Minoret bought up his uncle’s house, the value of which his co-heirs ran up to fifty thousand francs, imagining that the post master expected to find a treasure in the walls; in fact the house was sold with a reservation on this subject. Two weeks later Minoret disposed of his post establishment, with all the coaches and horses, to the son of a rich farmer, and went to live in his uncle’s house, where he spent considerable sums in repairing and refurnishing the rooms. By making this move he thoughtlessly condemned himself to live within sight of Ursula.
“I hope,” he said to Dionis the day when Madame de Portenduere was summoned to pay her debt, “that we shall soon be rid of those nobles; after they are gone we’ll drive out the rest.”
“That old woman with fourteen quarterings,” said Goupil, “won’t want to witness her own disaster; she’ll go and die in Brittany, where she can manage to find a wife for her son.”
“No,” said the notary, who had that morning drawn out a deed of sale at Bongrand’s request. “Ursula has just bought the house she is living in.”
“That cursed fool does everything she can to annoy me!” cried the post master imprudently.
“What does it signify to you whether she lives in Nemours or not?” asked Goupil, surprised at the annoyance which the colossus betrayed.
“Don’t you know,” answered Minoret, turning as red as a poppy, “that my son is fool enough to be in love with her? I’d give five hundred francs if I could get Ursula out of this town.”
The two adversaries
Perhaps the foregoing conduct on the part of the post master will have shown already that Ursula, poor and resigned, was destined to be a thorn in the side of the rich Minoret. The bustle attending the settlement of an estate, the sale of the property, the going and coming necessitated by such unusual business, his discussions with his wife about the most trifling details, the purchase of the doctor’s house, where Zelie wished to live in bourgeois style to advance her son’s interests,—all this hurly-burly, contrasting with his usually tranquil life hindered the huge Minoret from thinking of his victim. But about the middle of May, a few days after his installation in the doctor’s house, as he was coming home from a walk, he heard the sound of a piano, saw La Bougival sitting at a window, like a dragon guarding a treasure, and suddenly became aware of an importunate voice within him.