The Middle Classes/Part I/Chapter IV

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The Middle Classes by Honoré de Balzac, translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley
Part I/Chapter IV: THE CIRCLE OF MONSIEUR AND MADAME THUILLIER

The Collevilles and their children became, naturally, the nucleus of the circle which Mademoiselle Thuillier had the ambition to group around her brother. A former clerk in the Billardiere division of the ministry, named Phellion, had lived for the last thirty years in their present quarter. He was promptly greeted by Colleville and Thuillier at the first review. Phellion proved to be one of the most respected men in the arrondissement. He had one daughter, now married to a school-teacher in the rue Saint-Hyacinthe, a Monsieur Barniol. Phellion's eldest son was a professor of mathematics in a royal college; he gave lectures and private lessons, being devoted, so his father was wont to say, to pure mathematics. A second son was in the government School of Engineering. Phellion had a pension of nine hundred francs, and he possessed a little property of nine thousand and a few odd hundred francs; the fruit of his economy and that of his wife during thirty years of toil and privation. He was, moreover, the owner of a little house and garden where he lived in the "impasse" des Feuillantines,—in thirty years he had never used the old-fashioned word "cul-de-sac"!

Dutocq, the clerk of the justice of peace, was also a former employee at the ministry of finance. Sacrificed, in former days, to one of those necessities which are always met with in representative government, he had accepted the position of scapegoat, receiving, privately, a round sum of money and the opportunity to buy his present post of clerk in the arrondissement. This man, not very honorable, and known to be a spy in the government offices, was never welcomed as he thought he ought to be by the Thuilliers; but the coldness of his landlords only made him the more persistent in going to see them. He was a bachelor and had various vices; he therefore concealed his life carefully, knowing well how to maintain his position by flattering his superiors. The justice of peace was much attached to Dutocq. This man, base as he was, managed, in the end, to make himself tolerated by the Thuilliers, chiefly by coarse and cringing adulation. He knew the facts of Thuillier's whole life, his relations with Colleville, and, above all, with Madame Colleville. One and all they feared his tongue, and the Thuilliers, without admitting him to any intimacy, endured his visits.

The family which became the flower of the Thuillier salon was that of a former ministerial clerk, once an object of pity in the government offices, who, driven by poverty, left the public service, in 1827, to fling himself into a business enterprise, having, as he thought, an idea. Minard (that was his name) foresaw a fortune in one of those wicked conceptions which reflect such discredit on French commerce, but which, in the year 1827, had not yet been exposed and blasted by publicity. Minard bought tea and mixed it with tea-leaves already used; also he adulterated the elements of chocolate in a manner which enabled him to sell the chocolate itself very cheaply. This trade in colonial products, begun in the quartier Saint-Marcel, made a merchant of Minard. He started a factory, and through these early connections he was able to reach the sources of raw material. He then did honorably, and on a large scale, a business begun in the first instance dishonorably. He became a distiller, worked upon untold quantities of products, and, by the year 1835, was considered the richest merchant in the region of the Place Maubert. By that time he had bought a handsome house in the rue des Macons-Sorbonne; he had been assistant mayor, and in 1839 became mayor of his arrondissement and judge in the Court of Commerce. He kept a carriage, had a country-place near Lagny; his wife wore diamonds at the court balls, and he prided himself on the rosette of an officer of the Legion of honor in his buttonhole.

Minard and his wife were exceedingly benevolent. Perhaps he wished to return in retail to the poor the sums he had mulcted from the public by the wholesale. Phellion, Colleville, and Thuillier met their old comrade, Minard, at election, and an intimacy followed; all the closer with the Thuilliers and Collevilles because Madame Minard seemed enchanted to make an acquaintance for her daughter in Celeste Colleville. It was at a grand ball given by the Minards that Celeste made her first appearance in society (being at that time sixteen and a half years old), dressed as her Christian named demanded, which seemed to be prophetic of her coming life. Delighted to be friendly with Mademoiselle Minard, her elder by four years, she persuaded her father and godfather to cultivate the Minard establishment, with its gilded salons and great opulence, where many political celebrities of the "juste milieu" were wont to congregate, such as Monsieur Popinot, who became, after a time, minister of commerce; Cochin, since made Baron Cochin, a former employee at the ministry of finance, who, having a large interest in the drug business, was now the oracle of the Lombard and Bourdonnais quarters, conjointly with Monsieur Anselme Popinot. Minard's eldest son, a lawyer, aiming to succeed those barristers who were turned down from the Palais for political reasons in 1830, was the genius of the household, and his mother, even more than his father, aspired to marry him well. Zelie Minard, formerly a flower-maker, felt an ardent passion for the upper social spheres, and desired to enter them through the marriages of her son and daughter; whereas Minard, wiser than she, and imbued with the vigor of the middle classes, which the revolution of July had infiltrated into the fibres of government, thought only of wealth and fortune.

He frequented the Thuillier salon to gain information as to Celeste's probable inheritance. He knew, like Dutocq and Phellion, the reports occasioned by Thuillier's former intimacy with Flavie, and he saw at a glance the idolatry of the Thuilliers for their godchild. Dutocq, to gain admittance to Minard's house, fawned upon him grossly. When Minard, the Rothschild of the arrondissement, appeared at the Thuilliers', he compared him cleverly to Napoleon, finding him stout, fat, and blooming, having left him at the ministry thin, pale, and puny.

"You looked, in the division Billardiere," he said, "like Napoleon before the 18th Brumaire, and I behold you now the Napoleon of the Empire."

Notwithstanding which flattery, Minard received Dutocq very coldly and did not invite him to his house; consequently, he made a mortal enemy of the former clerk.

Monsieur and Madame Phellion, worthy as they were, could not keep themselves from making calculations and cherishing hopes; they thought that Celeste would be the very wife for their son the professor; therefore, to have, as it were, a watcher in the Thuillier salon, they introduced their son-in-law, Monsieur Barniol, a man much respected in the faubourg Saint-Jacques, and also an old employee at the mayor's office, an intimate friend of theirs, named Laudigeois. Thus the Phellions formed a phalanx of seven persons; the Collevilles were not less numerous; so that on Sundays it often appeared that thirty persons were assembled in the Thuillier salon. Thuillier renewed acquaintance with the Saillards, Baudoyers, and Falleixs,—all persons of respectability in the quarter of the Palais-Royal, whom they often invited to dinner.

Madame Colleville was, as a woman, the most distinguished member of this society, just as Minard junior and Professor Phellion were superior among the men. All the others, without ideas or education, and issuing from the lower ranks, presented the types and the absurdities of the lesser bourgeoisie. Though all success, especially if won from distant sources, seems to presuppose some genuine merit, Minard was really an inflated balloon. Expressing himself in empty phrases, mistaking sycophancy for politeness, and wordiness for wit, he uttered his commonplaces with a brisk assurance that passed for eloquence. Certain words which said nothing but answered all things,—progress, steam, bitumen, National guard, order, democratic element, spirit of association, legality, movement, resistance,—seemed, as each political phase developed, to have been actually made for Minard, whose talk was a paraphrase on the ideas of his newspaper. Julien Minard, the young lawyer, suffered from his father as much as his father suffered from his wife. Zelie had grown pretentious with wealth, without, at the same time, learning to speak French. She was now very fat, and gave the idea, in her rich surroundings, of a cook married to her master.

Phellion, that type and model of the petty bourgeois, exhibited as many virtues as he did absurdities. Accustomed to subordination during his bureaucratic life, he respected all social superiority. He was therefore silent before Minard. During the critical period of retirement from office, he had held his own admirably, for the following reason. Never until now had that worthy and excellent man been able to indulge his own tastes. He loved the city of Paris; he was interested in its embellishment, in the laying out of its streets; he was capable of standing for hours to watch the demolition of houses. He might now have been observed, stolidly planted on his legs, his nose in the air, watching for the fall of a stone which some mason was loosening at the top of a wall, and never moving till the stone fell; when it had fallen he went away as happy as an academician at the fall of a romantic drama. Veritable supernumeraries of the social comedy, Phellion, Laudigeois, and their kind, fulfilled the functions of the antique chorus. They wept when weeping was in order, laughed when they should laugh, and sang in parts the public joys and sorrows; they triumphed in their corner with the triumphs of Algiers, of Constantine, of Lisbon, of Sainte-Jean d'Ulloa; they deplored the death of Napoleon and the fatal catastrophes of the Saint-Merri and the rue Transnonnain, grieving over celebrated men who were utterly unknown to them. Phellion alone presents a double side: he divides himself conscientiously between the reasons of the opposition and those of the government. When fighting went on in the streets, Phellion had the courage to declare himself before his neighbors; he went to the Place Saint-Michel, the place where his battalion assembled; he felt for the government and did his duty. Before and during the riot, he supported the dynasty, the product of July; but, as soon as the political trials began, he stood by the accused. This innocent "weather-cockism" prevails in his political opinions; he produces, in reply to all arguments, the "colossus of the North." England is, to his thinking, as to that of the old "Constitutionnel," a crone with two faces,—Machiavellian Albion, and the model nation: Machiavellian, when the interests of France and of Napoleon are concerned; the model nation when the faults of the government are in question. He admits, with his chosen paper, the democratic element, but refuses in conversation all compact with the republican spirit. The republican spirit to him means 1793, rioting, the Terror, and agrarian law. The democratic element is the development of the lesser bourgeoisie, the reign of Phellions.

The worthy old man is always dignified; dignity serves to explain his life. He has brought up his children with dignity; he has kept himself a father in their eyes; he insists on being honored in his home, just as he himself honors power and his superiors. He has never made debts. As a juryman his conscience obliges him to sweat blood and water in the effort to follow the debates of a trial; he never laughs, not even if the judge, and audience, and all the officials laugh. Eminently useful, he gives his services, his time, everything—except his money. Felix Phellion, his son, the professor, is his idol; he thinks him capable of attaining to the Academy of Sciences. Thuillier, between the audacious nullity of Minard, and the solid silliness of Phellion, was a neutral substance, but connected with both through his dismal experience. He managed to conceal the emptiness of his brain by commonplace talk, just as he covered the yellow skin of his bald pate with thready locks of his gray hair, brought from the back of his head with infinite art by the comb of his hairdresser.

"In any other career," he was wont to say, speaking of the government employ, "I should have made a very different fortune."

He had seen the right, which is possible in theory and impossible in practice,—results proving contrary to premises,—and he related the intrigues and the injustices of the Rabourdin affair.

"After that, one can believe all, and believe nothing," he would say. "Ah! it is a queer thing, government! I'm very glad not to have a son, and never to see him in the career of a place-hunter."

Colleville, ever gay, rotund, and good-humored, a sayer of "quodlibets," a maker of anagrams, always busy, represented the capable and bantering bourgeois, with faculty without success, obstinate toil without result; he was also the embodiment of jovial resignation, mind without object, art with usefulness, for, excellent musician that he was, he never played now except for his daughter.

The Thuillier salon was in some sort a provincial salon, lighted, however, by continual flashes from the Parisian conflagration; its mediocrity and its platitudes followed the current of the times. The popular saying and thing (for in Paris the thing and its saying are like the horse and its rider) ricochetted, so to speak, to this company. Monsieur Minard was always impatiently expected, for he was certain to know the truth of important circumstances. The women of the Thuillier salon held by the Jesuits; the men defended the University; and, as a general thing, the women listened. A man of intelligence (could he have borne the dulness of these evenings) would have laughed, as he would at a comedy of Moliere, on hearing, amid endless discussion, such remarks as the following:—

"How could the Revolution of 1789 have been avoided? The loans of Louis XIV. prepared the way for it. Louis XV., an egotist, a man of narrow mind (didn't he say, 'If I were lieutenant of police I would suppress cabriolets'?), that dissolute king—you remember his Parc aux Cerfs?—did much to open the abyss of revolution. Monsieur de Necker, an evil-minded Genovese, set the thing a-going. Foreigners have always tried to injure France. The maximum did great harm to the Revolution. Legally Louis XVI. should never have been condemned; a jury would have acquitted him. Why did Charles X. fall? Napoleon was a great man, and the facts that prove his genius are anecdotal: he took five pinches of snuff a minute out of a pocket lined with leather made in his waistcoat. He looked into all his tradesmen's accounts; he went to Saint-Denis to judge for himself the prices of things. Talma was his friend; Talma taught him his gestures; nevertheless, he always refused to give Talma the Legion of honor! The emperor mounted guard for a sentinel who went to sleep, to save him from being shot. Those were the things that made his soldiers adore him. Louis XVIII., who certainly had some sense, was very unjust in calling him Monsieur de Buonaparte. The defect of the present government is in letting itself be led instead of leading. It holds itself too low. It is afraid of men of energy. It ought to have torn up all the treaties of 1815 and demanded the Rhine. They keep the same men too long in the ministry"; etc., etc.

"Come, you've exerted your minds long enough," said Mademoiselle Thuillier, interrupting one of these luminous talks; "the altar is dressed; begin your little game."

If these anterior facts and all these generalities were not placed here as the frame of the present Scene, to give an idea of the spirit of this society, the following drama would certainly have suffered greatly. Moreover, this sketch is historically faithful; it shows a social stratum of importance in any portrayal of manners and morals, especially when we reflect that the political system of the Younger branch rests almost wholly upon it.

The winter of the year 1839 was, it may be said, the period when the Thuillier salon was in its greatest glory. The Minards came nearly every Sunday, and began their evening by spending an hour there, if they had other engagements elsewhere. Often Minard would leave his wife at the Thuilliers and take his son and daughter to other houses. This assiduity on the part of the Minards was brought about by a somewhat tardy meeting between Messieurs Metivier, Barbet, and Minard on an evening when the two former, being tenants of Mademoiselle Thuillier, remained rather longer than usual in discussing business with her. From Barbet, Minard learned that the old maid had money transactions with himself and Metivier to the amount of sixty thousand francs, besides having a large deposit in the Bank.

"Has she an account at the Bank?" asked Minard.

"I believe so," replied Barbet. "I give her at least eighty thousand francs there."

Being on intimate terms with a governor of the Bank, Minard ascertained that Mademoiselle Thuillier had, in point of fact, an account of over two hundred thousand francs, the result of her quarterly deposits for many years. Besides this, she owned the house they lived in, which was not mortgaged, and was worth at least one hundred thousand francs, if not more.

"Why should Mademoiselle Thuillier work in this way?" said Minard to Metivier. "She'd be a good match for you," he added.

"I? oh, no," replied Metivier. "I shall do better by marrying a cousin; my uncle Metivier has given me the succession to his business; he has a hundred thousand francs a year and only two daughters."

However secretive Mademoiselle Thuillier might be,—and she said nothing of her investments to any one, not even to her brother, although a large amount of Madame Thuillier's fortune went to swell the amount of her own savings,—it was difficult to prevent some ray of light from gliding under the bushel which covered her treasure.

Dutocq, who frequented Barbet, with whom he had some resemblance in character and countenance, had appraised, even more correctly than Minard, the Thuillier finances. He knew that their savings amounted, in 1838, to one hundred and fifty thousand francs, and he followed their progress secretly, calculating profits by the help of that all-wise money-lender, Barbet.

"Celeste will have from my brother and myself two hundred thousand francs in ready money," the old maid had said to Barbet in confidence, "and Madame Thuillier wishes to secure to her by the marriage contract the ultimate possession of her own fortune. As for me, my will is made. My brother will have everything during his lifetime, and Celeste will be my heiress with that reservation. Monsieur Cardot, the notary, is my executor."

Mademoiselle Thuillier now instigated her brother to renew his former relations with the Saillards, Baudoyers, and others, who held a position similar to that of the Thuilliers in the quartier Saint-Antoine, of which Monsieur Saillard was mayor. Cardot, the notary, had produced his aspirant for Celeste's hand in the person of Monsieur Godeschal, attorney and successor to Derville; an able man, thirty-six years of age, who had paid one hundred thousand francs for his practice, which the two hundred thousand of the "dot" would doubly clear off. Minard, however, got rid of Godeschal by informing Mademoiselle Thuillier that Celeste's sister-in-law would be the famous Mariette of the Opera.

"She came from the stage," said Colleville, alluding to his wife, "and there's no need she should return to it."

"Besides, Monsieur Godeschal is too old for Celeste," remarked Brigitte.

"And ought we not," added Madame Thuillier, timidly, "to let her marry according to her own taste, so as to be happy?"

The poor woman had detected in Felix Phellion a true love for Celeste; the love that a woman crushed by Brigitte and wounded by her husband's indifference (for Thuillier cared less for his wife than he did for a servant) had dreamed that love might be,—bold in heart, timid externally, sure of itself, reserved, hidden from others, but expanding toward heaven. At twenty-three years of age, Felix Phellion was a gentle, pure-minded young man, like all true scholars who cultivate knowledge for knowledge's sake. He had been sacredly brought up by his father, who, viewing all things seriously, had given him none but good examples accompanied by trivial maxims. He was a young man of medium height, with light chestnut hair, gray eyes, and a skin full of freckles; gifted with a charming voice, a tranquil manner; making few gestures; thoughtful, saying little, and that little sensible; contradicting no one, and quite incapable of a sordid thought or a selfish calculation.

"That," thought Madame Thuillier, "is what I should have liked my husband to be."

One evening, in the month of February, 1840, the Thuillier salon contained the various personages whose silhouettes we have just traced out, together with some others. It was nearly the end of the month. Barbet and Metivier having business with mademoiselle Brigitte, were playing whist with Minard and Phellion. at another table were Julien the advocate (a nickname given by Colleville to young Minard), Madame Colleville, Monsieur Barniol, and Madame Phellion. "Bouillotte," at five sous a stake, occupied Madame Minard, who knew no other game, Colleville, old Monsieur Saillard, and Bandoze, his son-in-law. The substitutes were Laudigeois and Dutocq. Mesdames Falleix, Baudoyer, Barniol, and Mademoiselle Minard were playing boston, and Celeste was sitting beside Prudence Minard. Young Phellion was listening to Madame Thuillier and looking at Celeste.

At a corner of the fireplace sat enthroned on a sofa the Queen Elizabeth of the family, as simply dressed as she had been for the last thirty years; for no prosperity could have made her change her habits. She wore on her chinchilla hair a black gauze cap, adorned with the geranium called Charles X.; her gown, of plum-colored stuff, made with a yoke, cost fifteen francs, her embroidered collarette was worth six, and it ill disguised the deep wrinkle produced by the two muscles which fastened the head to the vertebral column. The actor, Monvel, playing Augustus Caesar in his old age, did not present a harder and sterner profile than that of this female autocrat, knitting socks for her brother. Before the fireplace stood Thuillier in an attitude, ready to go forward and meet the arriving guests; near him was a young man whose entrance had produced a great effect, when the porter (who on Sundays wore his best clothes and waited on the company) announced Monsieur Olivier Vinet.

A private communication made by Cardot to the celebrated "procureur-general," father of this young man, was the cause of his visit. Olivier Vinet had just been promoted from the court of Arcis-sur-Aube to that of the Seine, where he now held the post of substitute "procureur-de-roi." Cardot had already invited Thuillier and the elder Vinet, who was likely to become minister of justice, with his son, to dine with him. The notary estimated the fortunes which would eventually fall to Celeste at seven hundred thousand francs. Vinet junior appeared charmed to obtain the right to visit the Thuilliers on Sundays. Great dowries make men commit great and unbecoming follies without reserve or decency in these days.

Ten minutes later another young man, who had been talking with Thuillier before the arrival of Olivier Vinet, raised his voice eagerly, in a political discussion, and forced the young magistrate to follow his example in the vivacious argument which now ensued. The matter related to the vote by which the Chamber of Deputies had just overthrown the ministry of the 12th of May, refusing the allowance demanded for the Duc de Nemours.

"Assuredly," said the young man, "I am far from belonging to the dynastic party; I am very far from approving of the rise of the bourgeoisie to power. The bourgeoisie ought not, any more than the aristocracy of other days, to assume to be the whole nation. But the French bourgeoisie has now taken upon itself to create a new dynasty, a royalty of its own, and behold how it treats it! When the people allowed Napoleon to rise to power, it created with him a splendid and monumental state of things; it was proud of his grandeur; and it nobly gave its blood and sweat in building up the edifice of the Empire. Between the magnificence of the aristocratic throne and those of the imperial purple, between the great of the earth and the People, the bourgeoisie is proving itself petty; it degrades power to its own level instead of rising up to it. The saving of candle-ends it has so long practised behind its counters, it now seeks to impose on its princes. What may perhaps have been virtue in its shops is a blunder and a crime higher up. I myself have wanted many things for the people, but I never should have begun by lopping off ten millions of francs from the new civil list. In becoming, as it were, nearly the whole of France, the bourgeoisie owed to us the prosperity of the people, splendor without ostentation, grandeur without privilege."

The father of Olivier Vinet was just now sulking with the government. The robe of Keeper of the Seals, which had been his dream, was slow in coming to him. The young substitute did not, therefore, know exactly how to answer this speech; he thought it wise to enlarge on one of its side issues.

"You are right, monsieur," said Olivier Vinet. "But, before manifesting itself magnificently, the bourgeoisie has other duties to fulfil towards France. The luxury you speak of should come after duty. That which seems to you so blameable is the necessity of the moment. The Chamber is far from having its full share in public affairs; the ministers are less for France than they are for the crown, and parliament has determined that the administration shall have, as in England, a strength and power of its own, and not a mere borrowed power. The day on which the administration can act for itself, and represent the Chamber as the Chamber represents the country, parliament will be found very liberal toward the crown. The whole question is there. I state it without expressing my own opinion, for the duties of my post demand, in politics, a certain fealty to the crown."

"Setting aside the political question," replied the young man, whose voice and accent were those of a native of Provence, "it is certainly true that the bourgeoisie has ill understood its mission. We can see, any day, the great law officers, attorney-generals, peers of France in omnibuses, judges who live on their salaries, prefects without fortunes, ministers in debt! Whereas the bourgeoisie, who have seized upon those offices, ought to dignify them, as in the olden time when aristocracy dignified them, and not occupy such posts solely for the purpose of making their fortune, as scandalous disclosures have proved."

"Who is this young man?" thought Olivier Vinet. "Is he a relative? Cardot ought to have come with me on this first visit."

"Who is that little monsieur?" asked Minard of Barbet. "I have seen him here several times."

"He is a tenant," replied Metivier, shuffling the cards.

"A lawyer," added Barbet, in a low voice, "who occupies a small apartment on the third floor front. Oh! He doesn't amount to much; he has nothing."

"What is the name of that young man?" said Olivier Vinet to Thuillier.

"Theodose de la Peyrade; he is a barrister," replied Thuillier, in a whisper.

At that moment the women present, as well as the men, looked at the two young fellows, and Madame Minard remarked to Colleville:—

"He is rather good-looking, that stranger."

"I have made his anagram," replied Colleville, "and his name, Charles-Marie-Theodose de la Peyrade, prophecies: 'Eh! monsieur payera, de la dot, des oies et le char.' Therefore, my dear Mamma Minard, be sure you don't give him your daughter."

"They say that young man is better-looking than my son," said Madame Phellion to Madame Colleville. "What do you think about it?"

"Oh! in the matter of physical beauty a woman might hesitate before choosing," replied Madame Colleville.

At that moment it occurred to young Vinet as he looked round the salon, so full of the lesser bourgeoisie, that it might be a shrewd thing to magnify that particular class; and he thereupon enlarged upon the meaning of the young Provencal barrister, declaring that men so honored by the confidence of the government should imitate royalty and encourage a magnificence surpassing that of the former court. It was folly, he said, to lay by the emoluments of an office. Besides, could it be done, in Paris especially, where costs of living had trebled,—the apartment of a magistrate, for instance, costing three thousand francs a year?

"My father," he said in conclusion, "allows me three thousand francs a year, and that, with my salary, barely allows me to maintain my rank."

When the young substitute rode boldly into this bog-hole, the Provencal, who had slyly enticed him there, exchanged, without being observed, a wink with Dutocq, who was just then waiting for the place of a player at bouillotte.

"There is such a demand for offices," remarked the latter, "that they talk of creating two justices of the peace to each arrondissement in order to make a dozen new clerkships. As if they could interfere with our rights and our salaries, which already require an exhorbitant tax!"

"I have not yet had the pleasure of hearing you at the Palais," said Vinet to Monsieur de la Peyrade.

"I am advocate for the poor, and I plead only before the justice of peace," replied la Peyrade.

Mademoiselle Thuillier, as she listened to young Vinet's theory of the necessity of spending an income, assumed a distant air and manner, the significance of which was well understood by Dutocq and the young Provencal. Vinet left the house in company with Minard and Julien the advocate, so that the battle-field before the fire-place was abandoned to la Peyrade and Dutocq.

"The upper bourgeoisie," said Dutocq to Thuillier, "will behave, in future, exactly like the old aristocracy. The nobility wanted girls with money to manure their lands, and the parvenus of to-day want the same to feather their nests."

"That's exactly what Monsieur Thuillier was saying to me this morning," remarked la Peyrade, boldly.

"Vinet's father," said Dutocq, "married a Demoiselle de Chargeboeuf and has caught the opinions of the nobility; he wants a fortune at any price; his wife spends money regally."

"Oh!" said Thuillier, in whom the jealousy between the two classes of the bourgeoisie was fully roused, "take offices away from those fellows and they'd fall back where they came."

Mademoiselle was knitting with such precipitous haste that she seemed to be propelled by a steam-engine.

"Take my place, Monsieur Dutocq," said Madame Minard, rising. "My feet are cold," she added, going to the fire, where the golden ornaments of her turban made fireworks in the light of the Saint-Aurora wax-candles that were struggling vainly to light the vast salon.

"He is very small fry, that young substitute," said Madame Minard, glancing at Mademoiselle Thuillier.

"Small fry!" cried la Peyrade. "Ah, madame! how witty!"

"But madame has so long accustomed us to that sort of thing," said the handsome Thuillier.

Madame Colleville was examining la Peyrade and comparing him with young Phellion, who was just then talking to Celeste, neither of them paying any heed to what was going on around them. This is, certainly, the right moment to depict the singular personage who was destined to play a signal part in the Thuillier household, and who fully deserves the appellation of a great artist.