“An absolute want of form. Well, there he is on his beam-ends, and then Jenkins, too, and plenty of others with them.”
“What! the doctor too? Ah! so much the worse. Such a polite and amiable man.”
“Yes, still another breaking-up of his establishment. Horses, carriages, furniture. The yard of the house is full of bills, and it sounds as empty as if some one were dead. The place at Nanterre is on sale. There were half a dozen of the ‘little Bethlehems’ left whom they packed up in a cab. It is a break-up, I tell you, pere Passajon, a ruin which we, old as we are, may not see the end of, but it will be complete. Everything is rotten, it must all come down!”
He was a sinister figure, this old steward of the Empire, thin, stubbly, covered with mud, and shouting like a Jeremiah, “It is the downfall!” with a toothless mouth, black and wide open. I felt afraid and ashamed of him, with a great desire to see him outside, and I thought: “Oh, M. Chalmette! Oh, my little vineyard of Montbars!”
Same date.—Great news. Mme. Gaganetti came this afternoon to bring me mysteriously a letter from the governor. He is in London, going to begin a magnificent thing. Fine offices in the best part of the town, a superb list of shareholders. He offers me the chance of joining him, “happy to repair thus the damage he has caused me,” says he. I shall have twice my wages at the Territorial, be lodged comfortably, five shares in the new bank, and all my arrears paid. All I need is a little money to go there and to pay a few small debts round here. Good luck! My fortune is assured. I shall write to the notary of Montbars to mortgage my vineyard.
As M. Joyeuse had told the Juge d’Instruction, Paul de Gery returned from Tunis after three weeks’ absence. Three interminable weeks spent in struggling among intrigues, and traps secretly laid by the powerful hatred of the Hemerlingues—in wandering from hall to hall, from ministry to ministry through the immense palace of the Bardo, which gathered within one enclosure, bristling with culverins, all the departments of the State, as much under the master’s eye as his stables and harem. On his arrival, Paul had learned that the Chamber of Justice was preparing secretly Jansoulet’s trial—a derisive trial, lost beforehand; and the closed offices of the Nabob on the Marine Quay, the seals on his strong boxes, his ships moored to the Goulette, a guard round his palace, seemed to speak of a sort of civil death, of a disputed succession of which the spoils would not long remain to be shared.
There was not a defender, nor a friend, in this voracious crowd; the French colony itself appeared satisfied with the fall of a courtier who had so long monopolized the roads to favour. To attempt to snatch this prey from the Bey, excepting by a striking triumph at the Assembly, was not to be thought of. All that de Gery could hope for was to save some shreds of his fortune, and this only if he hurried, for he was expecting day by day to learn of his friend’s complete ruin.