On two or three occasions in the course of five years, and usually about the time of the equinox, this remark had driven him to frenzy; he flourished his knives and shouted, “That joke dishonors me!”
As for his daily life, he ate, drank, and walked about like other men in sound health; and so it happened that he was treated with about the same respect and attention that we give to a heavy piece of furniture. Among his many absurdities was one of which no man had as yet discovered the object, although by long practice the wiseheads of the community had learned to unravel the meaning of most of his vagaries. He insisted on keeping a sack of flour and two puncheons of wine in the cellar of his house, and he would allow no one to lay hands on them. But then the month of June came round he grew uneasy with the restless anxiety of a madman about the sale of the sack and the puncheons. Madame Margaritis could nearly always persuade him that the wine had been sold at an enormous price, which she paid over to him, and which he hid so cautiously that neither his wife nor the servant who watched him had ever been able to discover its hiding-place.
The evening before Gaudissart reached Vouvray Madame Margaritis had had more difficulty than usual in deceiving her husband, whose mind happened to be uncommonly lucid.
“I really don’t know how I shall get through to-morrow,” she had said to Madame Vernier. “Would you believe it, the good-man insists on watching his two casks of wine. He has worried me so this whole day, that I had to show him two full puncheons. Our neighbor, Pierre Champlain, fortunately had two which he had not sold. I asked him to kindly let me have them rolled into our cellar; and oh, dear! now that the good-man has seen them he insists on bottling them off himself!”
Madame Vernier had related the poor woman’s trouble to her husband just before the entrance of Gaudissart, and at the first words of the famous traveller Vernier determined that he should be made to grapple with Margaritis.
“Monsieur,” said the ex-dyer, as soon as the illustrious Gaudissart had fired his first broadside, “I will not hide from you the great difficulties which my native place offers to your enterprise. This part of the country goes along, as it were, in the rough,—’suo modo.’ It is a country where new ideas don’t take hold. We live as our fathers lived, we amuse ourselves with four meals a day, and we cultivate our vineyards and sell our wines to the best advantage. Our business principle is to sell things for more than they cost