But while de Sigognac was thus employed, far from his ancient chateau, the portraits of his ancestors that hung upon its walls were frowning darkly at the degeneracy of this last scion of their noble race, and a sigh, almost a groan, that issued from their faded lips, echoed dismally through the deserted house. In the kitchen, Pierre, with Miraut and Beelzebub on either side of him—all three looking melancholy and forlorn—sat thinking of his absent lord, and said aloud, “Oh, where is my poor, dear master now?” a big tear rolling down his withered cheek as he stooped to caress his dumb companions.
CHAPTER VIII. THE DUKE OF VALLOMBREUSE
The next morning Bellombre drew Blazius aside, and untying the strings of a long leathern purse emptied out of it into the palm of his hand a hundred pistoles, which he piled up neatly on the table by which they were standing; to the great admiration of the pedant, who thought to himself that his friend was a lucky fellow to be in possession of so large a sum—absolute wealth in his eyes. But what was his surprise when Bellombre swept them all up and put them into his own hands.
“You must have understood,” he said, “that I did not bring out this money in order to torment you in like manner with Tantalus, and I want you to take it, without any scruples, as freely as it is given—or loaned, if you are too proud to accept a gift from an old friend. These pieces were made to circulate—they are round, you see—and by this time they must be tired of lying tied up in my old purse there. I have no use for them; there’s nothing to spend them on here; the farm produces everything that is needed in my household, so I shall not miss them, and it is much better in every way that they should be in your hands.”
Not finding any adequate reply to make to this astonishing speech, Blazius put the money into his pocket, and, after first administering to his friend a cordial accolade, grasped and wrung his hand with grateful fervour, while an inconvenient tear, that he had tried in vain to wink away, ran down his jolly red nose. As Bellombre had said the night before, affairs were brightening with the troupe; good fortune had come at last, and the hard times they had met and struggled against so bravely and uncomplainingly were among the things of the past. The receipts of the previous evening—for there had been some money taken in, as well as plentiful stores of edibles—added to Bellombre’s pistoles, made a good round sum, and the chariot of Thespis, so deplorably bare of late, was now amply provisioned. Not to do things by halves, their generous host lent to the comedians two stout farm horses, with a man to drive them into Poitiers, and bring them back home again. They had on their gala-day harness, and from their gaudily-painted, high-peaked collars hung strings of tiny bells, that jingled cheerily at every firm, regular step of the