The Brotherhood of Consolation


Two or three hours a day will now suffice to keep the current accounts in order, and you will have plenty of surplus time to help the work in other ways, if you still have the vocation you showed for it six months ago."It was now July, 1838.During the time that had elapsed since his opening attempt on the boulevard du Mont-Parnasse, Godefroid, eager to prove himself worthy of his friends, had refrained from asking any question relating to Baron Bourlac.Not hearing a single word on the subject, and finding no record of any transaction concerning it in the accounts, he regarded the silence maintained about the enemy of Madame de la Chanterie and his family either as a test to which he himself was subjected, or as a proof that the friends of the noble woman had in some way avenged her.

Some two months after he had left Madame Vauthier's lodgings he turned his steps when out for a walk towards the boulevard du Mont-Parnasse, where he came upon the widow herself, and asked for news of the Bernard family.

"Just as if I knew what has become of them!" she replied."Two days after your departure--for it was you, slyboots, who got the affair away from my proprietor--some men came here and rid me of that arrogant old fool and all his belongings.Bless me! if they didn't move everything out within twenty-four hours; and as close as wax they were too; not a word would they say to me.I think he went off to Algiers with his rogue of a grandson; for Nepomucene, who had a fancy for that young thief, being no better himself, couldn't find him at the Conciergerie.I dare say Nepomucene knows where he is, though, for he, too, has run away.That's what it is to bring up foundlings!

that's how they reward you for all your trouble, leaving you in the lurch! I haven't yet been able to get a man in his place, and as the quarter is looking up the house is full, and I am worked to death."Godefroid would never have known more about Baron Bourlac and his family if it had not been for one of those chance encounters such as often happens in Paris.

In the month of September he was walking down the great avenue of the Champs Elysees, thinking, as he passed the end of the rue Marbeuf, of Dr.Halpersohn.

"I might," thought he, "go and see him and ask if he ever cured Bourlac's daughter.What a voice, what immense talents she had!--and she wanted to consecrate herself to God!"When he reached the Rond-point Godefroid crossed it quickly, on account of the many carriages that were passing rapidly.As he reached the other side in haste he knocked against a young man with a lady on his arm.

"Take care!" said the young man; "are you blind?""Hey! is it you?" cried Godefroid, recognizing Auguste de Mergi.

Auguste was so well-dressed, and looked so dandified and handsome and so proud of giving his arm to a pretty woman, that if it had not been for the youth's voice and the memories that were just then in his own mind he might not have recognized him.

"Oh! it is our dear Monsieur Godefroid!" said the lady.

Hearing those words in the celestial notes of Vanda's enchanting voice, Godefroid stopped short on the spot where he stood.

"Cured!" he exclaimed.

"For the last ten days he has allowed me to walk out," she replied.

"Who? Halpersohn?"

"Yes," she said."Why have you not been to see us? Perhaps it was well you didn't;" she added; "my hair came off; this that you see is a wig;but the doctor assures me it will grow again.Oh! how many things we have to tell each other! Come and dine with us.Oh! your accordion!

oh! monsieur,"--she put her handkerchief to her eyes.

"I shall keep it all my life," she went on, "and my son will preserve it as a relic after me.My father has searched all Paris for you.And he is also in search of his unknown benefactors; he will grieve himself to death if you do not help him to discover them.Poor father!

he is gnawed by a melancholy I cannot always get the better of."As much attracted by that exquisite voice, now rescued from the silence of the grave, as by a burning curiosity, Godefroid offered his arm to the hand held out to him by the Baronne de Mergi, who signed to her son to precede them, charging him with a commission which he seemed to understand.

"I shall not take you far," she said; "we live in the Allee d'Antin, in a pretty little house built in the English fashion.We occupy it alone; each of us has a floor.Oh! we are so comfortable.My father thinks that you had a great deal to do with our good fortune.""I?"

"Yes; did you know that on a recommendation made by the minister of public instruction a chair of international law has been created for papa at the Sorbonne? He begins his first course next November.The great work on which he has been engaged for so long will be published this month by the firm of Cavalier and Co., who agree to share the profits with my father; they have already paid him on account thirty thousand francs.My father bought our house with that money.The minister of justice has awarded me a pension of twelve hundred francs as the daughter of a former judge; my father has his retiring pension of three thousand, and his professorship will give him five thousand more.We are so economical that we are almost rich.My dear Auguste will begin his law studies in two months; but he is already employed in the office of the attorney-general, and is earning twelve hundred francs a year.Ah! Monsieur Godefroid, promise me you will never speak of that unhappy affair of my poor Auguste.As for me, I bless him every day for his action, though his grandfather has not yet forgiven him.Yes, his mother blesses him, Halpersohn adores him, but my father is implacable!""What affair?" asked Godefroid.

"Ah! I recognize your generosity," cried Vanda."What a heart you have! Your mother must be proud of you."She stopped as if a pain had struck her heart.

"I swear to you that I know nothing of the affair of which you speak,"said Godefroid.

"It is possible that you really did not know it?" said Vanda.And she related naively, in terms of admiration for her son, the story of the loan that he had secured from the doctor.

Honore De Balzac