When the General had completed—let it be called no less than the ceremony of—his toilet, he took his chocolate and his pain de Paris. Honorine could not imagine him breakfasting on anything but pain de Paris. Then he sat himself in his large arm-chair before his escritoire, and began transacting his affairs with the usual—
“But where is that idiot, that dolt, that sluggard, that snail, with my mail?” Honorine, busy in the breakfast-room:
[Illustration: “Where is that idiot, that dolt, that sluggard, that snail, with my mail?”]
“In a moment, husband. In a moment.”
“But he should be here now. It is the first of the month, it is nine o’clock, I am ready; he should be here.”
“It is not yet nine o’clock, husband.”
“Not yet nine! Not yet nine! Am I not up? Am I not dressed? Have I not breakfasted before nine?”
“That is so, husband. That is so.” Honorine’s voice, prompt in cheerful acquiescence, came from the next room, where she was washing his cup, saucer, and spoon.
“It is getting worse and worse every day. I tell you, Honorine, Pompey must be discharged. He is worthless. He is trifling. Discharge him! Discharge him! Do not have him about! Chase him out of the yard! Chase him as soon as he makes his appearance! Do you hear, Honorine?”
“You must have a little patience, husband.”
It was perhaps the only reproach one could make to Madame Honorine, that she never learned by experience.
“Patience! Patience! Patience is the invention of dullards and sluggards. In a well-regulated world there should be no need of such a thing as patience. Patience should be punished as a crime, or at least as a breach of the peace. Wherever patience is found police investigation should be made as for smallpox. Patience! Patience! I never heard the word—I assure you, I never heard the word in Paris. What do you think would be said there to the messenger who craved patience of you? Oh, they know too well in Paris—a rataplan from the walking-stick on his back, that would be the answer; and a, ’My good fellow, we are not hiring professors of patience, but legs.’”
“But, husband, you must remember we do not hire Pompey. He only does it to oblige us, out of his kindness.”
“Oblige us! Oblige me! Kindness! A negro oblige me! Kind to me! That is it; that is it. That is the way to talk under the new regime. It is favor, and oblige, and education, and monsieur, and madame, now. What child’s play to call this a country—a government! I would not be surprised”—jumping to his next position on this ever-recurring first of the month theme—“I would not be surprised if Pompey has failed to find the letter in the box. How do I know that the mail has not been tampered with? From day to day I expect to hear it. What is to prevent? Who is to interpose? The honesty of the officials? Honesty of the officials—that is good! What a farce—honesty of officials! That is evidently what has happened. The thought has not occurred to me in vain. Pompey has gone. He has not found the letter, and—well; that is the end.”