“Monsieur!” cried Gaudissart, “of course you have got grandchildren? There’s the ‘Children’s Journal’; that only costs seven francs a year.”
“Very good; take my wine, and I will subscribe to the children. That suits me very well: a fine idea! intellectual product, child. That’s man living upon man, hein?”
“You’ve hit it, Monsieur,” said Gaudissart.
“I’ve hit it!”
“You consent to push me in the district?”
“In the district.”
“I have your approbation?”
“You have it.”
“Well, then, Monsieur, I take your wine at a hundred francs—”
“No, no! hundred and ten—”
“Monsieur! A hundred and ten for the company, but a hundred to me. I enable you to make a sale; you owe me a commission.”
“Charge ’em a hundred and twenty,”—“cent vingt” ("sans vin,” without wine).
“Capital pun that!”
“No, puncheons. About that wine—”
“Better and better! why, you are a wit.”
“Yes, I’m that,” said the fool. “Come out and see my vineyards.”
“Willingly, the wine is getting into my head,” said the illustrious Gaudissart, following Monsieur Margaritis, who marched him from row to row and hillock to hillock among the vines. The three ladies and Monsieur Vernier, left to themselves, went off into fits of laughter as they watched the traveller and the lunatic discussing, gesticulating, stopping short, resuming their walk, and talking vehemently.
“I wish the good-man hadn’t carried him off,” said Vernier.
Finally the pair returned, walking with the eager step of men who were in haste to finish up a matter of business.
“He has got the better of the Parisian, damn him!” cried Vernier.
And so it was. To the huge delight of the lunatic our illustrious Gaudissart sat down at a card-table and wrote an order for the delivery of the two casks of wine. Margaritis, having carefully read it over, counted out seven francs for his subscription to the “Children’s Journal” and gave them to the traveller.
“Adieu until to-morrow, Monsieur,” said Gaudissart, twisting his watch-key. “I shall have the honor to call for you to-morrow. Meantime, send the wine at once to Paris to the address I have given you, and the price will be remitted immediately.”
Gaudissart, however, was a Norman, and he had no idea of making any agreement which was not reciprocal. He therefore required his promised supporter to sign a bond (which the lunatic carefully read over) to deliver two puncheons of the wine called “Head of Vouvray,” vineyard of Margaritis.
This done, the illustrious Gaudissart departed in high feather, humming, as he skipped along,—
“The King of the South,
He burned his mouth,” etc.
The illustrious Gaudissart returned to the Soleil d’Or, where he naturally conversed with the landlord while waiting for dinner. Mitouflet was an old soldier, guilelessly crafty, like the peasantry of the Loire; he never laughed at a jest, but took it with the gravity of a man accustomed to the roar of cannon and to make his own jokes under arms.