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fell on him.

" My young master still seems to be in flourishing
health," continued Jasmin, after throwing to the ground
a few plums which had lodged between his coat collar
and his stock.

" Yes, Jasmin, yes. But just see how handsome they
are, and good too; eat some, Jasmin; you have only to
stoop and pick some up."

" Monsieur is very kind, but plums sometimes they
occasion inconvenience. I have come, first of all, to ask
if monsieur wishes to return to Paris with me at last;
his house is, as always, ready to receive him and

Jasmin was unable to finish his sentence, because a
fresh shower of plums fell upon his head. This time he
glanced angrily about, but the mischievous girl had hid-
den behind a tree ; meanwhile Cherubin exclaimed :

" No, Jasmin, no, I don't want to go to Paris, I am so
happy here; I have told you already that I should be
bored in Paris, and I have such a pleasant time at my
dear Nicole's."


" Very good, monsieur le marquis, I don't wish to
thwart you on that point ; but if you stay here, you must
not pass all your time in playing any longer ; you must
study, my dear master, you must become a learned man ;
it is absolutely necessary and "

A shower of plums, heavier than the other two, once
more cut Jasmin short ; and he, finding that he had two
breaches in his band of hair, turned round and ex-
claimed angrily:

" Oh ! this is too much ; do you want to make mar-
malade of my head? Ah! it is that little girl who is
playing these tricks on me. It is very pretty, mademoi-
selle ; I advise you to laugh ; there is good reason for it."

Louise had run to hide behind Cherubin, laughing
heartily ; and he, laughing also at the grimace made by
his old servant, said to him:

"It is all your own fault, Jasmin ; leave us in peace.
Louise and I were eating plums, and having a good time ;
why did you come to disturb us, to tell me a lot of fool-
ish things? that I must study, that I must be a learned
man. I don't want to study ! Go and drink with Jac-
quinot ; go, go ! I don't need you."

Jasmin seemed sorely embarrassed ; at last he replied :

" I am sorry to annoy monsieur le marquis, but you are
too big now not to know how to read or write; in fact,
there are a lot of things which you ought to know, be-
cause you are a marquis and in short, your venerable
father's notary says that you ought to have prizes in
Latin and Greek, and it seems that it is customary to
study in order to get prizes. I have just sent after the
schoolmaster of this village, Monsieur Gerondif; he is
coming here, and he is to teach you, for Nicole assures
me that he is a good scholar, although he is obliged to
have his potatoes baked in the baker's oven."


Cherubin's brow darkened, and the little fellow replied
with a very pronounced pout:

" I don't want the schoolmaster to come here ; I don't
need to be a scholar. You tire me, Jasmin, with your
Monsieur Gerondif ! "

It pained Jasmin greatly to have to vex his young
master. He did not know what to say or to do; he
twisted his hat and twirled it in his hands, for he felt
that after all it was necessary to compel the young mar-
quis not to be a dolt, but he did not know what course
to pursue to that end ; and if at that moment he had re-
ceived another shower of plums it would not have roused
him from his stupor.

But Nicole had followed the old servant at a distance ;
the nurse realized that if Cherubin refused to learn any-
thing at her house, they would be obliged to make him
go to Paris to learn. Dreading lest she might lose a
child whom she loved, and who had brought ease to her
household for eleven years, Nicole felt that some way
must be found to induce the boy to consent to take
lessons of the schoolmaster.

Women, even those in the country, speedily divine
where our vulnerable point is. Nicole, who had grad-
ually drawn near, and was then standing behind Jasmin,
who had ceased to speak or move, advanced a few steps
nearer the children, and, taking Louise by the hand,

" Look you, Monsieur Jasmin, I see the reason plain
enough why Cherubin don't want to work; it's because
he plays all day with this girl. Well ! as I too want my
fieu to be a scholar, I am going to take Louise to one of
our relations two leagues away; she'll be taken good
care of there, and then she won't prevent Cherubin from



Nicole had not finished when the little boy ran to her

and taking hold of her dress, cried in a touching voice,
and with tears in his eyes :

" No, no, don't take Louise away ; I will study, I will
learn whatever you want me to with Monsieur Gerondif ;
but don't take Louise away, oh! please don't take her
away ! "

Nicole's ruse had succeeded. She embraced her foster-
child, Louise leaped for joy when she found that she was
not to be sent away, and Jasmin would have done as
much if his age had not made it impossible ; he threw his
hat in the air, however, exclaiming:

" Long live Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain ! ah !
I knew perfectly well that he would consent to become a
learned man ! "

At that moment Jacquinot appeared at the garden gate
and shouted:

" Here's Monsieur Gerondif ; I've brought him with



The new personage who had arrived at Nicole's was
a man of about forty years of age, of medium height,
rather stout than thin, with an ordinary face, in which
could be detected the desire to give himself an air of
importance, and the habit of bending the knee in servile
fashion to all those who were above him in social rank
or in fortune.


Monsieur Gerondif had long, thick, greasy brown hair,
which was cut straight in front, just above the eyebrows,
and which hid his coat collar behind ; on the sides it was
held in respect by the ears. The teacher had gray eyes,
the size of which it was difficult to discover, because he
kept them lowered all the time, even when speaking to
you. He had a very large mouth, which was abundantly
furnished with very fine teeth, and whether for the pur-
pose of displaying that attractive feature, or to afford a
favorable idea of the affability of his disposition, he
smiled almost continually when he talked, and never
failed to open his mouth so far that one could see his
whole supply.

A nose much too large for the rest of the face, and
almost always adorned by a number of small pimples,
impaired infinitely the general aspect of the professor's
countenance; and the habit which he had adopted of
scratching it, and of stuffing it with snuff, gave to that
protuberance a very conspicuous red and black appear-
ance, which would have been in some degree repellent,
if Monsieur Gerondif's soft and honeyed voice had not
lessened the unfortunate impression produced at first
by his nose.

The schoolmaster's costume was rather severe, for it
was supposed to be all black; the coat, trousers and
waistcoat were in fact originally made of cloth of that
color; but time had wrought such ravages upon them
all, that it had often been necessary to apply patches upon
each of those garments; and whether from carelessness
on the part of the person who had made the repairs, or
because black cloth was scarcer than any other color in
the neighborhood, blue, green, gray, and even nut-colored
pieces had been used to patch Monsieur Gerondif's coat,
trousers, and waistcoat ; so that he bore some resemblance



to a harlequin; add to all this, socks and wooden shoes,
and a generally dirty aspect, and you will have an idea
of the individual who had been sent for to act as tutor
to the young Marquis de Grandvilain.

As for what he wore on his head, we have not men-
tioned that, for the reason that Monsieur Gerondif never
wore hat or cap, and that no one could even remember
having seen him with any sort of head covering in his
hand. He had an old umbrella, which boasted of but
three ribs, beneath which our schoolmaster bravely
sheltered his head when it rained, without fear that the
old thing would collapse, because it was divided into
several pieces.

The schoolmaster suffered terribly from chilblains and
corns on his feet, so that he had been obliged to lean
heavily upon Jacquinot's arm, which was doubtless the
reason that Nicole's husband had announced that he had
brought Monsieur Gerondif. When he learned that he
had been sent for on the part of Monsieur le Marquis de
Grandvilain, the professor had not taken the time to re-
move his potatoes from the baker's oven, nor had he
deemed it necessary to wash his hands, a task which he
performed in fact only on Sundays and holidays.

Jasmin pushed his young master in front of him.
Cherubin did not release Louise's hand, as if he still
feared that they proposed to separate him from his dear
companion. The old valet followed him, still holding
his hat in his hand; Nicole walked behind; and they
all went to receive the professor, who had halted on the
threshold of the street door, sorely embarrassed to know
whether he should remove or retain his wooden shoes
before presenting himself to the distinguished persons
who had sent for him; at last he decided to appear in


When he perceived the bald head of Jasmin, whose
respectable costume had nothing about it to indicate the
servant, Monsieur Gerondif rushed to meet him, smiling
in the fashion best adapted to show his molars and his
incisors, and saluted him with:

" Honor to whom honor is due ! Salutem vos. Mon-
sieur le marquis, I consider myself very happy to be be-
fore you at this moment."

While Monsieur Gerondif made his complimentary ad-
dress, bowing to the ground, Jasmin, who saw that the
professor had made a mistake and had taken him for
the marquis, hastily changed places with his young mas-
ter ; Cherubin did not release Louise's hand, so that when
he raised his head, Monsieur Gerondif found himself
with the two children in front of him; he thought that
he had made a mistake, and pushed the little boy and
his friend aside with little ceremony, to place himself
once more in front of Jasmin, who was at the other end
of the room, saying:

" Pardon the blunder ; errare hutnanum est. I place
myself at your commands, monsieur le marquis. I did
not even take the time to finish my slight collation, in
order that I might be instantly ready for your orders."

While the schoolmaster was speaking, Jasmin once
more left his place and stepped behind his master ; Mon-
sieur Gerondif seemed inclined to follow him into every
corner of the room, when Nicole said laughingly:

" But you are making a mistake, Monsieur Gerondif ;
the marquis is my fieu, my foster-child, this pretty boy

" And I am only his very humble servant, former valet
to monsieur le marquis, his father, who deigned when he
died to entrust the care of his heir to me," said Jasmin,
saluting Cherubin.


Monsieur Gerondif took the thing very well; he

smiled anew and hastened to place himself in front of
Cherubin, saying:

" I make my excuses ut iterum, and that does not pre-
vent me from saying once more that I am the very
humble servant of monsieur le marquis junior."

" Not Junior ! de Grandvilain," said Jasmin solemnly.

" One does not prevent the other," replied Monsieur
Gerondif, with a sly smile, " permit me to inform you,
brave Eumaeus; for you remind me much of that vir-
tuous and royal retainer of Ulysses, King of Ithaca. I
do not know whether he was bald too Homer does not
say, but it is very probable. I am at the orders of Mon-
sieur le Marquis de Grandvilain, who can now tell me
what he wants of me instantly."

The schoolmaster's long sentences, and the quotations
with which he seasoned his discourse, produced the best
effect upon Jasmin, who, like most fools, placed a high
estimate on whatever he did not understand; so he
nodded his head to the nurse, muttering:

" He is a learned man ! a very learned man, in fact ;
he will do very well for us."

As for Cherubin, who was not of his old servant's
opinion, and who found Monsieur Gerondif very tire-
some, he answered without hesitation:

" I don't want you at all ; it was Jasmin who insisted
on sending for you, to make me study I don't know
what! I am perfectly willing to learn, but Louise must
stay with me during my lessons."

Having said this, Cherubin abruptly turned his back
on the schoolmaster; Louise did the same, laughing
heartily at Monsieur Gerondif 's nose; and the two chil-
dren ran from the room, to return to the garden and eat
more plums.


The others deemed it best to let them go, and Jasmin
asked Monsieur Gerondif, with a respectful air, if he
were willing to give lessons to his young master, who
had learned nothing as yet, and to whom it was high
time that some attention should be paid if they wished
him to have any education.

Monsieur Gerondif received the proposal with delight ;
he shook Jasmin's hand warmly and said :

" Trust me, we will make up for lost time. I will
make the young marquis work like a horse."

" Oh, no ! " cried the old servant, " my young master
is very delicate; he isn't used to studying and you will
make him ill; you must go gently with him."

" Of course, of course ! " replied Gerondif, scratching
his nose. " When I say like a horse, I use a figure of
speech a metaphor, if you prefer; we will go piano et
sano ecce rem! In addition to writing and mathe-
matics, I will teach monsieur le marquis his own lan-
guage, root and branch, so that he may speak it as I
do; that is to say, with elegance; also Latin, Greek,
Italian, philosophy, history, ancient and modern, mythol-
ogy, rhetoric, the art of versification, geography, astron-
omy, a little physics, and chemistry, and mineralogy,
and "

" Oh ! that is enough, monsieur le professeur ! " cried
Jasmin, bewildered by all that he heard, and aghast with
admiration at Monsieur Gerondif's learning. " When
my young master knows all those things, he will be quite
learned enough."

" If you wish for anything more, you have only to
speak; I venture to say that so far as learning is con-
cerned, I am a well, a genuine well. At the age of five,
I took a prize for memory, and at seven I had three
wreaths on my head, wreaths of oak, like the Druids,


ancient priests of Gaul, who worshipped Teutates, or
Mercury, and the mistletoe, a parasite which, according
to them, cured all diseases. I don't agree with them, for
I have corns which pain me terribly; I put mistletoe on
them, and they hurt me worse than ever."

Jasmin dared not breathe while Monsieur Gerondif was
speaking; the nurse and her husband shared his admira-
tion, and the schoolmaster, well pleased with the effect
that he had produced, was listening to himself with
much complaisance when the old servant interrupted
him to say:

" A thousand pardons, monsieur, if I venture to slip
in a word, but it seems to me necessary to agree upon
terms; how much will you take a month to teach my
young master all these things, it being understood that
you will come every day except Sunday ? "

Monsieur Gerondif reflected a few moments, and re-
plied at last in a hesitating manner:

" For imparting to Monsieur de Grandvilain as much
knowledge as it is possible for me to impart, it seems to
me that if I charge you fifteen francs a month I "

" Fifteen francs ! " cried Jasmin in a tone of disgust ;
"fifteen francs for all that; why, you must be joking,

Monsieur Gerondif ceased to smile; he lowered his
eyes and muttered:

" Well, then, if you think that is too much, we will
reduce the amount and "

" Think that it's too much ! " replied Jasmin ; "on the
contrary, monsieur, I think that it isn't enough! Thank
heaven, my young master is rich, he is able to pay those
who give him lessons. What! I, a valet de chambre,
earn six hundred francs a year, with board and lodging,
while a man as learned as you, who is going to teach my


master so many fine things, receives less than that ! Oh,
no! I offer you a hundred and fifty francs a month,
monsieur, and I consider it none too much for all that
you know."

" A hundred and fifty francs a month ! " cried Mon-
sieur Gerondif, whose features expressed indescribable
bliss. " A hundred and fifty francs ! I accept, Monsieur
Jasmin, I accept with gratitude, and I will prove myself
worthy. I will pass almost the whole day with my pupil
my school will not prevent, for I have a sub-master,
to whom I pay three francs a month; I will increase
his salary if necessary, and at need I will give up my
school entirely, to devote my whole time to the inter-
esting child whom you entrust to me."

The schoolmaster seized Jasmin's hands and shook
them effusively; then he shook hands with Jacquinot,
then with Nicole, and finally, finding no more hands
to shake, he began to clap his own, crying:

" Hosanna ! Hosanna ! applaudite cives! "

Jasmin whispered to Jacquinot:

" I think that Monsieur Gerondif said : ' Apportez du
civet.' Bring some jugged hare."

" We haven't got any jugged hare," replied Jacqui-
not, " but we've got some of our wine to drink, and the
schoolmaster will drink with us, I know."

Nicole brought wine and glasses. Monsieur Gerondif
gladly accepted the invitation to drink, but he asked
the nurse for a crust of bread, because, as he had not
had time to have his potatoes baked, he was conscious of
a void in his stomach. Nicole fetched what provisions
she had and placed them on the table, whereupon Mon-
sieur Gerondif began by cutting an enormous slice of
bread, then attacked a dish of beef and beans with a
vehemence in which there was something appalling.


But while eating, the schoolmaster found time to talk ;
he said to Jasmin:

" We have talked about knowledge, but there is an-
other subject upon which we have not touched, I mean
morals. In that matter too you may rely upon me. I
am extremely rigid upon that point; for you see, Mon-
sieur Jasmin, morals are the curb of society. I venture
to say that mine are beyond reproach, and I propose that
it shall be the same with my pupil."

" Oh ! as for that," said the old servant with a smile,
" it seems to me that we have no reason to fear as yet,
considering my young master's age. Later perhaps!
for look you, a young man is not a girl ! "

" He's much worse, Monsieur Jasmin, much more
dangerous! Because the young man, being more free,
can do more wrong things. But I will inculcate in him
principles which will keep him in the right path ; I will
be the Mentor of this Telemachus! But I beg pardon,
it just occurs to me that in order to begin monsieur le
marquis's studies, I shall have to buy some elementary
books, grammars and dictionaries ; those that I use in
my school are worn out, and I believe that I have not
enough money at this moment to make these purchases.
If Monsieur Jasmin could pay me a month's salary in
advance, why then "

" With pleasure, Monsieur Gerondif ; I always bring
money when I come here, in case my master should ask
me for some. See, here are a hundred and twenty
francs in gold, and thirty in five-franc pieces."

The schoolmaster gazed with a covetous eye at the
money which was counted out to him. He took it, and
counted and recounted it several times; he put it in his
pocket, then took it out to count it once more. He did
not tire of handling that gold and silver, for never


before had he been in possession of so large a sum. They
spoke to him, he did not hear, he did not answer, but
he jingled his gold pieces and his silver pieces, and after
he had finally placed them in a pocket of his trousers,
he put his hand over them and kept it there all the time.

Meanwhile, as it was late, Jasmin, having taken leave
of his master and received from him renewed promises
that he would study, returned to the carriage which had
brought him thither and drove back to Paris, delighted
that he had found a way to make a scholar of Cherubin.

As for Monsieur Gerondif, having saluted his future
pupil and informed him that he would come on the mor-
row, he left the nurse's house, and went home, still
keeping his hand in his pocket and jingling the money
which was there.




We will pass rapidly over the years following that dur-
ing which Monsieur Gerondif became the young marquis's
tutor. Cherubin had kept his word; he had consented
to study, but he had insisted on Louise's presence during
his lessons ; at first, Monsieur Gerondif had tried to keep
the little girl from the room, but Cherubin had shrieked
and wept and refused to listen to his tutor; so that it
was found necessary to yield to him. By slow degrees
Louise's presence had evidently come to seem less incon-
venient to Monsieur Gerondif, for if she were not there
when he arrived, he was the first to send for her.

The fact is that Louise had grown too, and that she had
improved even more rapidly. At thirteen, she seemed at
least fifteen; she was slender, well-built, and possessed
of many graces ; not studied and affected ones such as so
many young ladies in Paris assume, thinking that they
will be deemed natural; but those naive, simple graces
which one recognizes instantly but vainly tries to imitate.

Monsieur Gerondif was not a genuine scholar, but he
might have passed for such in the eyes of many peo-
ple. He had tried everything, having in his youth es-
sayed a number of professions, but having fixed upon
none ; after making a pretence of becoming a doctor,
a druggist, a chemist, an astronomer, a geometrician a



tradesman, and even a poet ; after stuffing his head with
the first rudiments of many forms of knowledge and suc-
ceeding in none, he had ended by turning schoolmaster.
The man who knows one branch thoroughly has much
more merit than he who talks glibly about all branches,
and yet, in the world, the preference is often given to the

At fifteen, Cherubin knew a little of a great many
things; in the eyes of the village, in the eyes of the
Frimoussets, the young man was a phenomenon who
had learned with extraordinary ease. As for Jasmin,
he opened his eyes in amazement when he heard his
young master use a Latin word, or mention some his-
torical or mythological fact, and he bowed before Mon-
sieur Gerondif, exclaiming:

" He knows as much as you, and that is a great deal
to say."

Monsieur Gerondif puffed himself out, for he had pur-
chased an entirely new costume; he no longer resembled
a harlequin, and he was seen now with a hat and a real

But with well-being ambition had come ; that is usually
the case. When a man has nothing, he becomes accus-
tomed to forming no wishes, to not looking above him-
self ; he remains in his shell and tries to be happy there
forever ; he even succeeds sometimes. But when he be-
comes well-to-do, then he indulges in a multitude of
little luxuries hitherto unknown ; but they are no longer
enough; every day he desires others, forms a thousand
new aspirations, becomes ambitious, in short; and it
often happens that he is less contented than when he
possessed nothing.

Such was substantially Monsieur Gerondif 's story;
when he had nothing to live upon but the paltry profits


of his school, he wore clogs, went without hat or cap,
very often dined upon nothing but potatoes baked in the
oven, and yet seemed perfectly contented with his position.

Since he had become young Grandvilain's tutor and
was earning eighteen hundred francs a year, a sum
which it is rather difficult to spend in the village of
Gagny, the schoolmaster had formed new desires; and
first of all he hoped not to remain forever in a village
where he could not even find means to spend his money,
a state of affairs which is very annoying to one who has
not been accustomed to having money to spend.

Monsieur Gerondif had been shrewd enough to obtain
his pupil's confidence, and even to inspire affection in
him ; for Cherubin's heart was easily won ; he flew to
meet all those who showed the slightest attachment to
him. While enjoining virtue and good morals upon the
young man every day, Monsieur Gerondif, whose eye-
sight was very good although he constantly kept his eyes
lowered, had perceived that Louise was growing, develop-
ing, and becoming a charming girl ; and more than once,
as he looked at the sweet child, he had thought:

" What lovely eyes ! What an exquisite oval face !

Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 6 of 27)