Copyright
Paul de Kock.

Novels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) online

. (page 4 of 27)
Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 4 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


away and to spend in the wine-shop, because his wife,
being occupied with her nursling, could not keep an
eye upon him, exclaimed every day:

" My eye, Nicole, that was a mighty good idea of
yours to be a nurse! If you only had three or four



THE VILLAGE OF GAG NY 49

little brats like this, we should be mighty well off, I tell
you ! "

And Cherubin's little foster-brothers, who did noth-
ing but eat sweetmeats and gingerbread, were also de-
lighted that their mother had a nursling who provided
them with so many good things, thanks to which they
were constantly ill.

Cherubin had been at his nurse's house only six weeks,
when, on a fine day in autumn, a fashionable carriage
stopped on the public square of Gagny, which square is
not absolutely beautiful, although the guardhouse has
been built there.

A vehicle which does not resemble a cart is always an
object of wonderment in a village. Five or six women,
several old men, several peasants, and a multitude of
children assembled about the carriage, and were gazing
at it with curiosity, when a window was lowered and a
man's head appeared.

Instantly a low murmur and a sneering laugh or two
were heard among the bystanders, together with such
remarks as these, not all of which were uttered in under-
tones :

" Oh ! how ugly he is ! " " Oh ! what a face ! " " Is
it legal to be as ugly as that, when you have a carriage ? "
" Upon my word ! I'd rather go afoot ! " " That fel-
low hasn't been vaccinated ! "

There were other reflections of the same sort, which
might have reached the ears of him who suggested them,
and which it would have been more polite to make in a
low tone; but politeness is not the favorite virtue of the
peasants of the suburbs of Paris.

Luckily, the man who had put his head out of the
window was a little hard of hearing, and, besides, he
was not a man to lose his temper for such trifles ; on the



50 THE BASHFUL LOVER

contrary, assuming a smiling expression, he said, bowing
to the assemblage:

" Which of you, my good people, can direct me to
Nicole Frimousset's house? I know well enough that
it's on a street leading into the square, but that is all I
know."

" Nicole Frimousset ! " said a peasant about half seas
over, who had just come from one wine-shop and was
about to enter another ; " she's my wife, Nicole is ; I am
Jacquinot Frimousset, her husband ; what do you want
of my wife? "

" What do we want of her ? Parbleu ! we've come to
see the little one that we've placed in her charge, and to
find out how he is, the dear child."

" The deuce ! it's monsieur le marquis ! " cried Jac-
quinot, removing his hat and throwing several children
to the ground in order to reach the carriage more quickly.
" Excuse me, monsieur le marquis ; you see, I didn't
know you. I'll show you the way; that's our street
over there; it's up hill, but you've got good horses."

And Jacquinot ran ahead of the carriage, shouting at
the top of his lungs, and trying to dance.

" Here's little Cherubin's father ! Here's the Mar-
quis de Grandvilain, coming to our house! Ah! I'm
going to drink his health."

The man who was in the carriage answered:

" No, I am not the marquis, I am Jasmin, his first
valet; and mademoiselle who is with me is not madame
la marquise; she is Turlurette, her maid. But it's all
the same, our masters or us, it's absolutely the same
thing."

" What a stupid thing to say, Jasmin," said Turlurette,
nudging her companion ; " the idea ! our masters or us
being the same thing ! "



THE VILLAGE OF GAG NY 5 1

" I mean so far as the child we have come to see is
concerned. They have sent us to find out about his
health; can't we see that as well as our masters? And
even better, for we have better eyes than they have."

" You speak of your masters with very little respect,
Monsieur Jasmin."

" Mademoiselle, I respect and venerate them, but that
doesn't prevent me from saying that they are both of
them in a miserable state. What wretched carcasses !
They make me feel very sad ! "

" Hush, Monsieur Jasmin, here we are ! "

The carriage had stopped in front of Frimousset's
house, and Jacquinot's shouts had put the whole house-
hold in commotion.

" Those are Cherubin's parents," was heard in every
direction. The little boys rushed to meet the carriage;
Jacquinot went to draw wine to offer to his guests ; while
Nicole, after hastily washing her nursling and wiping
his nose, took him in her arms and presented him to
Jasmin and Turlurette, just as they alighted from the
carriage, and called out to them:

" Here he is, monsieur and madame ; take him, and see
how well he is ! Ah ! I flatter myself that he wasn't as
pretty as that when you gave him to me ! "

" True ; he's superb ! " said Jasmin, kissing the child.

" Yes, he is as well as can be ! " said Turlurette, turn-
ing little Cherubin over and over in every direction.

But while they admired her nursling, Nicole, who had
had time to recover herself, looked closely at Jasmin
and Turlurette, and then exclaimed:

" But I say, it seems to me that monsieur and madame
ain't the child's father and mother. Pardi ! I recognize
monsieur by his red nose and his peppered face; he's
the one who came to the bureau and picked me out."



52 THE BASHFUL LOVER

" Yes, nurse, you are not mistaken," replied Jasmin,
" I am not my master ; I mean that I am not the mar-
quis, and that is what I shouted to your husband, but lie
didn't listen. But that doesn't make any difference ; we
were sent here, Turlurette and I, to satisfy ourselves
about young Grandvilain's health, and to report to mon-
sieur le marquis and his wife."

" You will always be welcome," said Nicole.

" And then you won't refuse to taste our wine and re-
fresh yourselves," cried Jacquinot, bringing a huge jar,
full to the brim of a wine perfectly nif, which means new
in the language of the country people.

" I never refuse to taste any wine, and I am always
glad to refresh myself, even when I am not warm," re-
plied Jasmin. " But first of all, I must fulfil to the letter
my dear master's orders. Nurse, undress the child, if
you please, and let me see him all naked, so that I can
judge if he is in good condition from top to toe in-
clusively."

" Oh, bless my soul ! drink and let us alone ! That is
my business ! " said Mademoiselle Turlurette, still keep-
ing the child in her arms.

" Mademoiselle, I will not prevent you from looking
at the child too, but I know what my master ordered me
to do, and I propose to obey him. Give me Cherubin,
and let me make a little Cupid of him."

" I won't give him to you."

" Then I'll take him ! "

" Come and try it ! "

Jasmin leaped upon the child, but Turlurette would
not let him go, and each of them pulled him; Cherubin
shrieked, and the nurse, to put an end to this imitation of
the judgment of Solomon, adroitly took the child from
both of them. In the twinkling of an eye she undressed



THE VILLAGE OF GAG NY 53

him, and, handing him to the two servants, bade them
kiss her nursling's plump little posterior.

" There ! what do you think of him ? " she cried ;
" ain't he fine ? You'd like to be as fresh and plump as
that, wouldn't you ? but I wish you may get it ! "

The nurse's action restored general good-humor and
peace between the servants of the house of Grandvilain.
Turlurette did not tire of kissing her master's child. As
for Jasmin, he took a huge pinch of snuff, then seated
himself at a table, and said:

" Yes, yes, everything is all right ; we have a superb
scion. And now, let us taste your wine, foster-father."

Jacquinot made haste to fill the glasses, drink, and
fill again; and Jasmin was as well pleased with the
foster-father as with the nurse.

" But why did not monsieur le marquis and madame
come themselves ? " asked Nicole.

" Oh ! " Turlurette replied with a sigh, " my poor mis-
tress isn't very well; when she tried to nurse the child,
she didn't get along well, and now that she's given it
up, she's worse than ever ! "

" But I offered to take our Cherubin's place, in order
to relieve my excellent mistress ! " murmured Jasmin,
tossing off a great bumper of sour wine.

" Mon Dieu ! Monsieur Jasmin, you're forever saying
stupid things," said Turlurette ; " the idea of madame
feeding you."

" Why not, when it was the doctor's orders ? I once
knew a lady who nursed several cats and two rabbits, be-
cause she had too much milk."

" Oh ! we've had enough of your stories ! In short,
my mistress is very weak; she can't leave her room,
or else she'd have come long ago to see her dear child;
she talks about him all the time."



54 THE BASHFUL LOVER

" As for monsieur le marquis," said Jasmin, " he has
the gout in his heels, which makes it very hard for him
to walk. I suggested a way to do it, and that was to
walk on his toes and not touch his heels to the ground;
he tried it, but after taking a few steps that way,
patatras! he fell flat on the floor, and he has never been
willing to try again. But they sent us in their place,
and never fear, we will make a good report of what we
have seen. You have restored our son's life! You are
excellent people! Here's your health, foster-father;
your wine scrapes the palate, but it isn't unpleasant, and
it has a taste of claret."

While Jasmin drank and chattered, Turlurette went to
the carriage to fetch what her mistress had sent to the
nurse. There were presents of all sorts: sugar, coffee,
clothes, and even toys for Cherubin's foster-brothers.
The room in which the peasants usually sat would hardly
hold all that came out of the carriage. The little Fri-
moussets jumped and shouted for joy, and rolled on the
floor, at sight of all those presents, and Nicole said again
and again:

" Madame la marquise is very kind ! but she can be
sure that her son will eat all these nice things; my gas
won't touch 'em! Besides, they prefer pork."

Jasmin enjoyed himself exceedingly with Jacquinot,
and Turlurette was finally obliged to remind him that
their masters were impatiently awaiting their return.
The domestics bade the villagers farewell. They kissed
little Cherubin again, but on the face this time, and re-
turned to their master's carriage, which quickly took
them back to Paris.

The marchioness awaited the return of her servants
with the anxiety of a mother who fears for the life of
the only child that Heaven has granted her. And despite



THE VILLAGE OF GAG NY 55

his gout, Monsieur de Grandvilain dragged himself to
the window from time to time, to see if he could discover
his carriage in the distance.

Turlurette, who was young and active, ran ahead of
Jasmin and entered the room with a radiant air; her
face announced that she brought good news.

" Magnificent, madame ! magnificent health ! A superb
child! Oh! no one would ever know him; he was so
pale and thin when he went away, and now he's as fat
and solid as a rock."

" Really, Turlurette," cried the marchioness ; " you
are not deceiving us ? "

"Oh! just ask Jasmin, madame; here he comes."

Jasmin appeared, puffing like an ox, because he had
tried to go upstairs as quickly as Turlurette. He walked
forward, bowed gravely to his masters and said:

" Our young marquis is in a most flourishing condi-
tion; I had the honor to kiss his posterior; I ask your
pardon for taking that liberty, but he is such a lovely
child and so well kept ! I assure you that the Frimousset
family is worthy of our confidence, and that we have
only praise to give the nurse and her husband."

These words filled the atmosphere of the hotel de
Grandvilain with joy. Cherubin's mamma promised her-
self that she would go to Gagny to see her son as soon
as her health was restored, and Monsieur le Marquis de
Grandvilain swore that he would do the same as soon
as the gout should be obliging enough to leave his heels.



56 THE BASHFUL LOVER



VI

TIME AND ITS EFFECTS

The old marquis and his wife were very happy when
they knew that their son was in good health; they for-
got that their own health was poor, and they made great
plans for the future.

There is an old song that says :

" To-day belongs to us,
To-morrow belongs to no one."

All of which is very true; and it means that we must
never rely upon the morrow; but that does not prevent
us from often making plans in which we stride over
a great number of years, which is much more than a
morrow! And most of those same plans are destined
never to be executed. We are wise to make them, how-
ever, for in them consists the better part of our hap-
piness; what we actually have in hand never seems so
sweet as what we expect; it is with that as with those
landscapes which seem charming to us at a distance, but
very commonplace when we come close to them.

A month after receiving the assurance that her son
was well, and that he had entirely recovered his health,
Amenaide, feeling somewhat better, determined to go
out and take the air, in order that she might sooner be
in a condition to go to Gagny. But whether it was that
she went out too soon, or that a new disease declared



TIME AND ITS EFFECTS 57

itself, the marchioness was feeling wretched when she
returned; she went back to bed, and a fortnight later
little Cherubin's mother was laid in her grave. How-
ever, she had not realized that she was dying, and up
to the last moment had retained the hope of going to
embrace her son.

The old marquis was in despair at his loss; but at
seventy years a man no longer loves as at thirty; as it
grows old, the heart becomes less loving, and that is the
effect of experience no less than of years ; men are so
deceived in their affections during the course of their
lives, that they inevitably end by becoming selfish and
by concentrating upon themselves the affection which
they once offered to others.

Moreover, the marquis was not left alone on earth;
had he not his son to comfort him ? His faithful retainer
said to him one day :

" My dear master, think of your little Cherubin ; he
has no mother now; you certainly ought to have died
before her, for you were much older, but things don't
always go as one expects ! Madame la marquise is dead
and you are alive; to be sure, you have the gout, but
there are people whom it doesn't carry away at once;
you are a proof of it. Be a man, monsieur le marquis,
and remember your son, of whom you will make a lusty
blade, such as you used to be; for you were a famous
young rake, monsieur, although no one would suspect it
to look at you now."

" What do you mean, Jasmin ? Am I very much
changed ? Do I look as if I were impotent now ? "

" I don't say that, monsieur, but I do think that you
would find it difficult to keep five or six appointments
in the same day ; and that is what often happened in the
old days ! Ah ! what a lady-killer you were ! Well, I



5 8 THE BASHFUL LOVER

have an idea that your son will take after you, that he
too will send me with billets-doux. Ha ! ha ! I will carry
them with great pleasure ; I know all about slipping notes
into ladies' hands."

"In other words, my poor fellow, you were forever
making mistakes and blunders, and it wasn't your fault
that I wasn't surprised and murdered a hundred times by
jealous husbands or rivals."

" Do you think so, monsieur ? Oh ! you are mistaken ;
it was so long ago that you have forgotten all about it."

" After all," rejoined Monsieur de Grandvilain, after
a moment, " even if I should weep for the poor mar-
chioness all the time, that would not bring her back to me.
I must preserve myself for my son. Ah! only let me
see him when he is twenty years old ! That is all I ask."

" The deuce ! I should say so ! You are not modest ! "
said Jasmin ; " twenty added to the seventy you are now,
would make you ninety ! "

" Well, Jasmin, don't men ever live to that age ? "

" Oh ! very seldom ; but it may happen."

" How old are you, you rascal, to venture to make such
remarks ? "

" Why, monsieur, I am fifty," replied Jasmin, straight-
ening himself up and putting out his leg.

" Hum ! I believe that you take off something ; you
look much older than that. But no matter, I will bury
ten like you ! "

" Monsieur is at liberty to do so, certainly."

" And as soon as my gout has left me, I will go and
embrace my heir. Of course I could send for the nurse
to come here ; but the doctor says that children mustn't
have change of air; and I would rather deprive myself
of seeing mine than expose him to the danger of being
sick again."



TIME AND ITS EFFECTS 59

" Besides, monsieur, whenever you want me to go to
see our young man, you know that I am always ready;
and there's no need of sending that fat Turlurette with
me ; I know how to tell whether the child is well. I will
go to Gagny every day if you want; it doesn't tire me a
bit."

Jasmin was very fond of going to see Cherubin; in
the first place, the faithful retainer was already devotedly
attached to his master's son ; and in the second place, he
always emptied several jars of wine with the foster-
father, who also had become his friend. The mar-
chioness had been dead five months, when Monsieur de
Grandvilain at last got relief from his gout and was able
to leave his great easy-chair. His first thought was to
order the horses to be harnessed to his carriage ; then he
climbed in, Jasmin scrambling up behind, and they started
for Gagny.

Little Cherubin continued in excellent health, because
it was not he who had the delicacies that Turlurette con-
tinued to send to Nicole. One of the nurse's little boys
had already died of inflammation of the bowels ; the other
two, who were larger and stronger, still held out against
the biscuits and sweetmeats ; but their complexions were
sallow, while Cherubin's glowed with health and fresh-
ness.

On the day when the marquis started for Gagny, Jac-
quinot Frimousset had begun his visits to the wine-shop
in the morning, and he was already quite drunk when
one of his friends informed him that the Marquis de
Grandvilain's carriage was in front of his door.

" Good ! " said Jacquinot, " it's my friend Monsieur
Jasmin come to see us. He ain't a bit proud, although
he's a valet de chambre in a noble family; we'll empty a
few jugs together."



60 THE BASHFUL LOVER

And the nurse's husband succeeded, although stag-
gering and stumbling at every step, in reaching his own
house; he entered the room where Monsieur de Grand-
vilain was at that moment occupied in dandling his son,
who was then a year old ; and who seemed much amused
by his dear father's chin, which did not remain at rest
for an instant.

" Who's that old codger?" cried Frimousset, trying to
open his eyes and leaning against the wall.

" It's Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain himself,"
cried Nicole, making signs to her husband to assume a
more respectful attitude; but he roared with laughter,
and said:

" That, Cherubin's father ? Nonsense ! Impossible !
It's his grandfather, his great grandfather at least! As
if a shrivelled and shrunken old fellow like that could
have such young children ! "

Monsieur de Grandvilain turned purple with rage ; for
a moment he was tempted to take his son away and
never again set foot inside the house of that vulgar
peasant who had said such unpleasant things to him ; but
Nicole had already succeeded in pushing her husband out
of the room, and Jasmin, who was engaged in refreshing
himself at a little distance, went to his master and said :

" Don't pay any attention to him, my dear master, the
foster-father has been drinking; he's drunk, he can't see
straight; but for that, he would never have said such
things to you; he might have thought them, perhaps,
but he wouldn't have said them."

" My husband is a drunken sot and nothing else," said
Nicole. " I ask your pardon for him, monsieur le mar-
quis ; the idea of thinking that you ain't your son's
father! Mon Dieu! it's plain enough that his eyes are
blinded by drink. Why, the dear child is the very image



TIME AND ITS EFFECTS 6 1

of you! He has your nose and your mouth and your
eyes and everything ! "

This language was absurdly exaggerated, and far
from flattering to little Cherubin; but the Marquis de
Grandvilain, who did not choose to grow old, took it all
for gospel truth; he looked at his son again and mur-
mured :

" Yes, he looks like me, he will be a very handsome
boy."

He rose and put a purse in the nurse's hand, saying
to her :

" I am well pleased ; my son is well ; continue to take
good care of him, for since the air of this neighborhood
agrees with him, I think that I shall do well to leave him
with you a long while, a very long while, in fact. Chil-
dren always have time enough to study; health before
everything ! eh, Jasmin ? "

" Oh yes ! health indeed, monsieur ! You are quite
right; for what good does it do to know a lot when
one is dead ? "

Monsieur de Grandvilain smiled at his valet's reflec-
tion; then, after embracing Cherubin, he returned to
his carriage. Jacquinot was cowering in a corner of the
yard, and did not dare to stir; he contented himself
with bowing to the marquis, who, as he passed the peas-
ant, drew himself up and did his utmost to impart to his
gait the ease and firmness of youth.

Several months passed. Monsieur de Grandvilain often
said : " I am going to Gagny." But he did not go ; the
dread of meeting the foster-father again, and of being
greeted with fresh compliments after the style of the
former ones, restrained the marquis, and he contented
himself with sending for his son, who had become large
enough to take such a short journey without danger.



62 THE BASHFUL LOVER

At such times Nicole passed several hours at the man-
sion ; but Cherubin did not enjoy himself there ; he
always wept and asked to be taken back to the village.
Whereupon the marquis would embrace his son and say
to his nurse :

" Go at once, we must not thwart him ; perhaps it
would make him ill."

Two more years passed in this way. Cherubin was in
excellent health, but he was not stout or robust, like the
children of most peasants; he was a merry little fellow,
he loved to play and to run about; but as soon as he
was taken to Paris, as soon as he found himself with
his father at the hotel de Grandvilain, the boy lost all
his merriment; to be sure, the old mansion in Faubourg
Saint-Germain was not a cheerful place; and the old
marquis, who was almost always suffering from the gout,
was rather a dismal object himself.

However, they did what they could to make his visits
to his father's house pleasant to the youngster ; they had
filled a room with toys, and they always covered a table
with sweetmeats ; Cherubin was at liberty to eat every-
thing, to break all that he saw; he was left free to do
whatever he chose; but after looking at a few of the
toys and eating a cake or two, the child would run to his
nurse, take hold of her apron, gaze at her affectionately
and say in an imploring voice:

" Mamma Nicole, ain't we going home soon ? "

One day the marquis assumed a solemn expression, and
beckoning his son to his side, said to him:

" But, Cherubin, you are at home here. When you are
at the village, you are at your nurse's home; here you
are in your father's house and consequently at your own
home."

" Oh, no ! " he replied, " this ain't to home."



TIME AND ITS EFFECTS 63

" You are an obstinate little fellow, Cherubin ; you
don't think that you are at home here, because you are
not used to being here; but if you should stay here no
more than a fortnight, you would forget the village;
for after all it is much finer here than at your nurse's
house; isn't it? "

" Oh no ! it's ever so much prettier to our house ! "

" To our house ! to our house ! this is most annoying.
However, as it is so, as you are not happy at your father's
house, you are going to stay here, Cherubin; you shan't
go back to your nurse's again; I am going to keep you
with me; you shall not leave me after this; and at all
events I will teach you to speak French, and not to say
' to our house ' any more ! "

The child did not dare to reply; the stern tone which
his father assumed to him for the first time, terrified him
so that he was speechless and dared not move; but in
a moment his features contracted, his tears gushed forth
and he began to sob.

Thereupon Jasmin, who, in an adjoining room, had
heard all that had been said, rushed at his master like a
madman, crying:

" Well ! what does this mean ? So you make our child
cry now, do you ? That's very nice of you ! do you pro-
pose to become a tyrant?"

" Hold your tongue, Jasmin ! "

" No, monsieur, I won't allow you to make our little



Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 4 of 27)