The elder Sue was a very easy, good-natured man, but had no learning, though he was reckoned a savan of the first water. Eugene knew this, and wickedly took advantage of it. His father—the doctor—was in the habit of delivering a course of botanical lectures to a circle of very select ladies, and Eugene suspected that his father, notwithing his voluble discourse, had little knowledge of botany. He, therefore, with one or two of his companions, took occasion (as it was their task to prepare plants and flowers in vases, with their names written upon the vases for examination) to insert new and unheard of names to puzzle the old man. He entered the hall one day, smiling to the ladies on either hand, and stood before them. He took up a vase, and for an instant was staggered by the name, but it would not do to let his ignorance be known, so he very coolly said, “This, ladies, is the concrysionisoides.” He hemmed a little, and then for more than an hour descanted upon the character and nature of the fabulous plant, it is needless to add, fabricating all the way through. Eugene was unkind enough not only to enjoy the scene, but to go and tell the ladies of the joke.
About this time, the since celebrated Dr. Veron became a fellow-pupil of Sue’s, and made the fourth of this band of youthful jokers. They were now assistant surgeons in one of the Paris hospitals. Eugene one day made the discovery that in his father’s cabinet there was an apartment in which he kept a very choice collection of wines, which were presents from the allied sovereigns, when they were in Paris. There were among others, sixty bottles of delicate Johannisberg, a present from Prince Metternich. The students soon found the way, led by Eugene, to this wine, and drank time after time. The question came up as to what should be done with the bottles. Eugene proposed that the empty ones be concealed, but Dr. Veron remarked that their absence would bring detection. So a plan was hit upon which was far better—the bottles were half-filled with wine and then water was added. The doctor was fond on great occasions of bringing out this old wine and telling the story connected with it, and drinking a few bottles. He thus ordered it on the table one day, and prepared his guests to expect a remarkable wine. They drank in silence, while the doctor exclaimed, “Delicious!—but it is time it was drunk.” Eugene was present and drank his wine and water without any emotion. But not long after, while the students were drinking the pure wine, the old doctor entered the cabinet and caught them at their wicked work. It was an act never to be forgotten by him, and he was astounded beyond measure. About this time he also discovered that Eugene had been borrowing money at usurious interest to pay debts he had contracted, and he was so indignant that he ordered him to leave his house. Eugene joined the army and went to Spain. His father became anxious for his safety, and had him attached to the staff of the duke of Augouleme. But young Sue took good care not to expose himself to much danger. He passed through the siege of Cadiz, the taking of Trocadero, and returned to Paris in safety. His father was delighted to see him, and received him kindly. But the doctor did not open his purse.