Balaoo/3/1

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CHAPTER I: THE FAMILY DINNER

When Patrice arrived in Paris, at 7.15 in the evening, there was no one to meet him at the station. He was surprised at this, although, during the three years since his future father-in-law had left Saint-Martin-des-Bois, Coriolis' behaviour towards him was such that he need not have been surprised at anything.

First of all, he was kept away from Madeleine. True, she and her father paid two or three visits to Clermont; but the young man was never invited to go to them in Paris. After two years, as Coriolis kept on postponing the date of the marriage on inadequate pretexts, the Saint Aubins became curious to know what could be happening at their relations'. They applied to a private-enquiry office, which soon supplied them with information of so absurd a character that they regretted paying for it in advance.

Nevertheless, in course of time, some of this information was confirmed. For instance, it was quite correct that Coriolis never went out without taking young Noël with him and that he appeared, somewhat late in the day, to have acquired an insane liking for that shy and silent lad. He was letting him study for the bar!

Noël studying for the bar! Upon my word! Noël was a law-student and Coriolis accompanied him to all the lectures!

What did it mean? And what was hidden behind this last freak of the ex-consul at Batavia? The Clermon Saint-Aubins were wondering, in consternation and alarm, when, suddenly, the marriage between Patrice and Madeleine was fixed.

Coriolis hurried things in a frenzied fashion. The wedding would be in Paris, but the old eccentric did not allow Patrice any time for the wooing. He considered that a ridiculous and antiquated custom. The young man was not to come to Paris until forty-eight hours before the ceremony, which would take place very quietly, especially as the Saint-Aubins were detained at Clermont by the father's gout and could not be present. On the evening of the wedding, the newly-married couple were to go to Auvergne and embrace the old people before travelling on to Italy, where they would spend the honeymoon.

So Patrice came to Paris by the 7.15 train, as Coriolis had suggested, and found no one at the station.

He felt "hurt."

He had his trunk put on a cab and told the man to drive to the Rue de Jussieu. Here the old eccentric had taken up his abode in an old-fashioned house, on the confines of the Quartier des Écoles, bringing with him his daughter, his old servant, his native "boy" and all his notes and manuscripts on the bread-plant.

Through the windows of his cab, Patrice gazed sadly upon Paris, which was charming to look at on this fine spring evening; but he did not care for Paris. Paris had always frightened him. There were too many carriages. And, even when you kept off the pavement, you were never at peace. Lots of people, even ladies, whom he did not know from Adam or Eve, would accost him and ask him things or offer him things which he did not understand and did not wish to.

When he reached the Rue de Jussieu and the cab put him down outside his uncle's house, the quiet of the neighbourhood appealed to him. It reminded him of the country. The sparse lighting, the pavement echoing under the feet of a distant wayfarer, the solitude around him: all these suggested to his mind certain streets at Clermont where he used to go for a little stroll between dinner and bed-time.

He rang the bell. Gertrude opened the door. She seemed neither surprised nor pleased to see him. She simply said, in an indifferent voice:

"Oh, it's you? Mademoiselle will be so glad."

"Didn't they expect me this evening?" asked the bewildered young man.

"Oh, yes!" replied the old servant. "Your place is laid."

They were standing in a great, cold, flagged hall, ending in an enormous staircase with a wrought-iron baluster. Gertrude pointed to the stairs and a voice from above said:

"Is that you, Patrice?"

"Of course it is! Who else would it be?" replied the young man, somewhat crossly, though he had recognized the voice of his intended.

But Madeleine ran down the stairs and threw herself into his arms. Patrice kissed his cousin, whose demonstrations of affection struck him as being a little put-on. She seemed rather anxious than pleased at seeing him.

He did not think her improved in her looks, because Paris had made her lose her pretty colouring. True, she had developed other feminine attractions, which Saint-Martindes-Bois would never have given her; but, when you come from the Rue de l'Écu, you don't shake it off easily.

Madeleine, on her side, thought that Patrice looked sulky:

"What's the matter with you?" she asked, pouting. "You seem displeased at something. Is it because you weren't met at the station? You don't know what papa's like. He's not overburdened with politeness and nothing would make him depart from his regular habits. On the other hand, he would never let Gertrude and me go across Paris alone, so late in the evening."

"I'm not complaining!" said Patrice, compressing his lips. "Where's uncle?"

"You'll see him at dinner. Gertrude will show you your room. Be quick: we dine at eight punctually; you have just five minutes."

Patrice' room was a great, bare room on the second floor. There was a little bed, in between high walls and high, badly-closing windows. The walls were covered with the most wonderful panelling, all chipped and worn: he did not even look at it. There was nothing homely about the room, nothing soft. Not a sign of forethought: not a flower; not a photograph; nothing. He would have liked Madeleine to provide something to show that she was interested in the man about to occupy that room. But not a thing! He sighed and felt very lonely.

In what a hurry she had kissed him, pushing and hustling him to get it over! And they were to be married in two days!

He sat down gloomily at the foot of his bed. Gertrude's voice outside the door made him start up:

"Are you ready, M. Patrice? Mademoiselle would like to speak to you."

He paid no attention to his appearance, did not even look at himself in the glass.

He washed his hands and found Gertrude waiting for him impatiently:

"Come along, sir!" she grumbled.

And she took him downstairs and pushed him into the drawing-room.

It contained the old set of Empire furniture which he had known at Saint-Martindes-Bois. Here again there was not a flower in the vases. And the chairs had their covers.

Madeleine was standing near the door. She took his hand and said to him, speaking very quickly, in an undertone:

"Dear Patrice, when we are married, we shall do as we like, sha'n't we? But here we are at papa's and we must not vex him. He has become crazier than ever. We must not be angry with him, for he is very sorry at my going away. He could never bear the thought of my marriage. He made up his mind to it at last, as though he had decided to be operated on for appendicitis. He is very unhappy and he wants to get it over and done with. But, until it is over, he won't have it talked about! So there must be no question of a wedding, at meals or anywhere in the house, That's settled. You will act towards everybody as if you had come to Paris for two or three days on important business which concerns no one but yourself. Is that understood?"

She did not even wait to hear his answer. As he stood there, dumbfoundered, she opened the door of the dining room and went in. He followed her as in a dream.

A young woman of fashionable appearance sat reading by the corner of a window. She raised her head at their entrance. Patrice could not restrain an exclamation: it was Zoé!

It was really true: he saw before him the little gadabout of the forest! This pretty girl who got up and bowed so easily, so quietly, looking so very Parisian in her simplicity and in the modest and assured taste that distinguished her dress, was the Vautrins' sister, whom he had seen running along the forest-paths like an untamed hind, with her hair streaming in the wind or blowing over her forehead! By what miracle did he now find her so greatly altered, looking so "proper"?

When he heard, at Clermont, that Zoé had gone to join Madeleine in Paris, the young man did not conceal his views from his intended. And he wrote to her all that he thought of this latest hobby of his uncle's. But Madeleine replied curtly that she had not been consulted and that, besides, she looked upon her father's treatment of the poor little orphan — Mother Vautrin was dead — as a kind action. Later, Madeleine again had occasion to write that Zoé was making herself very useful in the house, now that Gertrude was getting old. She said that the child had become quite sensible after breaking every link with the past; and she added that Zoé's brothers must certainly be dead, or they would have found means of letting their sister know to the contrary. That was what Zoé thought.

Patrice, while failing to understand how anyone could feel inclined, unless compelled, to be waited on by Mlle. Vautrin, that scion of a too-illustrious family, was delighted with this last communication. The death of the Three Brothers, doubtless slain by the bullets of Major de la Terrenoire's troopers, reconciled him to the sister; for Patrice would still sometimes wake up in bed, with his forehead bathed in perspiration, from a nightmare in which a curious masked driver took him somewhat roughly by the throat and asked him never again to set foot in Saint-Martin-des-Bois. And, as he had dropped the idea of the intervention of a fourth miscreant, of the mysterious accomplice whom the eloquence of the Clermont public-prosecutor had definitely relegated to the realms of legend, he invariably ascribed to the albino the responsibility for the terrible adventures that had nearly caused his death. It was a good thing that Élie was no more; and Patrice had looked forward to hearing the glad tidings repeated by Zoé's own lips.

But he expected to find her in the kitchen.

And he discovered her in the dining-room, where she seemed quite at home, dressed like a young lady, smiling at him with the gracious condescension of a woman of quality who wished to put him at his ease: Zoé, the savage little sister of the three men sentenced to death!

He did not know if he ought to shake hands. But she held out hers to him, very simply, and asked after his health.

He did not have time to indulge in further raptures of wonder. Uncle Coriolis entered the room, followed by a tall and sturdily-built young gentleman, who flung out his chest and displayed a pair of broad shoulders under a well-cut jacket. Madeleine's sweetheart knew that simian face, with the almond eyes, that Far-Eastern type which always surprises us when it is modified by European fashions, such as the hair smoothly plastered down, with a straight parting. . . and the single eye-glass. Yes, M. Noël was wearing an eye-glass! Patrice, who had never seen him so near at hand, considered that he had improved. The smart cut of his clothes and his frigid bearing made him look almost distinguished. The peculiar ugliness of his face was rather attractive than repulsive.

"He may be quite good-looking in his own country," thought Patrice, reflecting that, after all, looks are a matter of latitude and longitude.

Only he regretted, for that foreigner's sake, the exceptionally powerful build of the animal jaws.

Patrice was astonished by Zoé, but the sight of Noël plunged him into absolute stupefaction:

"He has changed immensely since he worked in the bread-plant orchard," he thought, bowing somewhat coldly in answer to the ex-gardener's curt nod.

And they all sat down to table.

Coriolis had not been at all demonstrative with his nephew. He asked casually after Patrice' parents and, without waiting for the reply, pointed to his place, between Madeleine and Zoé. Noël sat between Zoé and Coriolis.

The soup was followed by an embarrassing pause, which was broken by Coriolis:

"Perhaps, my boy, when you've finished staring like a lunatic, you'll tell us what you're surprised at?"

Patrice was ashamed to be spoken to like that before Madeleine. He had the courage, however, to say, with his nose in his plate:

"What surprises me is M. Noël's eye-glass." Madeleine warned him, with a little kick under the table, that he had made a blunder. But it was too late. . . His uncle was already going for him:

"Your father wears spectacles; and I don't see why M. Noël, whose left eye is weaker than the other, should not wear a concave glass. Astigmatism is not a privilege of the white race, nor is the use of lenses, to correct it."

This was said in so harsh and contemptuous a tone that. Patrice was crushed. He tried to hide his confusion under a pleasant smile.

"What are you smiling at? You think yourself very witty, I suppose! Don't be afraid: you're not the only one. They're all alike, the young men of to-day who have not left their mother's apron-strings. If you had been three times round the world, as I have, you wouldn't sit gibbering at the sight of a Malay native who looks better in a reefer-suit and a double-breasted waistcoat than you do — you haven't seen him in his dress-things, yet — and who could give you points in Bandy-Lacantinerie, [1] solicitor's chief clerk though you may be!"

And, when Patrice, utterly confounded, kept silent: "Ask him questions!" roared Coriolis. "Ask him anything you like!"

"Don't make such a show of the poor young man, sir!" said Gertrude's whining voice, amid a clatter of plates and silver.

She was told, with due respect, to leave the room. Madeleine made the mistake of protesting, whereupon Cariolis closed her mouth too:

"I won't have it, do you hear me, all of you? I won't have Noël laughed at!"

"But, uncle, no one's laughing at him!" Patrice ended by exclaiming, in his exasperation.

"Nonsense! The moment he entered the room, you looked at him like a phenomenon! I won't have it, do you hear? I will not have him looked at like a phenomenon! We can't all be born in the Rue de l'Écu at Clermont-Ferrand!"

"Papa! Patrice hasn't said anything to annoy you. You're exciting yourself about nothing."

"Oh, you'll end by making me ill, among the lot of you: Noël as well as the rest!"

Noël seemed not to hear and went on conscientiously gobbling up a plate of Brussels sprouts.

"Good! Now it's Noël's turn!" said Madeleine, with a forced laugh.

"And Zoé too!" continued Coriolis, growling like anything.

"What have I done?" asked pretty little Zoe's innocent and mellifluous voice.

"You've made four more big mistakes in dictation and you've got bad marks for geography."

"Geography," said Zoé, "simply won't enter my head."

"And spelling? Won't spelling enter your head?"

"Yes, monsieur, but it takes time. . . ."

"Time? What time? You're old enough to be married. You've got to know spelling and geography. When I tell you, Patrice, that I've had more trouble with that little minx than I've had with Noël, perhaps it'll take down your exalted notion of the white race, eh, my boy?"

Patrice nodded his head. He wished his uncle to believe that he shared his opinion; but he could not understand a word of the whole business. So they were now making a blue-stocking of Zoé!

"I want you to understand, child," continued Corialis, turning to Zoé, "that I'm not having you taught a word too much if you want to be happy in your married life." Patrice thought:

"Madeleine put it badly when she forbade me to talk about marriage. When all's said, they seem to talk about anybody's marriage here, except mine."

"I shall never marry," Zoé answered, sadly, casting down her eyes. "Who would have me?"

"That's my affair," growled Coriolis, in a great grumpy voice.

And, as he spoke, he glanced at Noël, who lifted his nose in the air. His indifference to all that was said at that table was gorgeous; and Patrice could not help admiring it.

His uncle grunted:

"It's very bad manners to pretend to be dreaming at table and never to attend to the conversation. I say no more!"

Noël could not have heard, for he took no notice. He made up for it by scratching himself. His sleeve must have felt uncomfortable; for with his left hand he scratched himself vigorously under his right arm, a thing which is not allowed in man's reception-rooms. Uncle Coriolis rapped him smartly over the knuckles with a little ebony ruler which Patrice had noticed on the table, without knowing what it was for. Tap! M. Noël gave a yell, like an animal that is being punished, and let go his sleeve.

"It's disgraceful," said Coriolis. "You forget you're not at Hal-Nan here. It's disgraceful behaviour for a Paris law-student."

"Is he entered?" asked Patrice, jokingly.

"He attends the lectures, with me."

"How far are you, uncle?"

"At the various manners of acquiring property," replied Coriolis. "Noël, just tell us the various manners of acquiring property."

M. Noël, wondering all the time if Gertrude would soon bring the nuts, put his long, aristocratic Hal-Nan hand to his mouth and coughed. Then, in his rather hoarse voice and in the declamatory tone of a little boy saying his catechism, he answered:

"The different manners of acquiring property are by succession, deeds of gift and inheritance; contracts: contracts of sale and contracts of. . . ."

He stopped suddenly.

"Well?" said Coriolis, with a frown. "Contracts of . . ."

"You know, sir," said Balaoo, watching a fly, "that I dislike that word before strangers."

This with a look of savage hatred at Patrice.

"Oh, indeed!" said Coriolis, putting out his hand for the little black ruler.

Balaoo turned pale, which was his way of flushing, and, speaking very quickly, in a low voice, said:

"And contracts of marriage. . . of marriage."

He raised his head, pleased at having mastered himself, and now tried to look at Patrice with an indifferent air, like one of the Race who knows how to conceal his private emotions.

"Well, Patrice," said Coriolis, delighted at the result, "what do you think of that?"

Patrice thought:

"Certainly, for a native of Hal-Nan, there's an improvement, the improvement of the little black ruler upon the common-or-garden cane."

But he took good care not to express his thoughts to his uncle, who might have thrown him out of the window, and he said:

"It's wonderful!"

"And, you know, you can ask him anything you like," said Coriolis. "I have given him the thorough education of a young man of family. He knows his classics."

"Does he know Latin?"

"You have no right to make fun of your old uncle, Patrice. No, Noël does not know Latin yet. But you can be sure that, when he does take it up, he'll stump you in less than three months. Ask him about dates and Roman history."

Patrice saw that there was no escape. He would have to "ask":

"Won't it bore you, monsieur, if I ask you it few questions?"

M. Noël, who had just cut himself a great chunk of Gruyere cheese, proceeded to swallow it calmly and made no reply."

"Don't you hear?" said Coriolis. "My nephew Patrice wants to know if he can ask you some questions. Show that you're not a fool."

By this time, Balaoo had cleared his mouth. He knew that he must not speak with his mouth full. Carelessly:

"We should keep our qualities for use and not for show!"

And he dropped his glass from his eye, at the end of its cord.

"Well, that's an answer," said Patrice, grinning like a booby."

"Oh, he's seldom at a loss," said Madeleine. "But you're frightening him, tonight."

Balaoo screwed his glass in his eye again, with a furious gesture.

"Are you vexed?" Coriolis asked Balaoo.

"I know why he's vexed," said Zoé, in a melting voice.

"Why?"

"Because Gertrude hasn't brought the nuts."

"Is M. Noël fond of nuts?" asked Patrice.

"Oh, they're his ideal!" said Madeleine.

"Is that so, monsieur?" asked Patrice, for the sake of saying something. "Are nuts really your ideal?"

"Woe be to him," said Balaoo, "who does not bear himself according to an ideal. He may still be pleased with himself, but he will always be far removed from the good and the beautiful."

Having delivered himself of this aphorism, he looked at the door; but Gertrude was not yet bringing the nuts.

"M. Noël is a great philosopher," said Patrice, with an important air.

And he gave a silly smile.

"You needn't smile like an idiot when you make a statement like that!" said Coriolis.

"Very well, uncle," said Patrice, in a nettled tone.

Balaoo seemed delighted and, of his own accord, remarked, with his eyes still fixed on the door:

"Few men have the wisdom to prefer wholesome blame to fickle praise!"

"What can Gertrude be doing?" said Madeleine, to change the subject.

She rose, went to the kitchen and returned at once:

"I found Gertrude in tears. She made a nice tart for to-night and now she can't find it anywhere."

Balaoo began to shake:

"General Captain must have taken it," he said.

You lie!" said Coriolis, severely. "General Captain has a broad back and a broad beak. But he is a good and faithful servant. Did you only bring him from the Black Woods to accuse him of your faults? Answer like a man! And don't turn away your head! Why did you eat that tart? You knew that you were doing wrong. Answer me."

"That's true," said Balaoo, swallowing his shame before Patrice and vainly waiting for the nuts. "The clear sense which we possess of our faults is a sure sign of the freedom which we have enjoyed to commit them!"

"Very well," said Coriolis, "you shall have no nuts."

At that very moment, Gertrude entered with the dish and put it on the table. M. Noël's eyes gleamed like carbuncles. But Coriolis' hand was already playing, as though casually, with the little black ruler.

"Papa!" said Madeleine, beseechingly.

Noël thanked her with a moist eye. The eye-glass had dropped out again.

"Papa," continued Madeleine, "you were so pleased with him over the Conference Bottier!"

"Does M. Noël attend conferences?" asked Patrice.

"Young man from the country," retorted Coriolis, "if you had read your law in Paris, instead of in the outlandish parts where you come from, you would know that the Conférence Bottier is a debating-society of young men studying for the bar who meet in the evenings, at the law-courts, to get used to practice and to accustom themselves to public speaking."

"Does M. Noël mean to become a barrister?"

"We'll see about that later. For the present, I am making him study the art of speaking. He is doing pretty well. Oh, the man who cut his ligaments did not waste his time and got good value for his money."

"Has he spoken at the Conférence Bottier?"

"Not yet. I don't want to draw attention to my pupil before I am quite certain of success. But I go there with him; and he sees how a positive is established and how it is met by a negative. The day on which he makes his first speech will be a great day!"

Coriolis uttered this last sentence with such ardour and eagerness that Patrice was struck by it. He felt really sorry for his uncle, who seemed to him to be falling into his dotage.

"Meanwhile," said Coriolis, "by way of practice, I am having him taught Cicero in French."

"Oh, monsieur," said Zoé, shyly, "do ask him to, recite us his story about the Paladin!"

"Oh, yes, sir, the story about the Paladin!" said Gertrude, stuffing Balaoo's pockets with nuts, unseen by Coriolis.

"Very well," said Coriolis, smiling. "Come, Noël, give us your recitation about the Paladin."

Balaoo sulked and sat as still as a stone.

"Come on, you great silly!" said Coriolis, "You shall have some nuts afterwards."

On hearing this, Balaoo stood up, moved behind his chair and rested his left hand on the back, leaving, his right hand free for gesticulation. Then, in his best chest-voice, he began:

"How far at length, O Catiline, wilt thou trifle with our patience? How long still shall that frenzy of thine baffle us? To what limit shall thy uncurbed effrontery boastfully display itself? Have in no degree the mighty guard of the Palatine Hill. . . ."

"Oh, the Palatine Hill!" said Patrice. "I didn't know what they meant with their Paladin!"

"Hold your tongue, will you, you villain!"

This objurgation came from Coriolis, whose eyes were starting out of his head, while his fist was almost raised to strike Patrice for interrupting Mr. Noël in his exercise. Patrice instinctively shrank back, half-muttering to himself that his uncle was qualifying for an asylum and promising not to spare him once he was safely married and out of his reach.

Coriolis, a little ashamed at seeing how he had scared his nephew, calmed himself:

"Let him go on," he said. "I wish you wouldn't interrupt him, or he'll forget the whole thing."

"I must begin all over again," said Noël.

"Very well, do."

Standing behind his chair and waving his arms as though in the tribune, Balaoo resumed his recitation:

"How far at length, O Catiline, wilt thou trifle with our patience? How long still shall that frenzy of thine baffle us? To what limit shall thy uncurbed effrontery boastfully display itself? Have in no degree the mighty guard of the Palatine Hill, in no degree the watches of the city, in no degree the fear of the people, in no degree the assemblage of all good men, in no degree this most fortified place of holding the senate, have the looks and countenances of these in no degree alarmed thee? Dost thou not perceive that thy designs are disclosed? Dost thou not see that thy conspiracy is already held bound by the knowledge of all these? What thou hast done last night — last night," thought Balaoo, "I went quietly to bye-bye, to please Madeleine, who does not like me to be out every evening — what on the night before — oh, well, old chap, if you knew what I was doing the night before, wouldn't you just pat me with your little black ruler! — where thou wert — at Maxim's!" muttered the orator, between two breaths — "whom, thou didst assemble — they were drunk as lords!" thought Balaoo, — "what plan thou didst adopt, which one of us dost thou think to be ignorant of? O the times! O the manners! The senate understands these things, the consul perceives them and yet this man lives."

"Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!" roared Patrice, anxious to recover Coriolis' good graces, at least until after the wedding.

Madeleine applauded prettily, Zoé was pale with excitement, Gertrude shed tears; but Gertrude nowadays shed tears on the slightest pretext.

"Yes, br-r-r—ravo!" spluttered Coriolis, choking with gleeful pride. "Did you see how he recited it? The gestures? Weren't they well-felt, eh? . . . Don't you hear it in the rostra? In the middle of the Forum! . . . I must take him there. Yes, yes, yes! We'll go to Rome together. . . . The Forum! The rostra! . . . My Noël standing there, in Cicero's place! Oh, I shall live to see it yet!;" cried Coriolis, raving.

"Does he really understand all he says?" asked Patrice, tactlessly.

He received a tremendous thump in the ribs from Uncle Coriolis, who could have killed him:

"What's that? . . . What's that? . . . He undestands better than you do!"

"Well, all the same, there are words. . . . For instance, he never heard of the Palatine Hill at Haï-Nan. . . ."

"Perhaps you can tell us what there was on the Palatine!" bellowed Coriolis.

"There was. . . there was," stammered Patrice. "I don't know. . . there were fortifications!"

Coriolis exploded:

"There was a temple, you idiot!"

The tears came to Patrice' eyes. Madeleine interposed:

"Really, papa!"

"Let me be!" said Coriolis. "My gentleman is trying to pull Noël's leg: fortifications, indeed I . . . I tell you, there was a temple! . . . And you know the name of the temple!"

"No, uncle, I don't," said Patrice, in a harrowing voice.

"Tell him, Noël."

"The Temple of Jupiter Stator," said Balaoo, without a moment's hesitation, eyeing the nuts on the table and rattling those which Gertrude had put in his pocket.

"It was round the Palatine Hill that Romulus traced the first boundaries of the future capital of the world."

"Well, does that stump you?" asked Coriolis, beaming all over his face.

"Yes, uncle, that stumps me!" said Patrice, hanging his head.

Coriolis, gave Balaoo a friendly pat:

"There, you can eat your nuts!"

M. Noël did not wait to be told a second time. He flung himself on the dish and, with extraordinary speed and dexterity, cracked the walnuts with his teeth, picked them and swallowed them. Patrice had never seen anything like it.

"He can't help that," said Coriolis, good-humouredly. "I have cured him of any number of bad habits which he brought with him from Haï-Nan; but I have never, no, never succeeded in making him use nut-crackers."

"We all have our hobbies," said Patrice.

"He would sooner die. One would think that it gave him as much pleasure to crack his nuts with his teeth as to eat them afterwards."

"I'll wager," said Patrice, "that M. Noël prefers nuts even to Cicero's orations."

"Answer, Noël," said Coriolis.

Balaoo swallowed his last nut and said:

"We are surrounded by an infinity of real, simple, easy joys. We have but to secure them!"

He screwed his glass into his eye and, after staring at Patrice with a look of utter contempt, turned his head away, obviously unable to bear the sight of the fellow.

Patrice bowed. They rose to go to the drawing-room. Coriolis told Noël to give Zoé his arm, which he did with no great eagerness. On the contrary, he kept his eyes fixed on Madeleine, who had taken Patrice' arm. Then, as though unintentionally, he trod on her dress and tore it right across. He apologized.

Coriolis had not the heart to upbraid him, for he knew the pithecanthrope well and read an immeasurable sadness in his eyes.

Balaoo led Zoé to the tea-table and said:

"I am a little tired this evening, sir. May I ask leave to withdraw?"

Coriolis assented; and Balaoo, after quickly bowing to the company, went up to his room without shaking hands with Madeleine.


  1. The French law-students' treatise on civil law. — Author's Note.