Paul de Kock.

Novels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) online

. (page 7 of 27)
Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 7 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

What a correct chin ! "

And then, whether to make sure that Louise's chin was
in fact correct, or for some other reason, the tutor would
pass his hand over the young girl's face, and sometimes
go so far as gently to pinch her cheek, which did not
amuse Louise at all; whereas Cherubin, on the con-
trary, was very glad to hear a complimentary remark
addressed to his faithful companion.

" Isn't Louise lovely, my dear master ? " he would say
at such times.

And Monsieur Gerondif would hasten to assume a
sanctimonious air, and would reply, lowering his eyes:


" Yes, this girl has the type of Jael in all its beauty ;
she seems to me to have the very appearance of a Ma-

Thereupon Cherubin would smile again, as he glanced
at Louise, and Monsieur Gerondif, thinking of some-
thing very different from madonnas, would say to him-

" This girl will be perfectly bewitching ! but if my
pupil remains much longer with her hum ! The flesh is
weak, the devil is very powerful, especially when he takes
the face of a pretty girl. I am not always here; Jac-
quinot is almost always drunk, and Mere Nicole allows
these children to run about together in the fields, look-
ing for flowers among the grain, playing together in the
grass, all very hazardous amusements. I absolutely
must look to all this. The best way would be to induce
my pupil to return to Paris. I should go with him, there
is not the slightest doubt, for his education is not yet
complete enough for him to do without a tutor. I shall
take care that he needs one for a long time yet, forever,
if possible. I shall live in my pupil's mansion at Paris.
That will be infinitely pleasanter than to live in this vil-
lage; and then I can continue to keep an eye on little
Louise at a distance ; I will protect her, I will push her
on in the world. As for Cherubin, after a few months
in Paris, he will have forgotten his little friend of the
fields. All this is reasoned out with the wisdom of Cato,
and it only remains to put it into execution."

And to attain his object, Monsieur Gerondif for some
time past had not failed to talk constantly of Paris while
giving Cherubin his lessons; he drew a fascinating,
enchanting picture of that city; he praised its theatres,
its promenades, its monuments, and the innumerable
pleasures which one finds there at every step.


Young Cherubin was beginning to listen to these ob-
servations. The idea of going to Paris terrified him
less; and his tutor would say:

" At least, come and spend a little time in the capital,
to see your mansion, the house of your fathers, it is all
so close at hand, and we will come back at once."

But Louise always wept when she saw that Cherubin
was on the point of consenting to go to Paris ; she would
take her playmate's hand and exclaim:

" If you go to Paris, I am very sure that you won't
come back here again; you'll forget Gagny and those
who live here."

Nicole said the same, as she lovingly embraced her
foster-child, whereupon Cherubin would instantly cry

" No, no, I won't go, since it makes you feel sad ; I
am happy here, and I shall always stay here."

At that, Monsieur Gerondif would bite his lips, trying
to smile; but in the depths of his heart, he consigned
nurses and childhood friends to the devil.

As for Jasmin, when the professor reproached him for
not seconding him and urging his young master to go
to Paris, he would reply, with that air of good humor
which was natural to him:

"What do you expect me to do about it? My dear
monsieur le marquis has passed his fifteenth birthday;
he is his own master; he can do whatever he chooses;
he can even dispose of his whole fortune, thirty thousand
francs a year. But if it's his choice to remain with his
nurse, I have no right to oppose him."

" When a man has such a handsome fortune as that,
it's perfectly ridiculous for him to pass his best years
out at nurse ! " cried the tutor ; " and then what good
does it do my pupil to become learned, to learn so many


useful things, if he continues to live with peasants?
Monsieur Jasmin, history offers no example of remark-
able men who have remained at nurse until they were
fifteen. It is all very well to love the woman who reared
us, but est medius in rebus."

" Monsieur le professeur, I am not good at guessing
rebuses ; but I am my master's very humble servant, and
I have no right to give him orders."

At Paris, too, Jasmin had frequent discussions with
Mademoiselle Turlurette on the subject of his young
master. The former lady's maid had become house-
keeper; she had grown so stout, although she was not
yet forty, that it was very difficult for her to walk from
one room to another ; that state of corpulence nailed her
to her chair, and prevented her from going to see her
young master at Gagny. And Jasmin was not at all
anxious to take her with him, because he always feared
that Mademoiselle Turlurette would usurp a part of his
authority, which he did not propose to stand. The bulky
housekeeper asked the old servant every day why their
young master did not leave his nurse; and sometimes
sharp quarrels arose between them on that subject; but
Jasmin always put an end to them by saying in a morose

" Mademoiselle, after all, I am the one that the late
Monsieur le Marquis de Grandvilain intrusted with the
care of his son ; in fact, I have the right to turn you out
of the house if I choose ; so be kind enough to allow me
to guide young Cherubin as I please."

Thereupon Turlurette held her peace, although she
knew perfectly well that Jasmin was not capable of dis-
charging her.

" A foster-child of sixteen years ! " she would mutter
between her teeth ; " that's a funny thing ! "


Things were at this point when a servant appeared
at the hotel de Grandvilain one morning, asked for Jas-
min, and told him that the late monsieur le marquis's
notary desired him to call at his office during the day,
because it was very important that he should speak with

The old valet wondered what the notary could have to
say to him; then he remembered that his young master
had long since passed his fifteenth birthday, and that
that was the time that his father had desired that he
should be put in possession of his fortune. All this
worried Jasmin, who said to himself:

" Thirty thousand francs a year, to say nothing of
the additions due to the savings that I have made in
fourteen years ! It is a fact that it would be a pity to
waste that at his foster-father's. But still, if Monsieur
Cherubin insists on staying with Nicole, I can't use
violence to compel him to return to Paris, for after all,
he is his own master."

Jasmin decided to comply with the notary's wish. He
put on his best coat, pulled a bit of his ruff out beneath
his waistcoat, donned his silver buckled shoes, although
they had long since ceased to be in style, and in that
garb, worthy of the confidential valet of a great family,
he betook himself to the office of Monsieur d'Hurbain,
the notary.

When Jasmin appeared at the office, the notary was not
alone; two persons were with him.

One of them, by name Edouard de Monfreville, was a
man apparently thirty-six or thirty-seven years of age,
who still had the bearing, the manners and all the dandi-
fied aspect of a young man. He was tall, well-built, as
slender as if he were but twenty, and wore with much
grace the costume of a young exquisite. His face was


handsome and attractive at the same time; his features
were regular, and his brown hair of a fineness and gloss
which a lady might have envied ; but in his great eyes,
which were black and piercing, one could read sometimes
a mocking expression which harmonized perfectly with
the faint smile that played about his mouth ; and upon
his brow, which like his face bore signs of weariness,
there were lines which indicated that ennui and grief had
passed that way.

The other person was a man of twenty-eight, a faded
blond, with a very fair complexion, light-blue eyes, a
nose with dilated nostrils, and a large mouth with thick
lips. That assemblage of features did not make what
could be called a handsome man ; but his face exhibited a
constant succession of expressions which enlivened it
wonderfully; it was a combination of gayety, raillery,
cunning, libertinage, indifference, and shrewdness, all
accompanied by most distinguished manners ; and al-
though his costume was a long way from the elegance of
Monsieur de Monfreville's, and although, in fact, certain
parts of his dress were too much neglected, he wore his
soiled and shabby coat with so much ease of manner, he
held his head so straight in his faded cravat, that it was
impossible not to recognize in him a man of birth. His
name was Comte Virgile Darena.

When a clerk entered the private office and announced
that old Jasmin had obeyed the summons that he had re-
ceived, Darena burst out laughing.

" Jasmin ! " he said ; " who in the devil can have such
a name as Jasmin ? Can it be, my dear notary, that you
have clients named Jasmin? Why, that name is only fit
for a stage servant ! "

" No, Monsieur Darena," replied the notary, with a
smile, " this man is a servant in a most excellent family ;


he is one of that race of old retainers such as we used
to see; unfortunately the race is almost extinct in our

" Ah ! he must be an amusing character ; an old
groom, eh, Monf reville ? "

The person to whom this question was addressed barely
smiled as he replied:

" I don't see what there is so amusing in all this ! "

" Oh ! nothing amuses you when you are in one of
your days of humor, as the English say. Well, tell me,
will you buy my little house in Faubourg Saint- Antoine ?
I will sell it to you for thirty thousand francs."

" No, I should blush to accept such an offer. Your
house is worth nearly twice that, and I do not care to
take advantage of your need of money to buy it at a low

" Oh ! mon Dieu ! that isn't the question at all ! If
the bargain is satisfactory to me, why shouldn't you take
advantage of it? I make you the offer before a notary,
and it seems to me that your conscience should be tran-
quil. I don't like the house ; it is occupied by water car-
riers, Savoyards, the commonest of the common peo-
ple! What the devil do you suppose I can do with it?
They move without paying, or else they stay and don't
pay; they insult whoever goes to ask them for money,
or they threaten to beat you ! Such tenants are delight-

" But you have a principal tenant who looks after all
those details."

" No, no, I tell you that I want to sell, that is the
quickest way out of it; it's too much of a nuisance to
me ! And then, there's another inconvenience : if I
have among my tenants a pretty grisette or two, or a
pretty face, why, you understand I give them a receipt


after obtaining, not their money, but something else.
Upon my honor, I am not fitted for a landlord, my heart
is too susceptible ! "

" You are arranging your affairs in such a way that
you won't be a landlord much longer," said the notary,
shaking his head, " you are not reasonable, Monsieur
Darena. Only six years ago your father left you a very
pretty fortune ! "

" Of which I have nothing left but the little house
that I want to sell," said Darena, laughingly. " Well,
that is the fate of all fortunes ; they vanish, but one
constructs another! I am never disturbed, for my part!
Well, Monfreville won't take my house, and so Mon-
sieur d'Hurbain must sell it for me. But pray admit
your old Jasmin ! I am curious to see this fossil ! "

" In whose service is this model retainer ? " asked

" He was in the service of Monsieur le Marquis de
Grandvilain, who died ten or eleven years ago."

" The Marquis de Grandvilain ! " cried Darena, throw-
ing himself into a chair and laughing until the tears
came. " What delicious names they have ! "

" Grandvilain ! " muttered Monfreville, " why, I knew
the old marquis; my father was a friend of his. He
used often to speak of a party at his house, of a display
of fireworks to celebrate the birth of a son ; of a frying-
pan that was thrown into the air, and of saucepan covers
that wounded several people."

" Nonsense ! nonsense ! it is impossible ! Monfreville
is making fun of us ! " said Darena, stretching himself
out in his chair.

" It is all true," replied the notary ; " what Monsieur
de Monfreville says really happened. But the Marquis
de Grandvilain is dead, and so is his wife; nobody


is left now of the old family except a son, who is six-
teen years and a half old, and who already has more than
thirty thousand francs a year; I manage his property.
But his father, obeying a whim, a most incredible piece
of folly, provided that at fifteen years his son was to have
control of his whole fortune, and he left him no guardian
except old Jasmin, his valet de chambre."

Darena straightened up in his chair and assumed a
singular expression, as he exclaimed :

" Thirty thousand francs a year at fifteen ! That de-
serves consideration."

" Was the poor old marquis mad ? " asked Monf reville.

" No, but he was very old when the child was born,
and he wished him to be his own master early in life."

" Pardi ! that doesn't strike me as so foolish, after all ! "
said Darena. " In fact, why shouldn't one be reasonable
at fifteen, when one is so far from it at sixty? But how
does the heir manage his fortune? He is consuming it
doubtless in cakes and marrons glacesf"

" Thank heaven, so far as I know, he has given his
time thus far only to his rhetoric and the humanities.
But it was with a view to learning something about him
that I sent for the faithful Jasmin. With your permis-
sion I will have him come in."

" We beg that you will do so. For my part, I am very
curious to know how this little Grandvilain behaves
himself. Oh! what a devil of a name! But no matter,
I would gladly change with him now, if he would throw
in his father's coin with the name. What do you say,
Monf reville? Oh! you are a philosopher; and besides,
you are rich, which makes philosophy come very easy."

Jasmin's arrival put an end to this conversation. The
old servant bowed low to all the company, then said to
the notary:


" Has monsieur any questions to ask me ? "

" Yes, my dear Jasmin. I want first of all to hear
about our young marquis."

" He's very well, monsieur ; he is in excellent health,
and he's a very fine-looking boy."

" That is well ; and his studies ? "

" Well ! so far as I can learn, monsieur, he seems to
be a great scholar."

" Do you know, Jasmin, that your young master was
sixteen more than six months ago?"

" Oh yes, monsieur, I know it very well."

" Does he know the terms of his father's will ? "

" Why, yes, monsieur."

" I fancy that he is too sensible to think of entering
into possession of his property yet; but for all that, it
is my duty to go to him and render an account of my
administration of it, and to ask him if it is his intention
that I should continue to handle it. Moreover, I have
long desired to see the young marquis, and I do not
propose to postpone that pleasure any longer. At what
college is he ? "

Jasmin opened his eyes in dismay and looked toward
the door.

" Don't you hear me ? " continued the notary. " I ask
you to what college I must go to find Monsieur Cherubin
de Grandvilain ? "

" The model valet seems to me as if he were deaf," said
Darena, laughing at Jasmin's expression; while Mon-
sieur de Monfreville, who had been scrutinizing the old
servant closely, walked toward him and fastening his
eyes upon him, said in a half-serious, half-mocking

" Do you mean that you don't know what you have
done with your young master ? "


" Yes, yes ! " replied Jasmin ; " monsieur le marquis
is at Gagny."

" At Gagny ! Is there a college there ? " demanded the

" Gagny, near Villemonble. Oh ! I know that place,"
said Darena ; " it's a small village ; there are some fine
estates in the neighborhood, but not a restaurant in the
whole region. I went there with two dancers from the
Opera, and we could not even obtain a rabbit stew, the
inevitable dish in the country. But there never was a
college at Gagny; I don't even know of a boarding-
school there."

" Tell us, Monsieur Jasmin," said the notary in a stern
tone, "where is young Grandvilain staying at Gagny?"

The old servant made up his mind and replied with
an almost proud air:

" At his nurse's, monsieur."

At those words the notary was speechless, Monfreville
began to laugh, and Darena rolled about in his chair.

" At his nurse's ! " repeated the notary at last. " Is it
possible, Jasmin, that the young marquis is still at his
nurse's, at sixteeen years and a half ? "

" Yes, monsieur ; but never fear, he is none the less
well educated; I found a teacher for him, the village
schoolmaster, Monsieur Gerondif, who teaches him all
that it is possible to teach."

Darena roared with laughter anew, when he heard the
name of the tutor.

" Educated at his nurse's ! " he cried ; " that is de-
licious; it's a new method, and perhaps it will become
fashionable. I am tempted to return to my nurse my-

" Monsieur Jasmin," said the notary, " I cannot un-
derstand how you can have left your master's son with


peasants up to this time. I consider you very repre-
hensible; you should at least have consulted me."

The old servant, who was sorely vexed, began to shout
at the top of his lungs:

" Monsieur, I am my master's servant! I am not the
man to thwart him and to use force upon him, and it is
not my fault if Monsieur Cherubin does not want to
leave Nicole, his nurse, and his little foster-sister."

" Aha ! so there's a little foster-sister, is there ? I
begin to understand the young man's obstinacy," said
Darena ; " and how old might the foster-sister be ? "

" Two years younger than my young master, about
fourteen and a half."

" And is she pretty ? "

" Why, yes, monsieur, she's a fine slip of a girl."

" Monsieur Jasmin," continued the notary, " things
cannot go on like this; it is my duty to straighten out
this affair; my friendship for the late Monsieur de
Grandvilain imposes that duty upon me, and you too
must understand that a child of a good family, the son
of your former master, ought not to pass his best years
in a village."

" I assure you, monsieur le notaire, that I tell my
master so very often. I say to him : ' You have a house
at Paris, a beautiful apartment with crimson hangings,
solid mahogany furniture, a night table with carved
corners, and the inside of gilded porcelain.' But all that
doesn't tempt him. He turns his back on me and won't

"I should think not!" cried Darena; "the idea of
the old fool expecting to tempt his master with a night
table and all its accessories ! If you wish, Monsieur
d'Hurbain, I will undertake to persuade the young mar-
quis to return to Paris."


" You, Monsieur Darena ; by what means, pray ? "

" That's my business. Will you trust me ? "

" I shall be very much obliged to you if you will
assist me, but I propose to act for myself also. Mon-
sieur de Monfreville, will not you lend us your assistance
too? Won't you go to Gagny with me, as your father
was a friend of the old marquis ? "

" I am very much inclined to join you. Indeed, I am
already trying to think how we can induce the young
man to come back with us; for after all, this is not a
case for resorting to violence. The young man is his
own master, by his father's express desire; and if he
should persist in remaining at his nurse's, we should be
obliged to leave him there."

" But it is impossible that the marquis should not give
way to our arguments, to our entreaties."

" Arguments ! ah ! my dear Monsieur d'Hurbain, I
fancy that we shall need something stronger than argu-
ments to captivate a boy."

" Messieurs," cried Darena, " I suggest a wager. A
magnificent dinner at the Rocher de Cancale, to be given
by two of us to the one who triumphs and who brings
young Cherubin to Paris. Is it a bargain ? "

" With all our hearts."

" When do we start for Gagny ? "

" I will arrange to leave my office at noon to-morrow,
messieurs. Will you call for me ? Shall I expect you ? "

" No," said Monfreville, " let us go each on his own
account; we shall be able to find this nurse's house."

" Nicole Frimousset," said Jasmin ; " a narrow street
leading into the square. Anyone will point out her house."

" Very well," said Darena ; " Nicole Frimousset ; the
names are engraved on my memory. Monfreville is right,
it is better for us to go each on his own hook."


" But take care, messieurs," said the notary ; " if you
delay, you may make the journey for nothing, and I shall
already have started for Paris with Cherubin."

" Oh ! I don't think so," said Monfreville.

" As for me, messieurs, I am a bold player," said
Darena, " and I will give you the start. I will not leave
Paris until a full hour after you, and even so I am sure
that I shall arrive in time."

Jasmin, who was bewildered and somewhat alarmed
by all that he heard, exclaimed with an air of dismay :

" I say, messieurs, I hope that you won't do my young
master any injury in all this; I mean, I hope that you
won't make him unhappy ? "

" Ha ! ha ! ha ! this old fellow is enchanting with his
innocence ! " said Darena. " Never fear, venerable re-
tainer ! We shall employ only pleasant methods ! As for
you, all there is for you to do is to find a way to get
Monsieur Cherubin's little foster-sister out of the way
to-morrow morning. That is indispensable for the suc-
cess of our excursion."

" You hear, Jasmin ? " said the notary. " Remember
that the happiness, the future of your young master is
at stake, and that you will be very blameworthy if you
do not try to help us."

The old servant bowed and went out, saying that he
would obey.

Monfreville and Darena also left the notary's, saying
to each other:

" Until to-morrow, at Gagny."




Jasmin returned to the house utterly upset; the old
servant did not know whether he ought to rejoice or to
grieve; he would be very glad to see his master at
Paris, so that he might be always with him, and serve
him as he had served the old marquis ; but he was afraid
that that would grieve the youth whom he called his dear
child; and he was also afraid that life in Paris would
not be so good for Cherubin's health as life in the village.

While making these reflections, he summoned all the
servants in the house. It will be remembered that Jasmin
had kept all those who had been in the employ of his
former master, and that is why Cherubin's household
consisted entirely of mature persons. The cook had
passed his sixtieth year; the coachman was approaching
his sixty-fifth; there was a little jockey of fifty; and
Mademoiselle Turlurette, who was a child compared with
all the rest, was in her thirty-seventh year, none the less.

" My children," said Jasmin to the servants, " I think
it my duty to inform you that our young master will
come among us to-morrow."

" To-morrow ! " cried Turlurette, with a joyful ex-
clamation ; " is that certain ? "

" It is very certain perhaps. However, arrange
everything so that Monsieur Cherubin will be pleased;
see that everything is rubbed and polished with more care
than ever. Cook, prepare a dainty dinner. Coachman,


let the carriage and horses be ready, in case he should
want to use them. Have flowers placed in the hall, as
on the days when my late master gave a ball."

" Are we going to have a display of fireworks ? " asked
Turlurette in a quizzical tone.

" No, mademoiselle, no, I have had enough of fire-
works ! " replied Jasmin, passing his hand over his face ;
" and unless Monsieur Cherubin orders, not even a rocket
will ever be fired in this courtyard again. But still, we
must see that it is very lively here. By the way, we will
have some music three organ grinders, and as many
violin players, who will be stationed in the courtyard;
they must play their best pieces when our young master
enters the house ; that cannot fail to be agreeable to him."

" Do you want singers too? " asked the old jockey.

" Well ! if you can find any singers, men or women,
it seems to me that they will not do any harm. You

Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 19) → online text (page 7 of 27)