Rabourdin's bureau was during
his absence a prey to the keenest
excitement; for the relation
between the head officials and
the clerks in a government office
is so regulated that, when a
minister's messenger summons
the head of a bureau to his Excellency's
presence (above all at the latter's
breakfast hour), there is no
end to the comments that are
made. The fact that the present
unusual summons followed so closely
on the death of Monsieur de la
Billardiere seemed to give special
importance to the circumstance,
which was made known to Monsieur
Saillard, who came at once to
confer with Baudoyer. Bixiou,
who happened at the moment to
be at work with the latter, left
him to converse with his father-in-law
and betook himself to the bureau
Rabourdin, where the usual routine
was of course interrupted.
Bixiou [entering]. "I
thought I should find you at
heat! Don't you know what's going
on down below? The virtuous woman
is done for! yes, done for, crushed!
Terrible scene at the ministry!"
fixedly at him]. "Are you telling
who would regret it? Not you,
certainly, for you
will be made under-head-clerk
and du Bruel head of the bureau.
Monsieur Baudoyer gets the division."
bet a hundred francs that Baudoyer
be head of the division."
join in the bet; will you,
retire in January."
it possible? are we to lose
the sight of those
shoe-ties? What will the ministry
be without you? Will nobody take
up the bet on my side?"
can't, for I know the facts.
is appointed. Monsieur de la
Billardiere requested it of the
two ministers on his death-bed,
blaming himself for having taken
the emoluments of an office of
which Rabourdin did all the work;
he felt remorse of conscience,
and the ministers, to quiet him,
promised to appoint Rabourdin
unless higher powers intervened."
Bixiou. "Gentlemen, are you
all against me? seven to one,--for
I know which side you'll take,
Monsieur Phellion. Well, I'll
bet a dinner costing five hundred
francs at the Rocher de Cancale
that Rabourdin does not get La
Billardiere's place. That will
cost you only a hundred francs
each, and I'm risking five hundred,--five
to one against me! Do you take
it up?" [Shouting into the next
room.] "Du Bruel, what say you?"
down his pen]. "Monsieur,
may I ask on what you base that
contingent proposal?--for contingent
it is. But stay, I am wrong to
call it a proposal; I should
say contract. A wager constitutes
no; you can only apply the
word 'contract' to
agreements that are recognized
in the Code. Now the Code allows
of no action for the recovery
of a bet."
a thing and you recognize it."
my little man."
when one refuses to pay one's
debts, that's recognizing
would make famous lawyers."
am as curious as Monsieur Phellion
to know what
grounds Monsieur Bixiou has for--"
across the office]. "Du Bruel!
Will you bet?"
Du Bruel [appearing
at the door]. "Heavens and
earth, gentlemen, I'm very
busy; I have something
very difficult to do; I've got
to write an obituary notice of
Monsieur de la Billardiere. I
do beg you to be quiet; you can
laugh and bet afterwards."
true, du Bruel; the praise
of an honest man is
a very difficult thing to write.
I'd rather any day draw a caricature
Du Bruel. "Do
come and help me, Bixiou."
willing; though I can do such
things much better when eating."
Du Bruel. "Well, we will go
and dine together afterwards.
But listen, this is what I have
written" [reads] "'The Church
and the Monarchy are daily losing
many of those who fought for
them in Revolutionary times.'"
Bixiou. "Bad, very bad; why
don't you say, 'Death carries
on its ravages amongst the few
surviving defenders of the monarchy
and the old and faithful servants
of the King, whose heart bleeds
under these reiterated blows?'" [Du
Bruel writes rapidly.] "'Monsieur
le Baron Flamet de la Billardiere
died this morning of dropsy,
caused by heart disease.' You
see, it is just as well to show
there are hearts in government
offices; and you ought to slip
in a little flummery about the
emotions of the Royalists during
the Terror,--might be useful,
hey! But stay,--no! the petty
papers would be sure to say the
emotions came more from the stomach
than the heart. Better leave
that out. What are you writing
Du Bruel [reading]. "'Issuing
from an old parliamentary stock
in which devotion to the throne
was hereditary, as was also attachment
to the faith of our fathers,
Monsieur de la Billardiere--'"
say Monsieur le Baron de la
Du Bruel. "But
he wasn't baron in 1793."
Bixiou. "No matter. Don't you
remember that under the Empire
Fouche was telling an anecdote
about the Convention, in which
he had to quote Robespierre,
and he said, 'Robespierre called
out to me, "Duc d'Otrante, go
to the Hotel de Ville."' There's
a precedent for you!"
Du Bruel. "Let
me just write that down; I
can use it in a
vaudeville. --But to go back
to what we were saying. I don't
want to put 'Monsieur le baron,'
because I am reserving his honors
till the last, when they rained
very good; that's theatrical,--the
finale of the
Du Bruel [continuing]. "'In
appointing Monsieur de la Billardiere
Du Bruel. "'--of
the Bedchamber, the King rewarded
not only the
services rendered by the Provost,
who knew how to harmonize the
severity of his functions with
the customary urbanity of the
Bourbons, but the bravery of
the Vendean hero, who never bent
the knee to the imperial idol.
He leaves a son, who inherits
his loyalty and his talents.'"
you think all that is a little
I should tone down the poetry.
'Imperial idol!' 'bent the knee!'
damn it, my dear fellow, writing
vaudevilles has ruined your style;
you can't come down to pedestrial
prose. I should say, 'He belonged
to the small number of those
who.' Simplify, simplify! the
man himself was a simpleton."
Du Bruel. "That's
vaudeville, if you like! You
would make your
fortune at the theatre, Bixiou."
Bixiou. "What have you said
about Quiberon?" [Reads over
du Bruel's shoulder.] "Oh, that
won't do! Here, this is what
you must say: 'He took upon himself,
in a book recently published,
the responsibility for all the
blunders of the expedition to
Quiberon,--thus proving the nature
of his loyalty, which did not
shrink from any sacrifice.' That's
clever and witty, and exalts
Du Bruel. "At
as a priest in a pulpit]. "Why,
Hoche and Tallien, of course;
Du Bruel. "No.
I subscribed to the Baudouin
series, but I've
never had time to open a volume;
one can't find matter for vaudevilles
the door]. "We
all want to know, Monsieur Bixiou,
what made you think that the
worthy and honorable Monsieur
Rabourdin, who has so long done
the work of this division for
Monsieur de la Billardiere,--he,
who is the senior head of all
the bureaus, and whom, moreover,
the minister summoned as soon
as he heard of the departure
of the late Monsieur de la Billardiere,--will
not be appointed head of the
Phellion, you know geography?"
should say so!"
fixedly at him]. "Your diamond
pin is loose, it is coming
out. Well, you may
know all that, but you don't
know the human heart; you have
gone no further in the geography
and history of that organ than
you have in the environs of the
city of Paris."
of Paris? I thought they were
talking of Monsieur Rabourdin."
that bet? Does the entire bureau
Bruel, do you count in?"
Du Bruel. "Of
course I do. We want Rabourdin
to go up a
step and make room for others."
Bixiou. "Well, I accept the
bet,--for this reason; you can
hardly understand it, but I'll
tell it to you all the same.
It would be right and just to
appoint Monsieur Rabourdin" [looking
full at Dutocq], "because, in
that case, long and faithful
service, honor, and talent would
be recognized, appreciated, and
properly rewarded. Such an appointment
is in the best interests of the
administration." [Phellion, Poiret,
and Thuillier listen stupidly,
with the look of those who try
to peer before them in the darkness.] "Well,
it is just because the promotion
would be so fitting, and because
the man has such merit, and because
the measure is so eminently wise
and equitable that I bet Rabourdin
will not be appointed. Yes, you'll
see, that appointment will slip
up, just like the invasion from
Boulogne, and the march to Russia,
for the success of which a great
genius has gathered together
all the chances. It will fail
as all good and just things do
fail in this low world. I am
only backing the devil's game."
Du Bruel. "Who
do you think will be appointed?"
more I think about Baudoyer,
the more sure I feel
that he unites all the opposite
qualities; therefore I think
he will be the next head of this
Monsieur des Lupeaulx, who
sent for me to borrow my
Charlet, told me positively that
Monsieur Rabourdin was appointed,
and that the little La Billardiere
would be made Clerk of the Seals."
Bixiou. "Appointed, indeed!
The appointment can't be made
and signed under ten days. It
will certainly not be known before
New-Year's day. There he goes
now across the courtyard; look
at him, and say if the virtuous
Rabourdin looks like a man in
the sunshine of favor. I should
say he knows he's dismissed." [Fleury
rushes to the window.] "Gentlemen,
adieu; I'll go and tell Monsieur
Baudoyer that I hear from you
that Rabourdin is appointed;
it will make him furious, the
pious creature! Then I'll tell
him of our wager, to cool him
down,--a process we call at the
theatre turning the Wheel of
Fortune, don't we, du Bruel?
Why do I care who gets the place?
simply because if Baudoyer does
he will make me under-head-clerk" [goes
Poiret. "Everybody says that
man is clever, but as for me,
I can never understand a word
he says" [goes on copying]. "I
listen and listen; I hear words,
but I never get at any meaning;
he talks about the environs of
Paris when he discusses the human
heart and" [lays down his pen
and goes to the stove] "declares
he backs the devil's game when
it is a question of Russia and
Boulogne; now what is there so
clever in that, I'd like to know?
We must first admit that the
devil plays any game at all,
and then find out what game;
possibly dominoes" [blows his
Fleury [interrupting]. "Pere
Poiret is blowing his nose; it
must be eleven o'clock."
Du Bruel. "So
it is! Goodness! I'm off to
the secretary; he
wants to read the obituary."
was I saying?"
the devil plays dominoes." [Sebastien
enters to gather up the different
papers and circulars for signature.]
there you are, my fine young
man. Your days
of hardship are nearly over;
you'll get a post. Monsieur Rabourdin
will be appointed. Weren't you
at Madame Rabourdin's last night?
Lucky fellow! they say that really
superb women go there."
they? I didn't know."
don't like to look at what
I ought not to see."
Phellion [delighted]. "Well
said, young man!"
devil! well, you looked at
Madame Rabourdin enough,
any how; a charming woman."
thin as a rail. I saw her in
the Tuileries, and
I much prefer Percilliee, the
ballet-mistress, Castaing's victim."
has an actress to do with the
wife of a government
both play comedy."
askance at Dutocq]. "The physical
has nothing to do with the
moral, and if
you all want to know which
of us will really
be made head of this bureau?"
Madame Colleville has taken
the shortest way to
it-- through the sacristy."
am too much Colleville's friend
not to beg you, Monsieur
Fleury, to speak respectfully
of his wife."
defenceless woman should never
be made the subject
of conversation here--"
the more because the charming
won't invite Fleury to her house.
He backbites her in revenge."
may not receive me on the same
footing that she
does Thuillier, but I go there--"
how?--under her windows?"
Though Fleury was dreaded as
a bully in all the offices, he
received Thuillier's speech in
silence. This meekness, which
surprised the other clerks, was
owing to a certain note for two
hundred francs, of doubtful value,
which Thuillier agreed to pass
over to his sister. After this
skirmish dead silence prevailed.
They all wrote steadily from
one to three o'clock. Du Bruel
did not return.
About half-past three the usual
preparations for departure, the
brushing of hats, the changing
of coats, went on in all the
ministerial offices. That precious
thirty minutes thus employed
served to shorten by just so
much the day's labor. At this
hour the over- heated rooms cool
off; the peculiar odor that hangs
about the bureaus evaporates;
silence is restored. By four
o'clock none but a few clerks
who do their duty conscientiously
remain. A minister may know who
are the real workers under him
if he will take the trouble to
walk through the divisions after
four o'clock,--a species of prying,
however, that no one of his dignity
would condescend to.
heads of divisions and bureaus
each other in the courtyards
at this hour and exchanged opinions
on the events of the day. On
this occasion they departed by
twos and threes, most of them
agreeing in favor of Rabourdin;
while the old stagers, like Monsieur
Clergeot, shook their heads and
said, "Habent sua sidera lites." Saillard
and Baudoyer were politely avoided,
for nobody knew what to say to
them about La Billardiere's death,
it being fully understood that
Baudoyer wanted the place, though
it was certainly not due to him.
and his son-in-law had gone
a certain distance from
the ministry the former broke
silence and said: "Things look
badly for you, my poor Baudoyer."
"I can't understand," replied
the other, "what Elisabeth was
dreaming of when she sent Godard
in such a hurry to get a passport
for Falleix; Godard tells me
she hired a post-chaise by the
advice of my uncle Mitral, and
that Falleix has already started
for his own part of the country."
"Some matter connected with
our business," suggested Saillard.
"Our most pressing business
just now is to look after Monsieur
La Billardiere's place," returned
They were just then near the
entrance of the Palais-Royal
on the rue Saint-Honore. Dutocq
came up, bowing, and joined them.
"Monsieur," he said to Baudoyer, "if
I can be useful to you in any
way under the circumstances in
which you find yourself, pray
command me, for I am not less
devoted to your interests than
"Such an assurance is at least
consoling," replied Baudoyer; "it
makes me aware that I have the
confidence of honest men."
"If you would
kindly employ your influence
to get me placed
in your division, taking Bixiou
as head of the bureau and me
as under-head- clerk, you will
secure the future of two men
who are ready to do anything
for your advancement."
"Are you making fun of us,
monsieur?" asked Saillard, staring
at him stupidly.
"Far be it from me to do that," said
Dutocq. "I have just come from
the printing-office of the ministerial
journal (where I carried from
the general-secretary an obituary
notice of Monsieur de la Billardiere),
and I there read an article which
will appear to-night about you,
which has given me the highest
opinion of your character and
talents. If it is necessary to
crush Rabourdin, I'm in a position
to give him the final blow; please
to remember that."
"May I be shot if I understand
a single word of it," said Saillard,
looking at Baudoyer, whose little
eyes were expressive of stupid
bewilderment. "I must buy the
When the two reached home and
entered the salon on the ground-floor,
they found a large fire lighted,
and Madame Saillard, Elisabeth,
Monsieur Gaudron and the curate
of Saint-Paul's sitting by it.
The curate turned at once to
Monsieur Baudoyer, to whom Elisabeth
made a sign which he failed to
"Monsieur," said the curate, "I
have lost no time in coming in
person to thank you for the magnificent
gift with which you have adorned
my poor church. I dared not run
in debt to buy that beautiful
monstrance, worthy of a cathedral.
You, who are one of our most
pious and faithful parishioners,
must have keenly felt the bareness
of the high altar. I am on my
way to see Monseigneur the coadjutor,
and he will, I am sure, send
you his own thanks later."
"I have done nothing as yet--" began
"Monsieur le cure," interposed
his wife, cutting him short. "I
see I am forced to betray the
whole secret. Monsieur Baudoyer
hopes to complete the gift by
sending you a dais for the coming
Fete-Dieu. But the purchase must
depend on the state of our finances,
and our finances depend on my
"God will reward those who
honor him," said Monsieur Gaudron,
preparing, with the curate, to
"But will you not," said Saillard
to the two ecclesiastics, "do
us the honor to take pot luck
"You can stay, my dear vicar," said
the curate to Gaudron; "you know
I am engaged to dine with the
curate of Saint-Roch, who, by
the bye, is to bury Monsieur
de la Billardiere to-morrow."
"Monsieur le cure de Saint-Roch
might say a word for us," began
Baudoyer. His wife pulled the
skirt of his coat violently.
"Do hold your tongue, Baudoyer," she
said, leading him aside and whispering
in his ear. "You have given a
monstrance to the church, that
cost five thousand francs. I'll
explain it all later."
The miserly Baudoyer make a
sulky grimace, and continued
gloomy and cross for the rest
of the day.
"What did you busy yourself
about Falleix's passport for?
Why do you meddle in other people's
affairs?" he presently asked
"I must say, I think Falleix's
affairs are as much ours as his," returned
Elisabeth, dryly, glancing at
her husband to make him notice
Monsieur Gaudron, before whom
he ought to be silent.
"Certainly, certainly," said
old Saillard, thinking of his
"I hope you reached the newspaper
office in time?" remarked Elisabeth
to Monsieur Gaudron, as she helped
him to soup.
"Yes, my dear lady," answered
the vicar; "when the editor read
the little article I gave him,
written by the secretary of the
Grand Almoner, he made no difficulty.
He took pains to insert it in
a conspicuous place. I should
never have thought of that; but
this young journalist has a wide-awake
mind. The defenders of religion
can enter the lists against impiety
without disadvantage at the present
moment, for there is a great
deal of talent in the royalist
press. I have every reason to
believe that success will crown
your hopes. But you must remember,
my dear Baudoyer, to promote
Monsieur Colleville; he is an
object of great interest to his
Eminence; in fact, I am desired
to mention him to you."
"If I am head of the division,
I will make him head of one of
my bureaus, if you want me to," said
The matter thus referred to
was explained after dinner, when
the ministerial organ (bought
and sent up by the porter) proved
to contain among its Paris news
the following articles, called
Baron de la Billardiere died
this morning, after a long
and painful illness. The king
loses a devoted servant, the
Church a most pious son. Monsieur
de la Billardiere's end has fitly
crowned a noble life, consecrated
in dark and troublesome times
to perilous missions, and of
late years to arduous civic duties.
Monsieur de la Billardiere was
provost of a department, where
his force of character triumphed
over all the obstacles that rebellion
arrayed against him. He subsequently
accepted the difficult post of
director of a division (in which
his great acquirements were not
less useful than the truly French
affability of his manners) for
the express purpose of conciliating
the serious interests that arise
under its administration. No
rewards have ever been more truly
deserved than those by which
the King, Louis XVIII., and his
present Majesty took pleasure
in crowning a loyalty which never
faltered under the usurper. This
old family still survives in
the person of a single heir to
the excellent man whose death
now afflicts so many warm friends.
His Majesty has already graciously
made known that Monsieur Benjamin
de la Billardiere will be included
among the gentlemen-in-ordinary
of the Bedchamber.
friends who have not already
received their notification
of this sad event are hereby
informed that the funeral will
take place to-morrow at four
o'clock, in the church of Saint-Roch.
The memorial address will be
delivered by Monsieur l'Abbe
Baudoyer, representing one of
the oldest bourgeois families
of Paris, and head of a bureau
in the late Monsieur de la Billardiere's
division, has lately recalled
the old traditions of piety and
devotion which formerly distinguished
these great families, so jealous
for the honor and glory of religion,
and so faithful in preserving
its monuments. The church of
Saint-Paul has long needed a
monstrance in keeping with the
magnificence of that basilica,
itself due to the Company of
Jesus. Neither the vestry nor
the curate were rich enough to
decorate the altar. Monsieur
Baudoyer has bestowed upon the
parish a monstrance that many
persons have seen and admired
at Monsieur Gohier's, the king's
jeweller. Thanks to the piety
of this gentleman, who did not
shrink from the immensity of
the price, the church of Saint-Paul
possesses to-day a masterpiece
of the jeweller's art designed
by Monsieur de Sommervieux. It
gives us pleasure to make known
this fact, which proves how powerless
the declamations of liberals
have been on the mind of the
Parisian bourgeoisie. The upper
ranks of that body have at all
times been royalist and they
prove it when occasion offers."
"The price was five thousand
francs," said the Abbe Gaudron; "but
as the payment was in cash, the
court jeweller reduced the amount."
"Representing one of the oldest
bourgeois families in Paris!" Saillard
was saying to himself; "there
it is printed,--in the official
"Dear Monsieur Gaudron," said
Madame Baudoyer, "please help
my father to compose a little
speech that he could slip into
the countess's ear when he takes
her the monthly stipend,--a single
sentence that would cover all!
I must leave you. I am obliged
to go out with my uncle Mitral.
Would you believe it? I was unable
to find my uncle Bidault at home
this afternoon. Oh, what a dog-kennel
he lives in! But Monsieur Mitral,
who knows his ways, says he does
all his business between eight
o'clock in the morning and midday,
and that after that hour he can
be found only at a certain cafe
called the Cafe Themis,--a singular
"Is justice done there?" said
the abbe, laughing.
"Do you ask
why he goes to a cafe at the
corner of the rue
Dauphine and the quai des Augustins?
They say he plays dominoes there
every night with his friend Monsieur
Gobseck. I don't wish to go to
such a place alone; my uncle
Mitral will take me there and
bring me back."
At this instant Mitral showed
his yellow face, surmounted by
a wig which looked as though
it might be made of hay, and
made a sign to his niece to come
at once, and not keep a carriage
waiting at two francs an hour.
Madame Baudoyer rose and went
away without giving any explanation
to her husband or father.
"Heaven has given you in that
woman," said Monsieur Gaudron
to Baudoyer when Elisabeth had
disappeared, "a perfect treasure
of prudence and virtue, a model
of wisdom, a Christian who gives
sure signs of possessing the
Divine spirit. Religion alone
is able to form such perfect
characters. To-morrow I shall
say a mass for the success of
your good cause. It is all-important,
for the sake of the monarchy
and of religion itself that you
should receive this appointment.
Monsieur Rabourdin is a liberal;
he subscribes to the 'Journal
des Debats,' a dangerous newspaper,
which made war on Monsieur le
Comte de Villele to please the
wounded vanity of Monsieur de
Chateaubriand. His Eminence will
read the newspaper to-night,
if only to see what is said of
his poor friend Monsieur de la
Billardiere; and Monseigneur
the coadjutor will speak of you
to the King. When I think of
what you have now done for his
dear church, I feel sure he will
not forget you in his prayers;
more than that, he is dining
at this moment with the coadjutor
at the house of the curate of
These words made Saillard and
Baudoyer begin to perceive that
Elisabeth had not been idle ever
since Godard had informed her
of Monsieur de la Billardiere's
"Isn't she clever, that Elisabeth
of mine?" cried Saillard, comprehending
more clearly than Monsieur l'abbe
the rapid undermining, like the
path of a mole, which his daughter
"She sent Godard to Rabourdin's
door to find out what newspaper
he takes," said Gaudron; "and
I mentioned the name to the secretary
of his Eminence,--for we live
at a crisis when the Church and
Throne must keep themselves informed
as to who are their friends and
who their enemies."
"For the last five days I have
been trying to find the right
thing to say to his Excellency's
wife," said Saillard.
"All Paris will read that," cried
Baudoyer, whose eyes were still
riveted on the paper.
"Your eulogy costs us four
thousand eight hundred francs,
son-in-law!" exclaimed Madame
"You have adorned the house
of God," said the Abbe Gaudron.
"We might have got salvation
without doing that," she returned. "But
if Baudoyer gets the place, which
is worth eight thousand more,
the sacrifice is not so great.
If he doesn't get it! hey, papa," she
added, looking at her husband, "how
we shall have bled!--"
"Well, never mind," said Saillard,
enthusiastically, "we can always
make it up through Falleix, who
is going to extend his business
and use his brother, whom he
has made a stockbroker on purpose.
Elisabeth might have told us,
I think, why Falleix went off
in such a hurry. But let's invent
my little speech. This is what
I thought of: 'Madame, if you
would say a word to his Excellency--'"
"'If you would deign,'" said
Gaudron; "add the word 'deign,'
it is more respectful. But you
ought to know, first of all,
whether Madame la Dauphine will
grant you her protection, and
then you could suggest to Madame
la comtesse the idea of co-operating
with the wishes of her Royal
"You ought to designate the
vacant post," said Baudoyer.
"'Madame la comtesse,'" began
Saillard, rising, and bowing
to his wife, with an agreeable
Saillard; how ridiculous you
look. Take care, my man,
you'll make the woman laugh."
"'Madame la comtesse,'" resumed
Saillard. "Is that better, wife?"
"Yes, my duck."
of the worthy Monsieur de la
Billardiere is vacant;
my son-in-law, Monsieur Baudoyer--'"
"'Man of talent and extreme
piety,'" prompted Gaudron.
"Write it down, Baudoyer," cried
old Saillard, "write that sentence
Baudoyer proceeded to take
a pen and wrote, without a blush,
his own praises, precisely as
Nathan or Canalis might have
reviewed one of their own books.
"'Madame la comtesse'-- Don't
you see, mother?" said Saillard
to his wife; "I am supposing
you to be the minister's wife."
"Do you take me for a fool?" she
answered sharply. "I know that."
"'The place of the late worthy
de la Billardiere is vacant;
my son-in- law, Monsieur Baudoyer,
a man of consummate talent and
extreme piety--'" After looking
at Monsieur Gaudron, who was
reflecting, he added, "'will
be very glad if he gets it.'
That's not bad; it's brief and
it says the whole thing."
"But do wait, Saillard; don't
you see that Monsieur l'abbe
is turning it over in his mind?" said
Madame Saillard; "don't disturb
"'Will be very thankful if
you would deign to interest yourself
in his behalf,'" resumed Gaudron. "'And
in saying a word to his Excellency
you will particularly please
Madame la Dauphine, by whom he
has the honor and the happiness
to be protected.'"
Gaudron, that sentence is worth
more than the
monstrance; I don't regret the
four thousand eight hundred--
Besides, Baudoyer, my lad, you'll
pay them, won't you? Have you
written it all down?"
"I shall make you repeat it,
father, morning and evening," said
Madame Saillard. "Yes, that's
a good speech. How lucky you
are, Monsieur Gaudron, to know
so much. That's what it is to
be brought up in a seminary;
they learn there how to speak
to God and his saints."
"He is as good as he is learned," said
Baudoyer, pressing the priest's
hand. "Did you write that article?" he
added, pointing to the newspaper.
"No, it was
written by the secretary of
his Eminence, a
young abbe who is under obligations
to me, and who takes an interest
in Monsieur Colleville; he was
educated at my expense."
"A good deed is always rewarded," said
While these four personages
were sitting down to their game
of boston, Elisabeth and her
uncle Mitral reached the cafe
Themis, with much discourse as
they drove along about a matter
which Elisabeth's keen perceptions
told her was the most powerful
lever that could be used to force
the minister's hand in the affair
of her husband's appointment.
Uncle Mitral, a former sheriff's
officer, crafty, clever at sharp
practice, and full of expedients
and judicial precautions, believed
the honor of his family to be
involved in the appointment of
his nephew. His avarice had long
led him to estimate the contents
of old Gigonnet's strong-box,
for he knew very well they would
go in the end to benefit his
nephew Baudoyer; and it was therefore
important that the latter should
obtain a position which would
be in keeping with the combined
fortunes of the Saillards and
the old Gigonnet, which would
finally devolve on the Baudoyer's
little daughter; and what an
heiress she would be with an
income of a hundred thousand
francs! to what social position
might she not aspire with that
fortune? He adopted all the ideas
of his niece Elisabeth and thoroughly
understood them. He had helped
in sending off Falleix expeditiously,
explaining to him the advantage
of taking post horses. After
which, while eating his dinner,
he reflected that it be as well
to give a twist of his own to
the clever plan invented by Elisabeth.
When they reached
the Cafe Themis he told his
he alone could manage Gigonnet
in the matter they both had in
view, and he made her wait in
the hackney-coach and bide her
time to come forward at the right
moment. Elisabeth saw through
the window-panes the two faces
of Gobseck and Gigonnet (her
uncle Bidault), which stood out
in relief against the yellow
wood-work of the old cafe, like
two cameo heads, cold and impassible,
in the rigid attitude that their
gravity gave them. The two Parisian
misers were surrounded by a number
of other old faces, on which "thirty
per cent discount" was written
in circular wrinkles that started
from the nose and turned round
the glacial cheek-bones. These
remarkable physiognomies brightened
up on seeing Mitral, and their
eyes gleamed with tigerish curiosity.
"Hey, hey! it is papa Mitral!" cried
one of them, named Chaboisseau,
a little old man who discounted
for a publisher.
"Bless me, so it is!" said
another, a broker named Metivier, "ha,
that's an old monkey well up
in his tricks."
"And you," retorted Mitral, "you
are an old crow who knows all
the stern Gobseck.
"What are you here for? Have
you come to seize friend Metivier?" asked
Gigonnet, pointing to the broker,
who had the bluff face of a porter.
"Your great-niece Elisabeth
is out there, papa Gigonnet," whispered
"What! some misfortune?" said
Bidault. The old man drew his
eyebrows together and assumed
a tender look like that of an
executioner when about to go
to work officially. In spite
of his Roman virtue he must have
been touched, for his red nose
lost somewhat of its color.
"Well, suppose it is misfortune,
won't you help Saillard's daughter?--
a girl who has knitted your stockings
for the last thirty years!" cried
"If there's good security I
don't say I won't," replied Gigonnet. "Falleix
is in with them. Falleix has
just set up his brother as a
broker, and he is doing as much
business as the Brezacs; and
what with? his mind, perhaps!
Saillard is no simpleton."
"He knows the value of money," put
That remark, uttered among
those old men, would have made
an artist and thinker shudder
as they all nodded their heads.
"But it is none of my business," resumed
Bidault-Gigonnet. "I'm not bound
to care for my neighbors' misfortunes.
My principle is never to be off
my guard with friends or relatives;
you can't perish except through
weakness. Apply to Gobseck; he
The usurers all applauded these
doctrines with a shake of their
metallic heads. An onlooker would
have fancied he heard the creaking
of ill-oiled machinery.
"Come, Gigonnet, show a little
feeling," said Chaboisseau, "they've
knit your stockings for thirty
"That counts for something," remarked
"Are you all alone? Is it safe
to speak?" said Mitral, looking
carefully about him. "I come
about a good piece of business."
"If it is good, why do you
come to us?" said Gigonnet, sharply,
"A fellow who was a gentleman
of the Bedchamber," went on Mitral, "a
former 'chouan,'--what's his
name?--La Billardiere is dead."
"And our nephew is giving monstrances
to the church," snarled Gigonnet.
"He is not such a fool as to
give them, he sells them, old
man," said Mitral, proudly. "He
wants La Billardiere's place,
and in order to get it, we must
"Seize! You'll never be anything
but a sheriff's officer," put
in Metivier, striking Mitral
amicably on the shoulder; "I
like that, I do!"
"Seize Monsieur Clement des
Lupeaulx in our clutches," continued
Mitral; "Elisabeth has discovered
how to do it, and he is--"
"Elisabeth"; cried Gigonnet,
interrupting again; "dear little
creature! she takes after her
grandfather, my poor brother!
he never had his equal! Ah, you
should have seen him buying up
old furniture; what tact! what
shrewdness! What does Elisabeth
"Hey! hey!" cried Mitral, "you've
got back your bowels of compassion,
papa Gigonnet! That phenomenon
has a cause."
"Always a child," said Gobseck
to Gigonnet, "you are too quick
on the trigger."
"Come, Gobseck and Gigonnet,
listen to me; you want to keep
well with des Lupeaulx, don't
you? You've not forgotten how
you plucked him in that affair
about the king's debts, and you
are afraid he'll ask you to return
some of his feathers," said Mitral.
"Shall we tell him the whole
thing?" asked Gobseck, whispering
"Mitral is one of us; he wouldn't
play a shabby trick on his former
customers," replied Gigonnet. "You
see, Mitral," he went on, speaking
to the ex-sheriff in a low voice, "we
three have just bought up all
those debts, the payment of which
depends on the decision of the
"How much will you lose?" asked
"Nobody knows we are in it," added
Gigonnet; "Samanon screens us."
to me, Gigonnet; it is cold,
and your niece is
waiting outside. You'll understand
what I want in two words. You
must at once, between you, send
two hundred and fifty thousand
francs (without interest) into
the country after Falleix, who
has gone post-haste, with a courier
in advance of him."
"Is it possible!" said
"What for?" cried Gigonnet, "and
"To des Lupeaulx's magnificent
country-seat," replied Mitral. "Falleix
knows the country, for he was
born there; and he is going to
buy up land all round the secretary's
miserable hovel, with the two
hundred and fifty thousand francs
I speak of,--good land, well
worth the price. There are only
nine days before us for drawing
up and recording the notarial
deeds (bear that in mind). With
the addition of this land, des
Lupeaulx's present miserable
property would pay taxes to the
amount of one thousand francs,
the sum necessary to make a man
eligible to the Chamber. Ergo,
with it des Lupeaulx goes into
the electoral college, becomes
eligible, count, and whatever
he pleases. You know the deputy
who has slipped out and left
a vacancy, don't you?"
The two misers nodded.
"Des Lupeaulx would cut off
a leg to get elected in his place," continued
Mitral; "but he must have the
title-deeds of the property in
his own name, and then mortgage
them back to us for the amount
of the purchase-money. Ah! now
you begin to see what I am after!
First of all, we must make sure
of Baudoyer's appointment, and
des Lupeaulx will get it for
us on these terms; after that
is settled we will hand him back
to you. Falleix is now canvassing
the electoral vote. Don't you
perceive that you have Lupeaulx
completely in your power until
after the election?--for Falleix's
friends are a large majority.
Now do you see what I mean, papa
"It's a clever game," said
"We'll do it," said Gigonnet; "you
agree, don't you, Gobseck? Falleix
can give us security and put
mortgages on the property in
my name; we'll go and see des
Lupeaulx when all is ready."
"We're robbed," said
"Ha, ha!" laughed Mitral, "I'd
like to know the robber!"
"Nobody can rob us but ourselves," answered
Gigonnet. "I told you we were
doing a good thing in buying
up all des Lupeaulx's paper from
his creditors at sixty per cent
"Take this mortgage on his
estate and you'll hold him tighter
still through the interest," answered
After exchanging a shrewd look
with Gobseck, Gigonnet went to
the door of the cafe.
"Elisabeth! follow it up, my
dear," he said to his niece. "We
hold your man securely; but don't
neglect accessories. You have
begun well, clever woman! go
on as you began and you'll have
your uncle's esteem," and he
grasped her hand, gayly.
"But," said Mitral, "Metivier
and Chaboisseau heard it all,
and they may play us a trick
and tell the matter to some opposition
journal which would catch the
ball on its way and counteract
the effect of the ministerial
article. You must go alone, my
dear; I dare not let those two
cormorants out of my sight." So
saying he re-entered the cafe.
The next day the numerous subscribers
to a certain liberal journal
read, among the Paris items,
the following article, inserted
authoritatively by Chaboisseau
and Metivier, share-holders in
the said journal, brokers for
publishers, printers, and paper-makers,
whose behests no editor dared
a ministerial journal plainly
indicated as the probable
successor of Monsieur le Baron
de la Billardiere, Monsieur Baudoyer,
one of the worthiest citizens
of a populous quarter, where
his benevolence is scarcely less
known than the piety on which
the ministerial organ laid so
much stress. Why was that sheet
silent as to his talents? Did
it reflect that in boasting of
the bourgeoise nobility of Monsieur
Baudoyer--which, certainly, is
a nobility as good as any other--it
was pointing out a reason for
the exclusion of the candidate?
A gratuitous piece of perfidy!
an attempt to kill with a caress!
To appoint Monsieur Baudoyer
is to do honor to the virtues,
the talents of the middle classes,
of whom we shall ever be the
supporters, though their cause
seems at times a lost one. This
appointment, we repeat, will
be an act of justice and good
policy; consequently we may be
sure it will not be made."
On the morrow, Friday, the
usual day for the dinner given
by Madame Rabourdin, whom des
Lupeaulx had left at midnight,
radiant in beauty, on the staircase
of the Bouffons, arm in arm with
Madame de Camps (Madame Firmiani
had lately married), the old
roue awoke with his thoughts
of vengeance calmed, or rather
refreshed, and his mind full
of a last glance exchanged with
sure of Rabourdin's support
by forgiving him now,--I'll
get even with him later. If he
hasn't this place for the time
being I should have to give up
a woman who is capable of becoming
a most precious instrument in
the pursuit of high political
fortune. She understands everything;
shrinks from nothing, from no
idea whatever!-- and besides,
I can't know before his Excellency
what new scheme of administration
Rabourdin has invented. No, my
dear des Lupeaulx, the thing
in hand is to win all now for
your Celestine. You may make
as many faces as you please,
Madame la comtesse, but you will
invite Madame Rabourdin to your
next select party."
Des Lupeaulx was one of those
men who to satisfy a passion
are quite able to put away revenge
in some dark corner of their
minds. His course was taken;
he was resolved to get Rabourdin
"I will prove to you, my dear
fellow, that I deserve a good
place in your galley," thought
he as he seated himself in his
study and began to unfold a newspaper.
He knew so well what the ministerial
organ would contain that he rarely
took the trouble to read it,
but on this occasion he did open
it to look at the article on
La Billardiere, recollecting
with amusement the dilemma in
which du Bruel had put him by
bringing him the night before
Bixiou's amendments to the obituary.
He was laughing to himself as
he reread the biography of the
late Comte da Fontaine, dead
a few months earlier, which he
had hastily substituted for that
of La Billardiere, when his eyes
were dazzled by the name of Baudoyer.
He read with fury the article
which pledged the minister, and
then he rang violently for Dutocq,
to send him at once to the editor.
But what was his astonishment
on reading the reply of the opposition
paper! The situation was evidently
serious. He knew the game, and
he saw that the man who was shuffling
his cards for him was a Greek
of the first order. To dictate
in this way through two opposing
newspapers in one evening, and
to begin the fight by forestalling
the intentions of the minister
was a daring game! He recognized
the pen of a liberal editor,
and resolved to question him
that night at the opera. Dutocq
"Read that," said des Lupeaulx,
handing him over the two journals,
and continuing to run his eye
over others to see if Baudoyer
had pulled any further wires. "Go
to the office and ask who has
dared to thus compromise the
"It was not Monsieur Baudoyer
himself," answered Dutocq, "for
he never left the ministry yesterday.
I need not go and inquire; for
when I took your article to the
newspaper office I met a young
abbe who brought in a letter
from the Grand Almoner, before
which you yourself would have
had to bow."
have a grudge against Monsieur
it isn't right; for he has twice
saved you from being turned out.
However, we are not masters of
our own feelings; we sometimes
hate our benefactors. Only, remember
this; if you show the slightest
treachery to Rabourdin, without
my permission, it will be your
ruin. As to that newspaper, let
the Grand Almoner subscribe as
largely as we do, if he wants
its services. Here we are at
the end of the year; the matter
of subscriptions will come up
for discussion, and I shall have
something to say on that head.
As to La Billardiere's place,
there is only one way to settle
the matter; and that is to appoint
Rabourdin this very day."
"Gentlemen," said Dutocq, returning
to the clerks' office and addressing
his colleagues. "I don't know
if Bixiou has the art of looking
into futurity, but if you have
not read the ministerial journal
I advise you to study the article
about Baudoyer; then, as Monsieur
Fleury takes the opposition sheet,
you can see the reply. Monsieur
Rabourdin certainly has talent,
but a man who in these days gives
a six-thousand-franc monstrance
to the Church has a devilish
deal more talent than he."
Bixiou [entering]. "What
say you, gentlemen, to the
Epistle to the Corinthians in
our pious ministerial journal,
and the reply Epistle to the
Ministers in the opposition sheet?
How does Monsieur Rabourdin feel
now, du Bruel?"
Du Bruel [rushing
in]. "I don't
know." [He drags Bixiou back
into his cabinet, and says in
a low voice] "My good fellow,
your way of helping people is
like that of the hangman who
jumps upon a victim's shoulders
to break his neck. You got me
into a scrape with des Lupeaulx,
which my folly in ever trusting
you richly deserved. A fine thing
indeed, that article on La Billardiere.
I sha'n't forget the trick! Why,
the very first sentence was as
good as telling the King he was
superannuated and it was time
for him to die. And as to that
Quiberon bit, it said plainly
that the King was a-- What a
fool I was!"
Bixiou [laughing]. "Bless
my heart! are you getting angry?
Can't a fellow joke any more?"
Du Bruel. "Joke!
joke indeed. When you want
to be made head-clerk
somebody shall joke with you,
my dear fellow."
a bullying tone]. "Angry,
Du Bruel. "Yes!"
Bixiou [dryly]. "So
much the worse for you."
Du Bruel [uneasy]. "You
wouldn't pardon such a thing
a wheedling tone]. "To
a friend? indeed I would." [They
hear Fleury's voice.] "There's
Fleury cursing Baudoyer. Hey,
how well the thing has been managed!
Baudoyer will get the appointment." [Confidentially] "After
all, so much the better. Du Bruel,
just keep your eye on the consequences.
Rabourdin would be a mean-spirited
creature to stay under Baudoyer;
he will send in his registration,
and that will give us two places.
You can be head of the bureau
and take me for under-head-clerk.
We will make vaudevilles together,
and I'll fag at your work in
Du Bruel [smiling]. "Dear
me, I never thought of that.
Rabourdin! I shall be sorry for
Bixiou. "That shows how much
you love him!" [Changing his
tone] "Ah, well, I don't pity
him any longer. He's rich; his
wife gives parties and doesn't
ask me,--me, who go everywhere!
Well, good-bye, my dear fellow,
good-bye, and don't owe me a
grudge!" [He goes out through
the clerks' office.] "Adieu,
gentlemen; didn't I tell you
yesterday that a man who has
nothing but virtues and talents
will always be poor, even though
he has a pretty wife?"
are so rich, you!"
bad, my Cincinnatus! But you'll
give me that dinner
at the Rocher de Cancale."
is absolutely impossible for
me to understand Monsieur
an elegaic air]. "Monsieur
Rabourdin so seldom reads the
newspapers that it might perhaps
be serviceable to deprive ourselves
momentarily by taking them in
to him." [Fleury hands over his
paper, Vimeux the office sheet,
and Phellion departs with them.]
At that moment
des Lupeaulx, coming leisurely
breakfast with the minister,
was asking himself whether, before
playing a trump card for the
husband, it might not be prudent
to probe the wife's heart and
make sure of a reward for his
devotion. He was feeling about
for the small amount of heart
that he possessed, when, at a
turn of the staircase, he encountered
his lawyer, who said to him,
smiling, "Just a word, Monseigneur," in
the tone of familiarity assumed
by men who know they are indispensable.
"What is it, my dear Desroches?" exclaimed
the politician. "Has anything
"I have come
to tell you that all your notes
and debts have
been brought up by Gobseck and
Gigonnet, under the name of a
"Men whom I
helped to make their millions!"
"Listen," whispered the lawyer. "Gigonnet
(really named Bidault) is the
uncle of Saillard, your cashier;
and Saillard is father-in-law
to a certain Baudoyer, who thinks
he has a right to the vacant
place in your ministry. Don't
you think I have done right to
come and tell you?"
"Thank you," said
des Lupeaulx, nodding to the
lawyer with a
"One stroke of your pen will
buy them off," said Desroches,
"What an immense sacrifice!" muttered
des Lupeaulx. "It would be impossible
to explain it to a woman," thought
he. "Is Celestine worth more
than the clearing off of my debts?--that
is the question. I'll go and
see her this morning."
So the beautiful Madame Rabourdin
was to be, within an hour, the
arbiter of her husband's fate,
and no power on earth could warn
her of the importance of her
replies, or give her the least
hint to guard her conduct and
compose her voice. Moreover,
in addition to her mischances,
she believed herself certain
of success, never dreaming that
Rabourdin was undermined in all
directions by the secret sapping
of the mollusks.
"Well, Monseigneur," said des
Lupeaulx, entering the little
salon where they breakfasted, "have
you seen the articles on Baudoyer?"
"For God's sake, my dear friend," replied
the minister, "don't talk of
those appointments just now;
let me have an hour's peace!
They cracked my ears last night
with that monstrance. The only
way to save Rabourdin is to bring
his appointment before the Council,
unless I submit to having my
hand forced. It is enough to
disgust a man with the public
service. I must purchase the
right to keep that excellent
Rabourdin by promoting a certain
"Why not make over the management
of this pretty little comedy
to me, and rid yourself of the
worry of it? I'll amuse you every
morning with an account of the
game of chess I should play with
the Grand Almoner," said des
"Very good," said the minister, "settle
it with the head examiner. But
you know perfectly well that
nothing is more likely to strike
the king's mind than just those
reasons the opposition journal
has chosen to put forth. Good
heavens! fancy managing a ministry
with such men as Baudoyer under
"An imbecile bigot," said des
Lupeaulx, "and as utterly incapable
"--as La Billardiere," added
"But La Billardiere had the
manners of a gentleman-in-ordinary," replied
des Lupeaulx. "Madame," he continued,
addressing the countess, "it
is now an absolute necessity
to invite Madame Rabourdin to
your next private party. I must
assure you she is the intimate
friend of Madame de Camps; they
were at the Opera together last
night. I first met her at the
hotel Firmiani. Besides, you
will see that she is not of a
kind to compromise a salon."
"Invite Madame Rabourdin, my
dear," said the minister, "and
pray let us talk of something