The Two Brothers, by Honoré de Balzac

Chapter IV

Three months later, the colonel, who ate and drank enough for four men, finding fault with the food and compelling the poor widows, on the score of his payments, to spend much money on their table, had not yet paid down a single penny. His mother and Madame Descoings were unwilling, out of delicacy, to remind him of his promise. The year went by without one of those coins which Leon Gozlan so vigorously called “tigers with five claws” finding its way from Philippe’s pocket to the household purse. It is true that the colonel quieted his conscience on this score by seldom dining at home.

“Well, he is happy,” said his mother; “he is easy in mind; he has a place.”

Through the influence of a feuilleton, edited by Vernou, a friend of Bixiou, Finot, and Giroudeau, Mariette made her appearance, not at the Panorama–Dramatique but at the Porte–Saint-Martin, where she triumphed beside the famous Begrand. Among the directors of the theatre was a rich and luxurious general officer, in love with an actress, for whose sake he had made himself an impresario. In Paris, we frequently meet with men so fascinated with actresses, singers, or ballet-dancers, that they are willing to become directors of a theatre out of love. This officer knew Philippe and Giroudeau. Mariette’s first appearance, heralded already by Finot’s journal and also by Philippe’s, was promptly arranged by the three officers; for there seems to be solidarity among the passions in a matter of folly.

The mischievous Bixiou was not long in revealing to his grandmother and the devoted Agathe that Philippe, the cashier, the hero of heroes, was in love with Mariette, the celebrated ballet-dancer at the Porte–Saint-Martin. The news was a thunder-clap to the two widows; Agathe’s religious principles taught her to think that all women on the stage were brands in the burning; moreover, she thought, and so did Madame Descoings, that women of that kind dined off gold, drank pearls, and wasted fortunes.

“Now do you suppose,” said Joseph to his mother, “that my brother is such a fool as to spend his money on Mariette? Such women only ruin rich men.”

“They talk of engaging Mariette at the Opera,” said Bixiou. “Don’t be worried, Madame Bridau; the diplomatic body often comes to the Porte–Saint-Martin, and that handsome girl won’t stay long with your son. I did hear that an ambassador was madly in love with her. By the bye, another piece of news! Old Claparon is dead, and his son, who has become a banker, has ordered the cheapest kind of funeral for him. That fellow has no education; they wouldn’t behave like that in China.”

Philippe, prompted by mercenary motives, proposed to Mariette that she should marry him; but she, knowing herself on the eve of an engagement at the Grand Opera, refused the offer, either because she guessed the colonel’s motive, or because she saw how important her independence would be to her future fortune. For the remainder of this year, Philippe never came more than twice a month to see his mother. Where was he? Either at his office, or the theatre, or with Mariette. No light whatever as to his conduct reached the household of the rue Mazarin. Giroudeau, Finot, Bixiou, Vernou, Lousteau, saw him leading a life of pleasure. Philippe shared the gay amusements of Tullia, a leading singer at the Opera, of Florentine, who took Mariette’s place at the Porte–Saint-Martin, of Florine and Matifat, Coralie and Camusot. After four o’clock, when he left his office, until midnight, he amused himself; some party of pleasure had usually been arranged the night before — a good dinner, a card-party, a supper by some one or other of the set. Philippe was in his element.

This carnival, which lasted eighteen months, was not altogether without its troubles. The beautiful Mariette no sooner appeared at the Opera, in January, 1821, than she captured one of the most distinguished dukes of the court of Louis XVIII. Philippe tried to make head against the peer, and by the month of April he was compelled by his passion, notwithstanding some luck at cards, to dip into the funds of which he was cashier. By May he had taken eleven hundred francs. In that fatal month Mariette started for London, to see what could be done with the lords while the temporary opera house in the Hotel Choiseul, rue Lepelletier, was being prepared. The luckless Philippe had ended, as often happens, in loving Mariette notwithstanding her flagrant infidelities; she herself had never thought him anything but a dull-minded, brutal soldier, the first rung of a ladder on which she had never intended to remain long. So, foreseeing the time when Philippe would have spent all his money, she captured other journalistic support which released her from the necessity of depending on him; nevertheless, she did feel the peculiar gratitude that class of women acknowledge towards the first man who smooths their way, as it were, among the difficulties and horrors of a theatrical career.

Forced to let his terrible mistress go to London without him, Philippe went into winter quarters, as he called it — that is, he returned to his attic room in his mother’s appartement. He made some gloomy reflections as he went to bed that night, and when he got up again. He was conscious within himself of the inability to live otherwise than as he had been living the last year. The luxury that surrounded Mariette, the dinners, the suppers, the evenings in the side-scenes, the animation of wits and journalists, the sort of racket that went on around him, the delights that tickled both his senses and his vanity, — such a life, found only in Paris, and offering daily the charm of some new thing, was now more than habit — it had become to Philippe as much a necessity as his tobacco or his brandy. He saw plainly that he could not live without these continual enjoyments. The idea of suicide came into his head; not on account of the deficit which must soon be discovered in his accounts, but because he could no longer live with Mariette in the atmosphere of pleasure in which he had disported himself for over a year. Full of these gloomy thoughts, he entered for the first time his brother’s painting-room, where he found the painter in a blue blouse, copying a picture for a dealer.

“So that’s how pictures are made,” said Philippe, by way of opening the conversation.

“No,” said Joseph, “that is how they are copied.”

“How much do they pay you for that?”

“Eh! never enough; two hundred and fifty francs. But I study the manner of the masters and learn a great deal; I found out the secrets of their method. There’s one of my own pictures,” he added, pointing with the end of his brush to a sketch with the colors still moist.

“How much do you pocket in a year?”

“Unfortunately, I am known only to painters. Schinner backs me; and he has got me some work at the Chateau de Presles, where I am going in October to do some arabesques, panels, and other decorations, for which the Comte de Serizy, no doubt, will pay well. With such trifles and with orders from the dealers, I may manage to earn eighteen hundred to two thousand francs a year over and above the working expenses. I shall send that picture to the next exhibition; if it hits the public taste, my fortune is made. My friends think well of it.”

“I don’t know anything about such things,” said Philippe, in a subdued voice which caused Joseph to turn and look at him.

“What is the matter?” said the artist, seeing that his brother was very pale.

“I should like to know how long it would take you to paint my portrait?”

“If I worked steadily, and the weather were clear, I could finish it in three or four days.”

“That’s too long; I have only one day to give you. My poor mother loves me so much that I wished to leave her my likeness. We will say no more about it.”

“Why! are you going away again?”

“I am going never to return,” replied Philippe with an air of forced gayety.

“Look here, Philippe, what is the matter? If it is anything serious, I am a man and not a ninny. I am accustomed to hard struggles, and if discretion is needed, I have it.”

“Are you sure?”

“On my honor.”

“You will tell no one, no matter who?”

“No one.”

“Well, I am going to blow my brains out.”

“You! — are you going to fight a duel?”

“I am going to kill myself.”

“Why?”

“I have taken eleven hundred francs from the funds in my hands; I have got to send in my accounts tomorrow morning. Half my security is lost; our poor mother will be reduced to six hundred francs a year. That would be nothing! I could make a fortune for her later; but I am dishonored! I cannot live under dishonor —”

“You will not be dishonored if it is paid back. To be sure, you will lose your place, and you will only have the five hundred francs a year from your cross; but you can live on five hundred francs.”

“Farewell!” said Philippe, running rapidly downstairs, and not waiting to hear another word.

Joseph left his studio and went down to breakfast with his mother; but Philippe’s confession had taken away his appetite. He took Madame Descoings aside and told her the terrible news. The old woman made a frightened exclamation, let fall the saucepan of milk she had in her hand, and flung herself into a chair. Agathe rushed in; from one exclamation to another the mother gathered the fatal truth.

“He! to fail in honor! the son of Bridau to take the money that was trusted to him!”

The widow trembled in every limb; her eyes dilated and then grew fixed; she sat down and burst into tears.

“Where is he?” she cried amid the sobs. “Perhaps he has flung himself into the Seine.”

“You must not give up all hope,” said Madame Descoings, “because a poor lad has met with a bad woman who has led him to do wrong. Dear me! we see that every day. Philippe has had such misfortunes! he has had so little chance to be happy and loved that we ought not to be surprised at his passion for that creature. All passions lead to excess. My own life is not without reproach of that kind, and yet I call myself an honest woman. A single fault is not vice; and after all, it is only those who do nothing that are never deceived.”

Agathe’s despair overcame her so much that Joseph and the Descoings were obliged to lessen Philippe’s wrong-doings by assuring her that such things happened in all families.

“But he is twenty-eight years old,” cried Agathe, “he is no longer a child.”

Terrible revelation of the inward thought of the poor woman on the conduct of her son.

“Mother, I assure you he thought only of your sufferings and of the wrong he had done you,” said Joseph.

“Oh, my God! let him come back to me, let him live, and I will forgive all,” cried the poor mother, to whose mind a horrible vision of Philippe dragged dead out of the river presented itself.

Gloomy silence reigned for a short time. The day went by with cruel alternations of hope and fear; all three ran to the window at the least sound, and gave way to every sort of conjecture. While the family were thus grieving, Philippe was quietly getting matters in order at his office. He had the audacity to give in his accounts with a statement that, fearing some accident, he had retained eleven hundred francs at his own house for safe keeping. The scoundrel left the office at five o’clock, taking five hundred francs more from the desk, and coolly went to a gambling-house, which he had not entered since his connection with the paper, for he knew very well that a cashier must not be seen to frequent such a place. The fellow was not wanting in acumen. His past conduct proved that he derived more from his grandfather Rouget than from his virtuous sire, Bridau. Perhaps he might have made a good general; but in private life, he was one of those utter scoundrels who shelter their schemes and their evil actions behind a screen of strict legality, and the privacy of the family roof.

At this conjuncture Philippe maintained his coolness. He won at first, and gained as much as six thousand francs; but he let himself be dazzled by the idea of getting out of his difficulties at one stroke. He left the trente-et-quarante, hearing that the black had come up sixteen times at the roulette table, and was about to put five thousand francs on the red, when the black came up for the seventeenth time. The colonel then put a thousand francs on the black and won. In spite of this remarkable piece of luck, his head grew weary; he felt it, though he continued to play. But that divining sense which leads a gambler, and which comes in flashes, was already failing him. Intermittent perceptions, so fatal to all gamblers, set in. Lucidity of mind, like the rays of the sun, can have no effect except by the continuity of a direct line; it can divine only on condition of not breaking that line; the curvettings of chance bemuddle it. Philippe lost all. After such a strain, the careless mind as well as the bravest weakens. When Philippe went home that night he was not thinking of suicide, for he had never really meant to kill himself; he no longer thought of his lost place, nor of the sacrificed security, nor of his mother, nor of Mariette, the cause of his ruin; he walked along mechanically. When he got home, his mother in tears, Madame Descoings, and Joseph, all fell on his neck and kissed him and brought him joyfully to a seat by the fire.

“Bless me!” thought he, “the threat has worked.”

The brute at once assumed an air suitable to the occasion; all the more easily, because his ill-luck at cards had deeply depressed him. Seeing her atrocious Benjamin so pale and woe-begone, the poor mother knelt beside him, kissed his hands, pressed them to her heart, and gazed at him for a long time with eyes swimming in tears.

“Philippe,” she said, in a choking voice, “promise not to kill yourself, and all shall be forgotten.”

Philippe looked at his sorrowing brother and at Madame Descoings, whose eyes were full of tears, and thought to himself, “They are good creatures.” Then he took his mother in his arms, raised her and put her on his knee, pressed her to his heart and whispered as he kissed her, “For the second time, you give me life.”

The Descoings managed to serve an excellent dinner, and to add two bottles of old wine with a little “liqueur des iles,” a treasure left over from her former business.

“Agathe,” she said at dessert, “we must let him smoke his cigars,” and she offered some to Philippe.

These two poor creatures fancied that if they let the fellow take his ease, he would like his home and stay in it; both, therefore, tried to endure his tobacco-smoke, though each loathed it. That sacrifice was not so much as noticed by Philippe.

On the morrow, Agathe looked ten years older. Her terrors calmed, reflection came back to her, and the poor woman had not closed an eye throughout that horrible night. She was now reduced to six hundred francs a year. Madame Descoings, like all fat women fond of good eating, was growing heavy; her step on the staircase sounded like the chopping of logs; she might die at any moment; with her life, four thousand francs would disappear. What folly to rely on that resource! What should she do? What would become of them? With her mind made up to become a sick-nurse rather than be supported by her children, Agathe did not think of herself. But Philippe? what would he do if reduced to live on the five hundred francs of an officer of the Legion of honor? During the past eleven years, Madame Descoings, by giving up three thousand francs a year, had paid her debt twice over, but she still continued to sacrifice her grandson’s interests to those of the Bridau family. Though all Agathe’s honorable and upright feelings were shocked by this terrible disaster, she said to herself: “Poor boy! is it his fault? He is faithful to his oath. I have done wrong not to marry him. If I had found him a wife, he would not have got entangled with this danseuse. He has such a vigorous constitution —”

Madame Descoings had likewise reflected during the night as to the best way of saving the honor of the family. At daybreak, she got out of bed and went to her friend’s room.

“Neither you nor Philippe should manage this delicate matter,” she urged. “Our two old friends Du Bruel and Claparon are dead, but we still have Desroches, who is very sagacious. I’ll go and see him this morning. He can tell the newspaper people that Philippe trusted a friend and has been made a victim; that his weakness in such respects makes him unfit to be a cashier; what has now happened may happen again, and that Philippe prefers to resign. That will prevent his being turned off.”

Agathe, seeing that this business lie would save the honor of her son, at any rate in the eyes of strangers, kissed Madame Descoings, who went out early to make an end of the dreadful affair.

Philippe, meanwhile, had slept the sleep of the just. “She is sly, that old woman,” he remarked, when his mother explained to him why breakfast was late.

Old Desroches, the last remaining friend of these two poor women, who, in spite of his harsh nature, never forgot that Bridau had obtained for him his place, fulfilled like an accomplished diplomat the delicate mission Madame Descoings had confided to him. He came to dine that evening with the family, and notified Agathe that she must go the next day to the Treasury, rue Vivienne, sign the transfer of the funds involved, and obtain a coupon for the six hundred francs a year which still remained to her. The old clerk did not leave the afflicted household that night without obliging Philippe to sign a petition to the minister of war, asking for his reinstatement in the active army. Desroches promised the two women to follow up the petition at the war office, and to profit by the triumph of a certain duke over Philippe in the matter of the danseuse, and so obtain that nobleman’s influence.

“Philippe will be lieutenant-colonel in the Duc de Maufrigneuse’s regiment within three months,” he declared, “and you will be rid of him.”

Desroches went away, smothered with blessings from the two poor widows and Joseph. As to the newspaper, it ceased to exist at the end of two months, just as Finot had predicted. Philippe’s crime had, therefore, so far as the world knew, no consequences. But Agathe’s motherhood had received a deadly wound. Her belief in her son once shaken, she lived in perpetual fear, mingled with some satisfactions, as she saw her worst apprehensions unrealized.

When men like Philippe, who are endowed with physical courage, and yet are cowardly and ignoble in their moral being, see matters and things resuming their accustomed course about them after some catastrophe in which their honor and decency is well-nigh lost, such family kindness, or any show of friendliness towards them is a premium of encouragement. They count on impunity; their minds distorted, their passions gratified, only prompt them to study how it happened that they succeeded in getting round all social laws; the result is they become alarmingly adroit.

A fortnight later, Philippe, once more a man of leisure, lazy and bored, renewed his fatal cafe life — his drams, his long games of billiards embellished with punch, his nightly resort to the gambling-table, where he risked some trifling stake and won enough to pay for his dissipations. Apparently very economical, the better to deceive his mother and Madame Descoings, he wore a hat that was greasy, with the nap rubbed off at the edges, patched boots, a shabby overcoat, on which the red ribbon scarcely showed so discolored and dirty was it by long service at the buttonhole and by the spatterings of coffee and liquors. His buckskin gloves, of a greenish tinge, lasted him a long while; and he only gave up his satin neckcloth when it was ragged enough to look like wadding. Mariette was the sole object of the fellow’s love, and her treachery had greatly hardened his heart. When he happened to win more than usual, or if he supped with his old comrade, Giroudeau, he followed some Venus of the slums, with brutal contempt for the whole sex. Otherwise regular in his habits, he breakfasted and dined at home and came in every night about one o’clock. Three months of this horrible life restored Agathe to some degree of confidence.

As for Joseph, who was working at the splendid picture to which he afterwards owed his reputation, he lived in his atelier. On the prediction of her grandson Bixiou, Madame Descoings believed in Joseph’s future glory, and she showed him every sort of motherly kindness; she took his breakfast to him, she did his errands, she blacked his boots. The painter was never seen till dinner-time, and his evenings were spent at the Cenacle among his friends. He read a great deal, and gave himself that deep and serious education which only comes through the mind itself, and which all men of talent strive after between the ages of twenty and thirty. Agathe, seeing very little of Joseph, and feeling no uneasiness about him, lived only for Philippe, who gave her the alternations of fears excited and terrors allayed, which seem the life, as it were, of sentiment, and to be as necessary to maternity as to love. Desroches, who came once a week to see the widow of his patron and friend, gave her hopes. The Duc de Maufrigneuse had asked to have Philippe in his regiment; the minister of war had ordered an inquiry; and as the name of Bridau did not appear on any police list, nor an any record at the Palais de Justice, Philippe would be reinstated in the army early in the coming year.

To arrive at this result, Desroches set all the powers that he could influence in motion. At the prefecture of police he learned that Philippe spent his evenings in the gambling-house; and he thought it best to tell this fact privately to Madame Descoings, exhorting her keep an eye on the lieutenant-colonel, for one outbreak would imperil all; as it was, the minister of war was not likely to inquire whether Philippe gambled. Once restored to his rank under the flag of his country, he would perhaps abandon a vice only taken up from idleness. Agathe, who no longer received her friends in the evening, sat in the chimney-corner reading her prayers, while Madame Descoings consulted the cards, interpreted her dreams, and applied the rules of the “cabala” to her lottery ventures. This jovial fanatic never missed a single drawing; she still pursued her trey — which never turned up. It was nearly twenty-one years old, just approaching its majority; on this ridiculous idea the old woman now pinned her faith. One of its three numbers had stayed at the bottom of all the wheels ever since the institution of the lottery. Accordingly, Madame Descoings laid heavy stakes on that particular number, as well as on all the combinations of the three numbers. The last mattress remaining to her bed was the place where she stored her savings; she unsewed the ticking, put in from time to time the bit of gold saved from her needs, wrapped carefully in wool, and then sewed the mattress up again. She intended, at the last drawing, to risk all her savings on the different combinations of her treasured trey.

This passion, so universally condemned, has never been fairly studied. No one has understood this opium of poverty. The lottery, all-powerful fairy of the poor, bestowed the gift of magic hopes. The turn of the wheel which opens to the gambler a vista of gold and happiness, lasts no longer than a flash of lightning, but the lottery gave five days’ existence to that magnificent flash. What social power can today, for the sum of five sous, give us five days’ happiness and launch us ideally into all the joys of civilization? Tobacco, a craving far more immoral than play, destroys the body, attacks the mind, and stupefies a nation; while the lottery did nothing of the kind. This passion, moreover, was forced to keep within limits by the long periods that occurred between the drawings, and by the choice of wheels which each investor individually clung to. Madame Descoings never staked on any but the “wheel of Paris.” Full of confidence that the trey cherished for twenty-one years was about to triumph, she now imposed upon herself enormous privations, that she might stake a large amount of savings upon the last drawing of the year. When she dreamed her cabalistic visions (for all dreams did not correspond with the numbers of the lottery), she went and told them to Joseph, who was the sole being who would listen, and not only not scold her, but give her the kindly words with which an artist knows how to soothe the follies of the mind. All great talents respect and understand a real passion; they explain it to themselves by finding the roots of it in their own hearts or minds. Joseph’s ideas was, that his brother loved tobacco and liquors, Maman Descoings loved her trey, his mother loved God, Desroches the younger loved lawsuits, Desroches the elder loved angling — in short, all the world, he said, loved something. He himself loved the “beau ideal” in all things; he loved the poetry of Lord Byron, the painting of Gericault, the music of Rossini, the novels of Walter Scott. “Every one to his taste, maman,” he would say; “but your trey does hang fire terribly.”

“It will turn up, and you will be rich, and my little Bixiou as well.”

“Give it all to your grandson,” cried Joseph; “at any rate, do what you like best with it.”

“Hey! when it turns up I shall have enough for everybody. In the first place, you shall have a fine atelier; you sha’n’t deprive yourself of going to the opera so as to pay for your models and your colors. Do you know, my dear boy, you make me play a pretty shabby part in that picture of yours?”

By way of economy, Joseph had made the Descoings pose for his magnificent painting of a young courtesan taken by an old woman to a Doge of Venice. This picture, one of the masterpieces of modern painting, was mistaken by Gros himself for a Titian, and it paved the way for the recognition which the younger artists gave to Joseph’s talent in the Salon of 1823.

“Those who know you know very well what you are,” he answered gayly. “Why need you trouble yourself about those who don’t know you?”

For the last ten years Madame Descoings had taken on the ripe tints of a russet apple at Easter. Wrinkles had formed in her superabundant flesh, now grown pallid and flabby. Her eyes, full of life, were bright with thoughts that were still young and vivacious, and might be considered grasping; for there is always something of that spirit in a gambler. Her fat face bore traces of dissimulation and of the mental reservations hidden in the depths of her heart. Her vice necessitated secrecy. There were also indications of gluttony in the motion of her lips. And thus, although she was, as we have seen, an excellent and upright woman, the eye might be misled by her appearance. She was an admirable model for the old woman Joseph wished to paint. Coralie, a young actress of exquisite beauty who died in the flower of her youth, the mistress of Lucien de Rubempre, one of Joseph’s friends, had given him the idea of the picture. This noble painting has been called a plagiarism of other pictures, while in fact it was a splendid arrangement of three portraits. Michel Chrestien, one of his companions at the Cenacle, lent his republican head for the senator, to which Joseph added a few mature tints, just as he exaggerated the expression of Madame Descoings’s features. This fine picture, which was destined to make a great noise and bring the artist much hatred, jealousy, and admiration, was just sketched out; but, compelled as he was to work for a living, he laid it aside to make copies of the old masters for the dealers; thus he penetrated the secrets of their processes, and his brush is therefore one of the best trained of the modern school. The shrewd sense of an artist led him to conceal the profits he was beginning to lay by from his mother and Madame Descoings, aware that each had her road to ruin — the one in Philippe, the other in the lottery. This astuteness is seldom wanting among painters; busy for days together in the solitude of their studios, engaged in work which, up to a certain point, leaves the mind free, they are in some respects like women — their thoughts turn about the little events of life, and they contrive to get at their hidden meaning.

Joseph had bought one of those magnificent chests or coffers of a past age, then ignored by fashion, with which he decorated a corner of his studio, where the light danced upon the bas-reliefs and gave full lustre to a masterpiece of the sixteenth century artisans. He saw the necessity for a hiding-place, and in this coffer he had begun to accumulate a little store of money. With an artist’s carelessness, he was in the habit of putting the sum he allowed for his monthly expenses in a skull, which stood on one of the compartments of the coffer. Since his brother had returned to live at home, he found a constant discrepancy between the amount he spent and the sum in this receptacle. The hundred francs a month disappeared with incredible celerity. Finding nothing one day, when he had only spent forty or fifty francs, he remarked for the first time: “My money must have got wings.” The next month he paid more attention to his accounts; but add as he might, like Robert Macaire, sixteen and five are twenty-three, he could make nothing of them. When, for the third time, he found a still more important discrepancy, he communicated the painful fact to Madame Descoings, who loved him, he knew, with that maternal, tender, confiding, credulous, enthusiastic love that he had never had from his own mother, good as she was — a love as necessary to the early life of an artist as the care of the hen is to her unfledged chickens. To her alone could he confide his horrible suspicions. He was as sure of his friends as he was of himself; and the Descoings, he knew, would take nothing to put in her lottery. At the idea which then suggested itself the poor woman wrung her hands. Philippe alone could have committed this domestic theft.

“Why didn’t he ask me, if he wanted it?” cried Joseph, taking a dab of color on his palette and stirring it into the other colors without seeing what he did. “Is it likely I should refuse him?”

“It is robbing a child!” cried the Descoings, her face expressing the deepest disgust.

“No,” replied Joseph, “he is my brother; my purse is his: but he ought to have asked me.”

“Put in a special sum, in silver, this morning, and don’t take anything out,” said Madame Descoings. “I shall know who goes into the studio; and if he is the only one, you will be certain it is he.”

The next day Joseph had proof of his brother’s forced loans upon him. Philippe came to the studio when his brother was out and took the little sum he wanted. The artist trembled for his savings.

“I’ll catch him at it, the scamp!” he said, laughing, to Madame Descoings.

“And you’ll do right: we ought to break him of it. I, too, I have missed little sums out of my purse. Poor boy! he wants tobacco; he’s accustomed to it.”

“Poor boy! poor boy!” cried the artist. “I’m rather of Fulgence and Bixiou’s opinion: Philippe is a dead-weight on us. He runs his head into riots and has to be shipped to America, and that costs the mother twelve thousand francs; he can’t find anything to do in the forests of the New World, and so he comes back again, and that costs twelve thousand more. Under pretence of having carried two words of Napoleon to a general, he thinks himself a great soldier and makes faces at the Bourbons; meantime, what does he do? amuse himself, travel about, see foreign countries! As for me, I’m not duped by his misfortunes; he doesn’t look like a man who fails to get the best of things! Somebody finds him a good place, and there he is, leading the life of a Sardanapalus with a ballet-girl, and guzzling the funds of his journal; that costs the mother another twelve thousand francs! I don’t care two straws for myself, but Philippe will bring that poor woman to beggary. He thinks I’m of no account because I was never in the dragoons of the Guard; but perhaps I shall be the one to support that poor dear mother in her old age, while he, if he goes on as he does, will end I don’t know how. Bixiou often says to me, ‘He is a downright rogue, that brother of yours.’ Your grandson is right. Philippe will be up to some mischief that will compromise the honor of the family, and then we shall have to scrape up another ten or twelve thousand francs! He gambles every night; when he comes home, drunk as a templar, he drops on the staircase the pricked cards on which he marks the turns of the red and black. Old Desroches is trying to get him back into the army, and, on my word on honor, I believe he would hate to serve again. Would you ever have believed that a boy with such heavenly blue eyes and the look of Bayard could turn out such a scoundrel?”

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31