"Maitre Mouche is no longer at Levallois.Maitre Mouche has gone away from France.The day after to-morrow will make just eight days since he decamped, taking with him all the money of his clients--a tolerably large sum.I found the office closed.A woman who lived close by told me all about it with an abundance of curses and imprecations.The notary did not take the 7:55 train all by himself;he took with him the daughter of the hairdresser of Levallois, a young person quite famous in that part of the country for her beauty and her accomplishments;--they say she could shave better than her father.Well, anyhow Mouche has run away with her; the Commissaire de Police confirmed the fact for me.Now, really, could it have been possible for Maitre Mouche to have left the country at a more opportune moment? If he had only deferred his escapade one week longer, he would have been still the representative of society, and would have had you dragged off to gaol, Monsieur Bonnard, like a criminal.At present we have nothing whatever to fear from him.
Here is to the health of Maitre Mouche!" he cried, pouring out a glass of white wine.
I would like to live a long time if it were only to remember that delightful morning.We four were all assembled in the big white dining-room around the waxed oak table.Monsieur Paul's mirth was'
of the hearty kind,--even perhaps a little riotous; and the good man quaffed deeply.Madame de Gabry smiled at me, with a smile so sweet, so perfect, and so noble, that I thought such a woman ought to keep smiles like that simply as a reward for good actions, and thus make everybody who knew her do all the good of which they were capable.Then, to reward us for our pains, Jeanne, who had regained something of her former vivacity, asked us in less than a quarter of an hour one dozen questions, to answer which would have required an exhaustive exposition on the nature of man, the nature of the universe, the science of physics and of metaphysics, the Macrocosm and the Microcosm--not to speak of the Ineffable and the Unknowable.Then she drew out of her pocket her little Saint-George, who had suffered most cruelly during our flight.His legs and arms were gone; but he still had his gold helmet with the green dragon on it.Jeanne solemnly pledged herself to make a restoration of him in honour of Madame de Gabry.
Delightful friends! I left them at last overwhelmed with fatigue and joy.
On re-entering my lodgings I had to endure the very sharpest remonstrances from Therese, who said she had given up trying to understand my new way of living.In her opinion Monsieur had really lost his mind.
"Yes, Therese, I am a mad old man and you are a mad old woman.That is certain! May the good God bless us both, Therese, and give us new strength; for we now have new duties to perform.but let me lie down upon the sofa; for I really cannot keep myself on my feet any longer."January 15, 186-.
"Good-morning, Monsieur," said Jeanne, letting herself in; while Therese remained grumbling in the corridor because she had not been able to get to the door in time.
"Mademoiselle, I beg you will be kind enough to address me very solemnly by my title, and to say to me, 'Good-morning, my guardian.'""Then it has all been settled? Oh, how nice!" cried the child, clapping her hands.
"It has all been arranged, Mademoiselle, in the Salle-commune and before the Justice of the Peace; and from to-day you are under my authority....What are you laughing about, my ward? I see it in your eyes.You have some crazy idea in your head this very moment--some more nonsense, eh?"
"Oh, no! Monsieur....I mean, my guardian.I was looking at your white hair.It curls out from under the edge of your hat like honeysuckle on a balcony.It is very handsome, and I like it very much!""Be good enough to sit down, my ward, and, if you can possibly help it, stop saying ridiculous things, because I have some very serious things to say to you.Listen.I suppose you are not going to insist upon being sent back to the establishment of Mademoiselle Prefere?...No.Well, then, what would you say if I should take you here to live with me, and to finish your education, and keep you here until...what shall I say?--for ever, as the song has it?""Oh, Monsieur!" she cried, flushing crimson with pleasure.
I continued, "Behind there we have a nice little room, which my housekeeper has cleaned up and furnished for you.You are going to take the place of the books which used to be in it; you will succeed them as the day succeeds night.Go with Therese and look at it, and see if you think you will be able to live in it.Madame de Gabry and I have made up our minds that you can sleep there to-night."She had already started to run; I called her back for a moment.
"Jeanne, listen to me a moment longer! You have always until now made yourself a favourite with my housekeeper, who, like all very old people, is apt to be cross at times.Be gentle and forebearing.
Make every allowance for her.I have thought it my duty to make every allowance for her myself, and to put up with all her fits of impatience.Now, let me tell you, Jeanne:--Respect her! And when I say that, I do not forget that she is my servant and yours; neither will she ever allow herself to forget it for a moment.But what Iwant you to respect in her is her great age and her great heart.