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thought that her son was killed.

" My child ! what has happened to him ? "

" Nothing, madame," said Turlurette, giving the little
boy to her mistress ; " he didn't fall ; I caught him by
I got hold of him."

" The dear love ! I had a terrible fright ! Great
heaven ! Turlurette, what a very strange way to hold the

" Bless me ! it's very lucky that I caught hold of him
as I did ! If it hadn't been so, he might have fallen with
the basin, and God knows if he wouldn't have been
smashed like it."

While all this was taking place, Jasmin, seeing his
master lying back in his chair, pale and trembling, hastily


poured out another glass of madeira for him, and then
retired behind the curtain once more.

Monsieur de Grandvilain, having recovered his
strength for the third time, took the child whom Tur-
lurette still held, and embraced him heartily; then held
him up in the air, exclaiming:

" So this is my son ! my heir ! Corbleu ! I was sure
that I should have a son."

But the marchioness, fearing that her husband would
faint again, and that he would then drop the child al-
together, begged him to sit down beside her bed ; Mon-
sieur de Grandvilain complied, and then began to turn the
child over and over, scrutinizing every part.

" What a lovely child ! " he cried ; " and to think that
I begot him ! "

" Yes, we begot him ! " muttered Jasmin, who stood be-
hind his master's chair, with the bottle of madeira in his
hand, in case of an emergency.

" How plump and pink he is ; what pretty little

" Faith, I haven't as much calf as that now ! " said
Jasmin, glancing at his own legs.

" What a pretty little round head ! "

" One would swear that it was a Dutch cheese," mut-
tered Jasmin; but luckily for him, his master did not
hear his reflection that time, or it would have caused the
suppression of his present for good and all.

" He is built like an Apollo ! and he has why, it is
herculean! Look, Jasmin, see how how he has de-
veloped already ! "

" It is marvelous," said Jasmin, who, after examining
the proportions of the child, made mentally the same
reflection that he had made on the subject of his


After Monsieur de Grandvilain had thoroughly scru-
tinized his son per fas et nefas, he handed him to his
spouse, saying:

" By the way, my dear love, what shall we call him? "

" That is what I have been thinking of, my dear hus-
band, ever since he was born."

" My son must have a noble name. My own name is
Sigismond; that is a good name, but I don't like the
idea of sons having their fathers' names; that leads to
mistakes, until you don't know where you are."

" Listen, monsieur le marquis, the most appropriate
name for the dear love would be Cherubin. What do
you say to that ? Isn't it a very pretty name ? "

" Cherubin ! " said the marquis, shaking his head ;
" that is very girlish ; there is nothing warlike about it."

" Why, monsieur, what's the necessity of giving a
warrior's name to our son? That would have been very
well in Napoleon's time, but now it is no longer the
fashion ; let us call our son Cherubin, I beg you ! "

" Marchioness," replied the marquis, kissing his wife's
hand, " you have given me a son and I can refuse you
nothing. His name shall be Cherubin; that rather re-
minds one of the Manage de Figaro; but after all, Beau-
marchais's Cherubin is an attractive little rascal; all the
women dote on him, and it would not be a bad thing if
our son should resemble the little page."

" Yes, yes," murmured Jasmin, who stood behind his
master's chair, swaying from side to side, for the visits
behind the curtain had begun to make his legs unsteady.
" Yes, Cherubin is very nice ; it rhymes with Jasmin."

The marquis turned, and was tempted to strike his
servant ; but he, finding that he had made another foolish
speech, assumed such a piteous expression that his master
simply said to him:


" You are impertinent beyond all bounds to-day, Jas-
min ! "

" I beg pardon, monsieur le marquis, it is my delight,
my enthusiasm. I am so happy, that it seems to me that
everything in the room is dancing."

At that moment Turlurette appeared and said that all
the servants in the house had assembled and requested
permission to offer their mistress a bouquet, and their
master their congratulations.

The marquis ordered his servants to be admitted.

They arrived in single file, and Jasmin, as the oldest,
at once placed himself at their head and began a com-
plimentary harangue of which he could not find the end,
because he lost control of his tongue. But he made the
best of it, and cut his speech short by crying:

" Long live monsieur le marquis's son and his august
family ! "

All the servants repeated this cry, tossing their hats
or caps into the air. Once more Monsieur de Grandvilain
was deeply moved, tears came to his eyes, and, fearing
another attack of weakness, he motioned to Jasmin, who,
anticipating his command, instantly handed him a glass
of madeira.

The marquis drank it; then he thanked his people,
gave them money and sent them away to drink to the
health of the newly-born. Jasmin left the room with
them, carrying a bottle of madeira, the rest of which
he drank before he joined his comrades. And that even-
ing, the marquis's valet was completely drunk, and mon-
sieur le marquis had himself taken something to restore
his strength so frequently, that he was obliged to retire
immediately on leaving the dinner table.

But one does not have a child every day, especially
when one has reached the age of seventy years.




Little Cherubin's baptism took place a few days after
his birth ; on that occasion there were more festivities in
the old mansion.

The marquis was open-handed and generous; those
qualities are ordinarily found in libertines. He spent
money lavishly, and told Jasmin to despoil the cellar.
The valet, whose blotched nose betrayed his favorite pas-
sion, promised his master to carry out his orders to the

A select and fashionable company came to attend the
baptism of little Cherubin. The salons were resplendent
with light; the guests chatted, played cards, and then
went to see the mother, and to admire her little one
but not more than two at a time, for such was the doctor's

The child, who had come into the world so plump and
fresh and rosy, was beginning to grow thin and yellow ;
one could still rave over his pretty face, but no longer
over his health.

And yet the marquis's son was the object of the in-
cessant care of his mother, who had the most intense
affection for him, who kept him constantly by her side,
and would not allow him to be out of her sight for a
single moment.


All this was very well; but children are not to be
brought up with affection, caresses, kisses and sweet
words : nature demands a more substantial nourishment ;
now, that which madame la marquise supplied to her first-
born was evidently of poor quality, and not only was not
abundant but was exceedingly deficient in quantity. In
short, whether because the bread soup diet had impaired
Madame de Grandvilain's health which was very prob-
able or for some entirely different reason, concealed or
apparent, it was a fact that little Cherubin's mamma had
only a very little wretched milk to give her son, who had
come into the world with a hearty appetite.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau said that a mother should nurse
her child, that it was a crime to put the poor little
creatures in the hands of mercenary persons who could
not have a mother's affection for them and simply made
a business of hiring out their bodies ; and in support of
that argument he cited the animals, which nurse their
young themselves and never seek others to replace them.

But, in the first place, we might remind Jean-Jacques
that animals lead a regular life regular, that is to say,
according to their nature and their physical strength.
Have you ever heard of lionesses, she-bears, or cats even,
passing their nights at balls, giving receptions, and din-
ing out frequently ? I think not ; nor have I !

We may be allowed then to insist upon a difference
between animals and men; and despite our profound
regard for the philosopher of Geneva, we will say to him
further, that in this world of ours there are positions,
trades, branches of business, which make it impossible
for a woman to perform that maternal duty to which he
insists that all women should submit. When a woman,
in order to earn her living, is obliged to sit all day at a
desk, or to work constantly with her needle, how do


you expect her to take her child in her arms every in-
stant? There is a still stronger reason for her not doing
it, if her health is poor and failing.

Nurses sell their milk, you say, and never have a
mother's affection for a strange child.

In the first place, it is not proved that a nurse does
not love her nursling dearly ; there is every reason to
believe, on the contrary, that she becomes attached to
the little creature whose life she sustains; and after all,
even if it were simply a matter of business, has the baker
any affection for the people to whom he sells bread?
But that does not prevent us from living on that bread.

Philosophers, men of genius, aye, even the greatest
men, sometimes put forth propositions which are far
from being orthodox ; and they make mistakes like other

But there are people who take for very noble thoughts
everything which comes from the pen of a man who has
written great things. Such people are very generous.
We rarely find gold without alloy; and can man pro-
duce what Nature cannot produce? There are people
also, who, when they walk through a cemetery, believe
in the truth of all the inscriptions carved upon the tombs,
according to which the people there interred were models
of virtue, goodness, uprightness, etc., etc. I have in-
finite respect for the dead, but I do not see the necessity
of trying to deceive the living. Those who are no more
were no better than we, and we are no better than those
who will come after us.

We were saying then that little Cherubin was no longer
as beautiful as an angel, although he bore the name of
one ; but that did not prevent all those who went to pay
their respects to the mother from complimenting her
upon her child. Honest Amenaide listened with a sweet


smile to all the flattering words which were addressed to
her son. Meanwhile, Monsieur de Grandvilain lay back
in an easy-chair, patted his legs, and shook his head, and
looked at the ladies with an air which seemed almost to

" When you want one like him, apply to me."

Luckily for him, none of the ladies was tempted to put
him to the proof.

About ten o'clock in the evening, just as the doctor
was urging Madame de Grandvilain not to admit any
more people to her room, and to try to sleep, there was
a sudden uproar in the courtyard, and a bright light
shone in the windows; then, something as brilliant as
lightning shot through the air.

It was the work of Jasmin, who, to celebrate the bap-
tism of his master's son, had conceived the idea of a dis-
play of fireworks in the courtyard, in order to afford the
marquis and all his guests a pleasant surprise; and who
had just discharged a mortar and then a rocket, to attract
everybody to the windows.

In fact, the explosion of the mortar had caused a pro-
found sensation in the house; everyone thought it was
the roar of cannon ; the mother leaped up in her bed,
the child in its cradle, monsieur le marquis in his chair,
and all the guests, wherever they were. They gazed at
each other with a terrified expression, saying:

" What is it ? What a noise ! It is cannon ! There
must be fighting in Paris ! "


" Great heaven ! can it be that the usurper has come
back again? "

Remember that this happened in the year 1819, and
that in the mansions of Faubourg Saint-Germain, Na-
poleon was ordinarily referred to as the usurper.


There was a moment of confusion in the salon; some
of the men talked of running to arms, others looked about
for their hats, the women ran after the men, or prepared
to faint, and some talked in undertones, in corners, with
young men, whom, up to that time, they had pretended
barely to look at.

There are people who make the most of every oppor-
tunity and turn every circumstance to advantage. Such
people are necessarily those who have the most presence
of mind.

Amid the commotion, they heard a shrill voice in the
courtyard :

" We are going to discharge a few fireworks in honor
of the baptism, and to celebrate the birth, of the son of
our worthy master, Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain
and Madame la Marquise de Grandvilain, his spouse."

No sooner were these words heard, than a sudden
change took place on every face, except those of the peo-
ple who were talking in corners. The men laughed up-
roariously, the ladies threw aside the shawls and hats
which they had hastily donned, and ran to look at them-
selves in the mirrors, for coquetry is the first sentiment
that wakes in the ladies when the others are still be-
numbed. Then everybody ran to the windows, saying:

" Fireworks ! it is fireworks ! Oh ! what a delightful
surprise ! "

" Yes," said the old Marquis de Grandvilain, who had
been more frightened than all the others together, " yes,
it is a pleasant idea of that devil of a Jasmin. But he
ought to have notified me that he intended to surprise me,
for then I should have expected it, and it would have
have surprised me less."

The guests were all at the windows, the ladies in front,
the men behind them, so that they were obliged to lean


over a little to see; but everybody seemed well pleased,
and nobody would have changed his place for another.

The marquis sat alone at a window in his wife's room.

" You will not be able to see the pieces down below, my
dear love," he said, " but I will explain them to you, and
you will be able to see the rockets and serpents perfectly
from your bed."

" Suppose it frightens Cherubin ? " said the mar-
chioness, placing her son's cradle at the foot of the bed.

" Don't be afraid, marchioness ; my son will take after
me, he will love the noise and smell of powder."

Meanwhile, Jasmin, who had followed his master's
orders by levying freely on the cellar, and had made
himself, as well as his comrades, very nearly tipsy, seemed
to have gone back to his twentieth year ; he walked about
the courtyard, amid the fireworks, like a general amid
his troops.

In the farthest corner of the courtyard the mortars
had been placed; they were the heavy artillery, and no
more were to be fired until the finale. But as sparks, fall-
ing in that direction, might land inside the mortars and
set them off before the time for which they were held
in reserve, the cook, who was a careful man, and who
was acting as Jasmin's second in command, had brought
from his kitchen saucepan covers, a frying-pan, and a
dish-pan, and had placed them over the mortars, which
were made like stove pipes, but of different dimensions,
according to the amount of powder they contained : so
that the frying-pan was placed on the largest one, the
dish-pan on a smaller size, and the saucepan covers on
the smallest ones, all to prevent sparks or lighted frag-
ments of rockets from falling into the mortars.

Jasmin glanced from window to window; he waited
till everybody was placed before beginning.


The cook, who was no less impatient than the old
valet, and whose brain was excited by the marquis's wine,
stood near the fireworks with a lighted slow-match in
one hand, while with the other he pushed his cotton cap
over his left ear.

Meanwhile, stout Turlurette and two other servants
were dancing about a transparency representing a moon,
which Jasmin declared to be a portrait of young Cherubin.

" They are all there ! everybody's at the windows, and
we can set them off," said Jasmin, after a last glance at
the house.

" Yes, yes, begin," said Turlurette. " Oh ! isn't it
going to be fine ? "

" No women here ! " cried the cook in a determined
tone ; " you will make us do some foolish thing ; go
up to the second floor, young women."

" Oh ! he told me that he would let me fire off one little
petard at least ; didn't you, Monsieur Jasmin ? "

" Yes, yes," cried Jasmin ; " everybody must have a
good time to-day; it is for our young master! Tur-
lurette shall fire a little rocket; that is the least we can
do for her; but not now, later. Ready, cook, let us
begin ; to our fireworks ! "

The display began with a serpent or two, Bengal fire,
and rockets ; the guests looked on, and when any piece
seemed to be aimed at a window, the ladies drew back
with little exclamations of alarm, blended with bursts of
laughter; the men encouraged them, taking their hands
and pressing them ; I am not sure that they took nothing
else ; however, the ladies consented to be reassured, re-
sumed their places, applauded and were highly pleased ;
while the old marquis at his window, said to his wife:

" My dear love, it is superb ! it is beautiful ! it is
dazzling! I am sorry that you are so far away."


" But, my dear, suppose it should set the house on

" Don't be afraid ; Jasmin is prudent ; he has un-
doubtedly notified the firemen at the station close by;
besides, the courtyard is very large and there is no

The loving Amenaide was not thoroughly comforted;
she would have preferred that there should be no fire-
works to celebrate the baptism ; but everybody seemed
pleased, and she dared not deprive the company of the
pleasure which they took in the spectacle.

Soon applause rose on all sides; Jasmin had just
lighted the transparency with the moon, calling out as
he did so:

" A portrait of our child, young Cherubin de Grand-

At that everybody applauded on trust, although they
squinted in vain to discover a face painted in the moon
on the transparency ; but they ascribed that to the smoke,
and several persons went so far as to cry out:

" It is very like, on my word ! anyone could recognize
it! A very pretty idea! such things as this are not seen
anywhere except at the Marquis de Grandvilain's."

While the company was admiring the transparency,
Mademoiselle Turlurette, still intent upon her idea of
setting off something, went to Jasmin and said:

" Give me your slow-match, it's my turn ; what am I
going to set off ? "

" Here, Mademoiselle Turlurette, set fire to this sun.
But aren't you afraid ? "

" Me, afraid ! oh, no ! just show me where to light it."

" See, here is the match."

Stout Turlurette took the slow-match which Jasmin
handed to her, and held it to the wick which protruded


from the sun. Despite all the courage which she was
determined to display, the stout girl was terribly ex-
cited, for she had never set off a piece of fireworks be-
fore. After she had touched the match which she had
in her hand to the place pointed out to her, when she
heard the powder hiss and the flame sputter close beside
her, a sudden terror took possession of Turlurette;
fancying that she was being burned by the sparks from
the sun, she ran across the courtyard, holding her dress
up with one hand, as if she were trying to make a belt
of it, and with her lighted slow-match still in the other.
The latter she threw down, without looking, in the first
convenient spot.

The sun produced a great effect ; it whirled about like
a top, and everybody at the windows applauded. Some

" It is as pretty as at Tivoli."

Another exclaimed :

" It is almost as fine as the fireworks we have at our
house, in my park, on my birthday."

And the old marquis leaned far out of the window,
crying :

" Bravo ! I am much pleased, my children ! You may
regale yourselves again after the fireworks."

But Monsieur de Grandvilain had hardly ceased speak-
ing when there was a terrible report, and the old man-
sion was shaken to its foundation; it was caused by all
the mortars, large and small, exploding at the same mo-
ment, because stout Turlurette, in her alarm, had thrown
her slow-match into the midst of the heavy pieces which
were reserved for the finale.

If the mortars had simply been discharged, nothing
worse would have happened than the premature occur-
rence of an explosion held in reserve for the end of the


fete; but unfortunately, when they took fire, they were
still covered by the various kitchen implements which
the cook had placed over them as a precautionary meas-
ure; and at the same moment that the sudden report
took everybody by surprise, even those who were mana-
ging the fireworks, the frying-pan, the dish-pan, and the
saucepan covers were hurled through the air with ter-
rific force.

Monsieur de Grand vilain, who had just been thanking
his servants, had an ear carried away by the frying-pan,
which entered the bedroom and fell at the foot of his
wife's bed. Several of the guests were struck by sauce-
pan covers; a pretty woman had four teeth broken, a
young dandy who was leaning over her had his nose
split in the middle, which gave him later the appearance
of a Danish dog ; and on all sides there was nothing but
shrieks, lamentations and imprecations. Even those
who had sustained no injury shouted louder than the
others :

" This is what comes of allowing servants to discharge
fireworks. The cook put all his cooking utensils in the
mortars; it is very lucky that it didn't occur to him to
blow up his ovens."

The guests had had quite enough; they all took their
leave, some to have their wounds dressed, others to tell
of what had taken place at Monsieur de Grandvilain's.

During the disaster, Jasmin had received the dish-pan
on his head, after it had made an excursion through the
air; and the faithful valet's face was covered with burns
and bore a striking resemblance to a skimmer. That did
not prevent him from appearing with a piteous air before
his master, who was looking for his ear.

" Monsieur," said the valet, " I am in despair ; I don't
understand how it all came about but it wasn't


finished ; there is the bouquet to come and if you would
like "

The marquis, in a frenzy of rage, raised his cane upon
Jasmin, and would listen to no more ; while Madame de
Grand vilain half rose in her bed and said to the poor
valet in an imposing voice:

" In my husband's name, I forbid you henceforth to fire
anything of any sort in our house."



The display of fireworks for little Cherubin's baptism
put an end to all the festivities at the hotel de Grand-
vilain. The marquis succeeded in finding his ear, but it
was impossible to put it in place again, so that he was
obliged to resign himself to the necessity of closing his
career with a single ear, a most disagreeable thing when
one has worn two for seventy years.

Amenaide had conceived a horror of fireworks, rockets,
in fact, of the slightest explosion ; the most trifling noise
made her faint; it went so far that nobody was allowed
to uncork a bottle in her presence.

Jasmin continued to wear the aspect of a skimmer,
but he soon consoled himself therefor ; the old valet had
long since laid aside all pretension to please the fair sex ;
the little holes with which his face was riddled did not
interfere with his drinking, and to him that was the
principal point.


Mademoiselle Turlurette had received no wound, and
yet she deserved better than any of the others to be
struck by a saucepan cover at least, for she was the author
of all the disasters that had happened in the house. But
no one suspected how the thing took place, and Turlur-
ette confined herself to expressing the most profound
detestation of fireworks.

And so tranquillity had returned to the hotel de Grand-
vilain, where they received many fewer guests since the
last festivity ; for the young women and the dandies
feared to lose their teeth, or to have their noses slit.

The marquis was at liberty to devote all his time to
the care of his son, and little Cherubin demanded much
care; for he became weak and sickly and sallow, and at
three months he was vastly smaller than when he came
into the world. Turlurette, who had weighed him at that

Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 2 of 27)