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The works of Charles Paul de Kock, with a general introduction by Jules Claretie (Volume 20) online

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The Works of


With a General Introduction by


Edmond and His Cousin

Translated into English by





Limited to One Thousand Copies


Copyright, 1904, by
The Frederick J. Quinby Company

All rights reserved



Boston , Mass., U. S. A.


The Interior of a Household I

M. Pause 12

Freaks of Fortune 29


The Bringuesingue Family. A Grand Dinner . 44

A Proposition. Self-Sacrifice 62

Marriage 81

Petit-Trick the Breton 108

A Country Excursion 147

The Slides of a Magic Lantern 177




The Grisettes 184

The Two Husbands 193

Wat Tyler 200

A Little Innocent Game 209

The Husbands 212


The greatest happiness a grisette can ex-

(See page 192) Frontispiece

Photogravure from original drawing by William Glackens.



Photogravure from original drawing by William Glackens.

He knelt beside Constance's bed .... 105

Photogravure from original drawing by William Glackens.

" Papa, carry me — take me up in your arms " 226

Photogravure from original drawing by William Glackens.


The Interior of a Household

Some people are in the habit of doubting every-
thing, many others turn everything into ridicule, and
a very great number consider themselves qualified
to understand and judge of everything. It is con-
venient to doubt, for then one need not investi-
gate. Thus I have seen a good many people shrug
their shoulders when people spoke to them of the
distance of the sun from the earth; they answered
that no one had been able to go to the sun and ascer-
tain this and, starting from this principle, they re-
fused to believe in astronomy. The sect of the
Pyrrhoneans is numerous, " Plus negare potest
asinus quam probare philosophus."

To turn everything into ridicule is still easier.
By Jove ! it is by making game of others that so
many people in the world gain a reputation for
wit. Poor wit that, of which the shallowest brain
has always enough and to spare. There is a ridic-
ulous side to everything if one wishes to look for
it ; even the sublime is not exempt (above all the
sublimity of our epoch). If you like you can find
something to ridicule as you witness the represen-
tation of a masterpiece of art, as you also can in

Vol. XX t


listening to an academic discourse; nothing is
necessary but the disposition.

Then, finally, there are people who are doubt-
ful of nothing ; that is to say, who believe them-
selves to possess capacity, talent, a vocation for
anything and everything. That which they do
not know is that which they did not take the
trouble of learning, but it was only for them to
set themselves to it and they would have excelled
anyone at it ; that which they do not do is that
which they do not care to take the trouble to do;
for, I repeat, they possess innate knowledge, they
have genius for anything, they could make gold
— if they wished to make it. In the mean time,
they will borrow a crown of you, because ordina-
rily those people who know how to do everything
cannot find a way of earning their living.

To what does this preamble tend ? you wish
me to tell you, perhaps ? Well, it means that
M. Edmond Guerval, the young man whose his-
tory I am about to relate to you, comes under the
last head in the category I have cited to you. But,
before making him better known to you, permit
me to transport you into a small apartment situ-
ated on the fourth floor in a rather handsome
house in the Faubourg Poissoniere.

There, in a room which served at the same time
tor a sitting-room and bedroom and furnished
very simply, but with a good taste that announced
order and easy circumstances, three persons were


seated about a round table on which was a lamp
covered with a shade, for it was evening in the
winter season. I had a desire to inform you, like
the watchmen, as to the hour and the weather.

First of all, there was a young person of twenty
or thereabouts, a pretty brunette with soft black
eyes (which is not incompatible), whose features,
without being really regular, had an expression
which pleased and attracted immediately. Her
hair, carefully and prettily arranged, fell in great
curls at each side of her face but left exposed a
high white brow, which indicated a mind in which
duplicity and falsehood could never find a place.
This young girl was named Constance ; she was
the cousin of that Edmond Guerval whom I have
iust told you of.

Near Constance sat another young lady with
her hair drawn, in the Chinese fashion, back from
her face. Picture to yourself one of those ani-
mated and bright faces on which a smile is always
in evidence ; a medium-sized but pleasing mouth,
small but mischievous eyes, a nose small rather
than well-cut, in fact, a comical rather than a pretty
face, and you will have a portrait of Pelagie, a
friend and neighbor of Constance.

The third person was a young man of twenty-
five to twenty-six years, rather ugly and deeply
pitted by the smallpox, whose nose was too big,
his forehead too low, his eyes too light, but who
redeemed these disadvantages by an expression of


timidity which is not common nowadays in young

This young man, whose attire was decent but
very simple, without a suspicion of fashion, was
seated beside the fire reading to the young ladies,
who were employed with their needlework, —

" ' In the midst of the forest was an old chapel,
fast falling into ruin, which the crows, the owls
and the bats had long made their favorite dwelling,
the valiant Adhemar —

" Good gracious ! M. Ginguet, how badly you
read!" said Mademoiselle Pelagie ; "you go on
and on — you mix it all up till no one can under-
stand anything."

" However, I pause at the periods and at the


" I don't know whether it was the owls or the
valiant Adhemar who had taken up their dwell-
ing in the old chapel — "

" I'll begin again, mademoiselle, ' Which the
crows, the owls and the bats had long made their
favorite dwelling — ' a period. 'The valiant Ad-
hemar did not fear to penetrate into the midst of
these ruins at the hour of midnight — ' '

" You would not have had the courage to do
so, M. Ginguet ! "

" Why do you think that, mademoiselle ? '
" Because I believe you are rather timid."
" Mademoiselle, I am not a blusterer, a crazy
fellow, it is true ; but I beg you to believe that if


it were a question of defending you, of protecting
you from danger, nothing would deter me."

" Meanwhile, you have to have some one hold
a light for you to come up the staircase when you
have forgotten your cane."

" That is because the staircase up to the first
floor is so highly waxed and polished that I am
always afraid of falling."

" Oh, that is correct ; when one can see it clearly
it becomes less slippery. Ha, ha, ha ! But please
go on."

" ' Into the midst of these ruins at the hour of
midnight. The moon was then shining in all her
brilliance, and her reflections created a thousand
fantastic objects which — ' "

" What have I done with my needle ? I had it
just now. It's a real English one and I prize it."

" Do you want me to look on the ground,
mademoiselle ? "

"Oh, wait! here it is. How stupid I am, it
was right beside my work."

" ' A thousand fantastic objects which would
have frightened any other than a noble and stain-
less knight — ' "

" Come, it's my thimble now. Good gracious !
how unfortunate I am this evening. I must find
it — my little ivory thimble — or somebody will
step on it and crush it, and it was a present from
my uncle, who doesn't often give me one. Oh,
here it is, it was on my knees. Well, why don't


you go on, M. Ginguet? You stop every minute.
How do you think I can understand what you

" ' Than a noble and stainless knight whose
valor had never been denied. But young Adhe-
mar, drawing his sword out of its scabbard —

" How stupid ! if he draws his sword at all, it
is quite clear that he must draw it out of the scab-
bard. It was you who added that, M. Ginguet."

" No, mademoiselle, I added nothing ; if you
will take the trouble to look at it, you will see
that I did not."

"It's needless; go on."

" ' Out of its scabbard, unhesitatingly entered the
gloomy vaulted precincts of the old chapel, crush-
ing beneath his feet the flagstones rotted by time.'

" Tell me now, Constance, does this book amuse
you? I think it has neither end nor interest; I
like the * Petit-Poucet ' or the c Peau d* Ane ' much
better, and then M. Ginguet reads in such a monot-
onous way. It sounds to me like an old blindman's

Up to this time Constance had remained quiet,
leaving her young friend Pelagie to tease M. Gin-
guet ; she had paid little attention to the reading,
but instead had often turned her eyes towards a
small clock on the mantelpiece, which had just
sounded the half hour after nine.

Constance felt disappointed as the evening wore
on without the arrival of her cousin Edmond, for


the young girl dearly loved him. Constance had
been, so to speak, brought up with Edmond ; their
mothers were sisters and both became widowed
when very young ; they had vowed never to marry
again, but to devote themselves to the education
of their respective children.

The two sisters had lived together, and their
sweetest hope had been that Edmond and Con-
stance, who was only four years younger than her
cousin, should be one day united in marriage.

Everything seemed to indicate that this union
would be for the happiness of the two children ;
they loved each other as brother and sister, and as
they grew up it was to be presumed that a ten-
derer love would usurp the place of the fraternal
friendship. As to the monetary considerations,
they were all that was desirable ; each sister had
the same fortune in the funds, which she intended
to leave entirely to her child. These ladies had
seen the " Deux Gendres " and " Pere Goreot,"
but that did not change their resolutions ; good
mothers never believe in the ingratitude of their
children, and they were right. It is so sweet to
count on the love and gratitude of those we cher-
ish. Besides, ungrateful children are not natural,
they are the exception.

But fate, which is always right, or so say our
friends the optimists, did not permit these two
good mothers to live to realize the plan which they
had formed. Madame Guervnl died just as her


son had attained his eighteenth year, and Edmond
remained with his aunt and cousin, whose loving
care softened the bitterness of his grief; but in the
following year Constance also lost her mother, and
the poor children were thus both orphaned.

Edmond was nineteen, Constance was sixteen ;
they were still too young to marry. Besides, one
must wear mourning for one's mother ; but as it
would not have been proper that the young peo-
ple should continue to live together, Constance,
immediately after her mother's death, went to live
with M. Pause, Pelagie's uncle.

M. Pause was a musician of the third order ; he
had played the 'cello since he was ten years old,
and he was now fifty-five, but he had never been
able to read anything at sight except in the key of
F ; he loved music passionately, and played his in-
strument as if he loved that; however, he played
very indifferently, never in time, but regularly fol-
lowing behind the others. M. Pause was an ex-
cellent man, a model of promptitude ; he always
arrived before his time at the theatre where he was
employed, was never fined, and showed no ill-
humor when they made him begin the same piece
five or six times over at the rehearsals. All these
qualities had won him the esteem of his chiefs and
had caused them to excuse his inferior talent.

M. Pause was not rich. Though in this century
music has made great progress and threatens to
invade the public squares as well as the gardens,


one does not earn high wages by playing the 'cello
in a theatre where they give melodramas. Some
lessons which M. Pause gave in the morning aug-
mented his income but slightly, for his pupils had
the habit of leaving him as soon as they could
manage to read at sight themselves. Despite that,
the poor musician, who was as methodical in his
household as he was prompt at the theatre, lived in
happiness and contentment with his niece Pelagie,
the lively little girl you have seen working beside
her friend and teasing M. Ginguet, a young clerk
at the Treasury and an honest fellow, whose good-
humor bordered a little on simplicity and who was
desperately in love with the 'cello player's niece.

M. Pause had sometimes gone with his niece to
see the two widows and their children. Constance
and Pelagie were on very intimate terms; in youth
one so quickly grows attached — and there are
some people who keep this habit all their lives.

Constance had often heard her mother praise
M. Pause's upright character and excellent heart,
and when she had lost her she thought she could
not do better than to go and ask for shelter and
protection from this old friend of her family.
Pelagie's uncle joyfully welcomed the young or-
phan ; he would have received her even had Con-
stance come to be a charge on him ; but the young
girl, who had a modest competence, would not
enter the poor musician's house until he had con-
sented to receive payment, which she regulated


herself; in this way Constance's presence in Pause's
house made things more easy, and at the same time
she brought many pleasures to it.

At the time we begin this history, Constance
had already been for three years and a half an in-
mate of M. Pause's dwelling; young Edmond had
attained his twenty-fourth year, and nothing stood
in the way of his union with his pretty cousin, who
was over nineteen and knew all that was necessary
to make an excellent housewife.

Why, then, had this union not taken place, since
no obstacle stood in the way of these young peo-
ple's happiness ? It was probably because not the
slightest impediment came in the way of his love
that Edmond was in no hurry to be happy. It
seems that men attach no value to that which they
obtain without trouble ; let an end be easily at-
tained, and you will see how few competitors seek
to arrive there. Thus Edmond, quite sure of his
cousin's love, quite sure that as soon as he wished
she would give him her hand, always deferred this
union, which had been so greatly desired by both
their mothers.

It is necessary to tell you that on coming into
possession of the modest fortune which his mother
had left him while still quite young, Edmond, not
knowing yet what career he should enter and be-
lieving himself capable of success in all that he
undertook, had already tried several professions, but
his changeable disposition and his versatile mind


had caused him soon to abandon them. How-
ever, before marrying his cousin he insisted that
he must have a position, a fortune and even fame
to offer her, and it was because he had not yet
acquired all these that he put off the time of his

You know now the persons with whom you will
have most to do. Let us now return to the round
table, to listen to the end of their conversation.


M. Pause

Constance had not answered her cousin's ques-
tion, so preoccupied had she been in thinking of

" Constance, at least, is very fortunate, for while
M. Ginguet was reading she had something else
to think of, so she did not listen. If he had read
the ' Moniteur ' she would have thought he was
still reading the * Mysteries de la Tour du Sud.'
Ah, that is what it is to have a cousin who is
going to marry us."

" A cousin ! " said Constance, blushing and awak-
ening from her revery. "Yes, that is true — I
think Edmond is very late this evening."

" Oh, I was sure you were thinking of him.
You love him so much."

" I cannot deny that ; my mother betrothed me
to Edmond, and often told me how much I ought
to love him, because he would one day be my
protector, my husband."

" And he is a very fortunate young man ! " mut-
tered Ginguet, taking the tongs to poke the fire.

"What do you say, M. Ginguet?" demanded
Pelagie,with a mischievous look.


" Me ! nothing at all, mademoiselle, I am at-
tending to the fire."

" But when is the wedding to come off, Con-
stance ? I shall be delighted to dance at it. I am
to be maid of honor, you know, and my dress is
already settled on. It will be charming too."

" Then I hope they will have me for the best
man," said Ginguet timidly, not daring to look at
Mademoiselle Pelagie.

" That's all right, M. Ginguet, we shall see, we
will think of it, but don't weary us in advance with
your demands. In the first place, as maid of honor,
I shall arrange all that. Constance has promised.
Your marriage is fixed for next month, isn't it ? '

"Why — that will depend on Edmond."

" It's very singular that your future husband
should not evince more eagerness ; were I in your
place, I should say to him, * Cousin, if you don't
wish to marry me, tell me so frankly.'

" Why, Pelagie ! what an idea ! can I suppose
that my cousin no longer loves me ? What does
it matter when our marriage takes place ? so long
as I know that some day I shall be his wife, I am
happy — "

As she said these words the young girl stifled a
sigh, but after a moment she resumed, —

"Edmond wishes to have an honorable position
in the world, but he does not yet quite know what
profession he ought to adopt. The desire to ac-
quire renown, to hear his name coupled with praise,


troubles him and preoccupies him incessantly. I
cannot wish that he should do otherwise than seek
to acquire an honorable rank in society, although
I do not think that glory adds to happiness. In
the first place, you know he has a great taste for
music — he is studying composition, he wants to
be a Boieldieu, a Rossini."

" Yes, and all that he has accomplished in that
direction is a waltz which he has published and in
which my uncle says there are some pretty bars."

"As for me, I never have been able to play his
waltz on my flute," said M. Ginguet; "it's sur-
prising how difficult it is."

"Because you never play in time! Ah, M. Gin-
guet ! you could never compose a waltz."

" Mademoiselle, a fortnight ago I composed a
little galop that I should like to dedicate to you."

"A little galop! That must be pretty! In
fact your cousin has abandoned music for poetry.
He has composed a comedy in three acts, and in
verse. It is very fine."

" By Jove ! how he was hissed. What a racket
there was the day it was put on the stage ! " mut-
tered Ginguet, still fiddling with the fire and failing
to notice Pelagie's efforts to silence him.

" My cousin was not fortunate at the theatre,"
said Constance, sighing, "and I don't think he has
any desire to try it again."

" Why, what can you expect ? no one is success-
ful at the very outset. But he must have some


intellect to be able to write a comedy at all — even
if it did fail. M. Ginguet, I suppose you have
never made a verse in your life ? "

" Pardon me, mademoiselle, I composed a song
for my aunt's birthday to the tune of ' Grenadier,
que tu m'affliges ! ' There are eight couplets."

"That must be funny ! You must sing it to
me some evening when I want to go to sleep."

"Just now Edmond is enraptured with paint-
ing," said Constance ; " he is finishing a picture
which he is going to send to the exposition."

" Is it an historical picture, mademoiselle? " in-
quired M. Ginguet, at length relinquishing the

" Oh, no, monsieur, it is a genre picture."

" Good gracious, M. Ginguet, you ask questions
that are devoid of all common sense. Do you
suppose that M. Edmond, who has only been
studying painting for a short time, can paint an his-
torical picture at the very outset?"

" By Jove, mademoiselle, I have a little nephew
who is only nine years old, and he's drawing
Brutus and Epaminondas every day of his life ; it
isn't more difficult to copy M. Dabuffe's * Sou-
venirs ' and ' Regrets.'"

" Do hold your tongue, M. Ginguet ; you make
me sick talking like that ! One can tell very well
that you never learned drawing."

"You are mistaken, mademoiselle, I have been
taking lessons for six months, and I can already


draw windmills very passably indeed. Would you
like me to go on reading ? "

" No, don't you see we are talking; cut out the
scallops of this embroidery for me, but be very care-
ful not to cut into a notch."

" Be assured that I will use the utmost care,

M. Ginguet took the embroidery and the scis-
sors and began to cut without lifting his eyes for
fear of committing some awkwardness.

" If my cousin's picture is not received at the
Salon," said Constance, " I am sure that he will
abandon painting as he has abandoned music and

"What can you expect? — he is seeking his vo-
cation; he would like to do everything, and that is
impossible. He has a great deal of talent but
hardly any perseverance, that cousin of yours."

" A rolling stone gathers no moss," said M. Gin-
guet in an undertone, as he industriously continued
to snip.

"That's all very well, M. Ginguet, we shall see
how much moss vou gather ; you've been in an
office for seven years, I believe, and you are still
a supernumerary."

" Mademoiselle, it is because they don't do right
by me — everything goes by favor ; but I shall get
there, never fear."

" Yes, if you keep on, in fifteen years or so
they'll make you an office boy."


" Oh, mademoiselle — "

" Take care, monsieur, or you'll cut one of my

" You meant to say I should be chief of the
office, didn't you ? "

Pelagie began to laugh and at that moment
somebody rang the door bell. Constance's face
expanded, for she did not doubt that it was her
cousin ; but the young girl's joy was of short

It was a little fat, thickset, inflated man, having
in the middle of his face a little bump with two
openings which was supposed to be a nose, and
beneath that a great expanse of mouth, stopped
happily by his ears; which with great, goggle eyes
and bristly hair, which grew almost up to his eye-
brows, united in making his face one of the fun-
niest that any one ever saw even in the " Dantan "

This little man was honest M. Pause, Pelagie's
uncle, amost intrepid performeron the 'cello (which
does not mean that he was the best), who had come
from his theatre much earlier than was his custom.

M. Ginguet left his scallops for a moment to
greet M. Pause respectfully and to yield to him his
place beside the fire.

"What, is it you, M. Pause?" said Constance;
" why, it is barely ten o'clock, and ordinarily your
theatre is not closed so soon."

"That is true, my dear, but this evening we had

Vol. xx


a new piece in three acts and the public wanted to
hear only two, which necessarily shortened the

" So the piece was a failure, uncle ? ,:

"Yes, my dearest."

" Was it so very bad?" inquired Ginguet, with-
out taking his eyes from his scallops.

"Bad — why, that depends; there were some
pretty things — above all in the parts for the
orchestra ; as for that, they are to give it again to-
morrow, and the director has said that it will go."

" Go where ? "

" Why, make a hit ; be carried to success by a
storm of applause. That's what would have hap-
pened today if they would have given the whole
body of the house to the author, as is the habitual
practice with the plays of our great modern men,
who do not wish that a single ticket should be paid
for on the occasion of a first presentation of one
of their plays ; because at a first presentation
everybody should be acquainted, which would
ensure general enthusiasm. But yesterday the
manager had the weakness to want to take in some

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