“Do you not understand,” she told him, shedding tears of joy, “do you not see, that the labor which can promote her son’s pleasure is a happiness for his mother?”
But he was dismayed at his discovery.
“No matter!” he said. “I swear that I shall no longer scatter to the winds, as I have been doing, the money that you give me.”
For a few weeks, indeed, he was faithful to his pledge. But at fifteen resolutions are not very stanch. The impressions he had felt wore off. He became tired of the small privations which he had to impose upon himself.
He soon came to take to the letter what his mother had told him, and to prove to his own satisfaction that to deprive himself of a pleasure was to deprive her. He asked for ten francs one day, then ten francs another, and gradually resumed his old habits.
He was at this time about leaving school.
“The moment has come,” said M. Favoral, “for him to select a career, and support himself.”
To think of a profession, Maxence Favoral had not waited for the paternal warnings.
Modern schoolboys are precocious: they know the strong and the weak side of life; and, when they take their degree, they already have but few illusions left.
And how could it be otherwise? In the interior of the colleges is fatally found the echo of the thoughts, and the reflex of the manners, of the time. Neither walls nor keepers can avail. At the same time, as the city mud that stains their boots, the scholars bring back on their return from holidays their stock of observations and of facts.
And what have they seen during the day in their families, or among their friends?
Ardent cravings, insatiable appetites for luxuries, comforts, enjoyments, pleasures, contempt for patient labor, scorn for austere convictions, eager longing for money, the will to become rich at any cost, and the firm resolution to ravish fortune on the first favorable occasion.
To be sure, they have dissembled in their presence; but their perceptions are keen.
True, their father has told them in a grave tone, that there is nothing respectable in this world except labor and honesty; but they have caught that same father scarcely noticing a poor devil of an honest man, and bowing to the earth before some clever rascal bearing the stigma of three judgments, but worth six millions.
Conclusion? Oh! they know very well how to conclude; for there are none such as young people to be logical, and to deduce the utmost consequences of a fact.
They know, the most of them, that they will have to do something or other; but what? And it is then, that, during the recreations, their imagination strives to find that hitherto unknown profession which is to give them fortune without work, and freedom at the same time as a brilliant situation.