The Two Brothers, by Honoré de Balzac

Chapter IX

Jean–Jacques Rouget did not mourn his father, though Flore Brazier did. The old doctor had made his son extremely unhappy, especially since he came of age, which happened in 1791; but he had given the little peasant-girl the material pleasures which are the ideal of happiness to country-folk. When Fanchette asked Flore, after the funeral, “Well, what is to become of you, now that monsieur is dead?” Jean–Jacques’s eyes lighted up, and for the first time in his life his dull face grew animated, showed feeling, and seemed to brighten under the rays of a thought.

“Leave the room,” he said to Fanchette, who was clearing the table.

At seventeen, Flore retained that delicacy of feature and form, that distinction of beauty which attracted the doctor, and which women of the world know how to preserve, though it fades among the peasant-girls like the flowers of the field. Nevertheless, the tendency to embonpoint, which handsome countrywomen develop when they no longer live a life of toil and hardship in the fields and in the sunshine, was already noticeable about her. Her bust had developed. The plump white shoulders were modelled on rich lines that harmoniously blended with those of the throat, already showing a few folds of flesh. But the outline of the face was still faultless, and the chin delicate.

“Flore,” said Jean–Jacques, in a trembling voice, “you feel at home in this house?”

“Yes, Monsieur Jean.”

As the heir was about to make his declaration, he felt his tongue stiffen at the recollection of the dead man, just put away in his grave, and a doubt seized him as to what lengths his father’s benevolence might have gone. Flore, who was quite unable even to suspect his simplicity of mind, looked at her future master and waited for a time, expecting Jean–Jacques to go on with what he was saying; but she finally left him without knowing what to think of such obstinate silence. Whatever teaching the Rabouilleuse may have received from the doctor, it was many a long day before she finally understood the character of Jean–Jacques, whose history we now present in a few words.

At the death of his father, Jacques, then thirty-seven, was as timid and submissive to paternal discipline as a child of twelve years old. That timidity ought to explain his childhood, youth, and after-life to those who are reluctant to admit the existence of such characters, or such facts as this history relates — though proofs of them are, alas, common everywhere, even among princes; for Sophie Dawes was taken by the last of the Condes under worse circumstances than the Rabouilleuse. There are two species of timidity — the timidity of the mind, and the timidity of the nerves; a physical timidity, and a moral timidity. The one is independent of the other. The body may fear and tremble, while the mind is calm and courageous, or vice versa. This is the key to many moral eccentricities. When the two are united in one man, that man will be a cipher all his life; such double-sided timidity makes him what we call “an imbecile.” Often fine suppressed qualities are hidden within that imbecile. To this double infirmity we may, perhaps, owe the lives of certain monks who lived in ecstasy; for this unfortunate moral and physical disposition is produced quite as much by the perfection of the soul and of the organs, as by defects which are still unstudied.

The timidity of Jean–Jacques came from a certain torpor of his faculties, which a great teacher or a great surgeon, like Despleins, would have roused. In him, as in the cretins, the sense of love had inherited a strength and vigor which were lacking to his mental qualities, though he had mind enough to guide him in ordinary affairs. The violence of passion, stripped of the ideal in which most young men expend it, only increased his timidity. He had never brought himself to court, as the saying is, any woman in Issoudun. Certainly no young girl or matron would make advances to a young man of mean stature, awkward and shame-faced in attitude; whose vulgar face, with its flattened features and pallid skin, making him look old before his time, was rendered still more hideous by a pair of large and prominent light-green eyes. The presence of a woman stultified the poor fellow, who was driven by passion on the one hand as violently as the lack of ideas, resulting from his education, held him back on the other. Paralyzed between these opposing forces, he had not a word to say, and feared to be spoken to, so much did he dread the obligation of replying. Desire, which usually sets free the tongue, only petrified his powers of speech. Thus it happened that Jean–Jacques Rouget was solitary and sought solitude because there alone he was at his ease.

The doctor had seen, too late for remedy, the havoc wrought in his son’s life by a temperament and a character of this kind. He would have been glad to get him married; but to do that, he must deliver him over to an influence that was certain to become tyrannical, and the doctor hesitated. Was it not practically giving the whole management of the property into the hands of a stranger, some unknown girl? The doctor knew how difficult it was to gain true indications of the moral character of a woman from any study of a young girl. So, while he continued to search for a daughter-inlaw whose sentiments and education offered some guarantees for the future, he endeavored to push his son into the ways of avarice; meaning to give the poor fool a sort of instinct that might eventually take the place of intelligence.

He trained him, in the first place, to mechanical habits of life; and instilled into him fixed ideas as to the investment of his revenues: and he spared him the chief difficulties of the management of a fortune, by leaving his estates all in good order, and leased for long periods. Nevertheless, a fact which was destined to be of paramount importance in the life of the poor creature escaped the notice of the wily old doctor. Timidity is a good deal like dissimulation, and is equally secretive. Jean–Jacques was passionately in love with the Rabouilleuse. Nothing, of course, could be more natural. Flore was the only woman who lived in the bachelor’s presence, the only one he could see at his ease; and at all hours he secretly contemplated her and watched her. To him, she was the light of his paternal home; she gave him, unknown to herself, the only pleasures that brightened his youth. Far from being jealous of his father, he rejoiced in the education the old man was giving to Flore: would it not make her all he wanted, a woman easy to win, and to whom, therefore, he need pay no court? The passion, observe, which is able to reflect, gives even to ninnies, fools, and imbeciles a species of intelligence, especially in youth. In the lowest human creature we find an animal instinct whose persistency resembles thought.

The next day, Flore, who had been reflecting on her master’s silence, waited in expectation of some momentous communication; but although he kept near her, and looked at her on the sly with passionate glances, Jean–Jacques still found nothing to say. At last, when the dessert was on the table, he recommenced the scene of the night before.

“You like your life here?” he said to Flore.

“Yes, Monsieur Jean.”

“Well, stay here then.”

“Thank you, Monsieur Jean.”

This strange situation lasted three weeks. One night, when no sound broke the stillness of the house, Flore, who chanced to wake up, heard the regular breathing of human lungs outside her door, and was frightened to discover Jean–Jacques, crouched like a dog on the landing.

“He loves me,” she thought; “but he will get the rheumatism if he keeps up that sort of thing.”

The next day Flore looked at her master with a certain expression. This mute almost instinctive love had touched her; she no longer thought the poor ninny so ugly, though his forehead was crowned with pimples resembling ulcers, the signs of a vitiated blood.

“You don’t want to go back and live in the fields, do you?” said Jean–Jacques when they were alone.

“Why do you ask me that?” she said, looking at him.

“To know —” replied Rouget, turning the color of a boiled lobster.

“Do you wish to send me back?” she asked.

“No, mademoiselle.”

“Well, what is it you want to know? You have some reason —”

“Yes, I want to know —”

“What?” said Flore.

“You won’t tell me?” exclaimed Rouget.

“Yes I will, on my honor —”

“Ah! that’s it,” returned Rouget, with a frightened air. “Are you an honest girl?”

“I’ll take my oath —”

“Are you, truly?”

“Don’t you hear me tell you so?”

“Come; are you the same as you were when your uncle brought you here barefooted?”

“A fine question, faith!” cried Flore, blushing.

The heir lowered his head and did not raise it again. Flore, amazed at such an encouraging sign from a man who had been overcome by a fear of that nature, left the room.

Three days later, at the same hour (for both seemed to regard the dessert as a field of battle), Flore spoke first, and said to her master —

“Have you anything against me?”

“No, mademoiselle,” he answered, “No —” [a pause] “On the contrary.”

“You seemed annoyed the other day to hear I was an honest girl.”

“No, I only wished to know —” [a pause] “But you would not tell me —”

“On my word!” she said, “I will tell you the whole truth.”

“The whole truth about — my father?” he asked in a strangled voice.

“Your father,” she said, looking full into her master’s eye, “was a worthy man — he liked a joke — What of that? — there was nothing in it. But, poor dear man, it wasn’t the will that was wanting. The truth is, he had some spite against you, I don’t know what, and he meant — oh! he meant you harm. Sometimes he made me laugh; but there! what of that?”

“Well, Flore,” said the heir, taking her hand, “as my father was nothing to you —”

“What did you suppose he was to me?” she cried, as if offended by some unworthy suspicion.

“Well, but just listen —”

“He was my benefactor, that was all. Ah! he would have liked to make me his wife, but —”

“But,” said Rouget, taking the hand which Flore had snatched away from him, “if he was nothing to you you can stay here with me, can’t you?”

“If you wish it,” she said, dropping her eyes.

“No, no! if you wish it, you!” exclaimed Rouget. “Yes, you shall be — mistress here. All that is here shall be yours; you shall take care of my property, it is almost yours now — for I love you; I have always loved you since the day you came and stood there — there! — with bare feet.”

Flore made no answer. When the silence became embarrassing, Jean–Jacques had recourse to a terrible argument.

“Come,” he said, with visible warmth, “wouldn’t it be better than returning to the fields?”

“As you will, Monsieur Jean,” she answered.

Nevertheless, in spite of her “as you will,” Jean–Jacques got no further. Men of his nature want certainty. The effort that they make in avowing their love is so great, and costs them so much, that they feel unable to go on with it. This accounts for their attachment to the first woman who accepts them. We can only guess at circumstances by results. Ten months after the death of his father, Jean–Jacques changed completely; his leaden face cleared, and his whole countenance breathed happiness. Flore exacted that he should take minute care of his person, and her own vanity was gratified in seeing him well-dressed; she always stood on the sill of the door, and watched him starting for a walk, until she could see him no longer. The whole town noticed these changes, which had made a new man of the bachelor.

“Have you heard the news?” people said to each other in Issoudun.

“What is it?”

“Jean–Jacques inherits everything from his father, even the Rabouilleuse.”

“Don’t you suppose the old doctor was wicked enough to provide a ruler for his son?”

“Rouget has got a treasure, that’s certain,” said everybody.

“She’s a sly one! She is very handsome, and she will make him marry her.”

“What luck that girl has had, to be sure!”

“The luck that only comes to pretty girls.”

“Ah, bah! do you believe that? look at my uncle Borniche–Herau. You have heard of Mademoiselle Ganivet? she was as ugly as seven capital sins, but for all that, she got three thousand francs a year out of him.”

“Yes, but that was in 1778.”

“Still, Rouget is making a mistake. His father left him a good forty thousand francs’ income, and he ought to marry Mademoiselle Herau.”

“The doctor tried to arrange it, but she would not consent; Jean–Jacques is so stupid —”

“Stupid! why women are very happy with that style of man.”

“Is your wife happy?”

Such was the sort of tattle that ran through Issoudun. If people, following the use and wont of the provinces, began by laughing at this quasi-marriage, they ended by praising Flore for devoting herself to the poor fellow. We now see how it was that Flore Brazier obtained the management of the Rouget household — from father to son, as young Goddet had said. It is desirable to sketch the history of that management for the edification of old bachelors.

Fanchette, the cook, was the only person in Issoudun who thought it wrong that Flore Brazier should be queen over Jean–Jacques Rouget and his home. She protested against the immorality of the connection, and took a tone of injured virtue; the fact being that she was humiliated by having, at her age, a crab-girl for a mistress — a child who had been brought barefoot into the house. Fanchette owned three hundred francs a year in the Funds, for the doctor made her invest her savings in that way, and he had left her as much more in an annuity; she could therefore live at her ease without the necessity of working, and she quitted the house nine months after the funeral of her old master, April 15, 1806. That date may indicate, to a perspicacious observer, the epoch at which Flore Brazier ceased to be an honest girl.

The Rabouilleuse, clever enough to foresee Fanchette’s probable defection — there is nothing like the exercise of power for teaching policy — was already resolved to do without a servant. For six months she had studied, without seeming to do so, the culinary operations that made Fanchette a cordon-bleu worthy of cooking for a doctor. In the matter of choice living, doctors are on a par with bishops. The doctor had brought Fanchette’s talents to perfection. In the provinces the lack of occupation and the monotony of existence turn all activity of mind towards the kitchen. People do not dine as luxuriously in the country as they do in Paris, but they dine better; the dishes are meditated upon and studied. In rural regions we often find some Careme in petticoats, some unrecognized genius able to serve a simple dish of haricot-beans worthy of the nod with which Rossini welcomed a perfectly-rendered measure.

When studying for his degree in Paris, the doctor had followed a course of chemistry under Rouelle, and had gathered some ideas which he afterwards put to use in the chemistry of cooking. His memory is famous in Issoudun for certain improvements little known outside of Berry. It was he who discovered that an omelette is far more delicate when the whites and the yolks are not beaten together with the violence which cooks usually put into the operation. He considered that the whites should be beaten to a froth and the yolks gently added by degrees; moreover a frying-pan should never be used, but a “cagnard” of porcelain or earthenware. The “cagnard” is a species of thick dish standing on four feet, so that when it is placed on the stove the air circulates underneath and prevents the fire from cracking it. In Touraine the “cagnard” is called a “cauquemarre.” Rabelais, I think, speaks of a “cauquemarre” for cooking cockatrice eggs, thus proving the antiquity of the utensil. The doctor had also found a way to prevent the tartness of browned butter; but his secret, which unluckily he kept to his own kitchen, has been lost.

Flore, a born fryer and roaster, two qualities that can never be acquired by observation nor yet by labor, soon surpassed Fanchette. In making herself a cordon-bleu she was thinking of Jean–Jacques’s comfort; though she was, it must be owned, tolerably dainty. Incapable, like all persons without education, of doing anything with her brains, she spent her activity upon household matters. She rubbed up the furniture till it shone, and kept everything about the house in a state of cleanliness worthy of Holland. She managed the avalanches of soiled linen and the floods of water that go by the name of “the wash,” which was done, according to provincial usage, three times a year. She kept a housewifely eye to the linen, and mended it carefully. Then, desirous of learning little by little the secret of the family property, she acquired the very limited business knowledge which Rouget possessed, and increased it by conversations with the notary of the late doctor, Monsieur Heron. Thus instructed, she gave excellent advice to her little Jean–Jacques. Sure of being always mistress, she was as eager and solicitous about the old bachelor’s interests as if they had been her own. She was not obliged to guard against the exactions of her uncle, for two months before the doctor’s death Brazier died of a fall as he was leaving a wine-shop, where, since his rise in fortune, he spent most of his time. Flore had also lost her father; thus she served her master with all the affection which an orphan, thankful to make herself a home and a settlement in life, would naturally feel.

This period of his life was paradise to poor Jean–Jacques, who now acquired the gentle habits of an animal, trained into a sort of monastic regularity. He slept late. Flore, who was up at daybreak attending to her housekeeping, woke him so that he should find his breakfast ready as soon as he had finished dressing. After breakfast, about eleven o’clock, Jean–Jacques went to walk; talked with the people he met, and came home at three in the afternoon to read the papers — those of the department, and a journal from Paris which he received three days after publication, well greased by the thirty hands through which it came, browned by the snuffy noses that had pored over it, and soiled by the various tables on which it had lain. The old bachelor thus got through the day until it was time for dinner; over that meal he spent as much time as it was possible to give to it. Flore told him the news of the town, repeating the cackle that was current, which she had carefully picked up. Towards eight o’clock the lights were put out. Going to bed early is a saving of fire and candles very commonly practised in the provinces, which contributes no doubt to the empty-mindedness of the inhabitants. Too much sleep dulls and weakens the brain.

Such was the life of these two persons during a period of nine years, the great events of which were a few journeys to Bourges, Vierzon, Chateauroux, or somewhat further, if the notaries of those towns and Monsieur Heron had no investments ready for acceptance. Rouget lent his money at five per cent on a first mortgage, with release of the wife’s rights in case the owner was married. He never lent more than a third of the value of the property, and required notes payable to his order for an additional interest of two and a half per cent spread over the whole duration of the loan. Such were the rules his father had told him to follow. Usury, that clog upon the ambition of the peasantry, is the destroyer of country regions. This levy of seven and a half per cent seemed, therefore, so reasonable to the borrowers that Jean–Jacques Rouget had his choice of investments; and the notaries of the different towns, who got a fine commission for themselves from clients for whom they obtained money on such good terms, gave due notice to the old bachelor.

During these nine years Flore obtained in the long run, insensibly and without aiming for it, an absolute control over her master. From the first, she treated him very familiarly; then, without failing him in proper respect, she so far surpassed him in superiority of mind and force of character that he became in fact the servant of his servant. Elderly child that he was, he met this mastery half-way by letting Flore take such care of him that she treated him more as a mother would a son; and he himself ended by clinging to her with the feeling of a child dependent on a mother’s protection. But there were other ties between them not less tightly knotted. In the first place, Flore kept the house and managed all its business. Jean–Jacques left everything to the crab-girl so completely that life without her would have seemed to him not only difficult, but impossible. In every way, this woman had become the one need of his existence; she indulged all his fancies, for she knew them well. He loved to see her bright face always smiling at him — the only face that had ever smiled upon him, the only one to which he could look for a smile. This happiness, a purely material happiness, expressed in the homely words which come readiest to the tongue in a Berrichon household, and visible on the fine countenance of the young woman, was like a reflection of his own inward content. The state into which Jean–Jacques was thrown when Flore’s brightness was clouded over by some passing annoyance revealed to the girl her power over him, and, to make sure of it, she sometimes liked to use it. Using such power means, with women of her class, abusing it. The Rabouilleuse, no doubt, made her master play some of those scenes buried in the mysteries of private life, of which Otway gives a specimen in the tragedy of “Venice Preserved,” where the scene between the senator and Aquilina is the realization of the magnificently horrible. Flore felt so secure of her power that, unfortunately for her, and for the bachelor himself, it did not occur to her to make him marry her.

Towards the close of 1815, Flore, who was then twenty-seven, had reached the perfect development of her beauty. Plump and fresh, and white as a Norman countrywoman, she was the ideal of what our ancestors used to call “a buxom housewife.” Her beauty, always that of a handsome barmaid, though higher in type and better kept, gave her a likeness to Mademoiselle George in her palmy days, setting aside the latter’s imperial dignity. Flore had the dazzling white round arms, the ample modelling, the satiny textures of the skin, the alluring though less rigidly correct outlines of the great actress. Her expression was one of sweetness and tenderness; but her glance commanded less respect than that of the noblest Agrippina that ever trod the French stage since the days of Racine: on the contrary, it evoked a vulgar joy. In 1816 the Rabouilleuse saw Maxence Gilet, and fell in love with him at first sight. Her heart was cleft by the mythological arrow — admirable description of an effect of nature which the Greeks, unable to conceive the chivalric, ideal, and melancholy love begotten of Christianity, could represent in no other way. Flore was too handsome to be disdained, and Max accepted his conquest.

Thus, at twenty-eight years of age, the Rabouilleuse felt for the first time a true love, an idolatrous love, the love which includes all ways of loving — that of Gulnare and that of Medora. As soon as the penniless officer found out the respective situations of Flore and Jean–Jacques Rouget, he saw something more desirable than an “amourette” in an intimacy with the Rabouilleuse. He asked nothing better for his future prosperity than to take up his abode at the Rouget’s, recognizing perfectly the feeble nature of the old bachelor. Flore’s passion necessarily affected the life and household affairs of her master. For a month the old man, now grown excessively timid, saw the laughing and kindly face of his mistress change to something terrible and gloomy and sullen. He was made to endure flashes of angry temper purposely displayed, precisely like a married man whose wife is meditating an infidelity. When, after some cruel rebuff, he nerved himself to ask Flore the reason of the change, her eyes were so full of hatred, and her voice so aggressive and contemptuous, that the poor creature quailed under them.

“Good heavens!” she cried; “you have neither heart nor soul! Here’s sixteen years that I have spent my youth in this house, and I have only just found out that you have got a stone there (striking her breast). For two months you have seen before your eyes that brave captain, a victim of the Bourbons, who was cut out for a general, and is down in the depths of poverty, hunted into a hole of a place where there’s no way to make a penny of money! He’s forced to sit on a stool all day in the mayor’s office to earn — what? Six hundred miserable francs — a fine thing, indeed! And here are you, with six hundred and fifty-nine thousand well invested, and sixty thousand francs’ income, — thanks to me, who never spend more than three thousand a year, everything included, even my own clothes, yes, everything! — and you never think of offering him a home here, though there’s the second floor empty! You’d rather the rats and mice ran riot in it than put a human being there — and he a lad your father always allowed to be his own son! Do you want to know what you are? I’ll tell you — a fratricide! And I know why, too. You see I take an interest in him, and that provokes you. Stupid as you seem, you have got more spite in you than the spitefullest of men. Well, yes! I do take an interest in him, and a keen one —”

“But, Flore —”

“‘But, Flore ’, indeed! What’s that got to do with it? You may go and find another Flore (if you can!), for I hope this glass of wine may poison me if I don’t get away from your dungeon of a house. I haven’t, God be thanked! cost you one penny during the twelve years I’ve been with you, and you have had the pleasure of my company into the bargain. I could have earned my own living anywhere with the work that I’ve done here — washing, ironing, looking after the linen, going to market, cooking, taking care of your interests before everything, slaving myself to death from morning till night — and this is my reward!”

“But, Flore —”

“Oh, yes, ‘Flore ’! find another Flore, if you can, at your time of life, fifty-one years old, and getting feeble — for the way your health is failing is frightful, I know that! and besides, you are none too amusing —”

“But, Flore —”

“Let me alone!”

She went out, slamming the door with a violence that echoed through the house, and seemed to shake it to its foundations. Jean–Jacques softly opened the door and went, still more softly, into the kitchen where she was muttering to herself.

“But, Flore,” said the poor sheep, “this is the first time I have heard of this wish of yours; how do you know whether I will agree to it or not?”

“In the first place,” she said, “there ought to be a man in the house. Everybody knows you have ten, fifteen, twenty thousand francs here; if they came to rob you we should both be murdered. For my part, I don’t care to wake up some fine morning chopped in quarters, as happened to that poor servant-girl who was silly enough to defend her master. Well! if the robbers knew there was a man in the house as brave as Caesar and who wasn’t born yesterday — for Max could swallow three burglars as quick as a flash — well, then I should sleep easy. People may tell you a lot of stuff — that I love him, that I adore him — and some say this and some say that! Do you know what you ought to say? You ought to answer that you know it; that your father told you on his deathbed to take care of his poor Max. That will stop people’s tongues; for every stone in Issoudun can tell you he paid Max’s schooling — and so! Here’s nine years that I have eaten your bread —”

“Flore — Flore!”

“— and many a one in this town has paid court to me, I can tell you! Gold chains here, and watches there — what don’t they offer me? ‘My little Flore,’ they say, ‘why won’t you leave that old fool of a Rouget,’— for that’s what they call you. ‘I leave him!’ I always answer, ‘a poor innocent like that? I think I see myself! what would become of him? No, no, where the kid is tethered, let her browse —’”

“Yes, Flore; I’ve none but you in this world, and you make me happy. If it will give you pleasure, my dear, well, we will have Maxence Gilet here; he can eat with us —”

“Heavens! I should hope so!”

“There, there! don’t get angry —”

“Enough for one is enough for two,” she answered laughing. “I’ll tell you what you can do, my lamb, if you really mean to be kind; you must go and walk up and down near the Mayor’s office at four o’clock, and manage to meet Monsieur Gilet and invite him to dinner. If he makes excuses, tell him it will give me pleasure; he is too polite to refuse. And after dinner, at dessert, if he tells you about his misfortunes, and the hulks and so forth — for you can easily get him to talk about all that — then you can make him the offer to come and live here. If he makes any objection, never mind, I shall know how to settle it.”

Walking slowly along the boulevard Baron, the old celibate reflected, as much as he had the mind to reflect, over this incident. If he were to part from Flore (the mere thought confused him) where could he find another woman? Should he marry? At his age he should be married for his money, and a legitimate wife would use him far more cruelly than Flore. Besides, the thought of being deprived of her tenderness, even if it were a mere pretence, caused him horrible anguish. He was therefore as polite to Captain Gilet as he knew how to be. The invitation was given, as Flore had requested, before witnesses, to guard the hero’s honor from all suspicion.

A reconciliation took place between Flore and her master; but from that day forth Jean–Jacques noticed many a trifle that betokened a total change in his mistress’s affections. For two or three weeks Flore Brazier complained to the tradespeople in the markets, and to the women with whom she gossiped, about Monsieur Rouget’s tyranny, — how he had taken it into his head to invite his self-styled natural brother to live with him. No one, however, was taken in by this comedy; and Flore was looked upon as a wonderfully clever and artful creature. Old Rouget really found himself very comfortable after Max became the master of his house; for he thus gained a companion who paid him many attentions, without, however, showing any servility. Gilet talked, discussed politics, and sometimes went to walk with Rouget. After Max was fairly installed, Flore did not choose to do the cooking; she said it spoiled her hands. At the request of the grand master of the Order of the Knights of Idleness, Mere Cognette produced one of her relatives, an old maid whose master, a curate, had lately died without leaving her anything — an excellent cook, withal — who declared she would devote herself for life or death to Max and Flore. In the name of the two powers, Mere Cognette promised her an annuity of three hundred francs a year at the end of ten years, if she served them loyally, honestly, and discreetly. The Vedie, as she was called, was noticeable for a face deeply pitted by the small-pox, and correspondingly ugly.

After the new cook had entered upon her duties, the Rabouilleuse took the title of Madame Brazier. She wore corsets; she had silk, or handsome woollen and cotton dresses, according to the season, expensive neckerchiefs, embroidered caps and collars, lace ruffles at her throat, boots instead of shoes, and, altogether, adopted a richness and elegance of apparel which renewed the youthfulness of her appearance. She was like a rough diamond, that needed cutting and mounting by a jeweller to bring out its full value. Her desire was to do honor to Max. At the end of the first year, in 1817, she brought a horse, styled English, from Bourges, for the poor cavalry captain, who was weary of going afoot. Max had picked up in the purlieus of Issoudun an old lancer of the Imperial Guard, a Pole named Kouski, now very poor, who asked nothing better than to quarter himself in Monsieur Rouget’s house as the captain’s servant. Max was Kouski’s idol, especially after the duel with the three royalists. So, from 1817, the household of the old bachelor was made up of five persons, three of whom were masters, and the expenses advanced to about eight thousand francs a year.

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