have been, so I pro-
pose to remain ; I prefer that. However, my dear fellow,
I tell you again that, if I consent to act for you in your
love-affair with the young Pole, I do it solely on account
of my friendship for you; but you understand that the
slightest indiscretion would compromise me. I demand
secrecy, or I will have nothing to do with it."

Cherubin swore that he would not mention his new
conquest to a soul, and Darena left him, promising to
return as soon as he should have anything to tell him.

Darena had hardly left his young friend, when Jasmin
entered his master's presence. The old servant's man-
ner was important and mysterious, and at the same time
showed much satisfaction with the errand he had to per-
form. He tried to walk on tiptoe, as if he was afraid of
being overheard; he went close to his master, nearly


falling upon him because he lost his balance trying to
lean over him, and said, with an expression at once serious
and comical:

" There's a woman here, monsieur, who wishes to
speak to us that is to say, to you if you are alone."

Cherubin could not help laughing at his old servant's
expression and at the malicious meaning which he tried
to impart to his message.

" Who is the woman, Jasmin ? Do you know her ? "
" Yes, monsieur, I recognized her from having seen
her in her mistress's antechamber; you go to the house

" What do you say ? "

" Why, yes, she's a lady's maid. Oh ! she doesn't come
on her own account, it's her mistress who sends her I
know all about it. Many of them used to come to see
monsieur le marquis, your father, before he was mar-
ried. There was sometimes a line waiting in our little
salon. Ha ! ha ! I used to toy with all the maids."
" Well, from whom does this one come ? "
" Didn't I tell monsieur ? From Madame de Valdieri."
" The pretty countess ! Show her in at once, Jasmin."
Cherubin was very curious to know what Madame de
Valdieri could possibly want of him. Jasmin went to
call the maid, a tall, stoutly-built girl of some twenty
years, with red cheeks and rather an attractive face,
who seemed not at all abashed at calling at a gentleman's
apartments. After ushering her into his master's room,
the old servant, imagining doubtless that he had gone
back to the time when they used to stand in line at
Cherubin's father's door, essayed, as he left the room, to
put his arms about the waist of the pretty lady's maid;
but his foot slipped, and, to avoid falling, he was obliged
to cling tightly to her, whom he had intended simply to


caress; luckily the girl was firm on her legs, and able to
sustain the weight of the old fellow, and she merely
laughed in his face as he slunk from the room in dire

As soon as Jasmin had gone, the maid took from the
pocket of her apron a tiny scented note, which she handed
to the young marquis, saying:

" Madame told me to hand this to monsieur, and to
request an immediate answer."

Cherubin quivered with pleasure as he took the note,
and while the maid discreetly stepped back, he eagerly
read the pretty countess's missive, which contained these
words :

" You are not agreeable ; I have not seen you for
several days. To make your peace with me, will you
give me a moment this morning, and tell me your opinion
of some verses which have been sent to me? I shall
expect you at one o'clock."

Cherubin was beside himself with joy; he read that
pleasant epistle once more, then said to the maid :

" I accept your mistress's invitation with great pleasure,
mademoiselle ; I will be with her at one o'clock ; I shall
not fail."

" Then monsieur will not write his answer ? " asked
the maid.

Cherubin hesitated ; he walked toward his desk, realiz-
ing that it would be better policy perhaps to seize the
opportunity to write something agreeable to his charming
friend; but he remembered that Darena had just told
him that he did not know how to write a love letter.
Fearing that he might make some blunder, he tossed his
pen aside, crying:


" No, I think not ; I haven't time to write. Besides,
I have too many things to say to your mistress ; I should
not know where to begin ; simply assure her that I will
not keep her waiting."

The maid smiled, made a pretty little curtsy, and seemed
to be waiting for the young man to slip something into
her pocket and take on her cheek an earnest of what he
was to take from her mistress. But, finding that he did
nothing of the sort, she shrugged her shoulders imper-
ceptibly and left the room, taking pains, as she passed
through the reception room, not to approach the old
servant, who seemed inclined to try again to pull her

" The servant is terribly old," she said to herself, " but
the master is very young ! "

Cherubin was in an ecstasy of delight. Madame de
Valdieri's note had caused him to forget the Polish
lady altogether. At nineteen years it is common enough
to think of present happiness only; the new love expels
the old; it is not always necessary to be nineteen years
old in order to experience that phenomenon; but can all
these sentiments which are constantly replacing one an-
other properly be called love?

Cherubin glanced at his clock ; it was half after eleven ;
he was not to be at Madame de Valdieri's until one, but
he proposed to make an extremely careful toilet. He
rang for Jasmin, he rang for his other servant, he
ordered several suits to be brought, and could not deter-
mine which one to wear. He had his hair dressed,
crimped and curled, rising constantly to look in a mirror.
He told his old servant to perfume his handkerchief,
upon which Jasmin emptied several phials, smiling cun-
ningly, and murmuring: " What did I say? Our bonnes
fortunes are about to begin. We are going to have


some sport now! We are quite good-looking enough
for that."

As he dressed, Cherubin thought of the pretty woman
with whom he was soon to be alone for the first time;
he was not very composed in mind, for he was wondering
what he should say to her. He was well pleased to have
the assignation, but he regretted that Monfreville was
not there to tell him how one should behave with a lady
of the most fashionable set, who invites one to read
poetry to her.

It was too late for him to consult Monfreville; the
appointed hour was drawing nigh. Cherubin completed
his toilet, but did not notice that Jasmin had saturated
him with perfumery: his coat was scented with essence
of rose, his waistcoat with patchouli, his handkerchief
with Portugal water; and, in addition, all his other gar-
ments smelt of musk. He looked himself over, con-
cluded that he was becomingly arrayed, stepped into
his tilbury, and soon reached the countess's abode.

He was admitted by the same maid, and instead of
taking him to the salon, she led him through several
secret passages to a delicious boudoir, where the light was
so soft and mysterious that one could scarcely see. How-
ever, after a few seconds, Cherubin's eyes became accus-
tomed to that doubtful light, and he spied the pretty
countess half-reclining on a couch at the back of a little
curtained recess, which seemed intended to perform the
functions of an alcove.

Cherubin made a low bow and said:

" I beg pardon, madame, but I did not see you at
first, it is so dark here."

" Do you think so? " rejoined the fair Emma affectedly.
" I don't like broad daylight, it tires my eyes. It is
very kind of you, Monsieur Cherubin, to consent to


sacrifice a few moments to me you are in such great
demand everywhere ! "

" It is a great pleasure to me, madame, and I I
really I cannot promise to read poetry very well. I am
not much used to it."

The countess smiled and motioned him to a seat be-
side her. Cherubin was exceedingly perturbed in spirit
as he entered the delicious little recess and seated himself
on the couch, which was not very broad, so that he was
necessarily very close to the other person upon it.

There was a moment's silence. Emma, flattered by
Cherubin's evident emotion and embarrassment in her
presence, decided to begin the conversation, which she
was not accustomed to do.

" How do you like my boudoir ? "

" Exceedingly pretty, madame ; but it seems to me to
be a little dark for reading poetry."

The little lady arched her eyebrows slightly and re-
joined :

" Do you like Madame Celival's boudoir better ? "

" Madame Celival's boudoir ? Why, I have never been
in it, madame; I don't know what it is like."

"Oh! what a fib!"

" I assure you, madame "

" You are lying ! However, I cannot blame you ; dis-
cretion is the first condition one should exact in love."

" Discretion "

" Oh ! you play the innocent to perfection ; but I am
not taken in by that ingenuous air. Mon Dieu ! there is
such a strong smell of perfumery here a mixture of
scents. Have you essence of rose about you ? "

" Rose ? I don't know ; it is possible. Does it affect
you unpleasantly ? "

" My nerves are so sensitive ! but it will pass away."


The pretty countess lay back a moment, put her hand-
kerchief to her face, and drew a long breath.

Cherubin looked at her, and dared not stir. There was
another long pause; the young man would have liked
to say a multitude of things, but, as he did not know
how to express himself, he inquired at last:

" Is your husband well, madame ? "

The pretty creature burst into laughter which seemed
a little forced, and replied:

" Yes, monsieur, my husband is singing ! So long
as he is making music, that is all that he wants. Mon
Dieu! there's a smell of patchouli here, too, and musk.
Ah ! it gives me a sort of vertigo ! "

And whether as a result of the vertigo, or for some
other reason, the young woman half-reclined against
Cherubin, so that her face almost touched his, and he
would have had to move very little nearer to kiss her;
but, deeply moved to find that lovely mouth so near to
him that he could almost feel her breath, he dared not
move a muscle, and finally he faltered:

" Madame, I believe that I was to read poetry to you."

The little countess abruptly raised her head and rested
it on the back of the couch, as she replied with a touch
of spite in her voice:

" Mon Dieu ! what a memory you have, monsieur !
Well, take that album in front of you and read."

Cherubin took up an album that lay on a chair, opened
it and saw a medley of drawings, poems, portraits
everything, in short, that one finds in a woman's album ;
and, after turning the leaves a moment, he glanced at
the countess and asked timidly:

" What do you want me to read to you, madame? "

" Mon Dieu ! whatever you choose, it makes no differ-
ence to me ! "


Cherubin opened the album again, at random, and

" Fair countess, on this page,
You bid me pen some verse :
Quick your commands engage ;
For you the universe
Would rhyme. But clear to see
My lines good sense ignore.
How could it other be ?
You've reft me of its store."

" Oh ! that is that absurd Monsieur Dalbonne ! " mur-
mured Madame de Valdieri, twisting about impatiently
on the couch. " He is forever writing such nonsense ;
he adores all women. Are you like that, Monsieur

" I, madame ! " Cherubin replied in confusion ; " oh,
no! I I But I continue:


" Ah ! this is much longer."

The fair Emma, who evidently did not care to hear the
story of a mouse read at length, and who thought that
Cherubin was making sport of her, determined to resort
to violent measures; she fell back on the couch, mur-
muring :

" Oh ! I can't stand it any longer ! these different
scents set my nerves on edge ; I am fainting ! "

Cherubin uttered a cry of alarm, dropped the album,
and gazed at the lovely blonde, who had chosen the most
bewitching attitude that a coquette could devise in which
to faint, and whose half-closed eyes wore an expression
which did not indicate any very serious danger. But
instead of admiring it all, Cherubin rose and ran about
the room, looking for smelling-bottles and crying:


" Great God ! you are losing consciousness, and I am
the cause of it ! I am so distressed. I will call for help."

" No, no, monsieur, just unlace me ! " murmured the
countess, with a sigh.

" Unlace you ! Why, I don't know how ; still, if you

And Cherubin returned to the pretty creature, to do
what she suggested ; and she, seeing him lean over her,
closed her eyes altogether, presuming that that would
give him more courage and that he would succeed at last
in behaving himself more becomingly ; but, when he saw
that the countess had closed her eyes entirely, Cherubin
jumped back, ran to a bell cord and jerked it violently,
and cried:

" She has fainted completely ! what a bungler I am !
As it's this perfumery that I have about me that has
caused Madame de Valdieri's illness, of course she won't
recover consciousness so long as I am here."

The maid appeared, vastly surprised to be summoned
so suddenly. Cherubin pointed to her mistress stretched
out on the couch, and said :

" Come quickly and attend to madame la comtesse.
I am going away; the perfumery I have about me is
what made her feel faint, so of course I must not stay
with her. Pray tell her that I am terribly distressed at
what has happened."

And Cherubin took his hat and hastened from the
boudoir, leaving the lady's maid in utter amazement and
the pretty little countess with her eyes wide open.

Cherubin returned home, cursing Jasmin for turning
him into a perfumery booth. He found Monfreville
waiting for him, and told him what had happened.

When the young marquis had concluded, Monfreville
looked at him with a curious expression, and said:


" My dear fellow, I have always been perfectly frank
with you, and I must tell you therefore that in this whole
business you acted like an idiot."

" An idiot ! " cried Cherubin.

" Yes, like the most idiotic of idiots ! When a young
and pretty woman deigns to receive you alone in her
boudoir, it is with the purpose of having you make love
to her, not to read. The poetry was only a pretext."

" Do you think so ? Mon Dieu ! I had that idea, too,
but I dared not venture to think But if she had not
fainted "

" Why, that was the time above all others when victory
was in your grasp. What! a lovely woman tells you to
unlace her, and you ring for her maid! Ah! my poor
Cherubin, if this adventure becomes known, it will do
you a deal of harm in society."

" Great heaven ! you distress me ! But I didn't know
However, I will repair my blunder; in the first place,
the next time that I go to see the lovely Emma in her
boudoir, I will have no perfumery at all; and then oh!
I will be very enterprising."

" I trust that you may be able to set yourself right
with the countess, but I doubt it."

"Why so?"

" Because with women, especially coquettes, a lost op-
portunity never recurs. So I will bet that Madame de
Valdieri won't speak to you again and won't make any
more appointments with you."

" Do you think so? But what if I ask her for one? "

" She will refuse it."

" Oh! I can't believe that! What! just because I was
afraid of making her ill by staying with her? "

" Poor Cherubin ! what a child you are still ! But
I'll tell you let us go to Madame Celival's to-night; the


little countess is usually there, and if she is, you will
find out at once whether I am right."

Cherubin accepted this suggestion; he waited impa-
tiently for the evening, for he was burning to see Ma-
dame de Valdieri again. He was convinced that Mon-
freville was mistaken, and he could not believe that he
would be ill received because he had hurriedly left her
when he discovered that perfumery was unpleasant to

The hour to go to the reception arrived. Monfreville
called for his young friend, and they went together to
Madame CelivaFs. The salons were already filled with
people, but the young countess was not there, and Cheru-
bin, who was on the watch for her and hoped to see
her whenever the door of the salon opened, was restless
and preoccupied to a degree that did not escape Madame
Celival. The sprightly widow declared war on him and
tried to keep him by her side; but at last Madame de
Valdieri appeared with her husband.

Never had the little countess been dressed with better
taste, with more grace and coquetry; never had she
worn a costume which set off her charms to greater ad-
vantage ; one would have said that the fascinating Emma
had sworn to make more conquests than ever that even-
ing, in order to be revenged for her discomfiture during
the day.

All the men vied with one another in extolling the
charms of the new arrival. Cherubin did not say a word ;
but he could not tire of gazing at Emma, and he said to
himself :

" And I was sitting beside her this morning and we
were alone in her boudoir and her head was almost on
my shoulder and Gad ! I believe that Monfreville is
right; I was a great fool."


Cherubin waited until the countess had received the
homage which men hasten to lay at a pretty woman's
feet. When Madame de Valdieri was no longer sur-
rounded, he seized an opportunity to go to her, and said
in an almost familiar tone:

"Well, madame, are you better this evening? Your
indisposition had no serious results ? "

The little countess bestowed a contemptuous glance
on Cherubin, and answered in an ironical tone:

" I don't know what you mean, monsieur ! "

"You don't know what I mean? Why, this morn-
ing "

The countess rose, as if she did not choose to listen
to Cherubin, and seated herself beside a lady with whom
she speedily began a very lively conversation, judging
from the frequent bursts of laughter with which it was

The young man was speechless with amazement.

" What a tone ! what an expression ! " he said to him-
self as he took a seat in a corner. " One would think
that she did not know me."

Monfreville, who had taken his place at a card table,
was not at hand to console his friend, and Cherubin had
been sitting by himself for quite a long time, when a
hand was laid gently on his shoulder, and a penetrating
voice said, almost in his ear:

" What are you doing here ? sulking ? Madame de
Valdieri doesn't seem to treat you very well this even-

" Ah ! is it you, madame ? "

" Haven't I guessed right, that you are at odds with the
countess ? "

" Oh ! I assure you that you are mistaken ; I am not
sufficiently intimate with that lady to "


" You are discreet that is right, and it will be a
recommendation with the ladies."

" Well, well ! " thought Cherubin, " they all seem to be
agreed on that point; Madame Celival says almost the
same thing that the countess said."

The lovely widow seated herself for a moment by
Cherubin's side, and said in a very low tone :

" You must have done something very bad, to be
treated so to be looked at like that ? "

" I, madame ? Why, I give you my word that I have
done nothing at all."

" Bless me ! how innocently he answers ! One would
take him for a little saint."

" Well, she asked me if your boudoir was prettier than
than hers. I told her that I knew nothing about it, and
she told me that I lied; but you know that I told the

"Ah! so she asked you if my boudoir was prettier,
did she ? " said Madame Celival in an irritated tone.
" You admit then that you go to her boudoir ? Ah ! that
little countess ! But, on my word, I consider it very in-
quisitive of her to ask you if you had seen mine ! And
you said no ? "

" Why, I don't see how I could have said yes, madame ;
that would have been a lie."

" Great heaven ! what an astonishing creature you are
with your scruples! As if people never lied in society!
Why, you must know that one is driven to it sometimes,
that it is absolutely necessary. However, I propose that
you shall make the acquaintance of my boudoir, so that
you can answer that lady when she questions you again.
Come to breakfast with me to-morrow."

" Oh ! how kind you are, madame ! "

" Will you come ? will you be allowed ? "


" Will I be allowed ! Am I not my own master,

" Perhaps. I shall expect you then to-morrow, at
twelve o'clock; and we will breakfast in my boudoir;
so that you may have plenty of time to make its acquaint-
ance, and to tell madame la comtesse what you think
of it."

" Oh ! I am willing to bet in advance that it is prettier
than hers, and not so dark."

Madame Celival smiled, placed her hand softly in
Cherubin's, and walked away, murmuring almost in-
audibly :

" Until to-morrow ! "

Cherubin, enchanted with his new assignation, incon-
tinently forgot Madame de Valdieri's disdain; he re-
covered his spirits and his assurance, sought out Monfre-
ville, who was at the card-table, and whispered:

" I have another, my friend."

"Another what?"

" Why, another appointment, in a boudoir, for to-mor-

" With the same person ? "

" No, with Madame Celival."

" You are a lucky dog ! Pray try to carry it off better
than before."

" Oh ! make your mind easy ! I shan't put on any
perfumery at all this time. Are you going to play much
longer ? "

" Yes, we are just beginning a game of whist; I shall
play two rubbers at least."

" I will leave you then ; I am going home to bed."

" I don't see why you should be tired."

" Madame de Valdieri keeps looking at me with that
contemptuous expression; I prefer to go."


So Cherubin disappeared from the salons and went
home, thinking exclusively of Madame Celival, and en-
grossed by the appointment she had made with him for
the next day.



One wakes early when one is in love and has an assig-
nation with the object of one's love. It is not absolutely
certain that Cherubin loved Madame Celival; indeed, it
is probable that he felt for all his conquests only those
fleeting desires which all young men feel in the presence
of a pretty woman; a form of disease with which we
often continue to be afflicted when we have attained the
age of maturity, and of which it is very pleasant to be
unable to cure oneself as one grows old. But Cherubin
was still too inexperienced to be able to draw distinctions
in his sensations; he believed himself to be passionately
in love with Madame Celival.

He was no sooner awake than he rang. Jasmin, despite
his years, was always one of the first to answer his
master's bell; but Cherubin did not desire his services
again to assist him to dress.

" You made a fine mess of it yesterday, Jasmin," he

" What did I do, monsieur ? " asked the old servant,
dismayed by Cherubin's irritated manner.

" Why, you drenched me with perfumery, Jasmin ; you
put it on all my clothes ; I was a regular walking scent-


" Did not monsieur smell good ? "

" Why, yes ! I smelt too good that is to say, too
strong! In fact, I went to people's heads. Nervous
ladies can't endure that sort of thing, and you are re-
sponsible for a lady's fainting away. It was exceedingly

Jasmin was in despair. To repair his blunder of the
previous day, he suggested putting camphor in all his
master's pockets, because he had been told that that was
very good for the nerves, and he supposed that it would
cure the illnesses caused by perfumery. But Cherubin
would not have it; he expressly forbade Jasmin to per-
fume him in any way, and he was obliged to lose his
temper in order to deter his old servant from slipping
lumps of camphor into his pockets.

When his toilet was completed, Cherubin assured him-
self that he did not smell of anything at all ; and, while
waiting for the hour at which he was to go to Madame
Celival's, he thought about the lovely widow and went

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Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 18 of 27)