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" She doesn't want me to talk about her husband ! "
said Cherubin to himself ; " she wants me to talk about
something else my love, no doubt. She is charming.
And so," he continued aloud, " you do not regret having
entrusted to me the care of your happiness, and being here
at this moment, far from your native country [pays] ? "

" My pays ? oh, yes, I always regret my little pays !
but I hope to see him again some day. Let's talk about
something else."

" Ah ! how kind you are, madame ! how lovely you
are ! If you knew how I I I love you ! "

It required a great effort on Cherubin's part to say
that, and he dared not look at the young woman, fear-
ing that she would consider his declaration rather abrupt.
But Mademoiselle Chichette, far from seeming offended,
began to laugh idiotically, and replied :

" Yes, yes ! I know. Ha ! ha ! It's nice to love, and
you have very fine eyes. Ha ! ha ! I'd like right well to
laugh with you."

And the so-called Polish countess, who seemed, in
truth, much inclined to laugh, and who showed some
very pretty teeth, looked at the young man in a meaning
fashion, and did not tell him to talk about something else.
For a moment Cherubin was tempted to kiss his enslaver,
who almost offered him her fresh, pink cheeks; he con-
fined himself to taking a hand, which he laid upon his
heart and pressed it hard.

Chichette, tired perhaps of having her hand pressed
to Cherubin's heart, said to him, still laughing:


" How your thingumbob goes tick-tack ! It's like a big

" Oh ! it is emotion, madame ; it is pleasure ; it is "

" Aren't we going to breakfast ? " cried Chichette sud-
denly ; " I'm hungry, I can hear my belly crying ; it
goes flouc-flouc!"

These words brought Cherubin back to less romantic
thoughts; he ran to the door, opened it, and shouted:

" I say, young one what about that breakfast ? "

" Here it is, monsieur, here it is ! Right away, smoking
hot!" replied Bruno; "the restaurant man's just this
minute come."

And a moment later a wine-shop waiter came up the
stairs with the young concierge. They laid a table with
two covers; they produced a basket filled with bottles,
with seals of all colors; they covered the table with
freshly opened oysters, and placed several covered dishes
on another table. At sight of the oysters the so-called
Pole indulged in the most plebeian demonstrations of
delight, and began to dance about the room, crying:

"Ah! oysters! I like oysters so much! I'd let myself
be hamstrung for some oysters."

Cherubin was amazed to hear Madame de Globeska
express herself in such terms, but he attributed it to her
ignorance of the language.

The waiter was too much accustomed to such expres-
sions to be surprised. As for young Bruno, he contented
himself with thrusting his tongue into his cheek again
and muttering:

" Thanks ! that's a fine sort of talk ! This game will
get spoiled ! "

The breakfast was served. The waiter left the room
with the urchin, and they took care to close the door
behind them. Mademoiselle Chichette did not wait for


Cherubin to escort her to the table; forgetting all the
lessons she had had in behaving like a comme il faut
person, she ran and took her seat in front of one of the
covers, crying:

" Let's eat ! let's eat ! Oysters ! ah ! that's good ! "

" She seems to be very hungry ! " thought Cherubin,
as he took his seat at the table. And he made haste to
supply the young woman with oysters; but she did not
wait for him to select them for her; she put them out
of sight with wonderful rapidity, then held out her glass,
saying :

" White wine, please ; I'm very fond of white wine

Cherubin filled her glass with a white wine from a
bottle which had been supplied with a long cork, to give
it the appearance of sauterne; but it looked as if it were
not drinkable with anything but oysters.

The young man considered that they were very badly
served, generally speaking: the plates were the com-
monest china, the covers had not the ring of silverware,
and the linen was very far from being fine. The wine,
too, despite its yellow seal, seemed to him decidedly
poor; but his conquest thought it delicious; she swal-
lowed oysters, emptied her glass, called for more oysters
and held out her glass to be filled, without any percep-
tible interval. Cherubin could not keep up with her;
not until there were no more oysters on the table did
Mademoiselle Chichette conclude to make a little pause.

" I will call the little concierge and tell him to take
these things away," said Cherubin.

" No, no, I'll take 'em away myself ! " replied Chi-
chette; she rose, and with a turn of the hand cleared
the table of plates and shells, and brought two of the
covered dishes. The young man tried in vain to prevent


the lady from performing that task; she would not
listen to him, and did not resume her seat until it was
all done.

" Mon Dieu ! how it distresses me to see you take all
this trouble, madame la comtesse ! " said Cherubin ; " but
you seem to have been brought up to household duties.
In Poland, young ladies receive a less frivolous education,
I see, than in France; and your noble parents did not
disdain to teach you these little domestic details. They
are dead, doubtless your noble parents ? "

" Yes, yes ! Let's talk about something else ! Let's see
what's in this dish. Ah ! how good it smells ! It's rab-
bit! Oh! I'm so fond of rabbit!"

Cherubin did not fully agree with his inamorata; he
did not like rabbit himself, and he found that the break-
fast which had been ordered for him did not at all resem-
ble what he ordinarily ate at restaurants in Paris. But
his companion was much less particular than he; she
helped herself to the rabbit and seemed to enjoy it
hugely; she even exclaimed from time to time:

" It's mighty well fricasseed ! "

Cherubin offered her some wine with a different seal.
Chichette drank red as well as white, then uncovered
another dish, and shouted, leaping up and down in her
chair :

" Ah ! chowder ! Oh ! I'm glad of that ! I'm so fond
of chowder ! "

" It seems to me that she's fond of everything ! "
thought Cherubin ; " she certainly has been very well
brought up ; she doesn't play the prude ! "

Chichette voted the chowder delicious ; she helped her-
self several times without waiting for Cherubin to offer
it; she was particularly enthusiastic over the sauce;
finally she began to lick her plate, unwilling apparently


to leave the least particle of the sauce which she liked so

The young man was thunderstruck when he saw the
Comtesse de Globeska put her plate to her mouth and run
her tongue over it; but he concluded that custom in
Poland permitted such behavior. When Chichette noticed
that her companion was watching her, she realized that
she had made a blunder, and instantly replaced her plate
on the table, saying:

" Oh ! that was just a joke ! I won't ever do it again !
But let's see what's under that other cover."

Chichette uncovered the last dish, which contained
fried fish. She uttered a joyful exclamation :

" Ah ! gudgeons ! fried gudgeons ! Oh ! I'm so fond
of fried fish!"

" I am delighted, madame, that you find all these things
to your taste," said Cherubin, serving his charmer to
gudgeons ; " but really you are not hard to suit ; to me
it seems that our breakfast is not worthy of you. Evi-
dently there are no good restaurants in this quarter."

" Oh, yes, yes ! at La Courtille."

" At La Courtille ! I don't know that place ; did your
husband take you there to dinner sometimes ? "

" My husband ! Oh ! let's talk about something else.
I'd like something to drink; gudgeons make you thirsty
in a minute."

Cherubin hastened to supply his guest with a wine
decorated with a different seal, which she drank and
declared excellent. The young man would have liked
to lead the conversation back to his love, but his con-
quest was so busily engaged in eating and drinking that
he dared not divert her from an occupation in which she
seemed to take so much pleasure ; and then he recalled
his breakfast with Madame Celival and said to himself:


" I ate heartily to drive away my bashfulness. Perhaps
this pretty Pole is doing the same; but God grant that
she doesn't end as I did ! "

When there was no more fish, they passed to the
dessert, which was very modest, consisting only of bis-
cuit, cheese and dried fruit. Again Cherubin anathema-
tized the restaurant keeper; but Chichette continued to
declare everything excellent; she stuffed herself with
figs, raisins, and biscuit; she drank several glasses in
succession to wash it all down; and at last she stopped
eating and leaned against the back of her chair.

" It's strange," she said, " but I'm not a bit hungry

" It would be much stranger if she were ! " thought
the young man, as he moved away from the table in order
to approach his companion.

Having placed his chair close beside Chichette's, he
ventured to take her hand.

" How fortunate I am," he said in a hesitating tone,
" to be to be with you ! What a lucky chance it was
that led me to the theatre where you were; for, but
for that, I should never have met you; and yet, my
friend, the gentleman who was with me that evening
says that we were born for each other. Do you think
that, madame ? "

Chichette rose hurriedly, saying:

" I am rather full ; it's funny, for I didn't eat very

She walked several times around the room. Cherubin
went to her and said:

"Do you feel ill?"

" Oh, no ! it will pass off."

Chichette sat down again, not on her chair, but on an
old couch, covered with spots, the cushions of which


looked as if they were stuffed with chips. The girl
stretched herself out on it, however.

" I say, this is mighty comfortable," she said.

Cherubin gazed amorously at her and cried:

" Oh, yes ! there certainly was sympathetic attraction
in our meeting. My tutor, Monsieur Gerondif, ex-
plained it to me once. He took a little piece of agate,
rubbed it hard on his coat sleeve, then held it toward a
straw, and the straw instantly jumped at the stone and
clung to it. ' Thus the magnet attracts iron,' said my
tutor ; ' thus sympathy draws together two hearts that
were made to love and understand each other.' Ah!
madame, I am not a Pole, but I love you as dearly more
dearly, perhaps ; for my inexperienced heart feels a crav-
ing for love, and if and if "

Cherubin paused, because it seemed to him that his
words were accompanied by a dull, rumbling sound.
That sound came from the couch. He had noticed that
his pretty companion closed her eyes while he was speak-
ing, but he supposed that it was from modesty. How-
ever, desirous to learn the cause of the noise he heard,
he approached the young woman and saw with sur-
prise that she was not only asleep, but was snoring

The unfortunate lover gazed for some time at his
sleeping enslaver; but the snoring became louder with
every instant ; ere long it was like the breath of a forge
bellows, and Cherubin gradually drew away ; he felt that
his amorous desires were vanishing; for a woman who
is snoring like a Swiss inspires infinitely less passion than
one whose breathing is soft and light.

Cherubin seated himself on a chair.

" She is asleep," he said to himself ; " she is even
snoring. Evidently my remarks did not interest her


much, as she went right off to sleep while she was listen-
ing to me! It's very strange! This young woman has
such manners and uses such language If Darena hadn't
assured me that she was a Polish countess, I should have
thought her something very different. The idea of going
to sleep while I was talking to her about my love! If
that's the way she is mad over me ! Great heaven ! what
snoring! Jacquinot used to snore, but not so loud as
that. Perhaps I ought to wake her and kiss her; but
she is sleeping so soundly, it would be too bad. And
then, I believe that listening to that monotonous noise is
putting me to sleep too."

Cherubin dropped his head on the back of his chair;
he closed his eyes, and in a moment, he was in the same
condition as Mademoiselle Chichette, except that he did
not snore.

Let us leave the young couple asleep, and see what
the engineers of this whole intrigue were doing.

On leaving Cherubin, Darena had gone in search of
his friend Poterne, who, still dressed as a Polish count,
was waiting for him at a restaurant in Menilmontant.
The two gentlemen sat down to breakfast and discussed
their plot.

" It goes as if it were on wheels," said Darena.
" Cherubin is now with the girl, whom he thinks that I
kidnapped for him! I trust that Chichette won't make
any slips of the tongue. But no matter! with that ac-
cent of hers, anything will go ; and besides, a lover never
pays any attention to idioms ! "

"Was my little Bruno at his post?"

" Yes ; he is supposed to be the concierge's son. That
boy has the look of a famous scamp."

" He has a lot of intelligence ; he'll go a long way ! "

" So I believe."


" Besides, for the last act of our comedy, it will be
better to have nobody there but a boy, who won't inter-
fere with us at all. And then, too, it will be much more
probable that I was able to force my way into the house,
if there's nobody but a boy to guard it; for we must
strike the great blow now. A few thousand-franc notes,
by the way, are all right; but they're gone too soon.
We have an opportunity to obtain a good round sum and
we mustn't let it slip; it won't come again."

" You are perfectly right, Poterne. What we are
going to do to-day is not strictly honorable; but, after
all, the little fellow is rich; sixty thousand francs won't
ruin him."

" You don't want me to ask for more ? "

" Oh, no ! we mustn't flay him. It's understood then
in two hours you will go to the house."

"Why not earlier?"

" My dear Poterne, how impatient you are ! we must
give the lovers time to breakfast and to abandon them-
selves to the joys of love. Deuce take it! everybody
must amuse himself, after all; and consider, Poterne,
that by leaving them together longer, you will inevitably
take them in flagrante delict o! That is much the
shrewder way. You are supposed to be the husband;
your wife has been spirited away, and you find her in
her ravisher's arms ; you bellow and roar and swear that
you will kill them both your wife especially! Cheru-
bin pleads for mercy for her, and you refuse to accord it
unless he signs notes of hand for sixty thousand francs.
You have some stamped paper, haven't you ? "

" Oh ! I have all that I need. But suppose the young
marquis defends himself, suppose he refuses to sign ? "

" Nonsense ! a mere boy ! You must threaten him
with prosecution for abducting your wife ; you will have


your dagger, and you can still insist on killing her;
Cherubin is too generous not to try to save her."

" I agree with you there."

" In all this, Monsieur Poterne, take good care not to
hurt anybody! Your dagger isn't sharp, I trust?"

" Oh, no ! there's no danger."

" And when you speak, assume some kind of an accent,
so that he won't recognize you."

" I will be careful, and I will do a great deal in pan-

Everything being arranged, the gentlemen breakfasted
and conversed at great length ; ordered a pipe and cigars,
and smoked to pass the time away.

More than two hours passed. Poterne replaced his
green spectacles on his nose, saying:

" Now I can go and finish up our business."

He rose; Darena did the same.

" Yes, it is time ; let us go."

" But I don't need you," said Poterne ; " besides, you
mustn't go into the house with me, it would be impru-
dent. If Cherubin should see you, he would call on
you to help him."

" I know all that, you old sharper ; but you don't
imagine, I presume, that I am going to let you go off all
alone with notes for sixty thousand francs in your pocket ?
No, my dear fellow, I love you too dearly to lose sight
of you. I propose to watch you into the house; I
know that it has but one door; I shall keep my eye on
that door, and if it should occur to you to run away too
fast, I promise you that you will soon be overtaken."

" Oh ! monsieur le comte ! you have suspicions that
hurt me terribly ! "

" Why, no, it's simply savoir-vivre, it's the way of the
world, that's all ! Off we go."


The two worthies passed the city wall to the outer
boulevards, and walked toward Barriere de la Chopinette.
When they were within three hundred feet of the house
where he had left Cherubin, Darena stopped and said to
his companion:

" Now, go on alone, illustrious Poterne, and manage
the business gracefully; remember that the whole thing
must be carried through with the courtesy and formality
which betray men of breeding."

Poterne went on to the house and knocked softly at
the door, which Bruno opened.

" Are they upstairs ? " queried Poterne in a low voice.


" Have they had their breakfast? "

" It went up more'n two hours ago."

" And they haven't called since ? "

" Not a call ; and they don't even make any noise
you can't hear 'em move."

"All right."

Poterne pulled his enormous hat over his eyes, made
sure that his spectacles were secure, stuffed bunches of
flax into his mouth to fill out his cheeks, and walked
toward the stairs. He stole cautiously up, reached the
door, saw the key outside, and said to himself:

" How imprudent lovers are ! what a childish trick ! "

He turned the knob softly, then rushed into the room,
shouting :

" Ah ! traitor ! guilty wife ! I have caught you ! You
must die ! "

Poterne expected shrieks of despair, as he had ar-
ranged with Chichette; but, hearing nothing at all, he
walked farther into the room and was thunderstruck
to see the lovers sound asleep at an extremely respectful
distance from each other.


" Sapristi ! " said Poterne to himself ; " and I hoped
to catch 'em in flagrante as monsieur le comte said.
They are amusing themselves by sleeping! If that's the
way the young man makes love! Chichette must have
made some stupid blunder. But no matter! I must act;
besides, I surprise them together, that's the main thing;
and if they're asleep, it's because it suits them to sleep."

Thereupon Poterne began to rush about the room with
shrieks and imprecations. He pulled Chichette's ear and
she awoke; he pinched her arm and she shrieked with
him. Cherubin opened his eyes and saw that man, whom
he recognized as the Comte de Globeski, storming and
blaspheming and drawing from his breast a sort of dag-
ger with which he threatened the young woman. Cheru-
bin realized at once that his charmer's husband had run
them to earth. He trembled and turned pale, and
faltered :

" O mon Dieu ! we are lost ! Don't kill her, monsieur,
I entreat you ! Kill me rather although I have respected
your wife's honor."

"Yes, yes, I will have my revenge, per Diou! Bigre!
Ah ! you think, villain, to steal my wife from me ! "
screamed Poterne, stamping on the floor. " Tarteiff
sacre mein Herri On the high road stop my cab no,
my carriage. Ah! madame, you shall die by my hand
on the honor of a Polish count ! "

Chichette did not seem greatly alarmed ; she continued
to yawn and rub her eyes; Poterne passed her and
pinched her with more force; whereupon she gave a
loud yell and exclaimed:

" Oh ! how stupid that is ! I don't want you to do
such things to me ! "

Poterne began to roar so that Cherubin might not hear
what Chichette said. He brandished his dagger with


one hand, while with the other he stuffed the flax back
into his mouth, whence it had almost escaped. But
Cherubin had lost his head; the presence of that man,
whose wife he believed that he had abducted, his outcries,
his oaths, and the dagger he was brandishing, terrified
the young man beyond words. Poterne, seeing that he
was in a condition to submit to whatever terms he might
impose, took the notes from his pocket, placed them on
the table, found a pen and inkstand and presented them
to Cherubin.

" If you wish to save this guilty woman, god dem ! "
he said, " there is only one way to appease my wrath."

" Oh ! speak, monsieur, command All you choose."

" Fill out these notes of hand here are four of them
make them twenty-five thousand francs each. Per
Diou! that is too poco!"

" Notes of hand for a hundred thousand francs ? "

" Yes, signor."

" Oh ! you want me to "

" If you hesitate, sapermann! I will kill this guilty
wife of mine, I will kill you, I will kill everyone in the
house fichtre! and then myself."

" Oh ! no, no, I do not hesitate, monsieur. I will make
them for whatever sums you say."

" Good ! then you will make them for thirty thousand
francs each. Come! write and sign per Dio!"

Cherubin seated himself at the table; he took the pen
in his trembling hand and cast a sorrowful glance at
his conquest, who had thrown herself on the couch,
where he believed that she had swooned, whereas she was
simply trying to go to sleep again. But Poterne returned
to his side, ground his teeth and swore blood-curdling
oaths. The young lover at once began to write ; he had
already filled out the body of one note, and was about to


sign it, when they heard a loud noise below; then steps
rapidly ascended the stairs, the door was thrown open,
and Monfreville appeared, followed by old Jasmin, who
uttered a cry of joy at sight of his master.

" Ah ! here he is ! " he cried ; " God be praised ! they
have not destroyed him ! "

Cherubin felt as if he were born again when he saw
his friend; he threw himself into his arms, while Mon-
freville, observing his confusion and bewilderment and
pallor, asked him :

" Great God ! my dear fellow, what are you doing here,
in this house this den of thieves, to which a little rascal
refused to admit me ? "

" Ah ! my friend, the fact is that that I have been
very guilty ! " Cherubin replied in a voice broken by sobs.
" I abducted madame this gentleman's wife ; that is to
say, it wasn't I who did it Darena abducted her for me.
Monsieur is a Polish count, and he insisted that I should
give him my notes for a hundred and twenty thousand
francs, or else he would kill his wife! Ah! how glad
I am to see you ! "

While Cherubin was speaking, Poterne, who was very
ill at ease, tried to sidle toward the door; but Jasmin
had stationed himself in front of it, after taking pains to
lock it.

As he listened to his young friend, Monfreville looked
about the room in keen scrutiny. He examined Made-
moiselle Chichette and the supposititious outraged hus-
band, who acted as if he wished to crawl under the table.
Cherubin had no sooner finished speaking than Monfre-
ville ran up to Poterne, snatched off his hat and spec-
tacles, and raised his cane threateningly.

" This creature a Polish count ! " he exclaimed ; " why,
it's that vile Poterne, the agent of that contemptible


knave Darena! They plotted together this infamous
scheme to extort money from you! Ah! I am strongly
tempted to break my cane over this cur's shoulders ! "

"Poterne!" cried Cherubin; "is it possible? Po-
terne ! "

" Why, yes," said Jasmin, " it's the dealer in preserves
and dogs and turtles. Ah ! my dear master, I suspected
that they meant to take you in again ; and that that man
who called me an old donkey was fixing up some treach-
erous scheme to catch you."

When he saw Monfreville's cane in the air, Poterne fell
on his knees.

" Mercy, monsieur," he faltered, " all this was only a
joke nothing else ; it was a comedy ! "

" A jest, you villain ! But your notes of hand were
properly stamped! Oh! we know now what you are
capable of, you and your worthy friend, Comte Darena,
who has fallen low enough now to blush at nothing, and
in whose eyes all methods of procuring money are all
right. We agree not to treat you as you deserve. Go
and join your confederate, and tell him that this young
man is able now to judge him as he is, and that if he
should ever presume to show his face at the hotel de
Grandvilain, the servants will be instructed to turn
him out."

" Yes, indeed, I will undertake to do it ! " said Jasmin.
" He called me an old ruin too ! but an honest ruin is
worth more than a sharper in perfect repair."

Monsieur Poterne did not wait to hear any more; he
picked up his hat and spectacles, hastily opened the door,

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Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 22 of 27)