The Man With The Broken Ear, by Edmond About

Chapter 17.

Wherein Herr Nicholas Meiser, One of the Solid Men of Dantzic, Receives an Unwelcome Visit.

The wisdom of mankind declares that ill-gotten gains never do any good. I maintain that they do the robbers more good than the robbed, and the good fortune of Herr Nicholas Meiser is an argument in support of my proposition.

The nephew of the illustrious physiologist, after brewing a great deal of beer from a very little hops, and prematurely appropriating the legacy intended for Fougas, had amassed, by various operations, a fortune of from eight to ten millions. “In what kind of operations?” No one ever told me, but I know that he called all operations that would make money, good ones. To lend small sums at a big interest, to accumulate great stores of grain in order to relieve a scarcity after producing it himself, to foreclose on unfortunate debtors, to fit out a vessel or two for trade in black flesh on the African coast — such are specimens of the speculations which the good man did not despise. He never boasted of them, for he was modest; but he never blushed for them, for he had expanded his conscience simultaneously with his capital. As for the rest, he was a man of honor, in the commercial sense of the word, and capable of strangling the whole human race rather than of letting his signature be protested. The banks of Dantzic, Berlin, Vienna, and Paris, held him in high esteem; his money passed through all of them.

He was fat, unctuous, and florid, and lived well. His wife’s nose was much too long, and her bones much too prominent, but she loved him with all her heart, and made him little sweetmeats. A perfect congeniality of sentiment united this charming couple. They talked with each other with open hearts, and never thought of keeping back any of their evil thoughts. Every year, at Saint Martin’s day, when rents became due, they turned out of doors the families of five or six workmen who could not pay for their terms; but they dined none the worse after it, and their good-night kiss was none the less sweet.

The husband was sixty-six years old, the wife sixty-four. Their physiognomies were such as inspire benevolence and command respect. To complete their outward resemblance to the patriarchs, nothing was needed but children and grandchildren. Nature had given them one son — an only one, because they had not solicited Nature for more. They would have thought it criminal improvidence to divide their fortune among several. Unhappily, this only child, the heir-presumptive to so many millions, died at the University of Heidelberg from eating too many sausages. He set out, when he was twenty, for that Valhalla of German students, where they eat infinite sausages, and drink inexhaustible beer; where they sing songs of eight hundred million verses, and gash the tips of each other’s noses with huge swords. Envious Death snatched him from his parents when they were no longer of an age to improvise a successor. The unfortunate old millionnaires tenderly collected his effects, to sell them. During this operation, so trying to their souls (for there was a great deal of brand-new linen that could not be found), Nicholas Meiser said to his wife, “My heart bleeds at the idea that our buildings and dollars, our goods above ground and under, should go to strangers. Parents ought always to have an extra son, just as they have a vice-umpire in the Chamber of Commerce.”

But Time, who is a great teacher in Germany and several other countries, led them to see that there is consolation for all things except the loss of money. Five years afterwards, Frau Meiser said to her husband, with a tender and philosophic, smile: “Who can fathom the decrees of Providence? Perhaps your son would have brought us to a crust. Look at Theobald Scheffler, his old comrade. He wasted twenty thousand francs at Paris on a woman who kicked up her legs in the middle of a quadrille. We ourselves spent more than two thousand thalers a year for our wicked scapegrace. His death is a great saving, and therefore a good thing!”

As long as the three coffins of Fougas were in the house, the good dame scolded at the visions and restlessness of her husband. “What in the name of sense are you thinking about? You’ve been kicking me all night again. Let’s throw this ragamuffin of a Frenchman into the fire; then he’ll no longer disturb the repose of a peaceable family. We can sell the leaden box; it must weigh at least two hundred pounds. The white silk will make me a good lining for a dress; and the wool in the stuffing, will easily make us a mattress.” But a tinge of superstition prevented Meiser from following his wife’s advice; he preferred to rid himself of the Colonel by selling him.

The house of this worthy couple was the handsomest and most substantial on the street of Public Wells, in the aristocratic part of the city. Strong railings, in iron open work, decorated all the windows magnificently, and the door was sheathed in iron, like a knight of the olden time. A system of little mirrors, ingeniously arranged in the entrance, enabled a visitor to be seen before he had even knocked. A single servant, a regular horse for work and camel for temperance, ministered under this roof blessed by the gods.

The old servant slept away from the house, both because he preferred to and because while he did so he could not be tempted to wring the venerable necks of his employers. A few books on Commerce and Religion constituted the library of the two old people. They never cared to have a garden at the back of their house, because the shrubbery might conceal thieves. They fastened their door with bolts every evening at eight o’clock, and never went out without being obliged to, for fear of meeting dangerous people.

And nevertheless, on the 29th of April, 1859, at eleven o’clock in the morning, Nicholas Meiser was far away from his beloved home. Gracious! how very far away for him — this honest burgher of Dantzic! He was traversing, with heavy tread, the promenade in Berlin, which bears the name of one of Alphonse Karrs’ romances: Sous les tilleuls. In German: Unter den Linden.

What mighty agency had thrown out of his bon-bon box, this big red bon-bon on two legs? The same that led Alexander to Babylon, Scipio to Carthage, Godfrey de Bouillon to Jerusalem, and Napoleon to Moscow — Ambition! Meiser did not expect to be presented with the keys of the city on a cushion of red velvet, but he knew a great lord, a clerk in a government office, and a chambermaid who were working to get a patent of nobility for him. To call himself Von Meiser instead of plain Meiser! What a glorious dream!

This good man had in his character that compound of meanness and vanity which places lacqueys so far apart from the rest of mankind. Full of respect for power, and admiration for conventional greatness, he never pronounced the name of king, prince, or even baron, without emphasis and unction. He mouthed every aristocratic syllable, and the single word “Monseigneur” seemed to him like a mouthful of well-spiced soup. Examples of this disposition are not rare in Germany, and are even occasionally found elsewhere. If they could be transported to a country where all men are equal, homesickness for boot-licking would kill them.

The claims brought to bear in favor of Nicholas Meiser, were not of the kind which at once spring the balance, but of the kind which make it turn little by little. Nephew of an illustrious man of science, powerfully rich, a man of sound judgment, a subscriber to the New Gazette of the Cross, full of hatred for the opposition, author of a toast against the influence of demagogues, once a member of the City Council, once an umpire in the Chamber of Commerce, once a corporal in the militia, and an open enemy of Poland and all nations but the strong ones. His most brilliant action dated back ten years. He had denounced, by an anonymous letter, a member of the French Parliament who had taken refuge in Dantzic. While Meiser was walking under the lindens, his cause was progressing swimmingly. He had received that sweet assurance from the very lips of its promoters. And so he tripped lightly toward the depot of the North-Eastern Railroad, without any other baggage than a revolver in his pocket. His black leather trunk had gone before; and was waiting for him at the station. On the way, he was glancing into the shop windows, when he stopped short before a stationer’s, and rubbed his eyes — a sovereign remedy, people say, for impaired vision. Between the portraits of Mme. Sand and M. Mérimée, the two greatest writers of France, he had noticed, examined, recognized a well-known countenance.

“Surely,” said he, “I’ve seen that man before, but he was paler. Can our old lodger have come to life? Impossible! I burned up my uncle’s directions, so the world has lost — thanks to me — the secret of resuscitating people. Nevertheless, the resemblance is striking. Is it a portrait of Colonel Fougas, taken from life in 1813? No; for photography was not then invented. But possibly it’s a photograph copied from an engraving? Here are Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette reproduced in the same way: that doesn’t prove that Robespierre had them resuscitated. Anyhow, I’ve had an unfortunate encounter.”

He took a step toward the door of the shop to reassure himself, but a peculiar reluctance held him back. People might wonder at him, ask him questions, try to learn the reason of his trouble. He resumed his walk at a brisk pace, trying to reassure himself.

“Bah! It’s an hallucination — the result of dwelling too much on one idea. Moreover, the portrait was dressed in the style of 1813; that settles the question.”

He reached the station, had his black leather trunk checked, and flung himself down at full length in a first-class compartment. First he smoked his porcelain pipe, but his two neighbors being asleep, he soon followed their example, and began snoring. Now this big man’s snores had something awe-inspiring about them; you could have fancied yourself listening to the trumpets of the judgment day. What shade visited him in this hour of sleep, no other soul has ever known; for he kept his dreams to himself, as he did everything that was his.

But between two stations, while the train was running at full speed, he distinctly felt two powerful hands pulling at his feet — a sensation, alas! too well known, and one which called up the ugliest recollections of his life. He opened his eyes in terror, and saw the man of the photograph, in the costume of the photograph. His hair stood on end, his eyes grew as big as saucers, he uttered a loud cry, and flung himself headlong between the seats among the legs of his neighbors.

A few vigorous kicks brought him to himself. He got up as well as he could, and looked about him. No one was there but the two gentlemen opposite, who were mechanically lanching their last kicks into the empty space, and rubbing their eyes with their arms. He succeeded in awakening them, and asked them about the visitation he had had; but the gentlemen declared they had seen nothing.

Meiser sadly returned to his own thoughts; he noticed that the visions appeared terribly real. This idea prevented his going to sleep again.

“If this goes on much longer,” thought he, “the Colonel’s ghost will break my nose with a blow of his fist, or give me a pair of black eyes!”

A little later, it occurred to him that he had breakfasted very hastily that morning, and he reflected that the nightmare had perhaps been brought about by such dieting.

He got off at the next five-minute stopping-place and called for soup. Some very hot vermicelli was brought him, and he blew into his bowl like a dolphin into the Bosphorus.

A man passed before him, without jostling him, without saying anything to him, without even seeing him. And nevertheless, the bowl dropped from the hands of the rich Nicholas Meiser, the vermicelli poured over his waistcoat and shirt-bosom, where it formed an elegant fretwork suggestive of the architecture of the porte Saint Martin. Some yellowish threads, detached from the mass, hung in stalactites from the buttons of his coat. The vermicelli stopped on the outside, but the soup penetrated much further. It was rather warm for pleasure; an egg left in it ten minutes would have been boiled hard. Fatal soup, which not only distributed itself among the pockets, but into the most secret sinuosities of the man himself! The starting bell rang, the waiter collected his two sous, and Meiser got into the cars, preceded by a plaster of vermicelli, and followed by a little thread of soup which was running down the calves of his legs.

And all of this, because he had seen, or thought he had seen, the terrible figure of Colonel Fougas eating sandwiches.

Oh! how long the trip seemed! What a terrible time it appeared to be before he could be at home, between his wife Catharine and his servant Berbel, with all the doors safely closed! His two companions laughed till the buttons flew; people laughed in the compartment to the right of him, and in the compartment to the left of him. As fast as he picked off the vermicelli, little spots of soup saucily congealed and seemed quietly laughing. How hard it comes to a great millionnaire to amuse people who do not possess a cent! He did not get off again until they reached Dantzic; he did not even put his nose to the window; he sucked solitary consolation from his porcelain pipe, on which Leda caressed her swan and smiled not.

Wearisome, wearisome journey! But he did reach home nevertheless. It was eight o’clock in the evening; the old domestic was waiting with ropes to sling his master’s trunk on his back. No more alarming figures, no more mocking laughs! The history of the soup was fallen into the great forgotten, like one of M. Heller’s speeches. In the baggage room, Meiser had already seized the handle of a black leather trunk, when, at the other end, he saw the spectre of Fougas, which was pulling in the opposite direction, and seemed inclined to dispute possession. He bristled up, pulled stronger, and even plunged his left hand into the pocket where the revolver was lying. But the luminous glance of the Colonel fascinated him, his legs trembled, he fell, and fancied that he saw Fougas and the black trunk rolling over each other. When he came to, his old servant was chafing his hands, the trunk already had the slings around it, and the Colonel had disappeared. The domestic swore that he had not seen anybody, and that he had himself received the trunk from the baggage agent’s own hand.

Twenty minutes later, the millionnaire was in his own house, joyfully rubbing his face against the sharp angles of his wife. He did not dare to tell her about his visions, for Frau Meiser was a skeptic, in her own way. It was she who spoke to him about Fougas.

“A whole history has happened to me,” said she. “Would you believe that the police have written to us from Berlin, to find out whether our uncle left us a mummy, and when, and how long we kept him, and what we have done with him? I answered, telling the truth, and adding that Colonel Fougas was in such a bad condition, and so damaged by mites, that we sold him for rags. What object can the police have in troubling themselves about our affairs?”

Meiser heaved a heavy sigh.

“Let’s talk about money!” said the lady. “The president of the bank has been to see me. The million you asked him for, for to-morrow, is ready; it will be delivered upon your signature. It seems that they’ve had a deal of trouble to get the amount in specie. If you had but wanted drafts on Vienna or Paris, you would have put them at their ease. But at last they’ve done what you wanted. There’s no other news, except that Schmidt, the merchant, has killed himself. He had to pay a note for ten thousand thalers, and didn’t have half the amount on hand. He came to ask me for the money; I offered him ten thousand thalers, at twenty-five per cent., payable in ninety days, with a first mortgage on all his real estate. The fool preferred to hang himself in his shop. Everyone to his taste!”

“Did he hang himself very high?”

“I don’t know anything about that. Why?”

“Because one might get a piece of rope cheap, and we’re greatly in want of some, my poor Catharine! That Colonel Fougas has given me a shiver.”

“Some more of your notions! Come to supper, my love.”

“Come on!”

The angular Baucis conducted her Philemon into a large and beautiful dining-room, where Berbel served a repast worthy of the gods. Soup with little balls of aniseeded bread, fish-balls with black sauce, mutton-balls stuffed, game balls, sour-krout cooked in lard and garnished with fried potatoes, roast hare with currant jelly, deviled crabs, salmon from the Vistula, jellies, and fruit tarts. Six bottles of Rhine-wine selected from the best vintages were awaiting, in their silver caps, the master’s kiss. But the lord of all these good things was neither hungry nor thirsty. He ate by nibbles and drank by sips, all the time expecting a grand consummation, which he did not have to expect along. A formidable rap of the knocker soon resounded through the house.

Nicholas Meiser trembled. His wife tried to reassure him. “It’s nothing,” said she. “The president of the bank told me that he was coming to see you. He offers to pay us the exchange, if we’ll take paper instead of specie.”

“It is about money, sure as Fate!” cried the good man. “Hell itself is coming to see us!”

At the same instant, the servant rushed into the room, crying, “Oh, Sir! Oh, Madame! It’s the Frenchman of the three coffins! Jesus! Mary, Mother of God!”

Fougas saluted them, and said, “Don’t disturb yourselves, good people, I beg of you. We’ve a little matter to discuss together, and I’m ready to explain it to you in two words. You’re in a hurry, so am I; you’ve not had supper, neither have I!”

Frau Meiser, more rigid and more emaciated than a thirteenth-century statue, opened wide her toothless mouth. Terror paralyzed her. The man, better prepared for the visit of the phantom, cocked his revolver under the table and took aim at the Colonel, crying ”Vade retro, Satanas!“ The exorcism and the pistol missed fire together.

Meiser was not at all discouraged: he snapped the six barrels one after the other at the demon, who stood watching him do it. Not one went off.

“What devilish game is that you’re playing?” said the Colonel, seating himself astride a chair. “People are not in the habit of receiving an honest man’s visit with that ceremony!”

Meiser flung down his revolver, and grovelled like a beast at Fougas’ feet. His wife, who was not one whit more tranquil, followed him. They joined hands, and the fat man exclaimed:

“Spirit! I confess my misdeeds, and I am ready to make reparation for them. I have sinned against you; I have violated my uncle’s commands. What do you wish? What do you command? A tomb? A magnificent monument? Prayers? Endless prayers?”

“Idiot!” said Fougas, spurning him with his foot; “I am no spirit, and I want nothing but the money you’ve robbed me of!”

Meiser kept rolling on the floor; but his scrawny wife was already on her feet, her fists on her hips, and facing Fougas.

“Money!” cried she, “But we don’t owe you any! Have you any documents? Just show us our signature! Where would one be, Just God! if we had to give money to all the adventurers who present themselves? And in the first place, by what right did you thrust yourself into our dwelling, if you’re not a spirit? Ah! you’re a man just the same as other people! Ha! ha! So you’re not a ghost! Very well, sir; there are judges in Berlin; there are some in the country, too, and we’ll soon see whether you’re going to finger our money! Get up there, you great booby; it’s only a man! And do you, Mister Ghost, get out of here! Off with you!”

The Colonel did not budge more than a rock.

“The devil’s in women’s tongues! Sit down, old lady, and take your hands away from my eyes — they bother me. And as for you, swell-head, get on to your chair, and listen to me. There will be time enough to go to law if we can’t come to an understanding. But stamped paper stinks in my nostrils; and therefore I’d rather settle peaceably.”

Herr and Frau Meiser repressed their first emotion. They distrusted magistrates, as do all people without clean consciences. If the Colonel was a poor devil who could be put off with a few thalers, it would be better to avoid legal proceedings.

Fougas stated the case to them with entire military bluntness. He proved the existence of his right, said that he had had his identity substantiated at Fontainebleau, Paris, and Berlin; cited from memory two or three passages of the will, and finished by declaring that the Prussian Government, in conjunction with that of France, would support his just claims if necessary.

“You understand clearly,” said he, taking Meiser by the button of his coat, “that I am no fox, depending on cunning. If you had a wrist vigorous enough to swing a good sabre, we’d take the field against each other, and I’d play you for the amount, first two cuts out of three, as surely as that’s soup before you!”

“Fortunately, monsieur,” said Meiser, “my age shields me from all brutality. You would not wish to trample under foot the corpse of an old man!”

“Venerable scoundrel! But you would have killed me like a dog, if your pistol had not missed fire!”

“It was not loaded, Monsieur Colonel! It was not —— anywhere near loaded! But I am an accommodating man, and we can come to terms very easily. I don’t owe you anything, and, moreover, there’s prescription; but after all —— how much do you want?”

“He has had his say: now it’s my turn!”

The old rascal’s mate softened the tone of her voice. Imagine to yourself a saw licking a tree before biting in.

“Listen, Claus, my dear — listen to what Monsieur Colonel Fougas has to say. You’ll see that he is reasonable! It’s not in him to think of ruining poor people like us. Oh, Heavens! he is not capable of it. He has such a noble heart! Such a disinterested man! An officer worthy of the great Napoleon (God receive his soul!).”

“That’s enough, old lady!” said Fougas, with a curt gesture which cut the speech off in the middle. “I had an estimate made at Berlin of what is due me — principal and interest.”

“Interest!” cried Meiser. “But in what country, in what latitude, do people pay interest on money? Perhaps it may sometimes happen in business, but between friends — never, no never, my good Monsieur Colonel! What would my good uncle, who is now gazing upon us from heaven, say, if he knew that you were claiming interest on his bequest?”

“Now shut up, Nickle!” interrupted his wife. “Monsieur Colonel is just about telling you, himself, that he did not intend to be understood as speaking of the interest.”

“Why in the name of great guns don’t you both shut up, you confounded magpies? Here I am dying of hunger, and I didn’t bring my nightcap to go to bed here, either! —— Now here’s the upshot of the matter: You owe me a great deal; but it’s not an even sum — there are fractions in it, and I go in for clean transactions. Moreover, my tastes are modest. I’ve enough for my wife and myself; nothing more is needed than to provide for my son!”

“Very well,” cried Meiser; “I’ll charge myself with the education of the little fellow!”

“Now, during the dozen days since I again became a citizen of the world, there is one word that I’ve heard spoken everywhere. At Paris, as well as at Berlin, people no longer speak of anything but millions; there is no longer any talk of anything else, and everybody’s mouth is full of millions. From hearing so much said about it, I’ve acquired a curiosity to know what it is. Go, fetch me out a million, and I’ll give you quittance!”

If you want to reach an approximate idea of the piercing cries which answered him, go to the Jardin des Plantes at the breakfast hour of the birds of prey, and try to pull the meat out of their beaks. Fougas stopped his ears and remained inexorable. Prayers, arguments, misrepresentations, flatteries, cringings, glanced off from him like rain from a zinc roof. But at ten o’clock at night, when he had concluded that all concurrence was impossible, he took his hat:

“Good evening!” said he. “It’s no longer a million that I must have, but two millions, and all over. We’ll go to law. I’m going to supper.”

He was on the staircase, when Frau Meiser said to her husband:

“Call him back, and give him his million!”

“Are you a fool?”

“Don’t be afraid.”

“I can never do it!”

“Father in heaven! what blockheads men are! Monsieur! Monsieur Fougas! Monsieur Colonel Fougas! Come up again, I pray you! We consent to all that you require!”

“Damnation!” said he, on reëntering; “you ought to have made up your minds sooner. But after all, let’s see the money!”

Frau Meiser explained to him with her tenderest voice, that poor capitalists like themselves, were not in the habit of keeping millions under their own lock and key.

“But you shall lose nothing by waiting, my sweet sir! To-morrow you shall handle the amount in nice white silver; my husband will sign you a check on the Royal Bank of Dantzic.”

“But — — ” said the unfortunate Meiser. He signed, nevertheless, for he had boundless confidence in the practical ingenuity of Catharine. The old lady begged Fougas to sit down at the end of the table, and dictated to him a receipt for two millions, in payment of all demands. You may depend that she did not forgot a word of the legal formulas, and that she arranged the affair in due form according to the Prussian code. The receipt, written throughout in the Colonel’s hand, filled three large pages.

He signed the instrument with a flourish, and received in exchange the signature of Nicholas, which he knew well.

“Well,” said he to the old gentleman, “you’re certainly not such an Arab as they said you were at Berlin. Shake hands, old scamp! I don’t usually shake hands with any but honest people; but on an occasion like this, one can do a little something extra.”

“Do it double, Monsieur Fougas,” said Frau Meiser, humbly. “Will you not join us in this modest supper?”

“Gad! old lady, it’s not a thing to be refused. My supper must be cold at the inn of the ‘Clock’; and your viands, smoking on their chafing dishes, have already caused me more than one fit of distraction. Besides, here are some yellow glass flutes, on which Fougas will not be at all reluctant to play an air.”

The respectable Catharine had an extra plate laid, and ordered Berbel to go to bed. The Colonel folded up Father Meiser’s million, rolled it carefully among a pile of bank-bills, and put the whole into the little pocket-book which his dear Clementine had sent him.

The clock struck eleven.

At half-past eleven Fougas began to see everything in a rosy cloud. He praised the Rhine wine highly, and thanked the Meisers for their hospitality. At midnight, he assured them of his highest esteem. At quarter past twelve, he embraced them. At half-past twelve, he delivered a eulogy on the illustrious John Meiser, his friend and benefactor. When he learned that John Meiser had died in that house, he poured forth a torrent of tears. At quarter to one, he assumed a confidential tone, and spoke of his son, whom he was going to make happy, and of the betrothed who was waiting for him. About one o’clock, he tasted a celebrated port wine which Frau Meiser had herself gone to bring from the cellar. About half-past one, his tongue thickened and his eyes grew dim; he struggled some time against drunkenness and sleepiness, announced that he was going to describe the Russian campaign, muttered the name of the Emperor, and slid under the table.

“You may believe me, if you will,” said Frau Meiser to her husband, “this is not a man who has come into our house; it’s the devil!”

“The devil!”

“If not, would I have advised you to give him a million? I heard a voice saying to me, ‘If you do not obey the messenger of the Infernal powers, you will both die this very night.’ It was on account of that, that I called him up stairs. Ah! if we had been doing business with a man, I would have told you to contest it in law to our last cent.”

“As you please! So you’re still making sport of my visions?”

“Forgive me, Claus dear; I was a fool!”

“And I’ve concluded I was, too.”

“Poor innocent! Perhaps you too thought this was Colonel Fougas?”

“Certainly!”

“As if it were possible to resuscitate a man! It is a demon, I tell you, who assumed the shape of the Colonel, to rob us of our money!”

“What can demons do with money?”

“Build cathedrals, to be sure!”

“But how is the devil to be recognized when he is disguised?”

“First by his cloven-foot — but this one has boots on; next by his clipped ear.”

“Bah! And why?”

“Because the devil’s ears are pointed, and, in order to make them round, he has to cut them.”

Meiser stuck his head under the table and uttered a cry of horror.

“It’s certainly the devil!” said he. “But how did he happen to let himself go to sleep?”

“Perhaps you did not know that when I came back from the cellar, I dropped into my chamber? I put a drop of holy water into the Port; charm against charm, and he is fallen.”

“That’s splendid! But what shall we do with him, now that we have him in our power?”

“What is done with demons in Scripture? The Saviour throws them into the sea.”

“The sea is a long way from here.”

“But, you big baby, the public wells are just by!”

“And what will be said to-morrow, when the body is found?”

“Nothing at all will be found; and even the check that we signed, will be turned into tinder.”

Ten minutes later, Herr and Frau Meiser were lugging something toward the public wells, and soon dame Catharine murmured, sotto voce, the following incantation:

“Demon, child of hell, be thou accursed!

“Demon, child of hell, be thou dashed headlong down!

“Demon, child of hell, return to hell!”

A dull sound — the sound of a body falling into water, terminated the ceremony, and the two spouses returned to their domicil, with the satisfaction that always follows the performance of a duty.

Nicholas said to himself:

“I didn’t think she was so credulous!”

“I didn’t think he was so simple!” thought the worthy Kettle, wedded wife of Claus.

They slept the sleep of innocence. Oh, how much less soft their pillows would have seemed, if Fougas had gone home with his million!

At ten o’clock the next morning, while they were taking their coffee and buttered rolls, the president of the bank called in, and said to them:

“I am greatly obliged to you for having accepted a draft on Paris instead of a million in specie, and without premium, too. That young Frenchman you sent to us is a little brusque, but very lively, and a good fellow.”

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 12:59