“You have some very strong-minded people here,” said Gaudissart, leaning against the door-post and lighting his cigar at Mitouflet’s pipe.
“How do you mean?” asked Mitouflet.
“I mean people who are rough-shod on political and financial ideas.”
“Whom have you seen? if I may ask without indiscretion,” said the landlord innocently, expectorating after the adroit and periodical fashion of smokers.
“A fine, energetic fellow named Margaritis.”
Mitouflet cast two glances in succession at his guest which were expressive of chilling irony.
“May be; the good-man knows a deal. He knows too much for other folks, who can’t always understand him.”
“I can believe it, for he thoroughly comprehends the abstruse principles of finance.”
“Yes,” said the innkeeper, “and for my part, I am sorry he is a lunatic.”
“A lunatic! What do you mean?”
“Well, crazy,—cracked, as people are when they are insane,” answered Mitouflet. “But he is not dangerous; his wife takes care of him. Have you been arguing with him?” added the pitiless landlord; “that must have been funny!”
“Funny!” cried Gaudissart. “Funny! Then your Monsieur Vernier has been making fun of me!”
“Did he send you there?”
“Wife! wife! come here and listen. If Monsieur Vernier didn’t take it into his head to send this gentleman to talk to Margaritis!”
“What in the world did you say to each other, my dear, good Monsieur?” said the wife. “Why, he’s crazy!”
“He sold me two casks of wine.”
“Did you buy them?”
“But that is his delusion; he thinks he sells his wine, and he hasn’t any.”
“Ha!” snorted the traveller, “then I’ll go straight to Monsieur Vernier and thank him.”
And Gaudissart departed, boiling over with rage, to shake the ex-dyer, whom he found in his salon, laughing with a company of friends to whom he had already recounted the tale.
“Monsieur,” said the prince of travellers, darting a savage glance at his enemy, “you are a scoundrel and a blackguard; and under pain of being thought a turn-key,—a species of being far below a galley-slave,—you will give me satisfaction for the insult you dared to offer me in sending me to a man whom you knew to be a lunatic! Do you hear me, Monsieur Vernier, dyer?”
Such was the harangue which Gaudissart prepared as he went along, as a tragedian makes ready for his entrance on the scene.
“What!” cried Vernier, delighted at the presence of an audience, “do you think we have no right to make fun of a man who comes here, bag and baggage, and demands that we hand over our property because, forsooth, he is pleased to call us great men, painters, artists, poets,—mixing us up gratuitously with a set of fools who have neither house nor home, nor sous nor sense? Why should